Bordeaux En Primeur 2013 – Day 2 – Chateau Haut Brion, Angelus, Cheval Blanc, Troplong Mondot, La Fleur Morange, Vieux Chateau Certan

HB signDay 2 started at the First Growth Chateau Haut Brion (Pessac Leognan) where we were offered 6 reds and 3 white wines from the estate. All the reds were around 13% abv and yet again showed the 2013 vintage’s characteristic lack of concentration in colour. However overall they presented quite elegantly compared to the wines I tasted yesterday.

Chateau Haut Brion, La Mission and Quintus

Chateau Haut Brion (50% Merlot, 4.5% Cabernet Franc and 45.5% Cabernet Sauvignon) has a subtle and elegant nose with hints of soft fruits. In the mouth the elegance really came through – there was nothing harsh, nothing austere and it was nicely rounded and balanced. So, a very good start to the day! Haut Brion is my favourite out of the First Growths I have tasted but it certainly doesn’t have the ‘wow factor,’ albeit a very pleasant offering.

Chateau La Mission Haut Brion (45% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc and 32% Cabernet Sauvignon) came through similarly. Of the lesser wines from the estate I thought Chateau Quintus (80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc) – Haut Brion’s Saint Emilion estate – was most interesting.

The 3 whites showed well and this suggests to me that my previous thoughts were right. It looks like 2013 is a vintage that favours the Bordeaux white wines. All 3 were floral on the nose with fresh white fruits and had good acidity.

Saint EmilionSt Emilion and Pomerol map

I ventured on to Saint Emilion on the Right Bank where Chateau Angelus were hosting a tasting in their recently refurbished chateau. The revamp must have cost an absolute fortune and it was very, very well done – especially the oak lined roof in the tasting room. Tasting several wines at the chateau it quickly became evident that the Merlot has performed much better on the Right Bank this year than the Left, giving a nice depth of colour.

Saint Emilion First Growths

Chateau Angelus

The Second Wine of Chateau Angelus, Carillon d’Angelus, presented a nice deep crimson colour, as did Chateau Angelus, but I didn’t get the density and depth from the wine that I have had in previous years tastings.

The owner of Angelus, Hubert Bouard, is a consultant oenologist at several estates and I came across one of his wines that I have not tasted before: Chateau La Laurence. It is 100% Merlot and is from a plot near Saint Sulpice et Cameyrac with about 7 hectares of vines. The wine was deep garnet in colour and the Merlot was rich – a nice little wine.

Ch Cheval BlancChateau Cheval Blanc

The Second Wine, Le Petit Cheval, is a blend of 79% Merlot and 21% Cabernet Franc. It lacked density and concentration of colour, has an acceptable nose and some soft blackberry and raspberry fruits in the mouth.

Chateau Cheval Blanc (53% Cabernet Franc and 47% Merlot) is a reasonable colour, has good fruit on the nose and in the mouth has a nice balance and a good finish with quite a lot of fruit.

Chateau Troplong Mondot

Chateau Troplong Mondot presented delightfully with a blend of 90% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Cabernet Franc. It was very expressive on the nose with deep rich berries, really dense in colour and in the mouth it offered good layers of dark fruits: cassis and blackberry. Yields are slightly down at the chateau. In 2012 they produced 37 litres per hectare, they produced 34 this year. Interestingly the chateau believes that the younger vines had greater resistence to the adverse weather conditions and I think the spirit of Christine Valette will live on with this vintage.

Chateau La Gaffeliere and Clos Fourtet

I visited the La Grappe tasting organised by the consultant oenologist Stephane Derenoncourt hosted by Chateau La Gaffeliere. I liked the elegance of Chateau La Gaffeliere, there was no harshness or austerity in the mouth and I appreciated the way it presented.

Amongst the wines Chateau Les Carmes Haut Brion (Pessac Leognan) is worthy of note with a blend of 20% Merlot, 60% Cabernet Franc and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. I thought it was a charming presentation and the wine had a pleasant bouquet with some subtle fruits, Nice in the mouth with decent balance and structure with good tannins and fruit.

I also thought Chateau Clos Fourtet showed well.

ch soutardSaint Emilion Grand Cru Classés

I tasted the Grand Cru Classés of Saint Emilion and overall they were pretty good but there were one or two which were lacking a bit – not by much, but a little. Sansonnet along with Laroze, La Fleur Cardinale and de Pressac were good examples from the AOC.

Whilst talking with the owners about the problems the year had thrown at them one producer said that if this vintage had happened 20 years ago they would not have been able to produce any wine at all. This just goes to show how much technology has moved on and how it has helped advance methods of winemaking.

Chateau La Dominique showed well as did Chateau Soutard. What I found interesting with Soutard is the blend used to make the wine: 62% Merlot, 28% Cabernet Franc, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Malbec. The Malbec did its job in offering that extra concentration of cassis and blackcurrant fruit and it presented well.

LFM barrels chaiChateau La Fleur Morange

I also tasted Chateau La Fleur Morange with the owner, Jean Francois Julien, and he explained what a difficult year it had been. His yields were very down; last year he made 22 barrels of his Second Wine, Mathilde, and this year he could only make 9. It was the same story with the Grand Vin, La Fleur Morange. This year it contains an unprecedented blend of 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. The wine was a little down on its usual richness and colour with a nose that was slightly closed but the fruit in the mouth was elegant. It’s not as opulent as in previous years but it is a good wine and I am sure it will develop.

Pomerol

I found that the further I went into the Right Bank the more the colour became evident; a nice deep crimson colour rather than the subtle, lighter colour that presented yesterday on the Left Bank. The one AOC that was homogenous was Pomerol. Most of the wines here presented well; the majority of which are Merlot, in some cases as much as 98%. Gazin, of course, was 100% Merlot. As with Saint Emilion, Pomerol faced a difficulties regarding the quality of the Merlot but the hard work of the winemakers has paid off.

A couple of wines which I thought showed better than the rest were Chateaux Beauregard, Clinet and Gazin. They had good layers of fruit, a nice level of opulence and are wines that I think will make good drinking.

VCC labelVieux Chateau Certan

As usual I had a very interesting chat with Alexandre Thienpont, the owner of Vieux Chateau Certan, who is always charming. He is sad to announce that they have only been able to produce 20% of their usual output which equates to about 1000 cases. They usually produce 4000.

The wine itself is very attractive and talking to him I described it as an ‘elegant lady’. It presented very well with a lovely crimson colour, an elegant and expressive nose and was charming in the mouth.

He explained that his Cabernet Franc was planted in 1958 and his Merlots were planted in 1932, 1942, 1959 and 1972 and believes that the complexity in the wine comes from vines of 25 years of age or more. He confirmed that it had been a difficult year but that the winemaker had done wonders and hoped that he wouldn’t have to face another vintage like this one again soon.

Tomorrow I will be visiting the Left Bank starting with Saint Estephe and working my way down.

Posted in Bordeaux News, Chateaux Profiles, En Primeur 2013 | Comments Off

Bordeaux En Primeur 2013 – Day 1 – The Four First Growths on the Left Bank, Chateaux Palmer, Grand Puy Lacoste, Ducru Beaucaillou, Calon Segur, Montrose, Leoville Poyferre

medoc en primeurNot having read too much into the 2013 vintage before arriving in Bordeaux I started with a completely open mind. My conclusions at the end of the day are that it is not a vintage to get excited about. It’s a pleasant vintage producing very drinkable wines that will be drunk early but there is nothing inspiring, so far. Out of the wines I tasted today there are no super stars and thanks to very difficult growing conditions most of the wines lack depth and colour. It was a watery year and this shows. However this is also a vintage where experience, training and terroir are playing a large part, helping to make the best out of what the chateaux have produced. The advances in winemaking technology have bolstered the process enormously and for those who have been able to invest in them, it has paid off.

It’s obvious talking to the winemakers and chateaux owners on the Left Bank that the Merlot has been the problem child. To sum up the essence of the vintage concerning the red wines today: on the good side it is pleasant and on the bad, it’s bland. There is nothing to dislike but there is no wow factor. The whites are quite different. From the 3 that I have tasted so far it could be a very good year indeed for both dry and sweet whites. I am looking forward to tasting more before I can draw a definite conclusion.

EP 13EP 13First Growths Chateaux Lafite Rothschild, Latour, Margaux and Mouton Rothschild

Having tasted the 4 First Growths from the Left Bank: Chateaux Lafite Rothschild, Latour, Margaux and Mouton Rothschild, I came away with some disappointment. They lacked depth and opulence that you would associate with chateaux of this rank. This is characteristic of many of the wines that I tasted.

Chateau Margaux contains no Merlot whatsoever, relying on 94% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot. The Merlot that was harvested will mainly be going into the Third and Fourth wines. The Pavillon Rouge de Chateau Margaux did contain 10% Merlot and as a Second Wine it was pleasant. The wine I did enjoy tasting was the dry white Pavillon Blanc de Chateau Margaux. It was fresh and floral on the nose, crisp and well balanced – but only 1000 cases will be produced.

Chateau Latour was respectable but the highlight for me were the past vintages that they offered at the tasting: Chateau Latour 2004, Les Forts de Latour 2006 and Pauillac 2008. Out of the three I thoroughly enjoyed the Forts de Latour 2006. With a blend of 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Merlot, I thought it was delightful in every department: good structure, a good nose, good concentration of fruit. It’s drinking beautifully.

Chateau Mouton was a bit of a let down and Chateau Lafite was acceptable. For fear of repeating myself I felt that they lacked something.

EP 13 bChateaux Pichon Baron and Pichon Comtesse de Lalande

At both chateaux yet again I thought that depth was lacking. Chateau Pichon Baron will only be making 10,000 cases whereas in the 1970s they were making 30,000.

