A Racy Little Number: Discovering Chateau Haut Biot

Chateau Haut Biot smallChateau Haut Biot holds some surprises. It’s a cracking bright little Claret full of fabulous flavours of intense blackberry and black cherry with subtle notes of leather, liquorice and crushed black pepper. Lush and velvety in the mouth with well balanced tannins, it’s seductively smooth. Although the small chateau sits slumbering in the sleepy countryside it is part of a vibrant and dynamic scene. The locals are a lively bunch and some of that plucky spirit is reflected in the wine.

Haut Biot sits deep in the countryside on the limestone plateau not too far away from the little wine village of Faleyras. It has ancient roots – Biot is a Lieu Dit, a term often given to old vineyards bearing a traditional name. Lieu Dits were often taken from names of inhabitants, folklore, geographical features or long lost hamlets and you can uncover a lot of local history from them. ‘Biot’ is the Old French word for a pitcher which could indicate that wines were being made and sold here for very many centuries indeed. However all is not quite as it seems in this peaceful spot. Faleyras is world famoGoogle Translate 2014-05-22 15-44-53us for something other than its lovely wines.

Motorsports fans will have already clocked the name – Faleyras is the home of French Championship Rallycross and Autocross racing and is the only circuit in France to host both Championships. It also hosts events on the European Championship. Nicknamed the ‘Green Jewel’ thanks to its beautiful setting with a backdrop of woods (the name Faleyrfaleyras raceas comes from the word ‘fatha’, meaning ‘wooded place’) the cicuit sits on the outskirts of the village.

There is huge local support for the Faleyras Circuit and it all began in 1974 when a group of locals created an autocross track fenced in with straw bales. Rallycross was already growing in popularity in the UK during the 70s and crossed the English channel in 1976. Faleyras went on from strength to strength and the first rallycross was held in 1990 and European Championships in 1995, 1999 and 2002. Citroen Sport also used the track for private testing of the Xsara WRC in 2002 ans in 2005 Sprint Car racing was also established . Last year the Circuit was sold to Amoleen Racing who are developing and refurbishing the site in readiness for European Championships in the coming years.

raceThe French enthusiasm for car racing is only to be expected – they were the first nation to indulge in the sport. The first organised race was held in 1887 in Paris and the world’s first motoring competition was held there in 1894, which lead to the birth of Grand Prix Racing. Wine being the other French passion naturally has links to car racing too – Philippe de Rothschild, owner of Chateau Mouton Rothschild, raced his own Bugatti T35C in the 1929 Grand Prix and Chateau Guiraud is part owned by the Peugeot family.

biotIt’s not hard to see why Chateau Haut Biot is a popular wine with the local enthusiasts and we’re pleased to say that we have the 2010 vintage available at Bordeaux-Undiscovered for £6.99. It’s perfect for picnics and alfresco dining, being delicious with chargrilled meats, especially barbecued cutlets or beefburgers grilled over charcoal. It’s also excellent with dishes cooked in rich sauces, (red wine, creamy pepper or mushroom), hearty beef casseroles or braised steak and roast duck, lamb, venison or pheasant.

This racy little Claret is a winner!

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Searching for the Soul of Wine: Discovering Chateau de Basset

Chateau de Basset smallSome wines call to us, they have such a profound appeal. They possess a certain something that marks them out. You can’t quite put your finger on it but it’s captivating. The discovery of a wine that charms you can leave you quite elated and you find yourself telling your friends and family ‘you’ve got to taste so and so,’ happily waxing lyrical about how wonderful it is. You might think that the only wines this applies to are either expensive or famous brands, but you’d be wrong. Look a little deeper and you can unearth some true beauties that don’t cost a fortune.

One such dark horse is Chateau de Basset. It’s a little claret and it hails from Mourens which produces dry whites under the Haut Benauge appellation and reds under Bordeaux.basset 5 By no means a grand cru, this wine comes from a small vineyard on an old estate. However, this wine has soul. To discover its source let me take you back to its roots.

