Tuesday, 26 August 2008
We did very well on the deal. The 'traiteur' – a friend – only charged us €40-something/head but the old bottles our guests brought must have been worth way, way more. Finished on Quinta da Noval '66! What's that worth at Christies? Sincere thanks go to Christophe Reboul Salze; the top Bordeaux merchant, only able to come because his yacht just broke down in Alaska!!!
Alexandre de Malet Roquefort, of Chateau La Gaffeliere and Ch. Armens; a family that goes back 500 years here, Antoine Darquey – top negociant/proprietaire – owns Teyssier in Montagne' 'Manu'; Emmanuel Villega – consultant at Cheval Blanc, the younger of the Arpins from Pomerol, Jonathan Maltus, that energetic Brit who's been buying vineyards in St Emilion for 15 years, Eric Getten, runs Lafite and all the other Rothschild estates, Francois de Ligneris, ex Ch. Southard now making wacky wines on a collection of new estates, also has the best wine bar in Bordeaux, Philippe Bourlon – Guibot La Fourvielle; known him since he were a little lad. And Jean- Pierre Appelghem; my ex-employer, thanks to whom we have this lovely building. All great friends of ours.
Us? We fielded Jean-Marc or course, just loving it all, Dan our new Buying Director, Clare who runs Le Chai, young Mark, Barbara and I.
Probably forgot some.
Our hit wines of the evening were Mark's lovely 'GG' Grenache Gris white (which is also Decanter magazine's Wine of the Month this month). And Dan really liked Le Grand Chai Pomerol.
The Laithwaites Champagne (in magnums) was much admired.
Our cellar really does look lovely with the lights lowered, candles all over and sweet arrangements of wild flowers by our Brigitte. I was hoping a 'Keyholder' or two might happen by and be blown away. But no luck.
However.... in the last three weeks since Keyholder was launched we've already had forty visits with another twenty booked. Mark has had no time for work. He's not complaining.
I've met quite a few and as always it’s a real pleasure to show off. So come on over y'all.
Tuesday, 19 August 2008
You will be panting to know prospects of the coming 2008 vintage? Can't really help. We do at least have grapes. Not many. Some are now red, some still green. Depends where you look. We've spent ten days looking very closely and titivating them.
That doesn't sound serious enough a word for what is a screamingly hard job especially if you are no longer young and bendy. A small Scottish person in our party came up with the word 'de-fankling' to describe what we do. (Apparently an old word for the tangled wool often founds in turf-roofed crofts of old; such wool was 'fankled').
Grapes get fankled too. Boy, do they! You'd think a vine after millions of years evolution would be able to grow its grapes neatly and unaided. Not a bit of it! Daft things can get really confused! We didn't bother in the old days. We'd just throw away the festering great lumps of mould formed where several bunches had just got all fankled.
Trouble is mould spreads. You can end up with it everywhere. Best it never starts. Hence this fankling work. Which must be done in august. When the staff are all away. So you must do it yourself. Can going out at eight a.m. (should be six a.m. ideally, but never managed that) for 2/3 hours back-breaking, lunch, siesta, then out again at six p.m. be in any way considered a 'holiday'? But the wife says we must so we must.
Going slowly through our vineyards disentangling, dropping bunches where there are so many they'll never ripen anyway, removing the lower leaves. Basically doing the stupid vine's thinking for it. Leaving a neat arrangement of free hanging bunches through and around which the drying breezes may waft. That way your bunches stay healthy. Blokes understand this concept well.
Talking of which I have a suggestion for any gardeners who have to do lots of bending or squatting or sitting on hard earth. Purchase a cheap plastic football and a string bag. Ball goes in bag which is tied loosely around waist so ball hangs just below your bum. You win no prizes for elegance, you create much mirth. However you do have the pleasure of this nice little soft seat that moves with you and takes away muscle-strain. Would-be manufacturers should contact the inventor; Madame Bernadette Pallaro of these parts.
Anyway we've done what we can. The bumball is packed away till the real harvest. Now what those grapes turn into depends purely on the weather from now 'till October. That's here in Bordeaux. Down in Roussillon they've already started bringing in the Muscat but that's what they do down there. Vintage gets earlier every year. They'll be harvesting at Easter soon. Here, it certainly won't be early. It will be mid October I reckon. We shall see. We'll send our dear visitors home, so the sun returns and all will be well.
