Wine Thoughts 2008
Thoughts from 2008....
Happy New Year
Best wishes for 2009 to all Winedoctor readers; wherever you are, whatever time zone you are in, I hope your celebrations to ring out the old and bring in the new go with a bang.
If you have a spare moment when preparing your festivities, fans of Bordeaux might find this link, on a possible sale of Château Latour, to be of interest. Although officially denied, it looks as though the property is, behind closed doors at least, on the market.
I will be back on Monday to start afresh with the first wine of the week of 2009. Happy New Year! (31/12/08)
I am sure I am not alone in having a lot to do today, so I hope you will forgive my not making any formal update to the site today. Besides, it is perhaps more important for me to wish all Winedoctor readers, wherever you are, seasons greetings and, if you celebrate Christmas, have a very merry one. And, even more importantly, thanks for reading.
I will be back next week with my vinous review of the year where I make it obvious how many ancient clarets from the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s and so on I haven't tasted this year (and how many young wines I have tasted). I will also display a gross failure to understand the first growth hierarchy as I declare my opinion on a certain vintage of Mouton-Rothschild. Several wines from the Loire Valley will be rated very highly as usual, because we all know the many appellations of this region produce the world's greatest wines, nevertheless I will refrain from name-dropping or making salacious comments about the vignerons in question in order to distract you from these decisions. Or at least I will try to.
Thank heavens...you might say. See you next week! (24/12/08)
It is difficult to find any useful data on the Loire, whether it be an opinion on a vintage, a specific wine, climate, geography or otherwise. The data below on Loire Valley temperatures and rainfall were presented at the Cabernet Franc tasting which I attended earlier this year. I thought it would be interesting to get them online here.
More recent vintages have, on average, been a little warmer....
1991 - 2000: 16.9ºC
2001 - 2005: 17.4ºC
And also a little drier....
1991 - 2000: 287.8 mm
2001 - 2005: 255.8 mm
Data for August, September and October, 2003-2007, are presented here. Despite 2003 being regarded as a heatwave vintage in the Loire as it is elsewhere, it is notable that the mean temperature only differs in August; September and October look no different to the other vintages, and if anything October was a little cooler. And with regard to rainfall, it is again only August that looks any different.
There is surely a danger of over-analysing data like these; after all, why is 2005 not remarkably different to the other years, when it is clearly one of the greatest vintages for the Loire reds in recent history? First, the temperatures will be mean values, so they don't really tell us the minimum or maximum figures, or how much temperature was varying. Although climates can be characterised (and thus compared) by noting the average temperature (the average temperature of the warmest month is often used) this informs as to whether the region is suitable for viticulture, not whether you will be making high or low quality wine. Secondly, hours of sunlight are just as important to the vine, as this figure will influence grape development and ripening.
The same goes for rainfall; does a high figure for September, for instance, tell us whether it was raining before, during or after the harvest? The above figures might be useful for viticulturists (less than 300 mm of rain per annum, for instance, and you can start looking up the price of irrigation equipment) but they clearly don't tell the whole story as far as the wines themselves are concerned. They can only be judged by tasting, and having just added some of Joguet's Clos de la Dioterie to the host of 2005s already in my cellar, I am looking forward to doing just that in the future. (28/11/08)
Bordeaux and Champagne
This week I attended the UGC tasting of the 2006 Bordeaux vintage, freshly in the bottle, in London. I will publish my notes as soon as possible, hopefully next week, although my plans for the forthcoming weekend - which include a flying trip to Bandol and back again - may throw a spanner in the works. So I thought I might quickly scribble a few words here first.
I suppose an individual's reaction to this tasting would depend very much on their expectations. This was never an over-hyped vintage; coming after 2005, the third 'Vintage of the Century' so far this century, 2006 was always destined to be overlooked. And tasting the wines in April 2007 I found them (talking specifically about the reds) very hard work; many of the wines lacked any substance, any 'middle', and some big names looked to have really disappointed. Since then I have had several opportunities to retaste, and I have seen several wines that initially disappointed flesh out and give much more pleasure, especially Pichon-Baron and Haut-Bailly. And so it was perhaps no surprise that at the UGC tasting the wines were surprisingly good, or rather I should say better than I expected.
