A surprise in Listrac

Chateau Fourcas Hosten has certainly gone through a fair amount of change over the last 11 years. Located in the centre of Listrac, its history dates to 1810 when Mr Hosten inherited the vineyards and created Chateau Fourcas Hosten.

Ownership changed in 2006 when Renaud and Laurent Mommeja purchased the estate. Their background with Hermes, brings not only experience, the financial means but a huge amount of passion for excellence, which they have instilled in Fourcas Hosten.

Three major projects were undertaken since 2008, old plots in the vineyard have been restored; the winery, barrel cellar and storage facilities have all been full renovated; the House has been renovated and is spectacular. So, what’s the wine like?

Fourcas Hosten is something that we used to import and that I’d not tasted for years, it always represented great value. With the technology and expertise this Chateau now have and the already renowned terroir in the Listrac area, the wines have stepped up to new levels and impressed me a lot. This is not a Chateau in the super star appellations of the Medoc, it is through a winery that punches well above its weight and over delivers.

The 2016 is as you’d expect for the vintage superb. We also tasted back to the 2011. What impressed me with the tasting put on for us, was that we were not greeted with 2009 and 2010 wines, rather with 11 and 13 – the later a particularly challenging vintage. This chateau should be applauded for the confidence in showing these lesser vintages and for the wines they produced. Sure, the 2011 and 2013 were not as good as the 14 or 16 that we tasted, but they were very well made.

The 2012 showed how good this vintage is for early drinking. These are Merlot dominant wines, around 55%, the balance Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. There’s also a very smart white, 75% Sauvignon Blanc, with Sauvignon Gris and Semillon. The Blanc is made in tiny quantities, 4,000 bottles of the 2016 was produced, battonage and time in old oak give this impressive complexity.

A super enjoyable visit to FourcasHosten, the wines brilliant and lunch in the restored Chateau a treat.

 

Bordeaux 2016 Vintage report

Following a week tasting in Bordeaux and much time researching the vintage, the following is my vintage report for the 2016 vintage;

The growing season for the 2016 vintage was not typical. Come end of summer there were grave concerns for the vintage, then, at just the right moment, some rain fell. The flowering was challenged with a complicated weather pattern in spring. From the later part of June through to September 13th, it was very dry; an incredible drought, the days were very sunny and dry, though not hot (like in 2013). The fruit ripened well, though the berry sizes were very small. Then it rained, the berries enjoying the moisture and becoming more plump. With moisture, botrytis could have been an issue, though was not due to the drying winds. The nights were very cool at this time, which assisted with botrytis pressure at this point. The high diurnal temperature difference and cool nights? part of the reason for the freshness and vibrant acidity in the wines. The settled weather after this welcome rain also allowed Cabernet to be left on the vine to mature; hang time is essential for Cabernet. Young vines did not enjoy this vintage, for many the drought provided too much of a challenge.

The overarching character in all the 2016s is balance; simply put, everything is in its place. The fruit is not too much or too little; the acid lively, adding freshness; the tannins super ripe and well structured. This is a balanced, excellent vintage.

The alcohol levels generally are lower, around 13%. The extraction has been toned back; these are not super concentrated, extracted wines. The acidity and freshness a key factor.

The left bank wines are excellent; Cabernet did enjoy these weather conditions. There’s a purity to the wines, the very best are going to be long lived wines. In some of the recent vintages, it has been a little hard to taste the young wines and imagine them as old wines; not quite sure how the ripe fruit will evolve, or the atypical nature of them will evolve. Not so with the 2016 wines; these are wines that, even tasted at this very early stage, I could imagine as beautiful old wines. The very best express their terroir expertly, almost as if text book examples from the region. There are many great wines on the left bank; those of St. Julien stood out, particularly Léoville Las Cases, which stopped me in my tracks, as did Chateau Mouton Rothschild. These would have to be my top wines of the vintage.

On the right bank, the wines are equally good, though do require a little more concentration, their brilliance not as obvious as the wines on the left. The cooler nights at the end of the vintage has resulted in very fragrant, attractive wines. This side of the river not quite as harmonious; potentially it could have been, though there seems a few châteaux that have still over extracted the grapes and this has led to concentrated, syrupy wines.

