Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Multi-vintage blends - article by Ant Rose in Decanter

They've never been regarded as a bad thing in Champagne but multi-vintage blends (MVBs) have rarely been taken seriously in still, unfortified wines. Ant Rose, in an article for Decanter, has attempted to point out that this is not always justified. I think it's fair to say that the vast majority of non-vintage wines are of low quality, the emerging MVB category is trying to do something rather more exciting.

What's the difference between NV and MVB, you may ask? Legally, nothing as far as I can see. They are simply designations conjured up by winemakers and wine critics (and, of course, wine merchants) but, as a rule of thumb, NV wines are probably going to look cheap - thin bottles, dull labels etc - and taste it. MVBs are prestige bottling with price tags to match. If nothing else, that's one way to measure the pretensions of the winemaker.

Xavier Vignon, with whom we have been working for about 15 years, is a pioneer of the style. His 'Debut' cuvee, a long-time favourite (why wouldn't it be? At well under a tenner, the wine inside the bottle blew many prestige wines from top Chateauneuf estates out of the water) was a MVB from a range of grape varieties, some of which ordinary consumers such as you and I have probably never heard of, from both the Rhone and the Languedoc. The three or four expressions of Debut that were produced in the first decade of the millennium were generally sourced from three different vintages. The resulting wine was amazingly complex and one of the longest-lived sub-£10 wines I have encountered. Sadly for us consumers, Xavier has stopped making this for the time being, at least. Instead, he has focused on new cuvees to keep his interest levels up.

A few years ago, we offered 'Sacrilege' which was a 'multi-region blend' of Syrah from Cote Rotie and Grenache from Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Because of the inclusion of the latter grapes (which cannot be declassified to anything other than Vin de France), the wine was denied its original Cotes du Rhone 2012 classification and was, instead, bottled as NV. It's developing into something rather special now so the authorities should stop clamping down on innovators and embrace change, perhaps - or, at least, create new premium categories as the Spanish have done with their Vino de Pago wineries and wines.

Other wines have followed but the new star wine in Xavier's portfolio (and the one with the highest price tag) is a MVB of his Anonyme cuvee, itself a multi-estate blend of grapes/wines sourced from several of the top estates in Chateauneuf-du-Pape with which he works as oenologist (estates he works with include Raymond Usseglio and Grand Veneur but he is understandably coy about revealing whose wines are in his bottlings). A couple of years ago he introduced a MVB Anonyme called 'VII IX X' which, it doesn't take a genius to work out (no, Kenny, even I got there!) means it comes from 2007, 2009 and 2010. This has been followed by 'X XII XV'. Both wines are fabulous as Ant Rose attests in his reviews.

The wines are blends of old-vine grapes from La Cru, Les Galets Roules, Les Urgoniens and Les Sables and, as Ant writes, the use of MVB is "aimed at combining signature vintage elements - 'saltiness' in 2007, 'opulence' in 2009 and 'acidity' in 2010) - to achieve a sum-of-the-parts richness and complexity with no loss of terroir focus".

His reviews of the two wines are as follows:

'Fragrant red fruits and classic spice. Lovely complexity, full-bodied with richness, great concentration and texture. Very complete. Still full of youthful vigour but almost ready. Drink 2018-2025. 14.5%'

Xavier Vignon, La Reserve X XII XV, Chateauneuf-du-Pape 94/100
'Rich and concentrated blackberry fruit with a ripe, sweet middle. Full-bodied and opulent red fruits with real vigour and youthful muscle. Needs time to soften. Drink 2019-2030. 15%'

The earlier bottling is available from stock but the more recent one is to be shipped later in the year.

Monday, 26 February 2018

Joblot 2016 - another year in which the Chalonnaise superstar betters its northern rivals?

Pound for pound (or should that be euro for euro), I doubt there is an estate in Burgundy producing higher quality wines at such (comparatively) low prices as Givry's Domaine Joblot. Year after year, this is a producer that makes wines that are better than many in the more illustrious Cote d'Or but, at around £25 or so a bottle, there is little - beyond basic Bourgogne Rouge - that can match these wines for price.

Now, don't get me wrong, Bourgogne Rouge can be very good indeed when it comes from some of the better producers' stables but they are always north of £20 these days and don't often match the most basic wine in the Joblot range which, from 2016, bears the moniker 'Preface'. This is their village Givry and its youthful, pretty nose offers good fruit weight and perfume. The length is good for this level and there is no reason to doubt that this wine will develop extremely nicely. Definite notions of stewed plums here and a hint of cinnamon perhaps with plenty of high notes. Good acidity. I would prefer to revisit this later next year.

Moving up a notch (actually, several), to the two wines that normally vie for the top spot: 'Clos du Cellier aux Moines' and 'Servoisine', both Premier Cru Givry. The former is generally the more elegant of the two whilst the latter offers more structure and power. This is true in 2016: Servoisine is a little shy to begin with but, with a little coaxing, reveals sweet fruit albeit tightly defined. From 2022? The monk's cellar is quite dark and has deep fruit character and undeniable tannins but it is more generous than the Servoisine at this stage though still slightly shy. Some new oak is evident in both and they both finish a little short now but they will lengthen as the tannins integrate. The fruit on the Cellier is prettier and will probably always be - from 2021.

Juliette Joblot has crafted a new cuvee in 2016 from a blend of all the Premier Cru Givry wines the family owns (the above two together with Clos Marole and Bois Chevaux). This 'Empreinte' is bigger, richer and the tannins seem more in check here. Very fragrant. Lots going on here. Quite forward: I will look forward to more of this from 2021. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts!