Monday, 12 December 2016

LUX Magazine award

I had not heard of this publication until I was told that I had been nominated for one of their 2016 Food & Drink Awards. Apparently, LUX is a 'monthly magazine giving you a glamorous glimpse into the world of all things luxurious'.

So, it is official, our wines are luxurious. 


I'm not sure that I am entirely comfortable with this moniker though. Cambridge Dictionary defines 'luxurious' as 'very comfortable and expensive' and 'giving great pleasure'. I'm on board with the second of these and, whilst 'comfortable' is not a word I would normally associate with wine, I can work with that too. However, I do take issue with the word 'expensive'. 


If someone can tell me where I could go (in the UK or anywhere with similar taxes) to find a wine of the quality of, say, Chateau Juvenal's extremely pleasurable and, possibly even very comfortable, 2015 Ventoux Blanc 'Ribes de Vallat' for under £12, please let me know and I will consider a career change. Actually, I defy anyone to find something as good as this under £15, maybe more.


I used to make a point of price comparisons although I have shied away from this in recent years, mainly because it is a fairly pointless exercise. Yes, one of our illustrious competitors also imports from Raymond Usseglio but, perhaps, the reason why people are willing to pay them £27.95 for a bottle of his 2012 compared with just £23.50 on our website is for the St James' address. 


I have a different approach to wine, I suppose. For me, what is inside the bottle is the only really important thing. Of course, we want to know that the liquid has been looked after properly and that is something you should be assured of when buying from a long-established business like BBR. But, of course, its doesn't mean you get a lesser wine from smaller companies like us who keep the wines in the same (or comparable) bonded warehouses until they are sold and delivered. Is it really worth an additional 30%? Of course, this was just a random example (it really was random - the first wine I checked out) so there may be others with much closer differentials (or even greater ones).


Anyway, as long as I can claim my luxuries to be good value ones then I gratefully - and gracefully - accept my award of (queue drumroll)...



Best Specialist Wine Importer 2016 - UK & Recognised Leader in Boutique Wines

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

En Primeur - is there still a market in the UK?

It's EP season, the time when merchants send out offers for wines which, in the main, have not yet been bottled. Prices are a little confusing to novices, priced without duty or VAT so the trick is to add £25 then divide by ten to reach the per bottle price (although an allowance should be made for onward delivery).

I had thought that Bordeaux had killed off much of the EP market. The outrageous opening prices demanded by some chateaux certainly slowed things down; I know The Big Red Wine Company is not a reliable gauge, given that I work with just one Claret producer, but in 2009, pre-shipment sales of Cahors estate Chateau du Cedre were more impressive than those of Chateau Teyssier.

So why should anyone buy EP? Traditionally, price and availability were the reasons. If you want a particular wine in a particular vintage at the best price, your best bet is to throw your hat in the ring at the earliest opportunity. Wine prices tend to go only in one direction and, as availability decreases (stocks decrease as people drink the stuff!), collectors and investors with stocks to spare rub their hands with glee, especially given that wine is classed as a wasting asset (assuming its life expectancy does not exceed 50 years) and, as such, does not attract capital gains tax when it is sold.

Now it is the 2015s that are being offered. Will anyone buy? Already, we have offered Mas de Daumas Gassac (Languedoc) and, in the last week, Chateau de Beaucastel (Rhone) and Domaine Joblot (Burgundy).  MDG sales were the best I can remember so the EP market is still very much alive and kicking, it seems. It's still early days for the other two but Beaucastel (and, especially its little brother, Coudoulet) tends to be popular and already a good number of cases have been snapped up.

Joblot is different, however. Chalonnaise wines are less sought after than their Cote d'Or neighbours, even those from families such as the Joblots who have been fairly described as 'Givry's best estate' (Clive Coates MW, The Wines of Burgundy, University of California Press) or 'a leader in Givry' (Jasper Morris MW, Inside Burgundy, BBR Press). Sadly, greater interest is in the top estates of the Cote d'Or where astronomically priced wines are snapped up by wealthy buyers afraid that they won't be able to get their hands on the stuff most of us can only dream of - or are they just buying to invest?

