1995 Bordeaux

1995 is a very fine vintage after a string of poor ones. The spring was mild and fair, the summer was hot and dry, thickening the skins and blocking the maturity in some areas. Enough rain fell in September, however, to allow the vines to finish their work, and the overall result was impressive. The wines are tannic and rich, with plenty of substance and concentration. These continue to show well 22 years after the vintage. The top wines are still not ready, but one has the sense that when they are that they will be magnificent.

Pauillac 1995, Château Pichon-Lalande
Open and accessible, this shows a rich curranty fruit with an edge of pepper and spice. On the palate it is firmly tannic and well-structured, with nice density and a powerful if somewhat truncated finish. Drinking now, this can certainly hold. **** In Atlanta with friends, March 2017.

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Champagne: A Dirty Business?

Revulsion, and not the hoped-for gentle euphoria, can be the result of a close look at some of the vineyards in champagne. Crusted, compacted by the to-and-fro… [scroll down for English version]

RVF China Spring 17 Champagne - A Dirty Business


Demystifying Champagne Roses de Jeanne and Cédric Bouchard


I recently had a bottle of the 2008 Blanc de Noir Côte de Béchalin from Roses de Jeanne, produced by Cédric Bouchard,  This was a noteworthy bottle of wine from one of the rising stars of the southern Champagne subregion of the Aube.  Unfortunately, it was also a bit confusing.  It is definitely worth the effort to get to know this producer, however, so a bit of explanation is in order.  When he began in 2000, he worked a 0.9 ha plot called Les Ursules belonging to his father, which he called “Champagne Roses de Jeanne” as a tribute to his grandmother.   Later he added another 1.5 ha vineyard site called Côte de Val Vilaine, which he initially called Inflorescence.   Since 2012, however, it has been labeled with the name of the vineyard, thus Côte de Val Vilaine, and since 2014 all of the champagne from Cédric Bouchard is bottled under the Roses de Jeanne label.

To this initial structure, he began to add single vineyard wines.  The first was called initially La Parcelle, a 1.5 ha plot planted to Pinot Noir, which is now called by the vineyard name, Côte de Béchalin.  In 2004, he began to produce a Chardonnay from a 0.12 ha vineyard called La Haut-Lemblé.  There is also a tiny production of rosé from the 0.07 ha vineyard Le Creux d’Enfer, and a Blanc de Blancs made from Pinot Blanc from the 0.22 ha vineyard La Bolorée.  The newest edition is a Blanc de Noirs from the 0.25 ha vineyard called Presle.  All are worth trying.  I found the Côte de Béchalin absolutely superb.  It really shows the possibilities of the Blanc de Noirs style.  It goes through malolactic fermentation, but receives no dosage and thus retains a crisp, fine edge and an almost citrus/saline cast in spite of grape variety.  The wine is produced from tiny yields with minimal intervention, and is aged in bottle six years before release to give a stunning complexity and depth of flavor in spite of the fine, racy profile.

May Saint Vincent Bless You









Fortunately it is not necessary to march in the saint’s parade during a cold Burgundian winter in order to commemorate the memory of Saint Vincent of Saragossa.  I was happy to pass my Saint Vincent this year in the very civilized environs of the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong at a dinner organized by the local importer Pearl of Burgundy.  It was a few days in advance of his official celebration on 22 January – peu importe!  A number of winemakers were present and pouring their wine, and the guests had all brought wine from their cellar.  We tasted some marvels.

Although Saint Vincent is the patron saint of vintners, his association with the grape is a bit of a mystery.  We do know that he was the first martyr of Spain, who died in Valencia in 304 AD under the rein of Emperor Diocletian.  French winemakers, who like him perhaps because his name starts with “Vin”, have long celebrated his feast day.  In 1938 the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin  resurrected the official celebration of the saint, which takes place in a different village each year, and is thus known in Burgundy as the “Saint Vincent Tournante”, which is celebrated on the last weekend in January.

The first wine of the evening was a 2014 Meursault Genevrières (***) provided by our vintner host, Domaine Tessier, which showed a clean fresh note of lemon peel and butter.  It was fresh and elegant on the palate, with lovely balance and a lingering finish.  Friends from Zachys Wine Auctions brought a magnum of 1988 Morey Saint-Denis Clos des Monts Luisants from Ponsot (*****) that was extraordinary, with notes of caramel and honey on the nose that open up to truffle and mineral.  This is a very particular wine, produced in large part from Aligoté planted in 1911.  In the 1930s, Laurent Ponsot’s grandfather Hippolyte planted about 15% of the vineyard to a variety called “Pinot Gouges”, which was a Pinot Noir vine from Domaine Henri Gouges that had mutated to produce white grapes which Gouges had propagated via cuttings.  In the 1950s, Laurent’s father Jean-Marie planted about 20% of the vineyard to Chardonnay, and this was the approximate grape blend of our 1988 magnum.  In 1992 the Pinot Gouges was ripped up, and in 2004 the Chardonnay was as well, and from 2005 this wine is produced from 100% Aligoté, making it the only premier cru in Burgundy produced exclusively from this grape.

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2014 Bordeaux : love them, like them, or leave them alone ?









What to make of Bordeaux 2014?  This is an interesting time to assess the wines, as they are about to ship, yet they are still available as futures.  Recently there has been a perceptible uptick in interest in Bordeaux.  A colleague from the auction market speculated last night that Bordeaux had gotten so uncool that it was beginning to be cool again.  For my part, I have been drinking the wines all along, in good vintages and bad, the best wines and the best value wines. However, since I did not attend the en primeur tastings of the 2014 or 2015 vintages, I now rely on tasting them closer to when they arrive on our shores, and thus the tastings organized by the Union des Grands Crus is very important.  This report only assesses those wines poured at this tasting, which occurred Monday in New York.

The grape growing year started well, with auspicious weather in the spring and a very good flowering that set the stage for a large-ish harvest.  Unfortunately, the three months that followed saw a cool, rainy growing season that made for some very morose winemakers.  After all, the quality of the vintages could hardly be anything but disappointing following the absolutely stellar 2009s and 2010s, and in August of 2014, growers feared another wash-out.  Luckily for all concerned, record levels of dry, hot weather came through in September and lasted through the first week in October.  Only a bit of rain on 8 October prevented a perfect arrière-saison.  A bit later in the year the conditions were also right for a solid formation of botrytis in Sauternes.   All in all, a good year, if not a great one.  There is decent ripeness, but one of the hallmarks of the vintage generally is a lively acidity that one finds either refreshing or a bit green according to personal preference.

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