March 19th 2013, by Gavin
Chris Evans, host of BBC Radio 2’s Breakfast Show, came to Bordeaux earlier this month with his lovely wife Natasha for an extensive wine tour. We were honoured to be asked to show them around, via a friend of a friend, and here’s what we got up to, along with some holiday snaps. (To enlarge any picture, click on it.)
“I beg you, if you like wine, take a plane, hire a car and go to Bordeaux,” Chris wrote in his weekly column for The Mail on Sunday, tapped into his Blackberry at his hotel in St-Emilion after just a couple of days here. “It’s a dream trip.”
On their ’kids-free wine tour’, we visited Chateau Clinet and Le Pin in Pomerol, Chateau Haut-Brion in Pessac, Chateau Pichon Longueville Baron in Pauillac and Cos d’Estournel in St-Estephe. We also tried a few wines from around the region over dinner here at Chateau Bauduc, at restaurant La Tupina in Bordeaux and in the two restaurants at Les Sources de Caudalie, the hotel set amongst vines to the south of the city.
“Twas fanbloodytastic” he texted when he got home, before appearing on Friday evening’s The One Show on the beeb. He looked fine. I was bloody exhausted.
Then, on Monday, the reality check. “Just been to gym. Nearly died. Holidays not worth the relapse,” he announced on Twitter. (Apparently, he’d put on half a stone.) The trouble with an excursion to this corner of France is that the wine and food can be a little too tempting.
March 19th 2013, by Gavin
Chris Evans, host of BBC Radio 2’s Breakfast Show, came to Bordeaux earlier this month with his lovely wife Natasha for an extensive wine tour. Here’s what we got up to, along with some holiday snaps. (To enlarge any picture, click on it.)
Tuesday: Chateau Haut-Brion
From Libourne, it was 45 minutes to Chateau Haut Brion in Pessac. It’s a bizarre setting for one of the world’s most famous wines, first mentioned in English by Pepys in seventeenth century London. A wonderful old, gravelly vineyard, with a beautiful old chateau, set in the ugly, modern outskirts of Bordeaux, with a TGV train line cutting through the middle of it.
All visitors are greeted with a video, which is really a collection of pretty photographs, set to relaxing classical music and a voiceover by the owner, Prince Robert of Luxembourg. ’I doubt they’ll put you in front of the video,’ I said, ’but they just might.’ They did. It was dangerously soporific.
After this rather touristy introduction to such a wonderful estate, our guide Laëtitia looked after us very well.
Two of the more interesting aspects of the tour at Haut-Brion is the lab, where some returned ’corked’ bottles of wine were being analyzed, and the in-house barrel maker. Unfortunately the cooper wasn’t there, but we saw a great many of his barrels.
June 14th 2012, by Gavin
Bad news for Bordeaux? A decidedly lacklustre En Primeur campaign for the top 2011s (good wines but many were overpriced) and now the crucial flowering of the vines for 2012 looks to be late and uneven. This could, though, be a welcome break for people who actually buy the stuff to drink.
In complete contrast to last year, when the vines budded early and then a very warm, dry Spring helped to accelerate the growth, 2012 has got off to a slow start. The weather has been mixed to date, although with gorgeous weather in late May, things were looking up.
April 2nd 2012, by Gavin
At the end of September 2011, I wrote about the unusual 2011 harvest in Bordeaux. Some people out there like to see the nerdy stuff, so I put together my weather charts for Livex, the Fine Wine Exchange. Here’s my article that appeared on their site in March. (For my other fascinating articles on the Livex blog, search ‘Quinney’).
As the trade and press prepare to descend on Bordeaux for the annual en primeur tastings in late March and early April, here are my weather charts for the 2011 season compared to recent vintages.
A summary of what happened in the vineyard:
1. Early budbreak, very warm spring, drought until July.
2. An up-and-down summer.
3. Low threat of mildew early on but risk of rot later.
4. An early harvest under September sun.
5. Picking dates a gamble between ripeness and rot.
6. Sorting and selection were key.
7. Quality and yield vary from one estate to another.
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.
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.
June 20th 2011, by Gavin
Harpers Wine and Spirit Trade Gazette published my article on 3rd June, with my photo of a picker at Château Troplong Mondot on the front cover: “Massive prices for the 2010 First Growths, Super Seconds and Flying Fifths won’t deter investors, and buyers from the Far East, but will the Bordeaux en primeur bandwagon run out of steam further down the line?”
May 5th 2011, by Gavin
I wrote this piece for Livex, “the insiders’ guide to the global fine wine market”, and was published on 3rd May.
There was something different in the air this year, and it wasn’t just the constant tweeting of what the stuff tasted like.
En primeur attendances were higher than ever at the top estates, according to Paul Pontallier of Château Margaux (right). Much in evidence there, and at all the Firsts, were the Chinese translations of the brochures, to add to the long-standing piles of English and French versions. Based on visits to the leading properties the week after the UGCs, these were still being snapped up by Bordeaux’s new best friends.
Perhaps that’s what’s changed. Opinions about many of the great wines no longer matter. For the top Châteaux, even huge Parker points or double asterisks won’t be required to sell the iconic brands and for most of us, some of the tastings were academic.
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.