This isn't the same as saying these are great wines, of course, or another under-rated vintage such as 1983. But, generalising, these wines are now almost certainly worth a higher rating than I initially gave them. They are still lacking in areas, most are rather short, a few are lean and seem over-extracted (from St Emilion especially, surprise, surprise), but they at least have a midpalate. I found the wines surprisingly easy to taste, and although you wouldn't think it from the stern pose presented by John Kolasa (of Chanel, i.e.. Rauzan-Ségla, Canon) above, the Bordelais should be pleased with these wines. If only the prices weren't so ridiculous.
As for the dry whites - excellent, as I have said before, and the sweet whites were also showing better, although almost uniformly devoid of botrytis.
More on all this next week (if I can find the time to write up the notes). In the meantime, if all this talk of Bordeaux makes you bored, and grower Champagnes are more your thing, do check out the wines available from my newest sponsor, Henry Speer of Champers, a 'small-is-beautiful' online merchant. You can find Pol Roger and Joseph Perrier here, but the real pull is a collection of unsung wines from Mont Hauban and Leclerc-Mondet. And, if you have the need, personalised labels as well. (24/10/08)
Tragic News: Didier Dagueneau
I am sorry to write here that Didier Dagueneau, the maverick star of Pouilly-Fumé and who also had recently also established an estate in Jurançon, died on September 17th in a plane crash in the Cognac region of France.
I am dumbstruck by this news. He was young, probably in his early 50s, with an exciting persona, and he made some great wines, one or two of which I have been fortunate enough to taste. I never met him, but enjoyed his personality as presented in the pages of any decent book on the Loire. There is, for instance, a fabulous photograph and description in Andrew Jefford's New France for those who are interested.
In recent years I have focused very much on the wines of Touraine and Anjou-Saumur, and with the occasional glance in the direction of the Nantais. The central vineyards - Sancerre, Pouilly-Fumé and so on - have been a little neglected, although I had recognised that I should set this straight with a visit to the region. And Dagueneau was one of those viticulteurs I would have loved to have visited. He had a reputation for not suffering fools gladly, but I would have tried my hand anyway. He and his wines deserved it, for sure.
His death is a great loss indeed.
Photo image: © Bertrand Celce, of the excellent www.wineterroirs.com. (18/9/08)
Loire Links and Fine Accessories
This week I was amazed to see none other than Jim Budd recommending this site on his very recently created blog. I only became aware of Jim's blog, Jim's Loire, in the last week, and I have already been checking in regularly, because for me it ticks all the boxes. It is well written and clearly reflects a strong knowledge base, there is plenty of beautiful photography (Jim has some fabulous images stored on flickr) and it is already building into an excellent source of information on an under-rated, under-discussed and under-the-radar region which I have a particular affinity for, the Loire.
Jim's recent reports come from a visit which concentrated on Sancerre, when along with Sarah Ahmed he visited Jean-Laurent Vacheron, François Cotat, Jean-Marie Bourgeois and many other top names. Frankly, I'm jealous. It looks like a dream of a trip, but reading Jim's notes is a good substitute for actually being there.
Anyway, Jim pays this site a compliment merely by mentioning it, and he ponders how I find the time to update it when I work full-time in neonatal intensive care. Well, this week it has certainly been a struggle! But I should point out that Jim not only writes for his new blog, he is also solely responsible for the Lanson Award-winning www.investdrinks.org which exposes wine fraud (which can be a nasty business - there was once a very distasteful smear campaign against Jim) and he also edits the Circle of Wine Writer's bi-monthly newsletter Update, as well as having his finger in a number of other projects such as the Loire section at Wink Lorch's www.winetravelguides.com. So who are you calling busy, Jim?
