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Winedoctor, Past and Future

Twelve years and ten months ago (to be honest the exact date is lost to memory – but it was one day in May, 2000) I added a few ‘Winedoctor’ pages to the internet for the first time. Little did I realise at that time, even though I had a deep love of wine and an urgent desire to explore and discover all its forms, just how big a part of my life this site would become.

Much has changed since then. Bordeaux prices have exploded, and the region is on the receiving end of equal measures of love and disdain, depending on who you’re talking to. Classifications have collapsed, been reborn, and some St Emilion châteaux elevated to a level we would never have predicted twenty years ago. Muscadet is also enjoying a rebirth, the increasingly well defined crus communaux one of the many reviving stimuli. Vouvray is more exciting than ever, while Montlouis has risen from the ashes in a style that can only be described as phoenix-like. We have ‘natural’ and ‘orange’ wines, both unheard of ten years ago, and we have a much greater understanding of grape varieties, including their genetic relationships to one another and their origins. I’ve tasted wines from Belgium, Slovenia, China and one or two other countries which I never even realised made wine. I think it’s safe to say that, since Winedoctor was born, the world of wine has changed greatly.

And on the internet things have moved along a little too. Since Winedoctor was first published online established wine writers, most notably and successfully Jancis Robinson (and team) and Robert Parker (and team), joined in the fray, setting up their websites, bringing their expertise previously only expressed in print, and on television in the case of Jancis, to the world wide web. In fact, Robert Parker was one of my earliest advertisers, as his web-team rented a little advertising space on Winedoctor to alert surfers to his new online presence, sometime back in 2001 I think.

Bordeaux and The Loire

Perhaps more relevant to this post though, over the last twelve years I have changed too. Winedoctor has grown, and I have become – recognising the need to match the expertise held by many Winedoctor readers, and meet the standards demanded by many of my visitors – more focused on two regions, Bordeaux and the Loire. It has been a journey without much of a plan, until recently at least. Recognising increasing pressures on my time, I realised that the only way Winedoctor could survive – by which I mean the only way I could continue to dedicate the huge amount of time to it that I have been doing over the last few years – was if I asked for payment from readers. I wrote about this change here, a couple of months ago, and here, a week ago. And today, March 30th, marks the day that the paywall went up.

For Winedoctor readers it’s a big change, and I really appreciate the positive words of encouragement I have received. I also acknowledge that some people weren’t happy with the development, disappointed at the change, hoping for a lower price. I hope I can publish enough articles in the coming months to persuade you that having access to the site is worth the fee (which is £45, equivalent to £3.75 per month, more details here). Naturally much of April will be – once I return from the primeurs week – taken up with Bordeaux 2012. Last year’s report stretched over 35 pages, and don’t expect anything less detailed this year! Other articles planned for the next few months, squeezed in before and after the primeurs report, include:

  A Bordeaux 2003 report, with more than 60 wines tasted at ten years of age, taking in all the firsts (reds only – no Yquem, sorry) including Petrus and Ausone.

  A vertical tasting of the wines of Richard Leroy, both Clos des Rouliers and Noëls de Montbenault, from the 2004 vintage through to 2009.

  A Bordeaux 2000 report. A little more brief and down-to-earth than my 2003 report, with more than twenty wines tasted, featuring value wines such as Château de Fonbel, Château La Vieille Cure and more.

  A tasting of wines from Clos du Clocher, with a new profile of this estate.

  A new profile of François Chidaine, complete with vineyard maps and new opinion.

  A vertical tasting of wines from Philippe Foreau, of Domaine du Clos Naudin, taking in a selected range of his cuvées from 2009 back to 2002.

  An update on Gombaude-Guillot, Pomerol’s only biodynamic domaine.

  All my updates from the Loire Salon, with many new profiles too.

  And don’t forget the completion of my new, 35+ page Bordeaux guide, to be rolled out every (well, almost every) Sunday.

I hope this will keep Winedoctor subscribers entertained. I see, by the time I have finished writing this post, seven readers have signed up already. Thank you! For those yet to be convinced, my ‘Weekend Wine’ reports every Monday remain free to view, as will all my blog posts, restaurant reviews, book reviews and a selection of other pages.

For more on me, click here, and to sign up, click here.

