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April 5, 2017

Bordeaux 2016 En Primeur: Day 3, Tuesday 4th April

chateau Faugeres, St Emilion Grand Cru

 

Day 3 started with an early rise leaving our chalet at 7:15am for our first appointment at 8am with Martin Krajewski at Clos Cantenac before heading to Chateau Faugeres for our second tasting at 8:30am. Cap de Faugeres showed really well, another wine that often over delivers for its price tag.

 

Chateau Figeac, St Emilion

 

From Faugeres we tasted another exceptional Chateau Canon, which again was firing on all cylinders. We then headed to Chateau Figeac, one of the right banks true princesses with wonderful elegance and grace.

 

From Figeac we headed to the palatial Chateau Pavie, more like a five star hotel than a Chateau and tasted Gerard Perse’s five properties. Big, powerful wines, a bit too concentrated for my palate however, I’m sure they will receive some big scores from some of the top critics.

 

Big thumbs up from the team to Alexandre Thienpont at VCC for another awesome wine. From VCC we headed to La Dominique to taste some Michel Rolland wines and lunch in La Terrasse Rouge restaurant overlooking Chevalier Blanc.

 

Cheval Blanc

 

With 30 mins to spare before our Cheval Blanc appointment, we headed to La Pointe for the UGC Pomerol tasting. Clinet and Gazin were my favourites. Hugely impressed by Quinault Le Clos at the Cheval Blanc tasting.

 

From Cheval Blanc we made off around the corner to La Conseillante. Incredible harmony and purity… beats Cheval Blanc for me.

 

Chateau Angelus Wine Tasting

 

Then on to Chateau Angelus for Hubert de Bouard consultancy tasting before heading to l’Evangile (this really impressed me). We then moved on to Chateau Nenin & Chateau La Couspade for the UGC St Emilion tasting and a quick 10 min tasting at Ch. La Grappe for Stephane Derenoncourt’s consultancy tasting before heading for a dinner appointment at Ch. Lascombes.

 

A marathon 16 Chateaux visited in one day. Trying not to smile too much as my teeth are frightening! An even earlier start tomorrow morning as we need to leave at 7am to be sure of getting to our Calon Segur tasting for 8:30am in St Estephe.

 

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April 4, 2017

Bordeaux 2016 En Primeur: Day 2, Monday 3rd April

St Emilion

 

A foggy start at Bordeaux Lac as we drove through Monday morning traffic on our way to our 9am tasting at Jean Pierre Moeuix. We were warmly welcomed by father and son, Christian and Edouard who ran through some key aspects of the 2016 vintage, explaining that after an incredibly wet winter and spring, the summer was extremely hot and dry, resulting in some of the vines on the gravel soils dropping their leaves due to lack of water; a rare and somewhat concerning occurrence, which hasn’t been reported since the 1990 vintage. One of the top vintages of the 20th century. Like all vintages, its character was shaped by the weather. 1990 was the hottest vintage to follow 1947. Many great Bordeaux vintages have sprung from hot years and 1990 Bordeaux was no exception.

 

Back to the Moeuix tasting, we were entertained to an impressive show of wines, majestically crafted by the team, these wines really stood out. There is excellent fruit concentration, yet beautifully balanced with harmony; making the wines very approachable and easy to taste. Puy-Blanquet was the best I’ve ever tasted and is definitely in the running to be our star value St Emilion recommendation.

 

From Libourne we headed into St Emilion to the JCP Maltus tasting where Myriam talked us through Jonathan’s impressive wines. Chateau Teyssier was excellent, a touch more vibrant in style offering great fusion and balance. Le Dome was outstanding and our star of this tasting.

 

Pomerol wine Tasting

 

From the JCP Maltus tasting we made our way to Pomerol for the syndicate tasting at the town hall where we split up to taste our way through the ranks and files of the smaller Pomerol Chateaux. We targeted 50 wines to taste in 45 minutes before getting in the car to rush to Domaine de Chevalier for our 12:30pm appointment.

