2010 Bordeaux: What to Buy / In-bottle tasting notes part 2: UGC and BurdiGala Grand Tasting

As promised, here’s the follow-up to my first set of 2010 Bordeaux tasting notes from bottle: this time I’m covering the value-priced appellations of Moulis, Medoc and Haut Medoc, and the Left Bank communes of Margaux, St. Julien, Pauillac and St. Estephe.  These notes are from the UGC Bordeaux tasting in January and the BurdiGala Grand Tasting last week here in New York.  My faves/ recommended bottles for purchase are starred*.  If you are going to make any purchases now, you may want to make them before Robert Parker’s scores get released on the 28th, which may cause prices on high-scorers to rise.  You got the inside scoop first, right here!

Moulis/Medoc/Haut-Medoc

Chasse-Spleen – showing leafy green tobacco herbal notes and licorice on the nose.  Brooding, with anise flavors on the palate. 89-92

Poujeaux – slightly higher toned nose than the Chasse-Spleen; fresher but a slight picklish(?) quality.  Licorice on the palate like the Chasse-Spleen, but the added freshness here gives this the edge this year in Moulis.

Cantemerle* – has a very pretty nose; sweetish fruits, and certainly some oak here, but nicely done.  A perfumed quality to the fruits on the nose makes this promising.  Palate is quite tannic, boding well for ageability, but

cantemerle

already delicious due to sweet fruits on the palate – with a freshness that makes this better than many of the higher classified growths today. A touch of red-fruitedness and delineation here.  One of the top outperformers of the day, for sure. A bit more giving on the palate than the more structured La Lagune tasted right after.  92-94

La Lagune – an herbal tobacco leaf quality on the nose, and sweet fruits and some oak to make it work as well.  Structured and fresh on the palate.  91-93

Tour de By – On the structured, graphite, stony side.  Very good.  90-92

Belgrave – green pepper and dark fruits on the nose.  Lead pencil palate, earthy. 90-91+

Beaumont – A lot of dirt on the nose with a bit of stinky mineral funk. Dark-fruited, with licorice and green pepper notes. A bit bitter on the palate. Not my favorite. 87-89.

Margaux - as a group, the 2010 wines from the commune of Margaux showed quite differently than any of the last 5 vintages or so; quite dense on the nose and tannic on the palate.

Rauzan Segla – a bit of floral perfume on the nose.  Somewhat silky onthe palate.  Good acidity, I think this will stay nice and fresh through its development.  Not overpowering, has an easy charm, and I think the Margaux character will come out more over time.  Really like the freshness. 92-95.

Prieure Lichine – A touch of coffee on the nose.  Much more dense, powerful and tannic than any vintage of Prieure Lichine I have tasted, even compared to the 2009, which was charming.  Not sure how this will develop compared to other vintages; first taste a bit confounding. Second taste: much better, showing much more open; nice and pretty. 91-94

Malescot St. Exupery -Definitely showing some oak and modern style, with some perfume on the nose.  Palate is way tannic but less brooding than a lot of the wines today.  True to reputation, this feels kind of modern; open, but not overextracted, and not as inscrutable as the Prieure Lichine on first taste.

Lascombes – A little lightish on the attack, which is probably good for a Margaux, especially given how modern recent vintages of Lascombes have been.   The power does kick in on the midpalate, continuing through with some spice on the finish.  Not as brutally tannic as even some of the Graves reds were. This chateau seems to have dialed it back a bit now.  92-94

Kirwan – Dense and extracted compared to the other Margaux wines.  Smooth, with a dense modern feel.  Tough to detect any Margaux typicity here.

Giscours* – Better than the Kirwan, with some detailed aromas, red-fruitedness, and cologne quality on the nose.  On the palate, there’s some real delineation and true Margaux feel here.  A surprise outperformer for me today.  92-94.

Du Tertre – Compared to its sibling Giscours, this has more of a lead pencil, darker profile – not as open and delineated.  Dense and tannic, this feels a bit broad.  Lacks charm, which is not the greatest quality in a Margaux.  Still, a very decent wine.  89-91.

Rauzan Gassies – Not a big fan of this wine – lots of licorice character on the palate, without much charm to the fruit to go with it.  Has rockiness, with an overpowering quality to the licorice flavors.  87-89

D’Issan - Pretty, definitely more structured and slightly cooler in fruit profile than the 2006 tasted before it.  On the palate, structured, nice, will be very good. 92-94.