Henriques and Henriques

Later on this year I will be exploring Madeira. Not vicariously, although that would perhaps be easier (and less expensive); I will in fact be planting my feet on the soil of this sub-tropical (sounds good!) Atlantic island for the first time in my life.

Naturally, a little Madeira-orientated experimentation and initiation is called for. I started off with two entry-level ten-year old wines from Henriques & Henriques, one a Sercial and the other a Malvasia. The Sercial is pictured below – if you think the picture looks unusually ‘stretched’, it isn’t. The wine comes in very slim, stoppered bottles.

Henriques & Henriques

Henriques & Henriques Madeira Ten Years Old Sercial: A golden hue in the glass, lightly toasted, with a faint green tinge to the rim of the wine. The aromatics are redolent of toasted nuts, with little peaty, wood-smoke tones, but more prominently a clean citrus tang. The palate is fleshy and rich, and although described as a dry wine, it is certainly not bone dry, as there is a generous feel to it all. Good grip underneath it though, and wonderfully freh and invigorating acidity which, with the very direct and well defined nutty flavours, combine to give this a real energy on the palate. I think would prefer a little less fat on the palate, perhaps a less plump feel to it, but otherwise this is certainly well composed and full of character. 15.5/20 (March 2013)

Henriques & Henriques Ten Year Old Malvasia: A rich, walnut-brown at its core, this wine fades out towards the rim to a rich, toasty golden hue. The nose does not suggest great sweetness, but does call to mind the scents of caramel, walnuts, dates and raisins. The sweetness certainly shows on the palate though, the start very textured and fleshy, and this sensation continues through the middle and finish. From within the wine there wells up a great spicy grip, with flavours of nuts and brulée, but also a keen, charged acidity, not especially fine or precise but certainly with enough energy to cut through the sweet midpalate and finish. There is a lot of vigour here, and it does well to carry along the sweet substance of the wine. 16.5/20 (March 2013)

Well, it’s not a bad start. Hopefully I will encounter one or two more bottles before I board the plane this summer.

Loire Valley: 2004 vs. 2011

My recent mini-update on the 2011 vintage in the Loire Valley, featuring a handful of wines from Anjou and Touraine, prompted some discussion with Loire courtier Charles Sydney and I thought it was informative enough to bring out here, on the Winedr blog.

The selection of wines, which were encountered at Charles’s annual Loire Benchmark tasting, were very small in number, and certainly not large enough to produce any valid sweeping generalisations on the vintage. And so when I wrote of the red wines “[t]he closest match from recent history was almost certainly 2004, not a particularly desirable vintage” I was in fact referring not to my tasting assessment (although, to be straight, some of the wines weren’t showing at all well) but to a comparison of independently-produced data published by the Laboratoire de Touraine on the two vintages. I clearly didn’t explain that well enough, and so I thought it was worth clarifying that point.

Secondly, however, Charles added a nuanced point to my interpretation of the Laboratoire’s graphs which is worth noting. The original graph is here:

Touraine 2011 technical data

The two traces of importance in the above graph are on the right hand side, and are for 2011 (bold blue with circles) and 2004 (thin blue with diamonds). Each data point (circle or diamond) represents one analysis of sampled fruit from the vine, each sampling one week apart. Thus, as the plots snake leftwards and upwards, this represents increasing physiological (tannin) and sugar ripeness respectively as the weeks pass, and harvest approaches. As can clearly be seen, the two plots end on exactly the same point, leading to my comparison of the two vintages.

This seems indisputable, but Charles’s point, which I thought insightful and valuable, was this; the Laboratoire de Touraine’s assessments are made on fruit from middling vineyards; they are not vines in the possession of a leading grower, such as Jacky Blot or Philippe Vatan. There is therefore less desire to delay picking on these vineyards, a practice which is of course essential – especially in a less warm and benevolent vintage – in order to obtain maximum ripeness, flavour and quality. Thus, although the 2004 and 2011 plots on the graph above end when the fruit in these vineyards was harvested, other vineyards elsewhere, those in the possession of the more dedicated vignerons, may well have been picked much later, perhaps many weeks later. The plots therefore, although providing an excellent clue as to the character of the growing season, do not necessarily represent the potential quality that might come out of the vintage from the very best domaines.

