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2012 Bordeaux

On Wednesday morning, beneath grey skies lamenting President Elect Don T.’s ascension to power, I inched across London in the relative comfort of a black cab. With the MW award ceremony beckoning later in the day, my state of nervous excitement meant that I eschewed early eating deciding a better breakfast would be claret rather than cornflakes.

My destination was Vintner’s Hall and the IMW’s ‘Annual Claret Tasting’. The vintage to be tasted was the 2012 and on entering the long and airy Livery Hall, the sight of ninety-five of the best bottles, Bordeaux has to offer was the first part of my reward for journeying the six thousand miles from Taipei.

In a previous post in March 2015 (http://sniff.com.tw/?cat=83) I had mixed feelings about 2012 finding it inconsistent and typically a little too herbaceous for my sensibilities. This was an altogether more comprehensive tasting and was without the distracting presence (however pleasant) of the Chateau owners. I was really interested to see whether a further 18 months in bottle had helped ease any of the vegetal funk into a more perfumed, elegant iteration. ‘Possibly’ was the answer.

The first thing to say is that no famous commune tasted was without some issues but those areas more obviously associated with Merlot were definitely more consistent. Pomerol and Pessac Leognan provided the wines with the most charm and if anyone is offering I’ll gladly take delivery of six Haut Brion as this was my wine of the day. However one needn’t take out a bank loan to experience the particular elegance and eminence of this first growth as there is more than enough pleasure in less expensive offerings with the likes of Malartic Lagraviere providing perfumed precision without a whiff of green. In Pomerol, the best had this AOP’s hoped for richness as well as freshness, with La Fleur-Petrus and Trotanoy my personal picks.

Perhaps somewhat surprisingly there was also real excitement to be found in the colder soils of St.Estephe with Calon Segur and Montrose being both bright, lively and assured and the altogether more closed Cos d’ Estournel promising pleasure in the future if you can wait another decade for it to shed some of its scaffolding.

Communes where there was definitely more miss than hit included Margaux, St.Julien and Pauillac. Apart from the ever elegant and beguiling Chateau Margaux, the rest of this famous AOP is disappointing, with the best examples showing some prettiness on the nose but unfortunately too much stodge on the palate. Wandering further north and the story is similar with too much oak and extraction for the quality and relative delicacy of the fruit. These wines feel like they’ve been forced into clothes that are just never going to fit, like a boy in his dad’s suit.

Sometimes all the aspiration in the world cannot produce inspiration and a gentler touch would have allowed the herbaceousness present to appear less angular and less marked. One can only hope that on the day that saw a man with orange hair take control of the most powerful country in the world that Donald takes a similar view, dialling back on the protestations of self-aggrandisement and instead displays an as of yet unseen restraint and magnanimity in victory. Then, like the best of this uneven 2012 vintage, we may experience more pleasure than pain as we move forward into our uncertain future.

2012波爾多 

週三早晨,天空灰濛濛地哀悼著川普成為美國總統的事實;同時間的我,正坐在黑色計程車中,緩慢地於倫敦市區中前行。由於今天即將出席葡萄酒大師(Master of Wine)的授頒典禮,既緊張又興奮的我,決定跳過穀片早餐,改以波爾多紅酒(Claret)墊胃,心想後者大概適合作為這一天的早餐。

我要去參加的是葡萄酒大師協會(Institue of Master of Wine,即IMW)於Vintner’s Hall舉辦的「年度波爾多紅酒品飲會」(Annual Claret Tasting);這一天要品嚐的是2012年。當我走進長型而挑高的Livery Hall時,95瓶波爾多最優秀的酒款映入眼簾;這是我從台北飛了9000多公里來到倫敦的第一個犒賞。

去年三月,我曾在部落格中提到,2012年波爾多表現不夠穩定,草本味也過濃()。相較於去年的品飲,這一次想必會是更完整的體驗,也比較不會受到酒莊主人的干擾(雖然有時這些「干擾」還挺愉快的)。我很想知道,暨上一次品飲後又經過18個月瓶陳的2012年,是否能褪去原本的植蔬怪味,展現出更多香芬、優雅的特性。

