Issue: 29 / Sunday 17 June, 2018
Written by Stuart McCloskey
June is notoriously a challenging month for the team and me. The Bordeaux En-Primeur circus draws to a close. This year, the final Châteaux released on Friday which affords the time to take stock, reflect and ascertain the successes and failures. It’s also the opportunity for a little horse trading with the negociants although, this is entirely dependent on the overall success of the campaign. Of course, it may be better to purchase a knackered horse than wine!
The 2017 vintage marks my seventeenth campaign and thirteenth under Z&B Vintners, therefore I would like to think I am able to draw from significant experience. Irrefutably, this year’s campaign takes the number one spot for the biggest failure, a campaign which stalled from the outset and limped across the finish line in last place. In fact, the majority of participants / Châteaux turned-up for the event but forgot to leave the changing room. Instead, choosing to flounce up and down the corridors in super-expensive gym kit, paid for by loyal supporters who are clearly, no longer needed.
Many have questioned the point of Bordeaux En-Primeur and many (rightly so in my opinion) question the week-long theatre when the world’s wine trade, investment funds, bloggers and journalists turn-up to sample wines, which are far from ready to accurately assess. I say this from the perspective that many attendees do not have the skillset to assess barrel samples which are a long way off from being bottled. Moreover, the majority of wines are not accessible for a least a decade.
Surely, we have come of age and are big enough to confess that we should all save our money, stay behind and allow the half dozen or so critics to report their findings. Some will argue that merchants like to gain a feel for the vintage, talk through the respective wines with each Château however, who does this benefit? The Châteaux will skirt around the issue of ‘opening prices’ and their vintage assessments are always glowing. For me, the majority see it simply about the bravado of adding photographs of 50ml samples of Château Lafite to their Instagram accounts and blogs, which just seems rather silly if truth be known.
The success of an En-Primeur campaign comes down to simple, fundamental basics. The opening price compared to qualitive value / critics score(s) all linked to ‘physical’ wine prices of comparable quality. The 2017 vintage failed and failed miserably.
Why? Châteaux chose to ignore relevant market prices for comparable wines, were ignorant with their assessment of what consumers were willing to pay and simply thought by reducing their 2017 offering against the previous vintage only would be sufficient. Of course, 2017 should be more attractive to purchase against the excellent 2015 & 2016 vintages however, what about the decade before? The naivety is quite extraordinary as is their arrogance.
Ultimately, Châteaux set the prices and take little, if any guidance before they plunge their annual efforts into the market. Negociants are generally fearful with a percentage preferring to accept their unsold allocations which the banks fund. For me, this is fundamentally the problem. Negociants should refuse all unsold allocations, which in turn sends the loudest message back to the Châteaux – Your wines are too expensive, and the world market has no interest in them. Châteaux will not learn if they are shielded by quivering negociants fearful of losing unsold allocations. Completely daft and ultimately a flawed commercial concept.
Global wine merchants have a big part to play too and many are failing and failing miserably. I am not able to dictate how a merchant should run their business or En-Primeur campaign however, I am shocked with the content of emails which many UK merchants sent to their customers. Several, which I will not name, did not find fault with one single wine. ‘Quality great, critic scores fab and prices super-duper.’ Yes, we all have bills to pay but what has happened to professional ethics? I fear too many private customers will soon regret their purchases as, and with time, the majority of 2017 will creep into the market below their opening price / the price these poor, mislead customers paid. Any wine merchant which lords its success during the course of this year’s campaign should hang their head in shame. Instead, set-aside your profits for one year, look after your customers and join the small list of merchants who refused to buy many of the wines. Their short-term gains do not help consumers or future campaigns and certainly sends the wrong message back to negociants and Châteaux. Greed is a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy the need without ever reaching the end goal.
There is no shaping to the 2017 En-Primeur campaign. Less than a dozen wines are worth buying. The rest, in our opinion, should be left in the Chateaux cellars, gathering dust – Perhaps a reminder every time they trip over ten thousand cases of unsold wine!
The few worth considering...
Château Lafite Rothschild
Strong Contender for ‘Wine of the Vintage’ and more importantly, is cheaper than any other vintage that is available in the market.
