Yesterday Thierry Manoncourt passed away at the age of 92. Monsieur Manoncourt had run the exceptional Chateau Figeac(Premier Grand Cru Classe) since the 1947 vintage. He was a pioneer for many modern wine practises such as the use of 100% new oak for certain vintages; the effective use of malo lactic fermentation; varietal seperate fermentation. He also founded the Union de Grands Crus, which is now an effective promotional group for many top Chateaux.
I only met Monsieur Manoncourt once many years ago in Saint Emilion. I always felt that he was an extremely gracious and pleasant, friendly face of Saint Emilion.
Jancis Robinson wrote some splendid notes on Thierry Manoncourt's many many achievements over 3 years ago. Click here to see the full article. It is quite something for one man to have made the wine at one property for 63 years!.....But also to maintain an exceptional quality over all that time.
I love this comparison of purchases from this article in The Drinks Business, click here .
Although the global economy is still struggling and the UK economy is taking drastic measures to balance the books, there is still an enormous amount of wealth in this World. And an increasing amount of people who want to invest in wine, to drink wine, to enjoy wine.....and to have the very best quality wines on their dining room tables.
My only grumble is that wines such as Chateau Lafite Rothschild(pictured above) are becoming iconic collectors wines and are totally out of reach for the vast majority of us, who are not multi millionaires!
Even the second wine of Chateau Lafite Rothschild, which is called Carruades de Lafite is now trading(in the UK) at £3000 per case of 12 bottles for the 2009 vintage.
Wine is fun and enjoyable but the question is: Would you buy 8 bottles of wine or a Porsche 911?
When you have got 29 Appelations and 50,000 small and large growers and +/- 2 billion bottles of wine produced every year; it can be difficult to simplify the region.
But the CIVL (one of the governing bodies for the Languedoc wines) have now created the titles: 'Grands Vins' and 'Grands Crus'. This will obviously make it far easier for the consumer to understand!!!
It is difficult enough trying to explain the three main different classifications in Bordeaux.....one was introduced in 1855 (for the Medoc) one was introduced in 1953 (for the Graves) and one was introduced in 1955 (for Saint Emilion).
The article in decanter here tries to clarify the situation, but also confuses, as there are some exceptions to the rules that they are introducing.
CLARITY???? SIMPLIFICATION????.....I think not.
I have been busy trying to get a new website launched.
Please let me know what you think www.bellawinetours.com
An interesting initiative from the CIVB....the people who market and promote Bordeaux wines. They are trying to get a Bordeaux iphone App up and running. This will make it easier for any consumer in the World to identify a Bordeaux label and to learn more about that wine, the Chateaux and where it comes from. Click here for the story in Decanter.
This is all part of a new promotion 'Bordeaux Tomorrow', which sounds intriguing!!
The only difficult part could be:
'It is hoped the region's 9000 wine estates will upload information on their 15,000 to 20,000 wines during August and September despite the summer vacation and the impending 2010 harvest. '
I will follow this promotion eagerly. A positive initiative, but not too sure about the implementation.
This could be a very interesting week for release prices for some of the top wines from Bordeaux. There was an important wine show last week in Hong Kong (Vinexpo) and many of the Chateau owners would have been gauging the feedback and response to their wines. Also the top Chateau owners will have looked at which Chateaux have already released their prices and seen how quickly they have sold.
I have many UK customers who need large amounts of wine to fill their order books, but I am not wildly optimistic that I will get enough wine in order to fulfil the demand.
It could be a frustrating couple of weeks ahead!!
We also do not yet know the pricing for the 1st Growths. Will they release a small first 'tranche' at €300 per bottle? Then watch the secondary market add margings and re sell at double the price!
Lets see what happens.......
Decanter magazine have 'voted' Chateau Latour 2009 as their top wine from the Bordeaux vintage.
For the full article click here.
I have tasted Chateau Latour at the Chateau last week, as well as tasting Chateau Margaux (3 times), Chateau Lafite Rothschild (twice), Chateau Mouton Rothschild (3 times) and Chateau Haut Brion (twice).
Undoubtedly all the First Growths have made exceptional wines in the 2009 vintage. There are certainly more powerful (tannins and alcohol) wines produced. Wheras the top wines have a balance, poise and sheer class about them.
But for absolute pure elegance, charm, and beauty my vote would have gone for Chateau Margaux 2009.
Last week was hectic. I tasted over 1000 wines throughout the Bordeaux region. I was there to assess the 2009 wines, which were picked last September and October. This is an annual event, which takes place in early April. The wines are real 'babies' as they are still in early development stages. The wines have fully fermented and are at the stage when they are being aged in barrels. Many wines will age for another 12 or 14 months, so they will change and develop again. But this tasting of Primeur (or as the Americans like to say 'Futures') is a good indication of the future quality of the vintage.
