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Vintages Preview for April 26, 2014 (Part One)

Champagne and Bordeaux 2009-2010
By John Szabo with notes from Sara d’Amato and David Lawrason

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

Three out of five featured Champagnes in the VINTAGES April 26th are outstanding. But the main feature, red Bordeaux from 2009 and 2010, has a far less impressive hit rate. This is not the first time I’ve been disappointed by wines from these two celebrated vintages; many fall on the overripe, hard and violently oaky side, and it’s not just youthful exuberance. It’s a reminder of the clear and present danger of ‘calling’ a vintage across an entire (in this case, enormous) region. David Lawrason agrees, describing the release as “really slim pickings”. I’ve nevertheless highlighted a trio of engaging wines at fair prices, while Sara d’Amato and David also share their top picks.

The Stars Align on the Champagne/Sparkling Feature

There was plenty of synchronicity this week, with critics aligning on three of the five Champagnes on offer (with recommendations from at least two critics), and one trifecta, as close to a guarantee of quality as we can provide.

Marguet Père & Fils Grand Cru Brut Champagne 2006Moutard Père & Fils Cuvée Des 6 Cépages Brut Champagne 2006Fleury Blanc De Noirs Brut ChampagneMarguet Père & Fils 2006 Grand Cru Brut Champagne, France ($65.95). John Szabo – The vineyards are all grand cru, with Chardonnay from the Côte des Blancs and Pinot Noir from old vines in the Montagne de Reims. Ageing on the lees for five years gives this a rich and powerful, nicely yeasty-toasty profile, while a lovely mix of orchard fruit and citrus/orange, along with toasted almonds, dried flowers and brioche notes to amp up the complexity. Dosage and acidity are nicely lined up and the length is terrific; lovely stuff, for current enjoyment or mid-term hold. Sara D’Amato – A powerful Champagne, classic, leesy and oozing with charm, it’s hard to tear yourself away from such a compelling bottle. Marguet prides itself on using sustainable and organic methods of production throughout their range. David Lawrason – This fine Champagne is a clinic on how well top vintage Champagnes can age. And it is much less expensive than many vintage Champagnes from the larger companies. This family firm in Ambonnay has been making Champagne for five generations.

Moutard Père & Fils Cuvée Des 6 Cépages Brut Champagne 2006, France ($87.95). John Szabo – An extra $20 buys you the top bottle on my list. The Moutard-Diligent family can trace its history in the southern part of Champagne known as the Côte des Bar as far back as 1642. But while most of the region has moved on to focus on just three varieties – pinot noir, pinot meunier and chardonnay, this estate still grows three almost forgotten (but still authorized) champagne grapes: arbanne, petit meslier and pinot blanc. These are blended with the big three to make the “Cuvée des Six Cépages”. The 2006 is beautifully mature and toasty at this stage, with dazzling hazelnut, white chocolate and brioche aromas, and wonderfully creamy, intensely flavoured palate. It’s a very classy and refine champagne, drinking beautifully now. Sara D’Amato – Perhaps my top pick of this rather impressive sparkling feature. A must taste if Champagne is your weakness.

Tawse Spark Riesling 2012Schloss Reinhartshausen Brut Riesling Deutscher SektCharles De Cazanove Brut Rosé ChampagneChampagne Fleury Blanc De Noirs Brut, France ($54.95). John Szabo – The Côte des Bar is home to the first, and still one of the very few biodynamic vineyards in Champagne, converted in 1989. This cuvée has been made every vintage since 1955 when, it was created by Robert Fleury. The reserve pinot noir wines used to assemble this cuvée are aged in large oak foudre, adding a notably burnished, pleasantly oxidative flavour profile: toasted almonds and hazelnuts, dried fruit  and plenty of toasted wheat bread with honey. This will appeal to fans of traditional, mature Champagnes, or what the French call “le gout anglais”, suitable for sipping but even better for the table, and, say, a hazelnut-encrusted sea bass. Sara D’Amato – Looking for a bubbly to serve with your main course? This pinot noir Champagne offers a heavier weight and more substantial profile that can live up to a versatile assortment of main courses from fatty fishes to roast pork. I love the wild complexity of this highly memorable Champagne and its statement making character.

Charles De Cazanove Brut Rosé Champagne, France ($54.95). David Lawrason – This large one-million bottle company has been through several ownership changes and now belongs to a family-owned group. This quite delicate wine catches the essential, subtle fruity charm I look for in rosé Champagne. It’s a blend of 50% pinot noir, 20% pinot meunier, 15% chardonnay and 15% coteaux champenois rouge.

Schloss Reinhartshausen Brut Riesling Deutscher Sekt, Rheingau, Germany ($17.95). David Lawrason – It is very rare to see quality German sekt at VINTAGES, and not only is this a good example, it is very well priced. Riesling sparklings are often a bit one-dimensional with riesling’s acidity the focal point (eg Tawse’s Spark). In this example I actually found some Rheingau-based complexity and minerality, a fine German riesling with bubbles.

Tawse Spark Riesling 2012, Limestone Ridge Estate Vineyard, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada ($19.95). Sara d’Amato – A great sparkling riesling delivers a punch that traditional chardonnay based Champagnes just can’t quite achieve. Here is a lovely example of such a punchy, dynamic sparkler from a producer who focuses on Niagara’s star grape varieties. Both elegant and energetic with the sophistication worthy of a classy affair or decadent pairing with oysters.

