Fine Wine Friday at Chez Bruce With Some Iconic Wines…

Well, it’s that time of year when we gather to bid farewell to fine wine friend Keith Prothero before he decamps to the Cape for the summer / UK Winter. I volunteered to organise the lunch finale with Bruce Poole, co-owner of Chez Bruce, Keith’s favourite restaurant in London and below is a little snap shot of the epic wines consumed. All wines were tasted blind before they were revealed.

Wine Advocate reviewer Neal Martin (left) with Bruce Poole, co-owner of Chez Bruce

First up, a vibrant, tantalising Clos des Goisses 1996 Champagne from Philipponnat with a fine leesy biscuit lift and a pronounced, creamy citrus note. Beautiful definition, purity, and a salty briney undertone that melts away into dusty lemon, buttered toast and a crisp, vibrant finish with great structure. A good bottle drinking at its peak. (96/100 GS)



The first flight of five whites started with an impressive Niepoort Coche White Blend 2011, briming with creamy peachy yellow fruits, lovely struck match reduction, ample minerality, woodsmoke, cassis leaf, wet slate, and wonderfully fine depth. I loved the tension and profound, subtle, buttery depth. Truly one of Portugal’s finest still white wines. Malcolm Thwaites, who has just recently visited Dirk Niepoort during harvest, actually called the wine amazingly! (95+/100 GS)


Next up, Keith’s Sandhi Sanford & Benedict 2011 Chardonnay. Initially smokey and seductive, with intense saline notes, lemon and lime cordial richness, huge concentration, this was a complete ringer for an old world Burgundian grand vin. Only after it had sat in the glass for a while, did it finally start to reveal some exotic new world fruit notes. A monumental effort from California and the ultimate ringer capable of fooling even the most talented tasters. (96/100 GS)


The Sandhi was followed by one of the truly great white wines of Burgundy, a superb bottle of J-F Coche Dury Meursault 2013. Wow, tasted blind, this was intensely taught, pin point, and precise showing lime, stoney liquid minerals, crushed limestone tension and focus. Very intense with seamless texture, regal mineral complexity, subtle passion fruit hints and great rigour on the finish. “Wines like this should challenge the senses, not entertain them!” was a very poignant comment from Nigel Platts Martin. (96/100 GS)


At these lunches, we always seem to open our “back up bottles” even when not required, and here again, my Didier Dagueneau Buisson Menard Pouilly Fume 1997 was added to the first flight. An interesting bottle, it had tasters scratching their heads endlessly as the wine unfurled in the glass. Plenty of white peach, passion fruit, pineapple and stoney minerality were in evidence. Beautifully exotic with a mercurial dry finish. “A bit of an upstart”… but certainly showed its class in my mind. (93/100 GS)



Just as we were about to move on to the reds, we were treated to another late addition and definite rarity. A fine bottle of Raveneau Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2002. The initial nose was quite lactic, with hints of cottage cheese and cream, yet also full of oyster shell, fennel, pineapple and aniseed. There was a touch of wet dog to the wine combined with great minerality which led many of us to the Loire. But this was classic, elegant, fresh, super fine Grand Cru Chablis at its best and developed wonderfully in the glass. (94/100 GS)



The first three reds revealed a Rhoney theme but with a few twists. First up was Neal Martin’s amazing Jaboulet Cornas 1972 that showed a bouquet of rich brûlée oranges, savoury cured meats, and cherry confit. Rich and textural, this beautifully lifted wine sang a wonderful melody, and while mature, was thoroughly enchanting. So typical of the Northern Rhone, almost all at the table plumped for Hermitage or even perhaps a great vintage of Crozes-Hermitage. La Chapelle was even mentioned. But Cornas it was. I would have expected a little more blood and iron for a Cornas but perhaps the Jaboulet personality was shinning through more than the appellation’s terroir. A real treat. (93+/100 GS)



The wine that followed was younger and required a bit more thought. Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape Hommage a Jacques Perrin 2000. Very complex Mourvèdre dominated wine (60%) loaded with black berry and bramble fruits with saddle leather, cured meats, liquorice, tar and sweet earthy black fruit notes. Dense and concentrated, this was a delicious grand vin wine almost certainly drunk too young. Give this classic another decade at least. (96+/100 GS)


So we were well and truly treading a Rhone path, when the next red from Alex Lake had us all a bit fooled. A Giaconda Warner Vineyard Shiraz 2002 was not to my memory picked out as New World by anyone. Smoky lifted nose with granite dust, aniseed root, and earthy black berries, this was a very compact, focused wine with plenty of tension, crisp acids, and a subtle, restrained, savoury boxwood and pepper corn spice finish. A very smart wine that along with the Mullineux reds, is one of the few new world Syrahs / Shirazes Keith openly admits to drinking! Nice to taste this wine again with more age, but still a long life ahead of it. (95/100 GS)