For me, I would - and do - buy wines which I can afford at this point in time and, if I can resist (not always possible), hold on to them for long enough to see them fully mature and enjoy them then without worrying about whether the wine now commands a price that I would otherwise balk at. A case in point: I did buy a (very) few bottles of Ruichebourg in 1999 to celebrate the birth of my oldest  child. It was expensive for me at that time (and now!) at around £80 per bottle but you only have a firstborn once, after all and I bought just three bottles. Now the same wine would cost me over £500 to replace (not that I would) but I can enjoy it knowing that I could just about afford it back in 2001. Joblot wines will never achieve such dizzying prices but they are worth putting aside for a decade or so, especially in vintages such as 2015.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Herts wine society tasting

An interesting brief: a selection of big red wines with a couple of whites thrown in for good measure. What does that mean? With a generous budget, I decided to interpret it as special occasion wines and took along a Champagne, a couple of whites (Rhone and Burgundy) and pairs of red wines (Rhone, Italy, South-West France) finishing off with a magnum of Mourvedre.

The Michel Rocourt Champagne got things off to a good start: quite mature and very soft. The Raymond Usseglio Cotes du Rhone Blanc (2014) was received with more mixed reviews, a couple of people admitting they simply do not 'get' white Rhones. The Joblot Givry En Veau (2010) was more popular: classic white Burgundy which was compared with Meursault except, inevitably, this one was better priced.

The first red pair saw a wave of enthusiasm for Chateau Juvenal Ventoux 'Ribes de Vallat' (2014) which showed that this vintage, tricky for some, was capable of producing some delicious and very drinkable wines. There was general agreement that it bears more than a passing resemblance to Burgundy in its velvety texture and soft fruit. The Domaine de Cristia Chateuneuf-du-Pape (2006) was a much more powerful beast loved by some, feared by others.

The Italians were not presented together as they were from different regions and different grapes but the Poggio al Gello Montecucco (2010) was one of the star wines of the night, drinking as beautifully as any Rosso di Montalcino, if not a Brunello. The Giulia Negri Barolo (2007) was well received too but I thought it still seemed very youthful for a 2007 (forward vintage).

Chateau Teyssier St-Emilion Grand Cru (2010) still has a hint of youthful austerity which is unusual for this wine. Bordeaux aficionados will love it but I prefer the gloriousness of the Chateau du Cedre Cahors 'Le Cedre' (2010) which is, perhaps, unsurprising given the price tag on each wine.

I decided that, with fewer than 100 days until Christmas, it would be fun to end with a magnum so took along a Domaine Treloar, Cotes de Roussillon 'Motus' (2009) which is 80% Mourvedre, the balance from Grenache and Syrah. Still youthful but getting into the swing of things now, a very good wine with a future.


Friday, 3 June 2016

Monte Rosola - a testament to good wine making

How does a bottle of wine made from vines of only four years old taste twelve years on? It's a geeky sort of question to ask and one which only real wine nuts would be (or should be) remotely interested in examining but, last night, having sold a couple of cases recently, I decided to try Monte Rosola's 2004 Crescendo, a pure Sangiovese wine made at a tiny estate between Volterra and San Gimignano.

This is an estate that owes its existence to Gottfried Schmitt, a retired executive who wanted a place in the sun and he chose a truly idyllic spot in the Tuscan hills just outside Volterra, eventually persuading Alberto Antonini, the renowned oenologist, to work with him. However, I'm getting ahead of things: that wasn't until 2008. In 2004, the vines had been planted only four years, an age when vines are deemed capable of producing wine but quality is rarely a word that would come into the same sentence. However, there were only two hectares planted in total at that time so perhaps it isn't so strange; after all, Gottfried and his wife, Carmen, were able to wander the vineyards every day turning individual grapes to ensure maximum ripeness if needed. There would have been no excuse for the toleration of rot and no need for chemicals to ensure everything stayed in good health.

What really impressed me last night was how fresh the wine tasted. Yes, the tannins are nicely integrated and the acidity balanced  but the fruit is still lively and very tasty. Sometimes old wines are to be admired more than enjoyed and, whilst this is not an old wine in Bordeaux (or Brunello) terms, relative to the age of the vines, this should be regarded as a pensioner. I can only hope that I am as sprightly when my time comes.

On the back of this tasting, I reviewed drinking dates, pushing the end date back from 2016 to 2018. However, I am willing to bet that in two years time I will be making another adjustment.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Serradenari 2006 Barolo

At almost ten years' old, it was to be hoped that, at last, this classic Barolo would be fit to drink. I can't remember how long ago the last bottle was opened but that certainly wasn't ready with tannins effectively masking the fruit.

That's all to be expected, of course. This is Barolo, of course, but not just any Barolo. It's from the classic, backward, ultra long-lived 2006 vintage and wines from parts of La Morra (Roggeri is another sub-zone to be included in this generalisation) were fantastically tannic. Abrasion in youth can, of course, mellow if the upbringing is handled well.