This seems particularly true when comparing 2004 with 2011; 2004 is remembered in the Loire as a dreadful vintage, one where the growing season ended in a melange of weather-related misery, the harvest described by one vigneron as “les plus emmerdants depuis dix ans“, a comment which I don’t think needs any translation. Suffice to say the harvest wasn’t a particularly pleasant or rewarding one. The 2011 vintage, however, is remembered much more favourably; here, despite the unreassurring technical analyses represented on the above graph, there then came several weeks of beautiful sunshine, allowing for further movement along both ripeness scales. But only at those domaines where the team had the dedication to wait it out, naturally. I guess this is part of the reasoning behind the oft-heard statement that, in the Loire, the quality of the vintage is determined by the September and October weather.

The inevitable conclusion is that the graph is a guide, but can never describe a vintage’s true potential as the analyses cease long before the best vignerons harvest. Having said that, however, it is only correct to point out that 2011 remains, for me, a weaker vintage at present. I have uncovered quite a few less-than-ripe reds, and some leanness in some whites. The rot was not restricted to Muscadet either; I have smelt it and tasted it in Anjou and Touraine. Although, to be fair, I have also encountered some attractive sweet wiens from Anjou. As always, individual analysis of each domaine, and each cuvée is required. I’m therefore not saying avoid at all costs, just do your research before you buy. There’s plenty of relevant material recently added to Winedoctor, and more lined up for publication in coming months. After yesterday’s look at 2011 (and 2010 and 2009) from François Chidaine, tomorrow I present notes on recent releases from Frantz Saumon.

Paywall News

It seems appropriate, as it is now nearly eight weeks since I first published details of my plans to convert Winedoctor to a pay-to-view site (in Important News for Winedoctor Readers), to update those readers who might be interested on how this plan is progressing. It seems only right to me that I make this change in an open and transparent manner, with plenty of warning, the real point of these posts. If you missed the first post, you might like to go back and read it; it explains my reasoning and the need to make this change to pay-to-view if Winedoctor is to survive.

The process of shifting an established free-to-access website to a pay-to-view model is not entirely straightforward. It reminds me of the tale of the holidaymakers who stop to ask for directions; the old yokel they have accosted fixes them with a beady-eye, his face expressing all that needs to be said on the folly of their quest, and replies “well, I wouldn’t start from here if I were you“. Like the hapless holidaymakers, I can’t choose where I start from, having uploaded my first Winedoctor pages to the internet more than twelve years ago now. This was an era when content management systems such as WordPress, which comes with dozens of easy plug-ins to manage subscriptions, paywalls, credit-card payments and so on, were nothing more than a twinkle in a programmer’s eye.

Nevertheless, somewhat to my surprise (I’m always surprised when things progress more easily than expected…..usually very surprised) the process of development and integration seems to have gone more smoothly than I had anticipated. The paywall software is in place, and I can see only one final glitch that needs ironing out. The credit card payment system is in place, and has been tested multiple times. I won’t bore you with any more gory details than that, but suffice to say that although I will continue to test the systems I have in place, the paywall is essentially ready to go. The time has come, therefore, to set a date.

I stated in my original post that I was aiming to institute the paywall in March. I am going to come good on that plan – just – as the paywall will go up over the weekend of March 30th and 31st. These things are always subject to change, but barring any personal catastrophe this is the plan. The timing really relates to when I can guarantee being available to sort out any teething problems that might occur, but setting myself this deadline also means I should have this done and dusted before I leave for the Bordeaux primeurs the following week. Preparations for this trip are almost complete (you can see some of my timetable below – I just wish I could raise a response from Ducru-Beaucaillou) and it is going to be the busiest yet, with seven solid days of tasting planned. I will thus have more writing-up to do on my return than ever, so really need to have the paywall integration done before I get bogged down with that. The 30th and 31st is also a good choice for me as website usage tends to be lighter than during the week. With typically 27,000 page views per day from Monday to Friday, that seems like a valid consideration!

Bordeaux Primeurs 2013 Timetable

And as for the price, as previously stated, the access fee will be a one-off payment of £45 per annum. This can be made using most Mastercard and Visa (debit and credit cards) through a reputable online payment gateway, Sagepay. Students and staff of the Wine and Spirit Education Trust, staff and students of The Institute of Masters of Wine and members of the Association of Wine Educators should ensure they contact their respective organisations in order to obtain relevant discount codes prior to payment. The first two should be set up and ready to go when the paywall goes up; I have certainly provided the WSET and IMW with all the information they need. As for the AWE, you may need to shake your committee along a bit, as I have certainly made the offer. Please note, all three organisations have the same offer, and only one code can be applied, so if you are eligible via the IMW or WSET code there is no need to look for an AWE offer to materialise.