The next pair of reds charmed some more than others, but as a devout Italian fine wine lover, the next two reds had me weak at the knees, (or was that the previous 10 bottles?). An utterly sublime Soldera Case Basse Brunello di Montalcino 1999 was bursting with sweet cherry blossom perfume, savoury earthy notes, saddle leather and wet tobacco, gun smoke, and graphite. Plenty of energy, this really was a superb, seductive hedonistic red full of character. (96+/100 GS)


To partner the Soldera was another real rarity ~ a Valdicava Madonna Del Piano Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 1990. Not a wine you come across very often anymore, this wine had all the archetypal power and prowess Valdicava’s Riserva’s are so famous for, except this one was finally giving an impression that despite being beautifully fresh and vital, it was approaching peek drinkability after 27 years! Dark and smoky, dense and dusty, it was quite saline, tight and precise, with pithy caramelised cherry fruits, grilled herbs, leather, graphite, aniseed and meaty savoury bramble berry depth. Very fine acids and also a touch of VA just to add more lift and complexity. The Riserva can be a hard wine to understand in its youth, or when James Suckling scores them 100 points, like with the 2010. But after tasting a maturing vintage like this, a lot of puzzle pieces fall into place. (96+/100 GS)


At this point, we were all amazed that no Burgundy or Bordeaux had featured in the flights yet! But the next wine broke the drought. A most majestic Chateau Cheval Blanc 1985 from St Emilion. This was a real treat and must be one of my favourite vintages of Cheval Blanc. Loaded with black berry fruits, gun powder, briary, and aniseed notes, it was also so vibrant, energetic and packed full of saline cassis, a touch of ink, leafy spice, sandalwood and buttered brown toast. Drinking in the perfect harmonious mid point between youth and maturity. For me, a top right bank Bordeaux ready to drink does not get much better than this. (98/100 GS) 


The last red was possibly another late addition, hence it was not included in the Rhone flight. But in many ways, it received more deserving attention being served in isolation. A contender for wine of the lunch, the Les Cailloux Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvée Centenaire 1990 from Lucien & Andre Brunel was indeed profound. A solid 100 pointer on the Wine Advocate scale, Robert Parker once described this wine as one of the greatest vintages ever made at the estate. This bottle was deliciously saline, rich, intense and dense but never tipping over to heavy in anyway. Sleek, crystalline, and supremely elegantly textured, this wine is still so youthful, fresh and perfumed, showing its true class. A really profound wine. (98/100 GS)



To accompany a most delicious cheese dessert course, two sublime sweet wines were served. The iconic Mullineux Olerasay No.1 Chenin Blanc NV made from a Solera system. The word that encapsulates this wine is effortless harmony. It is neither too sweet nor too unctuous, merely finely balanced and beautifully intense. A lot of effort goes into making straw wines of this quality, and this blend deserves a big score if for no other reason, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Amazing wine. (98/100 GS)



Before we could cross our T’s and dot our I’s, we were treated to another profound dessert wine ~ the Reinhold Heart Ohligsberger 2010 Mosel Eiswein. After a long afternoon of intense, thought provoking fine wines, nothing could possibly refresh the senses better than a delicious, vibrant glass of rapier fresh Eiswein. Packed full of lemon and lime cordial notes, white peaches, and sweet yellow grapefruit, the acidity balanced the sugar brilliantly and was the perfect ending to a fascinating afternoon of fine wine and of course exceptional Michelin starred food.



Bon voyage Keith, I am sure most of us will still be talking about many of these wines by the time you return in 6 months time. 

Exploring Bordeaux Second Wines – Part 4: Chateau Leoville Barton La Reserve de Leoville Barton, St Julien 2012…

On a cold winter’s night, what could be better than a lovely steak frites dinner and a bottle of Bordeaux! But on a Monday night I hardly feel like pushing the boat out. Well, that sounds like the perfect moment to crack a Bordeaux second wine.


More accessible, less structured and often more elegant, these are delicious wines that match food beautifully but don’t necessarily require a decade or more of ageing before opening. The full Bordeaux hit for a fraction of the price! 


Chateau Leoville Barton La Reserve de Leoville Barton St Julien 2012, Bordeaux, 13 Abv.

An attractive Saint Julien Bordeaux made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, from the moment you pull the cork, the aromatics seduce you with their intensity, perfume and power. Wonderful liquorice edged cassis black berry fruit, sweet cedar, tobacco leaf, vanilla bean spice, coffee bean and creamy mocha richness abound. On the palate, the texture is superbly light and fresh, finely tuned, very precise and super elegant. Tannins are fluffy and light, and the palate packed with all the complex flavours of the Chateau’s first wine, but without any chewy tension, tannic elasticity and chunky fruit density. It’s just a wonderful, lithe, sleek, athletic version with silky soft black cassis fruit, blueberry, mocha spice, and a peppery, vanilla powder dusted finish. So succulent and drinkable, this wine really strikes all the right notes. Drink now to 2026+.

