Category Archives: Earlier Vintages

Bordeaux 2008 Grands Crus Classés: Final Call for Value

Having posted my scores of 2008 Bordeaux Grands Crus Classés from the bottle, I’ve taken a look at the prices on the UK market (via Liv-ex and wine-searcher) to see what values there are before Parker releases any moment now. Spend a few moments checking the current price of the 2008 v the 2009 (2010 won’t be cheaper) and you could nab some top wines from great estates at reasonable prices. V? = Value? y = yes, p = possibly.

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Bordeaux 2008s: Those were the Days

Having just posted my 2008 scores for the Grands Cru Classés in bottle, I made the mistake of flicking through the article I wrote for Harpers Wine and Spirit for the 1 May 2009 issue, just before Parker posted his scores from the barrel tastings.

img_5462Here it is, in full. Let me say that, from the bottle, I can confirm that ‘St-Julien and Pauillac produced some top flight efforts’ but probably more than a ‘few really exceptional ones’. As for the prices, especially of Lafite and Mouton – now trading at £13,500 and £8,000 a case respectively – I think I’ll go and weep. For the wines, patience is required for all those Left Bank wines from the top estates, contrary to what some critics have said.

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The Bordeaux 2008 Grands Crus Classés from bottle

The top Chateaux in Bordeaux bottled their 2008 reds last summer, from May onwards. Since the autumn I’ve popped into all the Grands Crus Classés of the Left Bank (i.e. those in the 1855 classification) to taste them.

img_4608Given that you can only taste the First Growths and others in situ, it seems the fairest way to assess all the wines on a level playing field, even if it’s time consuming. It also gave me a chance to taste the increasingly relevant second wines, and a few other wines that are owned by the Crus Classés (such as Pibran being in the same ownership as Pichon Baron).

I also tasted the St-Emilion Premiers Grands Crus Classés  (excluding Cheval Blanc, Ausone, Belair Monange and Magdelaine) in a single sitting. Although I’ve tasted plenty of Pomerols, these tastings are incomplete so I’ve left them out (Le Pin and Clinet are very good, though…). Likewise Pessac-Léognan and other wines from St-Emilion.

Robert Parker is about to release his scores on 2008 from the bottle, in tandem with his initial 2010 scores from barrel. Here are my scores for the 2008 in bottle, alongside Parker’s original scores from barrel. Many of these wines are substantially less expensive than their 2009 and 2010 counterparts, so there are some deals to be had outside the First Growths. Further reports to follow.

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2008 En Primeur: Surprise, Surprise

DSC_0094We’ve just had the week of trade tastings in Bordeaux, when the world of fine wine annually descends on the region to taste the wines from the previous vintage. A few surprises too: many 2008s are far better than most outsiders would have thought, after gloomy reports of a damp summer.

The real surprise though is that there seems to be a genuine desire to launch a quick ‘en primeur’ campaign, with the possibility of the First Growths – Latour, Lafite, Margaux (above), Mouton Rothschild and Haut-Brion – coming out with an opening offer in the next couple of weeks, before most of the lower ranks. And that would be big news here as it would turn the normal routine on its head. Keep reading

Red Harvest in Full Swing

It’s the week of harvesting most of our Merlot for the reds. The quality is surprisingly high with minimal rot, and I suspect that 2008 will be a far better vintage than we might have hoped for just a few weeks ago. This is the view of the vineyard at 7.45am, and it’s quite beautiful, with the fairly narrow, 1.5 metre wide rows of merlot we planted in 2002 in the foreground, and the sauvignon blanc down the hill towards the woods. Keep reading

Clear Skies over Bordeaux

It’s late and the harvest would have been a shocker if it hadn’t been for this fine, dry spell during the second half of September. And Bordeaux is a beautiful city when the skies are blue.

“Two things surprised me about Bordeaux,” wrote Paul Shearer in an article in the Financial Times, back in June. “The first was the breathtaking beauty of the place. The second was the warmth of the welcome from the Bordelaises.”

Here Comes the Sun

After a lovely July, a mixed August and a dodgy start to September, we need sunshine. And, mercifully, the forecast looks good. In 2007, September sunshine saved the harvest (as happened in 2002), and although each and every year is different, it looks like the same could be true for 2008. The problem is that this will be a late harvest, and more than likely the latest we’ve seen. We don’t just need sun, we need three to four weeks of it. 

We have one parcel which will be ready before all the others – this week in fact – a block of sauvignon blanc vines which we planted in 2004. Keep reading

Changing of the Colour: Véraison

Even though friday was un jour férié, or Bank Holiday, there was work to be done in the vineyard, and on saturday too. Working on a saturday in mid-August doesn’t go down well with the troops, let alone on a Bank Holiday, but the merlot grapes are changing colour from green to red, a process called véraison. And when it’s about a third of the way through, we spray to protect against botrytis or rot, as do most of the top estates in Bordeaux – even if spraying dates don’t feature in the brochure. This was the second preventative measure against rot, the first having taken place during flowering in early June, and the timing can be tricky to judge. As I walked down the rows I thought “that’s 10% veraison”, “that’s 40%”, and so on until at the end of the parcel, I stuck a finger in the air and said, ‘we’ll do this parcel on friday’. And I’d forgotten about the Bank Holiday. Keep reading

Hail near St-Emilion: No Luck in Lussac

July was a great month for sunshine in Bordeaux and very little rain – much less than in 2007 and 2006. In fact, we’ve enjoyed lovely weather since mid-June, right up until yesterday at the start of what looks to be a rainy week. But in this corner of south west France, whenever there has been a build-up of heat over a prolonged period, a storm might follow; we’ve witnessed exciting bouts of thunder and lightning during the hottest periods in previous years. Usually, there’s no harm done, but if there’s a mix of strong winds and the much-dreaded hail, the results can be catastrophic.  We were badly hit in June 2003 and it wasn’t pretty. 

This time it was the turn of several unfortunate growers and Chateaux in Lussac Saint-Emilion, one of the satellite appellations to the north of the famous, medieval wine town.  Hundreds of acres were hit, and some estates have lost all their crop for this year.  

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Frost Damage but No Hail, Please

Yesterday was the fifth anniversary of the night we were badly hit by hail.  The evening of 24th June, 2003 lives long in the memory.  After a period of steamy hot weather, a hail storm swept through part of the region, starting in the Graves to the south west of us and petering out beyond St-Emilion to the east.  Hail on its own can be a bruiser but it’s the combination of hail and gail force winds that inflicts serious damage.  We lost half the crop in just a few minutes, and with it half our income for the year.  Some of our neighbours’ vines were wiped out, whereas Esme Johnstone’s Château de Sours, just five miles away, remained untouched. 

Ironically, we had cancelled our hail insurance policy the year before as the premium had rocketed, and we believed a local pundit who claimed that the geography and shape of the hillsides of Bauduc would force the winds around the estate and that we were unlikely to be hit in just such an event. This turned out, of course, to be complete tosh.

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