我首先發現,即便是知名酒村的酒款,也免不了有些問題,至於那些使用較多梅洛(Merlot)的酒款,表現則普遍較為穩定。玻美侯(Pomerol)與貝沙克-雷奧良(Pessac-Leognan)魅力十足;其中Haut-Brion是我當天最愛的酒款,如果有人願意出價,我很樂意收上六瓶。還好,我們不須要向銀行貸款就能體驗如一級酒莊般的高雅與卓越,因為像是Malartic-Lagraviere這類價格親民許多的酒款,已經能為飲者帶來極大的享受。這款酒不但香氣精準,還不帶任何青澀風味。至於玻美侯中最濃郁又兼具新鮮風味的,則非La Fleur-Petrus與Trotanoy莫屬。

另外,有些出乎意料之外的是,這年份在聖愛斯臺夫(St. Estephe)較冷的地塊──如Calon Segur與Montrose,都端出了出明亮、鮮活、風格明確且領人興奮不已的酒款。相較之下,Cos d’ Estournel目前嚐來雖然較為閉鎖,十年後、待銳利的稜角軟化,同樣能為飲者帶來許多樂趣。

不同於聖愛斯臺夫,瑪歌(Margaux)、聖朱里安(St. Julien)與波亞克(Pauillac)等酒村則表現欠佳。除了向來優雅、誘人的瑪歌酒莊(Chateau Margaux),其它的AOP酒款都令人失望。最好的例子擁有漂亮的香氣,但口感過於厚重。一路往北,其它酒款們也都展現了類似的狀況,不是桶味太多,就是萃取過重、果味偏輕。這些酒款像是穿著父親西裝的小男孩一般,硬被套上了不合身的衣服。

有時候,再多的志向也釀不出鼓舞人心的美酒,唯有輕柔的釀酒手腕,才能降低青澀感,並帶出酒中圓滑的一面。我們只能期望,在橘髮川普成為全球最強勢國家領導人的這一天,他也能像一些釀酒人一樣,在面對勝選時,少一些個人膨脹,多一些過去我們不曾見到的內斂與謙容雅量。如同品質不定的2012年中最好的一些酒款,我們也許也能夠在不確定的未來中,少經歷點痛苦,多享受點樂趣。(編譯 / 艾蜜・emily)

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The Despagne Family: Bordeaux Royalty
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No Beefsteak but some Burgundy

Having being recently invited to lunch at Le Cocotte, a restaurant of some standing here in Taipei, I was looking forward to the food almost as much as the wine. The occasion, a gathering of the ‘Beefsteak and Burgundy [dining] Club’ meets monthly and is populated by a diverse membership whose specialisms range from robotics to removals.

On arrival I was handed a glass of ‘Champagne’ and having tasted it I looked behind the bar for the bottle. I should have expected as much but the sight of the four wines we were to be served over lunch, sitting swaddled in tin-foil, produced the very slightest of palpitations deep in my innards. I knew that it would not be long before I was asked ‘what I did for a living’ and the realisation that a wine ‘expert’ was in their midst would make the blind tasting an altogether more interesting prospect…for some.

As we took our seats, paid homage to the Queen and our respective leaders of State, all I could think about was the origin of the inch of effervescence that sat whispering from the flute before me. ‘Touch of yeastiness, chalky texture, citrus and apple fruit…ok, its traditional method, old world, more than likely French but definitely not Champagne, acidity is too low…so Cremant but which, de Loire or de Bourgogne…?’, oh the joys of drinking in public. I’ll be honest, I went for the Loire, seduced by the apple and minerally mouth-feel, ignored the bright but not whistle clean acidity and of course if you close your eyes to the obvious you end up looking foolish; it was from Burgundy.

