Category Archives: France

2009 Les Cailloux CNdP

I have a bought a case of Châteauneuf-du-Pape from Les Cailloux each one of the last three years, and this producer has yet to disappoint me.

The Brunels at Les Cailloux produce subtile and gentle CNdPs, not overpowering and top-heavy as some of their competitors in both vintages 2007 and 2009. This is in the style of for example Domaine de la Janasse and Le Vieux Donjon. Expressive without being intimidating in sheer power-fulness. Notes of blackberry and raspberry jam with licorice, pepper, and spices. Mouth-filling with a medium body. Balanced and smoothly integrated tannins with a sensation of dark fruit. Instantly accessible. Just a pinch of Grenache bitterness at the finish, which in this case is desirable since it lends the wine some more grip and structure. Elegant. Perfectly approachable right now. I do not think this will benefit much from prolonged bottle maturing. 91p.


2008 Domaine de la Janasse Cuvée Tradition

Domaine de la Janasse is a relatively young estate, started by Aimé Sabon back in 1973, and can be regarded as a producer of a “modern” style Châteauneuf-du-Pape. 

The 2008 Domaine de la Janasse Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Tradition is just fantastic. One of the best standard CNdPs I have ever had. One of my other absolute favorites is Domaine du Pegau Cuvée Réservé, and it would be difficult to find two CNdPs which are more dissimilar. While the Janasse is easy-going and fruit-driven, the Pegau is meaty and bretty; a barn in a bottle. Speaking of “standard” cuvées in this context may be a bit silly, the 2008 Janasse is 329 SEK and the 2008 Pegau is 399 SEK (released in March) at State-owned Systembolaget, and 2008 is considered a lesser vintage selling at lower prices, so we are not talking inexpensive wines.

However, both Pegau and Janasse come in two premium cuvées in favorable vintages; Pegau produces the Laurence and the Da Capo (for details click the above referenced link). I had the opportunity to try Janasse’s 2009 Tradition as well as the Chaupin being a 100% Grenache from the top-notch vineyard of the same name and the Vielles Vignes producing fruit from vines over 80 years old. These are amazing wines and really something else. Highly recommended. There are a few bottles left at SB. The 2009 vintage produced powerful wines similar to the year 2007. However, I believe most 2009s will benefit from cellaring, because they are generally quite noisy.

2008 on the other hand is instantly approachable and I think most of the 2008s I’ve tried won’t benefit from more than 5 years of cellaring. And there is really no need to store them, many of them are perfect today. The temperature of the vintage was between 1.5 and 2 ° C below season average, giving many of the wines a more elegant – and less edgy- note. Further, it appears as if many of the wines of 2008 has an ABV which is about one percentage unit lower than 2007 and 2009, where the ABV reaches 15.5 and even 16%, which in my opinion simply is a tad too much. However, you may have to go for well-reputed winemakers for the 2008s since not all producers are likely to produce great wine in this relatively difficult vintage.

So…how is the 2008 Janasse CNdP Tradition? On the nose, it has blackberries, a little meat, spices; garrigue and white pepper. Very round and balanced. Perfectly integrated tannins. Deep, deep red and dense with a lovely and gentle taste of licorice. A killer wine. 92p.


2008 Ch du Tertre

Château du Tertre – classified as 5th growth back in 1855 – was long considered an underachiever. However, new owners came in and in 1999 things turned around.

Great nose of black currant, cedar tree, pencil shavings, tobacco and undergrowth; it is vegetal in the best sense. It’s color is very light red. 41% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot och 26% Cabernet Franc. Steven Brook wrote “concentrated but not massive”, and that truly sums this wine up. Very soft and elegant yet with evident backbone and structure, but still barely medium-bodied. This is a gentle and sophisticated wine. In my opinion, it has most of the characteristics I seek in a Bordeaux; subtle but not light-weight, concentrated but not massive; vegetal but not green. Strongly recommended unless you find beefy Aussie Shirazes to be your wine of choice. 92p.

 

 


1989 Ch Guiraud

Sauternes had a fantastic streak of vintages in 1988, 1989 and 1990. In particular the 89 vintage is great, with loads of botrytis and high sugar content.

I bought a bottle of 1989 Château Guiraud when on vacation in Bordeaux back in 2006 and had it this New Year’s Eve with some foie gras. Unsurprisingly, the combination was great. There is not a more classical match to Sauternes than foie gras. 22 years in a bottle results in great complexity for a (good) Sauternes. Dark yellow colour. A bit musty on the nose immediately after opening, but the mustiness disappears quickly. I didn’t air or decant it. Deep in structure and shows a nose of saffron, apricots, nuts and oranges, but also some spices, which probably were not present when the bottle still was young. Viscous and long with nice acidity and not too much evidence of residual sugar. Great palate of orange marmalade and honey. I was I had more bottles of mature Sauternes. This is really something else as compared to a young Sauternes. 93p.


