Vintage Focus on Bordeaux 2011

Vintage Focus on Bordeaux 2011

I’m just back from Bordeaux where I tasted and drank a lot of 2011 wines that are now opening up very nicely. On Monday, April 17th at 7pm, please join me (Spec’s fine wine buyer Bear Dalton) at the Wine School at l’Alliance Française for a Vintage Focus on Bordeaux 2011. 2011 is a “Classic Bordeaux Vintage” which is to say that it allows the typicity and terroir of each very specific place to shine through. 2011 is the sort of vintage that proves Bordeaux’s place as a maker of great wines. Discussion will include details of the vintage and how the wines have developed. We’ll taste through 14 excellent red wines covering all the major appellations of Bordeaux and a couple of value appellations, all from the classic 2011 vintage that is beginning to really show its stuff. Within the context of 2011, we will especially focus on Pessac Leognan, Pauillac, and Margaux tasting second-wines-of-first-growths from all three appellations.

The line up:
Ch. Puygueraud Francs 2011
Ch. d’Aiguilhe Castillon 2011
Ch. Canon La Gaffeliere St. Emilion 2011
Ch. la Croix St Georges Pomerol 2011
Domaine de Chevalier Pessac Leognan Rouge 2011
Ch. Smith Haut Lafitte Pessac Leognan Rouge 2011
Le Clarence de Haut Brion (2nd vin de Ch. Haut Brion) Pessac Leognan Rouge 2011
Ch. Cantemerle Haut Medoc 2011
Ch. Rauzan Segla Margaux 2011
Pavillon Rouge de Ch Margaux (2nd vin de Ch. Margaux) Margaux 2011
Ch. Gruaud Larose St. Julien 2011
Ch. Batailley Pauillac 2011
Ch Pichon Longueville – Comtesse de Lalande Pauillac 2011
Les Forts de Latour (2nd vin de Ch. Latour) Pauillac 2011
Ch. Calon Segur St. Estephe 2011

This Vintage Focus on Bordeaux 20011 will cost $100.00 per person (Cash or Check) or $105.26 regular. The class will meet at 7pm on Monday, April 17, 2017 at l’Alliance Française. To purchase your ticket, please contact Susan at 713-854-7855 or coburnsusan2@gmail.com.

L’Alliance Française is the French cultural center in Houston. Located at 427 Lovett Blvd., l’Alliance is on the southeast corner of Lovett and Whitney (one block south of Westheimer and two blocks east of Montrose). 

If you buy a ticket and will not be able to attend, please cancel at least 24 hours before the class or you may be charged. Later cancellations will not be charged if we can fill the seat. This is often case as we regularly have waiting lists for these classes.

With almost 40 years experience in the wine business and 30 plus years experience teaching about wine, Spec’s fine wine buyer Bear Dalton is one of the top wine authorities as well as the most experienced wine educator in Texas.

Thinking about Tasting Wine

I am in Bordeaux tasting and tweeting (Bear’s Hat @BearDalton_Bear) and more and so am almost too busy to blog. But this came in

https://www.thedrinksbusiness.com/2017/04/wine-is-tasted-in-the-brain-not-mouth/

“The flavour of a wine is created by the brain of the taster rather than the wine itself according to Gordon Shepherd, a professor of neuroscience at Yale.”

on one of my news feeds today and it is too good to miss.

Check it out and follow me on Twitter for the vinous adventures of my now battle-scarred hat as I taste Bordeaux 2016.

 

BORDEAUX 2016: Day 3

Tasting at Nathaniel Johnston With Spec’s Christina Walther (aka Audrey Hepburn) and Ivanhoe Johnston

9:00am the morning of Thursday March 30th brought us to the offices of negoçiant Nathaniel Johnson on the Coeur du Medoc in Bordeaux for a brisk tasting of 34 wines. After that it was off to the right back for a series of chateau visits to taste mainly 2016s.