Now the wine tells a different story. From the outset, the nose is more revealing. Classic Nebbiolo aromas but, finally, rich and giving. This all follows through to the palate where the tannins are undeniable but no longer bullying the fruit into submission.

A review from 2012 reads: "This elegant Barolo delivers both intensity and complexity thanks to its pure berry aromas and tones of cola, white licorice, tar, wet river stone, dried herb and cedar wood. Power and firm tannins suggest this wine would be best consumed 10 years from now." (Wine Enthusiast). I'm not sure about white licorice or river stone having never smelt these, let alone tasted them, but that's not a bad description.

The next question is, am I brave enough to crack open a 2006 Roggeri from Crissante Alessandria?

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

One more EP offer: Bordeaux

Bordeaux 2015
Don't let anyone tell you anything different: 2015 was a fabulous vintage in Bordeaux (also, the Rhone, Burgundy, Piedmont…). Indeed, unlike these other regions, it was realistically the only great vintage for red wines since 2010 which is why we haven't offered anything since then. Of course, plenty of good wines have been made in the interim but with the market how it is these days, there has been little incentive to buy and no reason to offer these wines. Not so 2015; if you like Bordeaux then this is a vintage to buy, subject to personal preferences and prices.
The Maltus empire
We have been working with Jonathan Maltus since 1998 and have some experience of his earlier vintages so it has been fascinating to watch this workaholic develop one of the most stunning portfolios of the right bank. Many will know that I am not a big lover of Bordeaux but I always find room for Jonathan's wines which are softer and fleshier than many, always drinkable in their youth but still very ageworthy (a recent bottle of the 2000 Teyssier was a revelation).
The mainstay of the portfolio is Chateau Teyssier which, I believe, has the biggest production of any estate in St-Emilion these days. Quality is consistently high and even off-vintages are worth having in the cellar (the 2007, for example, was a very attractive wine) but stellar vintages like 2015 are a no-brainer. Next up is Chateau Laforge and we have secured a small parcel of the fabulous 2010 which is approaching drinkability now - one to stock up on for the winters ahead.
For drinking now, we have already shipped current vintages of Pezat, Jonathan's Bordeaux blends (the red really is a not-so-mini-Teyssier). These are superb values for wines that can be enjoyed on their own or at a dinner party - or anything in between. We are offering these at reduced prices strictly by the case only for a limited time.
Wine Case size £/case IB Equivalent per bottle DP List price per bottle
2015 Chateau Teyssier, St-Emilion GC 12x75cl £150 £17.52 £20.00
2010 Chateau Laforge, St-Emilion GC   6x75cl £150 £32.52 £36.00
2012 Pezat, Bordeaux Superieur  12x75cl £85 £11.00 £12.00
2013 Pezat, Bordeaux Blanc Sec 12x75cl £65 £9.00 £10.00