At Pichon Baron I had the chance to taste 2 white wines – a dry and a sweet. Both were very good. S de Suduiraut is a dry white with a blend of 60% Sauvignon Blanc and 40% Semillon. It is a pale lemon yellow in colour with summer fruits on the nose – a very floral fragrance. On the palate it has good levels of acidity, nice layers of fruits and its a lively, fresh wine.

suduirautChateau Suduiraut is a sweet Sauternes with a blend of 92% Sauvignon and 8% Semillon. A golden hued wine, it is fresh on the nose with hints of honey and apricot. Well rounded on the palate with flowers accentuated in the mouth.

Chateau Cos d’Estournel and Leoville Las Cases

I thought that Leoville Las Cases wine was pleasant, as was Cos d’Estournel, but it’s not typical of what you’d normally expect from Cos d’Estournel. For me, Cos lacked the signature characteristics it usually has.

Chateau Pontet Canet

As most Bordeaux enthusiasts are aware, Chateau Pontet Canet released early before the tastings at 60 euros. Having tasted it today I personally don’t think it is as good as the 2012 and as far as my palate is concerned I found the 2013 too jammy.

Having experienced a few lows I had better point out a few highs. I felt that Chateaux Palmer, Montrose, Calon Segur, Grand Puy Lacoste, Ducru Beaucaillou and Leoville Poyferre all had something that the others weren’t offering.

palmerChateau Palmer

The Second Wine, Alter Ego de Palmer ,definitely offered something different and the first thing I noticed was that it had real depth of colour – it was a good dark crimson. With a blend of 46% Merlot, 46% Cabernet Sauvignon and 8% Petit Verdot, the wine had good fruit on the nose and hints of opulence on the palate; as did the Grand Vin, Chateau Palmer, which was a blend of 49% Merlot and 41% Cabernet Sauvignon. Under difficult growing conditions Chateau Palmer has made a wine that stands out when compared to its peers.

Both Chateau Montrose and Calon Segur also offered more than others.

Chateau Montrose

La Dame de Montrose, the Second Wine of Chateau Montrose, is a blend of 69% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Sauvignon and 13% Cabernet Franc. As a Second Wine I thought it showed better than the average and Chateau Montrose (68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot and 3% Petit Verdot) showed very well.

Chateau Calon Segur

I tasted Chateau Calon Segur in their new tasting room (which would have had Madame Capburn Gasquetron turning in her grave if she knew how much had been spent on it. It’s beautifully done though!) Both wines at Calon Segur presented well.

The Second Wine, Marquis de Calon (60% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon) had a reasonable nose which wasn’t overpowering with hints of juicy soft fruit. A nice structure, good tannins and fruits on the palate.

Chateau Calon Segur is a blend of 92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Merlot and 2% Petit Verdot. The wine was a nice deep, rich colour with an elegant hint of fruit on the nose. On the palate there was a good level of fruit, good structure and good length.

grand puy lacosteChateau Grand Puy Lacoste

I tasted 3 wines at Chateau Grand Puy Lacoste. Chateau Haut Batailley was fair, however the Second Wine of Chateau Grand Puy Lacoste, Lacoste Borie, offered a nice depth of fruit and was well rounded. It is a blend o 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc.

The Chateau Grand Puy Lacoste was very elegant and very feminine with a good nose and nice structure in the mouth. To me, it was a typical Grand Puy Lacoste.

Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou

At Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou I tasted 3 wines: Chateaux Lalande Borie, Croix de Beaucaillou and Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou. All 3 were very pleasant.

The Lalande Borie is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Merlot and 4% Cabernet Franc. It has a good concentration of colour, a touch of good soft fruit on the nose with nice rounded tannins in the mouth, good structure and hints of spice.

The Croix de Beaucaillou is – in Mr. Borie’s words – the colour of ‘Bishop Red’ (whatever that may well be) but it is a good colour with a nice floral and fruity bouquet, good structure and tannins and a slight hint of jamminess.

Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou is a blend of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot and of the 3 wines this gave the best dense red colour. It is elegant on the nose with hints of violets and red berries. In the mouth it is soft and polished with rich red fruits and a hint of spice. A nice wine.

EP 13 cdChateau Leoville Poyferre

The last chateau I visited was Chateau Leoville Poyferre where I tasted 4 wines. With all 4 Mr. Cuvelier and his team have done a very good job in difficult conditions.

Chateau Le Croix, the Second Wine of Chateau Le Crock is a blend of 53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot and 7% Petit Verdot. It has good colour, a good nose and good layers of fruit in the mouth with nice raspberry flavours. It has good length and some depth.

Chateau Moulin Riche (55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot and 17% Petit Verdot) has a good density of colour, a good nose with nice layers of fruit and a good depth of fruit on the palate with hints of spice and elegance. A nice example from the estate.

I had had the opportunity of tasting the Second Wine of Chateau Leoville Poyferre, Pavillon de Poyferre, which has a blend of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot and 15% Petit Verdot. To me this was slightly a notch above the Moulin Riche but it has similar structure and elegance and is a good crimson colour.

