Archive for January, 2019

St.-Emilion (Château Angelus) vs. Pomerol (Château La Conseillante)

January 14th, 2019

We often compare the differences between the Bordeaux wines of the Left Bank and Right Bank. Their terroir together with the grape mixes is usually substantially different with more cabernet sauvignon in the former and more merlot & cabernet franc used in the latter. However you see less tastings between wines of the leading two Right Bank regions of St. Emilion and Pomerol which can be a more subtle comparison. In Michael Broadbent’s Wine Tasting an excellent publication by Wine & Spirit Publications Ltd in 1968 and further revised and enlarged by Christie Wine Publication in 1973 & 1975 these regional characteristics are well described as follows:

POMEROL: Two styles: one deep and firm and Medoc-like, but with full, silky merlot richness, slow developing; the other light in colour and weight, sweeter, more gentle and quick maturing. Each style has a noticeably velvety texture in the mouth. Lighter vintages develop quickly.

ST.-EMILION: Again has two styles: from the “cotes” around the town, deepish but quick-maturing wines, loose-knit, sweeter on bouquet and palate. Easy, flavoury. From the “Graves” plateau next to Pomerol, firm fine fruity wines with depth of colour and flavour, cabernet aroma with hint of iron/earth character detectable on nose and palate.”

Now around 50 years later this learned description above is no longer totally inclusive. Global warming, lower yields, expanded use of second labels, many more conscientious producers and other factors has resulted in perhaps more differences between chateaux and these regions but also more similarity too. IMHO it is now even more difficult to definitively define the two regions. Therefore it was exciting to attend a dinner on January 8, 2019 at Vancouver’s L’Abattoir restaurant to compare 4 same vintages of a top property from each region. Both regions have relatively small plantings compared to the Left Bank but St. Emilion is about 7 times the acreage of tiny Pomerol (around 2000 acres) with demand often exceeding supply of their top wines. The St.-Emilion chosen was Angelus & the Pomerol La Conseillante with vintages tasted being 1989, 1990, 1995, and 2001. Note that Angelus was completely under the radar 50 years ago on the far western part of the “cotes” with wonderful southern exposure for merlot on the clay hill and cab franc at the bottom on sandy clay-limestone. It was only when the brilliant Hubert de Bouard de Laforest took over in the mid eighties that improvements resulted in their elevation to a Grand Cru Classe B in 1996 & top A in 2012. The wines are sensational with a special concentration complexity. La Conseillante of the Nicolas family long history since 1871 on the plateau of Pomerol has only around 20 acres (12 hectares) with 60% on that special blue clay and 40% gravel & sand planted in 18 separate plots of 80% merlot & 20% cab franc (though outstanding 2016 has 30% cab franc in the blend). They use 22 concrete vats (epoxy lined) of differing size from 35-100 hectolitre to accommodate those plots with more cab franc being planted (to give more structure because of global warming) and maybe cab sauvignon in the future too. More vintage variable but killer treasures in 1982, 1985, and 2000. Brief comments on the wines served oldest to youngest in vintage pairs:

1989 ANGELUS vs. LA CONSEILLANTE: Angelus much darker red colour has big opulent impressive fruit of wonderful concentration with pure class complexity while La Conseillante lighter forwardly with a browning rim and quite herbaceous bouquet but quite delicious matched to veal cheek course though softer and simpler.

1990 ANGELUS vs. LA CONSEILLANTE: Expected 90A with more structure but has a more evolved look than 89 though still lovely with less depth of fruit than 89 on the palate. Excellent. The 90LC looks similar to their 89 is also herbal but rich elegant lower acidity drinking well presently in a quasi-Burgundian style.

1995 ANGELUS vs. LA CONSEILLANTE: 95A more closed but dark intensity of cherries and black olives. Full bodied yet again. No rush. 95LC not as deep as A but pleasing papery red fruits and herbs. Some charm for earlier drinking with this slow cooked lamb shoulder course.

2001 ANGELUS vs. LA CONSEILLANTE: 01A darkest of all 8 wines and shines brightly from that underrated Right Bank vintage. Amazing black fruits concentration again. Seems so young compared to the previous 3 older A vintages. 01LC has best dense colour of all 4 of their wines tasted. Amazing rich full wine with iron notes that surprised your scribe who is anxious to try it against the star 00LC in the near future.

The two regions showed differently for sure. Angelus so impressive and certainly not “easy” or “quick-maturing” though already enjoyable. La Conseillante so elegant with “iron” notes of Pomerol mentioned by Broadbent for St.-Emilion and shows best where there is more riper luscious fruit to go with that structure. Not easy to capture their differing terroirs in just words. You have to experience it. Encourage you to do your own experimental comparisons of these two outstanding appellations. Enjoy!