The Bordeaux Rouge Release

While the 2009 and 2010 are widely considered to be back-to-back “vintages of the century”, and there are some absolutely monumental wines (see for example my review of the 2009 Château Margaux, tasted in a blind lineup last October), neither vintage offers carte blanche to buy across the board.

As Sara d’Amato points out, “this rather unremarkable release will have you happy you are a WineAlign subscriber, as it has but a few well-priced and satisfying wines. Heavy demand for these vintages means that they have been likely picked over and we are seeing what remains.”

Tasting the collection from the April 26th release, as well as many others that have come through in the last year or so, I find the quality spotty. Certainly in some cases at least the wines have moved into a dark period when the hatches are all battened down and there’s little pleasure to be had – in such cases patience is required – but they’ll be fine wines when they finally unwind.

But a good many of the ‘petit’ and mid-range châteaux appear to have been overly enthused by the clement weather, gleefully allowing ripeness and extraction to get away while they were busy placing big orders with local barrel makers to up the percentage of new wood in anticipation of uncommon fruit intensity. The end results are often baked, rippingly tannic and oaky, quite the opposite of what I’d hope for from Bordeaux (I can find that style of wine elsewhere for a fraction of the cost). Where a more even-handed, reasoned approach was applied, however, the results are excellent, and in some cases offer fine value.

Château La Croix Chantecaille 2009Château Haut Selve 2010Château Donissan 2010Over on the right bank, a château that seems to have gotten everything right without going over the top is Château La Croix Chantecaille and its 2009 Saint-Émilion Grand Cru ($29.95). John Szabo – This merlot dominant (2/3, with 1/3 cabernet franc), velvet-textured St. Émilion is certainly satisfying, ripe and plush, but with well-measured wood spice and enough succulent acidity to keep the palate focused. Best 2015-2026.  Sara D’Amato – Bordering the region of Pomerol, at a mere couple hundred meters from the vineyards of Petrus, Château La Croix Chantecaille produces some exceptional wines consulted on by Michel Rolland’s team. This is perhaps the most impressive wine of this Bordelaise feature which expresses the modern appeal of the 2009 vintage. Be prepared to carry away more than a bottle or two, especially at this price.

The Graves AOC south of Bordeaux on the left bank of the Garonne/Gironde (and the smaller more prestigious Péssac-Léognan enclave within it) are the source of some of the most reliable pleasure-price ratios in the region, as evinced by such wines as the 2010 Château Haut Selve, Graves ($21.95). John Szabo – A property established only late last century, yesterday in Bordeaux terms, Haut Selve has quickly become one of the leading players in the Graves, collecting an impressive haul of international medals of late. The 2010 perfectly strides that knife-edge of ripeness and freshness, allowing neither aspect to dominate, while delivering finesse and subtlety. This should be best after 2016 and hold into the mid ‘20s.

For solid sub-$20 Bordeaux, consider the 2010 Château Donissan, Listrac-Médoc ($17.95). John Szabo – It’s a firm, nicely balanced, lean but juicy Médoc, with dusty tannins, lively acids, and a nice mix of red and black berry fruit. Best now-2020.

Château Lamartine 2010Château Le Bourdillot Séduction 2009Château Le Bourdieu 2010Château Le Bourdieu 2010, Médoc ($20.95). David Lawrason – This is one of the more charming and better value entries in an otherwise rather underwhelming release of petits châteaux Bordeaux. No great depth or structure but it nicely shows the light-hearted elegance of the sandier soils near the Gironde estuary on the northern tip of the Medoc peninsula.

Château Le Bourdillot Séduction 2009, Graves ($18.95).  Sara d’Amato – The name is not wrong – the wine is rather seductive with impressive depth and structure for the price not to mention a voluptuous body and nicely integrated exotic spice. Somewhat modern and certainly appealing which is more a trait of the vintage than the region. Produced from 20-year-old vines and a straight 70/30 cabernet sauvignon and merlot blend.

Château Lamartine 2010, Castillon Côtes De Bordeaux ($16.95 ). Sara d’Amato – Castillon is a lesser-known appellation on the right bank of Bordeaux on the way to the city of Bergerac, near St. Émilion. It often produces wine of very good value from heavier, clay-based soils that are more suited to merlot-dominant blends. Surprisingly very good quality stems from this entry-level wine that has been machine harvested followed by grape sorting, cold maceration and finally 18 months ageing in concrete vats (an old world norm that produces consistently, solid results without unnecessary flavours of oak). I loved the traditional feel of this slightly earthy, sweaty blend brimming with charm.

Happening at WineAlign

Inniskillin logoFor our Ottawa area members, there’s an opportunity to join us for an exclusive dinner at Graffiti’s Italian Eatery in Kanata. Hosted by WineAlign’s Rod Phillips, Inniskillin winemaker Bruce Nicholson will guide you through a select offering of Inniskillin wines, each paired with a specially prepared gourmet dish. Bruce will speak about the unique viticulture and terroir of the Niagara region and talk about some of the history behind one of Niagara’s most iconic wineries. (Click her for more details)

That’s all for this week. See you over the next bottle.

