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 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.

Bordeaux Grand Vin and their little brothers

Bordeaux is the epicentre of fine wine in the world. Located in France’s southwest, just north of the border with Spain and home to the greatest Cabernet and Merlot blends. Divided neatly into two parts by the Garonne River, the left side of the river, the Medoc, is Cabernet central. The Medoc wines from Margaux, St Julien, Pauillac and St Estèphe are usually Cabernet dominant and blended with Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. On the right side of the river, the vineyards on the clay plateau of Pomerol and St Émilion are located around the town of Libourne. On the right side, soils are more suited to Merlot, which dominates the wines often blended with Cabernet Franc.

Blessed with a number of excellent vintages in the last 10 years, two that stand out are the 2009 and 2010 vintages. Together they are without doubt the greatest pair of vintages in Bordeaux ever. Both exceptional, they have different characters: the 2009 opulent and quite voluptuous; the 2010 vintage is brighter, lively and with a classic note. For two reasons, there’s a lot of merit in looking at the second wines of the great Châteaux and the Petit Châteaux . The investments and innovation in the production of Bordeaux are downright extensive; think glass lifts for the gentle wine movement, amphorae made from clay from the vineyard, optical grape sorters and the list does not stop there.  So with all these tools and an extensive historic knowledge, what happens in great vintages like 2009 and 2010? Simple really, Bordeaux at all levels of the market is quite exquisite. So it’s with that in mind that, when in Bordeaux recently, I tasted my way through a bucket load of wine to select for Glengarry an excellent range of second wines and Petit Châteaux  – hard work I know. We’ve then popped them together in a temperature controlled container and carefully shipped them all the way to NZ. So yes, you care buying directly from the importer, there’s no secret or additional margins here, just pure gold quality classic wines at exceptional prices.

Once you’ve tasted a few of these great wines, you’ll concur that referring to these as second wines seems somewhat unjust. Second inferring that they are not first, which reminds me of the Baron Philippe de Rothschild classic quote  – “Second I was, first I am, Mouton does not change”. Now he said that in 1973 in reference to being elevated from a second classified growth to a first growth. This change, one of only three ever done to the 1855 classification of the left bank of Bordeaux.  It is wines from this classification that are the big brothers, the greatest estates in the world. The little brothers, the second wines of these exquisite properties. The concept of second wines was initially created to improve the quality of the top wines, made usually with younger vines from the estate. Nowadays, these second wines are more an early drinking expression of the top wine than a second wine of the Château. All the second wines we have just landed in store are from the exceptional 2009 and 2010 vintages. Many of these are exceptional drinking right now and will also benefit from short to medium term cellaring – certainly less cellaring than the Grand Cru Classé from this vintage will require.

Dining out in Bordeaux

Dinners in Bordeaux have always been something of a two sided match for me; on one side, the wonderful trade dinners at the glorious Chateaux, then there’s the meals in the city itself, which until recently have been somewhat lacking. Maybe it’s just that I was looking in all the wrong places? That is until recently. We’ve now got a small repertoire of lovely places in Bordeaux and as it’s something I’m often asked for recommendations on – a blog post it’s become.

Top of the list would have to be L’univerre the wine list here is reason enough to visit. Quite superb.

Miles follows closely behind in the centre of Bordeaux; from the outside you will wonder if you’ve arrived at the right place. Inside, there’s an open kitchen and a minimalist yet appropriate setting. There’s usually two settings per evening, booking is essential. The menu is the Chef’s creation; fresh, seasonal and experimental. We’ve now had two meals here and can’t wait to go back. As for the wine list, it’s not that extensive, but is well chosen. There’s something to be said for quality over quantity.

These would be my two picks in the centre of Bordeaux.

In the Medoc, there’s a little gem at Labarde called La Gare Gourmande. A small restaurant, it’s also wise to book here. It’s a regular spot for those in the wine trade driving up and down from Bordeaux to the Chateaux and is stunning. A seasonal menu that changes daily, with an excellent selection of Bordeaux.

If heading to Sauternes, the best place to stop is Auberge Les Vignes the menu is classic with a few twists and there’s plenty of White Bordeaux and it’d be rude not to start with a youthful glass of chilled Sauternes.

Enjoy this list and if you’ve got some great places you’ve found, do share, we’ll add them to the list.

 

Big week of Bordeaux releases

A week into the campaign I am delighted to confirm that the 2014 vintage represents great buying opportunities for Bordeaux enthusiasts.

It has been a big week of releases with many offers each day. We now take a small break with just one offer today and a public holiday (one of many in May) in France tomorrow. With a small intermission it does give time to reflect upon the events of the first week.

