All posts filed under: Bordeaux

IYour Sommelier Wine Club review. Image: Henri Matisse 1951

Spin Around Three Times: Your Sommelier wine club review

Shall we stand here after work in a busy supermarket and choose the one with the Chateau on the front or the one with the Chateau on the front? We could always spin around three times, put our hand out blindly and just reach for something under £15 per bottle? Or I might just ditch this whole supermarket-stressy-idea and go home. Perhaps this is the point where Your Sommelier wine club hopes to help.  Around 8,500 Chateaux produce wine in Bordeaux (despite the repetition of releases from the en primeur campaign currently raging in my inbox). Bordeaux is a lot more than just the Grands Crus Classés and is one of the biggest wine-producing regions in the world. You can find yourself plenty of decent wine in Bordeaux, and even more of what WSET may call “medium” – i.e. medium alcohol, medium body, medium intensity. Nothing wrong with a medium wine. I have plenty of friends who are medium wines! It’s more than acceptable during the week and I love sitting in a bistro in Bordeaux city over a glass of AOC Bordeaux red and watch the skateboarders flip out. …

Looking back at Chateau Sociando-Mallet

The Chateau Sociando-Mallet house style is the equivalent to those modern interiors you see in French design magazines that I like to browse at the newsagent waiting for the Eurostar back to London. Clean lines and sparse interiors with a simple piece of design in just the right place. Modern, not excessive in style; and, it never seems to mess up. Meanwhile, there’s baroque elephants up the road at Cos d’Estournel in Saint-Estephe and further south in Pauillac, the route des Chateaux of super-second Chateaux that can rival Kensington Palace Gardens for real estate bling. Stuck in the middle with you, as the song goes, is Sociando-Mallet, where the focus is simply on the essentials to make good wine: aspect, the soil, the fruit and the vintage. A vineyard with a view The view of the Gironde from Sociando-Mallet has to be one of my favourites in Bordeaux, especially at sunrise. As the road along the Gironde in Pauillac swings up a small hill to Saint Estephe, you will find Sociando-Mallet and a view of the river looking wild and …

2014 Mouton Rothschild label by David Hockney

The 2014 Mouton Rothschild label shows the friendship between the late Baroness Philippine de Rothschild and British artist David Hockney. ‘In tribute to Philippine’ Most of all, it is a fitting tribute to the Baroness, who died in late August of the same year as the wine. Although it was her father who began the tradition in 1945 to commission artists, it was Madame de Rothschild who brought her own vibrancy and verve to the Chateau. The label shows the energy in the vibrating lines. The story in her obituary in the New York Times recounts when she approached Francis Bacon for the 1990 Mouton Rothschild label. She asked, “if she could use his painting of a nude that her father rejected, Mr Bacon asked what had changed. “I’m not my father,” she answered.” David Hockney is well-known for his smoking, but after his heart attack, he no longer drinks. Chateau Mouton Rothschild pays artists with five cases of Chateau Mouton Rothschild wine from the current vintage and five cases from other vintages.  Let’s hope that he has a drop and shares it with his many …

How does classic white Bordeaux fit with my not-so-classic life? A week in photos

The case of Bordeaux blanc from the Bordeaux Council sat in the corner of my tiny London flat like an elaborate piece of 17th century furniture. The idea of drinking Bordeaux blanc everyday is very grand, but how does this classic style of wine fit in with my not-so-classic, real life? Instead of opening all the bottles at once, we opened up a bottle or two every night with dinner to see how it worked with food. Which it does. Spectacularly. But not with everything. Don’t believe the label if it ever says aperitif – you will be wasting half the experience. Most Bordeaux blanc is better with food. There are better aperitif wines out there but there are not as many complex food wines out there as Bordeaux blanc. I photographed my week of meals at home (and one special occasion meal on the weekend) pairing white Bordeaux with food. Here are the results. But first, some tips on buying white Bordeaux under £20.   What to look for in Bordeaux Blanc under £20 The last bottle of Bordeaux blanc I had was a bottle of 2011 Smith Haut-Lafitte – not an …