On a related matter, Jim also cites Jacqueline Friedrich's site as a good source of news and information on the Loire. I have been checking out JF's site for some time, but have omitted to provide a link to it. I will rectify this.
On a different matter, check out the Wine Gang, a new venture from a team of writers including Tom Cannavan, Joanna Simon, Anthony Rose, Tim Atkin MW and Olly Styles. This famous five are looking to publish their excess tasting notes - notes on the hundreds of wines they taste each week that never see the light of day in their columns or on their websites - for a small annual subscription. I'm not sure if the site has had an official launch yet, but as it was linked to by a Decanter news story earlier this week the cat is certainly well out of the bag. I wish them well with this fine concept. If the tasting notes are as slick as the site design, they will be onto a winner.
Finally, news of a new sponsor for Winedoctor. Essentially Wine offers a fabulous range of items through its smart online store. From corkscrews to coolers, decanters to dripstops, this merchant has it all. There are cufflinks, aprons, measures and more, all wine-related. Browsing their site, I spotted a true butler's friend - the only cork-removal device which does not go through the cork, but grabs it on either side. I have one myself which I found in a French supermarket many years ago, but you do not commonly see them for sale. I might even pick one up myself, as the one I have is rather tatty. (12/9/08)
New Sponsor and New Links
I am rounding off this week by flagging up the addition of some new sites to my links page, a page which I update from time to time but rarely publicise. First, though, an important new link in the shape of bidforwine.co.uk, my latest sponsor. Bid for Wine is a completely new addition to the UK wine scene, plugging what might be considered a yawning gap in the wine marketplace. There are several auction facilities for wine in the UK, but all are traditional auction houses that seem to have failed to fully embrace the internet. Online bids are possible, but only as a substitute for postal bids and not in real-time, in the way an online auction should function, along the lines of Ebay or the American Wine Commune.
Bid for Wine is set to change all that. Quoting from their site...
"Gone are the days of 15% seller's commission, exorbitant buyer's premiums, unfavourable selling prices and cherry picking only the Latour, Lafite or La Romanée in your cellar for inclusion in broking lists. With Bid for Wine, you will be able to list any wine, set a reserve, offer a fixed selling price and much more. All this, plus exposure to the whole of the web and the knowledge that you're paying the lowest fees in the market."
Although not set for full launch until later in the year, the Bid for Wine site is fully set up and you can register there in order to be notified of when the site is ready for trading.
In the meantime, I have added a selection of new links to some of the more enjoyable wine blogs out there. There are some truly impassioned and knowledge-rich writers blogging on the internet today, and many of their blogs make for more enjoyable reading than some more widely publicised and established (or should that be 'establishment'?) wine sites. My only comment is that they are often infrequently updated - until I added these links last weekend I checked in occasionally, but not daily as I have done this week. Only now have I spotted how sporadic the updates to many are compared to this site which is - almost always - updated at least five times per week. (1/8/08)
I have also included a list of these new links here:
- Besotted Ramblings and Other Drivel: home to Peter Liem.
- Bordoverview: David Bolomey's blog.
- Brooklyn Guy's Wine & Food Blog: wine and food in Brooklyn.
- Joe Dressner: the wine importer. That's not his picture, by the way.
- Dr Vino: "wine talk that goes down easy".
- Drinking Outside the Box: home to Simon Woods.
- The New Bordeaux: Jane Anson, Bordeaux-based journalist.
- The Pour: Eric Asimov of the New York Times.
- Rockss & Fruit: a blog by Lyle Fass.
- Sharon's Wine Blog: Sharon Bowman, an American Parisienne.
- Veritas in Vino: home to Alice Feiring.
- VLM-TR: Vulgar Little Monkey's blog.
- The Wine Camp Blog: home to Craig Camp.
- Wine Terroirs: wines and vineyards in France.
A Summer Break
I am taking a lengthy summer break this year, three weeks in total, and so I will next update the site on July 22nd. In the meantime, there are a few tasks to do.