Chateau Leoville Poyferre (55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot and 3% Cabernet Franc) was a nice deep crimson with rounded tannins, good balance and a nice nose of raspberry and red fruits. It was a very nice wine to end my first day on.

Posted in Bordeaux News, Chateaux Profiles, En Primeur 2013 | 1 Comment

Taste Our Wines at Stratford Racecourse and Spot a Winner This Saturday

stratford tastingSaturday looks set for a great days racing with the weather turning warm and sunny. Bordeaux-Undiscovered are sponsoring the days racing this Saturday (29th March) at Stratford Racecourse and Nick will also be showing our range of wines including some new great discoveries having their first introduction into the UK market!. So why not come along and taste a few treasures and spot a winner or two this Saturday?

tent 2Stratford Racecourse is one of the country’s leading small summer jumps racecourses and racing takes place regularly between March and October. You can see many top trainers and jockeys there and it has a very friendly atmosphere. The going is said to be good to soft and temperatures will be around 16 – 17ºC on Saturday at the racecourse! This is a big change from this time last year when racing had to be called off due to flooding thanks to waterlogging.

Bookings can be made online as well as over the phone (01789 267949) and by email info@stratfordracecourse.net.

Bordeaux Undiscovered BBC Good Food Show 4The races during the afternoon are:

13:55 bordeaux-undiscovered.co.uk Novices’ Hurdle

14:30 Bordeaux Undiscovered 1855 Classification Handicap Chase

15:05 Bordeaux Undiscovered For A Good Tipple Selling Hurdle

15:40 Bordeaux Undiscovered Claret Handicap Hurdle

16:15 Great Value Wines From Bordeaux Undiscovered Handicap Chase

16:50 Bu Grand Cru Classes Handicap Hurdle

17:25 La Fleur Morange Mathilde Standard Open NH Flat Race

Runners for each race can be found at

http://www.sportinglife.com/racing/meeting/stratford/29-03-2014/fast-cards

We hope to see you there!

Posted in Stratford Races | Comments Off

Breaking News – 2013 Bordeaux En Primeur Campaign Starts Early

pontet canetAstonishingly the 2013 Bordeaux En Primeur Campaign has kicked off early this morning before anyone has had a chance to even taste the wine they are being offered to buy. Chateau Pontet Canet has been released at 60 euros. Surprisingly this is the same price as the 2012. The market was widely expecting to see significantly lower pricing for the 2013. This, quite simply, is a crazy stunt. How can you buy something and recommend it to your customers when you haven’t tasted it?

Usually the chateaux do push forward a sacrifical lamb to release first so the chateaux owners can test the mood of the market. However this is normally after the tastings have been held!

The 2013 has been a difficult year for Bordeaux and there has been controversy about the potential quality of the wine and also about Robert Parker not tasting the vintage till June. Parker’s tardy tasting has literally thrown a cat amongst the pigeons as his scores can make or break the value of a vintage.

The quantity of wine that Bordeaux has been able to produce for 2013 is dramatically down and it may be that Pontet Canet’s early release has this is mind. Watch out for this being used as a marketing ploy and don’t be fooled. It falls apart as in the space of 10 minutes we were offered the initial allocation which was then upped with the offer of being able to acquire larger amounts!

The 2012 Pontet Canet is available for 69 euros and could be a better wine for the money – we don’t know as we haven’t been given the chance to taste the 2013 yet. The 2012 was scored 91 – 94 points by Parker. Do Pontet Canet expect the 2013 to be scored the same? It’s a bit presumptious.

As you can imagine, the mood of the market is not good on hearing this news. Lets hope the message it sends the chateaux owners is actually listened to before Bordeaux 2013 goes down as the year of the Laughable Vintage.

Is this a wine being sold or is it a brand being sold? If they are selling on the reputation of their brand they may have just devalued it.pontet canet

Posted in Bordeaux News, Chateaux Profiles, En Primeur 2013 | Comments Off

Background to the Chateaux Hosting the 2013 UGCB Tastings – Chateau Gazin, Pomerol

gazin 2Hop across from the AOC of historic Saint Emilion and you will find yourself in neighbouring Pomerol, the home of Merlot in Bordeaux. Here, on the gently rolling plateau, some of the world’s most famous wines are created. However there are few grandiose estates with towering spired chateaux in Pomerol, this is a land of hamlets and heritage. Pomerol is Bordeaux’s smallest wine producing area and lies 19 miles from the city. It’s been in the news recently with First Growth Chateau Latour investing in two chateaux that lie in Pomerol and its satellite AOC Lalande de Pomerol.

gazin 66This year Chateau Gazin will be hosting the 2013 En Primeur tastings for the Pomerol and Lalande de Pomerol regions and I’m looking forward to finding some good wines. Chateau Gazin’s history is tied up with that of Pomerol itself. Pomerol was shaped by the Knights Hospitallers of the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem (now known as the Knights of Malta) in the 12th century which is partly why there are so few big estates. The Knights Hospitaller is a Christian order that provided care for poor, sick or injured pilgrims travelling to the Holy Land. After the Western Christian reconquest of Jerusalem in 1099 during the First Crusade, it became a religious military order. The Pomerol Commandery of the Knights Hospitallers is the oldest Commandery in Aquitaine.

