Thursday, 25 August 2016

Domaine Labruyere 2014's and Rouget 2015

Time seems to have flown by as it is over 18 months since I wrote a post entitled - Famille Labruyere a new and exciting relationship. Working with the wines from the three - Domaine Jacques Prieur, Domaine Labruyere and Chateau Rouget, soon to be four with Champagne Labruyere coming soon - estates has been a lot of fun.

This particular tasting was to focus on the Moulin-a-Vent wines from Domaine Labruyere and was very well led by Nicolas Mielly who got the balance between information and passion just right (not always easy!).

A few key dates for Domaine Labruyere.

1850 - The estate started
2001 - They took after the monopole of "Les Clos"
2008 - Edouard Labruyere took over the running of the families wine estates

A run through of some recent vintages was then summed up as follows:

2009 - mature fruits
2010 - Serious
2011 - balanced
2012 - 50% lost...

The 2014 vintage: Budbreak was early, suggesting an early vintage but flowering was about average, beginning early April. Cooler weather in July and August slowed down véraison which started at the end of July. The conditions in July and August, predominantly cooler than average, brought the risk of disease. September, happily, was sunny, hot and dry with higher than average temperatures and very little rain. Picking began on the 11th September, all harvested by hand into small cagettes. The bunches were small, the grapes, big, ripe, healthy and juicy. Harvest lasted 10 days.

A note on scoring... Recently I have been slightly "mucking about" with scoring a few tastings/wines out of 25 rather than 20 as I tend to find that the 16-18 range gets used the whole time when scoring out of 20 and therefore the differentiation is less. I used the 25 point scale for this tasting. There is something of a threshold to the 20 out of 25 level but I feel it is a more useful threshold than the 90 out of 100 mark.

Moulin-a-Vent Coeur de Terroir 2014

This is from a selection of 5 plots, matured 50% in vats 50% in barrel – only 3% of which is new wood. Bottled back in December. Good acidity, lifted, cool red fruits and a slightly ferrous note, a little spice also. Really balanced, strong start. 17/25

Moulin-a-Vent Champ de Cour 2014

Interestingly, this is the only wine where 100% whole bunches are used, lifting the style of a wine which originates from heavy clay. At the estate they often compare this to Clos Vougeot. There is more depth, spice too, some good greener notes of freshness and then a wave of darker more serious fruit. There is good mineral drive and a persistent tension – this warrants patience. 18/25

Moulin-a-Vent Le Carquelin 2014

This is very different in style, after the Champ de Cour. This is from vines on sandy, granite soils, just near the famous windmill. 5-6% new oak, this was first made in 2011 and is 100% de-stemmed. More lifted, almost orange citrus notes. Then depth on the palate, richer texture but less spice showing. More fruit generally as a balance to the iron that is in there. 18+/25

Moulin-a-Vent Clos du Moulin-a-Vent Monopole Domaine Labruyere 2014

A beautiful colour, Le Clos is aged in barrels, 15% of which are new, others 1 to 2 years old – all coming from Domaine Jacques Prieur. These vines are grown on more sandy soils. This is a very "grown up" wine, serious, superbly concentrated with a wonderful texture, complexity and an iron like grip – rather northern Rhône-esque. 20-21/25

It was a very good tasting. I am the first to admit that I had rather dismissed the wines of Beaujolais (much to the frustration of mates in the trade) until I came across these.

It was too good an opportunity not to re-taste the Rouget 2015, last tasted in Bordeaux during this tasting trip.

Chateau Rouget 2015 - 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc with 30% new oak. In 2015 60% of the wine made it to the Grand Vin the remaining 40% being designated as "Le Carillon de Rouget". It is a superb wine, arguably one of the very best value buys of the whole campaign at about £350 a dozen (well I bought it). Rich and full but not without balance it is wine I intend to leave a good while!

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Bandol, Tardieu-Laurent 2012 & 2013

So, I got back from holiday exactly a week ago and having been down to a little village in Provence called Correns (near Brignoles) I felt a bit silly that I hadn't made it to Bandol (only an hour down the road). The good news is that we're almost certainly going back next year and I will make the trip for sure. Hopefully co-ordinated with another visit to the Stade Mayol to see Toulon play in a pre-season friendly as we did this year (vs Stade Francais) and last (vs Clermont). 
Getting back to the office this week it was time to take an early look at the Rhone 2015 offer we do with Tardieu-luarent (about whom more below) and quickly Bandol popped up in conversation with Mr Hartley…so what better thing to do than follow two tastings I did on holiday - Chablis 1er cru Vaillons three ways and Barolo threeways in France - by having a look at Bandol 2012 and 2013. I bought a bottle of each, got them home, cooled then down a little, did not decant and then tasted (drunk that is) the wines over Friday and Saturday making notes as I went.

