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One of the most serious English Sparkling producers. This historic estate has been in the Goring family since 1743. The tiny 16-acre vineyard is close-planted on a steep south-facing chalk escarpment described as 'similar to the Côte des Blancs' in Champagne. The fruit is picked very selectively with quality being the absolute focus. The grapes are pressed gently using a traditional Coquard press. After three years on the lees this wine, composed of 45% Pinot Noir, 33% Chardonnay & 22% Pinot Meunier, is hand disgorged and balanced with a minimal dosage of just 4g/L. It has a fine counterbalance between toasty richness and power from the wines élevage in Burgundian French Oak barrels, with racy acidity, tension and a focused chalky minerality.

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Entries in Sauternes (6)

Friday
May172013

BDX Files: Ralph's 2012 Bordeaux Vintage Report Preview

By: Ralph Sands | K&L Senior Bordeaux Specialist

2012 Bordeaux: Is it too Late?

I have just returned from Bordeaux and the evaluation of the 2012 vintage. This marked my 44th visit to the region and my 23rd vintage evaluation. With well over 1000 wines tasted. I believe I’ve wrapped my arms around 2012 pretty well, understand the style of the vintage, and have identified the best wines.

As always, the weather makes the wine. In 2012, the weather was normal…which means very difficult! Near-perfect vintages like 2005 and 2009 are very rare. Almost every vintage has numerous problems during the growing season, and 2011 and 2012 certainly had their share of problems.

Weather-wise, 2011 and 2012 could hardly be more opposite. 2011 had a warm spring with early bud break and early but uneven flowering; a mixed bag from May to June, mostly cold and wet. The summer was overcast and very cool. The vintage was saved by a warm/hot September and an early harvest ensued.

In 2012 the opposite occurred. Cold/wet conditions kept bud break late. Uneven flowering spread out for weeks, pushing things almost a month behind. Cool and wet conditions continued, causing worry of mildew. On July 15th (on the dot!) the weather switch-flipped and sunny conditions took over August and September, causing some stress in some plots and continued uneven ripening. Harvest was late everywhere. Most of the Merlots were harvested at good ripeness and mostly in nice conditions but a lot of the Cabernet Sauvignons on the left bank were picked in the rains of mid October. The rain and the fact that some Cabernet Sauvignon was just not completely ripe at harvest keep 2012 out of the very good category. These conditions also resulted in a small crop overall, with most estates making about 50% of their normal amounts.

It is common to refer to a Bordeaux vintage as either a Cabernet Sauvignon vintage or a Merlot vintage, and 2012 is definitely a Merlot vintage. The Right Bank commune of Pomerol made some fantastic wines across the board, with very good consistent quality also in St-Emilion. The areas of Pessac-Leognan and the Medoc were very uneven with many wines showing aggressive dryness and green notes on the finish. That being said, there some fine successes in 2012 from the left bank that do not have those green and drying notes, but certainly not as many as I would have liked.

I’m lucky this year as I will be going back to Bordeaux in June and I am looking forward with great eagerness to taste many of these left bank wines again. The main reason for this return is that the one month lateness of the vintage at all stages, especially the lateness of the harvest, delays all the stages of fermentation/blending and putting into barrel. So when I along with everyone else tasted this year on April 1st , it was a month early as far as the wine was concerned, and the weather had been very cold. There is no dancing around the fact that these wines were well behind in their development and difficult to access. So the expectation is that the six week period of additional development along with warmer spring weather should give the Cabernet Sauvignon blends a much better and fairer showing in June.

While 2011 produced elegant wines with strong acidities, 2012 produced riper wines with a darker core of fruit and more flesh, so I absolutely prefer 2012 to 2011. Where does 2012 fit in comparison to other vintages? Well, while it may not be in the league of great vintages like 2010, 2009, 2005 or 2000, I like it at least as well if not more than 2008, 2006 and 2007. My strongest comparison at this early stage would be to 1998, also a late and very fine Merlot vintage while being much tougher and closed on the left.

I have learned over the years not to dismiss the “tough to taste young” vintages on the left bank too soon. These wines develop slowly and vintages like 2004, 2002 and 1998 have turned out much better than most of the scores and reviews reflected at the time of release. Many have fooled us at recent blind tastings in Bordeaux where we thought they were from outstanding years.

The Blancs: The whites from Pessac-Leognan showed very well, refreshing and floral wines that are more on the elegant side. The Petite Chateaux and inexpensive Blancs also showed very well. Overall, 2012 is a nice vintage for the Blancs.

