Grapevine Archive for 2000

Tue 29 May 2012

250 Dinners Down

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Recently I was lucky enough to be invited to speak when The Wine Society Dining Club celebrated their 250th dinner in Draper?s Hall in London.

Château Margaux

The location is splendid and the wines, which included Château Margaux 1983 and 1990, and the outstanding Pavillon Rouge 2000, were memorably magnificent. The bottles had been wisely laid down by the club en primeur when they cost very much less than they do today.

80 members and 40 guests attended and a very good time was had by us all.

Such bottles are meant to be shared and discussed among like-minded companions.

If you would like to know more about the Dining Club, you can visit their website or contact the Club Administrator by e-mail.

Sebastian Payne MW
Society Buyer

Categories : Bordeaux, France
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Fri 25 Nov 2011

Two of the very best: an inspirational day

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Two of the world’s great winemakers came to The Wine Society this week. Chief wine buyer Sebastian Payne MW reports on one very special day.

Paul Draper, winemaker at Ridge

Paul Draper, CEO and winemaker at Ridge

Paul Draper came to Stevenage to talk to 60 eager members of Wine Society staff about Ridge, the remarkable Californian winery, high up on the San Andreas fault at Santa Cruz, whose reputation he has established over 40 years.

After Stanford he became a sort of undercover roving ambassador for Jack and Bobby Kennedy in South America. With his fluent Spanish he kept open lines with the USA by listening and talking to leaders of rival parties in several volatile countries. (It would be encouraging to feel the USA had a similar policy today in the Middle East.) At one stage, because of his beard, he was even mistaken for Che Guevara and nearly blown up. He then moved to Chile working for a foundation that was developing various agricultural projects including wine making.

The Ridge story began when he was invited by three brilliant Stanford friends who had bought the vineyard to help them by making the wine. He was convinced because he had seen the potential of old vintages of cabernet and chardonnay made in the 1930s pre-Prohibition.

Ridge’s international reputation was made when its Montebello vineyard wine outshone top Bordeaux wines in Steven Spurrier’s Judgment of Paris tasting in 1973. Paul’s philosophy is that wine is made in the vineyard and should express its origin above all, not to be created to a formula in the cellar. “If you haven’t tasted great wine, how can you make it?” Good bottles were his mentors. The enemy is ‘consensus’ wine-making.

Though his zinfandel-based wines are usually 14º, the level at which the grape becomes fully ripe, he abhors the high alcohol levels so commonly found in Californian wines and Montebello cabernets have similar levels to Bordeaux. The proof is in the wines which have been consistently the most complex and delicious to be made in the USA over the last 40 years.

Candour, integrity and passion
Jean-Philippe Delmas’ story is quite different. He was practically born in a vat of Haut-Brion, where his grandfather made the wine for the family till 1961, when his father Jean-Bernard took over. Jean-Philippe worked for ten years alongside his father until 2004, the first vintage for which he was solely responsible.

The quality of the 2004, set beside such great vintages as 2005, 2000, 1998 and 1990 was a revelation, making one realise that Château Haut-Brion, the most senior of Bordeaux’s first growths, is also possibly the greatest and most complex of all. Jean-Philippe modestly says that his grandfather and father had to contend not only with many cooler vintages but also much leaner resources. The fact that Haut-Brion made no money between 1935 and 1975 shows a long-term commitment from its owner, Clarence Dillon and his family, unusual in a banker! His challenge is that he has no excuse. All of us 240 members and guests privileged to be at Merchant Taylor’s Hall were, I believe, convinced by Jean-Philippe’s candour, integrity, passion and deep understanding of this great vineyard which was reflected in magnificent wine.

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Tue 18 Oct 2011

Two Ports of call

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Adrian Bridge

On Monday evening 100 members and their guests were treated to a wonderful tasting of Fonseca and Taylor’s Ports, presented by the MD of The Fladgate Partnership Adrian Bridge, aided and abetted by The Society’s Port buyer Mark Buckenham. Adrian spoke with great enthusiasm and clarity, also fielding the numerous questions, many coming from interesting angles, with aplomb. This 319-year-old company is certainly being expertly  steered through the 21st century with Adrian at the helm.