It’s made by Nicolas Roux who learned his craft from his father, Daniel, who in turn was taught by his father, Raymond. Raymond instilled real passion into the boys and a deep love of the land. The Roux’s principle is to make a wine in the image of its terroir – a true Bordeaux.

basset 2Their home is an old 17th century farmstead which nestles deep in the countryside and is solidly built out of unhewn blocks of limestone. It’s been owned by the family since 1804 when the Countess of Benauge ceded the land back to her tenant farmers. Their vineyard drops down the hillside with swathes of vines stretching out from their door to the slopes beyond. It’s a shame that the wines from this area are not more widely known – but perhaps therein lies its beauty. basset 3Haut Benauge sits on a vast limestone plateau and it lies directly across the Garonne River from Graves. As Haut Benauge occupies high ground, it is considered one of the best grape-growing parts of this region. Drainage and exposure are excellent and its wines are long and perfumed.

basset 8Little known Haut Benauge may be, but it certainly has a distinguished past and there are remnants scattered of it throughout the tiny, vine enclustered villages. A medieval atmosphere pervades the air and radiates from the bastides, fortified mills and castle ruins. People feel close to the earth here. You might think I’m being poetic. I’m not, but the locals are. Especially about their wines. Before his death in 2010 Raymond wrote a poem to his boys which has so much potency. It’s called ‘One day I’ll Go” and he writes about his parting from the peaceful mourens-chateau-coulonge-640x425haven of his home, leaving the safe shelter of the shadows of its walls and the vines laboured over by his ancestors and their oxen. He writes that he has to go but that he leaves them his wine, to drink for him and says that they must raise their glasses to drink to their health and to their destiny. How can a wine made by such a man not have soul?

There’s definitely something special about Chateau de Basset. The 2008 raises a lot of comment when I take it along to tastings at shows and events. It is meltingly smooth with splendidly rounded tannins and is available at Bordeaux-Undiscovered for only £8.99. It has intense flavours of cassis (blackcurrant liqueur), rich ripe raspberry and vanilla with expressive notes of toasted oak, coffee beans and smoke. In the mouth it’s well balanced, aromatic and opulent. The Roux family have won quite a few medals and awards with their wine and it’s also lovede basset 888ly with food. Generous and supple, it’s great with a good steak, roast beef or lamb, mushrooms (porcini or cep), duck, pheasant, venison, rich casseroles and hard cheeses.

Try it, and let me know what you think!

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Come and See Us at Stratford Food Festival At the Races

stratford food festival 4Nick is at the Stratford Food Festival at the Races on Friday 30th May – Sunday 1st June so please come along and join him to taste some great wines. Bordeaux-Undiscovered will have a super selection of our range and we’d love to see you! Bordeaux Undiscovered BBC Good Food Show 3The Food Festival is held at Stratford Raccourse and promises to be an action packed weekend for all the family.

Visitors will enjoy the best of both the foodie and the racing world with over 70 confirmed exhibitors showcasing an array of food and drink alongside evening race meets on the Friday and Saturday evening. On Sunday the event is FREE for the whole family to enjoy and £5 parking all day.

Bordeaux-Undiscovered’s stand will be close to the racecourse track opposite thetent 2 real ale and cider tent. Come and sample our great French reds, whites and rosés, champagne and sparkling wines, and discover Bordeaux Clairet and semi-sweet Moelleux. Nick will be on hand to match these up with some of the hot food on offer and give advice on food and wine pairing.

There will be live bands, cookery demonstrations and butchery workshops. On Sunday children will be able to take part in FREE cookery workshops hosted by Kidz Kitchen as well as inflatables, facepainting and balloon modelling around the site. Horseracing will commence from 6pm on both Friday and Saturday evstratford food festival 1ening. The Racecourse is also hosting the Race for Life charity event on Sunday 1st June.

Times of the Food Festival Fri-4-9pm, Sat-1-9pm, Sun 10-4pm.

Friday 30th May: Evening Races + Food Festival (£10 Admission – Free for under 18′s)

Saturday 31st May: Evening Races + Food Festival (£10 Admission – Free for under 18′s)

stratford food festival 2Sunday 1st June: Food Festival – FREE Admission

For more information about the event visit www.stratfordfoodfestival.co.uk and tickets are available at www.stratfordracecourse.net/tickets/

We hope to see you there!

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Chateau Vary’s Story: Crossing the Borders in Search of Good Wine

duras logoGood terroir doesn’t stop at borderlines drawn on maps and if you know where to search you can unearth some wonderful discoveries. One of France’s best kept secrets is a little wine making region that sits at the foot of Bordeaux called the Côtes de Duras. Wines made here tend to be organic and are made by talented wine makers whose skills equal those of their Bordelaise counterparts and who are heirs to just as much heritage. The only difference is the price tag.

