Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Bordeaux 2009: The day Before…

Arrive Bordeaux on the 27th March and was welcome warmly by my friend Bruno from Vignoble Aubert who family owns Chateau La Couspaude and Chateau Haut-Gravet in St Emilion. This year I am lucky as I received my baggage without delay. According to Bruno, It was great weather last week and he was enjoying the sunny day but was windy like Chicago.
Dinner on the first day in Bordeaux in Bruno’s House and the chef, Cecile. Bruno’s wife or the duck specialise. Why? Cecile’s weekly balance diet must include duck at least 3 meals in a week.
Duck breat+liver pie with prunes and goat cheese for starter. Tasty and we down it with Chteau Haut -Gravet 2000. Main course is duck fillet back with maple syrup +balsamic and went sexy with Chateau La Couspaude 2006.

On Sunday. I ask Bruno his view regarding the hype 2009 vintage. And he says in 2009, his wine from Cotes de Castillon, Bordeaux Superior( generic Bordeaux) till his premium St Emilion Grand Classe is well balance with good acid, good tannin and lush alcohol. “ We did not do a lot of treatment to the grapes in the cellar for 2009 as compare to 2007. Emily(his sister in-law and the cellarmaster of the family wineries) is happy that the grape is in perfect condition during harvest and the ripeness of the tannin.” I am comfortable with his views after series tasting of his wine the next day in my apartment in Bordeaux centre. Together in the tasting is my friend from Singapore Peter and his wife.
Bruno giving a wine presentation of Domaine de Aubert

That night, Bruno’s parents in-law Alain and Benedict host a dinner in Chateau de Ribebon one of their property in Libourne . Alain and Benedict in total owns and manage in total 6 families vineyard in right bank of Bordeaux which includes Chateau La Couspaude. Lovely dinner starts with warm pan fried of duck liver with spring pear and green plum; main course is duck breast grill on the Chateau fireplace( Benedict secret is using the vine from winter pruning as wood fire)
Vertical tasting of Chteau Haut Gravet. The 2000 vintage
is serve from Magnum and decanted for 1 hour.

Highlight of the evening is the vertical tasting of Chateau Haut-Gravet 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006 and the 2000 Vintage in Magnum. It is very interesting as I compare the wine of 2009 with the 2000 and find a similarity: subtleness and ripe tannin. Alain later elaborate that the 2009(gift from the god) for him is as good if not better than his 2000, he is very happy that they did not have to do many treatment for the vintage, though he was equally anxious during the harvest as everything is perfect from winter till autumn and he can’t afford any mistake in the winemaking process.
My opinion for the 2009 wine from Domaine Aubert: we have a lots of fruits, red and black synchronise with balance acid, sweet tannin cover with big alcohol. Even the basic range is well made. Good effort and well done to Alain and Emily!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Bordeaux 2009: The Official Tasting, day 1

Today tasting was not so pack and quite relax. In our entourage, we have Peter my friend from Singapore. Gary and his wife from Hong Kong and a few new friends from Shanghai and Beijing as well. For the next three days, we are all hosted by Michel Martell. Our friendly Bordeaux negotiant.
Michel Martel and Chris Low @ Cos

 We head to St-Estephe and start our first ever Bordeaux 2009 primeur tasting with Chateau Cos D’ Estournel and was great by the owner Mr. Bruno Prats.
Pagoda De Cos 2009. Primary aroma of casis couple with smoke and spice. Refreshing acidity and accessible.
Chateau Cos D’Eastournel 2009. I found freshness, intense black fruits, warm mouth feel and sweet tannin from this Grand Vin. Actually drinkable at this stage.
Also tasted was Goulee. A wine made by Cos in Medoc.
We ask Mr. Parts impressions on 2009. “the wine are full-bodied, thick but not aggressive. The big tannin matching well with the freshness and spice typical of the Cos soil. 2009 Cos d’ Estournal has an original and unusual “Chalky” character. According to the Chateau, 2009 is the best vintage so far.
2009 Goulee, Pagoda and Ch Cos D,Estournel

 Next, we taste the “king” . Ch. Lafite is under renovation, so part of the visitor has to do the primeur tasting at Ch. Duhart-Milon.
Carruades de Lafite 2009. Blend of 50.6% Cabernet Sauvignon, 42.2% Merlot, 2.2% Petit Verdot and 5% Cabernet Franc. Fresh and with purple fruits, hint of white pepper, easy to drink actually with bitter sweet aftertaste.
Ch Duhart-Milon 2009. 63% Cabernet Sauvignon and 27% Merlot. I think I prefer Duhart then Carruades 2009? Lovely fruits though tannic and hint of savoury, minor herbaceous.
Chateau Lafite Rothschild 2009. 82.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot and 0.5% Petit Verdot.
Typical Lafite cigar box and led .Red,Black and Purple fruit swim together with refreshing acidity. I can chew the sweet tannin and feel the warm alcohol with lovely after taste. What happen to 2009, they are all drinkable at this stage?
Carruades de lafite, duhart Milon and Ch Lafite 2009Vintage 2007 of Lafite that already bottle..what left is the barrel
Chateau Lafite impressions on 2009:
“ A joyful harvest. Although was difficult at beginning. Warm weather with long dry spell since june with light but welcoming rain in July. Harvest went wonderfully with no worries of rot. .
Cabernet remained comparatively small with thick skin, with excellent ripeness and expression of tannins.

