Archive for September, 2019

Top older Bordeaux vintages relative bargains drinking well at maturity

September 30th, 2019

The classified growths from Bordeaux of the 2016 & 2015 vintages are in the marketplace showing impressive quality and cellar worthiness. Tempting to buy. However the prices still remain very high and most of these wines will develop further complexity with patience for more time in bottle. For current use it is prudent to consider buying proven mature vintages of properties that are drinking well presently and are more reasonably priced than their current releases. Though proper storage can be an issue with bottle variation there are good finds available from a variety of sources that ship world wide including Benchmark Wine Group in Napa, JJ Buckley, K&L, Envoyer Fine Wines, Vins Rare and many more. All of this was brought into acute focus after two recent dinners featuring older Bordeaux wines.

Firstly on September 17 a horizontal of the 1989 vintage at 30 years of age. Always brilliant to start with exciting Krug bubbles though 1998 somewhat atypical finesse year with highest chardonnay at 45% (balance of red grapes pinot noir 35 & meunier 20). First flight started with a mystery wine of Vieux Chateau Certan showing iron-paper notes of Pomerol so different Right Bank terroir character from all the Left Bank that followed. Surprise was the dark young impressive Meyney solid St Estephe value even if slightly rustic compared with concentrated big needing time Montrose. Palmer is a buy that challenges 1983 for complex quality and so elegantly styled flowery perfumes on both bouquet and palate. Second flight found Pichon Lalande dark colour well balanced a winner over browning Baron and stellar cedar Pauillac bouquet of often underrated Mouton. Both P-L & Mouton made much better wine in 1989 over their 1990. Buy 1989. Third flight featured classy big always expensive Latour but your scribe left wanting more ripe plums and not as delicious for now as Palmer & P-L.

Secondly on September 23 a cellar treasures selection of Bordeaux from the eighties and nineties. Unusual order as unanimous WOTN was served first of all with again reliable vintage 1989 for outstanding no rush Lynch-Bages (much preferred over tannic 1986). Not such a bad idea as it gave you a high standard reference initially to compare all wines that followed plus the privilege of going back to it. Next perhaps the best drinking one currently was the fragrant intense Rausan-Segla 1990. Others all enjoyable currently too with unctuous full Clinet 1995 Pomerol, and dark drier slumbering Grand Puy Lacoste 1996. Next flight less dramatic but delicious supple mature Cantemerle 1983 (better than their 1982), surprising lovely subtle Pavie-Decesse 1982 under former J-P Valette management chalky limestone soil higher up the hill than Pavie, and easy simpler softer one dimensional Pichon Baron 1985.
Mature Bordeaux is unique to itself and can be a real joy to experience – especially with food! Consider using some of your wine budget to buy older readier now bottles to enjoy currently.


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Ask Sid: Wine grape & cheese with the same name both from Italy?

September 25th, 2019
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pecorino italy grape cheese

Question: Is there a wine grape and cheese in Italy both with the same name?

Answer: Yes indeed. That would be Pecorino! It is a white wine grape variety grown in the Eastern coastal regions of Italy. Pecorino is also the name of an Italian cheese made from sheep’s milk from the Italian word “pecora” meaning sheep.

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September 23rd, 2019

The 2016 vintage of Bordeaux is set for release at BC Liquor Stores on Saturday September 28, 2019. It is a frustrating one day early morning line-up to get a chance to buy some 216 different choices of which 89 are either one or two bottle limits. What about coming into the 21st century with using e-commerce? Once again Barbara Philip MW Category Manager has done an excellent job in securing such a diverse selection of wines at all price ranges. The most expensive is Chateau Petrus Pomerol at $3500 Canadian followed by First Growths all at $1500 including Haut-Brion, Lafite, Margaux, and Mouton but also Lafleur & La Mission Haut-Brion Blanc (red is less at $950 and Haut-Brion Blanc is $1800). At the other end there are some very reasonably priced value bottles all at $25 of Jouanin (Cotes de Castillon), Roc Meynard (Bx Superieur), and Saint-Bernard (Bx). Hard to believe you can actually buy 140 bottles of those making an instant cellar rather than just one bottle of Petrus! Lots of good choices at in between prices.