First, I have added another ten tasting notes of seemingly random bottles here, so there is something fresh to peruse right now. If this doesn't appeal, please note that all my updates are recorded on my what's new page, so hopefully there will be something there to interest everybody. Probably my favourite updates of the year so far are these:
- Tasting: Germany 2007 (24/6/08) Germany galore - vintage review and notes.
- Wine Guides: Bordeaux - The Future? (19/6/08) The conclusion of my guide.
- Profile: Château Lezongars (17/6/08) It was great to revisit this property.
- Profile: Le Pin (13/6/08) A special day, and two great wines to taste!
- Tasting: Cheval-Blanc and Yquem with Pierre Lurton (10/6/08) Dinner with Pierre.
- Profile: Alphonse Mellot (20/5/08) Some great Sancerre tasted here.
- Tasting: Champagne Information Bureau Tasting 2008 (13/5/08)
- Tasting: Mouton-Rothschild (22/4/08) A vertical tasting, 1986 - 2005.
- Tasting: Bordeaux 2007 (8/4/08) The Hollywood Vintage.
- Wine Guides: Osmosis & Extraction (28/2/08) Part 11 of my Bordeaux guide.
- Profile: Château La Mission Haut-Brion (26/2/08) The wine critics' favourite?
- Tasting: Southern Rhône & Languedoc 1998 (19/2/08) Failure or success?
- Profile: Tardieu-Laurent (22/1/08) I meet Michel Tardieu and taste the wines.
Secondly, I simply have to plug a new addition to the UK wine-blogging and newsletter scene, David Pearce at www.weekly-wine.com. Each week David will be alerting his readers to the best wine writing on the internet, highlighting articles by Jancis Robinson and even me, among others! In addition, he will be bringing to the fore some of the excellent wine blogs that now exist, as well as providing tasting notes and opinion. As an added feature, the reader can choose the focus of the newsletter, opting for one richer in American or Australian information if you so choose. It is a fine concept, and one that I wholeheartedly support. (27/6/08)
Another Week Gone By
This week I have been working very much in a hand-to-mouth fashion; I have lots of material to write up, including the notes from the 2008 Champagne tasting mentioned below, as well as lots of new Bordeaux notes from my recent visit there for the 2007 primeurs - as I mentioned in my write up I tasted a lot of 2006s, but also some other vintages. I need to get these written up as soon as possible. Earlier this week, however, I found myself at the Wines of South Africa Tasting in Edinburgh, and so I have yet more material piling up. There's plenty to write about - just not the requisite amount of time.
The South African tasting was enjoyable, and there was some refreshing honesty from one or two characters there when talking about their wines. When you come from the highly polished presentation of Bordeaux , it can come as a culture shock. For example, a question posed in Bordeaux:
Q: "So which of the most recent vintages do you prefer?"
A: "Well, it is so hard to choose, naturally all wines express our terroir, we work hard to maximise the finesse, balance of structure and fruit expression within the context of the vintage. So all the wines have some merit, blah, blah, blah..." and so on.
When image is all, some people just can't drop their guard. A question posed at the South African tasting, however, was as follows:
Q: "So tell me about this wine."
A: "Well, after we made our blends for the year, we had some press wines and various other lots left over, Pinotage, Syrah, Merlot, etc. We were intending to sell it off at the equivalent of 2 Rand per bottle for distillation. But our cellar master blended it - well, actually, it would be more correct to say he just mixed it all up - and we ended up with a decent wine which we can sell for 6 Rand per bottle".
I tasted the wine in question. It was very pleasant, and certainly very drinkable. Just as refreshing as the honesty of the man behind the stand, as it happens.
