Yesterday, Jim from Wemyss hosted a Whisky tasting at our Victoria Park Whisky Corner. Jim, the Chief Financial Officer at Wemyss, is in New Zealand on holiday his mother and his wife, who’s a Kiwi. He flew up from Napier for the afternoon just to visit us, dressed in his best tartan.
As an independent bottler of whisky, Wemyss (pronounced ‘weems’) is a family owned business based in Scotland and has a long association with whisky dating back to the turn of the 19th Century when John Haig built his first distillery on Wemyss land. Wemyss approach to whisky aims to select only the very highest quality of malt whiskies and in doing so make them more accessible and understandable by using the tasting and aromas of individual whiskies to identify each bottling. With that in mind, we tried blended whiskies named ‘The Hive’, ‘The Spice King’ and single malt named ‘Eastern Promise’ from Speyside. Later in the evening, we opened ‘Lemon Zest’.
The tasting wasn’t all whisky; we also tasted Darnley’s View Gin. Wemyss’ sister brand gin is named after the first meeting of Mary Queen of Scots and her future husband Lord Darnley at Wemyss Castle in the 1565, 204 years before Captain Cook discovered New Zealand. The Original Darnley’s View Gin is made with six different botanicals; with juniper, lemon peel and elderflower make this gin unique. The principle botanicals in the Darnley’s View Spiced Gin recipe are juniper, cinnamon and nutmeg. The spiced gin was enjoyed with ginger ale and a slice of orange; a refreshing twist.
We later tried Lord Elcho, Wemyss’ range of blended Scotch whisky, named after another slice of Wemyss family history. Lord Elcho, Earl of Wemyss, is a distant relative of William Wemyss. Lord Elcho was an influential figure in Scottish history, famous for his role in the Battle of Culloden in 1745.
Jim also pointed out that Wemyss had a cocktail section on their website. While Whisky traditionalists prefer to enjoy their whiskies neat, Wemyss has a fantastic range of cocktail recipes, put together by leading mixologist Jason Scott from Bramble Bar in Edinburgh.
The Wemyss Whisky Brand was officially launched at our Glengarry Victoria Park site at our May Malt Club last year. This is a relatively new brand for Glengarry and is exclusive to the group. Can’t wait for another Wemyss night.
I visited our close island neighbour in 2013 to see what the Tassie boys are brewing. Landing in Hobart I hooked up with Bill Lark at Lark distillery to have a look at what he and many others are doing over there on our West Island.
Bill’s Whisky store and visitors centre is based in the centre of town while his and the other distillers are based further out in the country. So it was off on a motorcycle tour with Bill and his fellow distiller Mark to see a few distilleries.
Whisky production in Tasmania is cranking with yet another small producer setting up shop. The new Redlands distillery has been setup just out of Hobart. Joining the ranks of Larks, Nant, Sullivan Cove, Overeen, Helleyer and others distilling on the island.
Redlands is built on the historic 1840, farm with the original buildings surrounding it.
With the guidance of Tasmanian Whisky legend Bill Lark a state of the art micro distillery has been constructed in the old stables building. With barley grown on site this is a truly end to end production , complete with a malting drum, and malt floor and the 900 litre still, production is underway.
Small 100 litre casks will start to be filled and stored in the old brick buildings
The visitors shop has already been setup with local Whisky and beer with platters and refreshments to enjoy after a tour of the beautiful grounds and distillery.I look forward to returning to sample the fruits of there labour. James Reid the distiller is busy establishing this site which has huge potential.
Our ride took us across country to Nant. A restored water wheel Mill is now grinding grist for Whisky making. The distillery has accommodation and a fine restaurant. We tried some exceptional whiskies here which are all for sale on site.
The next stop was to sample a rare 100% rye whisky made on a farm by Peter Bignell and known as the Bellgrove Distillery. This one is to watch out for but a very small production.
We toured the Lark and Sullivans Cove distilleries the next day. They are a short drive from Hobart. The Lark operation was well setup with brewing and distilling all together and small half size barrels being stored away safely some meters away in a warehouse.
I was impressed with the Sullivans Cove product here they have a converted Brandy still producing fine Single Malt from Beer brought in from the local brewery. They age in full size casks a mixture of American and French oak. This one is available in store while the others will require a bit of negotiation to bring into New Zealand. Hopefully this year.