Here's a little generic background on Bandol itself. There is a good page on it in "The World Atlas of Wine" as well. In short it is the type of place that makes wines the way I tend to like them made: Old vines, low yields, minimum intervention (but stopping short of what might be called "crafted", "natural" or "beardy") and most importantly not raised in lots of new oak. The supplier that Michel and Bastien Tardieu source from looks very like Spike Milligan from the few pics I have seen. This specific wine is 95% Mourvèdre and 5% Grenache (the vines in both being well over 50 years old) on Clay-limestone soils in the "Le Castellet" sub region.

Some words on Tardieu-Laurent

Established in 1996, Michel Tardieu is a négociant-éleveur, buying wines selected according to the quality of the vineyard, in their raw, fermented state.

The wines, from many different but not all communes of the Rhone (and sometimes slightly beyond, as in this case) undergo malolactic fermentation, generally under the watchful eye of Michel and increasingly by his oenologist son, Bastien. They look after the maturation process, blending and sale of the wines. Logically, given that the accurate translation of terroir and vintage is fundamental to the Tardieu-Laurent mind-set, intervention is minimal. None of the wines are fined and only a few receive a very light filtration. Top quality ingredients are, however, absolutely essential. To that end, a huge part of Michel’s and Bastien’s work involves building long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with a network of low-yield producers (who's identities are never revealed or referenced), who own specific, top quality parcels of largely old vines.
Michel and Bastien know, by heart, both the vineyards and the specific parcels within those vineyards, which are of interest to them. (Note to self: don't buy a car from either of them - Bandol to Cote Rotie is a long way!) Most of the vines selected are naturally low-yielding old vines of 50 years of age, regularly older. Often the size of the individual parcels is too small to be independently viable, but, by buying a number of them, there is the wherewithal to produce a workable blend. The naturally restricted volumes result in increased complexity and intensity. There have been times when the supplier in a certain area has been changed, most recently with Crozes-Hermitage which was good but is now (from 2012 or 2013 - I can't remember exactly which) is truly exceptional.

On a purely personal note, two of the wines from Tardieu that I always look to buy each year are the Chateauneuf-du-Pape (CNDP) Cuvee Speciale and the CNDP Blanc VV. Of the latter I have a four vintage tasting, 2011-2014, that I will be doing soon and writing up.

Click HERE for an account of a recent and rather epic recent Rhone trip...

Right, on with the business at hand, "the tasting":

7pm Friday night
2012 - Deep fully colour with saturation but not a glossy appeal to be honest both wines at this young stage have a similar look with a very outer rim of cherry. The initial reaction on the nose is of savoury density balanced with freshness from slightly muted black cherry fruit. There is a taught-ness and good complexity. Moving to the palate, which is largely consistent with the nose, there is a density but not a heaviness, the fruit is dark but with a hint of cranberry freshness in there. The tannic structure is very proper by which I mean the tannins are not polished and caressed with new oak or glossiness, quite the opposite they are ripe but properly grippy and just a shade drier that one is used to. This is a good uncompromising characteristic. Good start. Young but bold.

2013 - As mentioned the colour is largely constant with the 2012. The fruit here is just a shade redder but still in essence dark, there is a similar crunchy and proper tannic structure. This is less muted from a fruit perspective than the 2012 which often leads one to say it is less serious but lets wait and see.

If after tasting at this stage someone said "right you can only drink one bottle this evening" it would be the 2013…just.

11.30 Saturday morning (both bottles are still 2/3 full)
2012 - Still the more serious of the pair, a little saline, darker fruit than the 2013. This has a slight sternness as well as the structure having mellowed a little. I get the impression this will repay cellaring and then be a lovely middle-aged and older wine. Still quite tight.

2103 - A crunchier fruit now, more focusing acidity too, still big but not as dense. The tannins are less dry and more powdery (which I like), there is more vibrancy.

I am starting to find a definite similarity here in the fruit profile to both Gamay (when serious and with more structure here) but also serious Barbera when made with low yields and no new oak. Looking forward to drinking the rest later...

6pm Saturday night
As you might expect the differences are more pronounced by now.
2012 - Far more the "animal" of these wines, more grip and grit and more obvious ferrous character, more oxidative and "grunty". This is crying out for rich food in a sauce, cassoulet would be superb, I like this. It makes me think of northern Rhone as much as anything.

2013 - There is also a slightly ferrous feel here but in a very gentle way  and there is a cool fruited element. Much more minerality in a "crushed rocks" fashion. The fruit is a sort of deep red and the tannins have that moreish powdery quality. I find it fascinatingly moreish and complex.