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

From the April 26, 2014 VINTAGES release:

Champagne/Sparkling
Bordeaux Rouge
All Reviews
April 26 – Part Two

Editors Note: You can find our Critic’s complete reviews by clicking on any of the wine names, bottle images or links highlighted. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid users wait 30 days to see new reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


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Lawrason’s Take on Vintages October 26 Release

Cabernet’s World, Bordeaux 2010, White Dabbler, Pinot Watch, The Closer

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

I have posted 117 reviews from VINTAGES October 26 release to WineAlign this week, a global smorgasbord the likes of which few in the world ever have an opportunity to experience at one sitting (actually three sittings). Even though one might wish Ontario has even more wines available (as most large markets do), there is no doubting the diversity that VINTAGES offers through its selection process.  Speaking of great selections, WineAlign announced the results of the World Wine Awards of Canada this week. You can see the best list of value wines in the country right here. Onward to some highlights of this Saturday’s release (most stores have products in stock now, Queens Quay in Toronto was stocking on Tuesday).

Cabernet World

It’s a cabernet world after all. I have tasted and will be tasting dozens of great and often very expensive cabernets in October. There were plenty on the last VINTAGES release, then an inundation of fine Napa cabernets for sale at VINTAGES-sponsored Napa Rocks on October 21, where I moderated a winemaker panel tasting that included killers like the 2001 Heitz Martha’s Vineyard and 2010 La Jota Vineyard. On October 28 I will be in Montreal with several WineAlign colleagues for the Wolf Blass Master Blend Classification of 18 of the world’s best cabernets. The following day, October 29, I am moderating a VINTAGES Cabernet Masterclass. A Structured Tasting and Dinner at Mistura in Toronto that explores this grape from leading producers on three continents – Chateau Rauzan-Segla in Bordeaux, Beringer in California and Wynns in Australia. Eighteen great cabernets are on the docket! Tickets are still available at www.vintages.com/events.

In the wake of the Napa Rocks event I was able, for the first time in my career, to sit down with the much heralded and very expensive wines of California winemaker Heidi Peterson Barrett (www.amusebouchewine.com), who local scribes have dubbed “The First Lady of Napa”.  I will deal off the top with the price issue – no wine in my books is intrinsically worth over $400. But I am not the one spending the money and there are other reasons one might want to own them. The Amuse Bouche 2011 Red ($419) and the Au Sommet Atlas 2010 Peak Cabernet Sauvignon ($429) are available to order through VINTAGES via the Napa Rocks event, while others are available via private order through agent Bernard Stramwasser at Le Sommelier Inc. The Amuse Bouche 2011 is a very finely nuanced, Pomerol-inspired merlot with surprising restraint and elegance for a California wine, whereas the Au Sommet is a more typical Napa (mountain) red with power, sturdy bones and a drenching of ripe blackcurrant. Both have extraordinary length. Personally I just loved the name and the sublimely elegant and rich PharoahMoans 2011 Syrah from Paso Robles.

Here are some notable cabernets from elsewhere on the October 26 release:

Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon 2009Sassicaia 2010Ernie Els Cabernet Sauvignon 2011Ernie Els 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, South Africa  ($23.95) is from the Cape’s foremost professional golfer. The winery is thoroughly modern and dead serious about making fine Stellenbosch cabernet.  This is a very good value in a quite lush yet still mineral driven Cape example.

Sassicaia 2010 Bolgheri, Tuscany ($184.95) is of course the most collected cabernet of Italy. Every time I taste Sassicaia I am underwhelmed thanks to a certain leanness and austerity. Some might view it is a Bordeaux classicism – and I totally get that Sassicaia is intentionally molded thus – but in this instance I was not happy with a streak of volatility that makes it even more angular and sharp-edged.

Dunn 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley ($109.95). This power-packed muscular cabernet is only available at VINTAGES flagship stores. Randy Dunn is famous for pioneering viticulture in the steep, volcanic based soils of Howell Mountain, part of the Vaca Range on the east side of the Valley.

Bordeaux 2010

VINTAGES magazine gives an accurate account of this excellent Bordeaux vintage so I won’t repeat, except to say that I have been raving about France’s 2010s since tasting the first whites about 18 months ago in Alsace. And along come the Bordeaux’s packing the same sense of balance, firmness, tension and depth, while being almost perfectly ripe. To me it is most reminiscent of 2005 – my favourite vintage of that decade. The selection of 2010s hitting the shelves now are the so-called “petits chateaux”, wines that are sanely priced and affordable, giving Bordeaux newcomers a great opportunity to explore. Only two hit 90 points or better in my books, but that is not a problem. Most scored 88-89, which at prices of $25 or less is totally reasonable.

Château Rahoul 2010Château Les Tours De Peyrat Vieilles Vignes 2010Château Rahoul 2010 Graves ($29.95) is my favourite of the lot, with terrific precision and depth. It is a small property that was upgraded in the 80s and admitted to the Union des Grands Crus. I have been following its arrivals at VINTAGES over the years as an affordable bellwether.

Château Les Tours De Peyrat 2010 Vieilles Vignes, Côtes de Bordeaux – Blaye ($18.95) is great value, a modern merlot based wine from an organic 16 ha property overseen by winemaker Christelle Souboua.  This Château belongs to an association of small properties called Châteaux Solidaires.

