2016 Bordeaux Report: why you might care, and why you might not

 

It is worth paying attention to 2016 for two reasons – first the quality is very high, in some cases on par with 2015, 2010, 2009 and 2005; second, because stylistically it is the most classical vintage in a decade – high freshness of fruit and acidity, and lower than normal alcohol. This style delivers something only Bordeaux really can. While 8 of my top 10 wines are perennially very expensive, 2 of them are not. I would be delighted to have any of my top ten value list wines as en primeur buys. Provided release prices are sensible, these make sense.

In Review: Domaine Denis Mortet Chambertin Dinner

 

This, our first event in the 2017 The Fine Wine Experience Burghound Sympsoium, proved to be an emotional one, with a few tears shed by the end of the evening. Faced with a wine from an exalted vineyard – the grand cru Chambertin – and an exalted domaine – Denis Mortet – those of us who have the pleasure to enjoy these wines are reminded when we taste a vertical like this – 15 vintages spanning four decades – that we are also bringing to our wine glasses three generations of effort in the life of a family.

In Review: The Fine Wine Experience Château La Mission Haut-Brion Dinner

 

Tonight’s dinner was a long time in the making. We had acquired a vertical case at Sotheby’s that had been consigned by Château La Mission Haut-Brion directly from their cellars. Not only this, but as Jean Philippe Delmas noted, 4 specialists from Sotheby’s visited the estate prior to the sale and carefully inspected and approved each individual bottle prior to accepting the sealed original wooden cases. That fussiness was evident in the pristine bottles. Even all the corks were original – so none of these bottles had been ‘re-conditioned’, all the levels were base of neck or better. Added to our blessings, none of the bottles turned out to be marred by cork taint or other issues.

In Review: Domaine Claude Dugat Charmes-Chambertin & Griotte-Chambertin Dinner

 

My unabashed adoration for the wines of Claude Dugat began in the summer of 2002. I visited the cellars and tasted the 2001s from barrel and they just blew me away. Ever since then tasting a bottle from his domaine has felt like a treat. Any bottle from his domaine. When I visit Beaune each year his Bourgogne Rouge AOC is one of the few of that humble appellation level I have happily bought and drunk, and his village level Gevrey-Chambertin is a benchmark for the intensity, dark fruit and spice the appellation is capable of delivering.

 

So you can imagine my excitement at the chance not only to sample his two grands crus - Charmes-Chambertin and Griotte-Chambertin - side by side, but to do so down a vertical of 6 vintages, with 2 fully mature vintages of Charmes to finish. AND, to do so in Hong Kong, at a dinner tutored by Allen Meadows and Claude Dugat himself (his first visit to Hong Kong).

The wines lived up to the excitement. You must try a Claude Dugat grand cru at least one. Looking back at my notes, I would say, just pick anything and see for yourself. These sit on the top shelf.

My wife and I arrived at a beautiful old converted nunnery in Pienza,Tuscany on New Year’s Eve. It’s a great hotel called La Bandita Townhouse in case you are visiting the region. The late afternoon had already turned crisp, and having heard what a great restaurant the hotel had, and having booked the NYE special set dinner, my mind turned to Brunello di Montalcino – the great Sangiovese red from the village a few minutes away. What a surprise then when I was told at the reception as we checked in that this evening’s menu was all seafood. What to drink?!

 

Well, lucky us, because not only was the seafood meal amazing, but because of it we also discovered on our first night a fabulous white wine they had listed called Orto di Venezia. ‘Orto’ means garden, and this wine comes from the small farmland island of San Erasmo in the lagoon by Venice.

Last weekend, I spent the whole afternoon backing up all my iphone photos in Picasa. The photos of my very first wine trip, Bordeaux, popped up and they brought back the memory of my visit at Château Ducru-Beaucaillou in 2008.

That was a lovely sunny July in Bordeaux. I was so excited about tasting wines and visiting wineries during my training week. The most impressive visit was to Château Ducru-Beaucaillou.  It owes its name to the beautiful “beau” large stones “caillou” that characterize its terroir. The château is located in the commune of St. Julien. Its consistency and persistence in the pursuit of high quality of wines has made it become the one of the very best Second Growths in Bordeaux. 

 

When we arrived at the winery, the Chinese flag was raised to say hello to us. After we walked around the cellar, each of us got a gift (a small stone from their vineyard). A real surprise on our visit was seeing a fully human-sized cartoon-like sculpture of a cute cat character, right at the cellar door. It really did break the ice with the visitors and made us feel at home and relaxed.

Join us in a share of a Hospices de Beaune barrel of 2016 red Burgundy, which when bottled will have your name, your newborn's name, your company logo, or your favorite quote, etc, on the label.

The 2016 vintage in Burgundy was really a game of two halves. When we visited in June 2016 growers all seemed to have long faces. Some had been hit by hail, some by frost (or both), and many were now fighting moisture and heat-induced disease pressure in their vineyards. But the second half was a reminder why the Burgundians remain so stoic as they do. Perseverance through the difficulties of spring and early summer were repaid with clearer, fine weather in late summer and autumn.