Friday, 8 August 2008
The waxed bat, 2 nights in a bus, a loose goose called marco and a crash in the vineyards at 2000ft.
Boom and bust is back - if it ever went away. With inflation rising at c.30% prices have risen steeply and a crash is expected in the economy within two years. So Argentina no longer offers rock bottom pricing.
However for sheer excitement in the glass in wines below six quid there is little to beat it. An outstanding example of how argentina can delight, surprise and astound is the new Waxed Bat from Andean Vineyards.
The pet project of winemaker 'Opi' Sadler who won the only Malbec Trophy in this years wines of Argentina awards. Opi has visited Australia and tasted our Black Stump. He wanted to make a really great DARK red just for us. Full of flavour but with the natural ripeness that Argentina achieves so effortlessly, balanced by the altitude of the vineyards which keeps the wine fresh in a way the Aussies can only dream about.
Like Black Stump its a unique blend of grapes - Shiraz based but a chunk of Petit Verdot. Why did he call it The Waxed Bat? It goes back to childhood visits to his grandfathers cobweb strewn wine cellar and memories of bats and waxed bottles and candles. The image has stuck in his mind and this is the result. Our most exciting dark red find this year. My highlight from Mendoza and it's just perfect with beef.
Good tasting at Trivento in Mendoza where we doubled our Bastiana Pinot allocation (still not enough but an improvement). The best rosé I tasted in Argentina too - Parra Alta Malbec 08 - vivid colour and fruit.
Then by overnight bus to distant Famatina Valley - 8 hours on the bus followed by 2.5 more in a car. Here the shy but talented Rodolfo Griguol was very very pleased with the quality this year.
The exceptionally cold winter was just perfect for the vines. He showed me around the Finca Federada fairtrade vineyards where there are a special breed of goats trained to eat grass but not grapes. Not sure how !
All organic vineyards but they don't certify as too expensive. This is a very poor area yet the potential is huge. Rodolfo is King of the Torrontes grape and is making whites which are fresher and more elegant than ever. He also has new premium parcels of Malbec, Pinot and Tannat.
Back in the bus for the overnight return.
To Trapiche who are still holding the last few cases of the Olivé single vineyard Gold medal winning Malbec for us. New 06s looked great and all from the Uco Valley this time.
More Malbec at Cru Classé-like Fabre Montmayou including a tasty new Malbec Reserva 07. At well below ten quid, it's extraordinary value. The barrel cellar wouldn’t look out of place in the Médoc ...
From blue sky, sunny, dry Argentina and over the Andes to cold, drizzly misty Chile. More like Bordeaux.
We will take our first ever Tarapaca rosé this year – it’s a beautiful Cabernet Syrah. Also at Tarapaca was Vicki’s top new red find from this trip – a Reserva Syrah 07, tasting more like a great Crozes Hermitage.
Down to Luis Felipe Edwards in the Colchagua Valley for our crash in the vineyards at 2000 feet. It had been raining but Luis was determined to take us to see his pride and joy vineyards in the sky. They are extremely impressive and we tasted the very first crop which were full of bright, vivid fruit and incredibly concentrated with huge colour.
On the way down however Luis was struggling for control of his 4x4 down a steep slope and we crashed into some vine posts denting the rear wing. His 6 year old son sat in the back, wide eyed throughout this adventure.
Final highlight was at Cono Sur where Vicki has sourced her new Loose Goose Chardonnay. Inspired by a goose called Marco who is one of a small flock which the winery lets roam the vineyards to keep it bug free.
Its an exciting Chardonnay – no oak but bags of flavour in the fresh modern style and very pure. Vicki’s top new white find was also at Cono Sur – a parcel of Casablanca Sauvignon Blanc 08 which includes fruit from winemaker Adolfo Hurtado’s family vineyards.
We have already achieved a great deal with these two countries and are way ahead of the market for range and sales. Argentina is now 5% of our mix and Chile 10%. This compares with 1.5% and 8% for the rest of the market. A fantastic result. Its not going to be so easy with the price increases (especially Argentina) but there are some strong new wines coming over very soon to keep customers excited.