Château Brandeau 2010Château La Vieille Forge 2010Château Le Vieille Forge 2010 Lalande de Pomerol ($23.95) is from an important region adjacent to Pomerol, separated only by a small river called the Barbanne. Like Pomerol its wines are based on merlot, and with Pomerol prices now stratospheric this gentle neighbourhood has seen much upgrading and gentrification. One of the great value hunting grounds of Bordeaux.

Château Brandeau 2010, Côtes de Bordeaux Castillon $16.95. Owned by a British family since 1973 and now in the hands of a second generation, this organically tended ten hectare vineyard is 80% merlot and 20% cabernet franc. Castillon is one of the best value regions in Bordeaux for classic, supple, fruit driven merlots.

A 90 Point White Wine Dabbler

Lest some very fine white wines be forgotten amid the red rumblings on this release; here is a diverse selection that surprised and pleased.

Elk Cove Pinot Gris 2012Castello Della Sala Bramìto Del Cervo Chardonnay 2012Elk Cove 2012 Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley ($24.95). Oregon anointed pinot gris as its signature white about 25 years ago – largely as an anti-chardonnay statement – and some of its older vine sites are now proving it was more than just a good marketing decision. Hand harvested from low-yielding, sustainably farmed hillside sites, this pinot gris surprised me with its evenness and depth.

Castello Della Sala 2012 Bramìto Del Cervo Chardonnay, Italy ($21.95). This is great value – a second wine from Antinori’s impressive estate in limestone clay soils high in the hills of Umbria, not too far from Orvieto. It is not nearly as concentrated as big sister Cervaro della Sala, but just as bright and well made (with some barrel fermentation), and more likely to fit as an aperitif and with lighter meals. Very classy.

Jean Marc Brocard Chablis Montmains 1er CruJoseph Cattin Hatschbourg Gewürztraminer 2010Joseph Cattin Hatschbourg 2010 Gewürztraminer, Alsace Grand Cru, France  ($19.95). I find it amazing that Grand Cru Alsatian wines are landing here at $20. We’ll take it as consumers I guess, but I bet the producers are none to chipper about this state of affairs. Anyway, here is a powerhouse from a single vineyard with marl and limestone soils. Batten down the hatches – this is a big blowsy and windy gewurz.

Jean-Marc Brocard 2011 Chablis 1er Cru, Montmains Burgundy, France ($29.95) – I am delighted to see a fairly steady flow of Brocard Chablis through VINTAGES. They are authentic Chablis with all the right flavours but they have just a bit more elan than many of the firm, mineral editions from some smaller houses. A great intro to the region.

Pinot Watch

One mustn’t let cabernet blind one to great pinots on this release.

Hartley-Ostini 2010 Hitching Post Hometown Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County, California ($26.95) offers excellent value, indeed I am surprised this is not $10 more. The Hitching Post restaurant and its wine starred in the movie Sideways back in 2005, and since then pals Gray Hartley and chef/owner Frank Ostini have moved production into a new “ultra premium” facility at Terravant Winery.

Hitching Post Hometown Pinot Noir 2010Yabby Lake Single Vineyard Pinot NoirDomaine Antonin Guyon Corton Bressandes Grand Cru 2010Yabby Lake Vineyard 2010 Pinot Noir,  Mornington Peninsula, Australia ($51.95). Like Hitching Post Yabby Lake is something of local hero. The winery was founded by the Kirby family of Mornington in 1992, but it has since expanded to holdings in other parts of Victoria as well. Pinot remains the focus however, and other locals are involved in the winemaking. Quality is consistently high across their range of pinots.

Domaine Antonin Guyon 2010 Corton Bressandes Grand Cru ($85.00). This mid-sized domaine based in Savigny-les-Beaune with holdings spread across 19 appellations. Their vineyard in Corton Bressandes, the source of this gorgeous, ethereal pinot is a mere .85ha. This wine is only in VINTAGES “flagship” stores.

The Closer

Ramos Pinto RP30 Years Old Tawny PortIn the last edition I left you with a pair of great sherries; here I will end with a sublime tawny port. Tawny by definition and colour is aged in barrel much longer than other wines. But to find a wine that has been in barrel an average of 30 years is rare indeed – and a great lesson in maturity. Ramos Pinto RP30 Years Old Tawny Port,  Douro Valley, Portugal  ($103.95) is simply sensational, and one to consider for the sideboard over the Holiday Season.

That’s a wrap for this edition. I will be back with much, much more prior to the Nov 9 release. Meantime, I hope to see you at what promises to be a raucous and memorable evening with the iconoclastic Jane Ferrari who is coming to town to present the Australian wines of Yalumba.

Cheers

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

Editors Note: You can find David Lawrason’s complete reviews by clicking on any of the wine names, bottle images or links highlighted. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid users wait 30 days to see new reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!

From the Oct 26, 2013 Vintages release:

David’s Featured Wines
All Reviews


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Penfolds Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon 2010


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The Successful Collector, by Julian Hitner: Wine education for us all – Bordeaux prices explained

As mentioned in our previous posting entitled: Bordeaux 2010: Yet Another Vintage of the Century?in this subsequent article Julian goes a little further to explore Bordeaux pricing. 

Justifying costs:

Julian Hitner

Julian Hitner

As the cost of premium claret continues to skyrocket, many collectors are asking why once-affordable estates are nowadays habitually so prohibitive. Is it unprecedented demand? Increasing costs of production? Or is it simply good old-fashioned extortion at work?