I can see a good line between the wines, especially on opening. What is good though is that the differences started to appear. I certainly see the 2012 as a wine to leave for 4-5 years and see where it is then...I think it will be cracking as a winter wine with grip and savoury richness. The 2013 is probably worth leaving for 2 more years or so as it did evolve. I am inclined to think the 2013 is, by a shade, the better wine which might not be what vintage character (or perceived quality) might have suggested. Anyhow at under £20 on your table this is a wine packed with character and a nice lack of compromise...

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Correns 2016 - a holiday picture blog…

A wonderful two weeks in Correns with a stop over in Beaune…follows on from last year - Holidays - bottles and travels. Just pics this time...

A rather special place to stop en route to Hotel in Beaune...
Hargrove Special "Sausage pasta" for arrival dinner.
First night wines…keeping it real...
Could get used to this…and oh did we?
One on the left please!
Italians in France...
Dad when can I stop holding this?
Top of town in Cotignac, lovely place.
A respectable family pic...
"Vaillons" line up, read about it HERE
Breakfast time…outside...
A good tasting at Aspras…a nice welcome...
The ladies in Barjols.
A great Monday morning at Saint Endreol...

A first stab at black truffle pasta…6 out of 10…work to do...

Stu on BBQ duty...


Another day another breakfast…this time in Carces.
Pre-season friendly at Stade Mayol…Toulon vs Stade Francais.
Our team…a good win for Toulon!
Boy in Collobrieres.

being "photo bombed" by some creep...

Loved this "pimped-up" sound system...

Superbly looked after here in Collobrieres…will go back...


Something of a favourite food wise, especially after a hot round of golf...

Barolo threeways - - Barolo threeways

Mr and Mrs B - tanning up nicely...
To be repeated next year

Great pic by Amelia...

Had to get some boule in...


Great morning at Saint Maiximin with tasting at Triennes afterwards.

Lovely, very mixed, line-up.

A little creepy there Annabelle...

Relaxed lunch at Chateau Fontainebleu

Proper job...

Good job we didn't have to pay corkage!!

The last night "throw it all in" Tortilla…

The last bottle…lovely...

Job done!

Looking forward to next year...

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Barolo threeways in France - three producers and three vintages...

In the same vein as the last blog - Chablis 1er Cru Vaillons threeways - I took a few bottles of Barolo with me on holiday and decided that opening them all together was the way forward...
The trio di Barolo...
The three wines are ones I know well and that I buy every vintage:

Marcarini - is a slightly more commercial producer that the other two who could be classed as artisanal and cult in similar ways. All are traditional in terms of their non-use of new oak but there are differences too. Marcarini also makes a La Serra which, to me, is a little less structured but good.

Bartolo Mascarello - A producer whose wines I have loved for a while, old bottles can be variable but from 2005 I believe these are firmly at the top of the tree. The 2005 and 2008 being exceptional in vintages (especially 2005) where not everyone shone. The attitude is traditional in wood use but also the blending of vineyards (Cannubi - San Lorenzo , Rue and Rocche di La Morra - as per the label). Ken Vastola's site - - has a great section on Bartolo - info can be found here.

Cappellano - My experience is a little less here than the others but both the Pie Rupestris and Pie Franco are serious. Whenever I have had the wines I have found them to be powerfully poised and elegant as well as built to last. The same site as above has Cappellano info HEREThe Chinato is not to be overlooked if you can find it!


"Protocol" - all wines were cool and just opened and tasted (PNP = popped 'n' poured). Then double decanted (DD) before the second tasting and thereafter served from bottle nice and cool.

Barolo Brunate 2004, Marcarini

PNP - Clean, heady, slightly spiced nose with red fruits and some black backbone. Full, rich and intense. The palate is more structured and drier. Quite bold structure and good grip, nice tannins that are big but not hard, good length. Good wine.

Post DD + 2 hours - Still a little heady and hi-toned, good though. This is a wine that is not either young or mature and possibly suffers as a result. The tannins are certainly the boldest of the three. This is good, very good even, but not stacking up on pure quality with the other two.

20 hours after first opening - Holding up very well and whilst still a little "hi" it has a good balance of fruit and tannin with nice acidity. I think I'll try to leave the last bottles and a magnum of this that I have for at least 5 years, as I feel it will age very well and mellowness might be a good thing. 19/25.

Barolo Pie Rupestris 2008, Cappellano

PNP - Clean, more animal than the Marcarini. Richness? Yes, but also with lovely farmyard character but then more leather aromas, tea and lots of complexity. The fruit is nicely bruised in places, the acidity is more a feature of the wine than the tannin, which is there, but not overpowering. Nice start.

