Wine Hotline Hits the Road: Bordeaux Day Four
A small group from Binnys visited Bordeaux, tasting samples of the 2013 vintage and more, with stops at chateaux and negociants. Find the rest of the trip here. Binny's Wine Guru Steve Reiter concludes with day four: Not everything is about the 2013 vintage. Our first stop is with Francois Thienpoint. While we taste a couple 2013's, our focus here is more on previous vintages, mostly 2010-12, that are now bottled and ready for sale. A few stand outs include the 2011 Roques de Jean Lice which offers nice dark plum, dried herbs and clay notes with a light spicy oak on the finish. The 2012 Manoir de Gravoux is equally nice with plum, hints of black cherry, light cocoa and soft tannins. The 2011, 2010 and 2005 La Violette are wonderful, exhibiting warm flavors of black cherry, cola, clay earth and light clove. But the best by far is a barrel sample of 2012 La Gravette de Certan, the second wine of Chateau Vieux Certan. With a heady perfumed nose of blue and purple flowers and fruit, hints of clove, followed by lush blue and black fruit, all balanced and round. This is what Bordeaux offers that no one else can!
Our afternoon stop is another negociant office, Cordier-Mestrezat. Once again we sample previous vintages. All of the 2010 and '11 bottlings are nice and readily drinkable, Chapelle de Calon, Les Hauts du Tertre, Blason d' Issan, just to name a few. All pleasantly "Bordeaux" in structure and flavors. All these bottles and cases are waiting in chateau and negiociant cellars. Which is part of why we are here. All of the top Bordeaux producers (besides Latour) sell their wines en primeur. These wines are tasted in barrel samplings and selected for purchase in the spring following the harvest, many months before the wines are actually bottled and truly ready for sale. Negociants usually work with the specific chateaux where they have forged long time relationships. Often they share a common love for the wine. They basically work as wholesalers for the chateaux in getting their product to market, with the help of a courtier, who works as a liaison between the chateau and negociant to set the pricing. The wine is then offered to retailers and subsequently to the public, who can choose to purchase these "premature" wines at a fixed cost. While this may sound risky to the consumer, many just want to secure bottles of their favorite producers as well as capitalize on the initial fixed price. Some customers even speculate on a wine that will increase in value, though they are far and few.
But what about a tough vintage like 2013? Negociants still take their allotment, fulfilling an obligation for wines they believe in. The rest of the wines will sit in chateaux until time and consumer want determines. It isn't easy for these chateaux to compete with themselves every year. The 2009 and '10 vintages were extraordinary, leaving the 2011 and '12 to wait on consumer desire. The 2013's will wait even longer for chateau and negociant alike. But there is hope. We taste several 2007 wines, an equally tough year, at Negociant Nathanial Johnston, and we are pleasantly surprised. Chateau Daugay and Chateau Ampelia both show a pleasing, elegant style of crushed red fruit, soft acidity and easy tannins. I could easily see these poured at a restaurant on Michigan Avenue with a lamb or bison cut and be most pleased.