March 2007


Prompted by my old buddy James Warren, I’ve just had a listened to the first ever Berry Bros. & Rudd podcast – sorry, podcask (a truly awful pun, for which I am a sucker).  As full disclosure, James has been involved in recent BBR PR activities, specifically related to new media-type stuff, so it’s not a huge surprise to see a podcast appear on the BBR website.

Inevitably, I guess, the company’s first podcast (which it also claims is the first by a wine merchant) spends a while explaining just what BBR is and does – in fact, it spends about the first half of its eight minutes or so doing just that.  But, as it’s the Chairman himself Simon Berry doing the chatting and you’ve been eased into it all with a nice piece of classical music, it doesn’t seem too blatant. 

Just as you are getting slightly concerned the whole thing’s going to be a BBR advertisement, however, Simon quickly gets into his thoughts on the Bordeaux 2006 vintage.  Very briefly (as we all suspected) it’s nowhere near as good as the 2005 (Simon reckons it could be a touch better than 2004, particularly on the Right Bank) but the worry is that prices won’t adjust accordingly.

But don’t take my word for it!  Have a listen.  It’s a decent length for a podcast and fairly engaging.  A good first effort which bodes well for the future.

Sadly, I have to end this post on a less positive note.  I opened the Reserve de la Comtesse 1988 this evening.  Corked.  Nasty.  I’m well and truly gutted.

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27-march-2007.JPGBack in 1932, a bunch of Medoc wine producers decided to establish a new classification, aggrieved – as I’m sure they were – not to be included in the 1855 classification which today still reigns supreme as the list of the top ranking 60-odd chateaux on the Left Bank.  This despite it having remained virtually unchanged in the following 150-plus years!  This is astonishing when you think about the changes that have taken place during that time; changes in weather, wine-producing technology, techniques and, not least of all, ownership.  It’s illogical to think that there aren’t a number of chateaux not included in the original classification that are producing wine as good as classed growths (and, conversely, that the quality of the wine produced by a number of those in the 1855 classification hasn’t fallen).  Which is kind of where the Cru Bourgeois classification comes in.

What’s good about Cru Bourgeois is that it gets regularly reviewed, and chateaux do get promoted and demoted.  The problem with it is that there are far too many chateaux in the classification (nearly 250 in total).  Of this, 150 are simply “Cru Bourgeois”, 87 are “Cru Bourgeois Superieur” and nine are “Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel”.  I’d be tempted to regard the simple “Cru Bourgeois” tag as fairly meaningless and the “Superieur” label as a mark of some quality – but it’s the nine “Exceptionnels” however, that would have a fair argument of producing wine as good as the classed growths, at least at the 4th and 5th levels, but for generally less money.

They will certainly be names you’ve heard of: Chateau Chasse-Spleen, for instance, and Chateau Phelan-Segur (of which we recently had a bottle).  I’ve heard good things about Chateau Poujeaux and have a couple of bottles of the 2004 lying in wait in the cave (where they’ll be, unfortunately, for a while yet) but the best I’ve tasted so far – by a long way – is Chateau Potensac (website currently under construction). We had a bottle of the 2003 the other night and, OK, it could still be argued that it’s rather young and could do with a few more years lying down in a cool, dark room but, that being the case, it must mature into an amazing wine!

It was beautifully frutiy on the nose; smooth, rich in the mouth with fantastic blackcurrant flavours and a great finish.  Not too tannic either, which was a bit suprising.  All in all, a lovely wine and – at 17,75 euros from Carrefour in Saintes – excellent value.  I’ll be looking out for some more of the 2003 and also the ’04 and ’05 when it arrives.

Talking of arriving, you’ll be delighted to hear that the Reserve de la Comtesse 1988 has arrived safe and sound.  It’s currently recovering from its journey in the cave, but I think I’ll need to drink it soon.  The label looks a bit weather-beaten and the cap’s a little tatty at the bottom edge but, otherwise, it looks in good nick.

21-march.JPGWe opened a couple of bottles last night (though I must stress, we didn’t finish them both!) – the Chateau Phelan-Segur 2001 St-Estephe red and an Abeille de Fieuzal 2003 Pessac-Leognan white. 

The L’Abeille de Fieuzal is the second wine of Chateau de Fieuzal, of which we have previously very much enjoyed a 1998 vintage of its red.  I’m keen to visit the Pessac-Leognan AC – it’s the premium appellation of the Graves region and includes some of the suburbs of Bordeaux itself.  Chateau de Fieuzal itself sits a little further out, to the south-west of the town of Leognan.  It’s a very crisp, light white – really very nice and easy drinking as an aperitif.  In fact, as a white to drink on its own, I’d probably say it edges the Chateau Bouscaut we’re tried from the same region. 