It has arrived the stunning re-creation of the original malt shipped to Antarctica in 1907 by Shackleton to fortify his “Nimrod” expedition.
Adandoned to the Antarctic winter in early 1909, three wooden cases of this fine MacKinlay’s malt, originally distilled at Glen Mhor Distillery in Inverness, were buried in the ice beneath Ernest Shackleton’s hut. Unearthed a century later by the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust, in 2010 a single crate was flown to Canterbury museum in Christchurch, for conservation. From here 2 bottles were loaned (since returned) to Whyte and McKay the owners of MacKinlay’s to analyse and re-create.
The task was performed by no other than the legendary Richard Paterson of Dalmore.
The first sampling in New Zealand will be Thursday 28th February at Glengarry Victoria Park were we will explore the components including another Rare whisky from Glen Mhor before the unveiling of this replica MacKinlay’s.
Come join us to sample a whisky heralded as a gift from heaven for whisky lovers.
For the full story Click Here
Stock will be in store next week, a real collectable Whisky.
Welcome to About Wine
Glengarry are well represented at the Pinot 2013 in Wellington this year follow us here. Retailing fine wines requires keeping up with the latest producers and all the new releases. As well as trending in styles and consumer tastes. So here we are amongst it.
I have just received a copy of Keith Stewart’s book “chances and visionaries” the stuff the wine industry in New Zealand is made of.
Day one we were introduced to the event with much enthusiasm by the guest speakers including Sam Neil who was so Kiwi and down to earth.
Monday morning session for our group was Central Otago and as I cheery picked through the 2010′s on offer I was totally blown away with the quality, my team were diligently taking notes while I caught up with old friends
Then a spectacular lunch and back to taste other vintages, excellent as now some older vintages surfaced. So many great wines and a relaxed format making it so easy to get around
Hi, As you have probably seen I have been making some little video tasting notes to share on YouTube. It was fun doing them and the first three are loaded up on there and also linked directly from our website. These are the first ones which are also displayed to the side of this Blog as well but being the first I have put them here if you would like to view them latter.
Adnams Beer Woodford Reserve Nga Waka
My team also did a few and they also enjoyed the experience. Their videos will be launched shortly and we will be doing them as often as we can to bring our stories to you.
Our first Whisky Club night is Scheduled for Feb 28th and we will be show casing the 2nd release of the Shackletons replica whisky. This will be great night so put it your diary. I also hope to do a Burns night at Devonport Dida’s on the 25th Jan if all goes to plan so watch this space.
We hope you enjoy them and I would appreciate your feedback, or perhaps an Oscar nomination..
Last month I had a wonderful experience judging at the International Wine Challenge in London. Over two very intense days I tasted a large variety of wines from all around the world. Met fantastic people, caught up with old friends, made new ones and had many a laugh.
One of those experiences that you walk away from thinking, this is why I work in this industry, the wine and the people. The calibre of the judges at the International Wine Challenge is quite something, The Chairmen for the competition – Tim Atkin MW, Oz Clarke, Sam Harrop MW, Peter McCombie MW, and Charles Metcalfe, whose morning pep talks are reason enough to want to judge at this competition.
I made the wise decision (not really a choice, it was just how my timing worked) to judge in the second week, what is called Round Two. This meant that we were looking at wines that had already been reviewed and the ones remaining were in contention for medals. The process of judging involves a team of generally 4 people, made up of a Panel Chair, a senior judge and two others. You taste the wines as they are presented to you, all blind and organised into types. So you’ll get a set of New Zealand Chardonnay for example, or in a whole flight of Vinho Verde, the variety is extraordinary; it is the International Wine Challenge after all. All the judges taste independently and then read out their scores which are collated and the discussion begins. After the panel decides the medals (or not) to award to the line up in front of them, the wines are re-tasted by the esteemed Chairmen noted above to verify the results. As you taste, the room is filled with the vibe of Tim Atkin’s music choice and the ever increasing volume of chatter from around 80 judges a day tasting through the vast number of entries this competition attracts.