1975 vintage Bordeaux: Claret Guide, Decanter 1976

If you are having a 40th birthday this year (& happy birthday, Angelina Jolie!), here is a vintage assessment of the 1975 Bordeaux vintage from Decanter in September 1976. Finally, it was a vintage to write home about: It is certainly cheering and reassuring for all who love Bordeaux to know that at long last there is a really good vintage safely in the cellars once more. At the same time this does not mean, unfortunately, that all Bordeaux’s problems have disappeared and indeed many of the economic problems seem to be as persistent and deep-seated as ever. This was a difficult economy for many industries including wine. The 1973 oil crisis could still be felt. Then there were a series of bad vintages in Bordeaux in the early 1970s and, without the technology we have today, there were consecutive years that could not be sold because they were simply undrinkable. The 1975 vintage was initially quite tannic but it has mellowed out over the past ten years, and the fruit has petered out in the lesser wines. Glad to see there was no hype …

How Bordeaux 2014 is like Kate Moss

Despite owning the world’s media focus for over 20 years, how much did we really know about Kate Moss at the height of her fame? Yes, we saw photos of leaving parties in Primrose Hill, the hazy wedding photos and the terrible boyfriends. But unlike other celebrities, she never talked about her personal life even when her image was everywhere. No interviews, no salacious tell-alls after the scandals, and only until very recently, no celebrity television shows. All we had was her turning away from us in the Rimmel TV ad with a four-word parting shot in her Croydon accent, “Get the London Look!” In the last couple of years, Kate Moss has lifted the “Kate Moss media embargo” on herself. And it’s…. (and I’m talking as a big fan over the years) it’s just not the same. No more guessing – we now know what she thinks or doesn’t think. That’s not what we want from our supermodels! We want the old cool Kate even if that is an impossible expectation for any human being to live up to for so many years. …

Chinese Year of the Mouton

What lies in store for Mouton Rothschild in the Chinese Year of the Ram? With the recent record-breaking ex-cellar auction in Hong Kong, it certainly has been an auspicious start. Let’s looks at the steady rise in price of the 2000 Mouton Rothschild vintage for clues.  During Chinese New Year in Hong Kong, the menu is not just about the food. Each food also symbolises good luck. Favourites include sticky rice cake, which sounds phonetically similar to “higher year”, or raising oneself higher, and dried oysters – or haoshi – sounds similar to the term, “good business”. This year, the good fortune extended to the recent Sotheby’s auction of Mouton Rothschild cellar in Hong Kong, to coincide with the new year celebrations of the Year of the Ram, where it doubled its pre-sale estimate to fetch HK$32 million (£2.7 million). Just a few years ago, it was Lafite Rothschild that turned heads to Asia. But the price of Lafite has fallen dramatically. It is more than two years since Lafite Rothschild has been on an upward trajectory. Where every other …

#bdx13 Doing it for the Kids

People are not afraid of a roundabout in Bordeaux. This is the first thing you must understand when you go there. The roads are circles within circles. Lately I have fielded questions from friends and family who are having children this year, “I would like to buy a case of wine for his/her birth year. What would you recommend from Bordeaux?” After a week in Bordeaux tasting the wines from the barrel, I would say there are only a handful of 2013 wines that will be acceptable to drink in 21 years. This is an early drinking vintage. 2013 is a very light vintage with red cherry berry fruits rather than the classic lead pencil/cassis/cedar notes. Also, I found in the lesser names this horrible manipulated taste –  residual sugar covering up the hole in the middle of it or harsh extracted tannins. No, they will never integrate. It is the seed stuck in the molar that you keep chewing. Drying, sharp and more shocking than hitting upon an unexpected anchovy on a juicy pizza. …