2003 Saint Émilion + Montagne satellite

Is there a great difference in quality between St Émilion and its satellite appellations? Well, I couldn’t really give you an exhaustive or even general answer, but telling from the two wines I had this evening, it certainly is. So is the money.

Both wines are from 2003, which is considered a good to excellent vintage but an irregular one; you generally can’t just pick a wine at random. There are great variations, even among the top châteaux. The vintage is warm, meaning that the wines are generous at their best and jammy at their worst.

2003 Vieux Château Palon is from Montagne-St.Émilion, one of the four so called satellite appellations located north of St Émilion. Montagne is one of two satellites which actually borders on the more esteemed St. Émilion appellation. I bought this and the next wine when on vacation in Bordeaux in August 2006 and the Palon only set me back a modest €13, which is extremely good value, in particular for Bordeaux. After all, these are arguably the finest wines in the world. The price parameter is certainly the upside for the satellite wines: they are generally a good bang for the buck. The 2003 Palon is a quite dense and rich wine, with notes of plum, coffee and tobacco. It actually is slightly smoky, but not in a negative South African manner. It has some attack and is well balanced. Not overly long and complex, though. 75% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Franc. Again, amazing value for your money. 85p.

Unfortunately, the Swedish Systembolaget doesn’t have loads of these lesser Bordeauxs. But it’s really worth looking into their e-store (“Beställningssortimentet”) for gems. There’s lots of of them, and you’ll have your e-order sitting in your store of choice within a couple of days. Use the state monopoly to your advantage!

2003 Tour du Sème from St-Émilion is a completely different ball game, in particular when it comes to complexity. It certainly seems to be affected by Brettanomyces, the tiny yeast which is so helpful when it comes in small doses. The wine really reeks of stable. There’s also sensations of tobacco and leather. It is very balanced and elegant with a nearly perfect balance striked between fruits and tannins. It’s a masterpiece in its price range, I paid €20. It just comes to show that you should buy Bordeaux and have them cellared. There is so much to gain in the wines; I strongly doubt that this particular wine possessed this complexity as a baby. 91p.


2007 Domaine Pegau Réservée

Domain Pegau from Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a highly esteemed producer. Certainly one of the best in the area and, judging by the extremely high marks awarded in wine reviews, this may very well be one of the best producers period. They generally make three red cuveés: the Réservée and the Laurence is made basically every year, and are the same wines with the difference that the Laurence is kept in wooden cask for another 18-24 months. The prestige cuvée da Capo is made in exceptional years only. To my knowledge, the da Capo is the only wine to ever have scored a full 100 points by Robert Parker in all its vintages so far (1998, 2000, 2003 and 2007).

Their “standard” cuvée – 2007 Domaine Pegau Réservée – is great, but then 07 is considered an exceptional year in the Southern Rhône. This is truly an amazing CNdP. I aired it for an hour, and perhaps it would fare even better with another couple of hours, because this is essentially a powerful wine in a typically powerful vintage. It will certainly improve in another couple of years or even in five, ten or fifteen years. This wine really packs punches and is truly old-school. Not very fruit-driven. Very dense on the nose with fresh herbs, spices minerals and dark fruit. Compact on the palate but still manages to open up and is long and complex and the taste of licorice and garrigue is just magnificent. There is so much going on here. Balanced but still slightly to noisy. Intense. This may be the best CNdP I’ve ever had. Luckily I have another five bottles, but I will stuff them in the cellar for another two or three years. At 450 SEK, this is still good value for money. For the same money in Bordeaux, Burgundy, Piemonte, Tuscany or California you rarely get 94p.

Me and my wife also had a
1998 Grand-Puy-Lacoste
 from Pauillac. This is really an old Bordeaux fifth-growth work horse; it always manages to deliver and I don’t think this wine have ever disappointed me. Normally this is as typical a Pauillac as a wine gets with a black currant nose and a chewy, big and dense body. However, this being a 1998, there is not much fruit left, but spices, pencil shavings, cedar tree, game and leather. It can certainly be attributed other characteristics than its ordinary ones due to 13 years of maturation. This is what you really appreciate about a nice Bordeaux. Powerful, spicy, full-bodied and long. I bought this years ago via a negociant (Beyerman) in Bordeaux. Still four bottles left! However, it surfaced at the Systembolaget the other year for about 600 SEK. 90p.


2005 Château Sainte-Colombe

Right-bank 2005s are considered the best since….1961 or so. I bought three bottles at Systembolaget (beställningssortimentet) of Château Sainte-Colombe on chance for 159 SEK each. Extraordinary value. This is from the Côtes de Castillon appellation, which borders on the more distinguished an well-known Saint-Emilion appellation.

