Saturday, 24 March 2012

A "blind" Petit Corona...

As it was a gorgeous early spring Saturday morning I thought I would try the first of three blind cigars I have as part of a friendly competition. The vast majority of smokes I have are in the evening but as this is for a competition I thought I would have it in the morning after a big breakfast with just water and coffee as accompaniment. A morning smoke is also a good excuse for having another later!!

Aroma pre-smoking: Woody straw and a touch of caramel. wonderful oily but not dark wrapper.
Cold draw: "Sweet" leather and a creamy vanilla hint.
Opening: Good smoke, nice cuban draw (this means ever so slightly tight, as it should be), good burn. Medium no more than that. Woody, leather like the cold, touch of black pepper, creamy texture, the caramel is more mellow butterscotch, nice start.
1st Third: Definitely a young cigar (2011) not something I have had before and the one marque it reminds me of don't do this size as far as I am aware. Still some black pepper but overridingly the taste is of newish leather and texture of cream, the butterscotch has gone and been replaced with under sweet shortbread.
2nd Third: I will buy a box if reasonable in price, nice change from the more chocolate and cocoa cigar profile you can get...the youth has meant there isn't much more development in this third, still good, leather and a bit of spice with flavours getting a little darker, strong black tea in there somewhere. Construction and draw remain perfect...

Final Third: a bit of "animal" appeared in the last third, good stuff, some real punchy richer but not stronger favours, no tar showing which is good, whiter pepper and still that leathery core....
Overall: 89-91, impressive and a little different, would love another in 6months as I think it will have developed...

I'll know what "it" was by the 3rd or 4th of April so will post the answer then. There are three cigars in the competition, up next is a Corona Gorda (a size I love, 6x46) then a Churchill. Looking forward to those...

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Louis Mitjavile & L'Aurage 07, 08 & 09

Had a quick tasting with Louis Mitjavile, son of Francois, last Thursday. Louis is a great guy, with a driven calm if that makes any sense. Having been involved in lots of projects in Bordeaux and heavily involved at both Roc de Cambes and Tertre-Roteboeuf he wanted his own "wine baby". He also did not want to clash with anywhere that he has "business" at the moment so Cotes de Castillon (as of 2009 Castillon, Cotes de Bordeaux) was a prime target. Louis managed this by finding a great estate just in the appellation but very near the St.Emilion border. His "new" wine, Domaine de L'Aurage (as of 09 just L'Aurage) was born. To my mind there are two key Mitjavile principles. Firstly, they harvest very late, it is all about the ripeness of the tannins, acidity is of no interest and ripe tannins with slighlty over ripe fruit is preferable to the opposite. Secondly, they never make second wines, they do a lot of work early on in the vineyard but never do a green harvest and it is either in the first wine or not...L'Aurage is 19hectares in all with 5600 plants per hectare the first wine was 2007 which we tasted on this day...

2007 - An early vintage. July and August were not so good, low sun overall and low heat too, harvesting was 4th & 5th October. The wine saw 75% new oak although as with all Mitjvile wines it is only in the texture that you ever get any sense of this. This wine has a lovely balance, it is medium of body with a richness but not heaviness, lovely now but will age well for 8-10years, for a 2007 it is mighty impressive and a cracking debut for the estate.

2008 - Louis declared his concern over the 2008 when he made it but he is happy now. The wine is a little atypical for Mitjavile, there is more of a classical Bordeaux grip to the wine, the fruit is redder than normal, I really like it. Louis refers to it as a vintage of no extremes. The wine saw 85% new oak.

2009 - This was down by 40% in production as they had hail, a real shame as the wine is stunning, not unique in 2009!! There is a brillaint combination of those two essentials, freshness and richness, it easily wears the 100% new oak without a hint of anything vulgar...a sign of what is to come. Louis was very positive about the 2010 but in a different way.

I'm happy to nail my colours to the mast here and say that this estate will follow, chase may be a better phrase, the Roc de Cambes and Tertre-Roteboeuf...

Monday, 19 March 2012

Lunch @ Zucca then Rugby

On Saturday I was lucky enough to Join "Sussex" as a guest of "Halifax's" - these two characters have appeared a few times before on the blog - at Twickenham for the England vs Ireland game.

But first we thought, wine lovers to the core, that we'd better have lunch so off to Zucca we went. The food was immaculate as always - 5 starters shared between us then Pork shoulder and the job was done, full but still awake, I love the food there.