The wines that followed were more straightforward. Firstly an excellent, aromatic and pointed dry Muscat from the Minervois, then a dough and bruised apple scented Savagnin from the Cotes du Jura, before a final sweet wine from Ste-Croix-du-Mont. This appellation being on more elevated terrain, peers down through the botrytis inducing mist onto the vineyards of Sauternes that squat on the opposite shore of the Garonne.

I do not know if I will be invited back, but tasting (even when blind), drinking and eating in good company, especially when accompanied by some less than usual wines is a rare pleasure. Below are reviews of the four tasted:

Maison Vitteau Alberti, ‘Cuvee Agnes’, Cremant de Bourgogne NV
Grape: Chardonnay
Wine-making: Traditional method
Note: As mentioned above, this has a lovely chalky texture and fine fruit. The acidity is crisp and less taut than Champagne but this makes it easier to appreciate. Good value.
Price: 1,480NT
Score: 15.5/20
Available from: Le Cellier des Poetes,
www.cellierpoetes.com

Clos du Gravillas, ‘On the Rocks’ Muscat Sec, 2013
Grape: Muscat blanc a petit grains
Wine-making: Stainless steel
Note: This is excellent Muscat with the sweet aromas of grapes and white flowers whilst being deliciously dry, bright and minerally. Excellent value
Price: 1,080NT
Score: 16.5/20
Available from: Le Cellier des Poetes, www.cellierpoetes.com 

Domaine Berthet-Bondet, Cotes du Jura, 2009
Grape: Savagnin
Wine-making: Kept in old oak barrels for three years without topping up and with a veil of flor adding aromatic complexity.
Note: Not the most popular wine of the day but these strongly savoury and bone dry wines require a certain amount of practise to appreciate. If you like Fino Sherry or Amontillado you will like this.
Price: 1,680NT
Score: 16/20
Available from: Le Cellier des Poetes, www.cellierpoetes.com 

Chateau La Rame, ‘Traditionnel’ Ste-Croix-du-Mont, 2012
Grape: 100% Semillion
Wine-making: This is botrytised sweet wine matured in tank for two years.
Note: Sweet but with good freshness this young, honeyed apricot and lemon scented wine has less obvious fat than a Sauternes but most would never notice the difference. The price for a full 750ml bottle is a bargain.
Price: 1,580NT
Score: 15.5/20
Available from: Le Cellier des Poetes, www.cellierpoetes.com

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Bordeaux 2011

Following on from Wednesday’s missive that discussed the merits or otherwise of Bordeaux 2012, fate guided me to an unexpected comparison with 2011. Taiwan is great, but awash with fellow MW wannabes it is not. Finding ways to prepare for my second attempt at the practical exam that looms large this June, relies on me being creative. My latest plan involves the Taiwan Wine Academy, who, being extremely generous as always, have agreed to send me six samples a week from wines they use in some of their classes. I had my first delivery on Wednesday night, the small brown phials arrived alone and by taxi, carefully cosseted in giant bubble wrap and accompanied by nothing more than a sealed envelope marked ‘Answers’.

Having set my timer for one hour, seven minutes and thirty seconds (MW exams consist of double this quantity of wine and time) I scribbled myself a range of MW style questions, including a requirement to identify the vintages, poured the wines and off I went. Having nosed my way through the six wines that consisted of two whites, three reds and a sweet, it was instantly apparent that they were from Bordeaux. I’d be lying if I said that I knew that the sweet wine was from 2011 and although I was confident that the whites were indeed from this vintage it was the reds that spoke loudest of their birth-year. Being bookended by the markedly richer vintages of 2009 and 2010 on one side and the leaner tasting 2012 on the other, the youthful, still purple hued, ripe but not bumptious nature of the fruit in these 2011’s was transparent.

After 2009 and 2010, the lack of enthusiasm within the wine world to splash the cash on the good but not great vintage that followed, has led many to discount the merits of this more precocious year. Yet 2011 is classic Bordeaux with many wines providing delicious drinking now and over the medium-term. Overall, choosing between 2011 and 2012, is a no-brainer; give me ripeness over greenness any day.