I finished tasting the wines early in April in Bordeaux confident of the quality of the 2014 vintage. While these wines are not the ‘eternal’ cellaring propositions of the 2009 and 2010 vintages the quality is extremely good, pretty even across the board and will be exceptional short to medium cellaring propositions.

What remained to be seen was their value for money. With a good range of wines released right across the spectrum it is now possible to review pricing and it is now clear producers have been very restrained in their pricing to the point that this vintage will now be regarded as both very good and particularly affordable. Genuine bargains abound! Appropriately, given the state of the world  economy and the fact 2014 is not a blockbuster vintage, right up to the First Growth level  the wines are significantly lower in price than their  counterparts from the 2009 and 2010 vintages.

Admittedly some Châteaux owners have put their prices up from the 2013 vintage, but it pays to review the offering back a little further than just comparing to last year. Remember, 2013 was one of the most challenging vintages in a long time in Bordeaux. That’s not to say there were not good wines last year, there were, but only from those who selected severely and dramatically culled the on the picking table. We did offer 2013 En Primeur, I tasted this vintage En Primeur as well. Our 2013 offer was the smallest in breadth ever with only those good wines offered.

To summarise, the 2014 wines are very good, offering claret lovers some great bargains and it is not a vintage where either bank shines dramatically over the other, although the left was a little stronger. They will have high quality short to medium term cellaring potential offering great  enjoyment at very very reasonable prices. Worldwide, after only a few weeks into the campaign, the market has recognised this so don’t put off your decision making. And brace yourselves, next week will see a flurry of releases!

 

En Primeur Bordeaux 2014 – Day 3

After two excellent days on the left bank, day three saw me head to the right bank. My first stop Château Pétrus, always a pleasure; the team there are so delighted we come all that distance to taste. Pétrus is 100% Merlot and has been since 2010 when they pulled out the Cabernet vines. The Cabernet were planted in clay, proving too cool to ripen Cabernet – also in the way of the construction at the winery. Flowering was difficult at Pétrus, with 20% loss in yield – though more than in 2013 when they lost 50% due to flowering. Pétrus 2014 is all about generosity, charm and persistence, a great wine.

After Pétrus I caught up with Javier from Aalto (yes, Spanish) in St Émilion, more on that later, back to the Bordeaux for the moment. The UGC tasting of St Émilion was an excellent overview of the area and showed the consistency of the left bank in 2014 did not apply to the right bank. There were some excellent wines, including Château La Dominique, Château Clos Fourtet and Château Pavie Macquin. Next stop the offices of JP Moueix, where I tasted a large range of their owned properties and those they follow. As is the case with the Moueix properties, there were many great wines here: Château Certan de May is brilliant, amazing length and concentration; Château Trotanoy is, as you would expect, very smart, firm, structured with incredible power on the finish; Château Lafleur is Cabernet Franc dominant and simply stunning, slightly restrained on the nose, the acidity and precision with the firm bold structure is perfectly in balance. The visit at JP Moueix concluded with a very encouraging discussion re price – more on that later. One more visit for the day, Château Clinet; 2014 Clinet is 90% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Cabernet Franc, a gorgeous wine, perfumed, fragrant with excellent concentration, energy and freshness.

En Primeur Bordeaux 2014 – Day 2 – Part 4

Next up on the day’s schedule was the Union des Grands Crus tasting for Margaux. Having loved the Palmer and Château Margaux, I was really looking forward to seeing a broad range from the area. Overall some very fine wines and strong performances from the well priced set. Château Prieuré Lichine stood out; 65% Cabernet Sauvignon 30% Merlot and 5% Petit Verdot; a gorgeous fragrant wine with an excellent, generous finish. Château Giscours also made its presence known in the crowd, a powerful structured wine, brooding and very smart. Château Ferriére has produced a lovely 2014 wine; 61% Cabernet, with 24 days on skins and 40% new oak; whilst not a blockbuster, this is a classic wine with strength of character, one to go back and look at when prices are released.

From there I headed down the Medoc to Château La Lagune where the Sauternes and Barsac UGC. 2014 is definitely a vintage for sweet wines, the best are concentrated and with a bright acidity. After a cool, long growing season in 2014, the heat came quickly at the end and following some rain. This proved excellent conditions for botrytis. The challenge was to have the right number of staff to pick before the imminent rain appeared again. I really enjoyed tasting through this many sweet wines, so many are excellent, the standouts include: Château de Malle – 65% Semillon, the vines are an average age of 40 years and there were 2 picks. Château Doisy Vedrines was vibrant and fresh, Château de Myrat was lively with a light enjoyable finish, Château Sigalas Rabaud has an incredible length and Lafaurie Peyraguey was all about finesse. Three standouts, Suduiraut, Rieussec and Coutet – all incredible. Château Coutet is 75% Semillon, 23% Sauvignon and 2% Muscadelle; 7 picks were required in total with many half days. 80% of the team that pick at Coutet are the same each year, easing the logistical challenge.