Whatever the reason, the need to justify such exorbitant prices has never been greater. On the part of the Classed Growths and even non-classified estates, voracity is but one excuse. For those in the business, few would deny that the cost of crafting a bottle of Fourth Growth Branaire-Ducru would be higher than a bottle of Cru Bourgeois Larose-Trintaudon. From the number of employed workers and the procurement of the finest equipment to harvesting at much lower yields and engaging in far stricter gape/parcel selection, Classed Growths will almost always be more dependent on higher revenues to live up to their reputations than their less eminent counterparts. But how much is enough to cover costs and make a reasonable profit? What is the fine line between Branaire-Ducru owner Patrick Maroteau’s overheads and a respectable return?

Chateau Branaire-DucruOn the other hand, there are those who would argue that Maroteau’s prices are merely a reflection of what the market will bear. Take away the romance and the glamour, and estates like Branaire-Ducru (a favourite of mine) are essentially glorified businesses, operated with the sole aim of exacting as much money from the purchasing public as possible. What fault of it is Maroteau’s if wine lovers are willing to pay over one hundred dollars for his stunning ’10? So long as people are willing to pay, owners might as well set their prices as high as they choose.

And why not? There are nowadays more willing customers than ever. For the past several years, new markets, particularly in Asia, have fomented greater demand for top-end Bordeaux than pundits could have ever predicted. With each passing year, buyers in Hong Kong and elsewhere along the Pacific Rim have been increasingly on the lookout for the best estates/finest vintages wherever possible; and estate owners have responded with unheralded prices.

Rauzan-SéglaBut wine lovers should remember that they have more power than they think—and more astute estate owners should know this. Should prices rise too swiftly, or remain high for particularly mediocre vintages (such as in 2011 and 2012), many claret collectors will simply stop buying. This even includes markets in Asia, where local merchants began experiencing backlash shortly after initial release prices of the 2010s were deemed too excessive. Estates such as Second Growths Châteaux Lascombes and Rauzan-Ségla learned this the hard way, and have since lowered their costs to more palatable levels. At least in principle, serious collectors and casual wine enthusiasts should always have the last word.

Here are a few gems for collectors from the 2010 Bordeaux collection:

Château Figeac 2010Château Figeac 2010, St-Emilion, AOC Premier Grand Cru Classé, $425.00

When the most recent revisions to the St-Emilion Classification (now more controversial than ever) were announced in September 2012, it was something of shock that Angélus and Pavie both got the nod to ‘A’ rank while Eric d’Aramon’s beloved Château Figeac did not. Consider the near-perfect ’10 vintage. Opaque ruby in colour, the wine exhibits exhilarating, masterful aromas of dark mocha, currants, crème de cassis, dark cherries, kirsch liqueur, slightly sinewy black fruits, spring flowers, crushed rocks, vanilla, and spice. Extremely complex, dispensing multilayered, fantastical fruit, very firm tannins, balanced acidity, and a finesse-filled, wondrous hint of concentrated black fruits, dark mocha, and charcoal on the finish. Astonishing pedigree, balance, harmony, and breed; why this estate wasn’t promoted shall forever confound me. 35% Cabernet Franc, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 30% Merlot. Now-2050++. Score 98 (Julian Hitner, The Successful Collector, November 2012)

Château La Conseillante 2010Château La Conseillante 2010, Pomerol, $379.00

Along with the near-perfect ’09, the 2010 Château La Conseillante is a legend in the making—harmonious, supple, and unbelievably addictive. Extremely dense black-ruby in colour, this magnificent claret delivers dazzling, entirely unencumbered aromas of espresso, crème de cassis, plummy currants, dark mocha, asphalt/charcoal, licorice, cherry and blackberry compote (non-excessive), vanilla, and spice. Incredibly complex, wielding prodigiously elegant, full-bodied chewy fruit, very firm tannins, balanced acidity, and a fabulous, gorgeously interwoven hint of espresso, blackberry treacle/plummy currants, and minerals traces on the finish. With abundant energy, pedigree, and finesse, this is one bottling every serious collector must somehow obtain in profusion. According to one source: 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc. Now-2050++. Score 97 (Julian Hitner, The Successful Collector, November 2012)

Château Léoville Barton 2010Château Léoville Barton 2010, St-Julien, $169.00

While I have yet to taste the Ducru-Beaucaillou or Léoville-Las Cases, for the moment at least the 2010 Château Léoville Barton ranks as the greatest St-Julien produced from this fabulous vintage—not to mention one of the finest wines the Barton family has ever created. Opaque ruby in colour, it discloses substantially elegant, enticing aromas of currants, blackberries, dried blueberries, licorice, spring flowers, delicate espresso, forest floor, minerals, vanilla wafers, and spice. Extremely complex, featuring robust, seamlessly attuned fruit, very firm tannins, balanced acidity, and a magnificent hint of currants, blackberries, and mineral elements on the finish. Luminous, characterful, and totally harmonious; a wine like this one reminds me of why I got into this business in the first place. 77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Merlot, and 2% Cabernet Franc. Now-2046+. Score 96++ (Julian Hitner, The Successful Collector, November 2012)