gazinChateau Gazin is thought to have been built on the site of the Hospice of Pomerol, owned by the Knights Hospitallers which is mentioned in an old charter drawn up for King Edward I in 1289. These hospices had farming land and vineyards with which to support themselves. They were built along the main medieval pilgrimage routes leading to Santiago de Compostela and had to receive a huge number of Christian pilgrims in the distant past. Medieval archives show that Pomerol’s hospice was renowned for the warmth of its welcome, as well as for the virtues of its wines. The hospice was the inspiration for the name of Chateau Gazin’s Second Wine: l’Hospitalet de Gazin and the Grand Vin also bears the Maltese Cross on its label. This type of cross adorns boundary stones all over Pomerol marking out properties owned by the Knights (and there is a very old one on the lintel that sits over the fireplace in Gazin itself).

gazin 88In 1477 the Commander of the Order, Antoine de Murat, granted 222 acres of land to two brothers Mathelin and Michel Barraud. The land became known as Domaine de La Barrauderie and included not only Gazin but Chateaux L’Evangile (now owned by the Rothschilds), La Conseillante and Petrus as well. Over time La Barrauderie was broken up into separate properties and by 1711 Gazin had grown into a small hamlet with 22 inhabitants. Among them was Jean Doreau, a lawyer, who had the title Sieur de Gazin. However it was another lawyer 60 odd years later who really began Gazin’s wine making ‘career’.

gazin 3Antoine Feuilhade purchased the vineyards of Gazin in 1772. Not only was he a lawyer but he was also a politician and a wealthy local landowner. He had been made Mayor of Libourne in 1735 and was the Admiralty Commissioner for the area. Feuilhade took wine making seriously and pioneered the movement in Pomerol to switch from mixed farming and making white wines to focusing on red wine viticulture. He wrote an account between 1763 – 77 which was published as Livre de Raison d’Antoine Feuilhade. It has proved to be a useful reference and records the first plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon in the area. His account also lists lost or forgotten grapes once grown in Pomerol such as Béquignol Noir (now found in Argentina and known as Red Chenin). As the end of the 1700s approached Gazin was bought by the Mayor of Pomerol, Pierre Bayonne. Bayonne already owned Chateau Rouget and he built the chateau at Gazin.gazin 33

In 1917 Chateau Gazin was acquired by a wine merchant, Louis Soualle, who also bought Chateau La Dominique (which, by coincidence, is hosting the 2013 En Primeur tastings in Saint Emilion). Soualle’s daughter married into the de Bailliencourt dit Courcol family, who are descendants of the high Lords of Landas. Chateau Gazin is still owned by the family and I had the pleasure of seeing the harvest brought in under the watchful eye of Nicolas de Baillencourt de Courcol in September 2011.

gazin 5Chateau Gazin, does indeed sit on some prime land. The vineyard covers 64 acres in a single holding and the soil is a layer of gravel over blue and green clay with iron oxides. It’s worth remembering that a third of Petrus is made with Gazin’s old vines as the chateau sold Petrus 11 acres in the late sixties. Petrus is well out of the reach of most wine enthusiasts pockets but Gazin is not and if you enjoy Merlot, Gazin is well worth hunting down!

Posted in Bordeaux - The Appellations, Chateaux Profiles, En Primeur 2013 | Comments Off

A Little Background to the Chateaux Hosting the 2013 UGCB Tastings – La Dominique, Saint Emilion

red wine pic 11Every year certain chateaux are allotted the task of holding the En Primeur tastings for their specific AOC by the UGCB (Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux). It’s considered an honour to be chosen as a host and it’s also an ideal opportunity for each chateaux selected to promote their wines and premises. The UGCB tastings are held for the trade and last year about 6,000 wine merchants, brokers, critics, sommeliers and journalists from 67 countries descended on Bordeaux for the event. The chateaux that hosted the tastings last year registered 17,500 visits so you can imagine how hectic it can get!

The UGCB is the main association of Bordeaux’s leading chateaux, representing around 136 properties, and was established in 1973. Similar tastings are organised by various bodies across Bordeaux and I usually taste the First Growths, leading super-seconds and top chateaux by private appointment. However the UGCB tastings are the best way of getting the flavour of the AOCs and seeing how each region performed for the year. Here, I can encounter wines that are old favourites and discover new ones.

It’s a wonderful experience but very difficult to capture – there is always so much to tell and so little time! I will keep you bang up to date by posting my reports on a daily basis whilst I am at the tastings. You can also follow me on Twitter @dom 6NicksWine and Facebook but for a more detailed account it’s best to read my blog.

To set the scene I’d like to introduce the chateaux that have been chosen to host the tastings this year starting with Chateau La Dominique which is hosting the tastings for Saint Emilion.