 

We arrived at Domaine de Chevalier in Pessac Leognan where he had a chance to re-taste some of the wines from the tasting on Sunday night and a 20 minute break for some light lunch before racing around the corner to Chateau La Louviere for Pessac Leognan tasting with many of the smaller producers. Pape Clement was the most impressive for me, however Picque Caillou, usually a great value buy, was well crafted and a personal favourite.

 

From La Louviere we raced back to the right bank for a tasting at Pavie Macquin with Nicolas Thienpont. Nicolas called the 2016 an “apex and unique vintage” which in his opinion was truly made at the end of the vintage, where the cold nights in October helped maintain acidity and polish, ripen the tannins. The wines have a high acidity and low PH however, the impressive harmony of fruit balances out these factors. Pavie Macquin, Larcis Ducasse and Beausejour were all very good; typically modern, polished style with a lovely seductive nature, his Puygueraud and La Prade wines also impressed.

 

Denis Durantou and his daughter

Denis Durantou and his daughter

 

From Pavie Macquin we headed for one of my favourite tastings with the renowned award winning winemaker Denis Durantou at L’Eglise Clinet; he didn’t disappoint. One of the highlights was Saintayme, Denis’s St Emilion Grand Cru property (normally under £10/bottle), vibrant with wonderful ripeness and concentration of fruit, a real delight.

 

From L’Eglise Clinet it was to La Marzelles, for a tour of their impressive new winery. We also tasted their stunning 2016 against the 2015, which was one of our star recommendations of the 2015 vintage… I have to say that the 2016 L’Eglise Clinet is equally as impressive.

 

Chateau Tertre Roteboeuf

 

From La Marzelles we headed to Le Tertre Rotebeouf for a catwalk line-up with Francois Mitjavile, owner of Chateau Roc de Cambes one of the leading properties in the Côtes de Bourg. Our man from Leeds, Robert Chamberlin told Francois that many years ago he used to sell the 1982 at £30 a bottle in his restaurant, Sous Le Nez. Francois got rather excited about this and delved in his cellar, which resulted in us tasting both the 1998 and 1982 vintage; an unbelievable end to the day… A real treat and incredible generosity from Francois!

 

The time was now 7.45pm so we headed for a quick bite in St Emilion before heading back to Bordeaux Lac in preparation for an early start, where we have to leave at 7.15am for our first tasting with Martin Krajewski at Clos Cantenac. This week do think of us when you are putting the kettle on or turning off the alarm, we are already on our first tasting of the day… Bonsoir.

 

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April 3, 2017

Bordeaux 2016 En Primeur: Day One, Sunday 2nd April – The Adventure Begins…

Chateau Guiraud, Sauternes

Chateau Guiraud, Sauternes

 

The team met up in Bordeaux last night for their first tasting of the campaign. Andrew ‘the Rookie’ Ray flying in from London Luton, James Goodhart driving 700 km from Grenoble met with legend restauranter, of Sous Le Nez in Leeds, Mr Robert Chamberlin.

 

Picking up Robert from our chalet at Bordeaux Lac and then Andrew from the airport we headed south down the Toulouse Road (A46) down to Sauternes with a comment from Robert, “we are almost back in Bradford…” I guess that is where the A46 is? It was a glorious, almost summer evening at a whopping 15 degrees, when we drove down the tree lined avenue into Chateau Guiraud to taste the Xavier Planty, Robert Peugeot, Count von Neipperg and Olivier Bernard wines to start our Bordeaux 2016 En Primeur campaign.

 

La Mondotte

Owner of La Mondotte, Stephan von Neipperg presenting his 2016 vintage

We were not to be disappointed, the wines offered impressive fruit concentration. Chateau Guiraud’s Bordeaux Blanc was our first wine, which oozed character; bags of citrus fruit, pineapple and importantly a lovely harmonious
balance. The reds were also impressive with La Mondotte being my star wine, closely followed by Canon La Gaffeliere and Domaine de Chevalier Rouge (no surprises here). My star performer with long odds was the beautifully crafted Chateau Lespault-Martillac Rouge from Pessac Leognon, made by the team at Domaine de Chevalier.