2016 is certainly a great year for reds, not so for sauternes. There are great sweet wines, though this won’t be long lived sauternes, the acidity and freshness not quite enough. Noticeable exceptions to this general statement include Coutet and Suduiraut, the latter exceptional this year.

This is a year where quality exists broadly through the region and price points. There are many of the value Medoc that have over delivered their status and price point. These are wines that will be well worth seeking out and buying volume of.

Bordeaux – a turning point?

The 2016 vintage is very distinctive in character and somewhat different to the recent vintages coming out of Bordeaux. The question I was left pondering is whether the change is due to climatic conditions, market influence or a shift in the make-up of the commentators.

The overarching character one encounters in the 2016 wines is balance. Simply put, everything is in its place. The fruit presence is not too much or too little, the lively acid is adding a noticeable freshness and the tannins are decidedly ripe and well structured. This, then, is a balanced and excellent vintage. The alcohol levels are generally lower at around 13% and the extraction has been toned back; these are not overly-concentrated or extracted wines, the balancing acidity and freshness providing a key component.
So, did these factors and this freshness emerge from the drought, the sunny summer and the late-arriving rain, or was there another influence? When listening to those winemakers we visited within Bordeaux, one common theme that emerged was caution around not over-extracting. It led me to consider whether this was due a deliberate intent on their part not to draw overly upon the ripe, concentrated fruit the drought had provided, or whether they were reacting to a change in the overall make-up and opinions of the critics.

Robert Parker has had so much influence on Bordeaux and its wines; he has, indeed, been a key component in the success of many of the producers there. One thing is certain: in general, the bolder the fruit, the concentration and the flavour, the higher the Parker score. This, to me, does seem a somewhat short-sighted view; Bordeaux is a region with so much history, and yet much of what is being recalled and feted has been confined to relatively recent events. Many of the greatest Bordeaux I have tasted have been old wines, often bearing little resemblance to their younger counterparts from recent vintages. The difficulty in correlations aside, in tasting the 2016s, I could imagine them to be old wines.

The change that was apparent in Bordeaux may, in fact, have come from the vintage; these are, after all, many of the very best vineyards and châteaux in the world. Whatever it is that has resulted in these impeccably balanced wines, I do like them. If this is a turning point for Bordeaux, the region should continue at speed in this direction; for me, it’s the right one.

Bordeaux En Primeur 2016

This year’s En Primeur campaign is just around the corner, Vintage 2016. This year fortunately looks to be following in the path of the 2015 vintage; whilst it is still early days, indications are that sensibility may just prevail. Now, if you’ve been an En Primeur customer for a while, you might be reading this and thinking ‘Yeah, right, we’ve heard that before.’ What is apparent and being confirmed day by day as the International media and trade taste in Bordeaux, the vintage is very good indeed. In fact, it appears that this vintage is one to make a song and dance about and to ensure you have in your cellar.

So what’s the talk of sensibility and comparison to the 2015 vintage? Similar to last year, whilst the vintage is looking to be exceptional, we are not seeing these statements in lights with grand claims that this is a vintage of a lifetime or such things. There is far more sensibility around how the vintage is being presented, as the reality is that the market is just not the same as when the 2009 and 2010 vintages were sold in vast quantities globally. The rise of the new markets and interest in Bordeaux through this period drove prices to new levels. Since then it has been a case of the market finding its balance once again.

Which of course leads to the next fascinating piece in this puzzle and where we need to see further sensible approaches. The prices for these wines are yet to be determined and time will tell as the Chateaux owners release their wines on the market. What we do know now is that these will need to be realistic and in line with the current market. Early conversation indicates this is where the vintage is heading.

 Putting all that aside, the 2016 by all reports is looking excellent. Of course, we are not going to take the reports for granted and will be presenting to you our views from tasting the wines. This year I will be tasting a little later in Bordeaux, tasting the week after Easter. I’m heading to Bordeaux with a full schedule of tastings over the week. I’ll be keeping you up to date with how the wines look on Twitter (#lizziewine). You’ll also be able to follow things via the Glengarry Facebook page and on our blog site – www.aboutwine.co.nz

 Our 2016 Vintage Report and recommendations will be online post my tastings and we’ll be back in touch as the wines start to be released.