Emmanuel Cruise and Chris Low

 We are in Margaux and stop at Ch D’Issan and tasting their 2009 with owner Mr. Emmanuel Cruse.
Lovely lunch hosted by Mr. Cruse too.
Blosson D’Issan 2009. 40% Merlot and the balance Cabernet Sauvignon. Primary aromas of plum and prunes, fresh crash pepper. Casis, prune and cholate appear on the palate with warm alcohol and subtle tannin.
Ch D’Issan 2009
60%Cabernet and the rest is Merlot. According to Mr. Cruse. 2009 is neither 1989 nor 1990. Close if not better than his 2005 vintage. Tannin is ripe due to perfect pneumatic ripeness of the grapes. At a stage he was afraid with the high alcohol content of the wine, thanks to great level of acidity, he hope The 2009 Grand Vin will upbeat his 2005. On the nose I had plum, casis and vanilla( though Mr. Cruse said he reducing new oak in his wine)subtle and balance wine with almost sweet tannin and warm alcohol and milk chocolate after taste.
Over lunch, we had white wine from Ch Lagrange-Les Arums de Lagrange 2008. Fresh juice of Sauvignon Blanc just nice with the Salmon Tartare. Blason d’Issan 2004, classical Margaux nose and silky finish, went well with the Lamb loin au jus. And Ch D’Issan 1999 with cheese, whoever have this vintage( also 2006) you are lucky…great stuff.

 We continue journey to Ch Latour after great meal from D’Issan.

The 2009 according to Ch Latour will be remembered thanks to the amazing hot and dry summers.
Merlot with great level of alcohol and very good level of acidity and the Cabernet Sauvignon has similar characteristics. Ch Latour with whooping 91.3% of Cabernet Sauvignon and 8.7% Merlot resulting only 38% of the production go into the Grand Vin. Majority grape went into production of Forts de Latour( 65.1% Cab Sauvignon, 32.3% Merlot and 1.9% Petit Verdot) and Pauillac de Latour( 53.8% Merlot and 46.2% Cabernet Sauvignon)

Pauillac 2009. Plums, very light vegetal and bell pepper. quite tannin but refreshing and easy to drink.

Forts de Latour 2009. Light intensity or rather mute nose for me. Presence of alcohol and black fruits on the palate.Fresh and elegance.

Ch Latour 2009. On the nose with presence of violet, casis and black fruits. What can I says with such high tannin(but almost sweet); starts with rather hollow mid pallet but later shows me good team work of fresh acidity and warm alcohol that promote to me some blackcurrant+medium rare steaks.
Solid efforts, I like!

Next we are in St Julien for the Lion. Ch Leoville Las Cases.
Which release a second wine just before the en-primeur with 2007 vintage:- Le Petit Lion
Ch Leoville las Case View on their 2009: “ perfectly healthy crop, resulting from their integrated viticulture methods, and very low risk of grey rot. Harvest took place in ideal conditions with evenly ripe for all grape varieties.

Le Petit Lion 2009. Light intensity on the nose. I had hash tannin and green on the palate. perhaps needs a few more years to impress us?

Clos du Marquis 2009. Been “promoted” to Grand Vin. But the Chateau claims Clos du marquis was never the second wine for Leoville Las Case. Fruity and white floral on the nose. Casis, milk cholate and bell pepper swim together and polish tannin in the palate. Interesting effort for 2009!

Ch Leoville Las Cases 2009. Mineral, soil, bell pepper and currants. Same on the palate plus milk cholate and hint of coconut on the finish. Did I mention the tannin is sweet?

 Our 1st day, end with my favourite Ch. Ducru Beaucaillou and we were warmly welcome by owner Mr. Bruno Borie who is passionate in Asia and learn to write Chinese. He stress that 2009 is a gift from the god but with a few challenging decision making. He is proud that this is his best effort since he takes over the operations of Ducru Beaucaillou in 2003. When I ask if this vintage is comparable to 2005 or even 1982. He mentioned 2 days of light rain just before the harvest perfected his 2009 with very ripe tannin, great alcohol strength and well balance acidty in the wine. “2009 will be great and it will rank side by side with Ducru Beaucaillou 1961. (we later have a tour in his private cellar and witness his impressive old vintage from 1920’s include handsome quantity of 1961 and 1982)

Chateau Lalande-Borie 2009. Crimson color with purple hue. Aromas of red fruit,s pretty mouth feel and easy drinking finish.