So what wines did we have? Sussex brought along - Billecart Clos Saint-Hilaire 1996 - I really loved this, vinous, it is a Pinot heavy blend, there is weight and a lovely "old gold" colour, served in proper wider glasses helped (Zucca is good at these details), it was lovely immediately but got better and better. I noted a slight hint of Selosse-like oxidation, I like this character, bloody good stuff, ready but no rush, impressive. For the reds Halifax had kind bought one Burgundy and one Bordeaux. As an aside I like different regions along side each other as two of the same inevitably leads to a competition.

So first the Burg, Clos de la Roche 1999 Le Moine, rich, full, quite dense and young were the first thoughts, not over-oaked at all, but no shrinking violet, the fruit was darker than red, I liked the nose, a little warmth on the palate, it opened up after 25-30mins in the glass. I enjoyed it, it did have true Gevrey character, muscularity and some grunt, if I had some I would re-visit in at least 3-5 years, I feel more charm will appear. This is/was the first vintage of this particular wine.

And so to the Bordeaux, Vieux Chateau Certan (aka VCC) 1990, straight of the bat this was lovely, real drinkers Pomerol, classy, slick but not too polished, very very balanced, the fruit came in complex waves, the structure was there but never awkward, a very fine Claret. I don't think I would have got the vintage blind, I might have said 1985 as this wine had a cool elegance, it had no awkward high/extracted notes that you can sometimes get with the extravagance of 1989 & 1990. This was the sort of wine where you could savour a glass but you'd just as easily drink a bottle in double quick time...really impressed me. Makes you wonder if the modern Bordeaux will ever be quite so graceful? From there is was train to Twickenham and Guinness before we saw the English front five "do a job" on the Irish, a strange game really, lots of handling errors but as ever it just shows Rugby is a game for people of all shapes and sizes as you need that for the front five, long may that continue...

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

d'Angerville Horizontally (2010) and Vertically (Ducs)

This is not meant to be an in depth blog. I had the chance last week to quickly taste all the d'Angerville 2010's. The bottles were cask samples from just before
the racking. They were (as usual I am biased and I love Volnay especially this estate and Lafarge) showing very very well, real precision of fruit from the Volnay Villages upwards, the Pommard Les Combes des Dessus was that bit darker of fruit and more robust than the elegant Volnay's but that is as it should be. Going through the 1er Crus I found the Clos des Angles a little more dense, Fremeit had more depth and also structure, Champans was delicious as ever (a favourite of mine) with guts as well, Caillerets came across as a dash more lush, richer. Taillpieds was again more dense (if Volnay can be dense) with a sweetness of fruit but also a savoury edge, Clos des note simply says "The grown up"it has more structure. The white - Meursault Santenots - was just what you would want of a 2010 white Burgundy, taut, tight but with good texture, leave a good while. The problem with the 2010's, and it is a good one, is that they are so delicious of fruit style I see the 2010's as between 2008 and 2009 and possibly the best of a that trio, and smallest, although I remember finding the 2008's just as enchanting.

The next tasting was of just Clos des Ducs, it's a hard life. The line up is below, for some reason I decided to score these, I am quite a mean scorer.
2010 Small comment above. 18-19
2008 Real harmony, pretty with red fruit then structure. 17-18+
2007 A dash of cheesecloth, a little closed. 17-17+
2002 "Good stinky" with a Brie-like nose, it is all there but, like a lot of 2002's that you know will come round, now is not the time to drink them. 17-18
1999 Lovely poise and balance, quite closed, classical Volnay, still quite primary. 18-18+
1998 The surprise package of the Ducs, lovely de-graded red fruit and great texture, the best for now, very pleasant surprise. 18
1990 A class act, no blockbuster, balanced and very moreish delicious now onwards. 18-19

A great tasting or should that be two great tastings?

