Monday, November 9, 2009

Bordeaux prices plummet

AFP is reporting that Bordeaux wines are set for an off-the-cliff plummet.

Even as Chateau Lafite leads a surge for Bordeaux vintners in Asia, US retail prices for the same wines have skidded below wholesale cost as a major importer dumps stocks worth tens of millions of dollars.

US importer Diageo Chateau & Estate Wines (DC&E), a subsidiary of the British drinks giant Diageo, has abandoned Bordeaux wine after 35 years, aggressively liquidating its warehouse stock on an already shaky market.

Speaking to AFP, a source within DC&E, who asked to remain anonymous, blamed "enormous stocks" of unsold Bordeaux for their exodus. "It's all about making money. The margins are getting thinner each year and Americans are trading down."

DC&E's turbulent withdrawal, which has heated up in recent weeks, is having a "huge impact on the market," Chris Adams, chief executive of Manhattan retailer Sherry Lehmann, told AFP.

For many years, DC&E was the largest US buyer of Bordeaux, and amassed a colossal cellar. Now famous labels such as Lafite, Haut Brion and Lynch Bages are being offered to American retailers at discounts of up to 50 percent.

"I have 5.5 million dollars' worth of First Growths in my warehouse that I cannot sell, because I'll be 50 percent more expensive than Chateau & Estate," said Guillaume Touton, owner of Monsieur Touton Selection, the New York importer with annual sales of over 100 million dollars.

Look for eye-popping pre-Christmas bargains!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

An interesting idea about tasting wines on specific days

I received this note from a reader and acquaintance, Daniel McKeever, a few days ago. I'm not sure I agree, but there may be something interesting here. Here's his note, unedited, so others can take a look.


I've been working on an experiment that you might find interesting.

I think that we in the wine world taste wines on certain days that we know that we like, and then when we don’t like them, we chalk them up as a bad bottle, or something to the sort rather than considering where the moon is and how it can affect the wine. There is an affect on all living things, consider that the crime rate rises when there is a full moon. As the moon moves, the ocean’s tides are pulled by gravitation. So to it works with us, and the living, breathing organism also known as the bottle of wine. Might it be that some wines are more alive than others? Could it be that some wines are just more in tune with how the earth breathes. I know that there are many professionals who think that root days are fine to taste on. You can still enjoy a bottle on these days, for sure. I believe that there are just days that are better than others for tasting wine. Also, when you are spending a bunch of money on a bottle of wine and looking for magic, some days you won’t find it.

I was interested in the subject because I buy and sell a lot of Burgundy. It is expensive and there’s nothing more heartbreaking than opening a bottle in a dumb phase, or having one that you know isn’t flawed, but just isn’t doing what you know it should. There are many producers who I represent who are practicing biodynamics, and I have seen first hand the results in the vineyard, and in the glass. One night I was having dinner with Bruno Lafon in Tan Hermitage and really started to dig into why it was that wine could be better on some days rather than others. He told me then, that wine tastes best on fruit days, and then on flower days. Leaf days can be okay, but always watch out for root days. Fruit days can help a wine that is reductive to open up. Flower days seem to have a focused nose, but can sometimes cause a wine that is reductive to reduce a bit more and take on almost a port like quality. Leaf days are ones that aren’t necessarily bad, but the wine will show less fruit and more earth tones. Root days cause the wine to close in and show earth notes and little fruit. Needless to say my mind was blown, and I’ve been conducting my own experiments for most of the year. This was one of the first times that I’ve done an experiment in a controlled environment. Partially because, it is a bit of a risk to go around and show the wines that I intend to sell when they are not showing at their best.

Biodynamic experiment

Wednesday October 14, 2009 was a fruit day and I made appointments with some wine buyers to show a set of wines. I also made the exact same appointments at the same times for the following day, which was a root day, to show the same set of wines with fresh bottles opened at 10 o’clock a.m. My objective was to evaluate the wines as they progressed through the days and to show that they would be radically different from fruit day to root day.

I brought two wines that were biodynamic, Masion Champy Pernand Vergelesse 1er Cru Les Fichot, and Gourt de Mautens Rasteau Jerome Bressy. Also, there was one wine that was organic (Paul Autard Cotes de Rhone,) one that was not fully biodynamic, but made in the cellar in a biodynamic fashion, Masion Champy Bourgogne Signature Chardonnay. I also brought two wines from Spain that were farmed normally for a control factor (Izadi Bianco, and Arzuaga La Planta.) I chose the two whites because they both see wood, and I’ve seen that oxidative whites will tend to close in on a root day, which sometimes can be a good thing especially in the way of older wine.

The first wine we tasted was the Izadi Bianco 2007, a white Rioja which is fermented in barrel and a blend of 80% Viura and 20% Malvasia. There was a presence of oak on the wine. Still, it was very pretty, clean, and pure. The tree fruit was showing on both the nose and palate. It was medium bodied with good acid and a fresh lively finish. On the second day, there was still oak present, yet there were more citrus notes and a green stemmy floral tone and more of an herbal thing on the nose, also a bit of heat. There was less of the apple and pear on the palate, and it was replaced by a grapefruit and meyer lemon thing. Although the body was the same, and the wine was sound, the wood and acid were more pronounced. The structure was evident and the fruit was a secondary expression.