Below are three of the very representative examples tasted from the 2011 vintage.

Chateau Pessac La Garde, Pessac Leognan, 2011, 13%
Grape: 60% Sauvignon Blanc, 40% Sauvignon Gris
Wine-making: 10 months in French oak
Note: Sweet oak, aniseed aromas and citrus peel dominate. This has real drive and minerality with a supporting seam of high acidity.
Price: 1,950NT
Score: 16/20
Available from: www.finese.com.tw 

Chateau d’Issan, Margaux 3eme Cru, 2011, 13%
Grape: 69% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Merlot
Wine-making: 18 months in French oak
Note: Heady with the scent of hyacinths, this is classic Margaux with an open and approachable texture that flatters yet has the requisite silky and fine grained tannins that promise continued positive evolution until the early 2020’s.
Price: 2,200NT
Score: 17/20
Available from: Chateau Wine and Cigar 

Chateau de Fonbel, Saint Emilion Grand Cru, 2011, 13.5%
Grape: 63% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit Verdot and 7% Carmenere
Wine-making: 10 months in 30% new French oak
Note: Blackberry and exotic spice, thick tannins and with an opulence that made me think this was Pomerol, this is great value St. Emilion.
Price: 1,150NT
Score: 16/20
Available from: New Century Wine

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An Afternoon with Bordeaux 2012

This was my first significant encounter with this somewhat maligned vintage but I will try to resist the temptation to repeat all that has been said before.

The positives are that I enjoyed the whites from Pessac and Graves. The majority had the perfume and verve one hopes for from this bastion of the Sauvignon/Semillon blend, and many promised a rosy future with a drinking window for the best that starts now but extends well into the 2020’s.

For the reds the picture is much more patchy. People will tell you that it is a year for Merlot, so difficult was it for the Cabernets to fully ripen. This is true…kind of, but if you are expecting clear delineation between an austere and green tasting left bank and a miraculously plush, ripe and round right bank you will be disappointed. On the evidence of this tasting of the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux, nowhere can claim to have produced greatness but some have produced much more alluring, if not outstanding wines than others. Those estates that reigned in extraction in the search for precociousness fared best. The mineral, somewhat looser structured wines of Pessac and St. Julien managed to reveal a perfumed charm and subtley of tannin that make many enjoyable short to medium term drinking. In the communes of St. Estephe and Pauillac where structure and power make these the bullies of Bordeaux, the struggle for ripeness is revealed in tannins that feel a little terse and fruit that is often threadbare.

So to the right bank where the more flattering and easier to ripen Merlot was meant to save the day. The likes of Canon La Gaffeliere in St.Emilion have produced one of the wines of the vintage, approachable and without a whiff of greenness…but here they have 50% of Cabernet Franc in the blend. Just up the road in the normally hedonistic Pomerol, much of the wine suffers a similar tell-tale under-ripeness experienced by their bretheren across the Gironde but Chateau Gazin and La Conseillante proved that well balanced and seductive Pomerols could be produced.

Overall, the reds should be enjoyed now and over the next 10 years. These are not investment wines, they are wines for drinking. The question that might be asked is whether one should look to other parts of the world where the index between affordability and pleasure is perhaps more closely aligned.

Below are three wines that represent the positive side of 2012 and that are both sensibly and sensitively priced.

