Issue: 28 / Sunday 10 June, 2018
We are thrilled (a wee understatement) to be shortlisted for this year’s International Wine Challenge (IWC) UK Merchant Awards. The IWC Merchant Awards celebrate the most successful small and large businesses, who deliver an outstanding service to wine consumers across the UK. The awards are based on top quality wines, but most importantly, in this sector of the awards, a commercially successful, viable and proven business model. We have been shortlisted for two awards
Fingers crossed for the Awards Dinner 10 July…
The expected tsunami of releases turned more into a trickle with many of the top Châteaux yet to release. This year’s campaign is needlessly longwinded, dull and to be perfectly candid, most have given up, as continued, disappointing release prices are not worth bothering with. I am reminded of the 2011 campaign which was an utter shambles following two extraordinary vintages (2009 & 2010). The Châteaux completely ignored market conditions against the inferior quality of their 2011s which led to the worst En-Primeur campaign I have been party to (This year represents my sixteenth). It is accepted that there are some very good wines in 2017 however, and as everyone has voiced, this is not on-par with the 2015 or 2016. Perhaps a cyclic déjà vu as 2017 is heading down the same shambolic path.
This week, our inboxes have been full of emails not only from Bordeaux negociants peddling their releases but also from some wine merchants who have pushed every wine, which I find disappointing. No advice given to their customers, simply sheer praise for many overpriced wines which should not be purchased. Of course, they are entitled to conduct their business however they wish but we do not conduct ourselves in such a manner. Instead, we only recommend wines which we believe make commercial sense for you (not us).
This week’s re-cap on the wines to consider…
Château Pichon Lalande is offered (with a 25% price reduction against last year) and comes highly recommended @ £558.00 IB per case of six.
Their 2017 has received strong reviews from all the leading critics with James Suckling & Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW awarding 95-96 & 94-96 points respectively. Neal Martin awards a lower 93-95 but feels the ’17 is stylistically in line with the superb 1996 or 2010, which is a terrific compliment.
Château Rauzan Segla is in huge demand and with the sensible price of £324.00 IB per case of six will sell-out rather quickly. This is available for all to purchase and firmly stands as one of the ‘savvy’ buys of the campaign. Same score as Pichon Lalande and much better priced!
Château Calon Segur which is offered and highly recommended @ £375.00 IB per case. There is huge demand for ‘physical’ vintages with prices always on the increase. In short, you will not find a cheaper vintage on the market. Final Few Cases Available
Château Canon sold-out to loyal followers @ £405.00 IB per case of six. We are hoping to receive a little more next week. Contact us if you would like a case or two.
94-96 Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW “The deep purple-black colored 2017 Canon offers-up intense notes of crushed blackberries, black cherries and warm cassis with touches of fertile loam, yeast extract, beef drippings and iron ore plus a waft of garrigue. Medium to full-bodied with great freshness and firm, rounded tannins, it’s very earthy in the mouth, finishing long and mineral-laced. A very serious wine, it is also fun, bright and vivacious and should age impressively”
For several critics, Château Cos d’Estournel represents one of the wines of the vintage with Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW awarding 97-100 points and declaring it “truly profound”.
Despite high scores, the Château has sensibly released their 2017 (down 10% on 2016) which comes highly recommended @ £654.00 IB per case of six
Clearly and in the eyes of Lisa Perrotti-Brown it has all the potential to reach 100 points – ’09 was the last vintage which RobertParker.com awarded 100 points and it now trades @ £2,400 per case of 12…
97-100 Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW eRobertParker.com “The final blend of the 2017 Cos d'Estournel is 66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Merlot, 1% Petit Verdot and 1% Cabernet Franc. Very deep purple-black in color, it offers up intense scents of crushed blackcurrants, blackberries and black cherries with touches of incense, spice cake, star anise and plum preserves plus a perfumed hint of potpourri. The palate is medium-bodied with very firm yet wonderfully ripe, "sweet", fine-grained tannins at just 13% alcohol—something of a miracle in our modern times. The palate sports fantastic freshness and tons of energy emitted from the intensely perfumed black fruit layers, finishing on an epically long-lingering mineral note. Truly profound”.
Ever wondered what wine producers really think of critics? Read one irate summation of the state of wine reviewing
Written by Don Kavanagh of Wine-Searcher
A fascinating insight into the anguish felt by many producers can now be revealed, after an extraordinary letter from a severely disgruntled member of the producer end of the market was made public this week on social media. In the letter, the author gives an amusing series of "tasting notes" on several high-profile wine critics, and awards them scores based on their perceived performance.
Some of the critics do well in the assessments, but there are some brutally direct comments about the integrity of others and many are accused of offering better scores to producers who are willing to do a little more for the critic in return.