La Dominique is a Grand Cru Classé, situated in the north west of Saint Emilion near the edge of Pomerol, neighbouring Chateau Cheval Blanc (a ditch separates the two dom 9properties). There is a lovely legend about the chateau’s name. It is supposed to have been named after the island Dominica in the Caribbean by a wealthy merchant who made his fortune there. Dominica was a French colony in 1715 and it’s quite possible that the legend is based in some truth (records for La Dominique show it marked as such on maps dating back to 1761). Dominica was named by Christopher Columbus in 1493 as he first sighted the island on a Sunday (Dominica in Latin means the Lord’s Day).

dom 3Visiting La Dominique is going to be an interesting experience as, like many top flying chateaux, it has a brand new winery. Driven by the popularity of wine tourism Bordeaux has been having a bit of a building boom with new cellars and winery buildings being designed by celebrity architects. La Dominique’s new look has been designed by Jean Nouvel (a Pritzker prize-winner) and is very futuristic with red metal plates that reflect the vineyards. Apparently the panoramic roof terrace can be used as a tasting room and a restaurant.

Photo credit:  Guy Charneau

Photo credit: Guy Charneau

Beyond the architecture, the new facility meets a real technical need. The former winery was undersized (the vineyard increased by 5 hectares in 2012) and the possibility of expanding further with new acquisitions is being considered. La Dominique’s owner, Clement Fayat, has made no secret of his desire to expand the estate. Fayat is best known as the president of civil engineering group BTP and he initially bought La Dominique in 1969 from the Baillancourt dit Courcol family (who own Chateau Gazin) as an investment. However it soon turned into a love affair and in 1975 he bought Chateau Clement Pichon in the Haut Medoc. Over the next 20 years he acquired 3 other Pomerol properties which he finally combined to create Chateau Fayat in 2009.dom 88

At the age of 81 Clement has now retired and resides at his Chateau Clement Pichon. His sons Jean Claude and Laurent have taken over the reins. Yannick Evenou is CEO and the consultant wine makers are Jean-Luc Thunevin and Michel Rolland. They have great ambitions for La Dominique and it is definitely an estate to watch out for in the future.

 

Posted in Bordeaux - The Appellations, Chateaux Profiles, En Primeur 2013 | 2 Comments

Chateau Latour Invests in the Right Bank with stake in Pomerol, Lalande de Pomerol and Saint Emilion

pomerol 99The owner of First Growth Chateau Latour, Francois Pinault, has invested in Pomerol, its neighbouring AOC Lalande de Pomerol and Saint Emilion for the first time by gaining a 49% stake in the vineyards of Baron Guichard. The investment is big news in Bordeaux and a benchmark for Pomerol, which is home to some of the world’s most famous wines.

2nd cd of iiw images 010Pomerol is a tiny AOC and neighbours that of Saint Emilion (in fact it was a sub appellation of Saint Emilion until 1900). The vineyards are located 19 miles north east of Bordeaux and 2 miles from the city of Libourne on a gently rolling plateau which is renowned for its Merlot. The AOC Lalande de Pomerol is separated from Pomerol by the Barbanne stream and although it has more acreage it is not as well known. However things have been changing since the 1990s and a number of savvy estates have made significant investments in these areas – notably Hubert de Boüard de Laforest, co-owner of the First Growth Saint Emilion Chateau Angelus. Will we see more I wonder?

Pinault’s investment is a sound move and suits the owners of Baron Guichard, Aline and Paul Goldschmidt. The company represents 3 chateaux: Chateau Siaurac in Lalande de Pomerol, Chateau Vray Croix de Gay inpomerol small Pomerol and Chateau Le Prieuré, a Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé.

The Goldschmidt’s have said that the deal is a technical partnership and that they will benefit from Chateau Latour’s team of winemakers and their investment as they had been looking for an outside partner to relieve financial pressure. Aline and Paul took over the estates in 2004 and had to buy her family out to prevent the chateaux being sold thanks to French inheritance laws. They also invested heavily in modernising the estates, knowing full well the potential in their magnificent terroirs. Pinault’s investment will help them realise the potential of these sleeping beauties and give him a strong foothold on the Right Bank.siaurac 3

Goldschmidt will remain as managing director, Penelope Godefoy has been recruited as technical manager of the vineyards and Chateau Latour’s CEO Frédéric Engerer will oversee the management of the estates. 2014 will be the first full vintage under the new cooperation and, unlike Latour, it will be released after En Primeur.

siaurac 2Aline’s family have owned Chateau Siaurac since 1832 (her grandfather was Baron Guichard) and it has 120 acres in Lalande de Pomerol (it is said to be the largest estate in the AOC). It’s a beautiful chateau, set in 19th century parkland, peppered with specimen trees and wildflowers. The chateau regularly holds events, workshops and tastings and won a gold in the Best of Wine Tourism 2012.