2009 Viticultural Year
The Spring was quite late in 2009, with cooler temperatures and threat of disease in the vines until early June. However the Summer from mid June was great. A long dry spell, interspersed with occasional, but necessary, rain during July, August and September. High day time temperatures were complemented by cool nights (which are just as important for flavor and tannin development).
There were problems with two hail storms that effected vineyards in parts of Saint Emilion (Chateau Trottevieille in particular), extensively in the Entre Deux Mers and also in the southern part of the Margaux appellation. Hail is a very precise and frustrating enemy of a vineyard owner.
Generally the growing season was near perfect. The day time heat and the cool nights were the key factors.
At harvest time the grapes were abundant and in extremely good health. The only issue as Bruno Borie (at Ch. Ducru Beaucaillou) said:
'The grapes were analytically ripe at the beginning of September. They were healthy and full. But the pips were not fully ripe. We were helped by a light shower of rain in mid September, which washed the grapes, but did not effect the alcohol level. This purely held us back from the vineyard for a few days. When we started picking, we could not believe the quality and freshness of the grapes.'
Some people may say that is when the hype began for this vintage!!
But paraphrasing a top chef....you can only make good wine from good grapes.
Just got back to my hotel room at 2am.
Tasted some absolutely fantastic wines from Chateau Cheval Blanc, Lafite, Mouton Rothschild, Lynch Bages, Pontet Canet, Ausone. La Gaffeliere, Pavie Macquin and many many more.
Lets hope that I can gather my notes and post a coherent and incisive commentary on the 2009 vintage in Bordeaux, by this weekend. Many international buyers are tasting in Bordeaux and there are many stories to tell.........
What is 'en primeur? How does it work? Why?
The 'en primeur' or 'futures' are a method of buying wines, when they are not yet in bottle.
The wines are judged and assessed by tasting from barrels in the Spring following the vintage. The trade buyers and journalists taste, assess and critique the wines and then they either promote the wines to their customers or they write glowing reports.
The Primeurs started in the early 1980's. It serves two purposes.
1. For the Chateau owner it is a great opportunity to improve cash flow. Money will be received within the year after the harvest, as they still have to pay for barrels, storage and bottling over the next 18 months.
2.For the purchaser it is a great way to make sure that we get hold of the best wines direct from the Chateaux in the best condition. Many of the top wines are only made in very small quantities, therefore the Primeur offering may be the best way to secure stock. Eg Chateau Ausone in Saint Emilion produces about 2000 cases every year and Le Pin in Pomerol produce about 500 cases.
Many of the top wines of Bordeaux do not enter the secondary trading market due to small quanties produced, therefore if stock does appear it is usually at a premium...ie Chateau Petrus or Le Pin.
The majestic Chateau Haut Brion...I'll be tasting there next week.
The 2009 Bordeaux vintage will be tasted next week at the Union de Grands Crus tastings throughout the Bordeaux region. I will be there tasting at various Chateaux and seeing whether the undoubted hype for this vintage is real. Comparisons have already been made to the legendary 1947 vintage, but I treat this with caution as I am not sure how many of us have tasted extensively from 1947!! From everything I hear it is looking very good. The down side will be the quantities available....as there will be severe allocations of the top wines. And also inevitably the prices. It will be difficult for the UK and US market with the unfavorable exchange rate. But it will be an opportunity for French buyers and also the Far East.
If you are interested in buying en primeurs or hearing more about wines available please email me directly: firstname.lastname@example.org
Interesting article in the Telegraph here.
The current UK taxes are extremely punitive. The government will undoubtedly raise taxes further this coming Wednesday during the Budget. There is talk of a 5% rise or even more. So that would be c 30% tax increase in the last year.
It is difficult enough selling Australian wine (30% swing on the currency in the last 18 months) and also European wine (the Euro is strong against the Pound).
The recession also does not help...slow payments and bad debts and companies closing.
I am always positive and we are still trading away. We have to diversify here.
The next 12 months will see more rationalization and change in the wine trade. Survival of the fittest!
Whilst at the same time we are selling more and more fine wine from Bordeaux. There is genuine interest from the UK trade and collectors (and investors) for the 2009 Bordeaux wines, which I will be tasting thoroughly in the next fortnight.
I recently tasted the 2004 (not the 2006 pictured above)Chateau La Gaffeliere in Saint Emilion and then back in the UK at a trade tasting. Some wines really stay in your head! This one was an absolutely fantastic wine. The nose was intense, dark, brooding and seemed to have layers of spice and cedar. The merlot style was ripe and concentrated with silky smooth deep harmonious velvet textured oak. The wine just went on and on and on and on and on .......it was so well balanced and just coming into the drinking stage. However with the concentration of fruit and the depth of oak ageing this wine will benefit from another 10 years storing.
I am tempted to buy some myself just to keep for another while. I can get hold of some stock from the Chateau and the price would be +/- £50 per bottle.