2016 Highlights from the office tasting include Ch. Tour St. Bonnet Medoc 2016 (90+), Ch. Senejac Haut Medoc 2016 (91+), Ch. Mauvesin Barton Moulis en Medoc 2016 (91), and Ch. D’Issan Margaux 2016 (93+). Highlights of some of the currently available wines include Ch. Tour Salvet Haut Medoc 2014 (91), Ch. Daugay St. Emilion 2005 (92+), Ch. Lalande Borie St. Julien 2014 (92), Duluc de Baranaire Ducru St. Julien 2014 (92), and Margaux de Brane Margaux 2015 (91+).

Old Cabernet Vines at Ch. Daugay in St. Emilion

First stop on the right bank (after a traffic jam near Libourne) was Ch. Daugay St. Emilion with the irrepressible Jean Bernard Grenie. Both the 2015 (92+) and the 2016 (93) are showing very well.

Daugay then gives way to a tasting with Stephan von Neipperg at Ch. Canon La Gaffeliere. You will be shocked to learn that the count  was wearing neither an ascot or a scarf nor did he have a sweater draped over his shoulders. He did however ably present seven excellent wines: Ch. Clos Marsalette Pessac Leognan Rouge 2016 (93+), Ch. d’Aiguilhe Castillon 2016 (92+), Clos de l’Oratoire St. Emilion 2016 (93), Ch. Canon La Gaffeliere St. Emilion 2016 (96+), and Ch. La Mondotte St. Emilion (96) along with the rarer white Ch. Clos Marsalette Pessac Leognan Blanc 2016 (92), and Ch. d’Aiguille Castillon Blanc 2016 (92).

Count Stephan von Neipperg with his signature scarf and sweater on his bottles rather than his person

 

Our next stop was Grand Corbin Despagne to taste both that wine and special Ch. Ampelia with François Despagne. Ch. Ampelia Castillon 2016 (92+) is the best Ampelia yet. Ch. Grand Corbin Despagne St. Emilion 2016 (93+) also stands out. After our visit and tasting, we were treated to lunch at Grand Corbin Despagne that included the lovely 1970 served blind. Bragging a bit, I did guess the vintage so my record at Grand Corbin Despagne is intact at 2-0 (since I also correctly guessed the 1959 he served three years ago).

As Grand Corbin Despagne is next to Pomerol, we headed to our three Pomerol stops to taste Ch. La Pointe 2016 (92+), Fugue de Nenin 2016 (91), Ch. Nenin 2016 (93) and Ch. Clinet 2016 (94). After Pomerol,  we visited and tasted at Ch. Tour St. Christophe in St. Emilion. While these wines (owned by Mr. Kwok) were well received by others, I struggled with what seemed to me to be too much wine making to the point where the winemaking overwhelmed the terroir. At this point, I will say that these are wines I don’t understand very well and so am not going to score.

Our last appointment of the day was with Jean Philippe Janouiex at his Ch. La Confession St. Emilion where warmly greeted with both the Texas and American flags flying. We tasted the range:

Ch. Croix Mouton Bordeaux 2016 (90+ – best Croix Mouton yet))
Ch. Le Conseiller Bordeaux 2016 (91)
20 Mille Bordeaux 2016 (93)
Ch. Cap St. Georges St. Georges St. Emilion 2016 (92)
Ch. La Confession St. Emilion 2016 (94)
Sacre Couer Pomerol 2016 2016 (92 – a new wine I hadn’t tasted before)
Ch. Croix St. Georges Pomerol (94)

The Spec’s Bordeaux Crew with Jean Philippe Janouiex and Ivanhoe Johnston

 

BORDEAUX 2016: Day Two

Christina with Champagne looking awed by the Plat du Mer

After a business meeting in Talence this (Wednesday) morning, I headed to BOD (aka Bordeaux Merignac Airport) to pick up the rest of my Spec’s crew: Christina Walther and Jim Cubberley from Austin and Mirek von Springer from Dallas. After a quick lunch involving an enormous Plat du Mer and a bottle of Champagne, we dropped their bags at the hotel and got to work. First stop Ch. Ducru Beaucaillou where we were warmly greeted by Bruno Borie followed by stops (in the company of Noel Richard of negoçiant Borie Manoux) at Ch. Pontac Lynch and Ch. Batailley. So on our first less-than-half-day together, “Team 2016” tasted a not insignificant 31 wines.