Some people have asked for fuller details of what and will be behind the paywall. I’m not going to map out every page here, but in essence the wine guides, domaine profiles, domaine updates and detailed tasting reports including my Bordeaux primeur reports and mature Bordeaux and Loire vintage assessments will be pay-to-view. As for what remains free, this will include my basic wine education pages, wine book reviews, restaurant reviews as well as all my Monday ‘Weekend Wine’ reports and all my blog posts. This adds up to a serious chunk of the content on Winedoctor, and so there should still be plenty of content – old and new – for those who do not wish to subscribe.

As with my previous post, please feel free to post any questions below, and I will do my best to answer them as soon as possible.

Real Wine Fair 2013

I suspect I might be the only person in the UK to say this, but I was disappointed that this year the Real Wine Fair and RAW, the parallel/similar/rival (delete as appropriate) event arranged by Isabelle Legeron MW are being held months apart. Others might have rued the fact that the two events were held on almost exactly the same dates last year, but for me – travelling to London from afar for the tastings – this only made the trip even more useful, as I had two tastings for the price (or the train fare, at least) of one; day one at RAW, day two at Real.

Not so this year. And so yesterday I trekked down from Edinburgh for the Real Wine Fair. The venue was Tobacco Dock, on Wapping Lane, a rather foreboding venue, its high brick walls perhaps once de rigueur for keeping out the tobacco-interested thieves and vagabonds, but I soon found myself wandering down Wapping Lane wondering where the entrance might be. As it happened a friendly security guard clearly took pity on the country hillbilly sauntering towards him, and he waved to beckon me on with some eagerness – as if I were about to miss a just-departing ferry – while I was still several hundred metres distant. How remarkable; a friendly, mind-reading security guard! Either that, or I look like someone he was expecting; maybe his contact in a cigarette-smuggling gang?

Inside the venue was light and airy; the cellars at Victoria House, the location of last year’s tasting, seem to have come in for some criticism, although I (no doubt in the minority, as usual) thought they were fine. Jim Budd, meanwhile, continually refers to the venue as a ‘Hitlerian bunker’. The Tobacco Dock should come in for no such stick though. It is conveniently located five minutes walk from Shadwell Station on the Docklands Light Railway, which is itself about 20 minutes from King’s Cross Station which is where I arrived in London (only delayed 15 minutes – not bad considering there was some very difficult ‘light drizzle’ for the trains to deal with).

Olivier Cousin

Sadly, however, the turnout from Loire producers – my focus for the day, just for a change, I hear you say – felt much smaller than last year, and so within a couple of hours of arriving I had finished the wines I felt I ‘needed’ to taste. Where last year I met Lise Jousset, Frantz Saumon, Noëlla Morantin, Chahut et Prodiges, Thierry Germain and quite a few others, none of these names were present at this year’s fair. Still, I enjoyed getting to grips with some less familiar names, and the mature wines from Jérôme Lenoir and Domaine de la Chevalerie were attractive, even if they were more indicative of what I would regard as ‘old-school’ Loire Valley. I think they would appeal most to punters who think Loire Cabernet Franc is at its best when it shows that very cliched, herbaceous style, rather than the superbly focused red wines that really lead in the region these days, from the likes of Frédéric Mabileau and Matthieu Baudry. And of course it was a delight to chat (using my Franglais, naturally) with Olivier Cousin (pictured above).

The best wines there on the day, within the Loire at least, were clearly those of Domaine Mosse. Agnès Mosse brought along a selection from the 2011 vintage, including a lovely Savennières, and also the ever-fun Moussamoussettes. Having said that, I also enjoyed the two wines on show from Les Vignes Herbels more than I expected to. Having tasted some wines from Nadège and Laurent Herbel at last year’s event I found the style too marked by oxidation to appeal. Those wines that I tasted this year, however, seemed to strike a better balance between an oxidative character and attractive aromas and flavours directly related to the variety in question, Chenin Blanc, including notes of orange blossom and flowers. This was an impressive feat; I’m looking forward to writing this domaine up, and adding the profile to my ever-growing list of new and updated Loire reports.

