A Vinexpo evening with a difference

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It was Vinexpo here in Bordeaux last week. A large number of the world’s wine producers and distributors together with international wine journalists and this year a good few high flying sommeliers descended on Bordeaux from Sunday to Thursday.

I actually thoroughly enjoy this week, though days can be a little bit long with dinners going on every night.

We decided to hold our own dinner at Château Pichon-Longueville Baron this year, but with a difference. We have often in the past held an AXA Millésimes event, either at Château Pichon-Longueville Baron, Château Suduiraut, or at Château Petit-Village. This year we decided that it would be fun to break with tradition and invite some leading Douro red wine producers to come to Château Pichon-Longueville Baron and show their wines, followed by a dinner with a Portuguese theme.

The wine Douro producers at Château Pichon-Longueville - Vinexpo 2011

Although Château Pichon-Longueville Baron was the main host, and actually organized the event, each Douro producer contributed and invited their own guests, so we were all receiving the guests together at the chateau. It was an extremely convivial event, with one of the most exciting wine tastings before dinner that I have ever attended: all 24 Douro producers showed three wines, almost all from the 2008 vintage, in Château Pichon-Longueville Baron’s circular cellar. Quinta do Noval was of course present, as was Quinta da Romaneira.

The full list of Douro producers was as follows:
Churchill’s, Quinta de Cottas, Quinta do Crasto, Duorum, Durham-Agrellos, François Lurton, Quinta da Gaivosa, Lavradores de Feitoria, Muxagat, Niepoort, Quinta do Noval, Pocas, Poeira, Quinta do Portal, Prats & Symington / Symington Family Estates, Real Companhia Velha, Quinta da Romaneira, Roquette & Cazes, Quinta de la Rosa, Sogrape Vinhos, Quinta do Vale Dona Maria, Quinta do Vale Meão, Quinta do Vallado, Wine & Soul.

Douro wines tasting in the vathouse of Château Pichon-Longueville

The overall quality of the wines was outstanding, and I think a revelation to many of the people there.  Officially the tasting was for two hours from 7 to 9 o’clock, but at 9.00 everyone was still enthusiastically tasting. It is quite rare at this sort of event to have to drag people away from the wine tasting to get them to come to the dinner, but it was so: nobody wanted to leave.

Douro evening aperitif in the park of Château Pichon-Longueville

Douro evening aperitif in the park of Château Pichon-Longueville

We then had some great Douro white and Rose wines as aperitif with various Douro hors d’oeuvres: cod variations, wok-grilled almonds, Portuguese charcuterie. Then we sat down together to a dinner with a Portuguese theme prepared by Mr Capdevielle. All the producers were free to bring older wines from their Quintas, and we finished off with Quinta do Noval Colheita 1997 and a number of other Ports from the assembled producers. It was a unique evening, and for me a lovely opportunity to spend time with so many Portuguese friends in the wonderful setting of Château Pichon-Longueville Baron. Everyone seemed to have a good time. You can link to the following blog by Evelyne Resnick to get an objective appraisal from one of our guests: http://www.winebrandsblog.com/2011/06/when-bordeaux-welcomes-portugal-wines/

Douro evening Portuguese dinner

the names of the Douro wine producers - Château Pichon-Longueville

The first tasters have begun to arrive in Bordeaux to taste the great 2010 Vintage

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First echoes from Bordeaux itself have until recently been fairly muted, I think because people have hesitated to say that we have in our hands for the second year in a row a very great vintage year. But it is unquestionably the case. I thought it might be useful to try to give a personal impression of the different personality of the two years, specifically in the case of the wine at Château Pichon-Longueville Baron.

There are parallels in the past, notably in 89 and 90 when two great years followed in succession, then as now with quite different personalities, and with fervent partisans of one year or the other according to personal taste. Obviously, people have asked about the parallel with these years when one considers 09 and 10, and I think it is fair enough to make the comparison, but with the significant difference of the way we work in the vineyards today, the great properties accepting significantly lower yields and in general making much stricter selection between Grand Vin and second wine today. I believe that both 09 and 10 can be compared with the great pair from 89 and 90, but I am quite convinced that they are significantly greater in quality.

It is fortunately not my job to write tasting notes of wines on a regular basis: we have very skilled and dedicated journalists for that, but for what it is worth I give here my appreciation of the Château Pichon-Longueville Baron 09 and 10 wines, in the hope that the kind of words used to describe the wines will at least give a feeling for the stylistic differences between the years. I don’t feel the need to say which I prefer, for the good reason that I am not sure yet that I know, but I am quite certain that these are two very great years for Bordeaux, and I am very glad, along with all the team here, to have lived through them.

Here is a picture of Jean René and me enjoying our deliberations on these two great wines.

Château Pichon-Longueville Baron : Jean-René Matignon, Technical Director (left hand), Christian Seely, Managing Director (right hand)

So here is the result of my deliberations with Jean-René Matignon and Daniel LLose as we tasted the two wines side by side and attempted to define the difference in style between the two

Château Pichon-Longueville Baron 2009: “Silky, velvety, very harmonious, balanced and long. Full unctuous, sweet, subtle ripe fine fruit, both powerful fine and delicate. Voluptuous, racy, classy.”