Palmer* – Nose is very perfumed, with perfectly sweet fruit.  Perhaps a bit more dense, round and rich than I might have expected from a Palmer, but nothing like the Cos.  Palate is beautiful, perfectly balanced, sweet-fruited; impactful with finesse, with no need for high extraction.  A wonderful, complete wine.  96-98+

St. Julien

Beychevelle – showing damp dirt on the nose, which I like.  Tough to read, but falls within the house style.  Has a dark, brooding quality - clearly good, but not as readable as the 2009. 91-93

Branaire Ducru – shows more perfume and openness on the nose than the Beychevelle.  Not as broodingly tannic, either.  Has some slightly bitter licorice quality – one can see the comparison to the ’89s, with a bit more power.  Maybe like the 2000s?

Gruaud Larose* – the house style is very recognizable here.  Has refined mineral, a touch of leafy green, but also cigar/tobacco leaf sweetness to the fruit on the nose.  Very engaging sweetness to the fruit on the palate; among the most delineated wines today.  Easily among the best overall, as well.   Will be a very good Gruaud Larose. 94-96  Tasted again in February at BurdiGala, with consistent notes.

Lagrange – shows more lead pencil on the nose than Gruaud.  On the palate, very similar to the Branaire Ducru in its licorice flavors.  A little more dark perhaps.

Leoville Barton – showing sweet purplish fruits on the nose, with some peppery spice like the 2009.  Not quite as engaging though.  Still, very good.  92-94+

Langoa Barton – redder-fruited nose to it than the Barton.  Some perfume on the nose that I really like.  Has power and spice on the palate.  For once, I like this as much as the Barton.  The Barton has sweeter, higher quality fruit but the balance here, somehow with the slightly redder fruits and open style, make this just as good as its more heralded sibling wine.

Leoville Poyferre – some refined mineral on the nose.  Dark, powerful, anise-inflected.  Don’t like it as much as some of the other St. Juliens however. 91-93

Saint-Pierre – some sweetness to the fruit on the nose, and some tobacco leaf, cedary sweetness present too.  A little similar to the Gruaud. Has an oaky perfume, but a perfume nonetheless.  On the palate, has a tough-to-read density and power.  From the nose, definitely promising, in a way similar to the Gruaud.  92-93++, chance for some big upside, but tough to tell right now.

Talbot – has an interesting quality on the nose – some caramel oak, but also a certain nuttiness.  A touch of red fruits in the mix, with some licorice as well.  Stony mineral on the palate makes me feel very good about this wine.  More readable than a lot of the others – like the touch of delineation here.  Has a sense of dynamics – not all density.  92-94

Gloria – kind of a licorice-dominated palate.  A bit brooding, a little more detail than most vintages? Solid, competent for the vintage. 90-92

Ducru Beaucaillou* - Wonderfully perfumed on the nose – so much so that I checked – twice – to see if someone around me was wearing perfume.  Such sweet, pretty fruit.  Very good on the palate as well – juicy, balanced.  One of the best 2010 Bordeaux I have tasted.  Retasted at the end of the tasting (different bottle) with consistent results.  94-97

Pauillac

Clerc Milon – Has a liveliness to the flavors that I didn’t feel in a lot of the St. Juliens, definitely a step up from most of them.  Not as brooding, has a dynamic quality to it.  Excellent wine.  93-94+

Armailhac – Nose has a nutty, roasted oak quality.  Palate is tannic but a bit neutral.  90ish.

Pichon Baron* – A bit of the plummy quality that the Lalande has; very nice, showing easily better than the 2009 did last year. A little spice and power here, with a nice balance between red-fruitedness and darker fruits, with some engaging sweetness. Has the power I’ve come to expect from Baron, but also a finesse that almost feels more Lalande to me than Baron. Good acidity, a touch of floral here… this is definitely less ripe than the 1990 Pichon Baron. Probably my favorite vintage of Baron to date. 93-95+

2nd taste: denser and less floral than the first sample,

Grand Puy Lacoste – tannic, sweet-fruited, but feels a bit tough to judge. Looks to be quite good, but I think I preferred the 2009 at the same stage.

Pichon Lalande* – (January note) Has power, but also an easy quality to it.  Not overextracted, but has density, for a Lalande anyway.  Smooth, with freshness.  A touch of spice.  Power without being too expansive.  One of the beautiful wines of the tasting.  Will always be a dogfight between this and the 2009 Pichon Lalande as to which is better. 94-96

(February note)  Similar results as prior tasting at UGC.  At BurdiGala, this is more tannic and a touch less ripe than the 2009 tasted just before it, but the consistency from vintage to vintage is noteworthy.  Slightly brighter acidity on the 2010, boding for a long life; like this balance just a shade more than the 2009.  95-97+

Tasted back-to-back with Palmer 2010, this showed a bit stonier, with a darker-fruited perfume and not as sweet on the nose, and more anisette character.  On the palate, more structure, more tannin, more licorice flavor.