If this is all new to you, do check out our En Primeur FAQ page or feel free to contact the team, who are all very happy to assist you with general En Primeur enquiries, preparing your wish list or anything else fine wine-related.

Pinot Noir 2017

Pinot Noir 2017, what’s it all about? ‘A lot’ is the simple answer and there is just so much to talk about. So here goes, a series then of blogs all about Pinot Noir 2017, naturally starting at the beginning. The event itself was first held in 2001, the brainchild of the late Richard Riddiford and, Mr Pinot Noir himself, Larry McKenna. It’s a three-day conference all about Pinot Noir, open for all to come along with a very high proportion of trade there from NZ and abroad.

Those from abroad were generally hosted by NZ Wine Growers in what is one of the best pieces of Marketing for NZ in any sector. Our International guests were treated to a world class conference that is rightly referred to as the best Pinot Noir event on the Planet. An Aromatic Symposium before and a Classic NZ Red weekend in the bay after, together with an Air NZ flight over the NZ wine regions with MW Bob Campbell as the head steward and guide. How could they not go away spreading NZ wine love to all corners of the world.

The three days started with a welcome at the Wellington Opera house and an enlightening discussion centred around ‘our place’. Our Tūrangawaewae the overarching theme to the morning and a welcome break from how a Pinot conference would usually start, with far too much discussion of terroir. In fact, the absence of reference to Burgundy was a welcome change and one that has been a long time coming. It is a little of a bug bear with me that we stand up and talk about our wines and reference them as ‘this is my Bordeaux blend’ or ‘my Burgundy’. We are not in France; we grow grapes and make wine in one of the most amazing countries in the world and need to be more proud of what we do. I then was delighted the conference started this way and more so continued throughout the week with this theme. Off my soap box now and back to Pinot 2017.

On the three consecutive mornings we were presented an array of fascinating discussions and concepts (more on these in the following blogs). Each afternoon was then given over to a Pinot Noir road trip, mine started with Marlborough and once again reconfirmed for me how underrated Marlborough Pinot Noir is. For me there were many great wines in that afternoon tasting, a few that did stand out. Fromm – I’ve always loved Fromm Pinot Noir and was excited to try their new wine H. Named


after winemaker Hatsch, it is a blend of five of their single vineyard wines and their new flagship wine. The quality is, as expected, exceptional and a wine worth seeking out. Jules Taylor had her 2015 Pinot Noir there; the perfume was enthralling, jumping out of the glass to greet you. Touching base with Jules, I enquired as to whether there was anything different in her winemaking this year? She shrugged ‘not really, it’s what the vintage gave’. A superb wine and a clear reflection of the 2015 vintage which became evident as I tasted around the room.


 

Craft Farm by Ant Mackenzie

Recalling the numbers of years I have known Ant leaves me feeling very old indeed. Ant, like many a NZ Winery professional, started working for Sir George Fistonich; for Ant it was in Hawke’s Bay, at Vidal’s Winery. The years that followed saw Ant involved with many a well-known winery: Spy Valley, Framingham, Mud House, Dry River and Te Awa. The latter now ironically owned by Sir George; how things go in circles.

Whilst still with hands in many projects, Ant has his own range of wines now. In fact, there are three ranges in total: Craft Farm, Toño and Theory & Practice. Craft Farm is the name of Ant’s small vineyard in Havelock North. Relatively new vineyards, the vines were planted by family and friends over three consecutive years, starting in 2010. The viticulture is organically minded, there’s no irrigation and organic farming is practiced (though not certified). Ant has planted a mix of clones, whether that’s because that’s what he had access to or a conscious decision, to me it’s the right decision. A contentious issue for some; the analogy that springs to mind for me is milk production. Growing a harmonious crop for cattle does produce consistency in milk. Is that though what we are looking for in wine? Not in my book; an expression of the place, translated through a variety of clones, for me, produces a far better glass of wine, a Crafted Wine.

Ant’s Craft Farm Wines (with the other ranges too) are now being sold online by Glengarry. These wines are part of a new initiative from Glengarry that sees wineries being able to sell their wines through our website. A new approach that supports wineries in New Zealand, opens doors and gives the small producers a route to market.