Best Wine of the Day: Ch. Ducru Beaucaillou St. Julien 2016 (98)
Favorite wine of the day not from Ducru: Ch. Pontac Lynch Margaux, 2015 (95)
Best Value of the Day (Tie): Ch. Pontac Phenix Haut Medoc 2016 (92)  and Les Hauts de Lynch Moussas Haut Medoc 2015 (92)
(Both should be close to $20 when they arrive)

The visit to Ducru Beaucaillou started off with a lovely Ch. Ducluzeau 2016 (91) from the southern part of Listrac which offers an incredible mouthful of richer more modern style, Merlot dominant red Bordeaux that ultimately should sell around $25.00 per bottle. We also tasted the more elegant and riper Ch. Forcas Borie Listrac (91+, a wine that is raking the bar for Listrac), Ch. Lalande Borie St Julien 2016 (92, an elegant balanced Cabernet-dominant red from the team at Ch. Ducru Beaucaillou), Croix de Beaucaillou St. Julien 2016 (93+, a more elegant and refined cuvee from a single contiguous block on the Ducru Beaucaillou estate), and the afore mentioned ethereal grand vin, Ch Ducru Beaucaillou 2016.

We finished at Ducru with rarest wine from the estate: the Croix de Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou Cuvee Colbert 2016 (93+). This lovely elegant expression of the estate’s terroir is a unique selection made even more unique as it was aged in a special Foudre commissioned by Borie from the wood of what is thought to be the last living oak tree planted in the time of Louis XIV’s naval minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert (who also has had 6 French naval ships named after him, most recently a cruiser).

The late Marie Christine Bondon and Bear Dalton in March of 2016

After Ducru, we headed to Ch. Pontac Lynch in Margaux where I saw my old friend Bijoux the bull dog, made the acquaintance of the new owner, the sister of the late owner Marie Christine Bondon, and tasted the 2014, 2015, and 2016 vintages of both Ch. Pontac Lynch Margaux and Ch. Pontac Phenix Haut Medoc. This all are pure focused old school (in the best sense of that term) wines showing fruit and place and a refreshingly non-interventionist style of winemaking. The Pontac Phenix wines come from two parcels just outside the appellation of Margaux. One is behind and below Ch. Margaux and the other is behind Ch. d’Issan. The wines are the closest thing you will find tot he flavor and style of classic Margaux at a $20 or under price point. All three vintages sparkled. Ch. Pontac Lynch is a jewel of a Margaux estate on a mix of gravel and sand touching Ch. Margaux, Ch. Rauzan Segla, Ch. Palmer, and Ch. d’Issan (how’s that for a fancy address). All three wines were excellent with the still developing 2015 edging the others for the best wine of today’s visit. This was a tough visit for me because it was my first time back since the passing of Madam Bondon, a friend I liked and admired despite our not speaking the same language. And I am afraid that I won’t see Bijoux again as at 11 years old he seems to be sliding down hill. Nevertheless, these are wines I love and this is a place where I feel at home.

Bijoux of Ch. Pontac Lynch and Bear Dalton

After Pontac Lynch, we headed to Ch. Batailley Pauillac to taste the 2014, 2015, and 2016 wines from all the Left Bank properties of Borie Manoux including the wines of Beau Site, Haut Bages Monpelou, Lynch Moussas, and Batailley. Everything was better than good and the Ch. Batailley wines have moved to the next level (2014 – 94, 2015 – 95, and 2016 – 96) showing more charm and elegance along with their classic Pauillac Cabernet-Sauvignon-and-gravel-terroir character.

