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. (more…)
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. (more…)
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
Post by Chuck Hayward | April 15th, 2013
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. (more…)
Post by Chuck Hayward & Alex Fondren | April 11th, 2013
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. (more…)
Post by Chuck Hayward & Alex Fondren | April 9th, 2013
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. (more…)
Post by Chuck Hayward & Alex Fondren | April 7th, 2013
Jeffrey Davies’ 2012 Lineup
The real heart of en primeur week starts tomorrow (Monday) and continues on through Friday. So to avoid rushing in, trying to find our bearings at winery appointments and large tastings, it’s better to arrive a few days early and meet up with our friends in the business to gain some first impressions. And there’s no one better to meet than Jeffrey Davies, owner of Signature Selections - a negociant and wine marketing outfit based just outside the city center of Bordeaux.
Tasting with Davies is quite a treat. He always has a broad range of wines to sample, whether they’re well-priced Bordeaux appellation releases or new micro-cuvees from St. Emilion. But Jeffrey’s true value comes from his close ties to the local winemaking scene. He is quick to offer his observations on the vintage along with the latest news and gossip, making our conversations with him lively and engaging.
We’re off to Bordeaux for En Primeur/Better Check the Weather (in 2012!)
Post by Chuck Hayward | April 4th, 2013
Once again, the beginning of April finds us at JJ Buckley finalizing our plans to visit Bordeaux and participate in the annual en primeur tastings. In our seventh visit to the region, we’ll do what we do best – taste the latest vintage and enable our buyers and fine wine specialists to discover first-hand how these young wines fare. Our schedule is full of visits to wineries and negociants and we’ll be adding on a day of educational seminars to get an even more in-depth understanding about Bordeaux.
You can keep up to date with our trip by subscribing to JJ Buckley’s blogs here. We’ll also be posting pictures and updates on Facebook and, for the first time, you can check us out on Twitter. Follow us at @JJBuckleyWines or use the hashtag #JJBatBDXto get the latest info on the wines we’ll be tasting.
Just east of downtown Napa, the small area of Coombsville was recently designated as Napa Valley’s 16th subregional AVA. Each of Napa’s subregions is distinct, showcasing a unique climate and combination of soils, perfectly reflected in the wines. At the same time, Napa’s patchwork of AVAs provides a window into the valley’s diversity, belying the misconception that the region is homogenous.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of Napa Valley’s first subregional AVAs. The first to be designated entirely within Napa Valley was Howell Mountain. With its unique attributes, it it’s no surprise that the mountain was the first to be distinguished from other appellations. Altitude is what makes Howell Mountain so distinctive – grapes must be grown above 1400 feet in elevation to be eligible for its AVA status. This altitude lies above the morning fog layer that covers the valley floor, allowing for more sunshine during the day. This also allows for cooler average temperatures, often up to ten degrees lower than down the slopes, which preserves vital acidity. (more…)
For Wine Lovers Down Under, The “Options” Are Endless
Post by Chuck Hayward | March 14th, 2013
The end of the options lunch. Note the small wooden barrel for coins
The Sydney Royal Wine Show is one of Australia’s most prestigious wine competitions. Ranking up there with shows based in Adelaide and Melbourne, the organizers have selected an international wine figure to serve as a guest judge since 1986 and this year, I was honored to be selected to fulfill this role. Judging duties kicked-off with one of the show’s most important traditions, the Peter Doyle Options Game.
Leave it to the Australians to take something like blind wine tasting and turn it into a game. Called Wine Options or just plain Options, it was developed by Len Evans, one of Australia’s pioneering wine educators and personalities. Legend has it that he dipped into his cellar after a long lunch and served a bottle blind, asking his mates a series of questions that became ever more specific until the wine was identified. (more…)