Croix de Beaucaillou 2009. Dark violet with presence of dark fruits, blackberries. Fruit and freshness is balance with round tannins.

Ducru Beaucaillou 2009. According to Mr.Borie boasts a beautiful deep violet. At this moment I find rice fruits, luscious structure, dense yet velvet, sweet and elegance tannins. Great effort wine, I like!

Over dinner, we tasted Ch Lalande Borie 2007 and Croix de Beaucaillou 2004. At start I like and feels it is subtle and easy drinking. But compare with the mini vertical of Ch Ducru Beaucaillou 2003, 2000 ( in magnums) and 1995 that display elegance and power. The earlier wine reminds me of new world cabernets.

During dinner, I question Mr. Borie the rising fear of global warming with hot summers and rapid rain. He said so far is good for the ripeness of the grape but he say if the heat is rising up with higher and higher alcohol content. We may see Syrah in Bordeaux. But he strongly addresses in English the word “winemakers” do not appear in France. Instead we have vineyard manager, cellar master etc, who the job is helping Mother Nature converting yearly weather and terrior conditions into the bottle and that is the word of wisdom for me of the day.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Bordeaux 2009-The Hype?

Bordeaux opens doors to journalists and merchants next week to taste and evaluate the 2009 vintage already touted as one of the best vintage in decades. The main point of interest isthe pricing which if increased from the last year, might be counter-productive especially due to the slow US market, despite the growing Hong Kong aka China thirst for Bordeaux wines. (Altough my Bordeaux negotiants told me this year Primeur campagin already flooded with merchants from US that did not turn up for the last two years)

During my last September visits to France. I met a couple of winemakers. They shared their Bordeaux expert’s view that 2009 is the best vintage in decades.
Even my best Friends Bruno Macarez from St Emilion who runs 5 family vinyards at the right bank of Bordeaux claims it is the best vintage in 27 years.

A similar buzz was in the air wherever the En Primeur came up for discussion. It seemed that few doubted the excellent quality of the vintage- the main point of discussion being whether it was better than 2005. This motivated many of us plan to be there for the exceptional vintage at month-end although there was a minority who would rather wait for the prices to be announced, the ‘last mile’ in the Bordeaux En Primeur tastings.

Well, I will find out soon as I will be in Bordeaux from 26th March till 4th April for the 2009 Primeur tasting. But before that, i have sort out a few interview of few prestiges chateaux done by other media and journalist.

Château Cheval Blanc is the Premier Grand Cru Classé Class ‘A’ property in Saint Emilion and is managed by Pierre Lurton who divides his time also at Chateau d’Yquem. He formed a team to look after the details at Cheval recently. Pierre Olivier Clouet is a member of the team and was responsible for four wines. He says, ‘Cheval is always a balanced wine but this year it is
richer and has added natural concentration, not more extraction. It has been good beyond our expectation and I am sure it will surprise the visitors. I am well aware that Bordeaux often hypes its new vintages. But I can assure them that the Cheval Blanc is one of the all timegreats.’

‘Awesome,’ exclaims Pauline Vauthier Technical Director of the only other Premier Grand Cru Classé ‘A’, Chateau Ausone owned by her family for 400 years, about the vintage. She adds, ‘it is showing very well right now; it has an excellent backbone, it’s powerful with a long ageing potential, it’s complete with very well balance with layers of ripe fruit and great aromatic length.’

Gildas d’Ollone, Director of the Second Growth Pauillac producer Château Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande says this ‘sumptuous’ vintage is less angular than 2005 and has more acid and alcohol than ’05. He expects the visitors to be surprised by the immediate appeal and charm of this wine in which Pichon has used 75% Cabernet Sauvignon as it was a great year for Cabernets.
‘Out of the ordinary but not classic,’ says Stéphane Derenoncourt of the 2009 vintage. The French enologist who, like Michel Rolland , works as an international consultant to several wineries including Château Pavie-Macquin, Château Canon-la-Gaffelière, Château Smith Haut Lafitte, Château Brown and Château Prieuré-Lichine, says this vintage will offer a wonderful opportunity for Bordeaux to improve its reputation which has seen a considerable damage in the recent times. He will be present again with the producers he works with, in Chateau Gaffelière in Saint Emilion under the group name of ‘La Grappe.’

Peter Sisseck of the Spanish top winery Pingus warns against raising the prices as he has heard some people talk about. He feels it may be a bit too adventurous although the 2009 is a complete vintage with ripe tannins and could be a ‘once in a lifetime’ vintage.

Bernard Magrez, owner of Chateau Pape-Clement in Pessac Léognan feels that the producers should not get carried away with the pricing for 2009 although the quality is better than 2005. He expects to keep his Chateau wine less than €75.

Chateau Angelus the Premier Grand Cru
Classé of Saint Emilion expects the price between €130 and €50, those of 2005 and 2008.

Do check out our blog again for update on the hype of Bordeaux 2009.