Monday, 12 March 2012

Partagas Serie D No4 - another Robusto review

The weekend finally saw some decent weather and a chance to get out in the garden for a cigar and some Cheltenham Festival study (first three bets have all gone by the wayside as I write this). I following racing as closely as I can but with time being what it is I had to do some cramming. The smoke I had selected was the Robusto that I think is the best-selling for its size, the Partagas Serie D No4. I have a cracking box of these from 2008 that I only have two of left but this particular stick was from the Robusto sampler I have been smoking my way through. It was a bit of an ugly duckling with a slight green hue to the wrapper, I have no idea what age it was but I’d say 2010 or earlier it wasn’t as recent as 2011. There was a slight aroma of hay and nuts to the wrapper and a great draw pre-lighting. The opening few draws were straight into stride and just below medium with nuts, straw and a slight touch of vanilla toffee. A very balanced smoke with no spice through the nose a very even burn. Towards halfway the flavours were developing a bit but in the same sort of profile as before but then a little spice and old leather entered the fray, I was really enjoying this smoke. Up to the final third much as it was good it wasn’t how I think of SDN4’s as being but then it went up a notch in richness and the spice with white pepper appeared and the character was more as expected. The construction was faultless to the end with lots of smoke, just how I like it. Just goes to show that, as with old bottles of wine, appearances can be deceiving. A good smoke that went on a journey…90 points

Saturday, 3 March 2012

RP and 2009's

I thought I probably wouldn't do a Blog about Robert Parker's 2009 Bordeaux scores as it'll get lots of mileage and whilst it is important I didn't think it was that surprising. For the record I think Parker has done a lot of good, he has tasted well, constantly and consistently, for a long time, tried to help the consumer and push the producer to better things. He has shaken things up but never tried to do so and the whole time there has be never been any "dirt". He also clearly loves wine and gets what the consumer is about. The style of wine he likes often doesn't match what I am after but I certainly know where he is coming from and I think, in Bordeaux especially, he gets things right a massively impressive amount of the time. There were just a few questions that struck me from his scores and their release so a blog resulted...

What does it mean for 2009's? Well one answer could be that it is the new 1982, by which I mean "the" glamour vintage. There are similarities in more that just the fact that Parker was a massive fan of both vintages, similarities like the fact the wines are expressive and likely to stay that way rather than hide a way a bit as the more classical (over used wine word of the year but relevant here) vintages like 2000, 2005 and 2010 which have a more savoury edge. The exotic, sunny, rich style is also a similarity. The reviews also mean that it will be the "go to" vintage and there is a lot of relevance in this as it is not a vintage with any obvious bias to one side of the river or the other, there is no weak link commune in 2009 (for reds anyway). All this and the scores themselves mean that ultimately it will be expensive so the most straightforward answer is that the the scores mean higher prices. I just hope that enough people who have bought and buy them now do so with at least the intention of drinking them. If they become too expensive for even big spenders to drink them there could be a bit of a bubble...we'll see.

What does it mean for Bordeaux post Parker? One thing that the large amount of press and hype around the 09's has done in the light of the scores is beg the question of what happens when Parker stops doing the ratings himself? It is highly likely that the 2009's will be the last vintage that Parker so clearly pronounces (makes him sound pompous which he isn't) as the dogs bo**ocks. The landscape for Bordeaux will change because there will not just be one person who everyone waits for. You can say what you like about the many other good critics out there but nobody, absolutely nobody, holds sway like Parker when it comes to the main wine market...Bordeaux. I think that post Parker it will be very interesting to see who the investment market locks to and how they sell. The merchants will still perform the same roll but people will surely buy blind much less...I haven't answered this question as there isn't an answer yet...does make you think though

Does so many 100's dilute things? Not necessarily would be my view, I am not (I should have looked) sure how many 100's there are in other vintages like 1982, 1990, 2000 & 2005 but I imagine it is less than half. It certainly won't dilute the efforts at Chateaux that aspire to the best as it has shown that 100 is possible outside the first Growths etc with the score for Pontet Canet and Poyferre providing first 100's. I think the number of 2009's probably just emphasises the greatness that Parker feels is there and the fact that winemaking is of such a level now that we have to except more "perfection" won't find me complaining about that. As a small aside I do think 99+ as score is a little less that helpful.

What does it mean for 2010's? I think it means that 2009's will sail past 2010 in price, some have already, and I also think that people will wait until just before this time next year and therefore Parkers verdict on 2010, before acting on them...the 2011 pricing has an impact here and lets face it nobody knows what that will be like except that a few Chateaux will feel move confident of their market perception on the back of 2009 scores.

Which 2010's are the 100pters? With only two of the 1st Growths - Latour & Haut Brion - getting the top score there is a, slightly cynical, view that the other three will get 100 next year...we'll have to wait and see, there seems to have been genuine surprise that Margaux did not get the ton this time..

Anything else? One thing is it'll be fascinating to see what and how much stock gets released by negociants and the Chateaux in the next few weeks and also if it is "tied" to other things...does a great vintage review make people sell while the going is good or sit on the stock with a warm glow?

Right, my head hurts, time for some wine...