Grapevine Archive for 2001

Three excellent pieces of news from Rioja:

? Firstly, the excellent CVNE bodega agreed to let us bottle their exceptional 2001 vintage gran reserva under our flagship Exhibition label. This is the first gran reserva to wear The Society?s livery.

? The second is that the wine beat all comers to pick up a gold medal at the 2012 International Wine Challenge ? confirmation that the wine is as delicious as you might expect from such a bodega in such an exceptional vintage.

? Last, but not least, the support of CVNE has enabled us to reduce this wine by £7 per bottle to Society members until the end of June. The new price of £18 has also been backdated to members who have already bought this wine at the higher price.

An embarrassment of riches!

Categories : Spain, Wine Competitions
Comments (0)
Wed 01 Jun 2011

We’re certain it’s Certan

Posted by: | Comments (1)

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
Comments (1)
Tue 03 Nov 2009

And now for something completely …

Posted by: | Comments (0)

… 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!

Comments (0)