And Château Pichon-Longueville Baron 2010: “ A very lively fresh structure, tonic, strong muscular tannins, but fine and balanced, wild intense red and black berry fruit, explosive, deep complex and long. We have rarely seen so much richness allied with so much freshness. Extraordinary equilibrium, astonishing for its concentration.”

I hope this gives some idea of how we feel about these wines. Clearly I love them both. We shall now see what the world has to say. And then we shall hopefully be able to enjoy retasting and comparing them both for decades to come.

For a fuller understanding of what made the 2010 Vintage so special, I suggest that you make a link to the following address:

http://bordeauxgold.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/2010Report.pdf

This will lead you to Bill Blatch’s vintage report, which is a remarkable analysis of the year and of the wines. I think it is quite brilliant and I thoroughly recommend it. For those of you who do not know Bill, he is a much liked and greatly respected Bordeaux negociant with an encyclopedic knowledge of Bordeaux, its wines, and the characteristics of each vintage year, thanks to his decades of meticulous note taking. This report on the 2010 vintage will give you some idea of the depth of his knowledge and passion for Bordeaux and its wines.

A very short trip to Tokaj last week to work on the blend for the 2008 Aszú wines of Disznókő

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It is a lovely year. We made a very small quantity of a very fine Six Puttonyos, but overall the equilibrium seemed just great for a Five Puttonyos. I loved the balance of this year, the wines were fresh, intense, long and fine. Definitely a vintage to look out for when it comes on the market.

We profited from the occasion to taste a vertical of six Puttonyos from Disznókő, going back to 1993. The picture shows the remarkable colour variations from year to year, which reflects the strong style difference that each harvest brings. They were all delicious of course, but the stars for me were 2002, lovely pure intense and long, but needing time, as much as you can give it, in the cellar; 2000, completely different style, fresh spicy, open and seductive, great to drink now; and the extraordinary 1993, still a young baby.

Disznoko Tokaji aszu 6 puttonyos

Château Pichon-Longueville Baron 2003, James Suckling’s wine of the year for 2010

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Delighted that James Suckling has chosen the Château Pichon-Longueville Baron 2003 as his wine of the year for 2010.  I love this wine, which although extravagantly ripe and exuberant, is still recognisably a Pichon Baron, with all the balance freshness and structure you expect from Pichon. As it ages in the bottle I think the terroir is asserting itself more and more over the years, and although lovely to drink now it is settling down to become a great bottle for ageing. To read more, click here to get James’s article on Château Pichon-Longueville Baron 2003.

Château Pichon-Longueville Baron 2003

Harvest 2010 – Conditions in general

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Now that we have had some time to taste and retaste the wines of the remarkable 2010 vintage in Bordeaux, it is time to post a harvest report. The rumours you may have been hearing are perfectly justified: 2010 is an outstanding year in Bordeaux. I give below a summary of how things went in all of our vineyards, in Bordeaux and elsewhere.

Bordeaux – grape sorting at Château Pichon-Longueville - Pauillac
Bordeaux – Grape sorting at Château Pichon-Longueville - Pauillac
In Bordeaux, even if the end of spring and summer were relatively dry, the vines showed no signs of stress.The harvest of 2010 has given birth to a vintage that will undoubtedly take its place at the summit of any vintage classification, with an exceptional maturity. From an analytical point of view there are record breaking levels of ripeness in terms of sugar levels and also of polyphenols. In a somewhat different style, it will unquestionably bear comparison with its predecessor, the great 2009 vintage.

A great year for the dry whites and the reds, but also for the liquoreux, with a perfect late arrival of botrytis that enabled us to harvest an impressive 2nd and 3rd trie.

In the Languedoc, summer was extremely dry. Thanks to our first year of installation of irrigation on half the Belles eaux vineyard, we were able to optimise quality. Here also, 2010 will be a lovely year.

Burgundy - The harvest at Domaine de l’Arlot - Nuits Saint Georges
Burgundy - The harvest at Domaine de l’Arlot - Nuits Saint Georges

Burgundy was a little less fortunate, with a terrible winter and severe frosts that caused severe damage in certain climates, leading to a reduction in yields that an irregular floraison did nothing to help. Very low yields therefore, but a beautiful maturity for these 2010, and some lovely wines in spite of the difficulties earlier in the year.

Tokaj – Disznókő – Picking of the Aszú grapes
Tokaj – Disznókő – Picking of the Aszú grapes

No drought in Tokaj, rather the contrary, with 800 mm of rain between april and mid September. A difficult year with a lot of disease problems, very weak “sortie” and a chaotic floraison, all combiing to give us an historially low yield. But the Aszús we were able to harvest will enable us to produce all the same a harvest in the style of 2004, aromatic and vivacious, with a structure marked by finesse and elegance rather than by power.

Douro - Quinta do Noval – Foot treading in the lagares
Douro - Quinta do Noval – Foot treading in the lagares

In the Douro we harvested an impressive volume of the kind not seen since 2007. This significant production gave all the same wines that are very pure, elegant, aromatic and structures, both for Port wine and for Douro reds.