At a small media preview held on September 18 your scribe had another opportunity to taste this now bottled vintage. After the high quality big powerful 2015 vintage (that some felt favoured Merlot) comes the equally impressive fresh more vibrant structured 2016 (some felt favoured Cab Sauv) with some nice uniformity across the board that is most helpful for purchasing consumers. 2016 does deliver intensity with elegance and attractive layers of flavour approachability. Full bodied Fronsac de la Dauphine $50 has attractive full-bodied 90% rich Merlot with 10% Cab Franc. Poujeaux is a value buy at $70 with wonderful deep seductive fruit from the underrated Moulis region. Both at $180 the Beychevelle surprised with buckets of ripe fruit from equal 47% of both Merlot & Cab Sauv (but preferred another St Julien Saint-Pierre $130 from old vines structured with more Cab Sauv at 73%) while personal fav over the years Grand Puy Lacoste has more blackberry cedar elegant Pauillac styling. Haut-Bailly $250 has really come into its own in recent years and the 2016 is another stellar success. Enjoyed comparing Cos d’Estournel $380 to Chateau Margaux $1500. The former received the perfect 100 point score from Wine Advocate but the more expensive Margaux only 99. Attractive but somewhat atypical Cos was almost too elegant for what you expect from St. Estephe terroir while the Margaux combined sensational balance of fruit, acid and tannins with delicacy – what a potential!

Certainly yet another vintage of Bordeaux worth considering at all levels while waiting for the almost legendary already 2018s still in cask.

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Ask Sid: What is the style of 2017 Chablis?

September 18th, 2019
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2017 chablis wine

Question: 2017 Chablis are arriving in the wine shops so what is your opinion on the style and quality of them?

Answer: Visited in Vancouver yesterday with Luc Bouchard of William Fevre tasting several examples of 2017 & 2016. They describe 2017 Chablis  as “a vintage full of elegance, very fruity, and excellent minerals with a lot of freshness & precision.” Luc says it will be a vintage that “should develop and age well”. Your scribe liked the intensity from lower yields showing more vibrant acidity balance in the 2017 compared to the rich full softer 2016 style. Check them out.

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CELLARBRATION: What Hospitality With Wine Education!

September 16th, 2019

Long time IWFS members and major contributors to the development of the Vancouver wine and food scene celebrated their birthdays & anniversary in grand style on September 8. Alice & David Spurrell invited some 50+ friends for a wine tasting & dinner in what was truly a “Cellarbration”. Everyone was in a good mood extending to the Spurrells all their best wishes and blown away with the remarkable quality of the older wines served. Originally they generously planned to open 100 bottles but wisely brought that total down to the 70 listed on the program set out in 4 separate rooms of their home. The aged wines were in such fine shape and so drinkable (with only one corked wine 1975 Chateau La Lagune) that 59 were more than sufficient (plus one more delicious top vintage 2001 Chateau Suduiraut). Treasures of Gruaud-Larose, Lafite, & Latour listed were not needed and saved for another occasion. Out of the 60 wines your scribe tasted 21 were from California & 39 from Bordeaux. Most delighted were the 4 top sommeliers from local restaurants skillfully opening the bottles at their table all with very old drying out cork closures (not a screw-top in sight) and some with difficulty requiring a Durand. Well done indeed. What a wonderful opportunity for them and everyone else attending to receive a Masterclass in older “Bordeaux-style” wines. Much excitement for all and a lifetime experience so well learned!