 

It is always with some anticipation, and then excitement, we commence our first few days of tastings. As many of you know we taste the whole spectrum of the new vintage. From the UGC tastings in each appellation where we will have over 250 wines on offer, to the specialised First Growth tastings at the Chateaux, bringing an experience of a Haute Couture catwalk show for Chanel; it’s a wine spectacular like no other.

 

We awake this morning to a foggy start, heading to Libourne for our first tasting with Edouard Moueix at 9am…

 

If you are interested in En Primeur but haven’t yet taken the plunge, read our introduction to buying En Primeur wine.

 

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March 15, 2017

Bordeaux 2016 En Primeur Campaign – Under starters orders

James Goodhart and Andrew Ray, Private Client Sales, Bon Coeur Fine Wines

 

The flights are booked and we are waiting patiently in anticipation of the 2016 Bordeaux En Primeur tastings. Again, as last year, we have a first En Primeur week for one of our newest members of our Private Client Team, Andrew “Rookie” Ray, who will be catapulted head first into one of wine’s most coveted investment circles. Incidentally, this year will be my 20th En Primeur, goodness sounds like I am getting old… Nevertheless in Bordeaux terms there is nothing wrong with a bit of age, in fact I am led to believe that one gets better and improves with age!

 

We will be in Bordeaux for six days of intense tastings kicking off on Sunday 2nd April at Chateau Guiraud. Accompanied by a few familiar faces from the wine world, many from different countries; now an international market it is fascinating to listen and debate the variations of the vintage and differences between each wine. Despite having many year’s under my belt I am still learning, as winemakers continue to experiment, introduce new techniques in the vineyard or simply stop doing something, it is always a journey of discovery and one which I am completely passionate about.

 

Tasting notes at Chateau Rauzan Segla

 

So how will the 2016 vintage perform? For now, I will reserve my judgement until I have tasted. However one thing is certain, mother nature has always played a big part, 2016 was no deckchair vintage and was not without its challenges. Reports from the vineyard throughout the year have given us a snapshot of the vines performance. Crucially in spring Bordeaux escaped the frosts that devastated other renowned wine growing regions of France, bringing good levels of rain, which was fortunate, as the summer months were dry. In fact, one of the most driest intense summers of late, where some of the younger vines experienced much stress and struggled. Autumn and in particular late September gifted some much needed bursts of rain and the vines breathed a sigh of relief as harvest drew close. The vendage was quite late for some, with yields down at the top end, others lower down the pecking order have reported good, encouraging yields; the majority reporting good condition of fruit.

 

I am greatly looking forward to our week of intense tastings. Despite the recent increase of trading and values on fine wines in particular Bordeaux, mainly due to sterling’s fall from grace, price is always going to be a major issue if the vintage is to be a success. Any Chateau owners reading this report can I recommend that you offer margin and value for the customer. I truly believe that great wines should be enjoyed, shared and drunk with family and friends.

 

chateau-canon-st-emilion-bordeaux-france-wine-producer
You can follow the highs and lows of our Bordeaux trip and our initial thoughts on the vintage. We will be posting our daily reports on our wine blog. Do follow us on Twitter and Instagram for further commentary. Send your comments and tweet us back, we do love a little wine banter! So for now sit back, enjoy the ride and join us for what promises to be an exciting Bordeaux 2016 En Primeur Campaign.

 

 

Jamie signature

 

 

 

James Goodhart
Founder & Chairman
Bon Coeur Fine Wines Ltd

 

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March 14, 2017

Viva Vilarnau Calçotada 2017

Vilarnau Trip

 

I was lucky enough to have been invited by Hamish Bredin of Gonzalez Byass UK to visit the fantastic Vilarnau winery just north of Barcelona which produces our new Cavas which are just fantastic and look really impressive with their iconic Gaudi inspired labels.
My journey started like many with the early morning train to the airport where I met up with Hamish and few of his other guests and we started the trip with a crisp cold glass of cava in the airport bar, as is only right when journeying to the home of this underrated fizz.
Even though it was an early start we didn’t arrive into Barcelona until early evening, so we jumped into a couple of taxis and headed straight to the harbour to meet the rest of the Gonzalez Byass team and their guests at Barceloneta which is a remarkably impressive restaurant overlooking Barcelona harbour with many boats that were larger than my humble street back in York. We were treated like royalty there in the private dining room where the conversation and food was excellent accompanied by some superb wines form Gonzalez Byass. This was such a memorable evening after a long day.