Chateau Kirwan, Margaux 3eme Cru, Bordeaux, 2012, 13%
Grape: 68% Cabernet Sauvignon – 20% Merlot – 7% Cabernet Franc – 5% Petit Verdot
Wine-making: 40% new French Oak
Note: Perfumed and lilac scented like ‘proper’ Margaux should be. This is not haunted by the lack of ripeness that pervades some of the Cabernet dominated wines of this vintage and the tannins are already approachable and fine grained. Should prove delicious drinking over the next ten years.
Price: Approx. $50USD
Score: 16/20
Available from: Globally

Chateau Leoville Barton, St Julien 2eme Cru, Bordeaux, 2012, 13%
Grape: Approx. 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot
Wine-making: Approx. 60% new French oak
Note: I’ve always been a fan of this Chateau that produces very typical Claret that reflects the best aspects of every vintage. Floral and elegant with delicious super fine tannins that caress rather than bully. This is a classic of 2012.
Price: 2,600NT
Score: 17/20
Available from: Chateau Wine & Cigar

Chateau Canon la Gaffeliere, St. Emilion
Grape: 50% Merlot, 50% Cabernet Franc
Wine-making: 80% new French oak for 15 months.
Note: Ripe blackberry, perfumed and with a dollop of toasty oak that sits comfortably alongside the plush and fine grained tannins. Not perfect but provides much more immediate pleasure than most.
Price: 2,300NT
Score: 16.5/20
Available from: Chateau Wine & Cigar

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Let Them Breathe

One of the most annoying aspects of social media is the constant reminder that people are drinking not only better wine than me but also more mature examples. Here in Taiwan my only storage is my wine fridge that allegedly holds 66 bottles but in reality shoehorning the contents of four cases of wine into its meagre maw is the best I have managed. The result is that wine does not get much chance to mature; such is the rapid turnover of bottles. Therefore the only old wine I get to drink is other people’s, or wine that I make old myself.

It is illuminating to realise just how easy it can be to experience a wine’s future development in bottle, today. Three wines that I opened with my tasting group on Tuesday of last week were perfect examples, the oldest being from 2009 and the others from 2010. One of them in particular the Podere Sapaio from Bolgheri (reviews below) was classy but demure on Tuesday, slightly more alluring on Wednesday and positively rambunctious by Thursday. The Clos Marsalette also opened up, progressively becoming more tobacco and fruitcake scented over those 48 hours. The Domus Aurea from the upper Maipo in Chile was the Dorian Gray of the line-up seemingly oblivious to the ravages of sitting on ullage in my kitchen. It remained very primary and pure with the pointed tang of fresh blackcurrants as dominant on the first day as it was on the third.

There is no doubt that having the facility to store more, or indeed having the money to buy mature is the ideal scenario for winos (should that be wine lovers?) everywhere. Yet the reality is rarely so convenient so open some wine, drink it over two or three days and take a peak into the future.

Podere Sapaio, ‘Volpolo’, Bolgheri, 2010, 13.5%
Grape: 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 15% Petit Verdot
Wine-making: 14 months in both large and small French oak barrels
Note: By the third day this was rich in black cherry, vanilla and graphite aromas. The firm and grainy tannins of day one had not altered much in texture but they appeared more voluminous. This is fine stuff and one for Bordeaux lovers who fancy a change.
Price: 2,500NT
Score: 17/20
Available from: www.ascentway.com.tw 

Clos Marsalette, Pessac Leognan, 2010, 13.5%
Grape: 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc
Wine-making: Matured in 50% new French oak
Note: Exuberant strawberry nose matured to more sweet tobacco and fruitcake by day three. Plush and plump and with ripe, grainy tannins, this is not the most complex Bordeaux you will ever drink but is crowd pleasing in its generosity.
Price: 1,450NT
Score: 16.5/20
Available from: www.winesymphony.com

Vina Quebrada de Macul, Domus Aurea, 2009, 14%
Grape: 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc & 2% Petit Verdot
Wine-making: 18 months in 80% new French oak
Note: Incredibly pure and precise with brightness of both fruit expression and acidity making this delicious drinking now whilst promising a potential decade of further improvement. Very good.
Price: 1,800NT
Score: 17/20
Available from: www.icheers.tw

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On Drinking Older Wine

Unless you are one of the lucky few with access to a cellar that has been carefully collected over years, the wine you drink will rarely be over five years old. This is not necessarily a bad thing, there is little reason to covet the un-covetable as the vast majority of wines produced are intended for early consumption. The situation in the most prestigious of regions (such as Bordeaux) is no different, the laying down of middle-rank wines for periods in excess of ten years rarely results in a wonderful drinking experience. Too often these wines become faded imitations of their more vibrant, youthful selves and any perceived increase in complexity is irrelevant if the fruit character of the wine has long since departed.