Krug at Glengarry

It’s often said that you never forget the first time you try Krug and until I tried Krug, I must admit I’d always dismissed this statement. It was shortly after I started with Glengarry, we had a visit from Olivier Krug and we hosted him in the cellar at Jervois Road. There’s not many better ways to be introduced to Krug. It’s a breath-taking and unique expression that you’ll never forget and you will certainly always remember the first time you try it. This week I was lucky enough to taste Krug again when we hosted an extensive Krug tasting including two wines from the legendary 2002 vintage.

There’s just so much to talk about with Krug, Regan our Fine Wine consultant at Victoria Park did a great job hosting and presenting the tasting. We started with Krug Grande Cuvee, then onto the Rose. The Rose a relatively new wine for Krug and one that was made in secret until finally the family plucked up the courage to present the new project to their father who quickly acclaimed it was all over; someone had been able to copy Krug.

In the middle of the tasting was a mini vertical of Krug Vintage, 2000, followed by 2003 then 2002. Why that order? That’s the order that the wines were released in. There’s been a few times I can recall when Krug have done this, preferring to release the wines when ready, rather than necessarily sequential. Whilst there’s a lot of hype about the 2002 (more on that shortly), the 2003 once again took my breath away. I’ve been fortunate enough to taste this many times. 2003 was very hot year in Europe, I recall it well, I was in Bulgaria at the time with another passion of mine, gymnastics and it was certainly very warm. There are not too many champagnes made from the 2003 vintage, when Krug announced they were making one, there was many a raised eyebrow. Krug 2003 is a brilliant wine, in quality and in its unique personality, I can’t wait until the next time I try it.

Onto the 2002 wines. As expected, a sensational vintage and Krug 2002 does not disappoint. Right now though it’s far too young and showing a mere glimpse of what it will be. The final wine of the night was also from the 2002 vintage, Krug Clos du Mesnil 2002. I’m not often speechless, but this wine stopped me in my tracks, what a complete wine. Made 100% from Chardonnay from the walled (clos) vineyard of Mesnil, it was simply sublime.

An excellent tasting and unique opportunity to try all but one of the wines of Krug in one tasting.

 

How relevant are Wine Awards?

An interesting question. Given everyone’s tastes are different, how relevant is it, when purchasing a wine, whether it has a Gold Medal or not? I judged at the recent Air NZ Wine Awards and was delighted to see, throughout the process, so many different expressions of the various varieties recognised. The Air NZ Wine Awards are New Zealand’s pre-eminent wine competition, owned and run by NZ Wine Growers; this year celebrates 30 years of Air New Zealand’s involvement with the competition. I believe the calibre and diversity of the team of judges is one of the instrumental keys to the success of this show. It is all too easy in the process of judging a large number of wines, for wines that have lots of oak, lots of fruit, in fact, lots of anything, to stand out in the crowd – it’s not bad judging, it’s just natural. Not so at the Air NZ Wine Awards; the award winning wines include those that clearly have great fruit, excellent oak use (where applicable) and all in perfect balance, together with those wines that are on the restrained, refined side of things and equally brilliant. Furthermore, when I look now at the results, there are a variety of styles, price points and regions represented; further impressive given the large number of entries and wines reviewed over the three days. The process itself is rigorous, with numerous stages for the wines to pass through before they end up on the Gold Medal winning list.

So back to the question at hand, are they relevant? What you can be well assured of, with any of the Air NZ Award winning wines, is that these are wines of very good quality. Particularly the Gold Medal wines; to achieve a Gold, the wine has to be very smart indeed. Within the Gold Medal wines, there’s diversity of style and character that you’ll then need to match to your palate, whether that’s through purchasing a selection, coming along to one of our tastings, or talking to the team in store. You will find on the Glengarry Website a selection of the award winning wines, and today an exceptional deal on a super smart sub $15 Pinot Noir that won Gold – well worth celebrating we believe.