Wine-Searcher has verified the authenticity of the letter, so it is not simply a concocted internet meme or fake social media sensation; it's an actual communication sent by a member of the French wine industry to a colleague. We are not identifying the author or the critics, as we don't want anyone to lose their job and we'd rather not be sued for defamation by outraged critics unable to take the heat when it is applied to them.
"Each year in spring, during en primeur, wines are tasted, analyzed and scored by critics. The notes and scores are often incoherent and senseless, to the point that one can ask if some of them really know how to taste wines. It's not enough to have a polished rhetoric and apply a score out of 20 or 100 points. This exercise requires other essential skills that many of them seem to be short of.
"This evaluation rests on an analysis of scores, comments and the tasting of wines from a decade of en primeur and en livrable [bottled wines] tastings. The criteria on which this ranking is based are the following: tasting aptitude in recognizing qualities and faults/defects, neutrality, integrity, independence, knowledge of wineries, interest in the vintage conditions and the technical choices of the vignerons, en primeur and en livrable tastings, aptitude to reconsider en primeur scores.
"The list of influencers is non-exhaustive, but has never ceased to grow in the past few years; press journalists and independents, bloggers, masters of wine (MW) – many legitimate or not, who claim membership of the 'influential' circle."
Critic A is described as possessing integrity, discretion and objectivity. "...is also of a great humility (a rare quality in this profession) and has already gone back on [the original score] during en livrable retastings, a quite rarely observed thing among critics." The author sums up: "Not infallible, but commendable. 93-95 points."
Critic B is referred to as "The Formula 1 of tasting", but there is an inference that some mutual back-scratching is to be expected. "You will have guessed, integrity is not a priority, but [B] is liked at Bordeaux ... therefore receives a score that allows [B] to come to future tastings! 90 points."
Critic C gets a completely favorable review, being acknowledged for a willingness to travel, to do research on the vintage conditions and also to reassess scores, however the final score (87-89) suggests a certain lack of sparkle.
Critic D "travels mainly to friends’ and demonstrates opportunism", according to the author. Integrity, neutrality and the aptitude to reassess a score are not among [D's] qualities. Blind tasting does not mean tasting blind and giving a score or comment once the bottle is unveiled … well, one shouldn't displease a client… Without great interest, nothing to see here. 85-87 points."
Critic E "tastes a lot ...yet a training on wine faults is urgently required. Has no humility but has the courage of [E's] convictions, even risking to offend domains. Limited interest though. 85-87 points."
Critic F is described as a "hedonist, not a critic. It will be much appreciated to invite [F] for a lunch or to sleep over at the chateau to get good comments and better scores. A training on wine faults is here also required. 85-87 points."
Critic G "tastes a lot with certain skills but without any re-assessment ... tastes more often labels than wines. Neutrality and integrity are not a prime quality, humility neither. 83-85 points."
Critic H gets a rather mixed review: "...does not travel to properties often, seems honest, yet unpredictable, capable of the best and the worst. Can be biting in a totally arbitrary way. Remains very inconsistent, yet tends to follow the established order without really questioning it. Many aberration were noted on some crus and a training on wines qualities and faults is vividly advised. Do not follow [H's] recommendations. 81-83 points."
Critic I is where things start to really go downhill. "Surprising right from [I's] first en primeur tastings, big mistakes committed, never reassesses scores, only travels to friends. No integrity, also likes faulty wines. We advise basic wine training to gain credibility. To be forgotten; 80-82 points."
Critic J "travels a lot to properties, that's [J's] only quality. Tastes labels before wines and integrity, neutrality or even humility are very far from [J's] preoccupations. Can also give you advice on how to make a better wine. If you know a good table (because [J] is also a gastronome) while telling a good story on the wine, a podium finish is secured, but don't forget to buy some ads, too; cronyism is required. Again, nothing to see here. 75-77 points."
Critic K "only travels to friends' properties. Neutrality and integrity are not preoccupations, an American hedonist with a Californian palate and is a label drinker. Don't forget to welcome [K] at the table with very old vintages; good or bad it doesn't matter as long as the label is beautiful. A training on recognizing wine faults is imperative. For those who want to taste great wines with great harmony, finesses and elegance, [K's] recommendations are to be avoided. 68-70 points.
Critic L is dismissed in a couple of sentences. "Does not travel, incoherent and incompetent, of no interest; don't waste your time. Because a score has to be given: 61-62 points."
Critic M also gets it in the neck. "Does not travel, incoherent, proven incompetent, discredits the title of Master of Wine – if it still has any credibility in the eyes of wine professionals. Nothing to interest anyone. Because it's our duty to score this 'critic' – 61-62 points."