Italian wine offers - En Primeur Part II

Italy - mostly Piedmont
Our recent trip to Piedmont was highly successful. The new wines from Nada Giuseppe and Fabrizio Battaglino were, as expected, wines we wanted to buy by the car load (there was little room for air in the car coming back!) but we also visited Filippo Broccardo whose 2012s are extremely drinkable and, new to us, Andrea Bosco of Bosco Agostino.
Fabrizio BATTAGLINO
Following his trip to the UK last year, there was an understandable surge of interest in Fabrizio's wines and some vintages are now sold out or have just a few bottles remaining. Fortunately, the next vintage to come along is 2013 which is fabulous (we already have some stocks of the 2013 Nebbiolo d'Alba which has been very well received). However, for Fabrizio, 2012 was also a great year, so much so that he decided to make a Roero Riserva which is a richer, fuller wine than the fruit-driven 2012, one for ageing.
Wine Case size £/case IB Equivalent per bottle DP List price per bottle
2013 Nebbiolo d'Alba 'Colla' 6x75cl £60 £14.52 £16.50
2013 Roero 'Sergentin' 6x75cl £60 £14.52 £16.50
2012 Roero Riserva 'Sergentin' 6x75cl £66 £15.72 £17.50
BOSCO Agostino
Bosco Agostino in La Morra who showed us a stunning Barbera d'Alba and three Nebbiolos, one a declassified Barolo from the two sites the family have vines in: Neirane in Verduno where the sandy soil produces fragrant, elegant Barolo and La Serra, south of La Morra where the limestone and clay soils are responsible for richer, more structured wines. The quality is consistently high throughout the range but the contrast between the wines is stark.
Wine Case size £/case IB Equivalent per bottle DP List price per bottle
2013 Barbera d'Alba 'Volupta' 6x75cl £66 £15.72 £17.50
2013 Langhe Nebbiolo 'Rurem' 6x75cl £66 £15.72 £17.50
2011 Barolo 'Neirane' 6x75cl £108 £24.12 £27.50
2011 Barolo 'La Serra' 6x75cl £126 £27.72 £31.50
Filippo BROCCARDO
We tasted just three wines with Filippo and Federica but enjoyed them all very much. The 2014 Langhe Nebbiolo is rich, rounded and warm and, with food, the tannins melt away (Filippo offered a particularly good salami!). There are now two Barolo wines: the 2012 'I Tre Pais' is forward and drinkable already whereas the more structured 'Bricco San Pietro' is more richly fruited and, perhaps, even more enjoyable even at this early stage.
Wine Case size £/case IB Equivalent per bottle DP List price per bottle
2014 Langhe Nebbiolo 6x75cl £48 £12.12 £13.80
2012 Barolo 'I Tre Pais' 6x75cl £93 £21.12 £24.00
2012 Barolo 'Bricco San Pietro' 6x75cl £108 £24.12 £27.50
NADA Giuseppe
An estate that seems never to put a foot wrong. Enrico Nada has just released a delightful 2012 Barbaresco which can be enjoyed immediately (or squirelled away a few years) and a superb 2010 Riserva (which does need to be forgotten about for a couple of years or so). This year also sees the first release of Enrico's prized Riesling - it's fantastic but be warned, he made only 720 bottles in total!
Wine Case size £/case IB Equivalent per bottle DP List price per bottle
2014 Langhe Riesling 6x75cl £66 £15.72 £17.50
2015 Langhe Nebbiolo 6x75cl £48 £12.12 £13.80
2012 Barbaresco 'Casot' 6x75cl £78 £18.12 £20.00
2010 Barbaresco Riserva 'Casot' 6x75cl £96 £21.72 £24.00
From Tuscany…
Poggio al Gello
In addition to some excellent Montecucco Rosso and Riserva (move over Montalcino!), Giorgio and Alda have preserved some ancient varieties which, without their efforts, would be all but extinct. We have already enjoyed a bottle or two of the 2012 Pugnitello and the aptly named Foliotondo (round leaf) in their 2014 'Agellus'. The estate's white wine is rather good too and their olive oil is very special!
Wine Case size £/case IB Equivalent per bottle DP List price per bottle
2012 Pugnitello del Piaggione 6x75cl £66 £15.72 £17.50
2014 Foliotondo 'Agellus' 6x75cl £69 £16.32 £18.50
2015 Bianco - Vermentino 6x75cl £48 £12.12 £13.50
6x75cl £96 £21.72 £24.00
Olive oil
In much of Italy, Olive oil is used not just for coooking or as a salad dressing ingredient but in place of butter to go with bread. In this truly naked form, the flavour of the oil is paramount and personal tastes come to the fore so it is important to choose the right oil (as it is really for use in cooking or with salads). The blended 'Keya' is the softer and fruitier of the two, very user-friendly whereas the monovarietal 'Tara' is more peppery and more suited to connoisseurs.
TARA  (Monovarietal: Frantoio) 6x50cl £57 £9.50 N/A
KEYA (Blend: Leccino, Frantoio Moraiolo) 6x50cl £48 £8.00 N/A