Château Lynch Bages 2010Château Lynch Bages 2010, Pauillac, $229.00

Though the wines of Lynch Bages have always been stellar (even in average vintages), the 2010 may very well gone down in the estate’s history as the unbeatable outing, surpassing even the colossal ’09, the resplendent ’05, and the already-legendary ’00. Opaque ruby in colour, it demonstrates wondrous aromas of crème de cassis and alternate black fruits; making way for dark cherries, kirsch, Oreo Cookies®, mocha, licorice, spring flowers, graphite, charcoal, vanilla, and spice. Incredibly complex, delivering well-structured, near-perfect fruit, very firm tannins, balanced acidity, and a classic, impactful hint of black cherried currants, spring flowers, and crushed rocks on the finish. Magnificently textured, conveying incredible finesse, dimension, and harmony; easily a thirty-year proposition. 79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Petit Verdot. Now-2045++. Score 96 ++ (Julian Hitner, The Successful Collector, November 2012)

Château Rauzan Ségla 2010Château Rauzan-Ségla 2010, Margaux, $215.00

A new plain of excellence for this fast-improving estate, the 2010 Rauzan-Ségla is not just the greatest wine this estate has ever produced; it is also one of the finest wines of the vintage for the Margaux appellation. Opaque ruby in colour, this intoxicating claret displays exemplary aromas of fragrant raspberries, currants, and black fruits; making way for blackberries, violets, licorice, forest floor, wild game elements, minerals, vanilla, and spice. Extremely complex, delivering incredibly refined, gorgeously concentrated fruit, very firm tannins, balanced acidity, and a poignant, eternally graceful hint of black currants, raspberries, and mineral deposits on the finish. So delicious, generous, and elegant; this will likely keep much longer than any vintage preceding it. 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 3.5% Petit Verdot, and 1.5% Cabernet Franc. Now-2045+. Score 96 (Julian Hitner, The Successful Collector, November 2012)

For more reviews: 2010 Bordeaux

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Bordeaux 2010: Yet Another Vintage of the Century?

Bordeaux 2010 – A joint report by Sara d’Amato and Julian Hitner

Sara d'Amato

Sara d’Amato

Classic, timeless, elegant and powerful are adjectives that spring to mind immediately at the thought of the great wines of Bordeaux. So, however, do expensive, austere and snobby. The multi-faceted wines of this most revered wine region engender both respect and awe but also intimidation and distrust. Notably this skepticism is felt at the onset of another “vintage of the century” – as the 2010s have been hailed – and soaring prices reflective of this fact have left many collectors uncertain about whether the prices are worth the purchase again this year.

The yearly UGC (Union des Grands Crus) tasting finally touched down in Toronto last week, affording collectors a chance to taste for themselves this highly touted vintage on the back of a vintage of similar praiseworthiness. The Union des Grands Cru is a collective of 134 Châteaux across seven of the most prestigious and highly valued appellations of Bordeaux. Worldwide sales of this collective of producers are valued at $415 million per annum and represent over 5,000 hectares of planted vine. The wines of the upcoming vintage release are showcased every year in major cities across the US, Canada, Asia and Europe and tend to be quite representative of the overall quality of the vintage. Here in Toronto, the event is organized through VINTAGES and is set up as a “taste and buy” experience. Of course, the wines are not yet available in the market, so this is a preview for buyers and critics alike and a chance to purchase “futures”.  (For details on how to purchase these futures in Ontario, click on this link to VINTAGES.com)

Union des Grands CruJulian Hitner and I were both present at this year’s “en primeur” tasting and are pleased to share our impressions. Julian has a true passion for Bordeaux and was able to taste many of the wines in London prior to our tasting here in Toronto. His notes are extremely comprehensive, well-informed, and have been uploaded with mine under 2010 Bordeaux on WineAlign. Following my comments are Julian’s recommended best values, which show distinctive and important differences throughout the left and right bank.

My personal interest in Bordeaux stems from time spent as an oenology stagière on the right bank in 2004. Having had the chance to visit many of the properties and develop a greater understanding of winemaking culture and politics, I continue to be enthralled by the powerful and deep-rooted heritage of this most influential of wine regions.

Château Rauzan-Ségla

Sandrine Bégaud, Château Rauzan-Ségla

This year’s tasting featured an undeniably outstanding vintage whose praise is well justified, although price remains a contentious issue. Sandrine Bégaud, Public Relations Manager of Château Rauzan-Ségla, says that the market was not ready for another great vintage, as people had invested a great deal already in the 2009s. Prices might have better reflected this reality in order to avoid a ‘lag’ in the 2010 sales, as we are seeing now in comparison to other great vintages. Nonetheless, the idea that “quality has no price” is being touted by many of the estates prideful of this vintage. In a subsequent article, Julian will further explore pricing in Bordeaux.

Climate and the Human Factor

So, why does the 2010 vintage of Bordeaux deserve your admiration and respect, and what is responsible for this vintage that Patrick Maroteaux, President of Château Branaire Ducru, calls the “top vintage of the last 30 years”? Influential Robert Parker is extolling the 2010s along with 2009s and 2005s as the “three greatest Bordeaux vintages I have tasted in my career.” In part, this has to do with conditions – a mix of factors such as a wet winter and spring helped the vines manage a dry summer, along with classically typical cool nights and warm days that were responsible for a great level of acidic structure development. In addition, heat was not as extreme as it could have been, resulting in many producers allowing grapes to hang just a little longer on the vines, developing better phenolic ripeness while preserving balance and structure. Although the climate played a big role, producers learned from the 2009 vintage in creating the 2010s, says Caroline Ruffié, Public Relations Director of Château Ferrière, and were able to achieve better tannic extraction resulting in more complex and age-worthy wines in 2010.