Five wines from each house were tasted, in pairs. As an experiment 140 character tasting notes were tweeted as we tasted (which engendered both positive and negative feedback with some enjoying the interaction and joining in the banter, while others felt bombarded by too many tweets – we’re still learning when it comes to social media).

The 140 (max) character notes, complete with stylistic errors, went as follows. Caveat: These are of course my own personal, spur-of-the-moment, tasting notes.

Fonseca ’70 Genteel butterscotch, smooth and very easy to drink.

Taylor ’70 More heat of alcohol, more structure than Fonseca. Still beautifully mellow. Leather, tobacco and soft red apple skins?

(NB, both of the above will be available on our November Fine Wine List, priced at £135 per bottle)

Fonseca ’83 Lovely lifted, slightly leafy, perfume. Fresh, sweet red fruit and liquorice on palate.

Taylor ’85  savoury in character, edgy, nervy, bitter orange prevalent. Prunes and dates on finish.

Fonseca Guimaraens ’98 Rich violet nose. Smells like teen spirit! Rich chunky smooth black fruit. Pontefract cakes.

Taylor Vargellas ’01 table wine, rather than fortified, nose – light, structured, delicate berries and chammy leather.

Fonseca 2000 – Rubenesque, reclining, voluptuous, inviting, bursting with blackberries. Ripe, ripe, smooth tannins

Taylor 2000 – upright, edgy, mineral, damson, licorice, structured, delicious, tannins need to soften. Tight (the Port, not me!)

09s have a light gunpowder tea aroma about them. Mineral edge. Fonseca immediately softer on the nose than the Taylor.

Both 2009s rich on palate, Fonseca still showing more velvety texture. Deeper. Spirit hidden by bags of fruit. Taylor has finesse.

The 2009s can be found in our Port opening offer.

It was an excellent evening drinking some glorious Port wine. If anyone else would care to comment below with their own notes and opinions, whether you were present or not, we would be most interested to hear them.

Ewan Murray
Head of Tastings & Events

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Wed 01 Jun 2011

We’re certain it’s Certan

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Last night’s  tasting with Alexandre Thienpont featured 10 vintages of Vieux Château Certan, Pomerol, where Alexandre has been making the wine since 1985, following on from his father and grandfather. Alexandre is softly spoken and a man of few words, but his passion shines out in what he does say, and his wines certainly speak for themselves.

The property is planted with 65% merlot, 30% cabernet franc and 5% cabernet sauvignon (which compares to the plantings in 1985 of 50% merlot, 25% cabernet franc, 20% cabernet sauvignon and 5% malbec). The merlot provides the broad base, the cabernet franc the structure and the cabernet sauvignon adds ageability. Would that it were that simple – Alexandre has 23 distinct parcels of vines on the property, and it is the way in which these parcels are blended each year according to their character that gives the château its unique identity. While many châteaux have their own hallmark vintage after vintage, Vieux Certan’s hallmark is it’s variety – each year it can be very different, and that’s what gives it its charm, its intrigue and, ultimately, its collectability.

All wines were double decanted 2 hours before tasting. These wines are not available from The Society, having been sold en primeur. Approximate current UK market prices (per bottle) are, however, included at the bottom of each tasting note, purely for information.

Tasting notes belong to me and my palate – others will, I am sure, have different notes, but this is what I made of these splendid wines.