Verdict: One of the most enjoyable second wines I’ve drunk recently. Buying 12 bottles won’t be enough, try 24 instead! 

(Wine Safari Score: 90+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)


Is There a Silver Lining in the 2013 Bordeaux Vintage Cloud? Tasting Tertre Roteboeuf 2013…

Is there ever a modern vintage from a premium global wine region that can be written off as totally unsaleable!? When you think of the 2013 Bordeaux harvest, it is not exactly a vintage many collectors and connoisseurs can envisage buying and cellaring. Indeed, the 2013 vintage was one of the coldest and wettest growing seasons in the past 40 years. 


In a normal vintage, Bordeaux would be expected to produce 5.5 million hectoliters of red wine. In 2013, this figure was closer to 3.9 million hectolitres, one of the lowest yields since 1970. But was the quality of the wines produced so horrendously below par as wine critics have made out? Personally, I remember returning from Bordeaux after tasting the En-primeur 2013 wines thinking what a delicious, elegant, light, fresh, “bistro vintage” this was going to be and how easy the wines would be to sell if the Bordelais priced them low “to move”. 


But of course, the Bordelais never do what is expected and the 2013 pricing was unreasonably high, out of touch generally, and the wines remained predictably unsold. Fast forward 4 years and it’s a sorry tale hearing of the large, unsold, unsaleable mountains of 2013 Bordeaux clogging up the balance sheets of negociants and Chateaux alike.


So when the opportunity arose for me to drink a bottle of 2013 Tertre Roteboeuf Grand Cru St Emilion, I approached the prospect with a fair amount of circumspection. What should I expect?

Chateau Tertre Roteboeuf St Emilion Grand Cru, 13.5 Abv.

The 2013 has a seductively perfumed nose that shows a wonderfully expressive bouquet of red cherries, red plums, red salty liquorice stick, cedar oak spice and sweet jasmine blossom. The typical Tertre Roteboeuf tasting note always alludes to the wine’s Burgundian characteristics. But with the 2013 Grand Vin, there is not only the pretty fragrant aromatics, but also the lighter, more ethereal texture more reminiscent of a Cotes de Nuits Burgundy than St Emilion Grand Cru. The palate shows beautiful balance and great depth of flavour with nuances of raisined cranberries, strawberry confit, dried figs, earthy red currant and pithy, spicy, picante tannins. Acids are fresh, slightly angular, taught and vibrant, lifting the palate concentration and highlighting its front palate opulence and immediacy before finishing with slightly peppery, spicy, chalky tannin drip. A very pretty wine, yet there is no frivolity in evidence, only focused, elegant, precise winemaking. Drink now to 2027+.

(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

The Seductive Power of Appellation Margaux ~ Tasting the Over-Performing Chateau Haut Breton Larigaudieres…

End September sees the Bordeaux Cru Bourgeois Trade Tasting return to London. Last year’s tasting was described by the Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin as a very fertile hunting ground for great value, affordable quality, drinking red Bordeaux. 


If the region of Bordeaux is to retain its admired status as the most collectable wine by connoisseur’s, it is crucial that smaller, lesser classifications are bought and drunk by regular consumers. The love affair with Bordeaux has to start somewhere, and for many wine enthusiasts, it starts with drinking tantalising Cru Bourgeois wines. So tonight I’m getting into training for the tasting by drinking a delicious bottle of appellation Margaux Cru Bourgeois. 


Chateau Haut Breton Larigaudiere 2012 Margaux, 13 Abv.

A blend of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot, this is an absolute cracker from the Margaux appellation. Sweet red plum and blueberry fragrance lift effortlessly out of the glass. Violets, jasmine, dried mint leaf, pot pourri herbs and seductive musk notes add massive complexity. There is also plenty of rich earthy cassis and lush red cherry exotism to excite even the most reluctant Bordeaux connoisseur. Palate concentration is very impressive yet you never lose sight of the wine’s Margaux’esque elegance, allure, perfume and seductive beauty. Creamy, powdery tannins are the order of the day making this a top notch Margaux that is both precise and pretty, yet deceptively powerful and intense. True to the vintage, there is ample accessible upfront fruit, fine balance and harmony and bright pure freshness. This is a fantastic offering that cannot fail to excite. Drink now to 2030.

(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Peter “Pingus” Sisseck Crafting Magic at Chateau Rocheyron in St Emilion…

Château Rocheyron takes its name from its location, Rocheyron. Sharing a boundary with Château Laroque along one side of the estate, its history is linked with that of the neighbouring vineyard, classed as a Grand Cru Classé.


