Jacques Meganote, a researcher at INRA in Bordeaux, has collected samples from the tendrils the vines in the region have shot out already this year. Using a complex blend of mass spectronomy, DNA analysis, carbon dating, and weather history, he is able to forecast the quality of the vintage that has yet to be harvested–in fact, the vintage that has yet to grow a grape. The program is called “Bordeaux shoots and scores.”
“We are certain to 99% level that our forecast is accurate,” Meganote said. “We have been collecting it privately for five years now and this is the first time we have released the data.”
After two vintages widely praised, the Bordeaux wine trade will doubtless like his forecast for Bordeaux 2011.
“The concentration in the berries will be superb. This looks like a vintage that possesses both power and elegance. It will be a vintage of the century. Truly, a 99 point vintage.”
The next step in the program will be to pre-score individual wines.
Jancis Robinson floated a novel idea on her website last week: what if critics, who descend on Bordeaux shortly to taste 2010 barrel samples, withheld their scores until the Bordeaux trade had finished their pre-sale campaign (known as en primeur)? The logic is that high scores for what is already an extremely hyped vintage would only drive prices higher.
Predictably, Robert Parker of the Wine Advocate and Tom Matthews of Wine Spectator poured cold water on the idea, as republished on Jancis’ site. Given that this is a classic prisoner’s dilemma, if Jancis admirably remains silent while other critics publish, it only hurts her since she loses influence. The embargo would only work if all critics agree to remain silent, which is not tenable in the real world, where there’s an incentive for each critic to publish first, getting his or her views circulating, and driving the discussion. Suckling often did that when he was at Wine Spectator getting in to tastings before the crowds of the en primeurs tastings and publishing his report more or less immediately (Parker’s report usually comes out after en primeurs, at the end of April).
Although it’s unworkable, would an embargo from critics serve to bring en primeur prices down? Perhaps, especially in less anticipated vintages such as 2008, which was also being pre-sold during an economic meltdown. Although still an important part of the Bordeaux sales machine, critics’ scores may not as important as brands themselves as this Liv-Ex analysis shows.
If you missed the Japanese remake of Sideways, check the trailer above. Glad the dump bucket scene was included! For more details, check out the Wine Economist’s post who says that they changed several key plot details, notably making it a paean to Cabernet, not Pinot.
CONQUERED: world wine bars
The Bordeaux wine trade unveils a plan to boost sales of lower priced wines from the region. A part of that is opening wine bars selling only Bordeaux in London, NYC and Hong Kong. I can hear the dust falling in the NYC one already! [theaustralian.com.au]
SIPPED: bargain bubbly?
Champagne under $20? A blogger explores who makes the Kirkland Champagne at Costco ($19.99). [Goodcheapvino.com]
SIPPED: honey laundering
Off topic, but check out this fascinating story about fraud in the world of honey. [Globe & Mail]
Chateau Lafite-Rothschild added the Chinese character for “8″ on their 2008 bottles. Mouton-Rothschild added a painting by a Chinese artist to their 2008s. What could the Bordelais do next?
Behold: Cuvée 88888888, the Grand Vin from the Premier Cru Classé, Chateau Laftourongaux!
Thanks Beijing Boyce and Jean-Luc for the suggestions!
First, Lafite announced that the mandarin character for “8,” considered a lucky number in China, would appear on bottles of their 2008s.
Now, Mouton has announced that art by the Chinese artist Xu Lie will adorn their 2008 labels. The signature Mouton ram is sandwiched between two halves of a moon adorned with grapes.
According to decanter.com, prices of the wine were £1,800 a case last fall before the rumor of a Chinese label. Now, they say, prices are £6,000 per case (about $10,000; a search wine-searcher free version yielded only results for Mouton-Cadet).
Who’s pulling the wool over whose eyes?
Above – Patricia and Pierre Bernault from Chateau Beauséjour whose wines are now available in the US market for the first time as of five days ago. On the left, Pascal Collotte of Chateau Jean Faux.
Enthusiasts of French wine often either love Burgundy or Bordeaux. For Daniel Johnnes, who imports many Burgundies as well as organizing the annual celebration of fine and rare Burgundy known as La Paulée, it’s pretty clear where his allegiance lies. The only catch: he’s just started importing Bordeaux.