Owned by Gérard Perse, who also owns the famous Saint-Emilion property Chateau Pavie. I don’t know how well Sainte-Colombe performed in 2005, but this is a very nice wine. 70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. Black currants, cedar, chocolate and herbs on the nose. Doubtlessly a modern Bordeaux in the best sense; fruit-driven but still not jammy. Certainly not a fruit-bomb. Smooth and silky on the palate. Nice and well-integrated tannins. Medium to full-bodied. A small but pleasant acridity appears immediately before the surprisingly long finish. Strongly recommended. 88p.


Newsflash: Chavy wines available in Sweden

I tasted Philippe Chavy’s wines in Puligny-Montrachet beginning of June, and they are of extraordinary quality. For more detailed information see a previous blog post.

At the time, Chavy’s wines were not available in Sweden. However, Christer Ferm who is located in the Southern Rhône now distributes the wines to Sweden. Christer can be reached on e-mail “ferm@orange.fr”. Prices below include Swedish VAT, alcohol tax and transport to Sweden. These are very competitive prices. Christer does not run a major-margin operation.

Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru “Les Pucelles”                    460 kr

Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru “Les Folatières”                 408 kr

Puligny Montrachet  “Les corvées des vignes”               289 kr

Puligny Montrachet ”Rue Rousseau”                              346 kr

Puligny Montrachet                                                            258 kr

Meursault Blagny 1er Cru “Sous le dos d’Ane”              344 kr

Meursault ”Narvaux”                                                         248 kr

Saint Aubin 1er Cru “Les murgers des dents de chiens” 229 kr

Bourgogne Chardonnay                                                    124 kr


2010 Château d’Armailhac barrel sample

New wines were launched at Systembolaget last week, and I tasted 13 selected ones this Monday: 2 whites and 11 reds. Three top-Bordeauxs were among the reds. I’ll get back to the launch tasting in another blog post within short. 2008 in Bordeaux is considered a medium vintage; slightly better than 2007 but slightly less than 2006. In general, left bank is regarded as somewhat higher in quality than left bank for 2008. As always, there are better and worse performers. When barrel samples were tasted, many critics regarded the 2008 vintage as bad. Fortunately, it seems to have pulled itself together in time for release. In my opinion, it is a very decent vintage. I attended the Winefinder Bordeaux 2010 barrel sample tasting at Berns on 1 September and tried a number of good 2008s as well. It just goes to show that the art of barrel tasting is tricky. However, the 2010s appear to be in great form.

On that note, I would really like to recommend 2010 Château d’Armailhac. I had a barrel sample (actually a full bottle shared with my wife) this evening, and if it’s not the alcohol talking, I really have to say it has great potential.

This is a Pauillac fifth growth which is relatively inexpensive (in a Bordeaux context, that is). At SB, the 2007 is 325 SEK. In contrast to many of the other 2010 barrel samples I’ve had (me and my wife had Clerc Milon last weekend and Beychevelle yesterday which both were good, and I tasted a great deal of other 2010s last Monday), it is not just about the sweet fruit which always seem to get the attention of the barrel tasters. d’Armailhac sure possessed structure, grip and flesh. Not overly tannic, but still rugged enough to maintain lots of character when it is released in about two years. 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc and the remaining part Petit Verdot. I believe it has the potential to score 92 points (or even more). One can only speculate about 2010 prices on release, but as I said, this is in comparison not an expensive left bank-wine.

Keep your eyes open for the 2010 d’Armailhac when it launches in two years.


Philippe Chavy

When on vacation in a rented house just outside of Roanne in central France last month, I took the opportunity to visit Burgundy. My friend Lars who joined me for the tasting had spotted producer Philippe Chavy in Puligny-Montrachet. I am glad he did.

Puligny-Montrachet is a top-notch wine appellation where you are unlikely to find anything else than good producers. The top vineyard in the village of Puligny is the Montrachet, where four hectares are under vine, hence the name of the appellation. Chardonnay is almost exclusively the base for the wines in Puligny-Montrachet. The village is arguably considered one of the finest white-wine producing appellation in the world.

When arriving at the estate, Philippe guides us into his backyard, trough his garage/workshop and into la cave. Needless to say, this is a fairly small-scale operation. Nevertheless, he has prepared a basket with no less than fourteen perfectly tempered unopened bottles, which just about covers his complete range. It is obvious that this is going to be a great tasting.

His father, Monsieur Albert Chavy, sits in on the tasting at a table a couple of meters away from us. Me, Philippe and Lars are holding the tasting at the top of a turned-over wine barrel, and while Philippe is spitting the wine the whole tasting through, his father doesn’t. I don’t speak French and old man Chavy doesn’t speak English, so the opportunity of making conversation is slim, but I sure like this guy. A man just doesn’t get more French than this.We start out with the simpler Aligoté and Bourgogne appellations, which both are very good and makes a promising start for the higher appellations. All of the wines tasted in the following are 90+, possibly with a few exceptions immediately below the nineties. Philippe does not promote an overly use of oak. Not more than 30% of the barrels are new in any given wine.