Chateau Le Prieuré was bought in 1919 by the Baron and covers 15 acres. It sits on the sloping valley sides facing Chateau Ausonne between Chateaux Trottevieille, Troplong Mondot and Pavie Msiaurac 8acquin. The vineyard there has existed since at least 1696 and was once the property of the Franciscan monks. In the late 1800s the wine produced was known as the Cru des Cordeliers and was hailed as a First Growth in the 1893 edition of Feret. The chateau was later named Le Prieuré (the Priory) in memory of the monastery. It has retained its Grand Cru Classé status since 1955.

siaurac 7Chateau Vray Croix de Gay sits on exceptional terroir and covers 8 acres. One of the plots of vines sits behind Pétrus and the vines also neighbour Le Pin. The vineyard was bought by the family in 1949 and it takes its name from the stone cross that marks the old Pilgrim Way to Santiago de Compostella. Originally it was known as Croix de Gaye and ‘Vray’ was later added as the name Croix de Gaye was registered by another estate.

The wines vary in price – Chateau Siaurac ranges from approximately £11.50 – £15 a bottle, Chateau Vray Croix de Gay from £13 – £39.00 and Chateau Le Prieuré from £21.50 – £46.00 depending on the vintage. With Latour’s involvement in the estates from now on the prices will inevitably rise.

Posted in Bordeaux News, Chateaux Profiles, Saint Emilion Classification 2012 | Comments Off

Bordeaux En Primeur 2013 – What I am Tasting, and When

2nd cd of iiw images 013I thought it might be useful for those of you who are interested if I let you know my itinerary for the UGC Tastings for En Primeur 2013 in Bordeaux. It will give you an idea of what I am tasting and if you want to contact me for my opinions on the wine I’ll be pleased to give you an honest answer. The En Primeur week is always frantic and I spend a lot of my time criss crossing from one AOC to another to try and fit in as many wines as I can. I’ve never counted how many I have ended up tasting by the end of the week but it runs into hundreds.

ladies with bottle2I will be keeping my eyes peeled for a few undiscovered gems and I may end up cramming a few more tastings in here and there. I often go back to re-taste certain wines but the itinerary below is correct as of the time of publishing. If you want to contact me then you can email me at nick.stephens@interestinwine.co.uk or send me a tweet at @NicksWine.

I will be tasting the following wines plus their second wines as well as wines made by their associated estates:

Monday 31st March:

Chateau Margaux
Chateau Palmer
Chateau Pichon Baron
Chateau Latour
Chateau Pichon Comtesse
Chateau Mouton Rothschild
Chateau Pontet Canet
Chateau Cos d’Estournel
Chateau Montrose
Chateau Calon Segur
Chateau Lafite Rothschild
Chateau Grand Puy Lacoste
Chateau Ducru Beacaillou
Chateau Leoville Las Cases
Chateau Leoville Poyferre

Tuesday 1st April:

Chateau Haut Brion
Chateau Troplong Mondot
Chateau Cheval Blanc
Vieux Chateau Certan
Chateau Angelus
Château Bellevue
La Fleur de Boüard
Château Daugay
Wines from the estates of Hubert de Boüard (owner of Chateau Angelus)

chardonnay4Remainder of the Week – appellations and chateaux:

Chateau La Dominique – Saint Emilion
Chateau Gazin – Pomerol
Chateau Malartic Lagraviere – Graves and Pessac
Chateau Clarke – Medoc, Haut Medoc, Moulis and Listrac
Chateau Marquis de Terme – Margaux
Chateau Lafon Rochet – Pauillac and Saint Estephe
Chateau Lagrange – Saint Julien
Chateau La Lagune – Sauternes and Barsac
Chateau d’Arsac – Crus Bourgeois

Cheers!

Posted in Bordeaux News, En Primeur 2013 | Comments Off

Start Your Cheltenham Festival Week Off With An Afternoon’s Racing at Stratford Racecourse

stratford meetBordeaux Undiscovered are racing enthusiasts and support our local races at Stratford Racecourse. It’s one of the country’s leading small summer jumps racecourses and racing takes place regularly between March and October. You can see many top trainers and jockeys at Stratford Racecourse and the First Meeting to open the season will be held on the afternoon of Monday 10th March. This is the day before the racing at Cheltenham Festival Week opens and Stratford Racecourse are making this a special event with an At The Races Preview. They are offering a Carvery lunch (from the brand new Carvery in the Chaser Room) and a Cheltenham Festival Preview Talk from a star panel including At The Races presenter Robert Cooper and a leading Trainer and Jockey (yet to be agreed) with big hopes at Cheltenham. Declarations will be out for the famous Champions Day!stratford meet 1

It’s a great start to what will be a wonderful racing week. The Carvery will be available for Club/Tattersalls Ticket Holders and Annual Members at a cost of £5 if booked in advance or £9.95 on the day. The Cheltenham Festival Preview Talk is complimentary for any Tattersalls/Club Ticket Holders and Annual Members, and will take place at 1:00pm.

Bookings can be made online as well as over the phone (01789 267949) and by email info@stratfordracecourse.net.

