June 22nd, 2020

This persistent Covid-19 pandemic has been well managed in British Columbia with restaurants allowed to re-open under stricter safety guidelines. Pleased to have attended my first return at Blue Water in Vancouver on June 16 for a delicious dinner matched with some pretty stellar top Bordeaux from the 1990 vintage. Their competent management and staff did an excellent job of putting eight of us together at one table appropriately spaced in their private Oceans room with the door to the outside open providing lots of fresh air. Nice conditions – well done! Fun to be social again in real time tasting and dining among friends. The dinner commenced with the delicate 2004 Krug vintage bubbles tagged by them as “Luminous Freshness” probably because this blend contains higher chardonnay 39% & pinot meunier 24% with lesser pinot noir 37% (2006 has 48% pinot noir). Lovely harmony with finesse forwardly drinking but somewhat atypical for Krug – watch for their release of that anxiously awaited phenomenal 2008!

The 1990 Bordeaux were celebrated on release and continue to be highly regarded while still often compared with their 1989 twin sister. Both vintages produced very large crops from hot opulent years with lower acidities. Today most of us feel that generally 1990 is more consistent and holding better at age 30 than 1989. However there are lots of great 1989s as well including those amazing 1989 Haut-Brion & La Mission Haut-Brion and Pichon Baron Wine Spectator Wine of the Year in 1992 – though their 1990 is spectacular as well. Clearly the Mouton & Pichon Lalande are richer and more complex from 1989 than in 1990. For reference your scribe featured here in this Blog on February 24, 2014 some interesting 1989 Bordeaux at 25 years of age and on February 22, 2016 compared in more detail these twin vintages of 1989 & 1990.

Ten 1990 top Bordeaux in 4 flights are memorable well paired with some brilliant food courses summarized briefly as follows:

1990 CHATEAU FIGEAC: A lovely example of this cabernet styled St. Emilion showing quite aged paling browner colour forwardly open of some attractive herbal notes improving with airing most ready to enjoy as an elegant claret.

1990 CHATEAU L’ANGELUS (as it was then known – now Angelus): Darkest dense almost black look with full rich concentrated fruit. Depth is so intense and impressive with no rush to drink at 30 still showing potential though already wonderful. What a strict selection of the best merlot & cab franc grapes most worthy of Premier Grand Cru status even before its elevation in 1996.

1990 BEAUSEJOUR DUFFAU-LAGARROSSE: Fairly dark with a paling rim. Fragrant bouquet is very stylish indeed with a long finish on an interesting enjoyment plateau this time edging a little closer to that controversial 100 point score than on my last couple visits with it. A legend.

1990 PICHON LALANDE: Light vintage because no press wine added plus the unsettling conditions with passing of May’s husband The General and the departure of the winemaker. Nonetheless this is the best bottle of the 1990 I have ever tasted. Expected the leanness but still surprised by the lasting terroir freshness there with this extended aging – quite lovely with the quail dish.

1990 CHATEAU PAPE CLEMENT: Dark look. Solid fruit but lacks in several bottles tried recently an overall charming excitement. Shows best here in this second flight but is flattered tonight by the easier company. Also better enjoyed with the food.

1990 CHATEAU LEOVILLE BARTON: Not the best bottle as unclean with some brett & TCA issues. Has those typical iodine notes too but there are excellent cassis very St. Julien classic usual bottles out there. Good luck.

1990 CHATEAU MONTROSE: Another 100 pointer that is very St. Estephe deep big powerful fruit with some of that coarser austerity still present. Impresses but not really singing yet though still believe this massive wine will be superb as old bones as it benefits with more cellar aging.

1990 CHATEAU PICHON BARON: Maybe wine of the night! Very dark and young looking. Rich full cigar-box cedar Pauillac. Enjoyed the showing of this wine with Christian Seely in a vertical at Terminal City Club Vancouver on February 28, 2014 and subsequently. Gets better on ever occasion. A treasure probably better than the celebrated also excellent 1989 “Wine of the Year”. A treat indeed.

1990 CHATEAU MARGAUX: First Growth breeding shines through in another 100 point wine. Sometimes underrated property because of this fine graceful Margaux styling but most deserving here. Really admire the violet flowers the fragrances and the pure elegance of cab sauvignon unique to this terroir. What an amazing flight of 3 beauties to enjoy served with top cuisine.

1990 CHATEAU DE FARGUES: Alexandre de Lur Saluces historic “museum” produces special low yields from late picking with a particularly powerful rich thick many flavoured Sauternes in 1990 the last of the trilogy of vintages. Fresh ripe pineapple fruit shines in both the wine and the dessert with hints of ginger, orange, caramel, and creme brulee crisp softness.

You might also like:

Ask Sid: Are the pinot noirs from Central Otago changing in style?

June 17th, 2020
Ask your question here
Ask Sid: Are the pinot noirs from Central Otago changing in style?

Question: I am a long time collector of pinot noirs from Central Otago but I am noticing a change in the style. Why is this?