On a final note, this "Wine Thoughts" feature is a monologue, nothing more. I would be interested in more interaction, but am uncertain as to whether a blog would really work. It was something I discussed briefly when I was in Bordeaux with my tasting companions. I'm not in the wine trade, so I don't have a lot of insider secrets to divulge. And although I have a huge amount of material, this doesn't really translate into frequent Wine Thoughts updates - the last post was a month ago! But maybe it would work. Do let me know if you have an opinion. (25/4/08)
A Busy Week
I have had a few busy days recently, as I travelled down to London to attend a couple of tastings. For the first time I tried to continue with my daily updates despite being away from home, and I think it has gone well. I uploaded my Pascal Jolivet profile the night before I left, but was able to correct a couple of grammatical and spelling mistakes on the train on the morning of my journey. My Guiraud and Fonroque updates were made from my hotel room, using the wi-fi provision within the hotel. There were a few minor although rather aggravating issues here, mainly due to my firewall I think, but otherwise this too went well. It is something I will be trying again in the future I think, as I have a lot of travelling lined up. My next trip is to the primeurs in Bordeaux in a week or two, however, and I am not so confident that I will be able to establish a connection during this event. We shall see.
The two tastings I attended were the annual Champagne tasting, followed by France Under One Roof. Both were very useful and I have already started transcribing my notes for publication as soon as possible. Naturally my focus was on the wines, but the tastings were just as successful when reflecting on who I met. At the Champagne tasting I chatted over lunch with Neal Martin, once of Wine Journal but now one of the Wine Advocate team. He is a good guy who is clearly enjoying his new role writing for what is perhaps the world's most successful wine publication, but he has also certainly kept his feet on the ground. We had a fairly candid talk about the internet as a medium for wine writing, and how independently published sites mirror Robert Parker's independent release of the Wine Advocate when he was a young jobbing lawyer. It is his analogy, not mine, as it is not how I have ever regarded the Winedoctor! But I find the thought interesting, and I wonder what Parker himself would think of this analogy.
Next up was a brief chat with Simon Woods during the afternoon. I have never met Simon before, and he was good enough to introduce himself to me. He is clearly a charming, affable, approachable guy who even paid this site a compliment. Naturally I was delighted. Both Simon and Neal are two of the friendlier faces that you see at the UK tastings and I hope to bump into them both again.
At the France tasting another permanently friendly face I spotted was Jamie Goode of Wine Anorak fame. Jamie has just gone full time (he has many more strings to his bow than just Wine Anorak now) and I wish him every success. He has built a career out of a self-published website and he is now reaping the rewards with a national column, a huge number of articles under his belt in a number of publications including the quality World of Fine Wine, as well as several books to his name. He has worked hard, and he certainly deserves success.
Naturally all these successes always force me to reflect on this site. I don't think I could leave medicine behind just yet; there is so much to achieve there, and I still enjoy it (sometimes!). And the security of the monthly salary is not, I am informed, so omnipresent with wine writing as a sole source of income. But I hope this continued fusion of two careers does not cause people to disregard this site. It is still quite possible that some in the business do; in fact, there are some writers and editors who still disregard the whole internet, I think, although the successes of people like Neal and Jamie really should cause these individuals to shake themselves free of this illusion. And the addition of a Best Online Writer category to the annual Roederer wine writing awards is another nod towards the significance of the internet. With regard to this site specifically, I attend these tastings to broaden my knowledge and my tasting experience; I take detailed notes, and write up my notes for due publication. There is quite some work involved, and I hope my opinions - which I always publish without reviewing what others who attended the same event have also written about the wines - are taken seriously for that, if nothing else.
I hope to have my Champagne notes online in the next couple of weeks. The rest of my France notes will follow thereafter. (21/3/08)
There have been some newsworthy stories relating to the Loire recently, two of which I think are worth bringing to light here. Both came to my attention when I look a quick peak at Jacqueline Friedrich's site.
Jacqueline is American by birth, but has been resident in the Loire for many years, and is perhaps best known as the author of what is surely the best (but sadly outdated) guide to the region in print, as I have discussed here. She also spends a lot of time in Paris, but as you may see from her site she tastes and travels across France and Italy. It is not an intuitive site from the users point of view - I am consistently confused by the navigation - but it is a valuable source of information from the shop floor, so to speak. Her comments on the weather, the prevalence of mildew and rot in the vineyards and her harvest news provide some welcome sanity when juxtaposed with the unfailingly optimistic opinions of at least one enthusiastic importer of Loire wines who insists on sending me, unsolicited, his latest opinions (in truth I enjoy reading his version of events too - but as he has a long list of wines to sell I view his words with appropriate caution).
