articles tagged: Right Bank

Bordeaux 2010: 300 Top Reds, with Price Guide

April 28th 2011, by

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 (top down), 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.

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A First-Timer’s Guide to the En Primeur Week in Bordeaux

March 23rd 2011, by

I wrote this post for Livex – “The insiders’ guide to the Global Fine Wine Market.”

Robert Parker and other critics are in Bordeaux this week, getting to grips with the new vintage from barrel.

dsc_0676The rest of us – trade and press alike – will have to wait until the first week of April, traditionally the week hosted by the Union des Grands Crus or ‘UGCs’. Scores of other groups have sprung up over the years, while at least 30 of the most sought-after wines can only be sampled at the Chateaux themselves.

So here’s a list of the most popular tastings and those exclusive Chateaux, with the dates and the number of wines in brackets. At the end, I’ve jotted down my ten top tips.

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Bordeaux 2010, Part Two: The Wines

February 18th 2011, by

This post was written for Liv-ex, “the insiders’ guide to the global fine wine market,” and was published today. It follows on from “Bordeaux 2010, Part One: The Weather.”

dsc_0022_2There’s an embarrassment of riches in the best barrel cellars of Bordeaux right now. The relatively inexpensive 2008s are being shipped out (the first tranche offer of 100€ ex-cellars for First Growths in April 2009 seems a long time ago), leaving row upon row of French oak barriques bearing the precious, pre-paid 2009 vintage. And, currently being assembled in the ‘first year’ cellars, there’s another great vintage waiting in line.

Time will tell if Lilian Barton Sartorius was right when she said at the start of the harvest, “However well the 2010s turn out, they are going to be cheaper than the 2009s.” At the time I nodded sagely in agreement but now, following an outstanding harvest and with more names being touted as the next big thing in China, I’m not so sure. Meanwhile, a few wise old heads are keeping shtum about 2010 as they want their wines to do the talking in the spring. Nobody wants to hear about another vintage of the century. At least, not just yet.

dsc_0323_2Robert Parker, after concerns that he would be unable to travel following knee surgery, has indicated that he will be coming to taste the new vintage next month. Significantly, his friend Michel Rolland, the renowned consultant oenologist, believes that most estates that he works with have made, er, better wines in 2010 than in 2009, and for those who prefer wines at the other end of the structure spectrum, Denis Dubourdieu quietly agrees – at least, for reds and dry whites.

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Bordeaux 2010 Part One: The Weather

February 11th 2011, by

This article was written for Liv-ex – ‘the insider’s guide to the global fine wine market’ – and published today.

As wine merchants and critics make travel arrangements for the En Primeur barrel tastings in late March and early April, many wise old heads in Bordeaux are keeping shtum about the 2010 vintage. (After the massive prices achieved last summer for the top 2009s, owners and managers would prefer their wines to do the talking in the Spring, as buyers don’t want to hear that it’s another vintage of a lifetime. At least, not just yet.)

As a grower in Bordeaux and dedicated vine-spotter, and being British, the weather is something I like to keep an eye on. I also visited scores of leading Chateaux during the growing season and throughout the harvest. Here are some conclusions, with the help of a few charts, about 2010.

In summary

1. 2010 was a very dry year.

2. 2010 was sunny…

3. … but not too hot.

4. Uneven flowering, lower yields?

5. Top terroirs shine, again.

6. Rain in the nick of time.

7. A later harvest (than 2009 and 2005).

8. Harvest ‘à la carte’.

1. 2010 was a very dry year.


I live 15 miles east of Bordeaux and 15 miles SW of St-Emilion between the Garonne and Dordogne rivers. Bordeaux is a vast wine region, and the weather can vary significantly from one end to the other. It’s fair to say though that 2010 was a dry year across all areas.

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La Gazette: Winter 2010 Issue (No 24)

November 25th 2010, by

La Gazette was posted to UK customers on 24th November. Let us know if you’d like to be included on our mailing list – email gavin at Here you can view a draft copy online – simply click on the image below to open a new window and flick through La Gazette using some cunning software called flipdocs. Sadly, it doesn’t work on an iPad. Your comments are very welcome:

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How to Steal a Crop from a Vineyard

October 4th 2010, by

I wish I’d thought of that. I don’t mean stealing someone’s else crop for filling up our fermentation tanks (as regulars know, this would have come in handy last year, after we lost 80% of our crop to hail in May). But we certainly missed a trick as potential victims of such a crime. We could have had the children crying in front of the cameras.

dsc_0006Now I’m quite sure that there is nothing false about vigneron Roland Cavaille’s claim that his Cabernet Sauvignon grapes were swiped at night last week, costing him some €15,000 in lost revenue and a year’s hard labour. The surprise is that the world’s media have got hold of the story with such fruity conspiracy theories. Google his name and you’ll find 50 news stories about the grape heist, including this film from the BBC.