Answer: Not quite sure what you mean by your question as to how they have changed in style – to a more preferred one for you or not? . Most vineyards around the world are experiencing some changes in climate. Believe Central Otago (a drier colder southern region of New Zealand) so far has been less affected than many other wine regions. However their future weather projections show a continuing warming trend with more extremes of rainfall. Presently one of their biggest wine changes has resulted from carefully determining the very best single vineyard sites for growing pinot noir plus the maturing of the vines over the past two decades. This has brought more complexity. Another important development has been the backing off on extraction techniques during fermentation resulting in less dark deep colour but most attractive floral aromatics in a balanced elegant pinot noir with a unique terroir. The future looks bright indeed.

You might also like:


June 15th, 2020

Your scribe is a long time admirer and close friend of May de Lencquesaing. She took over the controlling reins in July 1978 of Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande in Pauillac a Deuxieme Cru Bordeaux Official Classification of 1855. May’s conscientious management and hands-on dedication to quality wines resulted in super-second status for this property for nearly 30 years when sold in 2007 to Louis Roederer. What a brilliant run of vintages in the eighties from 1981 to 1989! Historic full round 1982 “was an easy hot ripe year” but classic 1983 “a constant battle” requiring her to miss an August vacation to be on site avoiding rot from the rains and protecting the vines from the red spider to achieve that fantastic “clean intensity”. May just celebrated her 95th birthday on May 17, 2020 in Stellenbosch South Africa at her Glenelly Estate producing excellent Bordeaux-style red blends led by flagship Lady May. Such fond memories of being with her at Pichon enjoying her 70th & 80th birthday celebrations. Thought it would be fun to get together on line with some of her longtime wine friends on June 10 to salute her valuable contributions plus relive so many exciting nostalgic memories. Nine hour time differences meant starting 10 am in Vancouver and 7 pm in South Africa with other participating zones in between. May showed up brightly on screen using brand new Zoom tech for the first time with her usual vibrant knowledgeable contributions to the event. We discussed many vintages including her first one 1978 where she “didn’t know yet how to control the vine selection but even though it is not a big wine still remains fresh vibrant with the aromatic quality of elegance & charm that is so very Pichon”. Delicious 1985, long aging structured 1986, bad beginning + good ending 1988 (weather similar to 1978) tannins late harvest, 1989 early pick September 11. Some pre-May vintages also intriguing with underrated 1975 (some coulure issues on the merlot) finally resolving those firm tannins and exquisite 1953 Nicolas bottling still elegantly singing with such a long finish. Memories of enjoying in Vancouver with May back in November 1986 both the 1962 & 1953 in unique Marie-Jeanne format (a three bottle size of 2.25 liters) now discontinued. At that time May compared “owning a vineyard is like owning a racehorse requiring high maintenance”. Asked her whether she still had this same opinion now at Glenelly. May replied “owners in South Africa are realizing the potential is there to make wines of very high quality”. There the Bordeaux grapes ripen at quite different times extending “picking over a longer 6-8 week period – less quickly than at Pichon – but though the problems are different the issues are similar with big challenges presented to produce the very top wine.”

On June 5 on Vinous Live the Pichon manager Nicolas Glumineau did a delightful presentation on their current releases. Since 2012 they have been replanting the vineyard at about 3 hectares every year increasing from roughly 50% cabernet sauvignon to 70% and reducing the merlot from 40 to 25. Your scribe asked him why they now were using less petit verdot in the blend. Though they used that elegant flavour enhancer of 6% petit verdot in the 2014 they are tending away from it as he “can’t quite understand it as a fragile variety” and prefers instead the use of more cab franc in the mix. Nicolas feels these changes will provide “more backbone to Pichon and deliver more of a Pauillac styled wine.”

We liked thinking back with May to that amazing retrospective tasting over 2 days in Los Angeles mid-November 1987 trying 1986 back to 1875 with a star flight the second one on the second day of 86, 85, 84, 83, 82, 81, 80, and 79 that prompted Harry Waugh to say “it was best of all flights”. All those were wines made by May! Riedel supplied for the very first time all the Bordeaux glasses for this tasting specially embossed on the base with “LOS ANGELES 14.-15. 11.1987”. What a keepsake! Pleased to report that May is well and thriving as a continuing wine legend. Look forward to a virtual tasting of Glenelly vintages with her this Fall. Check out her old style Pichon wines and her new exciting venture as well.

You might also like:

Ask Sid: Wine from Jacquere grape?

June 10th, 2020
Ask your question here
Wine from Jacquere grape?

Question: I was served last week a rather pleasant wine as an aperitif that I was told used the Jacquere grape. What was it?

Answer: Probably a refreshing white wine of lower alcohol from the Savoie region in France. Jacquere is the most planted grape variety there. It delivers light wines from higher yields showing fresh acidity from mountainous marl & limestone soils that are becoming popular – either as pure varietals or increasingly blended with other grapes to provide more flavour interest. Lovely aperitif or when paired with their melted cheese dish of Fondue Savoyarde. Also being utilized more recently in their newer Cremant de Savoie appellation.

