Issue: 18 / Sunday 1 April, 2018
Written by Stuart McCloskey
The world's fine wine industry will be descending on Bordeaux during early April to sample the 2017 vintage from barrel. This year’s campaign represents our thirteenth and personally my seventeenth with the great vintage of 2000 being my baptism into the frustrating world of Bordeaux En-Primeur.
We have previously communicated the devastation caused by the frost damage, which has ultimately led to several Châteaux declaring their crops were decimated along with their aspirations to produce a wine.
Bill Blatch, a previous negociant who I thoroughly enjoyed dealing with and one of the world’s foremost experts on the region of Bordeaux explains in greater detail.
“Latest estimates have confirmed, almost finally, a decrease in production from 2016 of 40% for the reds and 50% for the whites, representing a total loss of €1.6 billion. This is virtually pure loss for the growers as, even with insurance, they get compensation for only a small percentage of the basic generic price. The economic effect will start to be felt sorely later this year or in early 2019 when the absence of revenue kicks in. Meanwhile, the increased cost of tending a damaged vineyard has to be met by current vintages”.
Bill goes on to explain that “The subject of the effect of the 2017 frost on the next vintage 2018 has been widely publicised as everyone plans their pruning programme to choose the healthiest wood in order to repair the vines and ensure a reasonable harvest for this year. Many are saying that 2018 will see another short harvest. Historically, there is little substantiation for this. Examples are 1978 after 1977 and especially the incredibly prolific (if not of great quality) 1992 after 1991. Each time, the vine, which is after all more interested in reproducing itself than in putting fine wines on our dinner tables, seems to have decided to catch up on lost production. That said, the pruning is currently in its final stages very late and it is incredibly complicated: it takes skill, experience and a lot of time to work out which of the myriad shoots that have sprung out all over the vine are the best ones to retain for this year's fruit and to avoid scarring the stumps when eliminating the others”
I have been liaising closely with a negociant who I have been working with since 2000 who confirms Bill’s figures, which will inevitably create frustration for those entering the En-Primeur market for the first time however, it is important to note that Bill’s figures and the damage is not subject to every Château. To the contrary in fact, as some producers in Pauillac are reporting healthy yields (Château Latour reporting their largest crop since 2011). Key appellations escaped the frost completely and one would expect normal allocation whereas, the right bank appellations of St Emilion and Pomerol caught the brunt of the frost damage, which will inevitably reduce allocations.
New wine merchants / investment companies wishing to purchase En-Primeur directly from negociants will inevitably struggle to find allocations of the ‘top’ wines as the majority of negociants honour historical relationships and allocations. Given the severe reduction in wines produced, it is clear allocations will be cut on a like-for-like basis. We will simply have to see how the campaign unfolds.
Understandably, new private customers wishing to purchase 2017 Bordeaux may miss out as previous buyers will be offered first refusal for key wines, which is the correct policy in our allocation books. The market for En-Primeur is growing however, the vast majority are chasing the very ‘top’ Châteaux or those which have received this year’s highest critics scores. This is unsustainable and impossible in vintages like 2017. Moreover, this is also a stark reminder to be vigilant with new wine merchants / wine investment companies offering allocations of highly-desirable wines, which are proving difficult to obtain through trusted and reliable merchants with a long track record. Do not be seduced unless your homework is thorough.
Read our article on Wine Investment Fraud and Mark’s personal experience.
A critical view
Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW (Editor in Chief of Robert Parker) has taken over the Bordeaux reins from Neal Martin and is the first journalist to sample the 2017’s. She’s back for a further trip during April however, she pens the following “It would be remiss of me to hazard a view on the overall quality of 2017 at this stage of the game. For now, I will just say I’ve tasted some extraordinary surprises...and some very average ones”. Lisa’s full report and scores will be published on April 27.
Our En-Primeur micro site will be ‘live’ early to mid-April with all daily releases being published on-line. Critics scores will be added to each wine as and when they are published. As ever, we will be showing scores from the following: Jancis Robinson MW, RobertParker.com / Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW, Neal Martin, Jane Anson / Decanter, Antonio Galloni, James Suckling, Jeb Dunnuck (new to Bordeaux En-Primeur) and our own personal views for each release.
We plan to provide a weekly roundup in our Weekend Reading which will cover the fun and frolics of the campaign as it unfolds.
UK Exclusivity 2015
Eileen Hardy Chardonnay has Arrived
A month back, we communicated our intentions to take on the UK exclusivity for the 2015 Hardy's Eileen Hardy Chardonnay, which is something very special indeed. Finally, we have reached a super deal, which we believe offers not only fantastic drinking (and cellaring of 8-10 years) but a cracking price too…
2015 By the bottle @ £39.00
Buy a case of six @ £234.00 and receive 1 x btl FOC (£33.43 per btl)
Only a few chosen specialists are offering their new vintage with pricing varying from £41.00 to Hardy’s cellar door price of £44.00 thus enforcing what a super deal
our six-pack price is.
