April 16th 2012, by Gavin
I wrote this article for the trade magazine, Harpers Wine and Spirit, for the April 2012 issue.
Gavin Quinney, a grower in Bordeaux and contributor to Harpers Wine and Spirit, has tasted the top wines en primeur since the 2000 vintage. @GavinQuinney on Twitter.
There are only two types of vintage in Bordeaux these days, it seems. “Best ever” (2009 and then, arguably, 2010) and “Better then expected” (2008 and now, 2011). Most of the wine trade and press who attended the annual primeur tastings in early April agreed that the 2011s showed better than everyone thought they would. And, of course, that prices would have to be lower for the wines to sell as futures.
How does 2011 rate?
2011 is not a great vintage for red Bordeaux but it is a good vintage – and a very good one for dry whites, and an excellent one for Sauternes. I don’t think it’s comparable to any other recent vintage but qualitatively, for the reds, I’d put it well below 2010, 2009, 2005 and 2000 but above 2007, 2004, 2002 and most 2003s (excluding the northern Médoc). It sits somewhere alongside the 2008s and 2001s, depending on the region and the Chateau, and has more charm than 2006.
One plus point about 2011 is that most of the leading Chateaux produced 2011s that typify their terroir, their style, and the vintage. It may not have been a normal growing season in Bordeaux but the wines, for the most part, are faithful to their origin.
’It’s good to return to an Atlantic vintage, after two Pacific ones,’ said Denis Durantou of L’Eglise Clinet in Pomerol. ’With less alcohol.’
September 30th 2011, by Gavin
After two great Bordeaux vintages, 2011 has been a year of living dangerously. “It’s complicated,” Christian Moueix explained when I asked what he thought of the millésime, as his team picked in St-Emilion. If one of the most respected winemakers thinks it’s hard to generalise, it might be foolish for the rest of us to rush into snap judgments.
Let me try and explain what’s been going on in the Bordeaux vineyard this year, and forgive me for the amount of detail. My fascinating weather charts will follow later (updated for 2011 here).
Here’s a summary:
1. Early start, warm spring, then drought.
2. An up-and-down summer.
3. Early harvest, September sunshine.
4. When to pick: balancing ripeness with the risk of rot.
5. These magnificent men (and women) and their sorting machines.
6. Volume 5% up overall but yields vary from one estate to another.
7. Finally, a Tweet showing how the growing season compares.
September 29th 2011, by Gavin
It has been a few years since the Barton family of Château Langoa-Barton bought a château. Not since the 1820s, in fact, when Hugh Barton, having first acquired Langoa in 1821, purchased part of the Léoville estate in 1826 that would later become Château Léoville-Barton. Both Langoa and Léoville were included in the famous 1855 classification and, along with Château Mouton-Rothschild, are the only Châteaux since 1855 to remain under the same family ownership. Anthony Barton and his daughter Lilian run the two Saint-Julien estates today.
So when Lilian told me last Friday, on the final day of their harvest, that they had just purchased a property called Château Mauvesin in Moulis, I was quite surprised.
September 25th 2011, by Gavin
‘Points v prices’ often throws up some anomalies but we couldn’t resist these scores by Jancis Robinson MW, the UK’s most respected critic. (Source: www.jancisrobinson.com). Prices are per bottle, UK.
Château Mouton Rothschild blanc 2009 £70 16 points/20
Château Bauduc blanc 2009 £8.95 16.5 points/20
Château Haut Brion blanc 2009 £750 17 points/20
Yes, Haut Brion blanc, a rare wine, is £750 a bottle from leading UK merchants. The Bauduc blanc is available online here.
September 5th 2011, by Gavin
Gavin Quinney reports from Bordeaux on an unscheduled start to the harvest for one of the world’s most famous estates, and the severe misfortune that fell on an illustrious neighbour.
‘It’s an early vintage, and not an easy one,’ said Charles Chevallier, the Director of Château Lafite-Rothschild, as he checked the Cabernet Sauvignon from their parcel in St-Estèphe in his new harvest reception area. He certainly never thought that he’d be bringing in this late-ripening variety exactly one week before the Médoc Marathon, when over 8,000 runners in fancy dress pass through the vineyards on the second Saturday of September. (In 2010, they started picking their Cabernet on 4th October.)