Certain wines do have the stuffing for the long haul, replete with the necessary intensity, concentration (tannin if red) and acidity to allow a progressive, evolving transformation. These wines can be both remarkable, and at times disappointing, but their representation of a small piece of history always induces excitement as the pulling of the cork uncloaks the past. In previous posts Sniff has looked at older wines that are released onto the market ready to drink, wines such as Gran Reserva Riojas or aged Tawny Ports. These provide accessible glimpses into the merits of older wine as they require the buyer to have neither patience nor an exotic storage system to appreciate their charms. Yet there is no more pleasing moment of self satisfaction (…ok I can think of a couple) than uncorking a bottle that has matured under your own roof. Both the self-denial and the company with whom you choose to share the wine, hopefully warrant your patience. If you really can’t be bothered to buy wine for the future, ingratiate yourself with people who can and enjoy the fruits of their resolve instead.

Below are two wines that I recently enjoyed drinking…thank god for friends with wine collections.

Château Canon, St.Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classe, 1979, 12.5% (Magnum)
Grape:
Merlot, Cabernet Franc and perhaps a little Cabernet Sauvignon
Note: Intensely perfumed nose that showed no signs of fading even after an hour in the glass. Blood, cedar and that very old school graphite/wooden school desk aroma that so typifies older Bordeaux. Fresh acidity, supple tannins and restrained savoury fruit that teeters between elegant and the slightly unripe. Persistent.
Score: 17.5/20

Ruffino, Riserva Ducale Oro, Chianti Classico, 1990, 13% (Magnum)
Grape:
Sangiovese
Note: Bituminous, scorched earth and herbal, intense and concentrated with plenty of ripe red fruit lingering in the background. Fine and rustically elegant
Score: 17.5/20

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Something for the Weekend 11: Merlot

Poor old Merlot. Even before Miles spat the now infamous ‘I am not drinking any fucking Merlot’ in Sideways, this variety was rarely spoken about with love and affection. Yet this is the second most widely planted wine grape in the world so why the lack of respect? Well some of it comes down to the promise (real or not) that the likes of Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir can deliver a more thrilling wine experience. Hmmm. Whilst this may be true (lovers of Pomerol look away now) too often it is a fallacy. I have spent far too much time, effort and money, hunting for that elusive bottle of Burgundian Pinot Noir that will make me cry like a baby as it reveals its haunting and ethereal charms. Equally, varietal Cabernet Sauvignon is often anything but charming, all edges and bones with a hole in its middle where the guts should be. No, Merlot is more the girl (or boy) next door, with flesh, sweet perfume and an alluring curve to the belly.

With this in mind I chose seven Merlot dominant wines to taste blind (or semi-blind in my case) with some of my students and sommeliers of Taipei. All the wines were of good if not superb quality and represented regions as diverse as Napa and Walla Walla in the States, Pomerol and St.Emilion in Bordeaux as well as Bolgheri (Italy), Hawkes Bay (New Zealand) and Stellenbosch (South Africa). Below are the three wines that I felt best-demonstrated Merlot’s comeliness.