The State of NZ Wines

 

Of all the wine shows out there, there are just two that are owned by NZ Winegrowers: the Air NZ
Wine Awards and the lesser known little brother, the Bragato Wine Awards. Historically lost a little
behind the Air NZ Wine Awards might (likely due to the exposure opportunities the $ of the
sponsorship brings), the Bragato Wine Awards play an important role. Named after Romeo Bragato,
the New Zealand Government Viticulturist from 1902 – 1909, the Bragato Wine Awards champion
Domain wines – where grapes are coming from owned vineyards and single vineyard sites. In
addition, the lower minimum quantity requirement (than the Air NZ Awards) results in many smaller
producers being able to enter. As the first show after new vintage releases start hitting the shelves,
it’s also a good gauge of how the vintage is looking.

 

I had the opportunity to join the judging again this year, which took place in mid August. Great to be able to see such a wide variety of wines and judge with such a talented team. The results will be out

by the time this is published and the award winning wines are well worth hunting out. The individual
results are not what I wanted to share here, but more some observations I walked away with from
the judging and the colourful discussion.

An absolute highlight was the Cabernet dominant class. We were blessed with the vintages on the table this year ‐ 2013, 2014 and 2015. It’s been widely reported that 13 and 14 are exceptionalvintages for Hawke’s Bay and Waiheke, being the two regions that Cabernet dominant wines love.

The 2015 vintage though showed exceptionally well and is right up there with the preceding
vintages; something very rare indeed, three excellent vintages in a row. I am guilty of not having
tasted a lot of NZ Cabernet of late, with my recent travels taking me to Bordeaux to taste new
vintages there. I was super impressed with the overall quality, the results when out will highlight this
further; do hunt out the award winners in store, they are well worth taking a look at.
The Pinot Noir category as you can imagine was large and diverse, the quality unmistakable; there’s
a reason the rest of the world are standing up and taking notice. The very best of the Syrah flights
were super and would leave many a Rhône producer speechless.

Within the White categories, Sauvignon Blanc (whilst not everyone’s favourite to judge, particularly
at 8am) showed why NZ Sauvignon is such a distinctive and unique style. Pinot Gris was so much
more consistent than I’ve seen it in the past, a clearer sense of a NZ Pinot Gris style emerging.
Chardonnay, as you would expect, created the most conversation amongst the judges, the differing
faces of Chardonnay pushing boundaries, which I believe is a good thing.
All in all, two days of intense judging and it’s clear that the NZ Wine industry is in good shape. Do
taste for yourself though; this month at Glengarry we take a regional road trip around NZ and
explore this great country of ours.

International Wine Challenge 2016 – what an experience

Last month I had a wonderful experience judging at the International Wine Challenge in London. Over two very intense days I tasted a large variety of wines from all around the world. Met fantastic people, caught up with old friends, made new ones and had many a laugh.

Liz with her IWC Team of Judges – London

One of those experiences that you walk away from thinking, this is why I work in this industry, the wine and the people. The calibre of the judges at the International Wine Challenge is quite something, The Chairmen for the competition – Tim Atkin MW, Oz Clarke, Sam Harrop MW, Peter McCombie MW, and Charles Metcalfe, whose morning pep talks are reason enough to want to judge at this competition.

I made the wise decision (not really a choice, it was just how my timing worked) to judge in the second week, what is called Round Two. This meant that we were looking at wines that had already been reviewed and the ones remaining were in contention for medals. The process of judging involves a team of generally 4 people, made up of a Panel Chair, a senior judge and two others. You taste the wines as they are presented to you, all blind and organised into types. So you’ll get a set of New Zealand Chardonnay for example, or in a whole flight of Vinho Verde, the variety is extraordinary; it is the International Wine Challenge after all. All the judges taste independently and then read out their scores which are collated and the discussion begins. After the panel decides the medals (or not) to award to the line up in front of them, the wines are re-tasted by the esteemed Chairmen noted above to verify the results. As you taste, the room is filled with the vibe of Tim Atkin’s music choice and the ever increasing volume of chatter from around 80 judges a day tasting through the vast number of entries this competition attracts.

IWC Room of Judges - London
IWC Room of Judges – London

The process, as you can see from this brief account, is rigorous and thorough. To then see out of this come the extensive collection of New Zealand wines being awarded medals is a real testament to where we stand on the world stage with our wines and the overall quality. In total there were over 400 medals awarded to NZ wines this year.
So at the end of all of this judging I certainly did not feel at all like another glass of wine. I decided it a far better idea to taste my way through a series of London Gins, which went down very well indeed.