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New Year Resolutions?

I’ve never been one for resolutions; but then I am fortunate in that I don’t have any health-damaging addictions I need to give up. Nevertheless, when it comes to Winedoctor, I’m always thinking ahead and making plans, and this time of year seems as good a time as any to make some changes, and to lay down some objectives for the coming twelve months.

The past year has been one of continued evolution for this site, with a newly integrated blog to replace my old blogger platform, and stack load of new content. I did start to tot up how many new profiles, profile updates, tasting reports, vintage reports and wine guide updates I had made, but I only made it to mid-February before my eyes started to glaze over, so you will just have to take it from me there were plenty. If there is just one stream of updates made during 2011 that I am allowed to draw your attention to then it is my Loire Vintage Reports, focusing on 2010, 2009, 2005 and 2003. The level of analysis on the internet and in print that other regions (principally Bordeaux and Burgundy) are subjected to has never really been applied to the Loire; hopefully my vintage summaries go some small way to correcting that. In the same vein, coming in 2012 I plan a 2011 report, a 2010 update, and a look back to 2008 and then 2006.

So, as we have nearly reached 2012, here are my other plans:

1. Focus even more on Bordeaux and the Loire. Going off-piste once in a while (as with my Chapoutier reports here and here, or Tom Cannavan’s Portugal, or my many recent updates on Tuscany) is valuable, as it hopefully prevents me developing a regional version of cellar-palate. But the value in sites such as Winedoctor is specialist, regional, focused information I think. With that in mind, 2012 plans include:

  • » Featuring some less familiar names from the Loire. It’s time to look beyond Luneau-Papin, Pierre-Bise, Huet and Vacheron (although these will also see 2012 updates!).
  • » An increased focus on right bank Bordeaux – there are some profile gaps I need to fill.

So I have trips to Bordeaux lined up for April (yes, the primeurs) and also July for some new visits and new profiles, and to the Loire in February (yes, the Salon) and also October (otherwise I’ll feel out of touch!). And no other trips planned – at present, anyway. Throw in my as yet unpublished notes from the 2011 Salon (unforgivable I know – sorry) and from the Biodyvin tasting last November (more Huet, Vacheron, Roches Neuves and so on), a report on the Bordeaux 2007 vintage tasted last November and my visits and tasting from my Bordeaux visit last October and it’s clear I won’t be short of material to publish during 2012.

2. A small home-page facelift. Winedoctor has evolved into how it looks today, and I have no plans for a major overhaul. Content has long been my priority, but I have a few new features and links that need to be slotted into the homepage, and associated with this I will be *trying* to streamline its appearance somewhat. So don’t be surprised if it feels a little different in the New Year.

3. Finally, something of a teaser. Although Winedoctor always has been a web-only publication, 2012 will see the publication – in print – of an associated pocket-sized (if you have A5 pockets, anyway) guide to Bordeaux. The format will be informal, soft-cover, and it will hopefully appeal to a broad range of readers with generic information and a regional guide for Bordeaux-beginners, cut-down profiles and vintage reports for the more Bordeaux-familiar, and the latest news from the region for the real Bordeaux-nuts. With a short lead time (measured in weeks rather than months) it will hopefully maintain a ‘current’ feel more than many of the annually-published pocket guides. And it will be inexpensive (to my mind). I have about ten chapters in the bag, and about three more to write, and the aim is to have it on the shelves (and available in electronic format also) before I leave for the primeurs. To my mind, 2012 could be a very exciting year!

I will bring more news of this project here during the next few months. In the meantime, my best wishes to all readers, I hope you have had a great Christmas and holiday, and that your New Year celebrations go down a storm. See you all in 2012! – Chris

Calls on Bordeaux 2011 Pricing

The pricing of next year’s Bordeaux releases – from the 2011 vintage – will be some of the most hotly debated ever I think. With two very expensive vintages back-to-back, widespread economic crisis, faltering prices of older vintages and a ‘lesser’ vintage, it would seem the prudent decision would be for prices to come down. I am sure they will; the question is, by how much?

In a report in Drinks Business by Patrick Schmidt two UK wine trade figures express an opinion:

Adam Brett-Smith, MD of Corney & Barrow, is quoted as saying “Unless they do something of unbelievable drama there is going to be no interest at all” and that the top châteaux had lost “the loyal bread and butter customer”.

In a similar vein, Gary Boom of Bordeaux Index says “I haven’t sold a case of first growth Bordeaux for months to a person in the UK who I think is going to drink it” and alleges that the Bordelais have done irreparable damage.

I’m don’t think there is “irreparable damage” [my italics] here; yes, the prices hurt, but it could be argued that 2009 and 2010 were certainly a class apart, setting a new benchmark for Bordeaux quality as well as pricing. If the quality was there (and it was – both vintages are great), and the wines sell (yes, I’m aware that there may be huge stock retention to limit supply and bolster price) to those wealthy enough to afford them, then there is little that the more cash-strapped consumer (i.e. me – maybe you too?) and the wine trade can do. The real damage will come if the prices do not fall back with the 2011 vintage. Bordeaux has a history of taking two steps forward with pricing, then only one step back – with the 1996 then 1997 vintages, 2003 then 2004, 2005 then 2006. If they do that in 2011 I think the exodus away from Bordeaux primeurs will not just be with the consumer, but with some big-name merchants as well. The comments from Boom and Brett-Smith certainly suggest that.

I hope the Bordelais make some wise decisions next year. If not, I hope they have some very large warehouses.

Read the full article by Patrick Schmidt here.

Huet Petillant 2007 est arrivee!

When I last spoke to Noël Pinguet of Domaine Huet, which was November 10th, he was about to disgorge his 2007 Vouvray Pétillant, and at that point was still unsure which wine he would use as “dosage”. Yesterday six bottles arrived – that’s one hell of a turnaround! And these are surely the first to arrive in the UK? They’re certainly the first bottles to be entered on Cellar Tracker.

2011 Winedoctor Label Quiz

Here’s my 2011 Label Quiz answers pages – please feel free to post you answers (and guesses!) below.

If you haven’t seen the quiz yet, then no cheating by looking at everybody else’s answers! Take a look at the labels first, here.

I’ll respond to comments here as often as possible.

As promised in the introduction to my quiz, I will post the answers here on December 17th.