At this point the day was almost over, the last visit – Château Gruaud Larose and its new tower. The new addition is metal and stands above a new guest area. The climb to the top was bone chilling, the evening temperature a little cool – the view, well worth the cold. Sarget 2014 is 61% Cabernet, 7% Cabernet Franc, 29% Merlot and 3% Petit Verdot; I tasted the 2014 at the end of a 10 year vertical of Sarget, the standout vintages the 2010 for its youth, the 2004 and 2008 for their maturity, both lovely right now. Sarget has always punched above its weight and it was great to compare the years. Château Gruaud Larose is Cabernet dominant, as with many of the 2014, the classic nature of the vintage lets the terroir shine through, this is classic St Julien. Our tasting was followed by some generous Gruaud hospitality, a glass of Philipponnat Vintage 2004 to start, then onto older Gruaud Larose en magnum. The food was classic French, served in canapé sized portions.

En Primeur Bordeaux 2014 – Day 2 – Part 3

After lunch at Château Pontet Canet, whilst an afternoon nap would have been nice, there was plenty more wine to try and it was on to Margaux. Our first stop was Château Margaux; Pavilion Rouge is 77% Cabernet, making up a tiny 24% of the total production at Margaux, selection for this wine is tighter than ever. Château Margaux itself is 90% Cabernet this year; there is 2% of Petit Verdot in the blend, the 2014 vintage excellent for Petit Verdot. Margaux Blanc is always a treat to taste; an incredible opulent rich white Bordeaux, the 2014 with excellent acidity.

Our next stop was Château Palmer, their 2014 is the first vintage where the property is totally bio dynamic. The conversion started in 2008; for the 2014 part of the vineyard is certified, all vineyards will be certified by 2017. Alter Ego is 52% Merlot, a very plush wine with firm, well formed tannins. Palmer 2014 is excellent, very perfumed and fragrant; Palmer has a distinctive signature in years where the weather is not too hot and it can show its terroir, 2014 is just that.

En Primeur Bordeaux 2014 – Day 2 – Part 2

After our Latour visit, we had a very short trip to Latour’s neighbour Château Pichon Lalande. Two wines here and both excellent: Réserve de la Comtesse was very floral and forward, Pichon Lalande another candidate for a top wine of the vintage. Before lunch I headed to the Union des Grands Crus tasting for St-Estèphe and Pauillac at Château Lynch-Moussas. Some lovely wines at this tasting, one that stood out was Château Ormes de Pez, always a favourite at Glengarry. This year it’s 47% Cabernet, 44% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot; very classic in style, this should represent excellent value.

Next up was Château Pontet-Canet and lunch generously provided by Alfred Tesseron. It was of course lovely to catch up with Alfred again and his 2014 wine was excellent, very Pontet in style. Black fruits, taut in structure, mineral, elegant with fine tannin, a wonderful balanced wine. Lunch at Pontet is the best place in the Medoc during primeur week to eat – oh and the cheese. Affiner Betty’s from Toulouse make the journey to Bordeaux, with only a small selection of their cheeses. They have 6 caves of cheese stored and ageing, with hundreds of different types of cheese. After lunch, whilst an afternoon nap would have been nice, there was plenty more wine to try and it was onto Margaux…

En Primeur Bordeaux 2014 – Day 2 – Part 1

A hectic day full of highlights, so here goes part 1.  The day was always going to start well with our first visit scheduled at Mouton Rothschild. It was lovely to catch up with Erwan again and delightful to have a ‘behind the scenes’ look at the winery and the art collection. They now have the originals of all of the labels there, including the Picasso that appeared on the ‘73 label when Mouton was elevated from second to first growth. One of only three changes to the 1855 classification ever made. The Rothschild stable of wines were superb; Clerc Milon was a highlight, it is so voluptuous and simply gorgeous, for such a young wine, super impressive. Mouton itself is very concentrated; as it usually does, it is very showy young, a very fine Mouton.

Our next stop was at Montrose, definitely a high point of the day and of the vintage. Château Montrose is an excellent wine, aromatically dense with black fruits and an intense nose, it is so specific and grabs your attention in full. Next up was Château Latour; whilst Latour don’t release their wines for En Primeur sale, they do show their wines as primeurs. It does strike me as a little odd, in the way they make the most of all the visitors and the En Primeur season, then don’t release. What was interesting is that they showed Pauillac 2011, Les Forts de Latour 2008 and Latour 2003, all the current release from Latour. These were presented alongside the 2014 En Primeur wines. The Pauillac 2011 showed just how delightful and approachable that vintage is from a top producer. Three visits down and what a way to start the day – superb.