You might also like:


June 8th, 2020

Another educational week of wine webinars with considerable focus on California insights. Elaine Chukan Brown explored some interesting Zins from Lodi AVA with Tegan Passalacqua (Turley wines) explaining how generally vineyards on the east side have red fruit brightness with finesse of more minerals compared to the west side darker style of broader earthy characteristics. Vinous Live had two fascinating sessions on emerging wine districts. Firstly relatively unknown Moon Mountain in the Mayacamas mountains on the Sonoma side led by pioneer consultant Phil Coturri (Simons & Valley House), plus principals from B Wise, Silver Cloud, Lasseter Trinity Ridge, Moon Mountain (formerly Glen Ellen) and Kamen. Secondly the Araujo family of Bart, Daphne, Jaime, and Greg who sold in 2013 to Francois Pinault (Ch. Latour, Ch. Grillet, and Dom. d’Eugenie) but are back up running with several projects looking for more structure in the wines including rugged Upper Range not in an AVA but planted in 1990 off the Silverado Trail up behind Caymus west of Pritchard Hill.

On June 4, 2020 the Napa Wine Academy by Peter Marks MW presented a useful basic overview of the cabernet sauvignon grape variety especially in detail on the 3 main wine growing regions in California but with comparisons of the expression from around the world. A brief summary of some of their points made include:

CABERNET SAUVIGNON (CS): Smaller size berries with thick skins high phenolics that generally needs a warmer climate to ripen. Ranges from cooler green bell pepper red currants to riper black currant, black cherry herbal notes (including jammy when over-ripe). Canopy protection from the sun and appropriate soils like well drained gravel important. Develop cigar box, tobacco, mushrooms, leather, earth forest floor.

NAPA: Long history – Detailed explanation of now 16 AVAs with CS 51.9% but 70% by value averaging $8000/Ton. 33 soil types. Consistent. From round & supple on the valley floor to powerful rich blackberry cherry plum balanced styles.

SONOMA: Diverse with 60+ varieties with 85% family owned over 17-18 AVAs. 12,628 acres of CS mostly valley floor but creeping up the hillsides. Cooler influenced by Pacific Ocean fogs and breezes. More rain than Napa and more vintage variation. Soils vary. Alexander Valley higher elevation picking 2 weeks later balanced blackberry aromas supple tannins broad softer style & Knights Valley most remote powerful fleshy with nuanced complexity.

PASO ROBLES: First AVA in 1983 and 3 times larger than Napa known for Zin. 200+ wineries now mostly family owned with 49% CS. Distinct micro-climates and wide diurnal swings in temperatures. 30 soil types with granite and more shale calcareous clay in the west allowing dry farming. East side of the 101 warmer with west side steeper hillsides longer hang time resulting in concentrated riper softer tannins and warming alcohol. Are now getting more elegant style of CS.

WASHINGTON STATE: History with 14 AVAs over 70 varieties. Northerly shorter season but 16 hours sunlight in summer compared to 15 in Napa. Lots of own rootstocks. Describe style as purple high alcohol acidity with firm tannins not fully mature resulting in dark earthy cassis, chocolate mint, herbs, less elegant more foursquare vs. Napa. Expect global climate change.

BORDEAUX: CS Left Bank & Merlot Right Bank. Some expensive classified growths but average Bordeaux bottle price under $7. Maritime climate (vs Napa Mediterranean) cold wet Winters, Spring frosts, hot humid Summers. Wide vintage variation. Soils high gravel on the Left Bank suits CS with sun reflecting. High tannins angular earthy some brett more acidty black currants with licorce and tobacco. Blends with cab franc providing violet perfumes and petiti verdot spice.

ITALY: Tuscany Super Tuscans with CS adding richness to acidic Sangiovese. Bolgheri sand clay and rocky alluvial. Maremma much warmer clay & sand with loam & clay limestone multi sized pebbles. Deep colour balanced but softer acidity ripe cherry black currant oaky earthy tobacco clove delicious young but capable of aging.

CHILE: No phylloxera. 32% CS from 800 wineries (80% controlled by 4 of them). Climate more east to west with coastal to mountains. Healthy fruit exuberant cherry plum menthol medicinal mocha vanilla baking spices often over-oaked getting better.

ARGENTINA: Altitude often 3000 feet but up to 10000 in Salta. Low rainfall needing irrigation by snow melt & drip. CS third most behind Malbec & Bonarda (Charbono in California). Often high pH & lower acidity dark fruits intense, voluptuous, sweet vanilla from new oak (not tobacco) fleshy approachable. Do they age?

AUSTRALIA: Coonawarra 55% CS terra rossa soils iron oxide clay Maritime cold winter frosts. European structure usually 100% CS variety rich tannins crisp acidity dark sweet fruits eucalyptus mint austere. Margaret River 47% CS granite gravel schist Mediterranean old vines innovative vineyard management machine harvest irrigation required no phylloxera. Old world blends perfumed and elegant fine tannins more Bordeaux-like red currant restrained cassis tobacco mint.

NEW ZEALAND: 800 acres. Gimblett Gravels area of Hawkes Bay red & black fruits with power and elegance spice and tomato leaf.

SOUTH AFRICA: Stellenbosch & Paarl. Cape blends with one foot in old world and one in new world. Distinctive iodine South Africa character of CS.

You might also like:
Skip to toolbar