Next up was Masion Champy Bourgogne Signature Chardonnay 2006. Day one the wine was firing on all cylinders. The color was gleaming straw with gold and green streaks. The nose was pronounced with golden apple, vanilla, pear, and chalky limestone. There was a saline note, which reminded me of Meursault. On the palate, the wine danced. It was medium to medium plus in body, super round and had a wonderful texture. The oak was a nice frame to the wine, the fruit was generous, minerality was preaching the place of origin. Day two found the wine pinched. There was nothing wrong with the wine, it just wasn’t as expressive on the nose. There was more oak that seemed present, and the lees were showing with a yeasty thing going on. There was less fruit, and minerals on the nose. I even got a bit of banana peal on the nose, which was not there the day before. The palate was fine, just not exceptional as it was the day before. It was all about the structure, and less about the mouthfeel and texture. The body was the same, but the finish wasn’t as long, or exciting. It wasn’t nearly as good as the day before.

Wine number three was Masion Champy Pernand Vergelesse 1er Cru Les Fichot 2006. The first day, the wine was bright red cherry, fresh red roses, and a faint note of rhubarb on the nose. The palate offered the same beautiful high tone cherry core with some pomegranate and great minerality, charm, and the earthy rhubarb tone that was subtle and lovely. It was medium body very round and elegant, with a long finish. It was lively and crunchy as if you’d just picked a berry off the vine and it exploded in the mouth. It was silky and fresh. The second day found the same color and body, but the nose was more barnyard, the rhubarb tone was more present along with a radish, and beet note with almost a sappiness to it. There was also a bunch of cedar. The bright red cherry thing had faded dramatically. There was a baking spice note that was pronounced. The palate was ok. The fruit was dim. It had more tannins from the wood, and was pretty hard and wound up. It was angular and tight and closed up.

Next up was Paul Autard Cotes de Rhone 2006. Day one, the wine was vivid on the nose. It had bright red fruit, dried herbs, lavander, along with a meat oil thing that reminded me of the casing from a dried salami. As one buyer put it, it was like a Cotes de Rhone from thirty years ago. On the palate it had some wood tannin up front, which turned into a beautiful garrigue flavor which resonated, fanned out and framed the red cherry, strawberry, and white pepper notes. It was medium plus body and was round and ethereal. Day two, the wine was there on the nose, but then after a swirl it would kind of disappear. It had similar tones on the nose, lavender and garrigue but the fruit was muted cherry and so forth. The palate was tight. The wood tannins were more present, it was angular and less round. Still, not a bad wine, but not even in the same ballpark as the day before.

Wine number five was Gourt de Mautens Rasteau Jerome Bressy 2004. I was most interested in this wine and how it would react to the experiment because the first time that the guys in my company went to visit Monsieur Bressy, it was on a root day and he wouldn’t even show them the cellar, much less let them taste the wines. That’s pretty dramatic when you consider that they had come all the way from Texas. The following year, I went to the vineyard on a favorable day and was blown away at the quality and craftsmanship of the wine. On day one, this was the showstopper. It was almost black in color, a deep garnet core, it was opaque, and stained the glass with a swirl. It was vivid and savory on the nose with a developed blackberry, currant, and floral note, along with a sexy animal thing. On the palate it was huge. There was black fruit, which was full of what the French call sucrosite, which is sugar without sugar. The wine was impeccable with an amazing finish, which hung on and on. Day two found the wine showing mostly dirt on the nose, and had almost an Amarone thing going on, a pruned dried fruit, and quite a bit of heat. On the palate, it was so tannic. The fruit was short, dark and sweet up front, but disappeared in the mid palate, and then fell off the map. I wish I could say it had some nuts toward the back of the palate, but it was almost like chewing on paper. It was heavy and hot. It was not even enjoyable, and in fact made me want to brush my teeth.

The last wine was Arzuaga La Planta 2007. Day one found the wine with a buttered carrot thing going on the nose. It had some caramel, red apple skin, and cherry as well, along with a little coconut from the wood. It was overshadowed by the Rasteau on the first day and unfortunately seemed out of context. The palate was medium plus in body, had some big tannins but was balanced. The fruit was fresh apple and cherry, there was some cinnamon and coconut. Day two, it was much better than the Rasteau. It had more of the caramel thing and a similar buttered carrot note, but there was some alcohol present on the nose as well. On the palate the fruit was muted a bit and the tannins were much more present on the front of the mouth. It was fine, but wound up and not as round.

All six wines were dramatically different. I think there was less variation in the wines which were farmed normally. Although they weren’t as expressive on the fruit day, they weren’t as drastically different on the root day.

One of the things that comes to mind is that many vineyards send off samples to the press in hopes that a good review might make their vintage. Unfortunately a poor review could break them as well. Might the day of the month in relation to the moon and the cosmos affect how the wine will be received? I’ve never really agreed with the 100 point scoring system to begin with. It is a bit like the show, “Who’s Line Is It, Anyway?”

“Welcome to the show where everything is made up, and the points don’t matter.”



Daniel McKeever

Classified Wine & Spirits

Central Texas Manager