2007 – An early-drinking wine from a merlot year. Alexandre reckons it should be drunk now to 2016. Chewy ripe tannins, a good level of acidity supporting a loosely packed bundle of warm cherry and plum flavours. A finish of wood and spice and good length. (£60)

2006 – A big hit of fragrant red fruit on the nose, and a palate of concentrated plum enveloped by a very well defined structure. Alexandre says this is quintessential Vieux Château Certan. The same assemblage as the 2007, i.e. 80% merlot and 20% cabernet franc, but the franc is more dominant than the proportions suggest. NB – 2006 was a year when the rains came mid-harvest. Many picked during the rain to get it all in before it rotted; they therefore picked unripe fruit. Alexandre waited until the rain stopped and the sun came out once more. When he picked, he lost 20% (equivalent to 1,000 cases) of his crop to rot, but the ripe healthy grapes came through the sorting table and gave this wonderful wine that won’t be properly ready to drink until 2015, but will last for years beyond that. (£110)

2004 – in the ludicrously hot 2003 they only made 20% of their normal output, and so were raring to go with 2004. The nose is very fresh, and on the palate the dusty tannins and cassis fruit of the franc creates a beautiful structure from where we can just spot the warming dark merlot fruits peering out coyly. Chewy and earthy, yet refreshing, finish overlaid with red fruit make it very appealing. This was a dry year where the cabernet franc ripened to perfection, and the resulting wine will keep even longer than the 2006. (£80)

2002 – Another merlot year, and has far less complexity than the ’04 and ’06 – ‘mono-dimensional like the 2007’, as Alexandre puts it, but nonetheless round, attractive, charming, delicious and ready to drink right now. (£75)

2001 – Cabernet sauvignon found its way into this blend to lend some more structure to this merlot-favouring vintage. A beautiful broad red fruit palate, wonderfully open and expansive, pleads: “Drink me now!” (£100)

2000 – Transport me to my desert island this very minute!! All three varieties hit the spot, making a wonderfully complete and balanced wine. A savoury edge to a rich red fruit nose gives way to a rich, red fruit palate, concentrated to the full with a thick layer of silky smooth ripe tannin all dancing on a swirling sea of acidity – sorry to wax so lyrical, but this is a great wine that will be in its prime in a decade or so, and hang around for a good deal of time after. (£150)

1999 – A cool year with a mild summer. Merlot to the fore, with 85%, then 5% cabernet franc and 10% cabernet sauvignon. A chewy little number with rounded, sweet plums and raspberries. Ready to drink today, but with the support of tannin and acidity to carry it along very nicely for another 6 to 8 years. (£85)

1998 – Same blend as the ’99, but a warmer, drier year. Lovely all round structure with liquorice and darker fruits to the fore. It was really interesting to taste the ’99 and ’98 side by side – identical blend and yet the nature of the vintage is what makes them so different. (£120)

1996 – Lovely date, fig and plum on the nose lead into an abundance of richness and ripeness of the same fruits on the palate – truly, truly delicious. (£75)

1993 – very different to any of the preceding wines. The cabernet franc comes through really strongly – that dusty cassis reminded me of very good Loire reds, but then the ripe yet delicate Victoria plum comes sailing through on a lightning streak of acidity. A really refreshing drink. (£65)

We look forward to the wines of 2009 and 2010 – both are 85% merlot, 5% cabernet franc and 10% cabernet sauvignon. For those who have long memories, Alexandre says that the 2009 will be like the 1948 which, until now is the best wine they believe they have ever made), while the 2010 will be more akin to 1945 or 1950. Looking at the longevity of the wines that we tasted with him, it will be quite a while before we can put those wines to that test.

After the tasting members’ positive and excited comments came thick and fast. In a world where so many competition-winning wines seem to be big in terms of texture, flavour and alcohol, these wines truly found favour with Society members. Esteemed wine writer Margaret Rand attended the tasting, and commented: “… the wines were so restrained and so complex. They ought to be force-fed to Napa growers, really!”

Alexandre himself was delighted with the way the wines showed themselves. A compliment to the team at Merchant Taylors’ Hall who looked after the wines, but actually without realising it he was complimenting himself. A wonderful estate with a wonderful winemaker at the helm. Of that we can be Certan.

Ewan Murray
Head of Tastings & Events

Categories : Bordeaux, Wine Tastings
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Patrice NoyelleA wonderful array of Pol Roger, Bollinger and Louis Roederer Champagnes and Society members were on display at Merchant Taylors’ Hall on Monday 19th April, despite Eyjafjallajökul’s best attempts to scupper the event.