The races during the afternoon are:

14:10 Follow Attheraces On Twitter Juvenile Hurdle

14:40 Visit At The Races Virgin 354 Novices’ Handicap Chase

15:10 Try The New Carvery Selling Hurdle

15:40 At The Races Sky 415 Handicap Chase

16:10 Visit attheraces.com/cheltenham Handicap Hurdle

16:40 CGA Foxhunter Trial Novices’ Hunters’ Chase (For The Credit Call Cup)

17:10 Compare Today’s Prices At attheraces.com/odds Maiden Open NH Flat Race

stratford meet 5Runners for each race can be found at http://www.sportinglife.com/racing/meeting/stratford/10-03-2014/fast-cards

The current going is soft but the racecourse is drying out all the time. A little rain is expected Friday (3mm) but otherwise it is dry and sunny up to and beyond the raceday. Stratford Racecourse did suffer from the awful flooding that we saw earlier this year when the catchment ditch that runs through the centre field to drain the racecourse overflowed, as did the nearby River Avon. However Stratford Racecourse are well prepared for flooding being so near to the river and a pumping system was rapidly deployed to save the day!

stratford meet 6stratford meet 6stratford meet 6Bordeaux-Undiscovered not only sponsor races at Stratford Racecourse but we also supply the wines for the racecourse’s restaurants, so if you enjoy your tipple whilst dining at the new Carvery please let us know! We are also giving all visitors to Stratford Racecourse and their website www.stratfordracecourse.net a personal discount of 12.5% on our wines at our online wine shop at www.bordeaux-undiscovered.co.uk (excluding any current offers and promotions). Enjoy!

Posted in Shows and Events, Stratford Races | Comments Off

Bordeaux Brandy – The Next Big Thing?

Jfine bordeaux 7ane Anson writing over at Decanter has reported that a Bordeaux wine producers’ union and several Negotiants (wine merchants) are seeking approval for new rules that would revive the almost extinct ‘Fine Bordeaux’ eaux de vie (brandy). This is welcome news to my ears. Fine Bordeaux is still made by some top ranking chateaux and has a select niche market. Apparently the ‘emergence of new markets for Bordeaux wine has prompted the desire to relaunch production of Fine Bordeaux’. For ‘new markets’ read ‘China.’ China has a growing love affair with brandy (and whiskey) and Chinese connoisseurs are interested in brands with heritage, history and craftsmanship.bordeaux fine 3

Naturally it’s not just the Chinese who appreciate a wee dram, we Brits enjoy our brandy and whiskey just as much as they do. In fact one Brit, Steve Thompson, enjoyed Fine Bordeaux so much he is now producing his own: Thompson’s. He is championing the production of Fine Bordeaux and preserving Bordeaux’s distilling heritage.

First Growths Chateaux Lafite and Mouton Rothschild both produce eaux de vie. Chateau Lafite makes both Cognac and Armagnac but Chateau Mouton makes Eau de Vie de Marc d’Aquitaine de Mouton Rothschild. (Marc is made by distilling grape marc – the pressed grapes, skins, stalks and seeds whereas Fine is made by distilling wine. Both have a loyal fan base). Jean Luc Thunevin of Chateau Valandfine bordeauxraud in Saint Emilion (recently promoted to Premier Grand Cru Classé B) also makes a Fine de Bordeaux: La Fine Bordeaux de Valandraud. Fine Bordeaux is also made by smaller producers (Petit Chateaux) and I hope to discover some when I am next in Bordeaux.

‘Eaux de Vie’ translates from the French as ‘water of life’ and ‘Fine’ is the French word meaning ‘fine’, as in ‘high quality.’ Bordeaux is not the only wine producing region in France to produce ‘Fine’ – you can also find Fine de Bourgogne (Burgundy) and Fine de la Marne (Champagne). People used to refer to having a couple of fines after their coffee but the term, though once common, is now dying out.fine bordeaux 1

France, of course, is famous for its brandy production with Cognac (just north of Bordeaux) and Armagnac (just south of Bordeaux). Fine de Bordeaux is made in a similar manner from distilled wine: using double distilled in copper pot-stills, aged in Limousin oak barrels and made with the same grapes, Ugni Blanc and Colombard. These grapes are actually among the white grapes permitted in Bordeaux for White wine production. Historically Fine Bordeaux was once produced under the name Cognac but this was no longer permitted at the beginning of the 20th century. It was made under the name Eaux de Vie d’Aquitaine from 1942 and finally Fine Bordeaux from 1974. Fine Bordeaux production declined in the late 1980s as production was phased out in favour of using the grapes for white Bordeaux White wines instead. summer

Apparently the Bordelaise proposal is that Fine Bordeaux ‘must be double distilled in alembics, aged in 600-litre oak barrels for one year and made from at least 70% Ugni Blanc, Semillon and Colombard, with the remainder from Merlot Blanc. The final alcohol level must 40% abv’.

I wish them every success and look forward to sampling some of their wares in the future!

Posted in Bordeaux Grape Varieties, Bordeaux News | Comments Off