Post DD + 2 hours - Very good, somewhere between the other two in terms of profile, not the fruit purity of the Bartolo, not the tannin of the Marcarini. The sweet leather and tan element are superb, the fruit has tightened up a bit, clearly young but with an old soul. I like this, for the purists for sure.

20 hours after first opening - Lovely lifted nose, still on the leather side but also cured meats and saline, a serious wine that has good degraded sweetness and a great ability to age, I foresee this being a tertiary style of wine. Despite all these "animal" descriptors there is a red berry fruit lurking as well. Really lovely. 20-21+/25

Barolo 2009, Bartolo Mascarello

PNP - Such lovely poise, this has real precision and is more on the fruit than the others, there is a little spice there, the palate is a little softer and lighter but still true, this smacks of a tender attitude to a vintage that is not a blockbuster, good start.

Post DD + 2 hours - This saw comfortably the biggest change of the wines, the elegant but slightly scrawny, almost light red fruit has gone, replaced by a darker, sweeter and fuller character. I hate lazy analogies of red Burgundy but here's one coming; it is like a lesser vintage Volnay that has turned into a young Morey-Saint-Denis from a great year. The only possible criticism I might be able to make is that it is not so obviously Barolo. The wine is just a different animal post the double-decant and time.  

20 hours after first opening - The only wine to be tighter now than after DD+2hours, the nose is classy but a touch subdued, the extravagance of the second tasting has gone on the nose but there is a lovely rich tarry-ness to the palate with a good, marked acidity too. Somehow it is less of a showstopper now but more of a Barolo. 21-22/25

Conclusion: This was a really fun way to do things and I look forward to just drinking the last third of each later without making notes. The styles are different as well as the vintages. I will certainly continue to buy all three.

Friday, 5 August 2016

Chablis 1er Cru Vaillons three ways - two producers, three vintages...

So, as I stand in the kitchen on summer holidays in the town of Correns in Provenance a little Chablis tasting has been lined up. Interestingly it is about one site - Vaillons - and two Vincents - Dampt and Dauvissat. The only variable across the three wines is vintage.

The wines were just "popped and poured" at 7pm and then re-assessed the following afternoon and decanting and just fridge storage in between times.
Chablis 1er Cru Vaillons 2005, Vincent Dampt - last but one bottle from a case, bought on release.

7pm - Citrus attack that mellows quickly. Slightly milky texture but with zip. There is a definite richness. A little mellow honey, dry honey if that is possible. A little resinous character, delicious and consistent with the other bottles I have had over the years.

3pm next day - Still with a good acidity and precision, limey nose, lovely textured palate, a little dry honey and a tiny bit of sweet nuttiness.

Overall: A cracking wine made all the more impressive by essentially being Vincent's first stand alone vintage. There is generosity but it is in total balance. I really wish I had bought two cases not one and at £150 a dozen IB I should have!

Chablis 1er Cru Vaillons 2007, Vincent Dampt - 2 bottles left after this, bought on release.

7pm - Darker colour by two shades, not madeirised but evolved. Greek yoghurt and nuts, I love the palate's complexity. Lacks citrus, more bruised fruits and a yeasty complexity. 

3pm next day - Richer and more intense but not as fresh, a definite yeastiness, the more air the better this gets. It is a tricky wine to nail down.

Overall: This wine really ebbed and flowed, I was worried on first opening as it looked a little prematurely developed especially alongside the 2005 but both colour and aromas lifted and the wine was, whilst not as balanced as the 2005, very enjoyable. 

Chablis 1er Cru Vaillons 2011, Vincent Dauvissat - bought in Cotignac as a loose bottle.

7pm - This does show more opulence and richness, the fact they use wood does show but the Chablis character and acidity is not missing, although it is behind the rest of the unctuousness. This is focused but broad at the same time. Very good wine, more "foody" than the Dampts, arguably this is more harmonious but it is less fresh. There is wet stones in the background but with that dry honey appearing.

3pm next day - This has opened out but not necessarily in the best way it seems a little incomplete. The texture isn't as fresh as it was.

Overall: It might be a little unfair to compare 2011 with 2007 and 2005 although most white Burgundy 2011s I have had recently have been very good if not amazingly serious. This was probably only just behind the 2005 on opening but the following day it had not progressed and some freshness had gone.

This was a nice little experiment of a tasting. Chablis remains a wine I like a great deal, it is so easily drinkable but capable of proper complexity at the same time. I do find tasting notes for Chablis as big a challenge as any wines, they are not easily described.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Olivier Leflaive 2015's with Franck Grux...

