Each year in January, the Union des Grand Crus, an association of 134 estates in Bordeaux, conducts a series of tastings across the United States designed to introduce the latest vintage to consumers and the trade alike. For us at JJ Buckley, the tastings provide a perfect opportunity to reassess these wines after assessing them as barrel samples one year earlier.
The latest tastings turned towards the 2010 vintage, an excellent year that was considered a return to classically-styled Bordeaux. Critics and merchants alike agree that the hallmark traits of the vintage – precise flavors, focused structure and a strong tannic backbone – will provide long-lived wines that will act as a perfect foil to the more forward and opulent qualities of the 2009s. (more…)
It was our third day of ‘official’ en primeur activities, and I couldn’t have been more excited about our visit with the ever-lovely and always gracious Helene Garcin-Leveque, who, along with her mother Sylviane Garcin-Cathiard, are the proprietors of Chateau Barde-Haut. Built as an addition to the family home on a 17-acre natural amphitheatre, the Chateau is just a few minutes drive from center of St. Emilion village, and counts Tertre-Roteboeuf and Troplong-Mondot among its prestigious neighbors.
Andy's last run at Alpine Meadows, March 2011
Winemaking seems to be in the blood for Helene’s family. Mother Sylviane, the grande dame of Vignobles Garcin, is sister to Daniel Cathiard who owns Smith-Haut-Lafitte with wife Florence. Sylviane and Daniel’s grandfather was an Alpine wine merchant who is also noted for creating the modern day ski lift! As an avid skier myself, I was particularly interested to find out in their previous lives, Daniel and Florence Cathiard were members of the French National Ski Team with gold medalist Jean-Claude Killy. It was perhaps his influence that led the Cathiards to Bordeaux, as this celebrated skier often concluded a day of racing with a bottle of the region’s finest. (more…)
While in Bordeaux, a few of my colleagues and I were fortunate enough to visit one of my favorite Pomerol estates, Chateau Clinet. Quintessential Pomerol, the grapes show a high proportion of merlot (85% in 2010 from super low yielding old vines) and are hand harvested and hand sorted. This stuff should cost about as much as a small yacht by today’s standards in Pomerol, but in reality, the wines are extremely well priced.
In fact, you can purchase the 2009 Clinet (which earned 97-100, Robert Parker) for a hair over $175, whereas 2009 Petrus will cost you a few thousand for about the same size production and almost the same score (RP96-100). The 2010 is a brilliant wine much like the 2009, super dark, super lush, and just plain sexy. It’s hard to say yet what will happen to prices for the 2010s, but one can only hope there will be enough Clinet to go around. (more…)
Every year that I’ve been to Bordeaux, the weather has been completely unpredictable and variable. Not this year though—seems we brought
Lascombes vintages 1881 & 1892
California with us! With warm, clear days, and cool,comfortable evenings, I couldn’t have asked for a better scene for our visit to Chateau Lascombes. We started out with a tour of the property, and as dry as technical details can be, it’s essential to understand how the rebirth of Lascombes has taken place over recent vintages.
Under its previous ownership by brewing company Bass Charrington, this 2nd Growth was considered by most to be an unqualified underachiever. Although some improvements were made, particularly towards the end of this era, the wines were pretty forgettable and certainly unheralded. Revitalization came in 2001 when Lascombes was purchased by Capital Colony and Yves Vatelot, who hired the super-talented team of Dr. Alain Reynaud and Michel Rolland to oversee the turnaround. Various improvements were made, including the construction of a gravity-fed winery, use of optical scanners on the sorting table, a new, innovative racking system for wines resting in barrel, and the replanting of (more…)
At Pontet-Canet, Everyone Feels Like The Big Cheese
Post by Chuck Hayward | April 14th, 2011
Tasting at Maison Joanne
Maison Joanne is one of leading Bordeaux negociants and a tasting there is a marathon of immense proportions. Donning Joanne’s signature bibs (to avoid staining our shirts), we sit down and rapidly evaluate some 200 to 300 barrel samples, ranging from simple Bordeaux Superieurs to grand cru classés. It’s an intense experience for anyone, even those of us who’ve logged a quarter-century of “flight-time” in the biz. A break in the action this year brought welcome respite in the form of a bottle of 2010 Chateau Pontet-Canet, which arrived to the table with JJB co-founder Shaun Bishop’s name affixed to the bottle. Ah…it’s the little things.
The Pontet-Canet personal touch
This year, as last, Pontet-Canet made more than just a statement of class, and the sample we tried left us gobsmacked as we passed the bottle around. And just like last year, even after tasting a squillion palate-challenging barrel samples, it made an impression, standing out as one of the best wines tasted and giving the First Growths a serious run for their money. When you consider the prices those wines fetch, at under $200 (for the 2009) Pontet-Canet represents a relative bargain. (more…)
Following our adventures in the Medoc, the JJ Buckley team crossed the river for a crash course in the 2010 vintage from the perspective of the Right Bank, home to the famed appellations of Pomerol and St. Emilion and the ever-trendy (ahem) merlot grape. The last two vintages here have demonstrated a unique (and controversial for some) interpretation of their respective terroirs.
JJB Sales Team Up Close and Personal with Christian Moueix (r)
First, it might bear noting that the Right Bank experience is an all-together different ball of wax to its Medoc counterpart. On the Left, the new vintages are generally poured and presented quietly, with a handful of winery personnel there for observation and information, much like docents in a museum. When the rare opportunity to speak with a chateau owner or executive presents itself, it is in hushed and reverential tones. On the other side of the Gironde, the wineries are smaller, the tastings more intimate, and conversation flows—frequently one-on-one with the proprietor or winemaker. (more…)
For many, Saint Emilion (and the neighboring village of Pomerol) is the “Holy Grail” for merlot and cabernet franc, as there is nowhere else these two varietals reach such levels of greatness. Saint Émilion sits on the right bank of the Dordogne River and is dotted with Romanesque churches and ruins stretching along the narrow cobblestone streets. Walking through the village, the Romans’ involvement is evident in the architecture and the limestone terraced vineyards that dot the landscape.
Thus, our visit to Château Ausone, one of two grand cru classé estates, was more than just a tasting…it was a historical and, dare I say, holy experience! In fact, the estate’s chapel (Chapelle de la Madeleine) and its underground rotunda are dedicated to Mary Magdalene, one of Jesus’ most infamous disciples. With so much to see, it was like being in a museum that just happens to make one of the greatest wines in the world! (more…)