The Sweeties from Sauternes and Barsac: For lovers of the sweet wines this will always be a confusing vintage because Ch. d’Yquem publicly stated that they would make no wine in 2012 before the En Primeur tastings, which leads many to assume there will be no wine made anywhere. This is simply not the case across the board. While it is true that in the slow-growing gravel soils of d’Yquem and in neighboring Fargues (Ch. Rieussec, Ch.Guiraud, Ch. Suduiraut, and Raymond Lafon), little to no wine will be made; the grapes were so far behind that when good conditions for the boytrytis happened in these soils, the rains and humidity took over. However, just north in the sandy, clay and limestone soils of Barsac, the grapes were further ahead maturity wise and handled the conditions just fine in between periods of rain. Some lovely wines were made. These wines are not in the big, thick and powerful style; they are sweet, but elegant, fresh and charming. While tasting these wines I could not help but think about how nicely these wines will drink, even by themselves, on a warm summer afternoon or evening because they are so refreshing and not big and thick. Lovely wines were made at Ch. Clemens, Ch. Doisy-Daene, Ch. Doisy-Vedrines, Ch.de Malle, Ch. de Myrat, and Ch. La Tour Blanche, Ch. Haut-Peyraguey, Ch. Rabaud Promis, Ch. Rayne-Vigneau and Ch. Siglas-Rabaud, to name a few.

The Prices: Last but not least is the question of pricing. This will be a key factor in the success of the vintage sales-wise. We firmly told everyone in Bordeaux who would listen that 2012 presents a great opportunity to get people back to loving Bordeaux before it is too late…that they should offer this good vintage at steeply reduced prices, giving everyone a reason to buy and stimulating the marketplace. We will see if they listen or not.

Please feel free to contact me anytime with any questions or for advice on the wines of Bordeaux. I can be reached at extension 2723 or by email at Ralph@klwines.com.

Cheers and Go Giants!

Ralph Sands

 

Ralph Sands

Bordeaux Expert

Senior Wine Specialist

K&L Wine Merchants

Redwood City and San Francisco Ca.

1-800 247-5987 Ext# 2723

Direct Line 650-556-2723

Email- Ralph@klwines.com

Company Website- klwines.com

 

 

Monday
Feb182013

Behind the Wine: A Q&A with Bill Blatch, Leading Sauternes Expert

Bill Blatch (center) with K&L Founder Clyde Beffa (left) and Redwood City Bordeaux liaison Jeff Garneau (right).

"Incredibly, companies specialising in Sauternes alone are virtually non existant. Luckily there is one man who has made it his mission for the last 30 years to know everything there is to know about Sauternes – and that’s Bill Blatch." (bordeauxgold.com)

Meet Bill Blatch

By: Ralph Sands, K&L Senior Bordeaux Specialist

Bill Blatch is a good friend and has been an instrumental influence at K&L Wine Merchants since 1985, when Clyde Beffa was first introduced to him in Bordeaux. Bill and his partners started a negociant firm called Vintex in the early 80s that quickly became famous for representing all the Cru Bourgeois and hundreds of other Petite Chateaux in the region along with the classified growths. Bill’s prime focus was his passion for Sauternes and the small non-famous producers with whom he worked hands-on to improve quality in the cellar and in the vineyard.

A visit to the Vintex offices to taste is truly a rite of passage into the Bordeaux business. The barometer of any vintage is the quality of wine made from top to bottom, and anyone who is anyone in Bordeaux shows up at the Vintex office to taste. It was there where I met the great Edmund Penning Roswell and the famous Robert Parker on the same day in April of 1990, my first day ever in Bordeaux. Starting with the most recent barrel samples and the past two vintages of each estate, you taste your way through hundreds of wines. This is real work and far beyond what most people can comprehend. 

For decades during the April 'en primeur' week, Bill has lead a band of professional tasters from all over the world to each of the great classified growths to evaluate the new vintage. Bill's in-depth study of each year's weather pattern and his annual vintage report are legendary. He is surely one of the most knowledgeable people on the wines of Bordeaux--and especially the wines of Sauternes--in the world. Now semi-retired, Bill has just been commissioned by Berry Bros. in the UK to write a book on Bordeaux wine...a very smart move indeed!

For a video summary of Bill's recent tasting and report on the best values in 2009 Sauternes, a vintage he describes as one in which "everyone had a chance to create top quality wines," follow this link.

Q&A with Bill Blatch

By: Steve Greer | K&L LA Bordeaux Liaison

SG: Which is better for botrytis, Barsac or Sauternes?

BB: That depends. Generally Barsac is earlier to botrytise than Sauternes, sometimes just a few days, sometimes a week. So it all depends when the rainy/sunny days come; it's a lottery, it can go either way.

What are your favorite vintages?

For me, 01 is the best post-war vintage. It has that magic "lift" from the acidity, the botrytis complexity is oustanding and yet the weight and sweetness are very high. We had the Climens from magnum the other night. It was quite simply fabulous.

Are there differences in boytritis?

