2009 Millesima tasting

Mar 28, 11 2009 Millesima tasting

Posted by in France

It’s not only possible but it’s also very easy to go to Bordeaux and back in a day from London. I’m talking from personal experience as I recently flew down for the day for Millésima’s annual Panorama Tasting. Millésima is one of the biggest negociants in Bordeux, handling many top cru classes of Bordeaux, such  as Ch. Palmer, Ch. Lynch-Bage, and Ch. Leoville-Barton to name a few. The tasting was held in Millesima’s 200 year old cellar amongst cases and cases of grand cru, premier cru and other wines,they say they have over 2.5 million bottles of fine Bordeaux resting in their cave. I spied older vintages of Chateau Margaux, Cheval Blanc and Chateau Palmer piled high and waiting patiently. I would have loved to be let loose in there for a few hours with a corkscrew. The tasting was to showcase the 2009 vintage which is just now being released.What I found most interesting was that they had grouped the wines by appellation, all the St. Juliens together, all the Pauillacs together etc. It made for a not only comprehensive tasting but also made it very easy to distinguish the styles and terroir of each particular area. Impressions Millésima  tasting –2009 Panorama Tasting 2009’s mixed bag, was great to have all the appellations side by side as it was really evident the difference in the terroir and styles of the great wines of Bordeaux. Initially was disappointed with St. Emilion, thought it was all fruit and not much substance, but upon revisiting them a few hours later, found that they had evolved to have much more structure and the fruit had moved to the back of the palate Pauillac for me was the stand out, well balanced wines with plenty of structure, definitely built to last and quite savoury, intense fruit on the nose, spice on the palate, leather but very approachable now in a few years will definitely mature into beautiful wines,rich ripe, velvety tannins very evident, sweet fruit noses – Ch....

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Visiting Ch. Lascombes and a sneak peek at ’09 and ’10

En primeur is coming up fast in Bordeaux. I don’t know a lot about en primeur, I must confess. I knew of en primeur but it’s only recently that I was able to actually visit Bordeaux and taste en primeur. You’re probably thinking, hang on a minute Denise, how did you taste en primeur 2010? It’s not 2010 en primeur week  yet. At least, I think that’s how it works, I’m still a bit hazy on all that en primeur stuff, really need to brush up (read: learn) French. Well, I was able to jump the gun a bit while visiting Chateau Lascombes, a Grand Cru Classe, 2nd growth in Margaux, a few weeks ago on my trip to Bordeaux with Richard Bampfield, MW. A quick primer on en primeur if your unfamiliar, or, if you know all about it, just skip this paragraph. Basically, en primeur is the practice of wine futures. The wine is sampled in barrel roughly 6 months after going in and based on the tasting, a price is set and sold for the wine before bottling. Bordeux is usually a blend although some Right Bank chateau do make 100% varietals, so the winemakers set out samples of what they believe will be the final blend but it can change depending on how the wine matures in barrel. Every year in March, the Bordelais invite the wine trade and press to taste the en primeur wines.     Prior to the tasting,we got a grand tour of the chateau, complete with their gravity flow fermentation tanks, their uber-cool cellar with neon blue lights and we even got a peek at the steam cleaning process used to clean out used barrels. The chateau was bought in 2001 by an investment fund, Colony Capital, which enabled the chateau to modernize, replant and generally improved the quality of the wine. Michel Rolland is their wine consultant and Delphine Barboux is the winemaker or officially titled, Quality Control Manager. It was she who tasted...

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St Emilion Grand Cru Classe ’07 vs ’08

