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Torbreck’s ‘The Laird’ – Pursuing Perfection in One of Australia’s Greatest Wines

Torbreck’s ‘The Laird’ – Pursuing Perfection in One of Australia’s Greatest Wines

Post by Chuck Hayward | May 10th, 2013

Not one, but two (!) vintages of 'The Laird'

Not one, but two (!) vintages of ‘The Laird’

So what is it like to drink perfection? It’s a question frequently asked by consumers and the trade. The following story is about tasting 100-point ‘perfection’. And it begins many years ago…

In the summer of 2010, I heard that Torbreck, one of the Barossa Valley’s leading wineries, had released a new wine from the 2005 vintage called ‘The Laird’. The textured black label stood in stark contrast to the winery’s classic white paper label, indicating a significant departure from Torbreck’s usual range of wines. Indeed, ‘The Laird’ was exactly that, a wine geared for the super-premium market, occupied by legends like Penfolds ‘Grange’ and Henschke’s ‘Hill of Grace’ – with a price to match. I needed to know more. (more…)

Where to Wine & Dine: Bordeaux

Grand Bar Castan: Oldest Bar in Bordeaux

Grand Bar Castan: Oldest Bar in Bordeaux

Where to Wine & Dine: Bordeaux

Post by Chuck Hayward | May 1st, 2013

For anyone traveling to the wine regions of France, it’s assumed (and rightly so), that an immersion into local cuisine should be part of the experience. After all, what is a trip to Burgundy without eating escargot or fine dining while visiting Champagne? So it goes without saying that a trip to Bordeaux will be incomplete unless you dip your toes into the local dining scene.

But the geography and the way business is conducted in Bordeaux conspire to make it difficult to indulge your appetite as thoroughly as your palate. And while the wines of Bordeaux resonate across the globe, the local cuisine has yet to achieve such recognition. A recent check through the latest Michelin Guide reveals far fewer starred establishments in Bordeaux than in Burgundy or Champagne.
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In 2012, The Right Bank Gets it Right

In 2012, The Right Bank Gets it Right

Post by Chuck Hayward | April 17th, 2013

Definitely not running late to an appointment...

Definitely not running late to our appointment…for lunch

Visiting en primeur is not only a test of mind and palate – it’s also a trial in organizational skills (or occasionally, lack thereof). With so many tastings and wineries to visit, all spread across the wide swath of land that makes up Bordeaux, it’s imperative that appointments are scheduled in such a way that one spends more time tasting than travelling. It can take an hour to go from Bordeaux to Chateau Calon Segur in St. Estephe. If your next appointment is at Chateau d’Issan in Margaux, you’ll need 40 minutes – more if you get stuck behind a tractor. A lesson learned the hard way…

So JJ Buckley makes sure to focus our appointments on each bank to lessen travel times. Once we finished with our cabernet-themed Left Bank travels, we zoomed off to our base in Libourne to sample the merlot-dominant wines of St. Emilion and Pomerol. And thanks to the fact that we could leave our hotel and arrive at Petrus’s door in about ten minutes, we were confident we could taste more during the second half of en primeur. Good thing too, because early reports had indicated that the best wines would be found on the Right Bank.
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Pontet-Canet ‘Saddles-Up’ in 2012

Pontet-Canet ‘Saddles-Up’ in 2012

Post by Alex Fondren | April 16th, 2013

Vast Pontet-Canet vineyard view from the tasting room

Pontet-Canet vineyard view from the chateau

In a variable vintage like 2012, it’s often hard to find consensus on which appellations and wines showed best. Our first official day tasting up and down the Haut Medoc proved no different, with some very spirited debates regarding the success of several big name properties. One estate that proved incapable of rousing much controversy, however, was Pontet-Canet.

Probably one of “the” wines of the Left Bank in 2012, the majority of us left impressed with what the chateau was able to achieve given the hand it was dealt. But after visiting, it was clear (as is always the case with Pontet-Canet) that this success was no mere accident. (more…)

Bordeaux 2012: An Insider’s Look at This Year’s Pricing and Strategies

Bordeaux 2012: An Insider’s Look at This Year’s Pricing and Strategies

Post by Chuck Hayward | April 15th, 2013

JJB's Ryan Moses and Jeff Loo take notes on the vintage

JJB’s Ryan Moses and Jeff Loo take notes on the vintage

My fourth consecutive visit to Bordeaux en primeur was accompanied by the usual meetings with negociants and wineries. It wasn’t long before I began to pick up on the topical trends that began to occur with every conversation. At first, there’s always a discussion of the weather – understandable given the way it shapes the quality of the region’s star commodity. Then the chatter turns quickly to the quality of the recent vintage. If there’s a bit more time, everyone asks how Bordeaux is selling in China and America.

But eventually, the discussion turns to the topic of utmost importance: the pricing for the new vintage. It’s here where things get interesting. Negociants inquire about what pricing it will take for the upcoming campaign to be a success, while at the same time buyers are asking around as well, trying to ascertain how prices will pan out for this vintage. The conversations can get quite animated – strong opinions are posited while each party tries to discern the mindsets of chateau owners and wine buyers. The 2012 vintage has done nothing to change this ritual. If anything, the discussion about pricing has been more open than in the past. Rather than playing poker this year, the cards have been laid out on the table.
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Musings on the Haut-Medoc

Musings on the Haut-Medoc

Post by Chuck Hayward & Alex Fondren | April 11th, 2013

Margaux vines

Margaux vines

En primeur week is approaching the halfway point today and it is around this time when initial impressions turn into comfortable assumptions. Us wine professionals are always searching for threads and themes that we can weave together into a story that might interest our readers.

JJ Buckley is getting ready to leave the reaches of the Medoc to get acquainted with the new releases the Right Bank. But before we venture into unchartered territories, this looks like a good opportunity to take a retrospective look at the 2012s from the Medoc.
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First Growths First – Assessing 2012 Bordeaux

First Growths First – Assessing 2012 Bordeaux

Post by Chuck Hayward & Alex Fondren | April 9th, 2013

JJ Buckley's (very dapper) Geoffrey Binder poses in front of Chateau Margaux

JJ Buckley’s (very dapper) Geoffrey Binder poses in front of Chateau Margaux

There can be no better way to dive into the long grind that is en primeur week in Bordeaux than to drive up and down the D2 highway on the Left Bank of the Medoc. Popping in and out of the parking lots and drawing rooms of some of the wine world’s most prestigious properties can be quite a ‘tough job’, but it’s all in the hope of finding the real story behind the latest vintage. Each visit can reveal exciting discoveries or disappointing heartbreaks – either way you are assured of an emotional response when tasting these young wines. And that is exactly what happened yesterday as JJ Buckley’s staff descended on the top chateaux of Bordeaux to taste the newly assembled 2012 releases.

Tasting the wines from some of Bordeaux’s most revered properties is no easy task, yet it must be said that it’s quite exciting all the same. It’s a chance to see the sum of the wine industry’s best talents and resources put to use in making some of the world’s best wines.
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