First off, Jacqueline alerts us to a recent Decanter tasting featuring the red wines of the 2005 vintage in the Loire. I find myself, for the first time in many years, wishing I had a subscription so I could read this; I will have to see if I can pick one up at the Decanter Bordeaux tasting this weekend. It isn't available on the Decanter site yet, but the panel tasting has, allegedly, written off the wines of Loire stalwarts such as Baudry, Alliet and Amirault, rating one Alliet Chinon 12 out of 20, a score I would normally associate with a thin and insipid effort. That is my polite way of saying a score of 12 suggests a pretty crap wine. My experience tasting the 2005 vintage would suggest this is very unlikely - having visited both Baudry and Amirault in 2007, the 2005 cuvées were fabulous, and Baudry rates it as the greatest vintage he has ever experienced. The wines are certainly some of the best I have ever tasted from the Loire. On Jacqueline's site there are responses from David Schildknecht (this is the first time I have been sufficiently brave to spell David's surname without checking - hope I get it right) and from Jim Budd, both of which are well worth reading, but in particular David's. He suggests that on seeing the results of the tasting the whole lot should have been binned and the process started over again. I don't agree with that 'solution' at all. Although my bias, like David's perhaps, leads me to believe the tasting panel have something very wrong here, to disregard their opinions would be equally as wrong. Some counterbalancing views published with the tasting would have made for a more interesting and certainly a more ethically sound approach. Then let the reader decide just how badly the tasting panel fluffed it!
As a second note, Jacqueline also reports that due to financial difficulties one of the leading Loire domaines, that of Jo Pithon, may be in serious trouble. Pithon may indeed have lost control of his domaine. I will have to investigate further but if true this is an absolute tragedy for lovers of the wines of Anjou. (22/2/08)
Discovering your Palate
I believe this has to be the most important event for any individual who truly enjoys drinking wine.
This is not a profound or original statement, of course; I have heard it widely stated by many, for as long as I have been interested in wine. It is sound advice; your own enjoyment of wine is acutely personal, a complex interaction between liquid and palate, as well as extraneous factors such as mood, setting, ambience, food, company and so on. But although I have been aware of this for a long time, I have still, I think, held a loosely formed belief that quality can be rated above subjective enjoyment.
What I mean by this is that if one critic rates a wine as excellent, shall we say 90 points, the likelihood is that it is a good wine. After all, they are a reputed critic with strong opinions (and perhaps an even stronger ego) rooted in experience. And 95 points is obviously even better. Sure, there may be issues of style that we can bicker about - perhaps the critic favours low acid, hedonistic flavours more than I do - but surely the wines will still have intrinsic quality, and this will appeal to many. Another critic might rate the wine differently, but they are unlikely to ascribe scores suggesting the wine is either perfect or totally abysmal. The quality will be just as apparent to critic number two, it is just that he or she may prefer more acid, or more flavour, or more length. Perhaps they will score the wine 88 points, or maybe 86 points. Just not 60 points or 99 points (I am sorry to mention the word points so many times).
These are the thoughts that I have been tossing around this week, having spent the last few days tasting through a selection of wines from the 1998 vintage, all of which were born in the southern vineyards of the Rhône Valley. It was a great, lauded vintage. The summer was hot, the fruit was harvested without fuss, and the wines were well received by many. There was a real buzz about the vintage. At the time I was a research fellow, on a very reduced salary for two years, and I was a little annoyed, to say the least, not to be able to afford to buy any of the wines. What I have purchased, I have picked up in the years that have since passed. I thought it would be appropriate, as the wines are now careering towards their tenth birthdays, to take a look at them.
And having now tasted all of them, I can see the wines - OK, some of the wines - for the shockers that they are.