At some point I will follow this up with some detail on these vintages from these northern Haut Medoc properties but right now the bed is calling my name.

Tomorrow will find us soon enough on the Right Bank with my friend Ivanhoe Johnston (of negoçiant Nathaniel Johnston) as our guide for the day.

And yes, in case you’re wondering, 2016 (at least so far) is living up to its hype.

BORDEAUX 2016: Day One

Starting the week off slow, I just had two appointments today with negoçiants Thibault Lacoste of Duclot and Jean Rouge (aka Austin Powers) of Barriere. Between the two, I tasted over 50 wines today. While 50 wines would not be an unusual number to taste on a normal day in my office, today pretty well kicked my butt because I am singing the jet lag blues. Tomorrow WILL be better. God Willing. Of those 50-plus wines (about 1/3 were 2016s), there were no dogs and a few where glorious.

Best Wine of the Day: Ch. Beychevelle St. Julien 2015 (95).

Best 2016 of the day: Ch. Beychevelle St. Julien 2016 (94).

Biggest Surprise of the Day (Tie):  Ch. Beaumont Haut Medoc 2016 (92 and hands down the best Beaumont I have ever tasted) AND Ch. Taillefer Pomerol 2016 (91+ to an elegant, balanced, red-fruit Pomerol that is a pleasure in the mouth).

Had lunch today at an excellent new Italian restaurant called Murano located just off the Boulevard in Bordeaux. It’s a hidden jewel with a beautiful setting including a fabulous courtyard for al fresco dining and (at least what we ordered) excellent food and friendly service. I will go back.

The rest of my crew (Posse? Bordeaux Posse?) arrives tomorrow about noon. We’ll get them started with visits to Ch. Ducru Beaucaillou and a few of the Borie-Manoux properties (Chx. Pontac Lynch, Batailley, Lynch Moussas, and Beau Site).

Here We Go Again

Here it is, the last week of March, and I am – predictably – back in Bordeaux for my 21st vintage in a row, this time to taste the already highly touted 2016s. Three of my Spec’s colleagues will soon join me on what should prove to be an often joyous tour while sometimes a bit of a scramble to taste as many of the good, better, and best 2016 wines Bordeaux has to offer, all while soaking up the place and the culture and interacting with the people, all three of which (people, place, and culture) make Bordeaux Bordeaux. As always, we will also be looking at bottled wines that are ready to purchase and I’ll share what we find there too. As I did last year, I’ll be blogging regularly as we experience Bordeaux. Follow along as we find out the style of the vintage and if the wines live up to the early hype. Personally, I’m not off to a great start. Air France (who I usually LOVE) didn’t get my checked-bag on my flight from Paris to Bordeaux so it was late and finally delivered to the hotel. Which is great except that someone got into it and stole my Kershaw knife, my corkscrew and and my Swiss Army pen knife. Things are improving: I just had my official first dinner in Bordeaux: a Plat du Mer, Soup de Poisson (Bordeaux Gumbo – Les Poissons, Les Poissons, How I love les Poissons … ), a big bottle of Badoit, and a bottle of 2016 Bordeaux Clairet. Ladies and Gentlemen, start your livers.

Seeing Through Propaganda

A highly intelligent friend of mine who has had a long career in the wine business in Texas sent me (and apparently a large number of “undisclosed recipients”) the following by email. I was at first surprised and then appalled and then driven to respond.

The Pitiful Selection of Wines Distributed in Texas

March 8th, 2017. Filed under State LegislationThree Tier System.

Perhaps the primary reason consumers benefit by access to out-of-state products is that the traditional three-tier system that puts products on the shelves in most states is terrible at providing consumers with choices.  Consider the state of Texas.In the past 24 months, the Texas Alcohol Beverage Commission, which overseas alcohol sales and distribution in the state, approved the sale of 27,500 wines for sale in Texas. The majority of those wines are made in the United States by the wineries located in a variety of states.

