Tasting Pomerol Icon Chateau Lafleur 2017 En-primeur with Cellar Master Omri Ram in London …

Excellent tasting today with Omri Ram from Chateau Lafleur. A lot of intrigue surrounds the 2017 vintage in general and Omri feels they have a slightly different storyline to their neighbours. For Chateau Lafleur, 2017 was a good continuation of 2016 in a dry mode and rising temperatures. A hot beginning and an early start to the season normally leads to a great finish. But vine growth starting early exposes the vines to a frost risk, which has not struck in a serious way in Bordeaux since 1991. In that year, Lafleur made only 8 barrels compared to a long term average of 40 to 50 barrels and the trauma is sorely remembered.

In 2014 they bought anti-frost bucket candles, deploying 1500 of them in the vineyards in 2017 the day before the frost struck. With forecasts of frost, the candles were lit which acted to stabilised the temperatures to around 0.82 degrees C while neighbours vineyards dropped to -3 or -4 degrees C, resulting in severe losses to young green shoots.

Vintage comparisons… according to Omri Ram…

2015 = like a super 2009

2016 = like a super 2010

2017 = also more like a 2016-styled wine

Chateau Lafleur Cellar Master Omri Ram

Chateau Grand Village Rouge 2017, Bordeaux Superieur

97% Merlot and 3% Cabernet Franc in the 2017 blend with a very pure clay-limestone expression. Big, plump, opulent nose brimming with black fruits and limestone linearity. The palate is beautifully taut, crisp and pure, showing beautiful freshness, clarity of fruit and wonderful harmonious length. A real triumph for the vintage.

(Wine Safari Score: 89-92/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Acte 9 2017

100% Merlot picked on the 21st of September and 2017 is the first and possibly last vintage to be made from pure Merlot. Normally the blend includes up to 50% Cabernet Franc. Almost like a mini-Lafleur in essence, only 1,200 bottles were produced. Full and expressive on the nose, there are wonderful black plum notes, buttered brown toast, blackberry confit with just a dusting of mocha and cocoa powder. Super elegant palate, very pinpoint and precise, excellent purity, harmony and subtlety with a soft, feminine, sultry length.

(Wine Safari Score: 90-92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Les Pensees de Chateau Lafleur 2017

Smallest parcel in Lafleur at 0.69 hectares. Not made as a second wine to Lafleur, more as a defined expression from the same clay dominated parcel. Using 52% Merlot and 48% Cabernet Franc, the aromatics are more vibrant, crunchy and fresh revealing hints of cassis reduction, graphite and a saline, kirsch note. The palate boasts sweet violet tinged black berry, cherry confit with fine core depth and a plush, long length. An accessible, classy expression.

(Wine Safari Score: 91-93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Chateau Lafleur 2017

With vineyards unharmed by the frost, the blend is 47% Merlot and 53% Cabernet Franc. Merlot was picked before the rains on the 8-12th September as the fruit was beautifully ripe. The aromatics are wonderfully precise, pure and focused, with black bramble berry fruits, black cherry and blackberry jam on buttered brown toast. The palate is broad and expansive, filling the mouth, coating it with concentrated black plum, creamy saline cassis, milk chocolate nuances and chalky, gravelly fine tannins. Wonderful front palate weight, a dense core of fruit and a really profound textural harmony and elegance. Still embryonic, this wine has the genetics and the pedigree to be another fantastic Lafleur vintage.

(Wine Safari Score: 96-98/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Note: The lovely red wines of Lafleur were blended already at the end of January 2018, allowing almost the full passage of maturation to take place as a “finished wine” in oak. Usually a more common practice of the past Omri says, but nowadays, most chateaux show “cleverly constructed wines” with a notional blend drawn from the best barrels to show trade buyers at En-primeur. So yet another subtle level of authenticity in the portfolio of the Guinaudeau family reds.

A Superb Amphora White Burgundy Sure to Make Wine Geeks Weak at the Knees – Tasting Jean Marc Millot’s New Aligote 2017…

Jean Marc has been in charge of his family’s small domaine for nearly two decades now. He has combined his experience with a relatively new chai at Nuits Saint Georges and is coming out with some very solid wines indeed.