Here’s a ‘Wine Mafia’ report from the London Evening Standard:

“Two harvesting machines were used to take about 35 tonnes of the ripened fruit from a field in the Languedoc-Roussillon region. “These are some of the best grapes in France, and we fear a wine mafia gang has stolen them,” said a detective. He believes the grapes were taken straight to a specialist to create a fine vintage.”

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Red October: Our 2010 Merlot Harvest

October 4th 2010, by

Our red wine harvest at Château Bauduc kicked-off at 6 o’clock in the morning on Friday, 1st October. One 2 hectare (5 acre) block of 12,000 Merlot vines was harvested in tiptop condition, and we were done and dusted by 10.30 am.

img_1701_2_21A team of eight manned the sorting table to make sure that no unwanted bits went into the stainless steel fermentation tank. (I say manned but the team was made up of one strapping lad known as The Apprentice, plus seven ladies.)  In addition, there was Daniel, Nelly, Ange, me – and Guy on his sexy harvesting machine.

With the dry conditions continuing up to the harvest, there was no rot on the bunches whatsoever, so we were able to pick by machine during the coolest, freshest part of the day.

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Dry Whites All In, Reds Kick Off

September 28th 2010, by

The Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon for the dry whites are mostly in – we finished our Sémillon yesterday – and some estates on the Right Bank, in Pomerol and St-Emilion, have picked Merlot from young vines in the last week (such as Château Canon in St-Emilion, below right). dsc_0807_21The Merlot harvest started in earnest this week in the Médoc. Hardly a grape had been picked there until now, and they’ll start attacking the Cabernet Sauvignon from next week onwards. If you have the chance to see the harvest in action, on both Banks, sometime over the next fortnight or so is the time to come, although there’s much less to see on the outside at weekends.

The weather leading up to the key picking dates could make the difference between, well, seriously good and great. In case you weren’t aware, we had half as much rain in Bordeaux in the six months to the end of August compared to 2009, which was, of course, a dry year.

dsc_06682The weather in September has been fine, with a dash of refreshing rain in the second week and last week on Friday, 24th. As luck would have it, a drying northwesterly breeze blew off any humidity in the vines on Saturday, averting the risk of rot. The forecast is fine, just for the moment. We don’t really want to pick for the reds until next week, although we have harvested some Merlot plots early to make some rosé. This year, just as last, it’s best to bring in Merlot earlier – more so with these chilly mornings – and press quickly to make rosé, as we need acidity and not fully or over-ripe grapes.

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10 Reasons why Bordeaux 2010 is not like 2009

August 27th 2010, by

The weather’s been warm, sunny and very dry, giving rise to reports – there’s a summary of them here – of another magnificent vintage on the cards (don’t yawn). Anything can happen before the Merlot harvest begins towards the end of September, and in October for the Cabernets, but let me explain why 2010 is not like 2009.

It is, of course, too early to say how 2010 is going to turn out as September is such a critical month, but some things are so evident – and significant – in the vineyard, I thought I should point them out.

10 key points so far


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August Véraison: (Permitted) Red Grapes Changing Colour

August 25th 2010, by

Here are the six red grape varieties which we are allowed to grow in Bordeaux under Appellation Contrôlée laws. The photos were taken at Château Bauduc at the very start of August and again three weeks later, before and after they changed colour – a stage called véraison. A rule of thumb is that the grapes will be ready to pick some 45 days after mid-véraison. The third shot in each series shows the leaves of each variety, which for me is the easiest way to tell them apart (remembering what you’ve planted and where also helps).

Most of the 117,500 hectares of Bordeaux vineyards are red – 89% in fact. Merlot is the most widely grown variety, with 64% of red, and is the dominant grape on the Right Bank – St.Emilion, Pomerol, Fronsac and the Côtes –  where it is often blended with Cabernet Franc (11%). Merlot is also responsible for the tanker loads of straight Bordeaux AC and less prestigious Appellations across the whole of Bordeaux. In other words, there’s Merlot… and then there’s Merlot.

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