First out of these is the 2009 Saint-Aubin 1er Cru Les Murgers des Dents de Chien. The appellation of Saint-Aubin just west of Puligny-Montrachet is generally regarded as somewhat simpler than its more famous neighbor. But these can be very good, and certainly a good bang for your bucks, in particular if they are from the premier cru of Les Murgers, which is considered to be the finest vineyard in the AOC together with En Remilly. This is by no means accidental; both these vineyards are located in the south-east part of Saint-Aubin, bordering on Puligny-Montrachet. At €22, this is very good value. It is delightfully oaky on the nose, with butter, toast and nuts. And that fruit! The sensation of apples is so clean and crisp. This is what really strikes me about Chavy’s wines; the fruit is so clean! In most wines there is always something in-between the fruit and your nose, a veil of overtones covering the fruitiness of the wine. I just love the fruity nose of this wine along with the notes of minerals it carries. But it will get even better.

Second up is the 2009 Meursault. The Meursault appellation is almost as regarded as neighboring Puligny-Montrachet, even though it does not have one single grand cru vineyard. Rather, it is the generally high quality of the wines from the appellation which accounts for its reputation. Chavy’s commune level Meursault is no exception. Rich, full-bodied with almond notes, yet with a nice and good acidity. And the fruit! The sense of apples and citrus is crystal clear. Smooth, round and powerful. We also got to try the 07, which has all this but also a more meaty tone to it. There is certainly a good reason to cellar these wines for at least a couple of years. If you have the discipline.

From the commune level Meursault up to the 2009 Meursault Narvaux, the leap is nevertheless certainly detectable. The Narvaux is a so called lieu-dit, which effectively means that it is regarded as a vineyard of higher quality than those making up the commune level wines but which still has not qualified for premier cru. Promotion for these sites is possible although classification reviews are not frequent. The Narvaux is bigger and bolder but still more complex than the commune Meursault. It also displays a greater mineral tone. In my opinion, it is one of the best of Chavy’s wines. At €24, it’s a bargain.

Last of the Meursaults is the 2009 Meursault 1er Cru Les Charmes from one of the most well-known premier cru vineyards in Meursault. This is from the less-esteemed lower section of the vineyard. Although showing much of the same characteristics as the previously tasted Meursaults, my personal opinion is that this is minor to the Narvaux, and perhaps even the villages.

Then it is time for 2009 Puligny-Montrachet. There is a lot to be said about the terrior in Puligny (which is the name of the village, “Le Montrachet” is its most famous vineyard), but a distinctive characteristic is that the soils around Puligny-Montrachet have a high content of limestone. Thus, the wine tasted has a very mineral sensation, in addition to the very present streak of green apple and citrus. Still a baby.

The 2009 Puligny-Montrachet Les Corvées des vignes from the vineyard of the same name is just fantastic. Not of premier cru status, this villages wine is nevertheless of high quality, and it may very well be my favorite among the Chavy wines. Slightly less oaky than any one of the previous wines, with a minerality comparable to a Champagne, it’s like smelling a granite rock. Still lots of green apples but perhaps with a hint of more tropical fruits. Balanced and elegant. Good body and a long, lingering finish. At €25, this is a bargain.

The 2009 Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Folatières and 2009 Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Pucelles finishes off the Pulignys and are fantastic. They have all the characteristics of the previously tasted wines but are more mineralic. But what is really distinguishable is the floral characteristic. Nice, elegant and rich. these could be stored for many years, but they are also instantly drinkable. As a side note, the Pucelles is one of the finest premier cur vineyards in Puligny-Montrachet, being a continuation of the Grand Cru sites immediately south of it. These are Philippes most expensive wines at €38 and €44

Last out, we have the 2009 Meursault-Blagny 1er Cru Sous le Dos d’Âne, which vineyard actually is located in the village of Blagny. The 09 is tight-knit and slightly austere. It certainly needs time to unfold and I personally think it may be unfair to try this wine at such an early age even though it certainly is drinkable now. Philippe suggests that we have a go at the 04 instead, and maaan is this a different ballgame: red apples, toast, almonds, spices and minerals. Balanced, contiguous, complex and long. This may be the best wine tasted. Just brilliant.

It shows that many of Chavy’s wines really should be stored for a couple of years. It’s just so damn difficult, since they are also very drinkable right now. I got away with 20 bottles purchased directly from Philippe, so I’m hoping to have at least a handful left five years away from now.

Philippe Chavy appears to be a relatively well-kept secret in Puligny. Hospitable, skillful and crafted….you should certainly try out his wines should you have the opportunity. I’m hoping for a Swedish distributor soon. These wines are just too good to be ignored.