The Côtes de Duras holds a fabulous undiscovered treasure of little known wines that are similar in style to Bordeaux. In fact, red Côtes de Duras and red Bordeaux wines are so similar that not evchateau vary merlot duras cotesen specialists can tell them apart. Jancis Robinson has said that she would take her hat off to any blind taster who could unerringly distinguish between them.

The Côtes de Duras is a land of endless softly rolling hills which lies at the end of Bordeaux’s Entre Deux Mers appellation with the vineyards of Bergerac to the east, Cotes du Marmandais to the south and Bordeaux’s Sainte Foy to the north. Rural and remote, the countryside is beautiful here. You might be forgiven for thinkiduras mapng that this is a land that time forgot but beneath the tranquil surface passions run high.

The locals’ ancestors cultivated the vine here long ago and the wines have an ancient reputation. Like Bordeaux, Duras is part of Aquitaine and its lofty castle was built in the 12th century. This area has long been fought over and a little town sprang up in the safety of the castle’s shadow. It may have had even earlier roots – Duras takes its name from the Celtic ‘duros’ meaning fortified hilltop. In the 14th century the castle and surrounding lands were owned by Pope Clement V who also owned Chateau Pape Clement inDuras Vary Merlot Bordeaux. War and Revolution instilled a sense of resistence and resilience in the Duraquois people who had to defend their culture and lifestyles down the centuries. Today they still share a visceral love for the land, vines and wine and are proud of their rebellious spirit. The local winemakers call themselves ‘The Rebels of Aquitaine’.

It took a little time – and a lot of hunting – but I have tracked down a gorgeous Merlot from the Côtes de Duras from Bernard Dalla Longa, a small producer, at Chateau Vary. His vineyards lie in the ancient fortified village of Dieulivol. The village Vary 2 smallwas established by the Crusaders and takes its name from their war cry of ‘Dieu de Veut!’ which means ‘God Willing!’ It sits on a small crag overlooking the vines below which have been grown here since the 11th century.

Bernard possesses the rebellious spirit of the region and is in the unique position of having his property split down the middle by the line drawn on the map. It’s a strange situation – one half of his property lies in thvary bernarde Bordeaux appellation and the other in the Côtes de Duras. His grapes are exactly the same on both sides, as is the clay/limestone soil, but he is forced by bureaucracy to split everything. His cellar is strictly divided into two halves! He makes his wines separately – Chateau Choine is his Bordeaux and Chateau Vary is his Duras. He says that the paperwork is demanding to say the least as he has to report to two different authorities and that the only difference between his two wines is that, thanks to the market, his Bordeaux is twice the price of his Duras.

His Chateau Vary Merlot is beautifully made and is a real bargain. It’s a deep and luxurious wine being velvety smooth and well balanced. It has dark fruit flavours of ripe blackcurrant, blueberry and damson with subtle lingering notes of vanilla, mocha and anise.Dieulivol

Delicious with both poultry and roast pork, Chateau Vary is a food friendly wine and is very versatile. It also pairs very well with grilled lamb chops, steak and pan fried chicken. Traditionally enjoyed with Cassoulet au Confit (a rich slow cooked casserole with white haricot beans and either duck, pork sausages, goose or mutton) Chateau Vary is great with both summer and winter stews and rich Chinese cuisine such as Beef and Black Bean Sauce.Chateau Vaty Merlot Duras

If you fancy breaking down a few frontiers and trying this lovely wine for yourself it’s available at Bordeaux-Undiscovered at £6.99 a bottle.

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Wine Owners – A Smart Solution to Trading Wine

199Over the years we have seen comparison sites and trading platforms proliferate over the internet. They are a useful tool and cover everything from insurance, electricity and gas, shopping and investments etc. In the past if you wanted to value your home, trade in your car or switch broadband providers you either trawled through the yellow pages and made loads of phone calls or tramped up and down the high street. Nowadays we browse through our options via our fingertips. It’s great for the consumer – we have more choice, are better informed and get the best deals. What has this to do with wine you may ask?