 

The itinerary stated dinner then a nightcap somewhere on las Ramblas street…..I should of known from my years living in Spain, that their night caps tend to draw out well into the early hours of the next day. Being the discerning professional reporter I conscientiously embraced the Spanish culture. After the 3ish nightcaps I made my way back to our hotel overlooking one of Barcelona’s iconic landmarks the Gaudi cathedral…….WOW! For Gonzales Byass, there really was only one place to stay in Barcelona as Vilarnau uses Gaudi’s iconic colourful designs as inspiration for the packaging for the Brut and Rose Cava.

 

Vilarnau Vineyard

 

Tuesday morning was another early start with the journey to the winery in the hills outside of Barcelona, this is such a beautiful part of Spain with rolling hills and fantastic blue skies even in February – a refreshing change to our dull winter back home. Upon arrival at the winery we were greeted by Eva Plazas, one of the head winemakers at the vineyard. Eva took us on a tour of the vineyards explaining the history of the area along with a detailed description of the terroir. Vilarnau have started the process of becoming an organic vineyard and hopefully should have the certification in the next 2 years so watch this space!

 

We then headed down towards the cellars and Eva detailed the journey the beautiful cava grapes have to make before it is the finished product. The whole process must run like clockwork to keep up with the huge demand for this outstanding range of wines. Eva spoke about how they are constantly experimenting to get the best results, from the blend of the Macabeo, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir varieties to the wood that actually makes the barrels and how long they should age.

 

Vilarnau Cava Mosaic

 

The itinerary then stated that we would have a mystery exercise which transpired to be a task where we made replicas of the Vilarnau bottle design out of smashed tiles. It is safe to say the group of people I was with were not the most naturally creative but we had great fun. All our hard efforts paid off as my team came third…out of three! This exercise summed up the fun, tradition and spirit expressed in Cava and especially here at Vilarnau.

 

We then headed back to the winery for one of the highlights of the trip for me – the Calcotadas. Calcotadas is a Catalan traditional gastronomy of wood fired large spring onions that are roasted over vine shoots from the vineyards. The Calcots grow around the vineyards and are in season February so my timing was excellent! The Calcots are grilled in the flames from the vines to the point of charring. The blackened Calcots are then wrapped in newspaper to cool slightly.

 

Vilarnau Calcotadas

 

We all stood in awe as these amazing onions were presented on terracotta tiles accompanied by Romesco sauce, and – you guessed it – lots of Cava. Eva advised that we all wear bibs as it could be a little messy – and she wasn’t wrong! She then proceeded to present two glass pouring vessels called Porron’s filled with Cava and you then needed to pour the cava with one hand into your mouth…The traditional Catalan way.
This fantastic trip was finished off with the sun setting over the Spanish hillside and a toast by Eva before we enjoyed our final meal in the vineyard. The food was delicious traditional Catalonian cuisine and that was paired perfectly with the full range of Cavas produced at Vilarnau.

 

This was a truly memorable and enjoyable insight into the love, spirit and tradition that goes into every bottle of Cava form Vilarnau. Thank you Hamish and Gonzalez Byass for hosting me on this fantastic trip.

 

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March 9, 2017

A Room with a Viu: Harvest Time in the Colchagua Valley Pt. I

louis williams
There can be no denying that the Colchagua Valley is stunning. At 7:00, golden sunshine starts to pick through deep purple cloud over the Cordillera, contrasting with the green of vines below and illuminating the bicycles and faces of the harvest workers, ready to start picking. The Colchagua is located within Chile’s Central Valley, to the south of Santiago and is renowned as one of the country’s premium wine regions, producing excellent expressions of Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon. Here Viu Manent rub shoulders with Los Vascos, Montes and L Apostolle among others, great names of Chilean wine.