Chateau Phelan-Segur sits right in the village of St-Estephe itself, towards the nortern end of the Medoc region – in fact it’s the most northern of the individual village ACs, being above Pauillac, St-Julien and Margaux.  St-Estephe is probably the least well-regarded of the village ACs that slope gently down to the shores of the Gironde, mainly due to the fact that the soil changes quite significantly north of Pauillac, containing less of the cherised gravel and more clay.  Reputation has it that St-Estephe produces much earthier wines – and the Phelan-Segur was typical!  I thought I’d got a mouthful of soil…OK, so it wasn’t quite that bad, but it certainly had an extremely minerally edge.  It wasn’t unpleasant, but fruity flavours only forced their way through on a couple of occasions (nice suprise when they did, however!)

One final note following yesterday’s post; I’ve received an email from iDealwine saying that my Reserve de la Comtesse 1998 is on the way and should arrive in the next few days.  I’m holding my breath…

Exciting news!  Well, for me, anyway.  The lovely Alain Bringolf of Winemega has published my recent tale of visiting the Blaye wine region.  There are a few more pictures (including one of yours truly) and some additional information on the Blaye AC.  If you haven’t checked out Winemega and are interested in the wines of Bordeaux, you really should.

The wife’s pleased too – she took the picture of me.  She now thinks she’s Mario Testino.

I’ve been quite busy with work of late, so haven’t really been doing much in the world of wine.  Drunk a bit, mind, and a couple are worth a mention.

A few days ago I bought a bottle of Chateau Cissac 1999, a Cru Bourgeois Superior from the Haut-Medoc.  I think it cost me about 13 euros.  The Oz Bordeaux book teels me that Chateau Cissac “makes slow-maturing wines by proudly traditional methods: old vines, lots of wood everywhere and meticulous exclusion of below-par wine from the final blend,” all of which sounds OK by me, to be honest.  Certainly, tasting the wine you can tell that the producers are not beholden to the vagaries of current fashions for overtly fruity, smooth wines; even though it was a ’99, it was highly tannic and the fruit didn’t seem to have developed a great deal.  Not unpleasant, but I reckon it could happily wait another 10 or 20 years.

The second wine is one that I’d been meaning to try for a while – the red from Chateau Bouscaut, in the Pessac-Leognan.  You’ll remember that we’ve had a few bottle of the excellent white from the same producer, so the signs were good that they might produce a decent red too.  I was also keen to try the wine as it’s one of the few Bordeaux producers I’ve come across that still uses the Malbec grape in its blend.  I bought a 2003 vintage at Leclerc in Royan for 15,11 euros and we had it last night.

I’m not sure what the influence of the Malbec is, but if it’s there to darken the wine then it does a cracking job – as I decanted the wine it seemed almost black; in fact it was difficult to see if there was any sediment in the bottle, even under a bright light!  Not that I was expecting much in such a relatively young wine.  The Bouscaut had a fantastic nose, really full and spicy and, though a little lighter on the tongue than the nose and colour alluded to, it tasted great too.  I reckon it would age well and think I might look out for some 2004 to stick in the cave.

Other than that, I can only report that my Reserve de la Comtesse 1988 bought in an online auction has yet to appear (oh dear) and tonight we’re trying a Chateau Phelan-Segur 2001 St Estephe, Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel, which I’m really looking forward to.

I suspect I might have done something rather rash.

Today I registered on the site iDealwine.  You might know of it…it’s a wine auction website.  I was just doing it for research purposes you understand.  Still, I thought I’d try it out.  Most lots were of six or a dozen bottles, but there were a few single bottle lots around, which I thought more sensible.  I noticed a bottle of Reserve de la Comtesse 1988 in an auction about to end – estimate was 25 euros, current bid was 20, so I trumped that with a big 21 euro bid.  And I won.  Obviously I hadn’t registered the fact that there’d be taxes and hefty delivery charges which have pushed the price up to 32 euros…still, it’s the oldest bottle of wine I’ve ever bought and I’ll be able to open the bugger as soon as it drops through the letterbox (if it ever does).

Now, it’s not a huge amount of money so might not sound very rash.  Thing is, it was so bloody painless!  I think I can spy a slippery slope over the horizon.

banner.gifRed Vin Man has recently been added to a new website, the Wine Blog Atlas.  As it’s name suggests, it’s a map of the world showing where lots (or soon to be lots, I’m sure) of wine bloggers are based.  Rather than include all of the hundreds of blogs about wine around the world, however, the site is geared towards bloggers who write about the region in which they reside, which is why I qualify.  So, if you want to read about the wines of Rioja from someone who’s there, the Wine Blog Atlas will be the place to start.

It’s all based on Google’s mapping technology which, if you haven’t used it before, is great for wasting away a few hours!  The map of the entire earth on the homepage will soon become very crowded, no doubt, but once you start zooming in a bit it soon opens up.  The pin pointing to Red Vin Man actually penetrates the earth about a kilometre from my house but I reckon that’s close enough (I can actually see it from my window…)

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