Author Archives: Stephen Crosland
We will be going out to Bordeaux next week to assess the 2011 vintage, when it is a bit less busy following the organised tastings. Some things are however already abundantly clear, the main one being that price will be absolutely crucial. The vintage is not 2009 or 2010 and pricing of the top wines needs to reflect this. We were delighted to see Christian Moeuix’ comment that he could drop prices of his top wines by 50%. Such realism is commendable and we very much hope that the properties that are currently talking about only a 10-15% reduction will reconsider their approach. The lesser properties don’t have the luxury of being able to reduce by this amount but we hope that there will be some effort to make purchasing worthwhile. [Editor's note - we've subsequently spoken to Christian personally in Bordeaux and in spite of being widely reported, he says he was in fact misquoted - it was a nice thought while it lasted!]
The next crucial factor is the variability of the wines. There are obviously some which are very good indeed - Pontet Canet for example is being very well received - but also some where there just isn’t the weight of fruit to support the structure. Selection will be crucial. Where the wines have been carefully made without over extraction there are some lovely, fruity, relatively forward examples. In terms of regions, Pomerol especially seems to have done very well indeed. Finally, dry whites and Sauternes, as so often in a difficult red vintage, are very good indeed and well worth seeking out. There seems to be a desire to get the campaign started and finished quickly, unlike last year where everyone waited and then released wines together so some were missed in the rush. We very much hope that things do happen quickly, before interest is lost.
Our Bordeaux 2011 En Primeur webpage features a list of the wines we expect to buy and prices will be confirmed as soon as we receive them, so if you're interested in this year's campaign, you may like to bookmark this page for easy future reference.
A couple of weeks ago, the trade had the chance to taste the Bordeaux 2009 vintage now it is in bottle at a tasting organised by the Union des Grands Crus at the Royal Opera House in London. The first growths and many of the ‘super seconds’ don’t show at these tastings but it was still a big tasting with more than enough on show to get an overall impression of the vintage.
Generally, the initial impression gained from the en primeur tasting in spring of 2010 still holds true. This is a wonderful vintage with huge amounts of ripe fruit well-balanced with tannins and good freshness. The wines have taken on more oak from being in barrel for the intervening period but generally the balance remains impeccable and there is more than enough fruit and weight to cope with it. Many of the wines are almost approachable now the fruit is so rich, but they will continue to improve.
The Médoc showed great consistency with fruit, ripeness, elegance and power. Frédèric Le Clerc’s La Tour de By was wonderfully rich and powerful, a real treat for the many of you who bought it. Also showing well was Château Belgrave, juicy and balanced, very swish and polished and the best Fourcas Hosten I’ve ever tasted with real class. Running through the Médoc communes, the ones that stood out for me in Margaux included Angludet (no "d'" now so they move to the beginning of the appellation, a bit like AFC Wimbledon!), very attractive and pretty and Rauzan-Ségla, real elegance and class.
Super consistent Saint Julien next and very difficult to pick out anything here but
Branaire is just a delight and the two Bartons are super, Langoa forward lovely fruit, Léoville more complex and restrained. In Pauillac, Grand-Puy-Lacoste stands out, classic and elegant, very complete with silky fruit and although there are not many wines from St-Estèphe, Basile Tesseron’s Lafon Rochet has the strength and minerality of the appellation together with huge amounts of fruit. This property is really going places and it wouldn’t surprise me to see it follow the same course as his uncle Alfred’s Pontet Canet.
Across the river, the style is a bit different, particularly in Pomerol where the wines are extremely ripe with real power. Clinet and La Conseillante impress here by combining this power with elegance, balance and complexity. St-Emilion, as ever, is more complex and it is here that I have a few doubts about some wines as to whether the amount of tannin from both the oak and the initial extraction is in balance. Many are wonderful and these include Canon, Berliquet and Pavie Macquin but my favourite, and for me possibly the wine of the tasting is Figeac. Maybe it’s the amount of Cabernet used here but this is sublime.
In Pessac, Haut Bailly shone amongst the reds and Domaine de Chevalier amongst the whites. Generally, I prefer a more mineral style than 2009 provides most of the time for the whites, but this has wonderful tropical fruit with good acidity and really well-integrated oak. Absolutely wonderful.
