2011 en primeur

Looking for Signs at Feytit Clinet

Looking for Signs at Feytit Clinet

Post by Chuck Hayward | June 5th, 2012

JJ Buckley’s Andrew Frieden spending some QT with Feytit Clinet

One of the advantages of spending a full week in Bordeaux at en primeur is the luxury one has to get to know a wine. Any other time of year, that would come through a winery visit, hanging out with the owner or winemaker, kicking the dirt, tasting through some barrel samples or older vintages. But, that is hard to do at en primeur. There, I relish the opportunity to taste a wine more than once. It really helps to taste a wine twice, three times, though four times is probably ideal. Call it statistics. You get a real sense of what the wine is all about after you have sampled it a few times.

So it was with Feytit Clinet, as we had a chance to taste the 2011 for the first time with Jeffrey Davies who is consulting with the estate, then once again at the Rive Droite tasting, where we had more quiet time to spend with the wine. It was then that we started to notice intriguing nuances in the wine that we hadn’t quite picked up on the first time. We tried it once more, perhaps too quickly at a negociant, but it wasn’t enough time to really pin down what it was that made the Feytit Clinet stand out. Then I found out we would have one more opportunity to taste it at the winery….where I hoped we could find a telltale sign that would best explain the wine’s mystique. (more…)

2011 Bordeaux Vintage Report

2011 Bordeaux: The quest for balance

In April, we sent 14 of our team to Bordeaux to wade neck-deep into the 2011 vintage en primeur. The result? Our largest report ever—119 pages and in excess of 580 tasting notes, along with a comprehensive vintage assessment, articles, market analysis and more.

The region to beat in 2011 is Pomerol, and it gets our nomination for appellation of the vintage. However, among an otherwise irregular crop, there are some exceptional wines to be found in other areas. The most successful wines showed elegance and balance, and can afford mid-term cellaring.

Visit our 2011 Bordeaux portal to download the report and access our videos, blogs, images and more. This page will also contain our 2011 Bordeaux futures inventory as wines become available.

Having tasted and re-tasted hundreds of wines over the course of the week, our experienced team is fully prepared to give thoughtful and educated advice to our customers, and will provide you with a personal perspective to guide your buying decisions. As we did with 2010, we will offer a 60% deposit only option on all 2011 Bordeaux purchases over $1000. The campaign has started and we will begin offering the wines in earnest next week.

Enjoy!

Sweet Relief at Chateau d’Yquem

Sweet Relief at Chateau d’Yquem

Post by Devon Magee | April 6th, 2012

Chateau d'Yquem

After seven consecutive days of tasting the 2011 Bordeaux reds from morning to night, nothing was more soothing on my palate than a trip south to Sauternes to taste the vintage’s deliciously sweet (and tannin-free!) whites. Amidst a week of rumblings regarding the patchiness of 2011 reds compared to ’09 and ’10, I found the persistent voice of an extraordinary vintage in Sauternes after visiting eight of the top chateaux.

To talk vintages in Sauternes is to talk botrytis, and in 2011, this noble rot spread quickly and uniformly, allowing growers to start picking early (at peak ripeness), to pick quickly, and to finish early. The result is evident in the purity of expression and freshness in the top examples that we tasted. (more…)

“Islands of Happiness” at L’Eglise Clinet

“Islands of Happiness” at L’Eglise Clinet

Post by Cory Gowan | April 4th, 2012

Arriving at L'Eglise-Clinet

As we packed our three cars and made our annual migration from the Left Bank over to the Right for our last days in Bordeaux, we put together the mosaic of the 2011 Bordeaux vintage. Although weather patterns can tell part of the story, there is no substitution for one-on-one conversations with vignerons, and, of course, tasting the actual wines. It was at a negociant tasting where Denis Durantou’s wines singlehandedly confirmed our suspicions that Pomerol may be appellation of the vintage. So directly afterwards, we did what any savvy Bordeaux buyer would do – we squished three into the back seat and made the long trek across the Gironde and Dordogne rivers into Pomerol.