There is a tendency to pick a little later (though never the last for the Cotes de Nuits Villages), use careful selection and then vinify in the natural way. There is just a little new oak on the Grand Crus and the Suchots but the wines rely on a very natural feel and intensity of fruit.

The Cotes de Nuits Villages has been a great value wine for some years. Jean Marc and Christine’s second daughter, Alix is making her mark … this is her fourth vintage and the wines have now become highly prized both in Europe, America and Asia.

Jean Marc is also dabbling with a delicious new Amphora wine made with bought-in Aligote grapes and was kind enough to include a sample bottle in his 2016 red Burgundy sample shipment sent over for his annual London En-primeur tasting.

Jean Marc Millot Bourgogne Aligote 2017, Burgundy, France

Still bright lemon yellow with a hint of haze, this is an exotic Aligote brimming with energy and character. The aromatics are quite lifted and phenolic, showing notes of baked apples, apple skins, pear purée and a savoury, earthy, white pepper, yellow pastille fruit intensity. This wine is still in amphora and so retains a vibrant crunchy green fruit concentration, plush fleshy depth, nervy energy, and a most delicious sweet apple bon bon finish. While not a finished wine yet, if Jean Marc can preserve the impressive textural breadth at bottling, this is going to be an absolute cracker that should make natural wine geeks week at the knees.

(Wine Safari Score: 88-90+/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.

Burgundy En-primeur 2015 Kicks Off with a Head to Head Montrachet Shoot Out… 

This week marks the start of the annual Burgundy En-primeur tasting week in London. Fantastically, Burgundy and its importers have achieved what neither Bordeaux nor the Rhone has managed to do… isolate a specific tasting window in the annual London tasting calendar, focus industry minds both in Burgundy and in the UK merchant shipper trade, and present a concise, well organised series of comprehensive tastings over 1 to 2 weeks that now draw journalists and buyers from across the globe. A real achievement indeed. This could only happen in London. 

So for this occasion, I thought it would be fun to highlight one of the greatest white wine appellations in Burgundy and pitch two Montrachet Grand Cru whites against each other, head to head, with bare knuckles!

Le Montrachet has its origins in the 13th century. The Cistercian monks were donated a few vineyards on ” le Mont Chauve ” or ” Mont Rachaz ” between Puligny and Chassagne. Over the centuries, Le Montrachet was nicknamed the “vigne blanche du Seigneur” or “Roi des rois”. It is today considered to be one of the greatest of all dry white wines in the world. With vines grown on extremely barren triassic gravelly limestone soils, it is the very proof that the greatest wines often come from the most extreme sites.

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Montrachet Grand Cru 2015 ~ 0.89Ha 

Pale crystalline brightness. Lovely rich sweet nose of lemon butter, honey suckle, white blossom and leesy, mealy nuances. Wonderfully complex in its youth, there is such alluring depth with a real glycerol textured, full bodied palate that’s round and honied, fresh, succulent and endlessly long on the finish. Normally aged 12 to 13 months in up to 15% new oak, this is a beautiful expression but lacks the tension, drive and acidity of vintages like 2011, 2013 or even 2014. But certainly every bit as regal and seductive as you imagine it should be. (Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW) 

Domaine Drouhin Marquis de Laguiche Montrachet Grand Cru 2015 ~ 2.06Ha

This shows a rich dusty nose of limestone, white grapefruit and wet chalk, spliced together with nuances of creamy lemon pie, white buttered toast, lemon biscuits, and stoney pithy minerality. The palate is so vibrant and fresh, almost zippy, with massive concentration and intense power. There’s a majestic focus to the purity, soft crystalline acids, liquid mineral power, and a complex green apple and lemon cordial concentration on the finish. Exudes breeding and class. Slightly softer with less “coiled spring” tension than some years, but still eye wateringly fine. A real icon wine. (Wine Safari Score: 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

So the Drouhin takes it by a clear point. Their 10,000 vines per hectare yielded approximately 28-32 Hl/Ha in 2015 and with less than 50% new oak used, they left the wine on its lees but employed no battonage this year due to the lower acidity. Two regal wines, tasted side by side, both a splendour in their own right.