A cleaner boytritis? Very complex one this. Botrytis is a complicated thing. Very generally, the best comes quick and doesn't stay on the grapes for too long (as in 01, 03, 05 and 09). When the conditions are too dry and it gets blocked, it tends to give finesse (88, 02) and when too wet, if it doesn't deteriorate, usually provides heavier styled wines (86, 96, 12) but can get washed out (94, 00). As you know, there are various stages in its development: from golden grapes which develop botrytis blotches, then usually quite quickly to "pourri plein" (total botrytis) and finally, if this concentrates up nicely to "rôti" phase. This is the one that they look for, but sometimes have to settle for a bit of the rest. Recently (especially in 11), there has been a trend to temper the too concentrated "rôti" grapes with non-botrytis golden ones, with the advantage of providing freshness as well as sugar balance. In the old days, many picked a large proportion at "pourri
plein", another reason for the lighter wines of yore.

How is fermentation stopped?

Fermentation used to be stopped by just adding sulphur. Nowadays, it is usually racked off into refrigerated receptacles then put back in barrel, albeit with sulphur but as little as possible to keep the free sulphur level at its correct level.

How does residual sugar relate to/impact balance?

Since the late 90s, the big difference [now] is greater concentration, of course helped by warmer temperatures, but more than that by much better selection at harvest. Before the 90s, it was an effort to get up to 120g/l and it rarely happened outside of the great vintages. Since then, most are at 120 - 150 g/l. Since about 2003, when there were a couple as high as 190g, there has been a collective realisation that great Sauternes is a question of balance rather than opulence (hence the ridiculing of Parker and the Wine Spec at the time) and they now make efforts to restrain the sugar levels, either by wider picking at certain times, or by blending lighter lots with sweeter ones.

Photo from Bill Blatch's visit to K&L in March of 2011.

SG: What makes d'Yquem so special? Is it the yields and quality control (one glass of wine per vine) ...or the higher elevation the estate sits on?

BB: I think it's a whole combination of things that make Yquem so special. First, the vineyard is in a unique position dominating the valley from that big mound. Rieussec and Rayne Vigneau have similar commanding positions but not to that extent. From years of observing the botrytis's evolution in the fall, Yquem clearly benefits from the best air circulation dring the crucial final concentration process. Also, because of its very varied soil structure, and because the domain is so big, they can favor whatever class of soil is best for each vintage (eg + clay in the dry years, more gravel in the wet ones etc). Then of course, it's a question of having the luxury (because of the price of the stuff!) to select drastically, to have twice as many pickers, to have the best technical staff, and do whatever they like with low yields, then to have the best vertical presses (which cost a fortune), the best new barrels and just to have everything perfect. At vintage time, when everyone is scurrying around against the clock elsewhere, I have never seen anyone in a hurry at Yquem.

My very old Parker book doesn't seem to have the right yields on sweet wine producers. What is the maximum yield allowed in the AOCs and what is the average?

The maximum yield by law is 25 ho/ha, but most crus classés never get near that, except in very prolific easy vintages. Yquem rarely goes over 10. Most crus classés average at about 12-15.

How long can you leave a bottle open in the fridge?

Leaving bottles in the fridge depends a lot on the resistance of the wine. An off vintage, made from rain-sodden botrytis, with low acidity and lots of sulphur is a different proposition from a top vintage, totally healthy and clean from the start. The bottle I left that summer was a Doisy Daene, who has one of the brightest and cleanest-flavored wine I know, and he never has to use much sulphur. I think the message is, if you can't finish the bottle, never to worry about corking it up and leaving it for a week or two, whatever the quality. Sauternes simply doesn't oxidise or go flat like dry wines do. And if it's a great vintage from a fine estate, leave it for much longer...

For more information and videos about Bill Blatch and Sauternes, visit bordeauxgold.com.

 

Monday
Feb212011

Auction Spotlight: 1975 d'Yquem, Sauternes

Ladies and gentlemen, place your bids!

There are few wines more legendary than those from Château d'Yquem; it is the ne plus ultra of sweet wines and one of the most famous wines from Bordeaux. The estate's wines were already acclaimed in the late 1700s, when it is said that America's best known oenophile Thomas Jefferson wrote to acquire some. Made from Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon grapes affected by botrytis cinera, the noble rot that causes grapes to shrivel and concentrates their flavors, d'Yquems are praised for their distinctive flavors and unparalleled longevity.

The three half bottle's of d'Yquem currently available in an auction lot that closes Friday, February 25th at noon, come from the extraordinary 1975 vintage, which critic Robert Parker said "may turn out to be the greatest of the modern-day Yquems" rivaling other spectacular vintages like 1921 and 1937 when he last reviewed the wine in 1998. The wines were impeccably stored in a professional wine facility since they were first purchased and are in excellent condition. Older vintages of d'Yquem are rare, especially in such pristine condition.

Place your bid now.