What to Expect

In 2010, we see an impressive homogeneity between the styles and execution in terms of preservation of structure and elegance across the important regions, although more notably in the left bank. As we will explore further below, there appears to be more stylistic variability in the wines of the right bank that often show more lushness than those of the left. Generally speaking, though, the wines of 2010 are tight as a drum with firm, ripe tannins, vibrant acidity and richly concentrated fruit. This is a vintage to last the test of time. Stylistically quite different from the more overt, approachable 2009s, many producers intentionally took a more classic approach to this balanced and condition-favored vintage.

A truly classic Bordeaux vintage such as this should be difficult to appreciate at this point in its evolution. Its tannic structure, most notably, should be tight and firm, but not drying (despite the fact that when tasting a large number of these wines, the cumulative effect of the tannins can be perceived as such). Some examples appeared closed, others merely restrained. Generally speaking, colours were dark and stable, acidity was solidly present and the fruit was concentrated and tightly wound. Most definitely a challenging and heady tasting for all. However, perhaps the more impressive challenge is that Bordeaux seems to be able to have pulled off another stellar vintage on the back of one that was also exquisite.

Sara’s Top Recommendations for Overall Value:

Although there were many praiseworthy wines at this year’s UGC, I will keep my recommendations, in this article, to five wines spread over five prestigious regions represented by the Union. (All of my reviews have been posted on WineAlign under this tag: 2010 Bordeaux)

Pessac-Leognan: Château Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc

Although, arguably, there has been some inconsistency in quality over the last decade in the wines of Smith Haut Lafitte, I have been more often wholeheartedly impressed by the whites. From a region just south of the important red regions of the Médoc, the gravelly soils of Pessac-Léognan produce both reds and stunning dry whites that are highly structured and boast intensely heady aromatics. Stylish and refined, the 2010 Blanc presents lush minerality and gorgeous wild herbal and floral aromatics with just a kiss of oak – a real­­­­­ standout in this tasting with complex, highly intriguing flavours built around a structure meant to last the test of time.

Sauternes: Château de Fargues

Philippe de Lur Saluces, Château de Fargues

Prince Eudes d’Orleans – CEO of Château de Fargues

Remarkably, the Lur Saluces family has been the sole owners of this property since 1586. I had the opportunity recently to spend some time with the charismatic and passionate heir of Château de Fargues and its current ambassador in Asia, Philippe de Lur Saluces, along with the current CEO of the estate Eudes d’Orleans. Balance is key for Château de Fargues, insisted Philippe, and this is notably and consistently so in the wines of this property. Never cloying, always willing to sacrifice sugary opulence for structural acidity and purity of fruit, these wines have remarkable depth and impressive ageabillity. In fact, in many vintages, the wines of Fargues have surprised me by matching or even exceeding the quality of the infamous Yquem. The Château’s CEO has as his mission to broaden the consumers’ horizon as to the enjoyment of Sauternes outside of the dessert wine realm. He suggests pairing with salads, fish, pork and even sushi. Expectedly, Château de Fargues stole the show even among the outstanding Sauternes available for tasting at the UGC, but the 2010s will not even be bottled until the fall as Fargues ages their Sauternes for 3 years prior to release. What was sampled was prematurely bottled for the tour.

Saint-Emilion: Château Troplong-Mondot

Recently (in 2006) the Château Troplong-Mondot was elevated to the status of 1er Grand Cru Classé in St. Emilion. Christine Valette, who has been widely praised for her improvement in the quality of the wine since the 1980s, oversees the winemaking. Although she has strong vision of her own, she did benefit from some consultation with the infamous Michel Rolland. I am constantly seduced by the wine of this Château, which, generally speaking, is modern in style, captivating, bold, perfumed and accessible. Despite the sometimes-criticized power and showy appeal of this stylistic approach, the wines are solidly crafted, richly textured and their appeal, in my view, is well-deserved. The sensual lure of the wine of this estate was abundantly demonstrated, despite the tightness of the 2010 vintage.

Saint-Julien: Château Gruaud Larose

This second growth classified estate, which has recently switched hands to the Merlaut family in 1997, has since established organic and sustainable vineyard practices. The vines average about 50 years in age and are planted in deep gravel soils with a distribution featuring high percentages of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The estate is considered by many to be a “super second” rivaling the quality and reputation of the first growths. What struck me most about the 2010 were the wildly compelling aromatics that were apparent despite the restraint and classical structure typical to the vintage. The dynamic nature of this wine and its complexity was surprisingly apparent even at this youthful stage.

Margaux: Château Giscours

This third growth classified estate and neoclassical palace dates back to the 14th century. Giscours has come in and out of favor and repute mostly due to various owners and levels of interest over the past century. Post the 1940s, its quality notably improved. Although the estate was embroiled in the Bordelaise oak chip scandal of 1998, its top tier label was cleared. I have had my eye on this property since the early 2000s and have found the quality to be quite consistent and classic in style – a reliable producer since I began tasting in 2003. The heady perfumed style of Margaux and its elegance is very well demonstrated in this well-structured example.