NEGOCE VIN BORDEAUX - 33 - MILLESIMAWine has been traded by collectors, investors and professionals for decades. It’s bought for profit as well as pleasure. Fine wine from Bordeaux, Burgundy and Vintage Champagne have always been the traders usual wine of choice but Vintage Port and the top Italian, Spanish and Australian reds are traded too. As the market goes up and down, doubtless this list will grow. In the last 15 years online trading platforms have been established and, like the stock exchange, they are a market place in which wines can be bought and sold in the blink of an eye. However, unlike the stock exchange, they offer a wealth of data that helps traders make informed decisions – current and historic prices, critics scores and provenance (history of the wine’s ownership and location).

wine ownersOne of the newest trading platforms, Wine Owners, is purpose-built for collectors and enthusiasts alike. It’s focus is on simplicity and transparency backed by powerful algorithms that track prices on the market. They have a database which contains current and historic pricing on 150,000 fine wines. Wine Owners are partnered with Wine Searcher (leading global wine search engine) who collect wine prices from 25,000 wine merchants. Their algorithms process incoming pricing data from Wine Searcher and the Fine Wine Exchange to calculate a market level (a price at which a wine is likely to find a ready buyer) based on market supply. Supply is analysed – which is important as old vintages have limited liquidity whereas newer vintages are more available.

wine owners ppTheir tools are user friendly and easy to understand, allowing enthusiasts to research, analyse and compare their wines. Created by collectors for collectors, their team includes a full time statistician as well as experts in wine, investment banking, law and technology. Keen to connect cellars across the globe and appeal to a broader set of enthusiasts; they have multi lingual and multi currency capabilities and launched a Hong Kong version of their website earlier this month.

wines1Wine Owners is completely neutral being independent with no exclusive merchant relationships and does not trade itself. They have assured processes to safeguard participants including wine inspections pre settlement and the Wine Passport™ to record provenance. Driving technology is a major part of Wine Owners and they plan to make the website accessible across mobile devices and tablets with an App in development for the future. It’s certainly simple and straightforward to use, with clean and clear functionality, smart tools and data.

Since its launch last June, Wine Owners members’ portfolios managed on the platform amount to £42,000,000 and collectors are adding £6,000,000 of new wine each month. I can see why, it’s current, useful and – above all – it’s clever.

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Cabernet Franc – the Red Wine Princess

IMG_1728David Stannard of Paradise Rescued in Cardan, Bordeaux has kindly written a guest post for us on a topic close to my heart . . . about his Cabernet Franc; a grape full of delightful surprises, producing excellent wines.

Paradise Rescued 2014-04-24 13-39-46I will never forget that snowy day in January 2010. Our meeting was delayed due to the bad weather. We had a plan of sorts . . . along with our commitment to sustainability, we wanted to produce organically due to our proximity to our neighbours and their young families. Albane arrived, her mother Pascale too – uninvited! A unique partnership begun, Paradise Rescued was born; work began to reclaim a vineyard and produce a wonderful varietal Cabernet Franc. Albane became our organic viticulIMG_2635tural adviser and then wine maker; Pascale our dedicated, skillful vigneronne and winery manager.
The Hourcat Sud Cabernet Franc block in the village of Cardan, Bordeaux block is tiny – just 0.45 hectare! The 100% varietal CabFranc that it produces is almost unique in Bordeaux. CabFranc is more often the hidden unspoken softer smaller percentage partner in the assemblage or mix of wines varieties dominated by her big two Bordeaux varietal cousins Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.
In a modern world of a bold often brutal big red wines, CabFranc is a different but much more subtle player – the princess amongst kings, emperors and dominant queens. When produced in a warmer climate such as Bordeaux, it’s finesse softness and silk stand out. When lovingly grown with carefully ripened fruit, gone are the green grassy tastes and harsh tannins so often evident from cooler regions. In comes soft perfumed cherry fruit on the nose, a bright crimson colour, a soft medium to full palate, gentle tannins and a longFridaypm 010 copy slightly spicy length.