Beyond the Loire, whereas there was a smattering from Bordeaux last year, including the excellent Clos Puy Arnaud, this year there were none. I spent the last few hours tasting some less familiar wines, everything from the biodynamic Champagnes of Francis Boulard to prolonged skin-contact and lees-aged Soave. I headed home refreshed, ready to do it all again in May for RAW.

Berserkers Baumard

It is Saturday morning, and I have a busy schedule ahead. Taking one son to rugby, whipping the others into shape on the piano before the imminent Grade 2 and Grade 3 examinations arrive, before encouraging a little homework activity. Who knows, maybe I will have time for a little relaxation too….not until I have prepared my forthcoming updates for Winedoctor next week though. Suddenly, however, I have been distracted, by a thread on the excellent Wineberserkers site on the story of Florent Baumard, his 2012 Quarts de Chaume, and cryo-extraction. I felt compelled to comment; piano practice and homework will just have to wait for half an hour.

My comment is on page three of the thread, which begins here. Having written it, it encompasses much of my thoughts on the story which is, in my opinion, still evolving. I thought, therefore, I would reproduce it here. I have left it exactly as written, so please excuse the references to “other comments” and previously made arguments.

My post in full:

This is a really fascinating thread, and having been quoted so frequently I feel compelled to comment, even though deep down I feel no desire to further stoke the fire on this. I find the events as they unfold fascinating, and I consider this a very important story for the Loire, but it is Jim’s work not mine.

First up, to be clear, I know Jim personally, having met him numerous times at tastings, and having spent time with him in the Loire, especially during the Salon des Vins de Loire. I have also met Florent Baumard a number of times, and have spoken with him directly about the 2012 harvest.

I have to say I find having chunks of my Baumard profile cut and pasted a little disconcerting. I have no problem with the text being taken and picked over, but I sense it is used as a defence for the technique of cryo-extraction. I believe (I need to go back to my profile) that further down the page I cast my own personal doubts on the “renaming” of the method as cryo-selection. I would agree with previous posters that you can’t change what you are doing just by changing the name. I don’t feel that this comes across when you cut and paste chunks away, but I see some have gone and read the whole profile, thanks for that, and thanks for the comments on its factual and objective nature. That was my intent, to present what is done, rather than to judge, and let the reader conclude for him/herself. The disadvantage of this, of course, is that readers might conclude according to their pre-existing prejudices.

Having made some indication of my misgiving as per the technique Baumard is using, I would not say I am against cryo-extraction per se. Its use has unwittingly been perfectly acceptable to me as I know I have tasted many wines and enjoyed them, long before I had realised they had been made with a little help from cryo. In particular I am thinking of Doisy-Védrines, the proprietor of which Olivier Castéja is very open about his use of cryo-extraction to improve a little his harvest. My view of how Olivier uses it, however, is that he takes hard-won botrytised fruit, true to what Sauternes is, and removes a little water. How much I don’t know, as I’ve never asked him, but if I see him at the primeurs in a few weeks I will certainly do so. As for what Baumard does, this is a little more difficult to define, as information is not forthcoming. Nevertheless, Florent (pictured below) told me last year that he has, in at least one vintage, removed more than 80% of the volume using cryo-extraction. When I wrote that up I emailed him to clarify as I found the figure so unbelievable. 80%! Yes, I am sure many vintages are less than this, but I do not have the data to say what the figures are for other vintages, not for want of asking I should add. Even accepting data is limited, the technique does not seem here to be fine-tuning, but is the major process by which the wine is made, in at least some vintages.

Florent Baumard

But here is the rub. Cutting through all the obfuscation (because this debate has been all over Twitter as well as on this forum and the willingness to confuse and obscure the real issue seems full of intent at times), the debate isn’t about the rights and wrongs of cryo-extraction or cryo-selection or whatever you want to call it. It is about how a wine is represented to consumers; the Baumards at present have declared (this is second-hand information from Jim’s blog) a significant volume of Quarts de Chaume in the 2012 vintage, a wine which will be highly priced (for the Loire, for a sweet Layon wine), and in order to do be sold as Quarts de Chaume the wine must meet certain criteria. To my understanding these are:

(a) each tri that is picked must achieve 298 g/l sugar (I believe this is 18.5º alcoholic potential but happy to be corrected by winemakers with proper knowledge!) to qualify as Quarts de Chaume

(b) a tri may be subjected to ‘freezing treatments’ to a temperature of -5ºC but only if they have first registered more than 298 g/l. This is true until the 2020 harvest, when the technique will be outlawed whatever the sugar content at harvest.