It's en primeur season - Part I: the Southern Rhone

£9.12
The Southern Rhone
2014 reds are the starting point of this offer but 2015 whites are superb and other vintages offered should not be overlooked. 2014 was a mixed vintage so wines should be selected carefully but, fortunately for us, we have been working with a selection of winemakers who seem to come up trumps year after year. What you can expect with all these wines is the house style but in a readily accessible wine; whilst every red wine in this offer will develop given more time, most can be enjoyed straight away (there are a handful of obvious exceptions, of course: Usseglio's Imperiale, for example).
The list is shorter than usual partly because we are offering wines from other region at the same time but, in the main, because many estates are releasing wines at different times, making a consolidated offer impossible. We are especially pleased to welcome to our portfolio Chateau Juvenal, a Ventoux estate we have been following for three vintages and which has, in the course of those vintages, impressed us with some already great wines and a promise of yet more to come. Otherwise, the wines of Chateau de Beaucastel and Raymond Usseglio impressed, as always, and we found the latest releases from Xavier Vignon irresistible.
How the offer works
Wines are offered in bond (IB) which means the price quoted does not include duty or VAT, both of which are payable before the wines can be delivered. Currently the duty on a single bottle of table wine is just under £2.10 each, regardless of the purchase price of the wine and VAT is charged at 20% on top of both the IB price and duty. This is the duty paid (DP) price. The list price quoted is the anticipated price of the wine once it arrives in stock.
Chateau Juvenal
When Anne-Marie and Bernard Forestier bought Chateau Juvenal, their primary interest was the building itself which they wanted to transform into a luxury hotel. However, chateaux in this part of France (as in so many others) tend to come with vineyards. Enter Sebastien Alban, thier neighbour whose experience and commitment had been restrained only by cash. The Forestier land meant that there was enough volume to go it alone (or, rather, jointly) and all parties quickly saw the benefits of having their own cellars. Under the direction of Philippe Cambie who, along with Xavier Vignon, is one of the top consultants in the region, 2014 is the fourth vintage made on-site and, like it's predecessors, it has produced some rather special wines. 
The mainly Grenache'Ribes de Vallat' has a smokey Burgundian quality and is already very enjoyable. The oak-aged, Grenache-Syrah blend 'Terre du Petit Homme' is magnificent or, rather, it will be given a couple of years or so in the bottle. The 2015 whites are extremely impressive too: the 'Ribes de Vallat' is mainly Clairette with a little Viognier providing an attractive lift and a delightfully grapey Muscat Sec . Even the rose here wowed us!
WineCase size£/case IBEquivalent per bottle DPList price per bottle
2015 Ribes du Vallat Blanc6x75cl£39£10.32£12.00
2015 Moment (Muscat Sec)6x75cl£30£8.52£9.90
2015 Ribes du Vallat Rose6x75cl£30£8.52£9.90
2014 Ribes du Vallat Rouge6x75cl£36£9.72£11.00
2014 Terre du Petit Homme6x75cl£48£12.12£13.50
2015 Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise6x75cl£57£14.40£16.50
The following estates are all regulars on our list so please visit our website for more information about them. All the 2014s offered have been tasted and rated and a general finding is that the vintage offers a welcome respite from the trend towards richer wines, providing wines for all seasons. 
Chateau de Beaucastel
One of the most famous names in the valley and a regular on our list. With the exchange rate much improved over last year, these look like great bargains.
WineCase size£/case IBEquivalent per bottle DPList price per bottle
2014 Coudoulet de Beaucastel, Cotes du Rhone12x75cl£112£13.72£16.00
2014 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf-du-Pape6x75cl£180£38.52£45.00
Raymond Usseglio et Fils
Stef's wines are, as always, at the very top of the appellation. From 2015, we are also able to offer his whites and a new negociant wine from the Ventoux, a juicy, easy-drinking red.
WineCase size£/case IBEquivalent per bottle DPList price per bottle
2015 Cotes du Rhone Blanc 'Les Claux'12x75cl£90£11.52£13.20
2015 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc12x75cl£180£20.52£23.00
2015 Chateauneuf-du-Pape 'Rousanne Pur'6x75cl£162£34.92£39.00
2015 Ventoux Rouge (Stephane Usseglio)12x75cl£66£9.12£11.00
2014 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Rouge12x75cl£180£20.52£23.00
2014 Chateauneuf-du-Pape 'Imperiale'6x75cl£180£38.52£43.20
2013 Chateauneuf-du-Pape 'Part des Anges'6x75cl£180£38.52£43.20
Xavier Vignon
Xavier likes to keep us guessing what his next move will be: a couple of years ago, he surprised with a range of wines from Turkey, for example. This year, he is venturing into a retail partnership with an estate in Beaumes-de-Venise and, thanks to this, his own-label Beaumes-de-Venise Rouge is well worth seeking out. Of course, the rest of the range remains is of the highest quality too, just as you would expect from one of the region's top consultants.
WineCase size£/case IBEquivalent per bottle DPList price per bottle
2015 Cotes du Provence Rose6x75cl
£33
£11.00
 
2014 Ventoux Rouge12x75cl£54£7.92£9.00
2014 Beaumes-de-Venise Rouge12x75cl£93£11.82£13.50
2012 Cotes du Rhone Rouge12x75cl£60£8.52£9.90
2012 Rasteau Rouge6x75cl£57£13.92£16.00
2012 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Rouge 'Anonyme'6x75cl£129£28.32£33.00
Chateauneuf-du-Pape 'La Reserve X XI XII'6x75cl£165£35.52£42.00