Question: What is happening with the St. Emilion classification?
Answer: Both Ausone & Cheval Blanc have opted out thereby throwing the present classification in St. Emilion into disarray. Further complications are arising because Domaine Clarence Dillon (Haut-Brion & La MIssion Haut-Brion) just acquired Grand-Pontet to combine with their Quintus (old Tertre Daugay) and L’Arrosee (outstanding 1961) properties – which regulations do not allow. The result in St. Emilion is that some of the best estates have withdrawn from the classification system yet are producing some of the very highest quality wines. A real dilemma that will have to be resolved.
On September 21, 2021 in Vancouver BC at Blue Water Cafe we celebrated the seventies and eighties as a wonderful period for old style classic cabernet in California. The focus was a 10 year vertical of historic Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ranging from 1974 to 1989. The event was possible through the generosity of knowledgeable longtime collector Dave Spurrell who had cellared all these bottles for many decades. He also provided a short history of the man Robert Mondavi born in Virginia Minnesota in 1913 and passed away at the age of 94 on May 16, 2008. Your scribe has had the pleasure of trying all these wines several times over the years but they now have become an important part of California wine history. We wondered how they were holding up presently. That 1974 is approaching 50 years of age! Though served as the first of ten this beauty shone so brightly. Lots of deepest dark young red colour exploding with that distinctive eucalyptus mint cedar bouquet and lots of life with elegance left even in standard 750 ml well stored. My last two experiences of this wine was in magnum even more remarkably fresh and age worthy. Remember buying the regular Mondavi cab 1974 (12.6 abv 91% CS, 5 Merlot, and 4 Cab Franc 24 months 3/4 French Nevers & 1/4 American oak) at the Washington State Liquor Board for a bargain price of $4.65. The Reserve was picked at 23.7 Brix for 13.6 abv using 86% CS & 14% Merlot with the same oak treatment for 30 months. Surprised to see the low score of 87 from Wine Spectator (but all scores were lower in those days) and similarly low for all the Reserve wines. Maybe because of bottle variation due to filtering experiments that were being done for 1974. The 1969 Unfined & 1970 Unfiltered both with 15% Cab Franc were forerunners for this style. The other wines were all solid and holding rather well: 75 leaner herbal, 76 100% CS aged rim, 77 drought year baked intense, 80 has 13% Merlot lighter forwardly. Second flight had 85 as group fav elegant under 13 alcohol again, 86 paler stylish with highest Cab Franc in this series at 12%, 87 fuller richer 2nd fav of second flight, 88 solid, 89 has 91 CS 9 Merlot. Volume increased from some 9000 cases back in 1974 to a norm a round 15000 cases in the eighties. Really like the lower alcohol cool fruit so drinkable easy style of those days. Robert Mondavi always commented that the 1974 vintage would have been outstanding if he had used 100% French oak which would have provided the wine with better finishing lift. He would be pleased to know that it is still terrific and is truly outstanding the way he made it. Congrats.
Question: How is the Champagne harvest looking for 2021?
Answer: Lots of concerns on the drastic drop of crop volumes in Champagne for 2021. Good report of September 10 by thedrinksbusiness.com here saying the extreme weather caused a 60% drop. The weather was called “challenging” with April frost (30%) and persistent rain leading to mildew (another 30%). However, the latest report from Harpers.Co.UK of September 21 here is more encouraging while quoting Philipponnat for a “classical” vintage “with crisp acidity” though “Pinot Meunier has caused growers the most headaches.” Still early days so for Champagne lovers it will be interesting to follow the progress of a unique 2021 vintage.
The Annual VanMag Restaurant Awards had been postponed and were delivered live on Instagram today September 20, 2021 at 2 pm by Neal Mclennan Food Editor of Vancouver Magazine. Not your usual classical awards with many categories for normal times but a short hybrid version limited to eight sections to recognize some of the industry leaders during this ongoing pandemic.Thoughtfully done focusing particularly on those who best managed take out orders and pivoting their business for the consumer’s convenience and culinary enjoyment. Presenting any awards at the present time is a delicate subject but this was well done indeed. Excellent summary write-up on the vanmag.com site here with all the details plus pick up the magazine. Congrats!
Question: I am a long time reader of your blog. My question is in regards to Bordeaux 2018 vintage to be released in BC Liquor Stores on September 25th. It has 3 parts and specifically about red wines only: 1) How do you rank 2018 Bordeaux among your favourite post-2000 vintages? 2) Do you have any favourite appellation(s) in this vintage? 3) What are your top three overall picks and what are your top three value picks?
Answer: 2018 Bordeaux shows the results of global climate change in a variable big ripe rich style vintage. Not as consistent and classic as 2005, 2010, or 2016 but more towards 2009 in style. Some excellent wines produced across the different appellations. Today was set for the media tasting for 2018 Bordeaux at BCLDB but cancelled for Pandemic safety concerns. Therefore your scribe is not your best advisor because I have not tasted Bordeaux 2018 wines after bottling – though some barrel samples. However that doesn’t stop me from recommending these: Grand Puy Lacoste Pauillac $190, Branaire-Ducru St. Julien $125, Lagrange St Julien $125, and best value La Gurgue Margaux $55. Good shopping at 8 am September 25!