The process, as you can see from this brief account, is rigorous and thorough. To then see out of this come the extensive collection of New Zealand wines being awarded medals is a real testament to where we stand on the world stage with our wines and the overall quality. In total there were over 400 medals awarded to NZ wines this year.
So at the end of all of this judging I certainly did not feel at all like another glass of wine. I decided it a far better idea to taste my way through a series of London Gins, which went down very well indeed.
After two days of extensive tastings on the Left Bank, it was time to see what all the noise on the Right Bank was about. All very much warranted I must say. The overriding impression of the Right Bank wines is one of completeness. If you think back to the 2005 vintage – it was all about structure; the 2009 vintage – the wines were all about the impressive up front, ripe fruit; 2010 was about the freshness, drive and acidity. With the 2015 vintage, it’s not about identifying one thing; everything is there you see, in its correct place, the right amount and in the perfect way. It’s a vintage about balance, precise balance. What the challenge appeared to be in 2015 was to take the excellent fruit provided in the vintage and not make a mistake in the winery; fortunately very few have.
After a visit to the UGC tasting for Pomerol, the first stop of the day was Petrus. 100% Merlot and fortunately a normal size crop – 2013 was half the normal and 2014 was two thirds. The alcohol is high at 14.5%, though you certainly don’t notice it at all. A wonderful comment from the team at Petrus – ‘we make it to please the consumer, not to impress’. It’s not about power at all here, so exceptionally well balanced.
From there, a short distance, we visited at Château Lafleur; what a treat. All the wines brilliant, Lafleur itself stunning, There’s a clear story through this wine; first the fruit, then a ripe and creamy middle, fine tannins, velvety smooth finish that is so long it comes in the car with you to your next appointment.
And next up was Château Cheval Blanc. The tasting this year in their super modern new winery. Interestingly this year, there’s no Petit Cheval. Of the parcels that usually go into Petit Cheval, some did not make the quality of Petit Cheval and some were so good, they made Cheval Blanc, increasing the overall production of Cheval this year. We also had the opportunity here to taste Château d’Yquem. Another super sweet wine from the 2015 vintage.
The JP Moueix properties were next on the tasting line up. What a line up they were; not a good wine in there, all excellent, many exceptional. Château La Serre stands out this year, gorgeous and very appealing. A relatively new wine to the JPM stable, Clos Saint Martin was a super surprise. Located near Château Angelus and surrounded by top properties, each taste of this left me wanting more. A tiny production unfortunately, a mere 250 cases in total. Château Latour a Pomerol, Certan de May, Lafleur Pétrus and Trotanoy are all exceptional this year, top wines from these very good Chateau. For me, Lafleur Pétrus my standout today.
Two more tastings to complete the day: the UGC for Saint-Émilion, where Clos Fourtet and Pavie- Macquin were excellent; then a charming visit to Château Beau Séjour Bécot where we were hosted by Julien Berthe.
Three very full days of Bordeaux tastings completed and, yes, it’ll be Bordeaux for dinner tonight. Trotanoy 1999 to be exact. A notebook full of tasting notes from a great vintage and plenty of good memories; this vintage was a delight to taste.
Our second day of tasting took us back to the Left Bank and first up the UGC tasting at Gruaud Larose. Another strong set of wines, though St Julien, more than any of the other appellations, showed the most diversity in style. All the wines very valid, wonderful expressions, just different. Highlights were Château Gloria, a generous, fine and precise wine; Leoville Barton a firmer, stronger structured bold wine with perfect balance; Gruaud Larose with amazing length, balance and polish; Branaire Ducru opulent, exotic and structured.
Next up was the UGC tasting at Château Citran and the Haut-Médoc, Listrac-Médoc and Moulis-en-Médoc. Overall the vintage was of excellent quality; there are plenty of wines from these areas that will represent very good value and make wonderful options for midterm cellaring; Château Fonréaud, Château Fourcas Dupré, Château Poujeaux and Château Cantermerle stood out, Château Tour Du By not far behind them.
Then it was on to Margaux; spoilt for choice here, so many great wines. I particularly enjoyed Château Giscours, Château Malescot St-Exupéry and Château Lascombes.