 

I have kindly been granted a two week stay with Viu Manent, a Bon Coeur producer, to learn about the estate during the busy harvest period. First a week in the fields, and second a week in the bodega (winery) with head-winemaker Patricio Celedon. This family owned (of Catalan origin) estate recently celebrated its 80th year of production and is very much part of the cultural landscape in the Valley. With a 100% Chilean winemaking team in place, it seems appropriate that Viu Manent are producing wines that Champion the country{s emergence as a contender in the fine wine arena.

 

I arrived on foot to the estate on the 27th of February and introduced myself to the team in the winery (not very well as I was later mistaken for the Burgundy giant, Louis Latour) very excited at the sight of rows of gleaming tanks alongside concrete egg fermenters and French oak Foudres. Miguel Mujica, Viticulturalist (agronomist), dragged me away from these bubbling works-in-progress to show me some of the estate, pointing out the different plots and grape varieties placed with reference to the soil types and aspect, collectively what is known as terroir. Upon seeing a large patch of burnt hillside, Miguel, who has been responsible for monitoring the health of the vines here for some 12 years, spoke about the unprecedented and devastating fires that laid waste to large parts of the country in January. These fires saw the loss of a number of lives in the country as well as 100+ year old Carignan vines in Maule and elsewhere. “it is a tragedy” he said frankly to me, “we have been very lucky that we do not seem to have any problems with smoke damage, but for some people this is a total disaster”. Indeed Viu are separately vinifying plots that may have been affected by the plumes of smoke that overtook the country at this time, just to be on the safe side.

 

harvest at Vui Manent

 

Back at base and assigned a bicycle for commuting purposes during my stay, I was given my marching orders by Don Jose, head of the San Carlos vineyards that constitute the vines around the bodega: onsite daily at 6:00 (with a half hour ride in on the bike). So that’s where the scenes described in the first paragraph come in, a week spent observing and aiding the hand harvesters from dawn til mid-afternoon within two of Vius home vineyards. The image that I had in my mind of manual harvesting was fulfilled and exceeded as I watched a team of experts attack their task with extreme vigor. Hanging bunches of grapes were shown no mercy by a group who are paid by the kilo for their days work, and the best among whom run back and forth from vine to harvest trailer for the greater part of five hours solid. This is not just an act of physical strength and endurance but also of skill, using energy in the most efficient manner possible. At the tráiler, limpiadores trade encouraging smiles as they remove leaves and other non-grape matter from the harvest, that tractoreros then sweep off to the bodega.

 

These scenes are now less common than they were, as machine harvesting has expanded to account for some 80% of the total vintage at Viu Manent (mirrored throughout the valley). Where once there were 200 workers with secateurs now there are 30, harvesting where gradient will not allow the machine to pass, or where whole bunches of grapes need to be harvested in the case of some wines. The 30 remaining skilled pickers seem also to maintain some of the romance of these beautiful vineyards. Fortunately, increased production has created more work in the winery and in tourism at the estate providing a stable livelihood for a great many local people who may before have worked in the harvest (la consecha).

 

picking the vines

 

One afternoon, head winemaker Patricio appeared in the vineyard and gesturing from the cab of his pickup took me for a lap to determine the ripeness of the next block for harvesting. A good job any day as wine grapes are sweet and delicious, this was a great chance to ask questions about the terroir here and the philosophy of the estate and he gave some interesting answers, albeit around the chewing and spitting out of various grape skins and seeds. On the theme of the estates wines, Patricios empahsis is simple ” we do not use American oak because I feel that it makes wines of one certain style, giving flavours associated with American oak, we use considered amounts of French oak, because what we really want is to emphasize the flavours of the grapes!”. All of Vius wines up to the three top wines of the estate follow this ethos. I was also curious as to his attitude towards sustainability at Viu Manent, he answered “almost everything we do here is organic, the health of the soils is important to us. The difference is that we do not hesitate if we foresee a major plague approaching. If we stand to lose 50% of our crop to a pest, we are going to kill it”. This seemed rational and it is encouraging to see, across the board, winemakers and wine estates taking ideas of sustainability seriously.

 

On Friday, first week finished and feeling tired but happy, I cycled back into Santa Cruz, the main town of the area and the host of the yearly harvest festival La Vendimia. Needless to say, a good time was bound to be had by all and there was just enough time to visit the Los Vascos stall in the plaza before my technical analysis started to fade into the background of Chilean good cheer.