I went to a trade tasting last week for the wines of St. Emilion featuring their Grand Cru Classes. St. Emilion unlike the Left Bank of Bordeaux, which has only ever classified their wines once, back in 1855, re-classifies their wines every 10 years. This in and of itself is quite interesting because there can be no resting on your laurels here. The winemakers can’t afford to be lackadaisical in their approach as they might lose their classification. The next classification of the Right Bank is in 2012. I’ll be watching with interest. The Right Bank, where St. Emilion is located, make wines that are more heavily made up of merlot, some are even 100% merlot although those seem to be in the minority, most having cabernet sauvignon and/or cabernet franc as well as petite verdot in the blend. I find the wines from the Right Bank to be softer in general then the Medoc or Left Bank. The tasting I attended was sponsored by the Association of Grands Crus Classes of St. Emilion and encompassed only the estates that are included in the Grand Cru Classe and Premier Cru Classe. St. Emilion has two appellations, St. Emilion and Saint Emilion Grand Cru, the wines we were the wines we were tasting today, we from St. Emilion Grand Cru and not the wines from St. Emilion. Confusing, eh?  The most important thing you need to remember is that the Grand Cru wines are generally the best of St. Emilion. On hand, we were comparing the 2007 vintage to the 2008. 2007 was a difficult year, lots of rain early in the vintage which encouraged harmful diseases, uneven ripening because of the bad weather and loss of crops were all problems in ’07. The autumn turned out to be nice and sunny and the wines have turned out ripe and balanced. Even though they are young, they’re drinking quite well. One of the gems of the tasting was the Ch. Tour Figeac 07, beautiful, aromatic...

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Cheval Blanc, the secret’s in the…

Cheval Blanc. To those unfamiliar with the wines of Bordeaux, it was the fine wine that Miles gloomily drank from a styrofoam cup with a burger in the movie Sideways. To Bordeaux wine afficionados, it’s one of the two wines that stand head and shoulders above the rest in St. Emilion, being designated a Premier Cru Grand Classe (A) wine (the other being Ch. Ausone) in the Classification of St. Emilion in 1955. Having seen “Sideways” and being something of a wine afficionado (I adore French wines although Premier Cru is a whole new world for me) I was beyond excited to be visiting such an iconic vineyard. The first thing you notice about Bordeaux is how boringly flat it all is, they consider a very slight incline to be a hill and an irrigation ditch is most certainly a river in their eyes. It’s all a matter of perspective, isn’t it?   I wasn’t there for the scenery though, I was there for what was under my feet, for terroir is the most important thing to Cheval Blanc and it’s unique mix of gravel, sand and clay in the vineyards, (which covers 37 hectares) the lack of limestone and the fact that the vineyards are at the limit of the demarcation between St. Emilion and Pomerol is their secret. As Pierre Olivier Clouet, Technical Director, told me over lunch, “there are no secrets in the winemaking, all the secrets are in the ground.” What does he mean by that exactly? Pierre Olivier wanted to convey the fact that by the time they pick the grapes off the vine, they will already know how the vintage will turn out. Cheval Blanc are firm believers in vineyard management and 80% of the hard work done to produce their wine is done in the vineyards. Be it quantity control, management of maturity, picking when the grapes have reached their maximum potential, winter pruning-which is very important to guard against too much vigor, and protection against disease...

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Hotel Du Vin in Poole and their recently launched Ecole du Vin

Oct 12, 10 Hotel Du Vin in Poole and their recently launched Ecole du Vin

Posted by in Food and Wine, Hotels and Spas

I stayed at a Hotel du Vin for the first time a few weeks ago. When we were shown to our room, I was a bit surprised to see upon entering a claw-footed bathtub at the foot of the bed. A bit taken aback, I asked the porter, um, does this room have a proper bathroom as well?  Actually, all the superior rooms and above at all the Hotel du Vins have bathtubs in the actual bedrooms as well as full, separate bathrooms with monsoon showers. The Dom Perignon suite even has two bathtubs side by side so you and your loved one can bath together -but not together. Giordana (my Italian flatmate who came along with me for the weekend) and I both thought that was bit peculiar, why would you take a bath NEXT to your partner but, hey, this is England and we ARE foreigners. OR, maybe the second bath tub is there to be filled with ice and bottles of Dom? The bath anyway, was wasted on us as we were there to review the new Ecole du Vin that the hotel sommelier Ronan Sayburn, Master Sommelier, was relaunching at the Poole hotel. We did however, manage to put the tub to use (pictured). Speaking with Ronan during drinks the first evening, I asked him  how he was going to go about conducting a wine school for groups of varied guests some of which would probably be quite knowledgeable about wine while others would not have a clue, other than “knowing what I like”. Ronan said that was part of the challenge for him, as well as part of the fun of the entire wine school concept: to come up with a fun wine weekend that wouldn’t bore the casual wine drinkers or the wine anoraks among the guests but be enjoyable and educational for everyone.     That weekend the theme was the wines of Bordeaux. The wine weekends start off with a wine dinner on Friday nite and...

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