Finally, there’s a good range of Sauternes and Barsac. This commune was my favourite as the acidity gives really good balance and Doisy-Daëne confirmed its excellent impression from the initial tastings. In Sauternes, de Fargues is wonderfully intense.
All in all, this tasting confirmed the marvellous quality of the 2009 vintage. We will be shipping the wines and delivering them out to you starting after Christmas.
This post was posted in En Primeur, Events and was tagged with 2009, Angludet, Berliquet, Canon, Château Belgrave, Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Clinet, de Fargues, Doisy-Daëne, Domaine de Chevalier, En Primeur, Figeac, Haut Bailly, La Conseillante, La Tour de By, Lafon Rochet, Lango Barton, Leoville Barton, Pavie Macquin, Pontet Canet, Rauzan-Ségla, Wine
Why choose Riesling? And, in particular, why German Riesling?
Like many people in the wine trade, it’s my favourite grape variety. Top estates, mainly in Germany, but also in Alsace and New Zealand, make wines of wonderful balance and tension between not only the fruit and sweetness but also the minerality and acidity. These countries are at the outer limits of where the Riesling grape can be successfully grown and so have naturally high acidity levels, but the sugar and low levels of alcohol give the balance and to my mind, make questions of sweetness irrelevant. After all – an analytically dry wine can taste flabby if there isn’t enough acidity and a wine with nothing to balance the acidity is tart and unpleasant.
So, a good Riesling can get your taste buds going, and then won’t pummel them with high alcohol. It will also age superbly and will often still be vibrant and fresh after 20 or 30 years. Eventually its character will change, but always into something full of complexity and interest.
My interest in German Riesling started with learning a bit of the language at school and then on to the wines when I joined Tanners. I thought our range at the time was 'not great', as it consisted mainly of producers living on past glories, and so I was challenged by Richard Tanner to come up with something better!
We went to Germany in 1995 and the producers we visited then, still form the basis of our list now: they have consistently made wonderful wines over the years. We went to the pre-auction tasting of the Mosel Grosser Ring in Trier, where all the best estates put up their top wines for auction, so it was just a succession of Auslese and above from all the top growers. It was simply the best tasting I’ve ever been to in all my years a wine buyer and the only other English person there was Hugh Johnson! We sat in Helmut Dönnhoff’s front room on a Saturday morning while a succession of visitors arrived to buy his wines direct. They are all supplied 'on allocation' now (meaning we get what we're given!) and most of our other growers sell out very quickly, especially styles of the off dry wines which are only usually made in small quantities as the home market is for the dry wines.
I'm really glad to see the younger generation coming on, for example: Willi Schaefer’s son, Christoph, and new growers such as Weiser Kunstler.
I still think (and hope) that one day a wider public will come back to Riesling and that the horrors of cheap Liebfraumilch and its ilk will be forgotten if not forgiven! After all, lower alcohol wines are becoming more important to many of you and tastes have moved away from the oaky wines of the late nineties and early noughties, but there is still a problem with the clarity of labelling for many German wines.
In the mean time, those in the know can buy wonderful wines from top producers, top vineyards and top vintages all for prices that make them a relative bargain when compared with the equivalent quality wines from other countries.
My top German Rieslings (without breaking the bank!):
The Moselland co-operative at Bernkastel makes very characterful, correct wines. This is fresh and juicy
From the Saar, packed full of apple and pear fruit.
Classic Saar, lovely balance, zingy fruit.
Lovely, creamy Auslese with wonderful fruit and balance
Best of the rest!
The Bio Bio Valley is in the south of Chile and the climate is cooler and gives freshness and fruit. Fruity and floral.
Wonderful limey fruit, fresh, aromatic and relatively low in alcohol for an Australian wine due to the altitude it's grown at.
McCorkindale Riesling, Marlborough 2009 New Zealand
New Zealand produces excellent Rieslings with crisp fruit, apricots and hints of sherbert. Off dry
This post was posted in Events, Staff Favourites and was tagged with Australia, Chile, Erdener Treppchen Auslese, German wine, Jim Barry Lodge Hill Riesling, Kanzemer Sonnenberg Kabinett Reinert, Maiden Flight Riesling, McCorkindale Riesling, Meulenhof, Moselland Riesling Kabinett, New Zealand, Riesling, Riesling Week, Scharzhofberger Spatlese, von Hovel, Wine