Question: What is the current buzz on a just released very expensive English bubble?
Answer: Yes there has been a buzz created this month by the 2014 Gusbourne Fifty One Degrees North Traditional Method English Sparkling wine released at the highest price of £195/bottle. They produced about 4000 bottles from 8 different parcels grown in Kent (clay & sandstone) and West Sussex (chalk & flint) of rich textured 2/3 Chardonnay & 1/3 Pinot Noir that spent an impressive 80 Months on the lees. Credentials of a prestigious Champagne with a price to match pushing the $ ceiling on previous top British sparklers including the likes of Chapel Down’s Kit’s Coty, Coates & Seely, Nyetimber, and Ridgeview. Will be interesting to see how this affects the upcoming releases from Pommery (with Hattingley Valley) and Taittinger’s Domaine Evremond.
Your scribe goes back a long way with this remarkable Bordeaux property of Chateau Grand Puy Lacoste in Pauillac. Clearly remember my visit to the region in 1970 tasting their exciting still young impressive 1961 (9 years old) with Rene Barriere of Barriere Freres but on his recommendation bought instead a case of “long distance runner” very best value 1966. Also bought as well for a song at that time his exclusive 1961 Chateau L’Eglise Clinet Pomerol. Those were the good old days. Met for the first time the then gourmet owner Raymond Dupin who arrived promptly by helicopter to his locked up Chateau for our 4:00 pm rendezvous back from one of his frequent visits to Paris for a special lunch. Property of 55 hectolitres in one block on the Bages plateau near two other 5th growth neighbours with Lynch Bages to the west & Pontet Canet to the South. He personally chose Jean-Eugene Borie (of Ducru-Beaucaillou) in 1978 to buy his property and carry on before passing away in 1980. The Borie family (especially sons Francois-Xavier & later Bruno) were instrumental in immediate renovations with upgrades including even more in 2004 & 2016. In the earlier days you could count on GPL for earlier picking good acidity and a property which especially thrived in warmer vintages (though disappointing 2003). The Bories generally picked later with richer riper balanced fruit yet capturing that classic Pauillac styling. Look at the successes of 2014-2016 & their most recent vintages which all are excellent.
September 21, 2022 was another occasion to assess 9 vintages over 28 years of GPL ranging from 1982 to 2010 paired with some brilliant food courses presented by the talented crew at famed Boulevard restaurant in Vancouver. Check my earlier posting on GPL September 21, 2015 on this Blog and linked below.
1982 GPL: First time 2nd label Lacoste-Borie produced. Outstanding grape selection in this celebrated vintage produced the wine value of the year. Shows complex cedar cigar-box lead pencil textbook terroir bouquet with complete black currants smooth fruit – though less stellar in one bottle variation. Now on mature best plateau of brilliant drinking enjoyment.
1986 GPL: Deeper darker look than 1982 but less forthcoming reluctant nose with powerful structure and rich fruit intensity plus some grippy tannins left on palate. Classic but youthful so patience is required. Unlikely to see this great old style vintage currently or ever again due to climate changes.
1995 GPL: Bright deep dark almost purple shows elegant styling & fresh lively tighter fruit in a broad earthy sense as affected by Fall rains (1996 is more concentrated). Lovely matched with duck & foie gras course.
2000 GPL: Warmer roasty spicy cassis with licorice is attractive and best element. Seems rather modern full fruit but is softer and more rustic approachable than expected. Enjoy.
2002 GPL: Less celebrated year with less ripeness drew expectations of leaner cranberry herbs green olives forest floor styling. However, though this is lighter it is delightful now rating surprise of the night when paired with wild mushroom gnochetti.
2005 GPL: Wow! What a classic. Perfect combo of ripe concentrated fruit (75+% cabernet sauvignon) balanced with ideal acidity levels & velvety tannins. Delicious already but greater heights will be reached with further cellaring. Your scribe’s wine of the night – but Group favs were close vote between 1982 & 1986 both also IMHO outstanding – though have had better bottles 1982 GPL.
2006 GPL: Vintage showing similar to recent 2006 horizontal written up here on September 12, 2022 in that more tannic style. Difficult indeed to follow the amazing 2005 but serviceable and better showing with the Prime beef.
2009 GPL: Exceptional year for Bordeaux and this property with super blend 80/18/2 of Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Cab Franc. Very deep dark colour offering wonderful showy charming sweet fruit plus minerals & tar (though some suggest “porty”) with concentrated generous opulent textures yet has amazing elegant freshness for this hot year.
2010 GPL: Deep more classic in defining the Pauillac terroir better than 2009 showing the beginning of cedar cigar-box lead pencil so prominent in the 1982 with a touch of tobacco. Racy layered solid core of fruit plus more noticeable acid & tannins with structure. Needs time to develop. Buy & cellar.
Excellent GPL update (only missing other top vintages in this range of 1990 & 1996). Encourage you to open older bottles and buy current vintages to experience this unique well managed good value Pauillac. Please let us know which vintages you admire and are enjoying.
Question: Are there any new ideas being developed to prevent frost damage in vineyards?
Answer: Yes. Good topical question. Especially in Chablis which suffered bad Spring frosts in both 2021 & 2022 and other wine regions they have come up with some new pruning techniques with more careful timing. They are pruning the vines later to help retard early budding due to climate change which though won’t prevent all frost damage should help lessen the extent of it.