I stopped by his tasting on Tuesday at Terroir Tribeca where the handful of new wines he’s importing were on display. Of note, the charismatic vigneron Pascal Collotte makes a solid red (merlot-cabernet franc) and a rosé from his 30 acres in the Entre-Deux-Mers region; The Bernaults, of the 30-acre Chateau Beauséjour in Montaigne-Saint-Emilion, make a merlot-cabernet franc blend from 45 year-old vines.
Here’s how Johnnes (right) describes his new venture, sourcing Bordeaux from outside the traditional négociant system.
“My goal was to break away from the pack that is bashing Bordeaux. The cool thing now is to love natural wine from the Loire. I’ve seen some sommelier friends do high fives over the fact that neither one has been to Bordeaux. But not all natural wines from the Loire are good, just as not all Bordeaux wines are bad.
These Bordelais are small growers, with a similar respect for the land as in Burgundy. They act as minimally as possible: the wines are unfiltered, low yields, with minimal handling and sulfur.
That’s hard, especially at these prices–you’re not going to get this level from California at this price ($12-$30).
I’m not going over to the dark side, I’m just saying “open your eyes and keep an open mind.”
Robert Parker posted his reviews of Bordeaux 2009 yesterday on his subscription web site, erobertparker.com. In an article entitled “Once Upon a Time (1899, 1929, 1949, 1959, 2009),” he lavished praise on the vintage, particularly the cabernet blends of the left bank, and on many wines individually: 21 wines received scores of potentially 100 points. He wrote, “For some Médocs and Graves, 2009 may turn out to be the finest vintage I have tasted in 32 years of covering Bordeaux.” Many were accompanied by an asterisk, which indicate that they are the best wine from the estate that he has ever tasted as a barrel sample. For the number-obsessed, Bordeauxoverview has put together a grid of all the critics’ scores.
Of course, tasting is a matter of opinion and others have expressed their views (captured, in part, in our tweet roundup). Writing in the Financial Times, Jancis Robinson compared the ripeness and high alcohols she experienced to California, remarking “I have never written the word “Napa” so often in my tasting notes.” Parker, by contrast, praised the best Medocs for being “powerful and concentrated” and hailed them “historic.” He dismissed reports of high alcohol as being mostly “absurd.”
Tim Atkin, a British writer, put together a very skimmable report (here as pdf) calling the vintage “great but not uniform.” John Gilman had a similar view, adding that 2009 was a “fantastic” vintage for Sauternes. In his subscription newsletter, Gilman observed two stylistic camps among the top reds, one epitomized by Lafite that is suave and seductive from the get-go, and another, more structured style requiring bottle aging, embodied by Latour and Petrus.
There is a great deal of consensus about the first growths Lafite-Rothschild, Margaux, Latour and Haut-Brion. Mouton-Rothschild was a notch below for most tasters; Tim Atkin compared it to a Chilean carmenere and gave it 94 points.
However, some flash points have emerged, most notably Cos d’Estournel. Parker gave it a score of 98-100 with an asterisk calling it “extraordinary…one of the greatest young wines I have ever tasted” while Neal Martin who also writes for the Wine Advocate, lamented the alcohol level, compared it to a wine from the Douro, and scored it 89-91. Tim Atkin noted the 14.5% alcohol on the label, called it over-the-top, compared it to an Australian shiraz and gave it 95 points. John Gilman wrote that the was “one of the worst young wines I have ever had to taste, as it displays an utter contempt for both the history of its region and the intelligence of its clients…I cannot imagine having to drink it. This is a train wreck of monumental proportions. 67-68 points.”
The prices on futures will roll out in the next few weeks/months. Hit the comments with your thoughts on Lafite!
Only, it’s not so cynical according to Mike Steinberger’s posting from yesterday on Slate. While he admits he really likes some Bordeaux, he finds the charm and character of the smaller scale vineyards of Burgundy more rewarding at many levels, including in the glass.
In a nutshell, he says: “In Burgundy, wine is still wine; in Bordeaux, it has been reduced to a number…all those Pomerols and Pauillacs could just as easily be pork bellies. This may be the reality of Bordeaux, circa 2010, but I find it pretty dispiriting.”
I am sympathetic. How about you?