Aside from a quick trip to Chateau Le Gay in 2010 and one ill-advised “back roads” (long story) journey to Cheval Blanc last year, I had actually never been to the village of Pomerol  - and I almost missed it once again. The only business of note in the tiny town was a small office of La Poste, and what I can only describe as an open-air junk shop with a man in overalls tinkering away. The rest of the landscape was all low slung buildings and a gentle sea of vines. (more…)

No Reservations at Lafleur

No Reservations at Lafleur

Post by Chuck Hayward | April 5th, 2012

Bordeaux is not Napa. Most wineries are closed to tourists and the same standard applies to wine professionals, even during the busy en primeur week. Appointments are mandatory, and difficult to secure at most of the top wineries. And while a handful of chateaux like Prieure-Lichine allow visitors to rock up unannounced, Bordeaux, like much of France, remains a rather formal place.

So it was a bit disconcerting when our Bordeaux buyer impulsively decided to pull into the parking lot of Chateau Lafleur. Perhaps he was still riding the high following our incredible visit to Petrus (more on that in another post). But this is Bordeaux – you just don’t do this! (Especially at Lafleur….) Yet lo and behold, we quickly found ourselves in a small and intimate cellar, sampling some of the best wines of the vintage with Jacques Guinaudeau, the personable owner who was most generous with his time. (more…)

Shall I Compare Thee to Another Vintage? Drawing Parallels at Haut Bailly

Shall I Compare Thee to Another Vintage? Drawing Parallels at Haut Bailly

Post by Devon Magee | April 3rd, 2012

Château Haut Bailly

After five days of touring Bordeaux, it’s clear that the burning question aimed at leading producers has been: “To what vintage would you compare your 2011s?” It’s only natural – after back-to-back “vintages of the century,” we are all looking for a foothold in 2011. The market cannot support a third otherworldly vintage here, yet early murmurs suggest that, while the industry is cautious to overtly praise ’11, it is far from panning it. In fact, the earliest critic reports – from Parker and Suckling, who both just finished tasting here – are surprisingly optimistic.

So where does 2011 fit in a fifteen-year-plus string of vintages that has redefined Bordeaux with a relative average of warmer, dryer weather? Veronique Sanders invited us into her tasting room at Chateau Haut Bailly in Leognan yesterday evening to candidly discuss. Her family has been in charge of the Chateau since 1955, and she offered, in my opinion, the most poignant remarks of anyone about 2011. (more…)

Higher Ground Offers More Than A Good View at Pichon Lalande

Higher Ground Offers More Than A Good View at Pichon Lalande

Post by Eddie Wolowski | April 2nd, 2012

Chateau Pichon Lalande

We arrived at Pichon Longueville Comtesse De Lalande, commonly referred to as Pichon Lalande, on a sunny afternoon for a lunch appointment. As we walked up to the estate, we nodded to former stable-mate Pichon Baron across the road (scene of tomorrow night’s dinner for some of us). The two estates were once united, but were split amongst siblings in 1850 and classified as Second Growths five years later.

After a Champagne toast with Chateau Director Sylvie Cazes, I sat down to lunch and a chat with Monsieur Philippe Moreau, the new technical director. Previously employed by Chateau de Pez and Chateau Bernadotte, Philippe completed his first vintage at Lalande last year. He was very generous in answering my questions. I have always wondered why Lalande’s wines take on a certain characteristic that is not reflected in the wines of its close neighbors Baron and Chateau Latour. The disparity between Lalande and Baron has always been particularly interesting, not just because of their proximity, but their common heritage alone should warrant more similarity. Philippe first agreed that while yes, the terrior is nearly identical for all three properties, one contrast lies in the technical winemaking style of Lalande – the way that grapes are pressed gently for finesse and not heavily extracted for power. (more…)

