first growth bordeaux

Did Reignac Reign Superior?

Did Reignac Reign Superior?

Post by Chuck Hayward | November 19th, 2010

With the 2010 harvest just completed in Bordeaux, chateau and estate owners are back on the road introducing themselves to new clients/ markets and revisiting those who have supported their wines in the past. Yet the nature of how Bordeaux is sold means the Bordelais do not visit here as often as winemakers from other countries. Some six to nine months after the harvest, many chateaux sell their wines to negociants, who then sell it to US importers. At that point, the chateau no longer owns the wine, so the responsibilities for promotion and education have been left to the importers or the Bordeaux trade association by default.

Yves Vatelot (c) talks with JJ Buckley employees Jeff Loo (l) & Farley Walker (r)

Today, however, most of the traditional Bordeaux importers are no longer participating in the market.  Now that retailers are going directly to the negociants in France, some chateau owners realize that it will be up to them to reacquaint loyal followers of past vintages while introducing their wines to new customers. Following JJ Buckley’s visit to the en primeur tastings last spring, the staff wanted to ensure our customers had the opportunity to meet important winemakers and owners in Bordeaux. And we could think of no better way to start than with Yves Vatelot of Chateau Reignac, one of the most charismatic owners we encountered during our visit. (more…)

First Impressions of the Big Five

First Impressions of the Big Five

Post by Chuck Hayward | Monday, March 29th

They are called the Premier Grand Crus, the First Growths— a Bordeaux Best of the Best, designated as such by the famed Classification of 1855 (with a certain exception made in 1973). These five revered wineries— Lafite, Latour, Margaux, Haut-Brion and Mouton-Rothschild— produce some of the most sought after and coveted wines by enthusiasts and collectors from across the globe. And I was about to taste them all!

There has been much debate about the 1855 Classification and whether it’s

The JJB Team at Chateau Margaux

still valid today. Many wineries further down in the classification are now producing wines that are considered superior to those made by the Premiers— and you can be assured that the JJ Buckley staff have been hacking away at that old chestnut over the course of our visit! But this is not the time nor place to rehash the argument. I can say, though, that these wines are something special.

Interestingly, however, the ways these grand estates present themselves and their en primeur wines is sometimes anything other than grand. In the case of Chateau Haut Brion, we tasted the new wines in a beautiful salon. For Lafite it was an unadorned conference room and at Latour, we tasted quietly in a lab.

Whatever the setting, the wines from the “big five” were exceptional, each with its own, unique personality. Margaux stood out for its almost rustic qualities. Lafite impressed me with its restraint and elegance, while at the same time avoiding any unripe qualities or a sense of dilution.

For those who favor power, Latour, Mouton, and Haut Brion will be at the center of the First Growth conversation in this vintage. All three offered up rich, mouthfilling flavors that never ended. These are big wines but do not become cloying or ponderous thanks to fully integrated acids and the barest of tannins to support the thick fruit.

The key observation for all the Premier Grand Crus is that each wine, while being fully expressive, seems to offer a sense of restraint and the feeling that there is much, much more to come down the road. Tasting them young is like being in a boxing ring, knowing that my opponent is holding something in reserve that’s later going to put me on the ropes.

Well, if it’s going to be a Premier Grand Cru that clocks me, then just ring my bell.