Lynch-Bages – Big, structured, with even more anise quality than the Pontet- Canet.  The acidity on the Lynch-Bages is a little livelier, racier, with cooler fruits than the PC.  Some real potential for this wine to turn out like the legendary 1989 Lynch.  Very good. 92-95

Pontet Canet* – A little darker, more powerful, and structured than the 2006 Pontet Canet tasted before it, with graphite notes.  Sweet-fruited, tannic, and rounded on the palate.  Very very nice.  Structured in style, this is very true to the nature of the 2010 vintage.  Has a slightly plummy quality to the acid, which I really like, and again, the lead pencil notes on the palate.  93-95+

St. Estephe - The St. Estephes seem to show a bit more mineral quality than the other appellations, based on a small sample size tasted so far.

Phelan Segur – showing plenty of mineral and open red fruits on the nose. Safe value pick – has got all you could ask for at this price level: pretty, open fruit, lots of structure, graphite and mineral notes. On the palate, lead pencil, touches of sweet fruit. 90-92.

Lafon Rochet – damp earth, a bit of primary-fruited magic marker pungency to the aroma on the nose, with some caramel oak and a touch of refined tobacco leaf peeking through too. Decent fruit, lots of mineral, nice typicity. 91-93

Cos Labory – stony, with fruit that’s not overdone, some sweetness showing through. 90-91+

Cos d’Estournel *- A recognizable house style for recent vintages is demonstrated by this range of 2006/08/10 Cos – a somewhat muddled style to be frank, characterized by dense fruits, some coffee notes, and damp earth on the nose, etc., which results in wines that don’t excite me in the 2006 and 2008 wines.  However, the 2010 is clearly a great rendition of this style, offering livelier fruit that lifts this above the 2006 and 2008 by quite a margin.  The fruit explodes with some sweetness but also charm and beauty, putting the elements together in a way the other two vintages don’t.  Tannic, but quite pretty on the palate, again with lively fruit, juicy acid yet sweetness to the fruit.  Lots of structure, some graphite notes.  I think this will be a great wine.  94-96

 Sweet wines of Sauternes/Barsac

Climens – very nice, not over the top. Good in a balanced way. Served out of decanter, which served this well.

De Fargues – more generously honey-fruited than the Climens, with a slight floral quality. Not over the top. Pretty balanced, really lovely.

Suduiraut – prettiest nose of the sweet wines so far, captivating in its floral qualities and sweet fruit. On the palate, the richest and most honeyed so far, but certainly very delicious.

Guiraud – lighter on the nose and palate than the Suduiraut. Has a slight herbal quality that comes across as a touch bitter on the palate, putting this behind the other sweet wines tasted thus far in quality. Certainly an engaging nose, though.

Coutet - [notes on nose truncated]. On the palate, nice and on the richer side but something doesn’t quite work here, lacking in the finish? Suduiraut is better today in this style.

La Tour Blanche – most captivating nose yet – floral, with a lychee fruit thing going on. Light in style, with just a touch of grapefruit and green apple that makes the nose intriguing. Smooth, lightish palate – very likeable, very very good. Delicate, with personality too. Best sweet wine here?

These notes are gathered from tastings put on both by the UGC and the BurdiGala Grand Tasting, which I attended free of charge as a member of the media.

What I’m Drinking: a casual President’s Day dinner with some winners from Austria and Portugal

Last night was an example of my favorite way to enjoy wine – a casual dinner with good friends, with a manageable number of wines ranging from unassuming (but perfect partners to the right foods) to transcendent.  Tasted over the course of a leisurely evening, the wines got sufficient air time to open up aromatically and unfurl their full flavors on the palate.  Things got off to a bang with a pair of wines that had been opened on nights previous and were ready to strut their stuff.  2006 Karthauserhof Eitelsbacher Karthauserhofberg Spatlese Trocken shows some nice late-harvest fruit in a dry package, but although my favorite rieslings are usual German ones, tonight it can’t keep up with the otherworldly 2005 Franz Hirtzberger Riesling Smaragd Hochrain from the Wachau region of Austria that my friend M has generously brought.  Every time I stick my nose in the glass, this wine sends shivers down my spine.  Light petrol and flinty mineral aromas float above golden orchard fruit, and I hirtzberger 2come back to it again and again. Dry and stony on the palate with a touch of bitter pith, but buffeted by deceptively generous fruit, this plants notions of nectar in your mind but goes down like glorious mineral water.  I’m enjoying and not scoring any wines tonight, but this one would clearly be in the exalted 95+ point range for me.