Julian’s Take: One of the best Vintages ever

Julian Hitner

Julian Hitner

As back-to-back vintages go, 2009 and 2010 may very well turn out to be the greatest twin vintages Bordeaux has ever experienced. Of the latter, never in my career have I tasted so many top-notch, effortlessly dazzling wines from one vintage. And while this doesn’t excuse the skyrocketing prices of many once-affordable estates, collectors may rest assured that, with very few exceptions, no matter what they procure their wines will likely be of impeccable, in some cases unprecedented quality. (For comparison, access 2009 Bordeaux Reviews here.)

The Left Bank

Along with Pessac-Léognan and Pomerol, the Left Bank played host to some of the most profound wines of 2010. In Margaux, wines from the finest estates gleamed with exemplary fragrance, texture, and body; while many of the lesser known properties seem to have utilized 2010 as an opportunity to distinguish themselves. In St-Julien, some of the most balanced, most polished wines of the vintage may be found. In Pauillac, 2010 may very well turn out to be one of the most long-lived, ‘classically’ concentrated vintages ever recorded, the finest properties realizing masterpiece after masterpiece; with less eminent operations showing remarkable improvement over previous years. In St-Estèphe, heightened concentration was a hallmark of many wines, though this hardly served to detract. As elsewhere, ripe tannins, immense structure, and unsurpassed elegance were the orders of the day.

At the same time, one cannot help but be awestruck at how well the less prestigious appellations acquitted themselves, particularly in Listrac and Moulis, where some of the best bargains are found. The same applies to more ‘blanket’ appellations like Haut-Médoc and Médoc, where most estates pulled out all the stops to craft unusually full-bodied, sometimes luxurious clarets, several of which even matched the Classed Growths. In short, wine lovers are spoiled for choice, with countless Left Bankers of considerable concentration, ample structure, and long-term ageability.

Top Recommendations for Overall Value:

Margaux: Cantenac-Brown, Dauzac, Marquis de Terme, du Tertre, and Ferrière

St-Julien: Léoville Barton, Branaire-Ducru, Saint-Pierre, Langoa Barton, and Gloria

Pauillac: Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Batailley, and Haut-Bages Libéral

St-Estèphe: Lafon-Rochet, Phélan-Ségur, and Cos Labory

Moulis-en-Médoc and Listrac-Médoc: Poujeaux, Chasse-Spleen, and Fourcas Hosten

Haut-Médoc: Sociando-Mallet, Cantemerle, and La Tour Carnet

Pessac-Léognan:

In Pessac-Léognan, 2010 will likely go down as a watershed vintage, featuring a cornucopia of spectacular whites and some of the best reds to which this part of Bordeaux has ever laid claim. Of whites, many seemed superior to the ‘09s, with just that extra level of concentration and vibrancy that went such a long way in other recent vintages like 2007 and 2005. Of reds, never before have I come across so many delicious, brilliantly textured wines from this appellation. Hard to fathom the sheer number of estates that have improved in such a short period of time. As in the Left Bank, there are many overachievers.

Top Recommendations for Overall Value:

Pessac-Léognan Rouge: Malartic-Lagravière, Carbonnieux, du Fieuzal, and Bouscaut

Pessac-Léognan Blanc: Domaine de Chevalier, Carbonnieux, and Malartic-Lagravière

The Right Bank:

Without question, 2010 was an extraordinary vintage throughout the Right Bank, particularly in Pomerol, where some of the most temptingly concentrated, flattering wines were produced. In St-Emilion, on the other hand, many examples were simply too ‘Parkerized’ for their own good; and while many North American collectors will probably appreciate their prodigious, blockbuster-like concentration and unprecedented levels of alcohol, such wines will not appeal to everybody. Regardless, there’s no question both Pomerol and St-Emilion produced many fabulous wines for the long haul, with plenty of choices to go around.

Top Recommendations for Overall Value:

Pomerol: Gazin, Beauregard, Le Bon Pasteur, La Cabanne, and La Croix de Gay

St-Emilion: La Gaffelière, La Couspaude, and Rol Valentin

Sauternes and Barsac:

At time of publication, I have no formal notes from Sauternes or Barsac, though the dozen-or-so wines I quickly examined suggest a magnificent vintage. Indeed, 2010 may very well turn out to be an even finer year than 2009 or even 2007, the latter largely panned for its reds, but not for the quality of its dry whites or dessert wines. Estates that particularly stood out were Climens, de Fargues, Guiraud, Suduiraut, and La Tour Blanche.

More Affordability Down the Road

As stupendous as the 2010s are, one mustn’t forget that not all Bordeaux is as expensive as the estates listed here. Over the next several years, dozens of more affordable 2010s shall be released at much more palatable prices. For everyday drinking, these are the wines to watch out for, though many of them will probably easily keep over the medium term. Like many serious wine collectors and general enthusiasts, I await them with relish. Stay tuned for my February column on Bordeaux prices.

In the meantime, we have posted over 100 reviews to help you with your 2010 selections: Go to 2010 Bordeaux, then be sure to click ‘show wines with zero inventory’, as these wines have not been released yet.

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