Bordeaux to Maroc

There was a lot of talk about Bordeaux before I left for holidays… Is en primeur 2013 on or not? On that hanging question, I left it all behind at Stanstead Airport for a week of mint tea and tagines in Marrakech. Of course, “getting away from it all” is not that simple. If only you could leave work behind sometimes, but when you work in the wine industry it seems to follow you around like your hand or foot. You try to get away but end up in some sort of Interzone only for it to arrive on the scene again like some Burroughs bug. Even in Marrakech, Bordeaux seemed to follow. It started with the Domaine de Sahari at the beautiful restaurant run by women called Al Fassia in the new town. We had to try the Cinsault (under the menu as a Vin Gris) and the red – a Carignan blend. Mysteriously, on the label it mentioned a “Bordeaux enologist” had some part to play in it. Later I found  it was owned …

At Chateau Palmer #bdx12

This is what Bordeaux En Primeur week is like: it seems quite leisurely as we talk but it is really a quick yearly catch up on what has been happening since last time we met. This year CEO Thomas Duroux  stole us away from tasting Chateau Palmer to show us the new cellars. It is very interesting to hear how the yields must come down for organic viticulture, especially in Bordeaux – it is more humid down here than in Burgundy and needs constant labour-intensive (read: expensive) vigilance to keep away the mildew and pests so to keep the quality high. From original post for 2012 Bordeaux En Primeur week on Bibendum Times.

A letter to a friend #bdx12

… The first couple of days had some bettter wines than expected but nothing that rolled out the red carpet in the mind. You know, when the stars come out and the flash bulbs starting flashing. Everything afterwards different, a blur. It does happen. In some vintages. This is the problem when I go back over my notes – sometimes the best wines have none at all. Maybe they have a scribble or some trailing lines or absent-minded stars. The rest of the time it is too easy to get stuck on quibbling about something above average but nothing exciting. And maybe that is what Bordeaux is all about. Something easy to drink after ruling the world (at these prices). Not too much, not too sensuous. These are wines for Judges. And just as you would imagine – there are also some with aromas of extreme decadence. Striking, but not at this moment. You asked me once, if you only had one wine what would you drink? For me, from Bordeaux, it would be Chateau …

Pomerol by Neal Martin

On Monday night I saw Kraftwerk’s Computerworld show at the Tate Modern. Standing on the sloping cold concrete floor of the Turbine Hall with 3D glasses watching 20 minute songs of minimalist German electronica, what can I say? It was brilliant. Radioactivity, Pocket Calculator, Robots, Autobahn… fun, fun, fun. But what surprised me is how many times I laughed. Not only when recognising the song but also to the dead-pan humour

Luxury and humour: Mouton Rothschild 2010 label by Jeff Koons

Luxury and humour are not easy bedfellows. Where luxury takes itself very seriously and conforms to rules, humour gets the uncontrollable giggles. If humour happens in luxury then it is not often intentional, which is why I found the latest Mouton-Rothschild 2010 label breathtaking – a first growth with a sense of humour. Jeff Koons work comments on commercial culture we live in by blowing it up out of proportion to see it out of context.  The huge Puppy (1992) made out of flowers; Balloon Dog (1994-2000), extra-sized, twisted balloon art made in silver silver stainless steel; or, the self-portraits of him and his then wife Cicciolina like a pornographic Botticelli in Made in Heaven (1989 -1990, & nsfw). One of his early series was called, “Luxury and Degradation” (1986) based on spirits such as Jim Beam and Hennessey “The Civilised Way to Lay Down the Law”. I have seen the Puppy a few times around the world and loved how it endeared the very young and very old. The label has an absent-minded graffiti over the classical repose. It is an interesting …

Bordeaux En Primeurs 2010

Reflections on 2011 Wine Trends, continued. The story of 2010 Bordeaux is Chateau Batailley.  Yet, as the Wine Doctor says, there is something of the “blustery tweed jacket” about Batailley. During the Georgian period, tax was determined by the number of windows in a building and many were, and still are, bricked up (incidentally, this is where the term “daylight robbery” comes from). I thought about these windows a lot when I worked in Belgravia (Central London) when I delivered Bordeaux and Champagne on a trolley around Eaton Square. We had a customer, a mad 79-year-old customer from Mayfair, who liked to drink Batailley from a fine white china tea cup at his parties. Batailley was a practical claret, nothing too serious. I have always found it always a bit solid and predictable, a bit four-square (only if not served in a tea cup, then it was fun), and a bit old-school retro. This is why the rate of sales in the UK in 2010 is so interesting.