The organically produced hand crafted Paradise Rescued Cabernet Franc is specifically made for early drinking with gentle maceration and then maturation in 1, 2 and 3 year old oak. The objective is not to push the fruit too far but to let the IMG_2825freshness of organic viticulture tell its story of each (different) vintage. The Paradise Rescued Cabernet Franc has a distinctive unique taste that, despite the huge seasonal variability of the last four vintages, continues to show through year on year. When young, Bordeaux CabFranc takes on a cassis nose and body which softens to cherry with age. The heart of the wine is medium bodied but complex from the oak. The tannins are supple with an extraordinary spicy length – a unique gem, a princess of red wines.IMG_2924

Because of its subtlety and finesse, Cabernet Franc makes the perfect food wine for roast meats, gently spiced foods and all but the strongest richest cheeses. A delightful flexible food friendly wine.
Cabernet Franc is no spoilt princess, she prefers to create special moments and spoil others . . .  that’s the kind of princess we all love!



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Discovering Chateau de Lauriole – A Wine Made by a Gourmet on a Long Lost Island

lauriole 22Could it be that wines sometimes take on the characteristics of their makers? Sometimes you come across one that does. Chateau de Lauriole is made by Jean Michel Laplagne in the Isle Saint Georges, a long lost island in the River Garonne upstream of Bordeaux, near to the Pessac Leognan appellation. The chateau is named after the Golden Oriole, a beautiful migrant bird that flits between the poplar trees that grow along the river.

Jean Michel Laplagne is an epicurean by nature. Not only does he love wine but he also farms a famous French gastronomic delight . . . snails. Jean Michel and his wife Muriel farm the snail Petit Gris (helix aspera muller) in their greenhouses and meadows around the vineyard. ‘Petit Gris’ means Lauriole aa‘Little Grey’ and these snails are a delicacy in France. The snails are fed on radishes and white clover with corn and soy flour as a supplement to help build their shells. As you know, the French adore snails and eat 40,000 tons of them a year. However only 5% come from France and the rest are imported. Jean Michel was brought up on snails simmering in his grandmother’s pan and decided to farm them himself in 1989. He now produces over 500, 000 snails a year!

Jean Michel enjoys cooking and he sells his snails prepared in regional sauces and in the shell. His specialities are Escargot à la Bordelaise and Escargot aux Ceps (Porcini mushrooms). Both are cooked in Bordeaux wine. To prepare Snails à la Bordelaise he first cooks the snails in a court bouillon with thyme, bay leaves, fennel, leeks, carrots, cloves, salt and pepper. The Bordelaise sauce is prepared with lauriole 44garlic, onion, shallots, bacon, chorizo, ham, tomatoes, a little red pepper and wine. His Snails aux Ceps are made with sausage, bacon, ceps (porcini mushrooms), garlic, parsley and white wine. He is always looking out for new dishes to try and is currently developing a third recipe, the Escargot Morilles (Snails with Morels).

lauriole 22As you can imagine, Chateau de Lauriole, being made by a gourmet, is a fantastic food friendly wine. It is a deliciously deep Claret with polished structure and brims with lovely flavours of blackcurrant, black cherry and blueberry edged by hints of mocha, herbs and graphite. Classically clean and silky with good length; it is made from a blend of 80% Merlot 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. De Lauirole pairs beautifully with dark meats (duck, vension, rib of beef, rack of lamb, pigeon and kidneys) and dishes with rich sauces (red wine or creamy mushroom and pepper). The locals recommend it with lamprey and it is fabulous with carpetbagger steak.

lauriole 77Jean Michel’s vineyard lies on clay and limestone, which suits the Merlot in particular as it thrives on clay. The little chateau sits in the hamlet of Boutric which is one of the oldest places in Isle Saint Georges. Boutric takes its name from Old German meaning ‘a rich messenger’ and was possibly the name of the landowner there. It’s not surprising that the Isle Saint Georges has been made a home for people from across Europe as it was once the crossroads of an ancient ford on the River Garonne on the great Roman road from Bordeaux to Narbonne. Goods were exchanged here and the island soon became a market with several small harbours. Wine has played an important role here for thousands of years and fragments of wine amphorae are widely scattered across the site.

lauriole 55The old island is no longer visible as the river’s meandering, a tendency to silt up and centuries of local drainage schemes have attached the island to the bank. It now lies 100 metres from the river. But the vines are still grown, the Golden Oriole still sings in the poplars and the wine is still enjoyed by the locals. And now by us, thanks to its discovery!

We are pleased to say that we have Chateau de Lauriole available to buy from us here at Bordeaux-Undiscovered.  The vintage is 2010, a wonderful year, and it is priced at £7.99 as our introductory price to the UK.  To buy Chateau de Lauriole 2010  click here.