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Ask Sid: What is meant by a wine being short?

January 9th, 2019
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short wine tasting

Question: At a wine tasting last week our group leader went on about two of the wines in the line-up being a bit short. What is that?

Answer: Yes wine nomenclature includes those words “short” and “long”. Not a height factor but a reference to the lingering  length (and often the amount of time) on the finish of the wine after you spit or swallow a mouthful. Don’t know what wines you were tasting but I wouldn’t get too hung up on those words – unless it refers to a short pour. A light delightful refreshing wine will always be shorter than a big dense more alcoholic one. So what? It depends on the style of the wine to a certain degree though lower grape yields with more concentration usually results in a wine with more length. An impressive lasting impression –short or long- is important no doubt. However, for me more important still in your assessment should be the balance of fruit, acid, tannins and alcohol. Does it all come together in an admirable way with elegance, texture and complexity inviting you to try another sip. Enjoy.

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Reflecting Back to 2018 on 3 Fascinating White Wines!

January 7th, 2019

January always calls for a nostalgic look back to some of the best wines tried during the previous year. Lots of Top Ten lists out there. Your scribe was most fortunate indeed to have enjoyed a plethora of so many outstanding wines during 2018. Thought it might be different and fun instead to pick out a random three whites with real special significance –

Alfred Tesseron

1. Bourgogne-Aligote Domaine D’Auvenay 2010: This was appropriately served by proprietor Alfred Tesseron (who decanted the wines himself) for a dinner at Chateau Pontet-Canet in Pauillac on May 14 with a first course of Bouquet d’Asperges du Jardin Gateau de Crabe Dormeur aux Legumes. It was a lovely inspired homage to Mme. Lalou Bize-Leroy who he respects and whose regime he has strictly followed himself. She is a strong believer in organic and biodynamic methods of production which she employed in her Burgundy vineyards from the beginning before it was fashionable. Remember when aligoté was so acidic that it could only be used as an appropriate white wine to be mixed with crème de cassis liqueur for an aperitif Kir. This special one of only about 60 cases from the intense 2010 vintage showed fresh, full, powerful concentration but with that inherent balance of lime acidity of this grape variety. Well done!


2. Meursault-Perrieres Lucien Le Moine 2016: It is always a mentally stimulating visit with Mounir Saouma of Lucien Le Moine at 1 Ruelle Morlot in Beaune. October 4 was no different starting with his lecture study of 2 glasses of Batard Montrachet 2005 both from the same magnum but one light coloured and vibrant (decanted with lots of air) and the other showing a dark golden look (not decanted). An informal wine tasting with continuous provocative firm opinions by Mounir followed (with interruptive questions by your scribe) of 14+ unique wines (including his 2016 Magis from the Rhone with 80% Grenache Blanc plus 26 months in wood). Impressed most by his young 2016 Perrieres that he compares to the Douro region in Portugal high on the hill with limestone & stones providing freshness and structure. Like his comment that “God was in a good mood when he created this site!” So complete complex balanced and long. What a future potential for this beautiful young wine.


3. Chateau Guiraud Sauternes 2008 en Imperiale: Brought out from cold storage by Olivier Bernard on a May 16 visit by your scribe to his Domaine de Chevalier in Bordeaux. Great visit with him as owner since 1983 and his Director Technique Remi Edange since 1985. This Grand Format bottle was first opened by Olivier for a party on April 9 and still had over 1/3 of this wine left in it. Surprised by two things – (a) the amazing amount of big tartaric crystals which Olivier attributed to his very cold storage in the frig, and (b) how fresh and alive the wine remained after being open for over 5 weeks. Olivier had purchased with 4 friends this Sauternes property back in 2006 from the previous Canadian owners the Narby family. Recalled the slow start of the vintage in 2008 with April mildew and how it is now being overshadowed by those ultra rich botrytis full 2009s. However this did show lots of exotic ripe apricot-mango fruit with that distinctive spicy peppermint touch from this property plus the fresh acidity of the contributing Sauvignon Blanc mix with Semillon. Amazing how underrated these Sauternes still are and how well they age – even after being open for a while!


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Ask Sid: Vintages ending in 9?

January 2nd, 2019
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wine vintage year number nine 9

Question: Happy New Year Sid. Aren’t vintages ending with 9 a sure bet?

Answer: Yes the quality reputation of vintages ending in 9 have had a very good run indeed. Bordeaux has those legendary years of 1959, 1949, 1929 and 1899. More recently 2009 and 1989 have turned out very well too. Others are not too bad either though 1969 was much weaker but made up for it with really excellent Burgundy – together with the outstanding 1999! Global warming with much stricter vineyard practices these days makes every vintage now more reliable but those ending in 9 such as this new year 2019 should be promising for sure. Happy 2019!

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