My knowledge of the 2012 growing season leads me to conclude that it was not a vintage that favoured the production of a Quarts de Chaume. This is a sweet wine where the concentration comes from botrytis, just like Sauternes. Therefore you need the same conditions, moisture (from mists, here from the Layon) or showers of rain, and drying conditions (romantically, sunny afternoons after misty mornings, but winds and breezes probably more/just as important). Too much rain or humidity and you get grey rot. Bad weather as the grapes succumb to botrytis, in October and November, and you lose the harvest. And October 2012 was very, very, very wet. Claiming that data from a weather station 20 km away is not valid holds no water with me I am afraid; the rain hit all Muscadet, Anjou and Touraine; all weather stations recorded it. And having spoken to owners of vines on the Quarts de Chaume, including Claude Papin (Pierre Bise) and Jo Pithon & Wendy Paillé (Pithon Paillé) the conditions here were dreadful. Pithon Paillé saw the alcoholic potential fall from 13º to 9º during the October rains, something Jo had never seen before, as the vines and grapes sucked up the water. The berries ruptured and grey rot set in.

Later on, if the fruit could survive this, some harvested fruit close to or above the 18.5º potential, but this was much later in the season. Nobody has huge quantities though, except for Florent Baumard who picked in October (I think the accepted dates are 16th and 17th, but I’m not sure where this info comes from) right in the middle of the rains. The implication is that, for his wine to be Quarts de Chaume, the harvested fruit must have been over 18.5º alcoholic potential. It would of course, be illegal to achieve that only after cryo-extraction; just to be clear, I am not for one second alleging that this is what has happened. Nevertheless, it seems fair to ask for some data on the harvested fruit. Jim has done this very publicly and got nowhere it seems, only a wordy response on the ‘attack’ on Florent’s website.

I have asked Florent the same questions, and these are the responses received:

(a) I asked Florent face-to-face at the Salon des Vins de Loire in early February, but he was not able to recall picking dates, or sugar at harvest, or alcoholic potential. He said he did not like to carry such information around in his head. He invited me to ask again at a later date, indicating he would furnish me with the information.

(b) I asked in the midst of a debate on Twitter, prompted by Baumard supporters (and I’m afraid I do sense there are ‘factions’ in this debate), giving Florent a chance to declare the picking dates and concentration/alcoholic potential of his fruit, and therefore put to bed any rumours that the grapes picked from the Quarts de Chaume vineyard, and surely intended for sale as Quarts de Chaume, did not meet the criteria for that to be so. Florent did not respond on Twitter.

(c) About five days later I received an email from Florent, thanking me for my questions, but ultimately not providing any data as he says he finds such numbers “meaningless”.

It seems to me very sad, and also unusual, that Florent should not want to make public the sugar concentration at harvest. This is basic data for a winemaker, not top secret confidential information! It would have quashed any stories, based on pictures prior to harvest, and on data concerning harvest dates and the weather at the time, that the fruit harvested by Baumard had not achieved the sugar concentration required. In the face of continued non-disclosure of this information, I am certain that this debate will rumble on, until definitive information is revealed. That will then put an end to it one way or the other.

This answer doesn’t respond to every post above that deserves merit (“the proof is what’s in the glass” from Jamie Goode deserves a response – really Jamie, in this debate?……and I also don’t think Jim’s credibility as an investigative journalist is up for debate, he has a long track record of uncovering dodgy dealings in wine investment and other wine-related stories), nevertheless I hope it is useful. I would like to think it helps to bring the issue at hand into focus, which is not the rights and wrongs of cryo-extraction and what we call it, but its use in the 2012 Baumard harvest, and whether a wine made with it can *legally* (and the appellation law is quite specific) be called Quarts de Chaume. That, simply, depends on sugar concentration at harvest, information which has been asked for many times, and not given.