Château Mouton Rothschild
Another very strong contender with e.RobertParker critic,
Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW awarding 97-99
One of the campaigns ‘biggest’ sellers. Château Léoville Barton received unanimous praise from the critics, believing it to be one of the best Left Bank wines of the vintage. Antonio Galloni awards 93-96 and believes it to be “one of the few truly exceptional Left Bank wines of the vintage”. Neal Martin awards 93-95 equalling Châteaux Palmer, La Mission Haut Brion, Leoville Las Cases, Ducru Beaucaillou, both Pichons and one point off the First Growths, Mouton Rothschild, Haut Brion and Latour.
Moreover, the Château has reduced their 2017 offering by 17% compared to the 2016 opening price, which makes the offer price of £327.00 IB per case of six highly attractive and certainly one of the must buys this year.
Certainly, worth buying @ £325.00 IB per case of six which represents the lowest price compared to any other vintage available today. Many merchants have sold-out.
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. Again, many merchants have sold-out. Only a few cases remain.
Clearly a Château interested in selling their 2017 (a 22% reduction against last year’s offering) which we offer and highly recommend @ £442.50 IB per case of six.
Priced at £590.00 IB per case of six, which is a little down on their 2016 offering (Current price of £725.00 IB per case of six). Perhaps their price should be taken in context against critic’s reviews with Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW (Parker.com) awarding a huge 96-99 and describing it as “one of the greatest Montrose's I have tasted”. Will this receive 100 points once bottled as prices for the ’09 sit around £1,150.00 IB per case of six (Parker awards 100 points against Neal Martin’s 99)…?
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 now trades @ £2,400 per case of 12…
Château Léoville Poyferré
Released @ £333.00 IB per case of six, with a significant reduction of 18% against their 2016 offering. Positive reviews from all critics coupled with a sensible price, makes this a worthwhile purchase.
A Château now in huge demand and with the sensible price of £324.00 IB per case of six is a great buy. This firmly stands as one of the ‘savvy’ buys of the campaign. Same score as Pichon Lalande and much better priced!
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. Negociants report a complete sell-out!
Domaine de Chevalier ‘Rouge’
Offered at a cracking price and comes highly recommended @ £255.00 IB per case of six representing a substantial reduction compared to the 2015 & 2016 prices.
Jeb Dunnuck 94-97 “Tasted no less than four times, the 2017 Domaine de Chevalier is going to be up with the crème de la crème of the vintage. Based on 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, and 5% Petit Verdot aging in 35% new French oak, its deep purple color is followed by an incredibly classic bouquet of crème de cassis, crushed rock, pipe tobacco, smoked earth, and leafy herbs. Similar in style to the 2008, yet with more generosity and charm, it’s medium to full-bodied, silky, and elegant, with ripe tannin. Give it a few years and enjoy over the following two decades or more”.
Stolpman Vineyards Estate
Layer upon layer of honey, honeysuckle, peaches, apricots, marmalade and butter notes, which cover every facet of your palate. This deeply concentrated yet vibrant wine is one the most mesmerizing versions we have sampled from Stolpman. In fact, and as we declared with the inaugural 2013, this is without a doubt the best US Roussanne money can buy at this price and in the context of value. Simply brilliant.
£25.95 per bottle
To more enjoyable topics. To cut a long story short, one of Magda’s customers who resides in Tasmania, sent a bottle of Pinot Noir over for the team to sample. This was sent out of the goodness of his heart rather than a hope we would support his friend’s wine. We loved it. So much so, we wanted to purchase a favourable allocation to ship back to the UK. Alas, exporting this very good Tassie Pinot Noir was not an option as production levels are tiny.
With a little research, the uber talented Nick Glaetzer emerged as the winemaker. Nick is no stranger to wine and comes from a family of great winemakers. His brother, Ben is the man behind some of Barossa’s greats including Amon Ra and Anaperenna. We set to the task and tracked Nick down with an introductory email and the tangible connection. We’ll introduce Nick more formally in a month or two however, what we uncovered from a gifted bottle was some of the best (I mean this with utter conviction) Tassie Pinot Noir I have ever sampled. In fact, and as it stands, Nick’s own wines, which we sampled throughout the course of this week, offer amazing amplitude and depth. Forget the benchmark for all Tassie Pinot Noirs. These are the benchmark for all of Australia. Superlatives do little justice and we are to become Nick’s exclusive agent. I omitted to mention his Shiraz wines – WOW!