Next I pair a 2011 Casa de Vila Verde vinho verde from Portugal with a butter lettuce  salad with carrots and roasted butternut squash.  From the grapes arinto, loureiro and trajadura, this light, fresh white lives up to the “green wine” name, presenting a palate with fresh herbal green that manages not to come off as vegetal.  A nice citric snap here makes the wine lively and juicy. The next time you’re thinking of having sauvignon blanc, try a vinho verde instead –  this is better than the vast majority of the perfunctory sauvignon blancs in the same $11 price range.

Chicken and mozzarella ravioli is partnered with two pinot noirs, 2004 La Famille Claude Dugat Gevrey Chambertin La Gibryotte and 2010 Anthill Farms Demuth Vineyard pinot noir.  The Dugat, a negociant bottling, is from the 2004 vintage in Burgundy, in which a significant number of wines display a distinct green character of debated origin (one popular explanation involves pyrazines released by ladybugs).  I’ve had a number of bottles of this over the years, haven taken a chance on a number of bottles at a bargain $20 price, and it has generally shown some stalky, stemmy character that seems to be a manageable amount of the 2004 greenness, and tonight’s bottle still shows the same.  M and I agree that it’s not enough to be bothersome, and this wine delivers enough burgundy typicity and pleasure to justify the bargain price I paid.  M does a nice job of picking out the Anthill Demuth as an Anderson Valley wine when I serve it blind to him – and this one is true to the Anthill style – floral and fragrant tart red fruits and hints of beetroot, framed by oak in an accessible, cool-climate-fruited package.

I serve two blind wines with New York strip steaks, and though they are both from Portugal, they show very mariana alentejanodifferently.  The 2009 Herdade do Rocim Mariana comes across as a light-to-medium bodied red that’s smooth on the palate, with touches of a bushy, herby pepper on the nose to add interest.  All three drinkers who try this one one prefer it to the 2009 Quinta do Portal Colheita Tinto Douro, which is a good wine in a different style – darker-fruited, brooding and more intensely flavored on the palate.  A blend of alicante bouschet, aragonez (which you may know as tempranillo), cabernet sauvignon and trincadeira, the Mariana is from the Alentejano region and aged in stainless steel, which together with a nice plummy acidity, keeps it fresh.  On the other hand, the Quinta do Portal  tinto is a brooding, dark blend of tinto roriz (yet another name for tempranillo), touriga nacional and touriga franca from the Douro DOC, and shows the profile of an international red – French oak aging and dark, concentrated primary fruits.  Both wines sell for $15 or less generally, and to me the Mariana especially is a very solid wine for the money.portal colheita douro

As we linger after dinner, comparing the reds, I find I can’t help but keep going back to the fabulous Hirtzberger.  From there, we move on to a tasty 2003 Gimmeldinger Schlosser Spatlese rieslaner from Muller-Catoir, pleasing with light cinnamon-like spice inflections, and a perennial favorite producer of sweet wines, Alois Kracher of Austria, is the source of our capper for the evening, a 2002 Kracher Nouvelle Vague TBA chardonnay.  The residual sugar in both of these wines goes fabulously with a light and pleasing champagne cheddar cheese from the Finger Lakes, giving our guests a last bit of fortification before they venture back out into the blustery New York night.

 

The Portuguese wines in this report were complimentary review samples received from representatives of Wines of Portugal.  

 

Galloni leaves Robert Parker’s publication The Wine Advocate: anatomy of a coup? And does TWA even matter anymore?

Back in early December, when the news broke that wine critic Robert Parker was selling a substantial stake in his long-running publication The Wine Advocate, pretty much every wine writer and blogger weighed in on the news.  I held off on saying anything on this blog, mostly because I generally try to write about wines and not wine personalities (the occasional exception being information about winemakers as further background on the wines), but also because I felt like the other shoe was yet to drop.