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Bordeaux’s Added Benefits – What’s in Your Wine? 2013, A Vintage With A Difference

cabernet francDisaster strikes hard when a winemaker, or even an entire wine making region, suffers the impact of severe weather during the growing season. Unlike many other wine regions across the world Bordeaux has the advantage in that its wines are made from a blend. In red wine blends Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot are the most planted but Petit Verdot, Malbec and Carmenere are also permitted. With Bordeaux white wines Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Muscadelle are widely used and Sauvignon Gris less so. Different grape varieties ripen at different times and can be a fail safe if one prominent variety succumbs to pests, disease or the weather. With the 2013 vintage there was a Merlot crisis and winemakers used higher proportions of Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc to compensate. However, if conditions are very bad (as in 2013) and the entire range of grapes are decimated in a vineyard; Bordeaux has some little known added benefits that can be used to try to save the day.

grapesCenturies ago Bordeaux in the 18th century used to improve its blends by adding wines from Hermitage in the Rhone to their blends. It was done in times when there was a particularly poor vintage (this was also common practice in Burgundy). Wines from Bénicarlo in Spain were also sometimes added. Nowadays it is not permitted to add wines from another region (let alone country) to Bordeaux wines under the AOC rules. But you might be surprised to discover that in a poor year Bordeaux winemakers can add 15% of ‘reserve wine’ to the blend from a better vintage. Likewise, they can also dilute a good vintage with 15% from a lesser year (this could be useful in a big bold vintage with high alcohol levels that needs ‘cooling down’).

gold4This is known as the 85/15 Rule and was brought in by the EU, partly to level the playing field with New World winemakers who had been using this technique for some time. The 85/15 Rule applies to all EU countries and it means that winemakers can ‘top up’ with 15% of a wine with another vintage – provided, of course, that it comes from the same vineyard. It’s common in Champagne, where you often see ‘Reserve’ on the bottle labels. The 85/15 Rule is useful as it allows the winemaker to balance the wine, improve the blend and top up production from a low yielding crop.

However as long as the wine is only topped up by 15% and no more, this is not indicated on the bottle labels. So if you are a follower or collector of certain vintages you might not necessarily have a wine that is made solely from the vintage depicted on the label. The 85/15 Rule allows for wines to be topped up with older or younger vintages; so your 2007 may be 15% 2005. And, of course, this EU rule doesn’t just apply to Bordeaux.

pThe 85/15 Rule also applies to grape varieties and this affects New World wines rather than Bordeaux vintages. For example a wine can be labelled a Pinot Grigio even though 15% of it may contain another grape. As long as the remaining 85% is made with Pinot Grigio, that’s what goes on the label.

The other practice that Bordeaux winemakers can turn to in the event of a catastrophe is VCI (Volume Complementaire Individuel) or ‘Individual Supplementary Volume’. VCI was also brought in by the EU and Bordeaux has been experimenting with this technique which has been used successfully in Chablis since 2005. It’s also used in the Rhone and Monbazillac. Most Bordeaux red wine producing AOCs have been using VCI since 2010 and Bordeaux dry white wine producers since 2013. Bernard Farges, President of the CIVB, has explained that he has used VCI himself, adding 2011 and 2012 VCI to his 2013 vintage to ameliorate a crop failure. AOCs that are not taking part in the VCI experiment (as yet) are Moulis, Saint Estephe, Margaux, Pauillac, Saint Julien, Pessac Leognan, Saint Emilion, Pomerol, Fronsac and Canon Fronsac.

Barrels vVCI is a sort of ‘liquid insurance’ as winemakers can ask for permission to use it in their blend during a bad year when their harvest is poor. VCI is a reserve of wine and it works by allowing winemakers to keep their surplus wine from one year to complete any gaps in subsequent years. The winemaker must prove that he has need of his VCI in order to reach full production. (Winemakers are not allowed to exceed their permitted yield so using VCI will not increase their production, only sustain it).

vines vMany vineyards in Bordeaux were devastated by severe hail in 2013 and vines were damaged, affecting the crop. Yields for 2013 were low and some vineyards saw their harvest decimated. In this instance these vineyards could apply for VCI, which would allow them to add wine from the 2012 or 2014 VCI vintages to top up their production.