Sherry from Cayetano del Pino

Further adventures in Sherry now, with two tasting notes for the price of one. The following two wines come from Cayetano del Pino, and are bottled by Romate. Both are under screwcap and – not that it really matters, but I can’t help admiring them – are blessed with the most brilliant labels. The wine inside the bottle is also tip-top of course. Both are available from The Wine Society in the UK, although the links should guide readers outside the UK to their nearest stockists.

Cayetano del Pino labels

Cayetano del Pino Fino Perdido 1/15: Under screwcap. Helpfully described as a “lost fino“, which gives a good clue as to the story behind this wine. Having begun life as a fino, covered in a protective layer of flor, this wine was left for eight years before bottling. This is much longer than would be the norm with the fino style, which would usually be bottled early, and then shipped and consumed within as short a time as possible. Here, during the eight years of repose, the flor died, and the wine took on some oxidative character. The colour has deepened, but only to a rich golden hue, and nothing darker, despite other reports I have seen and despite the wine having been described in some quarters as a fino-amontillado, which it definitely isn’t. The nose is very pungent at first, rich with acetylaldehyde which may of course reflect the work of the flor, or of oxygen. It feels like dry wood at first, but later shows some leesy-cheesy richness from the flor, and also some sour-fruit character. The palate has a very good presence, with the woody oxidative notes quite prominent at first, but they soon fade leaving more appealing nutty elements, and hints of green olive and pepper. It has a good harmony, is fleshy but dry, with good acids, and it really rounds off in the finish in a harmonious fashion. Overall this is long and appealing, especially returning to it for subsequent glasses when the woody character subsided further. 16/20 (March 2013)

Cayetano del Pino Palo Cortado Viejísimo 1/5: From a half bottle, under screwcap. The first obvious feature worth noting here is in the colour, which is an impressively concentrated golden-amber hue, with a faint greenish tinge at the rim. The nose is immediately enthralling, rich and expressive. There are scents of vanilla, coffee, caramel, roasted oranges and sandalwood, along with a subtle vein of acetylaldehyde which runs very much in the background. It has a full and confident character, and this is confirmed on the palate which has a wonderful, weighty substance for a palo cortado, and yet it retains a sense of the silky elegance that can be found in this style. It maintains a very fine cottony texture through the middle, with very polished edges and a fine frame of acidity. Suddenly on the end of the palate this all wells up, giving the wine an exciting, turbo-charged finish, flavoursome but more importantly full of energy and vigour. The vanilla and peppercorn notes sound like a trumpet, slowly fading, as the finish goes on and on. Just a little note of dry wood here disrupts the overall harmony, but otherwise this is an impressive show indeed. Truly excellent. 18/20 (March 2013)

Sauternes #5: Chateau Doisy-Daene 2001

It’s been a busy week, and I’ve not had the time to post as much on the blog side of Winedoctor as I would have liked. I had some fascinating replies from some questions I put to Philippe Bardet, of Château Val d’Or, but I haven’t had sufficient time to translate all of them and give his answers suitable thought. And there has been quite a lot happening in Bordeaux recently, with stakes in both Château d’Issan and Château Monbousquet sold off in the past week or so. I need to add these new pieces of data to the site. And of course I had to give suitable time to reading the comments on Jim Budd’s post on Baumard’s Frozen Miracle, including some really very specious arguments from anonymous posters. That’s not to mention all the real work I had to do, such as publishing this week’s Loire 2012 reports, my review of Au Bonheur du Palais, and my updated Carbonnieux profile.

And then suddenly it’s Friday afternoon. Thankfully, just time for a quick post on my most recent Sauternes, following on from the 1998 Coutet. This time, another wine from Barsac, but back once again to the 2001 vintage, with Château Doisy-Daëne. I will come back to Issan over the weekend. As for Monbousquet, well, it is time I added a profile to the site I guess.

Château Doisy-Daëne 2001

Château Doisy-Daëne (Barsac) 2001: This wine has a bright and golden hue in the glass. Aromatically, it is dominated by oranges and apricots, run through with hints of cream and caramel, scented and rich, but also lifted by notes of crunchy apple and freshening mint. It has a lovely expressive character, showing very dense and concentrated, but imbued with grip. A fabluously evocative style, with plenty of firm structure to it, but also fine textrue and substance. Impressive character, with a really long, grppy finish. The palate is defined, well framed despite the increasingly rich character presented on the nose as the wine sits in the glass. Certainly a success. 17.5/20 (March 2013)