Unlike this coming Saturday, this is no laughing matter – even if the locals can’t resist a bit of black humour. “They can start the pruning at Cos d’Estournel, because there aren’t any leaves left on the vines,” was the gag made separately by two tractor drivers – one at Lafite, the other at Château Montrose to the north. Neighbours, as well as nature, can be cruel.
August 22nd 2011, by Gavin
I recently interviewed a fellow ‘Brit in Bordeaux’ for the subscriber section of JancisRobinson.com. There’s a great deal of free content on the site but for any wine enthusiast, the ‘Purple Pages’ are well worth £69 a year. Jancis has kindly allowed me to publish the article here:
This is the second in a series of articles looking back at the 2010 Bordeaux En Primeur campaign.
Englishman Christian Seely is the managing director of the AXA Millésimes group of estates, based at Château Pichon-Longueville in Pauillac. Besides this ‘Super Second’, Seely looks after Châteaux Pibran, also in Pauillac, Petit Village in Pomerol and Suduiraut in Sauternes, as well as estates in the Languedoc, Burgundy, Portugal and Hungary. He is also president of the Compagnie Médocaine, AXA’s Bordeaux négociant business.
Gavin Quinney, the owner of Château Bauduc (a recent Wine of the week), interviewed his compatriot about the 2010 campaign. Here is the transcript.
GQ: Why does the campaign have to take so-ooh long?
CS: Everybody agrees it should be quicker and start sooner – it is very annoying for customers. But each campaign has its own rhythm, and each property is waiting for the right moment. It shouldn’t be like that, of course. The timing though is key and it’s an incredibly important decision. There is an unofficial order, or hierarchy, and each property has their own idea of where they’re situated in that order. It’s their decision – and there are hundreds of individual decisions.
June 28th 2011, by Gavin
One Bordeaux story that flew around the internet this month was a Bordeaux negociant’s public refusal to buy a top Chateau’s 2010 because the price was ‘ludicrous’. At that price the wine ‘deserved to tank in the market’, I tweeted. So guess who I sat next to at a black-tie dinner, given by the leading Châteaux, two days later?
Let me explain.
May 3rd 2011, by Gavin
Having posted my scores of 2008 Bordeaux Grands Crus Classés from the bottle, I’ve taken a look at the prices on the UK market (via Liv-ex and wine-searcher) to see what values there are before Parker releases any moment now. Spend a few moments checking the current price of the 2008 v the 2009 (2010 won’t be cheaper) and you could nab some top wines from great estates at reasonable prices. V? = Value? y = yes, p = possibly.
May 2nd 2011, by Gavin
Having just posted my 2008 scores for the Grands Cru Classés in bottle, I made the mistake of flicking through the article I wrote for Harpers Wine and Spirit for the 1 May 2009 issue, just before Parker posted his scores from the barrel tastings.
Here it is, in full. Let me say that, from the bottle, I can confirm that ‘St-Julien and Pauillac produced some top flight efforts’ but probably more than a ‘few really exceptional ones’. As for the prices, especially of Lafite and Mouton – now trading at £13,500 and £8,000 a case respectively – I think I’ll go and weep. For the wines, patience is required for all those Left Bank wines from the top estates, contrary to what some critics have said.
May 2nd 2011, by Gavin
The top Chateaux in Bordeaux bottled their 2008 reds last summer, from May onwards. Since the autumn I’ve popped into all the Grands Crus Classés of the Left Bank (i.e. those in the 1855 classification) to taste them.
Given that you can only taste the First Growths and others in situ, it seems the fairest way to assess all the wines on a level playing field, even if it’s time consuming. It also gave me a chance to taste the increasingly relevant second wines, and a few other wines that are owned by the Crus Classés (such as Pibran being in the same ownership as Pichon Baron).
I also tasted the St-Emilion Premiers Grands Crus Classés (excluding Cheval Blanc, Ausone, Belair Monange and Magdelaine) in a single sitting. Although I’ve tasted plenty of Pomerols, these tastings are incomplete so I’ve left them out (Le Pin and Clinet are very good, though…). Likewise Pessac-Léognan and other wines from St-Emilion.
Robert Parker is about to release his scores on 2008 from the bottle, in tandem with his initial 2010 scores from barrel. Here are my scores for the 2008 in bottle, alongside Parker’s original scores from barrel. Many of these wines are substantially less expensive than their 2009 and 2010 counterparts, so there are some deals to be had outside the First Growths. Further reports to follow.