No One-Trick Pony: Recapturing Rusticity at Pontet-Canet

No One-Trick Pony: Recapturing Rusticity at Pontet-Canet

Post by Roland Hankerson | April 2nd, 2012

The cool breeze of a spring day in Bordeaux carries with it wisps of dust, which settle between the forty-year-old vines that line the gravelly vineyard of Pontet-CanetThe hoofs of horses drawing plows kicked up the dust, as they are charged with turning the earth on this stately property. The “old ways” of producing classic Bordeaux are new again in a vineyard accustomed to producing world class wine of power and elegance in a manner that preserves its piece of earth with great care.

Brittany horses cultivate the vines of Pontet-Canet

Alfred Tesseron, proprietor of Pontet-Canet, is on a quest to provide a world class wine that adheres to his environmental ethics. He turns to his long-time winemaker, Jean-Michel Comme, (a 22-year veteran of the estate) to not only make the wine, but also head a program of certified organic and biodynamic viticulture on the property. No expense has been spared on this project, and Jean-Michel was handed complete autonomy with which to transform the vineyard over the course of several patient years. By now, he has transformed vineyard operations in a manner that allows the grapes to express in his words, “…the true identity of themselves in terroir while caring for the future of the earth the grapes come from.” (more…)

A ‘Cos’ for Celebration

A ‘Cos’ for Celebration

Post by Cory Gowan | March 30th, 2012

It’s no secret that Cos d’Estournel has been on a qualitative roll, but when Robert Parker awarded 100 points to the 2009 vintage, Cos squarely placed itself among the Left Bank elite. Delivering what its winemakers deem as First Growth quality wines from St. Estephe, Cos has worked hard to place its name on every Bordeaux lover’s wishlist.

One of several Asian elephant statues at Cos d'Estournel

With that in mind, you can imagine the anticipation was high for my third visit to Cos d’Estournel to taste the 2011s. With a private, first-look tasting of the new vintage and a special dinner invitation from director Jean Guillaume-Prats, we motored our rental Puegeot up the D-2 highway eager to spend our first night in Bordeaux delving into the 2011s.

Visiting Cos d’Estournel is always a grand affair. After parking in the gravel driveway under our honorary American flag, we found ourselves in a brand new tasting salon (finished in 2008), more reminiscent of a hip Manhattan nightspot than an historic winery (the name Cos d’Estournel dates back to 1810). After a quick trip around the nippy barrel room where we viewed the 2011s in barrel (the 2010 vintage had already been moved for blending), we popped back upstairs to taste. (more…)

Under the Bordelais Sun? A Weather Analysis for the 2011 Vintage

Under the Bordelais Sun? A Weather Analysis for the 2011 Vintage

Post by Chuck Hayward | March 30th, 2012

If it’s March, it must be time for Bordeaux en primeur!!

And indeed it is with half of the JJ Buckley sales staff already on the ground and the rest due to arrive tomorrow. Awaiting us is a very full schedule of tastings, appointments and dinners. It promises to be an eventful trip… Indeed, we started out with a (near) bang as Shaun Bishop, our Bordeaux buyer, had a close call in the rental car lot with a major American wine critic (who was clearly in a hurry to get to work tasting the vintage)!

Vines at Bordeaux Airport

As in years past, look for pics, blog posts, and Facebook updates from us as we taste through the latest vintage. In addition to our initial thoughts on the quality of the 2011s, we want to show you what life is like during en primeur week. That’s why we brought along our friend Hardy Wallace again to put together some videos that will give you a unique perspective on what it’s like to be in Bordeaux during this exciting and intense time of year. Stay tuned for those as JJ Buckley embarks on a trip we like to call “A Hard Day’s ‘Flight’”.  And don’t forget that JJ Buckley’s annual Bordeaux report will bring you vintage analysis, hundreds of tasting notes, and articles of interest. (more…)