An appreciation of succulent, low acid wines is one thing I can understand. But I fail to see how these wines can have appeal, when the flavours suggest, in a number of cases, that the grapes were simply baked in the vineyard. To me this is almost a fault, rather than a characteristic. There were some great wines, of course; just one or two. Or maybe three. And I am sure there are others that I have never tasted, and never will taste, which are just fine. But among my representative sampling, a good number were awful. Not closed, or in a soon-to-be-resolved awkward phase, just awful. These are not characteristics which are going to disappear. On top of flavours of baked fruit and volatile aromas of Bovril and over-seasoned meat stock, these wines have sickly cough candy and confection to the fore. They are high in tannin and alcohol and low in acidity. They are profoundly disappointing. These are wines - as the Python team told us - not just to lay down, these are wines to lay down and avoid.
And they are wines that force you to accept that even the greatest and most authoritative critics have failings. And that the only palate you can trust is your own.
I will publish my notes in entirety next week. (15/2/08)
Well, it has been a long time coming, but at last the news recently broke. The long-awaited sale of the Moulis estate Poujeaux by the Theil family to Philippe Cuvelier, most renowned for his tenure at Clos Fourtet in St Emilion, has finally gone through.
The deal has been on the cards for some time. Philippe Cuvelier, a Parisian businessman who made his money in office supplies, acquired his St Emilion estate in 2001 and has certainly made a success of it, no doubt ably assisted by winemaker Daniel Alard and consultation from Stéphane Derenoncourt. This latter chap, one of the current breed of Bordeaux consultants, is notable for having the most commonly misspelt surname in all the region (try Googling for Derenoncourt versus Derenoncourt - you will find some otherwise respectable sites getting it wrong, and I have also seen it spelt incorrectly in at least one book), although rumour has it he makes some pretty good wines too.
It was he, in part at least, who was behind the turn-around at Château Brown, which I witnessed (and tasted) first-hand when I visited just over a year ago. He also has a part to play at many other Bordeaux estates, most notably Canon-la-Gaffelière, where he proved himself under the auspices of Stephan von Neipperg. His talents had been spotted by von Neipperg when he worked the 1993 vintage at Pavie-Macquin, producing a very good wine in a difficult vintage. But since then his influence has spread far, and his services are now employed by many proprietors. His techniques bring a certain style to the wine, a seamless definition, richness but with purity of fruit, characteristics which make the wine more enjoyable but without destroying all conveyance of the terroir. He does not indelibly imprint himself on the wine to the detriment of all other character, as some other consultants may do with their techniques, but taste the wines before and after his involvement and you can sense his mark.
Looking back at my experience of Poujeaux over the years, I don't think a new injection of enthusiasm and of course finance, and perhaps even advice from a certain well-known consultant, will do it any harm at all. It has been a source of some very good wines over the years, most curiously the 1997, of which I purchased half a case and then ended up wishing I had bought more. It was delicious. My only problem is, when you make one of your best wines in what was one of the worst Bordeaux vintages of the last fifteen, what went wrong when there were more favourable numbers printed on the label? The 1996 was very good, with lovely potential, but not streets ahead of the 1997 by any means. The 2006 was disappointing, the 2002 light with the vintage, the 2004 cheery and it will probably make attractive drinking one day. I haven't tasted the 2005, sadly. Nevertheless, all of these vintages were 'could do better' wines I think. Popular with many, and maybe good value at times, but nevertheless - despite the estate's superior ranking in the failed 2003 Cru Bourgeois classification - I think there was probably some room for improvement. I suspect that the arrival of Cuvelier will be tangible in the wines. I await the opportunity to taste the efforts of the new team with keen interest. (8/2/08)
Happy New Year
After my makeover of The Winedoctor I will be taking a break for a day or two, and will be back to continue expanding, increasing and improving content later in the week. More details on what is to come in the year ahead can be found in my review of 2007.
Whichever time-zone you inhabit, happy new year, and all the best for 2008!
- your host, Chris Kissack. (1/1/08)