Sadly, Nick’s Hobart operation is small and his following ferociously loyal. Our allocations for this year will be lean but this is one wine I would put to the top of my ‘must-buys’ of 2018. Join the queue and register for pre-arrival first-dibs.
Storing wine on its side won’t prevent corks drying out, and may even accelerate their degeneration, according to Amorim’s director of R&D, Dr. Miguel Cabral.
Written by The Drinks Business
During a discussion in Portugal last week, Cabral said that the headspace of a sealed bottle of wine was so moist that there was no need to place bottles on their side to keep the cork damp. “The cork will never dry out with almost 100% humidity in the headspace, so it is a myth that you need to store a bottle on its side,” he said. Continuing, he said that such humidity would ensure that the cork “won’t dry out if you store the bottle upright.”
He also said that creating moist ambient conditions during wine storage was unnecessary for bottled wine (although for barrel cellars it is important to reduce evaporation). “The humidity of the environment around the bottle won’t have any influence, because the cork is influenced by the humidity inside the bottle,” he said, adding, “So the idea that you need to store wine in a damp cellar is another myth.” He then stated, “The myths are falling down one by one now the cork industry has started doing studies.”
When asked later by the drinks business why wet corks in older wines are sometimes shrunken, he said that having the stopper permanently soaked by wine might actually accelerate the weakening of the cork’s cell structure. In other words, not only is it unnecessary to keep the cork wet, it may actually be bad for the stopper.
Summing up, he said that such knowledge was nothing new in the scientific community. “The AWRI published a paper on this back in 2005, but the problem is that people don’t read research papers, they just want the news,” he commented.
Finally, making his views clear, he stated, “The idea that storing a wine on its side to stop the cork drying out is bullshit.”
Previously, he recorded that 95-95% humidity in the headspace was high enough to ensure the passage of phenolics as well as taints from the cork into the wine – which would explain the presence of cork-derived TCA in a wine that had been stored upright. As for factors that accelerate the evolution of wine in the bottle, aside from the failure of the seal – whatever the closure type – it is temperature that has the greatest affect, as higher temperatures speed up chemical reactions.
The study referenced by Cabral was published in 2005 by Skouroumounis et al from the Australian Wine Research Institute and it is entitled, ‘The impact of closure type and storage conditions on the composition, colour and flavour properties of a Riesling and a wooded Chardonnay wine during five years’ storage.
In the abstract it states “The bottle orientation during storage under the conditions of this study had little effect on the composition and sensory properties of the wines examined.” Towards the end of the study it is noted that “temperature can have a direct effect on colour development through accelerating chemical reactions even without significant oxygen ingress.”
As for the condition of the corks used in the study, it records, “The two corks examined here differed substantially in their estimated wetness but appeared to perform similarly overall.”
A Spotlight on Penny's Hill
From its first production of 141 cases in of 1995 Shiraz, Penny's Hill has established a great reputation for outstanding vineyards from which acclaimed
estate wines have emerged.
Winemaker Ben Riggs is well established under his own banner with over a quarter of a century of winemaking experience. He graduated from Roseworthy Agricultural College in Adelaide, what some call Australia’s Oxford of the wine world. Notable alumni include Peter Gago, the current craftsman of Penfolds’ Grange. Ben still works in a consulting capacity, sourcing top-notch fruit from individual vineyards in McLaren Vale, Clare Valley, Adelaide Hills, Langhorne Creek and Coonawarra.
Ben described Penny’s Hill Shiraz as ‘My sort of Shiraz’ and advised this is one for the cellar. 14 years on, the wine has evolved beautifully in a bottle, with its fine tannins and abundant fruit transformed to the secondary characteristics. Deep dark purple-black in colour, it opens up with an incredibly rich nose filled with aromas of spice box, cedar and iodine. You can sense a real intensity here, which carries on the palate. Remarkably opulent, layered and jam-packed with flavour, the sumptuous palate has plenty to offer – cassis, peppered steak, leather and hints of nutmeg enclosed beautifully with mature, ripe tannins. Redolent with regional character, there is a certain earthiness to this wine, which adds to its savoury character. For hedonists only and certainly has the ability to go on for a further 5-8 years
“Multi-layered texture, a huge, opulent, full-bodied mouthfeel, superb purity, and a fine finish. It has the potential to be even better than the 2003”.
We are the only world merchant offering
this stunning, mature Shiraz.
Was £20.95 per bottle
Now £17.95 per bottle