The California selection were all from the seventies a grand decade for old style cab. Both the 1977 & 1976 vintages expressed the noteable drought conditions of those years. However 1976 Ridge Montebello was stellar from 100% cab combining both young & old vines coming in at an elegant 12.7 alcohol. Fun to compare it with 100% cab from 1978 Ridge Jimsomare with the least “Bordeaux-like” styling showing a ripe big alcoholic 15.3 finish. Other 1978s showed well led by structured stylish Mt. Veeder Bernstein (also intense softer savoury 1975 B. and concentrated regular), solid Stags’ Leap Wine Cellars and classic Villa Mt. Eden. Highly rated 1974 lived up to reputation with that still singing complex Mondavi Reserve (more depth in mini-vertical of 75, 76, 77) as did American oak BV Reserve and intense lovely Mount Veeder Napa. Again educational to compare Napa, Sonoma, & South San Francisco Bay styles.

Red Bordeaux selection was simply spectacular! All 1979 or older so in that earlier picked ageable style that ended with 1988. Wines generally now produced riper with softer tannins and less acidity. All communes were represented:

POMEROL 2: Two key “iron” terroir examples with both delicious powerful 1978 Certan de May & surprisingly fresh 1970 Clos Rene.

ST. EMILION 5: Led by historic 1961 L’Arrosee (convinced Haut-Brion to buy the property) in mini-vertical with lighter 1970 & exquisite balanced acidity of 1966 plus herbal distinctive 1978 Figeac and more controversial 1964 Ausone – some loved but some found rustic/cellary.

PESSAC-LEOGNAN 1: What a representative with those aggressive tannins of 1975 now coming into balance with that brilliant concentrated old style La Mission fruit!

LUDON 2: Of course it was La Lagune from that region but a corked 1975 and 1978 miracle year in typical greener style but a touch musty. Not the best showing for this usually fine property.

MARGAUX 6: All wines were excellent. 4 year mini-vertical Palmer shone with stylish elegant 1970 and ever improving powerful 1975 (heading to become another 1928?) with tannins finally softening. Lively 1978 & higher acid 1979 also beauties in a lighter display. Mature 1978 Margaux exciting to compare with the Palmer 1978 and both holding their own style well. 1966 Giscours coarser but underrated long distance runner of that vintage.

ST. JULIEN 5: Some beauties here with two 1961s Beychevelle & Leoville Barton (also 1978) plus bit earthy bottle of usually better Las Cases 1979. Talbot 1966 was still carrying on after 50 years but not the brillance of sibling Gruaud-Larose 1966.

PAUILLAC 9: Probably the favourite region of the group. Some good comparisons of both vintages and chateaux. Four labels of Mouton are always interesting to study and special to drink. 1979 the surprise with complex fruit in an open stunning cedar bouquet with 1978 more herbal toned, 1975 more mature than some bottles tried recently but very Mouton while off year 1969 very browning colour drying out but nose still had enticing interest. May de Lencquesaing’s 1978 & 1979 Pichon showed as expected with wonderful balance and Lynch Bages both solid with 1979 good length above the reputation of the vintage yet again. Old style Pontet-Canet can be good as 1966 showed and of course current Alfred Tesseron examples are mind bending.

ST. ESTEPHE 8: Also a good AC showing with three mini-verticals of the top properties there. Showed their unique common more austere styling from clay soils but each property distinctly different. Montrose big rich powerful with a good bottle of the variable 1975, still fresh 1979 (another good 1979); Cos lighter than Montrose not going through their best period at that time; and Calon-Segur super adorable “heart label” is a slow developer needing more decanting time but still most admirable. 1961 & 1966 both impress.

SAUTERNES 1: Hard to beat that top intense vintage 2001 with Suduiraut.

Most memorable Cellarbration by an amazing couple! Your scribe’s 5 favs among many outstanding beauties were: 1961 L’Arrosee, 1979 Mouton Rothschild, 1974 Mondavi Reserve, 1975 La Mission Haut Brion, and 1970 Palmer. Doubt the range of these generous rich treasures of wine cellar gems could ever be repeated. Many thanks and many more birthdays & anniversaries.


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