Home > Winedr Blog

R.I.P. Patrick Maroteaux

I was very saddened this morning to learn of the passing of Patrick Maroteaux, at just 67 years of age.

Patrick Maroteaux was in recent years best known as the owner of Château Branaire-Ducru, and I enjoyed his warm and friendly greetings at many Bordeaux tastings, both in London and in Bordeaux.

Patrick Maroteaux

Not that long ago, however, he was also president of the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux, a position he took up in 2000, only stepping down in 2008.

Patrick passed away on Sunday 19th November, after a long illness. My condolences to his family, and all the team at Château Branaire-Ducru.

Exploring Sherry #21: Lustau Fino En Rama

I chanced upon this bottle recently. Sometimes the best wine discoveries are entirely serendipitous, and this was one of those times. I have recognised over the past few years that I enjoy the style of fino that veers away from overpowering acetaldehyde character (and yes, I know the flor aroma could be regarded as the very soul of the fino style) and instead I have found myself favouring fresher and brighter styles, one or two examples marked by really interesting reductive notes, veering more towards matchstick and flint.

Lustau Fino En Rama

Lustau Fino de Jerez En Rama: This was bottled during spring 2017, which confounds the notion that you really need to get to fino as soon as humanly possible after bottling in order to see it at its best. It is one of just 1200 500-ml bottles produced. It has a pale yellow-gold hue in the glass, fresh and clear. The aromatics are just brilliant (to my mind), with scents of green olive and preserved lemon, but more notably a firm, confidently expressed, reductive flint and matchstick note which conveys a great vigour and confidence. The palate has read the script, showing this same character, pungent notes of olive swirled with sour citrus fruits and a vigorous acid backbone. It has a white-pepper length, clean and well defined, a truly great en rama style that really seems to me to catch the spirit of the wine, although it might not please those hunting for rampant flor character. 17.5/20 • 95/100 (November 2017)

Four from Domaine du Grande Mayne

It was back in 1985 that Andrew Gordon, an English wine merchant, found himself seduced by the vineyards of the Côtes de Duras. Having visited the region back in 2012, I can understand the appeal; I found the combination of Bordeaux varieties, good soils and nice prices were hard to resist. It is a region with a huge amount of potential.

Andrew Gordon put his money where his mouth is, and bought an estate, the Domaine du Grand Mayne. More than 30 years later, he and his team have a 34-hectare vineyard, and they turn out a range of wines mainly following the Bordeaux model of blending Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

I recently tasted four wines from this interesting domaine.

Domaine du Grand Mayne Sauvignon Blanc (Côtes de Duras) 2016: Machine-picked, vinified in stainless steel after skin contact for a small proportion of the crop, then four months on the lees. Bottled under screw cap. A pale straw hue in the glass. A nose of sweet orchard fruit, pears, white peach, tangerine and chalk dust. There follows a sweetly ripe and substantial palate, with a deliciously citric and pithy energy, giving it a firm and savoury backbone, along with a tingly acidity to balance out the ripe pear juice sweetness. Good concentration and weight to it, and some charming length with a little bitter twist. Good. 15.5/20 • 91/100 (November 2017)

Domaine du Grand Mayne

Domaine du Grand Mayne Sauvignon Semillon Réserve (Côtes de Duras) 2015: Picked a few days later, then skin contact and vinification in new oak barrel. Bottled under natural cork. A slightly richer but still pale straw hue here. Intensely sweet fruit on the nose, all lime and lemon curd, swirled with smoke and sweet new oak. It all feels very sweet, succulent and punchy. The palate matches up to the integrity and sweetness of the nose with ease, being crammed full of pithy citrus fruit, lemon curd and apricot skin, with a rather tannic frame of oak, giving the finish a rich but slightly drying character, long and pithy but grippy with oak tannin. An ambitious wine, one which I think needs another two or three years in bottle, in the hope the fruit absorbs some of that oak. 16.5/20 • 93/100 (November 2017)

Domaine du Grand Mayne Merlot Cabernet (Côtes de Duras) 2015: Machine-picked, vinified in stainless steel, with a short extraction for colour but not tannin. An oak-free élevage. Bottled under screw cap, a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Wonderfully expressive fruit on the nose, crushed red cherry and red plum, with the succulent suggestion of cherry stone. The palate follows through on this initial promise, blending a vinous, slightly sinewy texture, with the succulent bite of cherry stone and some purely expressed red cherry fruit. Absolutely delicious, vibrant composition, very honest, not overdone, with loads of easy-drinking charm. 15/20 • 91/100 (November 2017)

Domaine du Grand Mayne Merlot Cabernet Réserve (Côtes de Duras) 2015: A selection, vinified slightly warmer, macerated for longer, and then élevage in oak including 25% new wood. Bottled under natural cork. A slightly dusty red hue, and a nose of slightly baked fruits, with scents of cooked wild strawberry, violet and pepper. This is matched by a rather velvety substance to the palate, veering towards a slightly oily substance, carrying the flavours of cooked fruits, strawberries and baked cherries, with a lightly sour acid wash on the finish. It feels ambitious and overdone, the fruit lacking in definition. I prefer the cleaner and keener lines of the entry-level cuvée. 13.5/20 • 87/100 (November 2017)

Disclosure: These wines were samples sent by Domaine du Grand Mayne.

Exploring Sherry #20: Fino Dos Palmas

Sherry time again now. Today I return to the Palmas range of aged fino wines from Gonzalez Byass, and as I already swirled the Una Palma around my mouth a few months ago, I’m now stepping up to the Dos Palmas. Aged fino is not a commonly encountered style in my experience, and it seems to go against all the the-younger-the-better conventional fino wisdom, and so it is fascinating to take a look at this little range of wines.

These particular wines were released in 2016, and they all started life as a potential component of the blend for Tio Pepe. Presumably some barrels are then selected to be held back for futher aging.

Gonzalez Byass Fino Dos Palmas

The 2016 blends were selected by Gonzalez Byass winemaker Antonio Flores, accompanied by king of the sommeliers Gérard Basset. From a solera of 150 casks, just two – numbers 86 and 120 – were pulled from the solera for Dos Palmas. Both casks had been aging for eight years, and still exhibited a thick layer of flor. The two casks were blended and bottled without fining or filtration.

In the glass the 2016 release of the Gonzalez Byass Fino Dos Palmas shows a rich, deep golden hue, concentrated but quite fresh. There is still some flor character, possibly conflated with some early oxidative-acetaldehyde character, although I would say this is much more ‘old fino‘ in style than amontillado. Alongside there are notes of salty sea-spray and olives, and I find it a little more appealing than the Una Palma. This comes through on the palate, wrapped up in more almond and hazelnut notes, as well as a confident spine of acidity. It has a punchy confidence, and while it is perhaps not significantly more complex than the Una Palma the structure seems more composed and concentrated. Good. 16.5/20 • 93/100 (November 2017)