Back to the Future: Comparing 1967 En Primeur to now

If you want peace from the crazy highs of the Bordeaux campaign, then there is nothing that gives more solace than German Riesling. Here is a wine once sold as hotly as Bordeaux but now quietly sits on the books while the wine trade put it on their staff account for their own pleasure. Tasting three exceptional German Riesling last week, I wondered: what if Bordeaux went the way of German Riesling in the next 20 years? Before Robert Parker’s declaration of the 1982 vintage, Bordeaux was just another wine to stock the cellar.

Why Carruades de Lafite is an important indicator for 2010 Bordeaux En Primeur

The ultimate wine brand in in the world is not Lafite. It is Lafite’s second wine: Carruades de Lafite. Once the Bordeaux circus returns, the points are published and the prices are drip-fed out to the buyers by the Chateaux, keep an eye on the prices of Carruades de Lafite. If the “Carruades trend” continues, this could signal the end of the critic-led Bordeaux price. More than any other wine, quality is irrelevant to its price: over the years, Carraudes de Lafite has

Librarians love 01 Les Pagodes de Cos

The 01 Pagodes de Cos, the second wine of Cos d’Estournel, is reckless, obstinate and from all accounts of previous vintages, annoying. The initial brett farmyard characters will either delight or disgust you depending on whether worn leather smells like the promise of sitting in a new car or crusty old boots. But to me, it’s not that simple. I started tasting this wine and for a full half-hour still no fruit but only a durm und strang chord of leather and farmyard (the Cos style). Was it corked? I left it, but then got caught up in a party of bubbles at work for a couple of hours; I came home, and found another party in the kitchen drinking Caprihinas. Dang and argh, said the grumpy worker in me, I just want some peace to understand this wine! Pagodes longed for a library and a cigar and a serious conversation. So did I. It asked for the luxury of quiet that is so hard to find in London. So did I. Thankfully while I …

From wine to widget (or, my Bordeaux sulk in Rome)

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes. – Marcel Proust “What I don’t understand,” said my Roman friend as we walked through the ruins of the ancient city of Rome, “is how these high prices of Bordeaux wine (En Primeur) can be in the public good?” Yesterday I was on holiday in Italy. Frankly, I needed a holiday. After waiting weeks for the big names of Bordeaux to release their wines, and just a torturous drip drip drip, I was officially in a Bordeaux sulk. Then, whilst away, Leoville Poyferre, a Chateau I call “good value drinking claret”, released their wines at +172% on 2008 and +50% on the already highly-priced 2005. Some wines from 2009 vintage are very good this year, but does this justify the substantially higher price? Feeling rather like an ancient philosopher walking amongst the ruins, however, I felt I should argue the opposite point of view…. The SPQR written everywhere in marble (or, Senatus Populusque Romanus “The Senate and the Roman …

En Primeur – five questions to ask before you buy

What is En Primeur? En Primeur is the art of buying wine when it is still in cask before it is bottled. There is usually a two year wait before it is finally delivered, which happens shortly after the wine is bottled and shipped. After vintage, wine merchants and writers visit the Estates, Domaines or Chateaux to assess the quality for their customers. This is when the campaign begins. In the United States, buying wine En Primeur is known as Wine Futures, which is slightly more demystifying; it clearly links the buying of unbottled wine in cask to the concept of buying futures on the stockmarket. It’s the same level of reward. And risk. For those who don’t know much about Bordeaux, En Primeur can be on the trickier end of wine buying. For those who do, it can be a way to buy wine at a relatively low price which returns decades of enjoyment. However, unlike other forms of investment, it’s a speculation you can eventually enjoy drinking. And if you do it right, …