In 2010 Silvio Denz, a co-owner of Clos d’Agon in Spain (Catalonia) and Peter Sisseck, the oenologist of Clos d’Agon, indicated their interest in buying Château Rocheyron under the AOC Saint-Emilion Grand Cru.

Peter Sisseck is off course a native of Denmark, who came to the Bordeaux winegrowing region to spend some time with his uncle Peter Vinding-Diers (of Rustenberg fame), an oenologist working in Bordeaux at the time. Peter then settled in the Spanish Ribera del Duero region in 1990, acting as a consultant oenologist to a major winegrowing estate. In 1995 he created the estate Dominio de Pingus and his first wine, Pingus.


Château Rocheyron now gives Peter the opportunity to rediscover the characteristics of the great wines and terroirs of Bordeaux. Every vintage shows improvements as Peter slowly masters his new Rocheyron terroir and the 2016 probably represents his finest, most complete Bordeaux expression to date.

Chateau Rocheyron 2016 St. Emilion Grand Cru, Bordeaux (En-primeur Cask Sample)

The fabulous 2016 is comprised of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc. This embryonic red, tasted as a barrel sample, is beautifully cool and focused with a fine creamy suave texture and plush, concentrated fruit intensity. Impressive breadth and balance showing tart black cherries, kirsch liquor, red currants and a blue berry opulence. There is very fine clarity and purity and everything about this wine exudes classical precision and finesse. Peter himself regards this as his best effort to date, even surpassing his mighty impressive Rocheyron 2015. A legendary wine in the making. 

(Wine Safari Score: 96-97+/100 Greg Sherwood MW) 

Bordeaux Babble in a Nutshell… The Antidote to Bordeaux En-primeur…

It’s old but it’s still very very funny at this time of year, doing the annual pilgrimage to Bordeaux. So, having spent a week in Bordeaux, having gums assailed by giant tannins, somebody has finally got to grips with some basic French…. enjoy! 


French: A good year

Translation: a bad year


French: A classic year 

Translation: most of the wines are undrinkable


French: A Parker wine

Translation: lucky bastards


French: an elegant wine

Translation: a wine with no fruit


French: a wine with great structure

Translation: a wine with ferocious (probably unripe) tannins

French: A vintage for the purist

Translation: please buy my wine – somebody, anybody…


French: prices will be the same as last year

Translation: make me an offer


French: It is a Cabernet vintage

Translation: My winery is in the Médoc


French: It is a right bank vintage

Translation: My winery is in St Emilion / Pomerol


French: It is impossible to generalise

Translation: It was crap everywhere.

Tasting Chateau La Croizille Saint Emilion Grand Cru, the New Kid on the Cote…

I first visited the impressively modern Château La Croizille winery in St Emilion at En-primeur time in 2015. Prior to that, I’d only ever cast a curious eye over its large, orange, modern-art tasting room that protrudes from the limestone cote, across the way from Chateau Tetre Roteboeuf. I had never tasted the wines and had never seen them in the UK market, the Claret capital of Europe.


The reason for this relative obscurity perhaps lies in the fact that La Croizille is a St Emilion Grand Cru estate that originally was acquired by the Belgian De Schepper – De Mour family in 1996 and is sold mostly in the Benelux. The 5 hectares of vines belonging to the Château benefit from the same remarkable soils, on the borders of the clay-limestone plateau of Saint-Emilion in the commune of Saint-Laurent des Combes, as Chateaux such as Tetre Roteboeuf and Troplong Mondot.


After 1996, the De Schepper family commenced on a large investment spree, bringing the estate into the modern winemaking era, combining its sought after terroir with high-end technology and traditional know-how to create a wine with great opulence, finesse, modernity and personality.


This winery is a rising Saint Emilion star which you’ll read a lot more about in years to come. Already, the winery’s more recent vintages have garnered several 90 plus point scores from international critics including James Suckling and Decanter Magazine. Buying a few cases of the opulent 2015 or intense 2016 could be a very smart choice.


Tasting Note: Chateau La Croizille Saint Emilion Grand Cru 2012, 13 Abv. ~ A dark cherry black opaque colour greets the drinker. Initially, the nose is broody and closed. But a little glass swirling and coaxing starts to elicit some of the more classical elements of the bouquet… black berry, black cherry pith, cassis, dusty limestone minerality, hints of graphite and a gloss of buttered brown toast. The oaking is almost imperceptible, revealing a very restrained and quite classical expression from this “drinking” Bordeaux vintage. The palate has all the sleekness, suppleness and accessibility that you’d expect from a 2012. A soft fine grained texture, polished powdery tannins, chalky grip and spicy, plummy, peppery black cherry and black berry fruit. It’s all packed into a very classical, medium bodied parcel, that delivers pleasure now but also suggest it is structured enough to be holding back a few surprises in reserve for drinkers in 5 to 8 years time.

(Wine Safari Score: 92/100 Greg Sherwood MW)