Logistically the day was challenging, to say the least. Some members were stranded in various places around the globe and so couldn’t attend. Our speakers were also affected. Stephen Leroux, Export Director of Bollinger was unable to take his flight or arrange a last minute train journey. Patrice Noyelle (pictured), Managing Director of Pol Roger took the train from Malaga all the way to Epernay on Sunday, arriving home at 3am on Monday, then struggling to find a seat on the Eurostar – he finally arrived at the tasting for the last 15 minutes! Fortunately Louis Roederer’s Mark Bingley MW is based in London, and together with Elizabeth Ferguson from Mentzendorff and James Simpson MW from Pol Roger UK, presented their Champagnes with expertise and aplomb. They were very ably assisted by The Society’s Champagne buyer Marcel Orford Williams.

First up was a flight of the houses’ non-vintage Champagnes – the refreshing Pol Roger White Foil, the rounded Louis Roederer Brut Premier and the rich Bollinger Special Cuvée.

Next came a trio of great interest – the tight, bone dry and ‘crying out for food’ Pol Roger Pure, the delightfully fruit-filled Bollinger Rosé and the beautifully integrated Louis Roederer Carte Blanche Demi-Sec.

The vintages were of great interest. Louis Roederer’s precocious 2003 was the youngest on show, along with Pol Roger 2000 and Bollinger Grande Année 2000, each showing off their house style to the full.

The pièces de résistance from each house gave a grand finale to this unique event: Louis Roederer Cristal 2002 is oh-so-young and with a fantastic long life ahead of it; Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill 1999 (not yet available from The Society – 1998 can be found here) is everything a cuvée de prestige should be – body, rich flavour, great acidity; Bollinger RD 1997, with its elegance and lift was a fitting way to end.

Were you at the tasting? What was your favourite on the night? What is your personal favourite Champagne? Let us know.

Maybe we’ll see you soon at another of the 100+ Tastings & Events that The Society organises every year.

Categories : Champagne, Wine Tastings
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The Scotsman
Rose Murray Brown puts together a case of her current favourite reds including:

BU17561 Vougeot Premier Cru Cras 2000, Domaine de la Vougeraie (£45 The Wine Society www.thewinesociety.com) Fine, perfumed, crunchy red fruit, meaty savoury notes, a beautifully mature red Burgundy tasting absolutely at its peak.

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2000 Bollinger Grande AnnéeThe Times
Jane MacQuitty’s top five Champagnes include:

CH1871 2000 Bollinger Grande Année, The Wine Society (01438 740222) £59 A great vintage year and Bollinger is one of the great Champagne houses, so tuck into this rich, dreamy, beefy, nutty Champagne while you still can.

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Tue 03 Nov 2009

And now for something completely …

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… different! And ‘different’ is the word winemaker Gaston Hochar used to sum up the wines of Chateau Musar. The Society is proud to have been one of the UK’s very first importers of this wine, and last night, in celebration of four decades of cooperation Gaston, third-generation winemaker of this unique wine, presented 10 wines in his inimitable, softly-spoken and spellbinding manner to 150 members and guests, accompanied by The Society’s buyer for Lebanon Pierre Mansour.

Chateau Musar

The wines were, in order of tasting:
Reds: Hochar Père et Fils 2002, Chateau Musar 2002, Chateau Musar 2000, Chateau Musar 1999, Chateau Musar 1995, Chateau Musar 1993, Chateau Musar 1981, Chateau Musar 1969

Whites: Chateau Musar 2001, Chateau Musar 1989.

These wines are produced in as natural a way as possible, fermented using the yeasts on the grape skins in concrete vats, raised in oak and vat and bottle for 7 years before release on to the market.

They have what could be regarded as a cult following – not only are the wines different from any other, but each vintage is very different from another. A ‘show of hands’ vote at the tasting showed that every vintage had its fans. Last night the 1993 probably just edged it as the wine of the night, but next time, who knows. Like the wines, we can guarantee that the result will be ‘different’, but no less enjoyable!

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