The other shoe (or at least the first of a series of “other shoes”?) dropped Tuesday, when Antonio Galloni, the TWA critic declared in the past by Parker himself to be his “heir apparent”, announced he was leaving The Wine Advocate to start his own venture, antoniogalloni.com.  This came as no surprise to me, because my view of the likely goings-on behind the scenes at TWA went something like this:

  • When Parker started announcing Galloni as his “heir apparent” a few years ago, I felt it was somewhat likely that this had something to do not only with the fact that Galloni has a good palate but also that his career in finance probably gave him the means, both in terms of personal capital and connections/knowledge, to put together a buyout over time to provide an exit strategy for Parker, who was nearing retirement age but not quite ready to hand over the reins yet.
  • When the news broke in December 2012 that Parker had decided to sell a substantial stake to a group of investors from Singapore who had originally approached the TWA writer covering Asia/Australia, Lisa Perrotti-Brown, Ms. Perrotti-Brown was also installed as editor-in-chief of TWA.  Though Parker downplayed the editor-in-chief duties handed to Brown as mostly ministerial, the timing seemed hardly coincidental. It seemed to me that Perrotti-Brown had engineered a deal that offered Parker more money than he could turn down, and more money than Galloni (who was presumably caught by surprise) could put together to match in the short time frame left (with Parker likely anxious to close by the end of 2012 due to tax reasons) and quite naturally, would include a more prominent seat for Ms. Perrotti-Brown in the new regime.  Surprise eleventh-hour coup in place, with Parker insisting he was still in charge for now, the rivalry for control among TWA: the Next Generation was on, but mostly over.
  • If my theory is correct that Parker and Galloni had a framework for handover in place previously, around which Ms. Perrotti-Brown was hoping to do a surprise end run, that would explain why she could not go to Galloni (or any of the other TWA writers) to try to cut a deal to keep him at TWA before announcement of the sale was inevitable, as one might have otherwise expected as part of such an acquisition deal.   And perhaps, it explains why, on the topic of which TWA writers would be retained, Perrotti-Brown would let this shot-across-the-bow quote  appear in the WSJ article about the deal: “There is a plethora of good wine writers out there. It’s a buyer’s market”.
  • Presumably that set the stage for Galloni to plan his own surprise announcement in response, that he would leave to establish his own wine writing kingdom rather than stay as usurped crown prince in the TWA domain.  Whether he can parlay his TWA cred into a successful, differently-styled venture of his own remains to be seen.

The question remains, what’s left of TWA with Galloni leaving?  While speculation has begun as to which experts on Italy, Burgundy, Champagne and California will be found to step into Galloni’s shoes, it’s hard for me to think that this model even works anymore, at least in the U.S.  The wine consumer in America has changed.

For the generation that grew up with Robert Parker, “cool”may have been discovering French wines, mainly from Bordeaux, and then-emerging wines from California.  And sure, there will always be trophy-chasers and speculators that will look for a Parker-like guide; perhaps, as TWA’s new owners seem to be betting, the real market for such a guide in the future is Asia.  But for America, let’s look at real drinkers as opposed to collectors.  Today, young American wine consumers are increasingly priced out of TWA’s traditional bread-and-butter regions like Bordeaux, California and Italy, so they don’t need The Wine Advocate.  Moreover, I don’t think they want to be told which wines to buy, the way that the generations before wanted The Wine Advocate to do for them.  The Millenials that I know are very open to wines from all regions of all varieties.  If they have mainstream tastes, they are just looking to graduate from the Franzia box wine that they chugged in college to say, today’s emerging market wines, like Argentinean malbec or a Portuguese red that gives value for the money.  They aren’t hell-bent on being validated as having the dozen highest-rated wines out there, they’re just looking for one good wine at a time.

Those that tend toward more geekery aren’t likely to look to the Wine Advocate, Wine Spectator, or any single source to find new wines, really.  The young wine geeks I know in New York (granted, perhaps not a representative sample of what the whole country is like) are more likely to be turned on to wines in a variety of ways.  By trying it at their local wine bar (which in New York may well be Ten Bells, Bar Veloce, or Terroir, etc., where they’re more likely to drink lagrein than Lagrange) for example.  Cool and emerging for this generation is not drinking wines from the huge brand conglomerates that own Bordeaux and Napa, it’s finding some funky selection from edgy distributors like Dressner or Jenny and Francois at a geeky neighborhood shop like Chambers Street Wines,  Frankly Wines or Blanc et Rouge.  There, they’re buying grower fizz, gruner, or they’re not buying wine at all – they are just as open to craft beers, spirits like scotch, and mixologist creations.  Or they’re finding wines from Wine Disorder, from a blog like Brooklynguy’s, or more likely, a blog that one of their friends writes.

In this changing landscape, wine writers (and that includes bloggers and not just traditional, subscriber-model formerly-print “critics”) will succeed if they focus on artisanal wines, the stories behind them and the qualities that make them fresh, distinctive and worth a look.  While I don’t necessarily try to be that hipster with this blog all the time, I hope this site will be one of the many voices you’ll look to for ideas.  If the days where one voice could make or break winemakers and influence the style of wines made worldwide are in the past, I for one will be glad.