Each year we are delighted to welcome Franck Grux to London to do a tasting of the, just to be released, vintage from Olivier Leflaive, last year it was the 2014s so of course this year it follows that it is the 2015s. Franck speaks with incredible passion and has been at Olivier's right hand for many many years now.

This year we started with a new project, a Champagne. This is a Blanc de Blancs from Avize made as a joint project between Olivier and Erick de Sousa in so much as Erick is a shareholder. The name comes from the fact that both men have sons called Valentin.
Champagne Valentin, Olivier Leflaive - This sees 4 years on the lees and is a minute production of only about 7000 bottles. The dosage is low, but not painfully so, at 4.5g. I liked the style. Good richness, butter, toast and shortbread but with freshness and drive. The plate finished with a little cashew nut. I really look forward to following this wine and project over the years.
Now we were onto the 2015 vintage tasting. There is a very thorough and opinionated vintage report  by Franck and Philippe Grillet to be found HERE.

Bourgogne Aligoté Récolte du Domaine - Very primary, pear then really quite rasping but not acidic, the palate is more open and easy with a clean, if indistinct, finish.

Bourgogne Blanc Les Sétilles - Citrus, rich nose but not OTT, good salty bite, nice volume to the palate, almost ready to go. This comes from as many as 75 vineyards, split roughly 60/40 between Puligny and Meursault.

Montagny 1er Cru  Bonneveaux - from a parcel with vines in the 40-45 years old range. 90% Barrel aged and 10% tank. Very light colour, good generous palate with less easily defined aromas. Lime rather than lemon, a good wine, less volume that the Les Setilles right now. Good.
Rully 1er Cru Rabourcé - Ripe lemon and rounded citrus, good acidity and drive, lovely wine. Always comes from the same four vineyards. 85% Barrel aged and 15% tank.

Pernand-Vergelesses - 6 different suppliers contribute here. 100% barrel. Very classy nose, complex, gives off the impression of a cooler site (which it is). Steely with a classy length...

Auxey-Duresses la Macabrée - An interesting combination of 60% old vines and 40% younger vines. 100% barrel of which 20% is new. A little more battonage too. Lemon and some honey, good depth and weight which hints towards the mini-Meursault that this is. It comes from three contracts and the sites are next to Meursault Les Luchets and Les Vireuils. A good buy.

Chablis Grand Cru Vaudésir - A little "good greenness", stones and limes. This does see barrel fermentation but no new wood at all. This is a shade neutral at this early stage but then that is no surprise.  

Meursault Clos du Cromin - 11 barrels go into making this. 100% barrel, of which 20% are new. No battonage. A little toasty character and a whiff of reduction. Delicious, generous, a little butter, the palate has just enough "zip" to keep this "honest". Cracking wine in 2015.

Meursault 1er Cru Poruzots - This is owned by Olivier Leflaive, the first wine from here for them was 1990. 8 barrels in total. Less, if any, reduction, more focus than the Cromin. More steely, good if a little muted, needs time, got better with air.

Chassagne-Montrachet Les Blanchots - Lime and lemon richness, good balance, nice bit of green drive. The palate has a tautness, nicely done...

Puligny-Montrachet Les Meix -  Always a favourite of mine, this lieu-dit is near both Les Pucelles and Les Enseigneres. A nice bit of toast, more lemon in character, good generosity.

Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Referts - Classy, tighter, good refined minerality, serious wine this, focused citrus. An obvious candidate for some ageing. 

Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Abbaye de Morgeot Récolte du Domaine - Lovely clean freshness here, less non-fruit flavours, good purity. Really lovely length.

A really great tasting with good insights all the way through. The 2015s are clearly good wines. posibly without the poise and drive of the more classic years like 2010 and 2014 but very good and will be lovely to drink while the 2014s are waited for, clearly there is more richness than the nice (in a good way) 2011s and 2013s. 

The previous night Rebecca, Margaux, Robbie and I had taken Franck to 67 Pall Mall for a relaxed dinner with 4 wines all served blind. Hyde de Villaine Chardonnay 2011, Guru 2011 from Wine & Soul, Contrada "P" (Porcaria) 2012 from Tenuta di Passopisciaro and Barolo Serradenari 2011 from Giulia Negri.
Franck and the lineup!
It was a cracking time spent discussing the wines and much more. Open minded winemakers are certainly the best. I think the wines that surprised Franck the most were the Hyde Chardonnay for its coolness and the Barolo for its elegance. I am looking forward to Francks visit next year already, although it is too long since I have seen him in Puligny so I should do that first.