Grapevine Archive for January, 2011
We are lining up 49 rosés and other pink wines of the 2010 vintage from around the world today to make a selection of the best for this year’s list.
It would be extremely helpful in deciding how much to buy, to know what this summer’s weather will be like. I have written to weather guru, Paul Simons, whose Times weather column is so informative, to ask if he knows.
If any members of The Wine Society have a proven record of predicting these things by studying the habits of creatures who are more sensitive to weather patterns than we human beings are, could they please let me know?
Ben Glaetzer, director and chief winemaker of Heartland and Stickleback wines, updates members on news from the Barossa in this, his third posting from Down Under.
Ben Glaetzer, 17th January 2011
Australia is renowned as the continent of droughts and flooding rains (a phrase coined from the iconic Australian poem “My Country” by Dorothea McKellar.
The end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011 have proved just that. As I’m sure has been on the news in the UK, much of our northern state of Queensland is underwater, river heights in excess of 20 metres up from a pool level of less than three. Crops decimated, table grapes washed away and a devastating time for more than 800,000 Australians. This water will make its way into the Murray-Darling river system over the next couple of months, the residents downstream are already preparing for floods. It’s quite a turn-around from last year when the river was so dry that one could literally walk across the Murray at its widest point.
Areas such as Langhorne Creek have been regenerated with the fresh water, the water tables are rising and the groundwater is being recharged.
All vineyards have now set fruit and overall crops are again below average in most districts. Cabernet sauvignon is in demand again this year which will give hope to some grapegrowers who’ve been unable to sell both cabernet and chardonnay for the last few years.
Here in the Barossa the weather has been decidedly muggy and warm, the humidity caused by the heavy moisture content over our northern states channelling down south. This has meant that the region has been on downy mildew alert and most growers have been vigilant with their canopy care.
We’ll commence vintage in about three weeks, kicking off with some crisp and zesty verdelho and semillon from the Limestone Coast for Heartland Stickleback and from there it’ll be full swing until the middle of May. Between now and then I’ll be spending most daylight hours in the vineyards and talking with our grapegrowers. Attention to detail is the key for this time of year, making sure crops are balanced, dropping fruit onto the ground on unbalanced vines and ensuring healthy canopies to protect against sunburn.
To top it all off my wife, Lucy, is expecting our first child….the due date was in fact 11th January. When the baby arrives it had better get used to sitting in a Ute and touring vineyards!
October is the time I head south to the Rhône Valley to taste extensively and then plan for the campaign ahead. As ever, there are at least three vintages to taste and, over a period of nearly a month, I tasted wines from almost a hundred producers.
The first thing to say is that 2009 is unquestionably a great vintage, the result of a long, hot and dry summer. The 2009 northern Rhônes are majestic, sumptuous wines, clearly on a par with any of the greatest vintages of the last 50 years. 1990 possibly offers the closest parallel though, if anything, 2009 is on an even grander scale. There are fabulous wines from all appellations, but for the money one would have to go a long way to surpass Cornas and Saint-Joseph.
The south produced wonderful wines too that are dark, generous and full bodied, but results were less even and depended on the ability of each grower to pick when fully ripe. Again there are successes in all appellations. Châteauneufs are grand indeed, but there is also much pleasure to be had in some of the lesser villages such as Lirac, Cairanne and Rasteau. 2009 is excellent throughout the south and our opening offer will also include the pick of the Languedoc-Roussillon where the vintage in Corbières, for example, was the best for a generation.
An opening offer of 2009 Rhône and Languedoc- Roussillon wines will be posted later this month. The offer will be published on our website and mailed to those that have ordered this type of wine in the last two years. If this does not include you but you would like to receive a copy, please contact Member Services on 01438 741177 or by e-mail.
Rhône & French Country buyer
Begin with a case of The Society’s Beaujolais Villages 2009 (ref N-BJ4601, £6.95). There has not been a more perfect Beaujolais vintage in the last couple of generations. The fruit is ripe, the flavour delightfully appetising and immediately appealing, and Marcel Orford-Williams’ blend from three different vineyards is brilliant. You will probably need the Beaujolais Case which contains many of the crus for later in the year (ref N-WC11117, £95).
Europe is looking very good too for dry household whites between £5 and £8 a bottle. Why not buy a mixed box from France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, England and Hungary to sample a cross-section of grapes and estates from The Society’s current selection?
In the southern hemisphere Chile still looks unbeatable value and our range of wines from South Africa, New Zealand and Australia have never been stronger. The New Zealand offer sees the arrival of several new wines from the 2010 vintage – fresh off the boat.
The finest wines of the classic regions repay keeping. Members who have bought from opening offers can benefit from their purchases, but our Lists also contain a selection of older vintages that have been held in The Society’s cellars till mature too.
Hold classed-growth Claret from 2006 and 2005 longer but classic 2004s and sweet ripe 2003s are good now. Hold 2002, but 2001 right bank wines are wonderful and 2000 is just emerging. 1999s are at their best, ’98s still firm, ’97s should be drunk up, ’96s are lovely and more pleasurable now than ’95.
Most white Burgundy is delicious from bottling, although 2007 is fine but backward. Drink 2005 and 2006. For red Burgundy, 2002 is fine and ripe and just right now. 2005s are great but still improving. 2006s are lovely, and at premier-cru level just starting to look really good. 2004 red Rhônes are just right now. The 1998s, closed for many years, are now coming through, while the 2007s are immensely enjoyable for those who like wines in their sweet, fruity youth. Pierre Mansour says now is the moment for 2001 Rioja Gran Reservas, perfect after ten years.
Fine Alsace and German wines age beautifully. Germany has enjoyed a marvellous decade, six to twelve-year-old rieslings will be delicious. 2001 and 2002 in Alsace, austere to begin with, are now lovely to drink. 2005 is lovely practically everywhere and 2009 will be too.
The Case for 2009 European Dry Whites mixed case will be available until Saturday, 12th February 2011. There are more mixed case selections of wines to drink now starting on page 13 of the new List, being sent to members.
“From 14 – 16 January 2011, The France Show will bring the very best of French life to the UK for three days at Earls Court, London. The finest in French food, wine, shopping, travel, culture and property will be brought together to provide the chance to enjoy a little bit of French je ne sais quoi here in the UK.”
Complimentary ticket offer for Society members
We are delighted to announce that The Society has secured complimentary tickets to this event for members. To book a complimentary tickets for you and a friend please go to the My Account section of The Society’s website, click on ‘The France Show’ and follow the instructions.
The offer expires at 1pm 10th January 2011.