VCI is strictly regulated by the INAO, CIVB and Ministry of Agriculture and a winemaker can only add 5 hectolitres per hectare of VCI wine to his vintage. Grape crops (yield) in Bordeaux are measured by hectolitres per hectare and each AOC has its own regulations as to the maximum yield (it’s usually between 50 -55 hectolitres per hectare).

deluge3Winemakers producing VCI each year also have to follow stringent checks. Each VCI has its own vintage and it can not be sold. It can only be kept as a reserve for a limited number of years and any unused VCI wine past this date is destroyed.

Perhaps, with climate change on the agenda, we may see more Bordelaise winemakers using the 85/15 Rule and VCI. I’ll keep you posted . . .

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Raise A Glass To Celebrate – A Horse Named After A Wine, Pineau de Re, Wins The Grand National

Leighton Aspell smallWe are celebrating this week thanks to Leighton Aspell’s thrilling race at the Grand National where he came in first on Pineau De Re, trained by Dr Richard Newland. We met Leighton Aspell recently when won at our final race of the day ‘ The La Fleur Morange Mathilde National Hunt Flat Race’  last Saturday, 29th March at Stratford Racecourse.

Leighton Aspell retired a few years ago and came back to riding as he missed it so much. He is a popular jockey amongst his peers as well as horse racing fans and has an online fan club set up in his honour. He forged 5 lengths clear of Balthazar King at the Grand National, which turned out to be an extraordinary race.

Stratford 2011 Trainer Presentation smallThe Grand National at Aintree Racecourse remains the supreme test for both horses and riders and is uniquely challenging. Many of the fences have become famous in their own right but thanks to safety improvements put in place a couple of years ago all horses and riders returned safely for the second year running. It is the most valuable jump race in Europe with a prize fund of £1 million this year.

Pineau De Re was bred in France and is named after the wine Pineau which comes from the Charentes in western France (north of Bordeaux). It’s s a fortified wine, made from fermented grape must and eau de vie (brandy) and is drunk as an aperitif in France. There are both red and white styles. Legend has it that it was created by a happy accident in 1589. A wine maker placed grape must into a barrel that he thought was empty but actually contained a little eau de vie. A few years later he discovered that the contents were delicious and Pineau was born. The Re part of the bay gelding’s name is taken from the Ile de Ré, small island off the coast in Charentes.

grand national winner on way homePineau de Re’s sire is Marresco Sorrento and his dam, Elfe du Perche, has Selle Francais ancestry. The Selle Francais are a breed of sport horses whose breeding comes from French mares used by the military or for pulling carriages crossed with English thoroughbreds in 19th century Normandy. Selle Francais horses are renowned for their success in show jumping, dressage and eventing and their riders have won numerous medals in the summer Olympics and World Equestrian Games.

It’s a fantastic win for Leighton Aspell and Dr Newland, Pineau de Re came in at 25-1 and we are toasting their success!

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Bordeaux En Primeur 2013 – Conclusion and Summary

Tasting glasses at Chateau Latour

Tasting glasses at Chateau Latour

I am now back in the UK and have had time to reflect on last weeks tastings. Numbers were noticeably down at the tastings and to summarise I think this is a unique vintage producing, in the main, pretty mediocre wines with a few exceptions (which I will list below). It is ‘unique’ in the sense that invariably you can find a past vintage which has similar traits but 2013 has no such comparison. It can not be termed a ‘classic’ vintage which is normally the adjective often used to describe a vintage if people can’t think of anything else to say. If this vintage had taken place 20 years ago when todays technology and knowhow were not around very little wine would have been made and there wouldn’t be a vintage. Some have tried to compare 2013 to 1984 as there was a Merlot crisis back then. The only comparison I can make is that the 2013 Left Bank wines seem to be more Burgundy in style and the Right Bank wines are similar to the style of the Rhone. As I said, there are a few exceptions, but if people are interested in buying Bordeaux wines at this time I think they would be best advised to look at past vintages where the quality is far superior and is attracting some very reasonable prices.


The 2013 Bordeaux dry white wines and sweet wines from Sauternes and Barsac however are exceptional.

Sauternes and Barsac

To be fair I could hardly fault any wines from Sauternes and Barsac – the majority contained all the characteristics of the terroir and the grapes with all the fruit and honeyed sweetness of true sweet wines.

These AOCs are also producing some very good dry whites as well as the more traditional sweet wines and S de Suduiraut (from Sauternes Chateau Suduiraut) is a good example.

Dry Whites

The dry whites produced from the following estates are excellent:

Domaine de Chevalier
Chateau Pape Clement
Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte
Chateau Haut Brion

tasting room 2013 smallRED WINES

For those insist in buying or those who would like to buy the 2013 reds the following wines from various AOCs would be a reasonable bet and are probably the best wines from this poor vintage in my opinion. The reason I say the vintage is poor and the wines mediocre is down to the fact that there were common traits in the wines; they were lacking in colour and did not possess the usual opulence and complexity that Bordeaux lovers like to see present in these wines.

New Chai at Chateau Pichon Lalande

New Chai at Chateau Pichon Lalande

First Growths

Chateau Haut Brion

Saint Estephe

Chateau Calon Segur
Chateau Le Croix (A Cru Borgeois made by Leoville Poyferre)


Chateau Lynch Bages
Chateau Grand Puy Lacoste

Saint Julien

Chateau Leoville Poyferre, their Second Wine Pavillon de Poyferre and Chateau Moulin Riche
Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou, their Second Wine Croix de Beaucaillou and Chateau Lalande Borie
Chateau Branaire Ducru
Chateau Talbot


Chateau Palmer
Chateau Lascombes
Chateau Monbrison

Horse working in the vines at Chateau L'Evangile

Horse working in the vines at Chateau L’Evangile


Chateau Clinet
Chateau Gazin
Chateau Beauregard
Vieux Chateau Certan

Saint Emilion

Chateau Troplong Mondot
Chateau Soutard
Chateau La Laurence
Chateau Sansonnet
Chateau la Fleur Cardinale
Chateau de Pressac

Pessac Leognan and Graves

Chateau Les Carmes Haut Brion
Chateau Haut Bailly
Chateau Olivier
Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte
Domaine de Chevalier
Chateau Pape Clement

Haut Medoc, Moulis and Listrac

Chateau Chasse Spleen
Chateau Cantermerle
Chateau Beaumont

The biggest problem that I feel will affect the 2013 vintage will be the price tag the chateaux put on their wine.

Chateau Angelus new building works

Chateau Angelus new building works

To some degree I can understand why their prices are high in good years but I can not understand this thinking in poor years. As 2013 is a poor and at best a mediocre vintage it should attract representative prices. However chateaux will argue that their production is down and that their costs have increased due to the technical demands of the vintage, therefore there will be less profit. In my observations travelling around Bordeaux the opulence that is lacking in this vintage is very evident in the larger chateaux themselves thanks to their investment programmes which they have been pouring into rebuilding their chais. Figures in excess of 80 million euros have been mentioned. Do the chateaux have an ulterior motive for these expensive refurbishments? For this reason I believe they will maintain their prices as close to those of the 2012 vintage as possible, as is evident with the wines already released. That said the wines in my opinion are not worthy of a price tag that high.

Building at Chateau Margaux

Building at Chateau Margaux

This is definitely not a speculators vintage

This is definitely the vintage for Francophiles who like to drink Bordeaux wines. The wines are thinner, brighter and less complex than normal and will definitely drink a lot younger.

Having tasted numerous wines at the Cru Bourgeois tasting (which presented over 240 wines) there were wines there which are better than those made by some of the Grand Cru Classé.

I believe true value will be from the lesser known estates at Cru Bourgeois level

In my travels I was introduced to a small winemaker who has estates in Saint Emilion and Lalande de Pomerol. I tasted his wines (which he makes in back yard) and I honestly could not believe the level of fruit he had managed to maintain in a wine that would cost about 7 euros. Without being coy I am not going to name him but I will be endeavouring to purchase some.

Small winemaker

Small winemaker

This has shown me that if the winemaker has empathy with their terroir and its conditions they can still make good wines without the investment in technology. This winemaker has certainly done that.


In conclusion the 2013 vintage is a very good year for Dry Whites and sweet Sauternes and Barsac and a pretty mediocre year for the Reds with some exceptions; which is why – if you want to buy – you will really have to trust your wine merchant to be honest with you. For the true Bordeaux drinker I would advise you to look at the lesser known estates for real value or back vintages which are going to be far superior in quality at a similar price.

I hope you have enjoyed reading my thoughts on the En Primeur campaign this year.  Should you like to discuss any of my writings please do not hesitate to contact me.

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