But consider this. In that same time period, the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau approved 140,000 wines for sale in the United States…and those are just the imported wines the TTB approved in that 24 month period.

That means that there are more than 100,000 wines approved for sale in the United States in the past two years that consumers in Texas have absolutely no access to unless they are are able to buy and have shipped to them wines from out-of-state wine stores—the only places those 100,000 wines absents from the Texas market could possibly be found.

This situation put the lie to the claim often heard by opponents of wine shipments by out of state retailers that the three-tier system provides consumers with “unprecedented” choice. In fact, compared to what is available in the U.S. marketplace as a whole, the Texas three-tier system provides a nearly unprecedentedly pitiful choice of products.

 

I replied to him as follows:

This is an obvious propaganda piece (I wouldn’t call it an article) that uses some seemingly impressive numbers while ignoring several truths about those numbers. The posters have an obvious agenda as they site information that supports their goals but leaves out most of the story. Please remember that:

1) In the first paragraph, they use the word “Majority.” “Majority” only means over 50%. They don’t specify how much over 50%. Is it 50.1%?

2) A great many any of those “approved labels” are actually duplicates because a particular producer (often with several wines) often has more than one US importer and each importer has to have a federal Certificate of Label Approval (COLA) for each wine. (How many COLAS exist for each chateau in Bordeaux? For many, more than a dozen and sometimes many more.  How many COLAs exist for each Burgundy or Rhone producer making as many as 20 distinct wines who could have as many as 20 different regional importers in the US? Could be as many as 400.)

3) Many of those wines are “buyer’s-own-brands” (private labels) that are not ever going to go into general distribution. Most of these private label wines are either from virtual wineries or from left-over juice a legit producer has after they blend their own wines. This sort of left-over juice is often sourced, along with lower-tier juice from co-ops, to be blended by virtual wineries. And many of these labels are gimmicks such as “The Bachelor Fantasy Suite Cabernet” (currently sitting on my desk) that it might be a community service to keep out of the market.

4) Many of these COLAs are for extremely limited production wines that are never going to be sold in more than a few states. (For instance, if a Burgundy producer makes one barrel (25 cases) of something, they generally will not send more than four or five cases (if that) to the US and it will get spread around to those few markets their often boutique importer deals with and not to other markets. Texas does get its share of those sorts of wines but there are a lot we don’t see because the importer specializes in the east coast or California and the wines are and have been spoken for so there is no chance of additional distribution. There are also a fair number of wines that come to Texas that folks in California or Florida may not see.)

5) Many of these wines are “Me Too” wines (yet another Provencal Rosé or NZ Sauvignon Blanc, often from a virtual winery) that are the wine industry equivalent of throwing-shit-at-the-wall to see what sticks. Often label approvals are given that are used once or twice or sometimes not at all. A COLA does not mean the wine ever got imported and if it did, even one case requires a COLA.

There is nothing “pitiful” about the selection of well over 100,000 wines potentially available at retail in Texas.
(Where did I get that provocative number? If you pull up all the granted wine label approvals for Texas from January 1, 1997 to January 1, 2017, on the TABC on-line data-base, the number is 133,405. And many active labels in Texas go back further than that 20 years. In fairness, remember that many of these approved wines are duplicates in the same ways sited above for federal label approvals.)

And these out-of-state-retail-shipper-wannabes completely ignore how much wine is damaged-in-shipment (much more often cooked than broken) when shipped via FedEx or UPS (the two most common carriers) from state to state or even with-in states. And that in dealing with out-of-state retail shippers, Texas consumers have little recourse if something goes wrong.

Texas law prohibits only out-of-state retailers from shipping to consumers in Texas. There is a legal path for out-of-state wineries to ship to consumers in Texas. And they don’t tell you that many of these NAWR members (and others) are and have been breaking the law by shipping to consumers in Texas anyway.