Critic N doesn't do much to restore the reputation of the profession, either. "Incoherent and famously incompetent, without any humility. Has buried the title of Master of Wine for good. Don't waste your time, nothing to see here. 61-62 points."
Critic O rounds out the main runners and riders. "Absolute necessity to get intensive training on wine tasting, one cannot improvise the role of critic. If you too want to criticize wines without knowing anything about them, [O] proves it's possible. 61-62 points."
[adj] definition; 1. Agreeing, concurring. 2. Like-minded.
3. Peaceful, harmonious. 4. United, joint, shared.
CONCORDIS is a collaborative winemaking project that unites four, great Barossa producers: Kaesler Wines, Seppeltsfield Winery, Torbreck Vintners and Two Hands Wines. Their aim is to simply create a unique cuvée from one tonne of their finest Shiraz grapes each vintage.
The Barossa winemakers, Ed Peter (Kaesler), Warren Randall (Seppeltsfield), Pete Kight (Torbreck) and Michael Twelftree (Two Hands), decided to make a charity wine; from this Concordis was born. The purpose of the initiative is to give back to the region that has been so supportive of the 4 wineries, with the aim to raise more than $700,000 over the initial 4 years with all proceeds going to a perpetual education fund through Foundation Barossa. The fund will then provide ongoing financial support and training opportunities in cellar operations and viticulture for financially disadvantaged, local young people, through 2-year traineeships being offered at each of the wineries.
With only 1,600 magnums made annually, CONCORDIS is a fantastic wine and the production comes to a close with their final vintage, 2017.
“This is a seriously good wine, over-delivering in every way, seductively juicy, yet with spicy complexity”
Kaesler has exclusively allocated 120 magnums to The Vinorium which we are delighted to offer at £70.95 per magnum which we believe offers incredible value for some of the finest Barossa Shiraz and four great winemakers.
* Delivery: September 2018 (It’s leaving Oz next week) *
After hand-harvesting the fruit was immediately transferred to the winery where it is de-stemmed into open top fermenters. Each batch spent 7 days fermenting on skins and was pumped over twice a day, before being gently basket pressed. The wine was then transferred to seasoned French oak barriques for 18 months. The 2016 CONCORDIS was bottled without the use of either fining or filtration in September 2017. United for a great cause, each of the 4 wineries has 400 magnums to sell annually.
29 February to 5 March, 2016
Despite a dry winter, rains in January and March, 2016 freshened the older vines and provided long, slow ripening periods in between, which led to a stand-out vintage with high quality fruit.
With an intense, deep purple hue, this wine instantly catches the eye. It has an elegant bouquet of dark chocolate and cherries, with a soft but generous, mouthcoating tannin profile. It’s rich and unmistakably Barossa palate shows hints of dried fruits, cured meats and black berries. The 2016 CONCORDIS is drinking beautifully now and will continue to improve over the next 5 to 10 years.
ETA Late August / Early September
We have placed our final order of the year with Yarra Yering following a fabulous sell-out of many wines. Whilst we wait for current vintages to be released to the export market, we have snapped-up a few older vintages, which show YY wines in the best light.
*Special Pre-Delivery Offer (Prices will revert on Monday 18 June)
2012 Dry Red No.2 @ £39.95 per bottle
(Reverting to £43.95)
98 Points James Halliday
“Shiraz, with a small percentage of mataro, was co-fermented with viognier and Marsanne. While the colour is not particularly deep, the fragrance of the wine is exceptional, the intensity of the juicy spray of red fruits on the vibrant palate even more so. This is an iron fist in a velvet glove, the flavours lingering long after the wine has been swallowed. The inheritance of the late Bailey Carrodus is being carefully guarded”
2011 Dry Red No.1 @ £39.95 per bottle
(Reverting to £43.95)
98 Points James Halliday
“Cabernet sauvignon leads the blend, with smaller amounts of merlot, Malbec and petit Verdot. The hue is good, the fragrant, berry-filled bouquet faithfully reflected in the vibrant, medium-bodied palate where fruit, oak and tannins coalesce into a triumphantly harmonious whole”
2012 Dry White No.1 @ £25.95 per bottle
(Reverting to £29.95)
“A 90/10% blend of semillon and chardonnay; crushed, with skin contact prior to pressing, fermented in used French barriques, 100% mlf. Bright straw-green; a complex bouquet with some smoky/funky characters notwithstanding the mlf, the palate built on a foundation of crisp acidity; the lemon, lemongrass fruit of semillon will grow and expand with honey and toast over the next 5+ years.”
