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.
March 20th 2012, by Gavin
I was asked by Gemma, the News Editor at Harpers Wine and Spirit, for my thoughts on the 2011 vintage before the trade and press tastings here in the first week of April. Here was my reply.
Even though I live and breath each vintage in Bordeaux, it’s foolish to try and predict how each Château’s wines are going to show from barrel, especially with such an up-and-down year as 2011.
No-one is going to claim that 2011 is a better vintage than, say, 2009. Apart from me, that is – I lost 80% of my crop to hail in May 2009. (So did hundreds of others, for that matter.) But for the great wines, 2011 sits in the shadows of 2009 and 2010, despite the dry and sweet whites from last year showing real promise.
There are some key factors about 2011.
We had a very early budbreak and then a summer-like spring, so the vines flowered about three weeks early in May. By the beginning of July, after a bone dry period of four months, the development of many vines had become blocked through lack of rain. July and August were then up-and-down – at times hot and humid, at other times cool and rainy.
The year will go down as a very dry year, with just 270mm of rain from March to September, compared to the 30 year-average in Bordeaux of 430mm. But in July and August we had around 150mm of rain compared to a norm of 100mm, so a glance at a weather chart will show that it was an upside-down season – dry from March to June and again in September but wetter in the summer. Weird.
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 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 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.
April 28th 2011, by Gavin
I’ve sifted through all the red barrel samples that I scored over 85 points out of 100 and here are my 300 or so favourites (A-Z), from over 600 tasted in April 2011. Of other leading wines on the Right Bank, I’ve yet to taste Chateau Lafleur in Pomerol and, in St-Emilion, the wines of my friend Jonathan Maltus (including Le Dome and Teyssier), Valandraud, Tertre Roteboeuf and Pavie Decesse. On the Left Bank, I should go to Boyd Cantenac, Pouget, Pedesclaux and Sociando Mallet.
I have published them here for my April e-newsletter, shortly before Robert Parker publishes his scores. I’ve yet to look at any others but I’m sure we’ll all agree to disagree. As a price guide, I have included the En Primeur price, in sterling from the UK trade, of the same Chateau LAST year for their 2009 – another great, and possibly better, vintage. Do not expect prices to fall when prices are released over the coming weeks and months.