98 Points Stuart McCloskey "Less expressive than some 2015’s however, decanting for thirty minutes to an hour and serving in a large Burgundy glass brings this wine alive. The wine is silky, graceful with mouth-coating waves of life affirming minerality. Real breadth and depth here with a laser-like focus. I love the juicy yellow stone fruits and spices. I imagine this will be utterly spectacular in another 6-8 years. It is the nectar of the Aussie Gods and would shame many a white Burgundy at double the price. I recommend drinking this stupendous wine from now to 2028 and beyond (in good cellar conditions)"
98 James Halliday “From Tasmania, the Yarra Valley and Tumbarumba. Gleaming straw-green; manages to effortlessly combine power and intensity with elegance and glorious varietal fruit expression. White stone fruit is at the very heart of a palate that aspires to perfection. Quality French oak and minerally acidity play their parts, albeit largely forgotten in the wealth of fruit”
96 Points Campbell Mattinson, Wine Front “Hardy’s have been making Eileen Hardy Chardonnay since 1986 (2007 was made but never saw the light of day, or not under the Eileen Hardy label anyway; 2011 was a write-off). This year it’s made with grapes from Tasmania, the Yarra Valley and Tumbarumba. Long gone are the days when Pathway was Eileen Chardonnay’s driver. It is and always has been the best chardonnay Hardy’s can produce each year, and in that pursuit it is Chardonnay Sans Frontiers. This 2015 release has every base covered, and is every bit an exceptional wine as a result. It has funk, it has mineral, it has oak, and it has fruit, and each component seems hell-bent on making the overall wine succeed. Nothing here is timid and yet nothing here dominates. The wine tastes of grapefruit and fleshy yellow stonefruit, citrus and spice, the wash of toasty/mealy/spicy/woody character both clear and integral at once. Some chardonnay is powerful in the manner of a shotgun; this is more the power of a long-range rifle. Nothing dare scatter. It moves, as one, on through the palate and long through the finish”.
New Vintage Release from RAEN
“These three Pinots from RAEN, Carlo and Dante Mondavi’s Sonoma Coast project, are superb. Frankly, I had a hard time moving on from these wines as they were so deeply impressive from the moment I first tasted them.” - Antonio Galloni
Inspired by their family's four generations of winegrowing, RAEN is Carlo and Dante’s personal project, independent of any other, whose goal is to create world-class Pinot Noir from the cool, coastal vineyards of Sonoma County. Their first release was from the brilliant 2013 vintage and we were proud to be the first to bring and present these stunning wines to the UK. Produced in tiny quantities (each cuvee averaging no more than 90 cases) and their 2013, 2014 and 2015’s have sold-out in the US.
This trio of RAEN wines, Fort Ross-Seaview, Occidental and Sonoma Coast, are farmed at higher elevation coastal sites along the true coast and planted to heirloom and Dijon clones. Fruit from these sites cold fermented using native yeast, then aged for 10 months in neutral French oak barrels before being bottled, unfined and unfiltered. This is a true hands-on effort with a focus on bright, evanescent wines with as much mineral as fruit distinction; a reliance on whole-cluster fermentation; a bare minimum of new oak; modest alcohol levels.
The new 2016 vintage also sees the inaugural release of the Fort Ross-Seaview Chardonnay, which is sourced predominantly from the 35-year-old Charles Ranch hillside vineyard – only 200 cases were produced and we received an allocation of 24 Btls. More is promised with their 2017 release. Like the above vintages, demand for their 2016 is high with their Chardonnay and Freestone Occidental already selling out in the States.
Stu had the pleasure of meeting Tim (father) & Carlo Mondavi for lunch in London late last year and discussed their projects and plans for the future giving us a great insight to this stunning venture – read Stu’s full article here if you missed it.
** All Wines Available Week of 9 April **
2016 Raen Sonoma Coast Royal St. Robert Cuvee
The Royal St. Robert cuvee is dedicated to Robert Mondavi, who taught both Carlo and Dante to be committed to excellence. The 2016 covee comes from the true Sonoma Coast behind Bodega Bay and is a marriage of special cool sides. This wine opens with wild strawberries, crushed bing cherries, and rose petals that fill the bowl with sweet resin, white tea, thyme, forest floor and wet rock. The texture is rich, complex and leads to a long sumptuous finish.
2016 Raen Fort Ross-Seaview Home Field Vineyard
Situated on a remote hillside, planted under two miles from the cool Pacific Ocean and perched at 1,400 feet, Home Field offers a delicate message from its beautiful raw expanse. This wine opens with sweet wild raspberry, orange pith, and rose petals that combine to fill the bowl with sweet resin, coastal moss, green tea, wet rock, and candied orange. The finish is persistent and fades to notes of raspberry and dried herbs as this coastal site lingers on your pallet. Pure elegance.
2016 Raen Freestone Occidental Bodega Vineyard
Bodega Vineyard is Raen’s coolest, most exotic terroir. Steep, raw and powerful, Bodega sits just under four miles from the Pacific Ocean right behind Bodega Bay. This monopole is a planting of some of the oldest meter-by-meter hillside vines on the Sonoma Coast. The steep westerly exposure facing the Bay allowed for full ripening and incredible flavours in 2016. This wine opens to smashed wild strawberry, black cherry, rose petals, wet earth, and exotic spice fill the bowl with sweet resin, forest floor, earl grey tea, wet rock and more rose petals. On the palate, the wine possesses bright acidity backed by youthful, fine grained-tannins. Flavours of wild red and dark berries and crushed stone lead to a wonderfully long finish.
2016 Raen Charles Ranch Chardonnay
This is the first Chardonnay released by the talented brothers Carlo and Dante Mondavi. Only 200 cases were made.
The Fort Ross-Seaview Chardonnay bottling is from the rugged 35-year-old Charles Ranch hillside vineyard, with some of the older pre-phylloxera plantings of chardonnay in California. Between 1,100 and 1,200 feet of elevation, the vineyard sits on well-drained, rocky clay soils. These old Sonoma Coast vines yield naturally shy crops that offer incredible depth, density, concentration, and finesse. Notes of stone fruits, lime blossom, white flowers, wet gravel and rock minerality are delicately laced throughout this wine. Fine, yet focused, acidity balances the rich mid-palate, giving way to a long-lasting finish.
Wishing you all a Happy Easter, enjoy the long weekend
and don't eat to many chocolate eggs!