Château Margaux was a visit of mixed emotion. Paul Pontallier sadly passed away recently, the Margaux team putting on a very brave face. Château Margaux 2015 is exceptional, so much to say about this great wine; as is always the case with Margaux, it’s not about the power. The sensational quality of this wine creeps up on you; it is expansive and, just when you thought you’d experienced it all, the acidity is like the accelerator is pushed to the ground, driving the exceptionally long finish. The tannins can’t go without mention; so ripe at first you barely notice them, then you note that the concentration of the fruit is held together with something.
Onto the glorious Château Pichon Baron, where we were treated to all of their properties: Château Pibran, Château Petit Village, Château Pichon Baron of course and Suduiraut. All very good, Tourelles de Longueville is excellent this year and this, now the third tasting of Suduiraut for us, confirmed yet again that it has to be one of, if not, the sweet wine of the vintage.
Last Château for the day was at the top of the Médoc in St-Estèphe, Cos d’Estournel. The weather conditions during 2015, particularly the heat in July, was a little too much for some of the vineyard sites at Cos; this resulted in severe selection and a reduction in the production this year. Les Pagodes de Cos benefited from this, receiving this year some of the Merlot that did not make it into Cos. Cos itself is very good; a different style of Cos, less forward and structured than in previous years, it’s a good change.
The final act for the day was the Ban du Millésime – the celebration of the vintage. A super dinner in the centre of Bordeaux; a great opportunity and excuse to drink older Bordeaux, including for us a 1983 Lafite, a nice way to finish the day. Liz Wheadon | Bordeaux, France.
En Primeur Day One: Today we were on the Left Bank, starting the day bright and early at Mouton Rothschild. A good place to start, which also gave a very quick impression that was cemented as the day went on. This is a vintage that shows appellation clearly and, more so, the individual Château style. In vintages like 2009, you didn’t see this so much; in 2015, D’Armailhac, Clerc Milon, Le Petit Mouton and Mouton were four very distinctive, individual wines. D’Armailhac the bright lively one with vibrant acidity; Clerc Milon all about its juicy core of fruit; Le Petit Mouton dense dark and brooding, showing a glimpse of what the excellent Mouton is all about.
It was a morning of firsts; next up was Lafite, followed by Latour. At Lafite we looked at Duhart Milon, Carruades and Lafite. Latour was fascinating; not only did we taste the 2015 of all three wines, but also the wines just released: Pauillac 2010, Les Forts de Latour 2009 and Latour 2000 – we’ll have an offer on the second two mid-month. The Les Forts de Latour was my wine of the day for – ‘I’ll have a glass, or two, tonight please’. Superb age to be drinking this.
Pontet-Canet is once again looking very smart. Situated very much right beside Mouton, down the road from Lafite, yet, when you taste the wines, it’s striking how very different these wines are. Whether it’s the site, the biodynamics, the eggs, or something else, there’s no mistaking these wines for Pontet-Canet and once again the Tesseron duo have pulled something quite exceptional together.
The two vineyards, looking at each other across the road just south of Pauillac, Pichon Lalande and Pichon Baron were both excellent today. Always interesting, which one has the edge, I’d say today, Lalande just slightly.
Palmer. Simply brilliant. Both Alter Ego and Palmer 2015 are some of the best wines from the property. Palmer would have to be one of the wines of the day. Palmer was the only winery we tasted in Margaux, so further assessment is required after tomorrow’s tastings.
Montrose was very smart indeed; 67% Cabernet this year, it had such intensity, vibrancy and drive. Following this tasting, I tasted at the Union de Grand Cru tasting, seeing a wide range of St Estephe and Pauillac.
The second to last visit for the day was to Château La Lagune where the Sauternes and Barsac producers gather to show their 2015 wines at a UGC tasting. This is a very good vintage for sweet wines, the standouts, Suduiraut and Coutet.
Finally, a visit to one of our Negociants offices, where a wide selection of 2015 and older wines were available. This gave the first opportunity to look at Bordeaux Blanc 2015 – what a sensational vintage for white. Château Pape Clement Blanc and Château Brown Blanc both exceptional. We also tasted the reds from Pessac Léognan at this tasting, a strong appellation for 2015.
As you can tell from the sheer number of superlatives gracing this page, this is a very good vintage, the wines are a lot of fun to taste and a treat.