Chateau La Dominique, St.Emilion Grand Cru Classé, 2009, 14.5%
Grape:
86% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc, 2% Cabernet Sauvignon
Wine-making: 70% new French oak
Note: Meaty, ripe blackberry and with just enough tobacco savouriness to add some complexity, this is concentrated and full bodied if a little hefty to be considered elegant. Enjoyable and should improve over the coming decade.
Price: 2,200NT
Score: 16.5/20
Available from: icheers.com.tw

L’Ecole No 41, Estate Merlot, Walla Walla (Washington), 2008, 14.5%
Grape:
80% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon
Wine-making: 40% new French oak
Note: Developed in the glass to reveal both red and dried fruit, vanilla and a concentration that hinted at a warmer climate. The tannins remain firm (more old-world in style) but this has a certain charm that will again reward patience over the next five years.
Price: 2,500NT
Score: 16.5/20
Available from: icheers.com.tw

Clos du Val, Napa Valley Merlot, 2010, 13.5%
Grape:
85% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Cabernet Franc, 4% Petit Verdot
Wine-making: 25% new French oak
Note: My favourite of the seven wines tasted and the third cheapest. Tutti-frutti nose always brings to mind the West Coast of America. This has just enough of everything; up-front fruit, tannin, spice, body and persistence to achieve a harmonious and satisfying whole.
Price: 1,700NT
Score: 17/20
Available from: icheers.com.tw

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Something for the Weekend 10: Jonathan Maltus

Jonathan Maltus describes Bordeaux as the ‘Formula 1’ of wine-making regions. Bordeaux is famous for good reason, it is capable of producing superlative, age-worthy wines both white, red and sweet and it is the spiritual home of the most widely planted and well known varieties on the planet: Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

Unusually, Jonathan has had his greatest success with a wine that contains the highest proportion of Cabernet Franc of any of the ‘Grand Vins’ of Bordeaux: Le Dôme. This wine was one of the original ‘garagiste’ wines of the mid 1990’s that, depending on one’s point of view, were ridiculously priced, over-oaked, super-concentrated, low volume, Parker friendly monsters; or a breath of fresh air for all of the same reasons. The garagiste movement demonstrated that it was not a pre-requisite to be bequeathed a chateau in order to make good, even great wine within the hallowed AOC’s of Bordeaux. Even interlopers from England had a chance…although the buying of three hectares of land in St. Emilion (the size of the Le Dôme vineyard), did not come cheap. Le Dôme is but one part of Jonathan’s ever expanding portfolio that encompasses another 50 hectares in St. Emilion as well as some prime Napa Valley real estate. Yet Le Dôme is Jonathan’s jewel and has a   guaranteed fan-club following Robert Parker’s 100 point seal of approval for the 2010 edition. Having only limited experience of the wines from the Maltus stable (yesterday, I tried five of them for the first time) I am loathe to pronounce definitively on their style. Yet they appear more obviously oaked than some and exude a richness that will either make you purr, or perhaps ponder, on whether you really are tasting the best of Bordeaux.

Whatever your conclusions, Jonathan produces wines that range from the affordable and approachable to the more expensive and cerebral. Below are three wines to broach with friends this weekend.

Pezat Rouge, Bordeaux Supérieur AOC, 2011
Grape:
85% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc
Wine-making: Small percentage of new French oak.
Note: Delicately scented with both ripe red fruit and a little Bordeaux savouriness. Enough grip and body to suggest this might be best with some food. Simple but satisfying.
Price: 1250NT
Score: 14.5/20
Available from: Oriental House, 02-2873-3433

Château Teyssier, St. Emilion Grand Cru 2010
Grape:
85% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc
Wine-making: 12 months in French oak, 20% new.
Note: An alluring nose of juicy blackberry, spiced plum, licorice, and some floral perfume. Good levels of intensity and supple tannins make this both easy to appreciate now but suggest continued improvement over the medium-term.
Price: 2500NT
Score: 16.5/20
Available from: Oriental House, 02-2873-3433

Le Dôme, 2007 (the 2010 was awarded 100 points by RP)
Grape:
80% Cabernet Franc, 20% Merlot.
Wine-making: 80% new French oak.
Note: Undoubtedly oaky with oodles of spicy toastiness. The Bordelais would describe 2007 as a ‘classic’ year meaning that it was very challenging but this has no herbaceousness on the nose. Instead there are the beginnings of some tertiary development; mushroom and some floral perfume. Mineral, grippy but ripe mouth-coating tannins. Generous in both intensity and body with ample persistence on the finish.
Price: 7350NT
Score: 17/20
Available from: Oriental House, 02-2873-3433