 

Read part 2 for a write up of a week spent in the winery at Viu Manent, including the tasting of many of the estates wines in tank.

 

 

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March 8, 2017

Meet the Team – 5 Mins with Andrew Ray, Private Client Sales

Andrew Ray, Private Client Sales

 

Name:
Andrew Ray

 

What’s your position at Bon Coeur?
Corporate & Private Client Sales

 

What does your role require?
My role is really rather diverse and that is something I love. Primarily, I’m part of the Private Client & Corporate Sales Team along with James, Peter & Amy, so I advise and guide our customers on finding the right wine for their needs. However, there is also the flip side of sales which consists of broking Fine Wines for our clients too. In addition to this, I’ll also be running Cellar 21 here at Moor Park where I’ll help to create and organise events and tastings.

 

La Rioja Alta

Favourite wine in summer?
It has to be something fresh, crisp and easy to drink. I think my favourite would have to be Albariño with its intense aromas of stone and citrus fruits with its vibrant acidity. Perfect for a sunny summers afternoon!

 

Do you have a favourite grape?
I’d say Riesling. I think it’s had a lot of bad coverage and there’s a bit of stigma about it being a super sweet German wine (which isn’t a bad thing might I add). However, recently a lot of people are starting to realise the grapes versatility and there’s a range of styles to choose between from bone dry through to super sweet. I genuinely think there’s a Riesling for everyone!

 

Who is your favourite wine producer?
I took my first steps into wine when I lived in the region of La Rioja, northern Spain. I was fortunate enough to know the Technical Director and Head Winemaker at Bodegas La Rioja Alta SA; Julio Sáenz Fernández. Both he and the winery taught me so much and introduced me to this fascinating world, so I’ve had a sentimental attachment to the winery since then. Essentially, they’re my Spanish family.

 

Do any wines bring back a specific memory?
On a recent trip to Spain I visited Peter Sisseck’s Bodegas Dominio de Pingus in Quintinanilla de Onésimo, Ribera del Duero. After a private tour of the site (which was more like a laboratory than a winery), we tasted the 2014 and 2015 vintage of PSI, Flor de Pingus and Pingus. I have to say Pingus 2014 was mind blowing and probably one of the best wines I’ve ever had. Unfortunately I’ve not drank it since but whenever I think about that afternoon it brings back fond memories of how lucky I was to taste those wines and be somewhere people don’t really get the opportunity to visit. It’s definitely my wine career highlight so far.

 

Would you choose a cheese board or pudding?
I’d choose a cheeseboard every time. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but absolutely adore cheese. I love a good blue, a taste I acquired when I lived in France and the smellier, the better in my opinion!

 

Do you like trying new wines or prefer an old favourite?
I’m divided on this one. I think we’re all creatures of habit to an extent and stick to wines we know and love. That being said, I think the beauty of wine is there are many styles available it would be a terrible shame to never try anything different. I love trying new wines, however, some special occasions do call for an old favourite to make an appearance.

 

Dominio de Pingus

 

Outside work, where might you be found?
Outside of work I’m most likely to be in a café with a coffee and a good book. I never want to stop learning, whether it’s cultural, wine or even sport related. I’m currently reading ‘The Wines of Burgundy’ by Clive Coates MW which is a great insight into history, geography and geology of Burgundy.

 

What do you enjoy doing outside work hours?
I love having people over to my house, cooking some nice food and opening a good bottle of wine. My friends and family mean a lot to me so it’s important to have them around and spend time with them.
I’m an also avid rugby fan so often go to see Newcastle Falcons at Kingston Park and when I get the opportunity, to watch England at Twickenham too.

 

Favourite fact about wine?
That at the end of the day it’s just fermented grape juice. I think it’s pretty remarkable that so many styles and variations come from something as humble as a grape.

 

Favourite part of working at Bon Coeur
I’d have to say the fact that every day is different and I’m constantly developing my wine knowledge. I’m relatively new here at Bon Coeur so I’m still learning the ropes so to speak, but in the short space of time my comprehension of Burgundy for example, has improved immensely with our 2015 En Primeur campaign.

 

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