“I firmly believe that wine is much more than a bottled product – it’s an emotional experience which has been with me since my late teens, and one producer has been with me since my journey began, Yarra Yering. I have personally chosen a selection of wines to share with you, which we have shipped directly from YY cellars. Their wines are different, very different to many of the Australian wines we offer – The precision and balance are extraordinary, particularly after some bottle age. I hope you try at least one of these great wines”. Stuart McCloskey
Read our full Yarra Yering overview
Written by Magdalena Sienkewicz
Looking fairly innocent on the outside, one would be very surprised with what awaits inside of the large, perfectly rectangular hall hidden on the side of the dazzling St Pancras station. I often wondered what is hidden inside those walls – is it a part of the closed King’s Cross Station? Or perhaps an old railway building, or a warehouse?
You cannot escape the feeling there is plenty of history there – old, but perfectly restored brickwork, with vertically aligned bricks framing each doorway and every window, as often seen in classic Bavarian architecture. This is the building of the German Gymnasium.
Originally designed by Edward Gruning, it was England’s first purpose-built gymnasium, with funding coming solely from London's German community. It was built in 1865 for the German Gymnastics Society and hosted the indoor events during London's first Olympic Games, back in 1866.
Today, this Grade II listed building is home to a stunning all day Grand Café, a sophisticated first floor restaurant, two bars (including the chic Meister Bar) and an outdoor terrace for those few warm days we enjoy each year.
During the busy weekday journeys to St Pancras with quick hops from trains straight to cabs, I never had a chance to even notice that this was a restaurant. However, the May bank holidays and an abundance of various events provided a great opportunity for a relaxed trip. With no appointments to rush to and after a great music gig, I decided to discover it on the way back to the station.
It is only when you take a stroll down the Kings Boulevard towards Granary Square that you notice the smart outdoor terrace. Greeted by a member of super-friendly staff, I was seated on the comfortable outdoor sofa with a list of drinks swiftly handed by a waiter. A good choice of wines, beers and spirits filled the drinks list. I opted for one of my favourite gins, Monkey 47 from the Black Forest, which went down all too quickly. It is an incredibly complex gin with 47 botanicals (hence the name) which I prefer to have with tonic water however, some in the office prefer it on the rocks!
Peering through the large windows, the inside looked incredibly theatrical with a stunning interplay of warm layered lighting. I quickly decided to move inside – not only because of the intriguing interior, but there were some stunning plates of food constantly passing by to the neighbouring tables, which left me feeling rather peckish (although my friends would say that I’m always hungry).
Many of the building’s unique historic details, such as the climbing hooks in the ceiling and cast steel columns have been retained which together with all modern insertions and stunning lighting creates a great ambience I would describe as a Bauhaus version of a European Grand Café.
The main exercise hall was clearly a grand and elegant space with a floor to ceiling height of 57ft. Long forgotten sports were practised here, including Indian club swinging and broadsword practice. The building ceased to be used as a gymnasium some time pre-war and was then used as offices, storage and an art exhibition space. The restaurant as we know it today, opened in November 2015 as a part of D&D London - an international group of restaurants with the sister venues including Michelin-starred Launceston Place and Angler.
As you would expect, Executive Chef Bjoern Wassmuth created a broad-ranging menu with a nod to the site’s (and his own) German heritage. Classics like Black Forest Ham, succulent veal Schnitzels and several German sausages feature across the breakfast, lunch and dinner menu which proved incredibly popular – I lost count of the black iron pans lined up on the service table (the busy open-plan kitchen roars behind the ground-floor bar) with chunky currywurst bathing in an unctuous spiced tomato, green chilli and coriander sauce.
For those frightened by the abundance of meat-heavy Bavarian cuisine, there is a good choice of lighter dishes including Coconut Crusted Prawns with avocado & mango salsa and saffron aioli and a whole healthy corner in the breakfast menu. My choice of the day was a Slow Roasted Creedy Carver free range duck served with braised red cabbage, potato dumplings, seasonal purple sprouting broccoli with almond and chilli flakes, lingonberry and a spiced orange sauce. Crispy skin, melt-in-your-mouth meat and a wonderful array of flavours. Excellent.
As for the wines, I was a tad disappointed with the limited choice of German wines. Whilst I found some familiar names on the white wine list – great to see the amazing Eva Fricke, of which we are long-time followers – there are only three German reds. A bottle of Spatburgunder from Wiengut Becker went down well together with the main course however, Germany offers some stunning examples of Pinot Noir which I am yet to see more of in the UK. Kudos for a selection of Austrian wines, which can be utterly stunning.
Great place to visit if you are in this neck of the woods and definitely worth a trip as well. The ambience, heritage and unique style all count for its undeniable charm, not to mention the unctuous plates of food served all day.
We would hate for you to miss out on Friday's offer
“Eileen Hardy Chardonnay is, in my view, the Grange of Australian white wines”.