We are fortunate to have an annual visit to Vancouver by my long-time friend Bill Blatch. Bill started in Bordeaux way back in 1974 (nearly 50 years ago) but has become the highly respected (yet so modest) authority on so many Bordeaux wine trade matters which include his valuable daily record of weather conditions for his Vintage Report each year. He seems to know every wine property there in amazing detail including all the value priced Cru Bourgeois and Sauternes. What a resource of important key information. Now Bill is the International Wine Consultant for Christie’s based in Bordeaux but previously he was with Vintex supplying many Bordeaux Futures to the British Columbia Liquor Distribution Branch and helping Barbara Philip MW responsible for selection choose wisely. Bill continues to come back to BC regularly (he loves the salmon fishing) and provides helpful background information to BCLDB store key employees on the current Bordeaux releases. This year it is the 2019 Bordeaux vintage scheduled for sale on November 19, 2022.
Doug Eakins of Les Chevaliers takes advantage of Bill’s visits to organize a Bordeaux wine tasting for his group inviting your scribe to help with the presentation. Previously on this Blog here on October 5,2015 we reviewed the 2003 Vintage and other tastings subsequently like Clos du Marquis St. Julien vertical & 2000 Vintage horizontal were all most insightful. This year on September 14, 2022 was the opportunity for an exciting update tasting of all three Leovilles held appropriately at Herve Martin’s French Table with a superb dinner of home grown beet salad, Beef Bourguignon, and cheeses to follow: Bill opened with a historical look way back when Domaine de Leoville was one Estate before the French Revolution then in 1826 Hugh Barton bought 47 hectares and in 1840 Poyferre split off 60 hectares leaving Las Cases with the remaining 97. Today LB is situated behind the town of St. Julien heading West towards Talbot, LP has underrated terroir, and LLC has choice land adjoining Latour. They showed their similarities of the St.Julien AC but also their differences:
1986 LEOVILLE POYFERRE: Replanting with Didier Cuvelier who took over in 1979 and consultant Emile Peynaud. Briary, “sous bois” forest floor mushroom notes with bramble fruit. Elegant, charming, lovely balanced drinking now. Bill noted that 1986 was “a hot Summer but Fall not good resulting in less successful Merlot but late ripening Cabernet Sauvignon shone in St. Julien & Pauillac.”
1986 LEOVILLE BARTON: Year Ronald Barton died during this 3rd vintage of Anthony Barton. Wine was backward for a long time but starting to evolve (“loosen-up”) as bouquet shows licorice subtle “iodine” medicinal blackcurrants. Powerful dense intensity of fruit with tannins in an older style but less charm presently. Always such a great value property!
1988 LEOVILLE BARTON: Lighter (“cool August resulting in a later vintage”) racy with more acidity from perhaps the last classic vintage is improving with food.
1995 LEOVILLE BARTON: Bill calls “1995 a Merlot year with a hot dry Summer with Fall rain” compared to “1996 a Cabernet vintage with better heat”. Michel Rolland took over as consultant in 1994 using more new oak and built a new cellar. Rich red fruits robust yet with smoother softer tannins almost a textbook St. Julien in harmony. Excellent.
1995 LEOVILLE LAS CASES: Probably the best St. Julien property (though Ducru-Beaucaillou has remarkable distinct terroir too). Fuller riper blackberries with minerals has real depth that impresses. Almost Pauillac-like. No rush. Not as powerful as 1996. Outstanding.
2001 LEOVILLE LAS CASES: Bill believes “a cool dry September not beaten down by the sun made the vintage in this reserved style.” Low yields of 32hl/ha less than 2000 (43hl/ha) helps display typical LLC intense elegance for a long life ahead. Like the lead-pencil cassis complexity already showing. Classy.
2001 LEOVILLE POYFERRE: Can be be very good but these two bottles strange rather light quite cheesy and the disappointing wine of the tasting.
2002 LEOVILLE POYFERRE: “June, July & August dry & cool (no sun) but not wet then harvested in September sun (but not hot sun).” Challenging year gives that earthy menthol not totally ripe style but still admirable and enjoyable drinking. Not 3 best vintages for LP. This property has improved substantially in the last 20 years (though an excellent 1982) with more cab sauv planted and big success 2009, 2010, 2015, 2016.
2003 LEOVILLE LAS CASES: “Hot early harvest” gives rounder opulent riper figs and sweet tobacco notes with a touch of dark chocolate. 2003 Clos de Marquis showed excellent in that vertical and expectations for LLC are met here for this unique vintage. Delicious.
Question: What is the latest on the reclassification in St. Emilion?
Answer: Yes I answered this same question here on September 29, 2021 referring to substantial changes coming in the future to the 2012 ranking. However your question is most topical because the INAO has just released the new 2022 classification. Pleased to see Figeac raised to the highest level of Premier Grands Crus Classe A joining Pavie with 12 other Premier Grand Crus (not A) and 71 Grands Crus Classe. Promoted to this latter Group is Montlabert with an old Canadian connection where your scribe first stayed way back in 1970. It was profiled on this Blog here on April 26, 2021. There is an excellent update on the new classification posted on wine-searcher.com. plus cluboenologique.com with more details and reactions.