The Hospices de Beaune tasting the morning before the auction in mid-November is for most (including us) the very first chance to try a new vintage – at just a few weeks of age. It’s a very difficult time to taste wines so young, but in doing this same tasting, of the same cuvées, every year on the same Saturday, you start to build up some experience in doing it.

Rare & small collection from Domaine Audiffred 

 

Henri Audiffred runs a 5-hectare estate in Vosne-Romanée. He took up the reins in 2003, and began working full time at his own estate in 2007 after 14 years working at Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. He has since applied what he learned at The Domaine in vineyard cultivation to apply to his own estate. Vinification is quite different however – his search for the natural expression of the terroir has led him to adopt 100% de-stemming, fermentation with natural yeasts following a brief cold soak, and then only used barrels are used for elevage. The result is wines with a kind of direct authenticity, and no make up.

A hidden gem in Burgundy

 

To celebrate the Bourgogne week ( BIVB ) in the coming month, I am delighted to introduce one of my favourite wines, Chateau de la Maltroye - Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru Blanc 'Clos du Chateau' Monopole, to you.

 

“The Château de Maltroye is a wonderfully restored bourgeois house. Built in the 18th century over the burnt-out ruin of a previous (15th century) building; the beautiful vaulted cellars date from that older house. The only parallels in Burgundy to such a house – immaculately and artistically presented – would be the ‘statement’ headquarters of Jadot or Bouchard Père. It is a real compliment to the current owner, Jean-Pierre Cornut.” According to Bill Nanson’s excellent Burgundy-Report.

Joh. Jos. Prüm estate (often just called “J.J.”) is situated in the Middle Mosel valley, around the 50th latitude, i.e. in one of the most northern wine-growing areas of the world. The estate today encompasses around 22 hectares (about 55 acres) and their vineyards are planted with 100 % Riesling - mostly ungrafted, old vines.

J.J.Prüm estate aims to express the soil and climate conditions in its wines as authentic as possible, every vintage. Ideal harvest time, as little treatment in the cellar as possible, use of wild yeast and a rather late bottling characterize their wines which need their time to open up, but then show a unique interplay between fruitiness, minerality and acidity and are rather low in alcohol.

And couldn’t we all use some of that!

We are quite enamoured by the quality and style of boutique maison Champagne Ellner. There is increased zip and transparency in the wines due to no malolactic fermentation.

Quality was affirmed just this month by the Wine Spectator, who rated 350 Champagnes, and put examples of Champagne Ellner in both their Vintage and non-Vintage Recommendation short lists. Every other Champagne on the recommendation lists is more expensive than Ellner!

This doesn’t surprise us. We chose to work with them because we were impressed by the quality of their wine, and the reason you may not have heard of them is that they are not spending your money on slick marketing or sponsorship. Nice.

2015 Burgundy En Primeur

 

2015 was something of a textbook vintage for the reds. Tasting in Burgundy cellars in June and November 2016, the ‘15s were a real pleasure, often difficult to spit out, they offer so much pleasure. Stylistically I would say they are somewhere between the opulence of 2009, and the minerality, precision and freshness of the 2010. They are rather grand, fruit-laden wines, but their opulence has not tipped them over into simplicity. Their complexity – tasting in barrel – is generally open and fragrant. The reds will have broad appeal, to hardcore Burgundy enthusiasts and casual drinkers alike. This is a must year for laying down serious top level wines, but it is also a year to in which to stock up on lower level wines for everyday drinking. 

Denis Mortet Gevrey Chambertin 'Mes Cinq Terroirs'

 

Why did I choose this wine? Because I have had it so many times, I know it so well, and it has never disappointed me.

It’s a safe choice for lunch with clients, or a drink with friends. The price is affordable, and when you taste it, you understand it easily.

 

Gevrey-Chambertin 'Mes Cinq Terroirs' from Domaine Denis Mortet – made from five different plots in Gevrey-Chambertin, has only been made in four vintages – 2004, 2005, 2013 and 2014.
 

Riesling crème de la crème - the auction wines

Imagine going to Burgundy, tasting from every barrel of your favourite top grower’s grand cru, and saying “okay, that one. It’s the best barrel of the lot. Bottle that one for me.” Let’s say in fact that it is just a half barrel, selected away for separate bottling – Roumier’s best little piece of Bonnes-Mares, made from a small patch of old vines that every year seem to yield something particularly special.

 

Would that appeal? How much more do you think that would cost you?

 

A recent trip to New Zealand was a salient reminder of how rewarding and interesting it is to taste fine expressions of grape varieties from ‘new’ regions outside the variety’s classic roots. With that thought in mind today I went through our list to find examples of syrah, pinot noir, and cabernet ‘by another mother’ than Rhone, Burgundy or Bordeaux.

 

These examples, I feel, exceed the concept of mimicking the classics, and offer something new, something different, at the same quality level as their varietal forebears.

Mature California and Australian wines from the cellar of John Avery

2nd June 2017

 

Date: 2nd June 2017 (Friday)
Time: 7 PM
Venue: Flint Grill & Bar, JW Marriott Hotel Hong Kong
Ticket: HKD 3,980 per seat