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Bordeaux - Tradition & Innovation

This is understandable considering the long history of quality wine production that has flowed from the gates of Chateaux lining the banks of the Gironde. Yet Bordeaux has innovated, most obviously, in raising the standard of the once uniformly miserable generic ‘Bordeaux’ – wines that were often green (herbaceous) tasting and devoid of any vinous charm.

It is unarguable that those with less fortunate terroir than the most famous chateaux, have benefited from the rising temperature trend (helps ripen the grapes) so marked in the last 25 years. Yet the increase in quality is not due to this alone. Countries such as Australia, were able to produce a plentiful supply of fruit forward wines, that were easy to appreciate. This resulted in an ever-decreasing global market for those Bordeaux wines that were shabbily made. So producers had to change, they had to make wine that was both affordable and that people wanted to drink.

The relatively recent success of white wines emanating from Bordeaux is a boon to the region’s producers. They of course have plentiful access to the world’s most loved white grape variety, Sauvignon Blanc, a brand in itself and a doubly powerful one when intertwined with the cachet of Bordeaux. Yet as Bordeaux is most famed for its red wines (however great their white and sweet wines can be) it was important that the consumer be able to drink red Bordeaux that was both inexpensive and still representative of the region. They should act as an incentive to taste more expensive Bordeaux not hi-jack that thought permanently. Only in this way can Bordeaux hope to continue through the immediate future with its pre-eminence intact.

Below are notes on four wines that are decidedly representative of Bordeaux. All are from Axa Milliseme properties.

Cap Royal Blanc, Bordeaux Blanc, 2013
Grape:
90% Sauvignon Blanc, 10% Semillon
Wine-making: Stainless steel
Note: Fantastically pure nose of fresh pink grapefruit. Obviously Sauvignon Blanc with citrus, pointed acidity and a lovely texture – no obvious lees influence but either they (the lees) or the touch of Semillon just gives some fat, a little weight. Drink over next two years.
Price: 900NT
Score: 16/20
Available from: Chailease Resources Tech Co.

Cap Royal Rouge, Bordeaux Superieur, 2011
Grape:
70% Merlot, 30% Sauvignon Blanc
Wine-making: 50% new oak French oak but only for six-seven months.
Note: Pure nose, very Bordeaux with some fresh berry, black cherry and a little leafiness and pencil shavings. Supple tannins with just enough grip on the palate to be interesting, medium weight, and moderate acid give an easy to appreciate wine with a hint of new oak.
Price: 900NT (a bit of a bargain for Taiwan)
Score: 16/20
Available from: Chailease Resources Tech Co

Chateau Tour Pibran, Pauillac, 2010 (2nd label of Chateau Pibran)
Grape:
50% Merlot, 50% Cabernet Sauvignon
Wine-making: A proportion of new French oak
Note: Blueberry, with some floral character (violet) and mineral (tarry). Great acidity provides drive, generous body, moderate alcohol 13.5%. The supple tannins point to a significant proportion of Merlot with some latent richness and power suggesting Pauillac. Obvious use of spicy French oak and although young it is still very approachable. Drink over the next 5 years.
Price: 2100NT
Score: 16.5/20
Available from: Chailease Resources Tech Co

Chateau Pichon Longueville, Pauillac 2008
Grape:
71% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot
Wine-making: New French Oak
Note: Now this is a different beast altogether, graphite, spicy, coffee grounds, super dark chocolate, nice balancing fresh acidity, layered tannins, fine grained – must be Cabernet, and exudes classed growth finesse. Excellent length. Elegant but powerful a serious wine that needs time.
Price: 4500NT (This is very reasonable)
Score: 17.5/20
Available from: Chailease Resources Tech Co

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