En Primeur is a process for acquiring arguably the best wines in the World at smart prices and in the format that you prefer. Essentially it is wine futures, similar to the way that coffee, cotton and other items are traded on international commodity futures markets.
The process can be traced back for centuries but only recently did it reach the popularity that it has today. It was in 1972 when Chateaux bottling became compulsory for Classified Growths that En Primeur in its current form was born. Prior to this, the Chateaux in Bordeaux would sell their wine in bulk or in barrels to a wine merchant. The wine was then bottled by each merchant at their offices in Chartrons.
The benefit of purchasing Bordeaux En Primeur is three fold. Firstly, in most cases the price that you purchase the wine at En Primeur is significantly less than the wine will be on the retail shelf two years later (that’s if it appears at all). Secondly, there’s the availability; many of the wines will only be available En Primeur and won’t make it on to New Zealand Retail shelves. And third is the bottling. Purchasing En Primeur you have the option to choose how you’d like your wine bottled, whether it is half bottles, standard bottles or even up to 6 litres.
The process of En Primeur essentially works like this (looking at the 2015 Vintage in Bordeaux as an example)
Whilst the 2015 Vintage wines are in barrel in Bordeaux
- The Chateaux invite the international press to taste and review the young wines in April 2016
- The Chateaux in Bordeaux offer their 2015 vintage wines to a Merchant (via a Courtier) around April – July 2016
- The Merchants offer their wines to Retailers / Importers the world around April – July 2016
- The Retailers then offer the wines to consumers around May – July 2016
- Customers secure their requests for wines En Primeur with their retailer around September 2016
Then around August 2018 the wines arrive in New Zealand
What’s the 2015 vintage like?
Whilst the vintage is complete, the wines safely resting in barrel, it is a little too early to give a complete overview of the vintage. By the time you are reading this though I will be in Bordeaux putting in the hard yards to try a large selection of the 2015 wines and then be able to report back in detail. You’ll be able to follow this on our En Primeur website www.enprimeur.co.nz, or follow me on twitter – @lizziewine. From the reports out to date, the growing season for the 2015 wines was excellent; hot in July, the right amount of moisture in August and then dry in September. The average temperatures and sunshine hours, some of the highest in ever, even higher than the great vintages of 1921 and 1947. In relation to recent years, the 2015 vintage is being compared to the 2009, 2010, 2005 and 2000 vintages.
Are there any catches? Things you need to watch out for?
Definitely. There have been horror stories internationally with En Primeur Purchasing, particularly through times of recession. It’s very important that the retailer you are purchasing from has a strong financial position (the wine is going to be delivered 2 years after you request your wines and pay your first payment). You need to discuss with the retailer and ensure they are purchasing from reputable Merchants, that are secure. Unfortunately, as interest in the top wines of Bordeaux continues to grow, demand exceeds supply and new international markets have emerged, leading to a lot of rogue operators at all ends of the operation.
Glengarry has been selling En Primeur for more than 25 years, with established connections and long term relationships. Visit www.enprimeur.co.nz or www.glengarry.co.nz for more details.
Grant Burge is one of the Barossa Valley’s most respected producers. The Burge family’s winemaking history in the region can be traced back to 1855, when tailor John Burge, immigrated from England to the Barossa. John worked as a winemaker at Hillside Vineyards and his love of viticulture was passed onto his son Meshach, who continued the tradition making his first wine in 1865. This week we were privileged to have chief winemaker Craig Stansborough here with some of their premium range. He has just completed his 23rd vintage with the company, after Grant Burge himself offered him the job of cellar manager in 1993.
It’s been many years since Grant Burge had hosted an event in New Zealand, and it was extremely pleasing to see such high quality displayed across the entire range. These are also some of the best value wines I’ve tried in some time. Extremely affordable but with the capacity for good medium to long term cellaring. I was especially impressed with the pure expression of Cabernet displayed in the Cameron Vale 2013 for around $20. If you wanted something a little more mature then it was well worth stepping up to the 2010 Corryton Park, one of the highest and coolest sites in the entire Barossa. The Cabernets suit French Oak whereas the Filsell Old Vine Shiraz has a combination of French and American Oak. This wine is where Grant Burge originally made their mark in this country, and the 2013 vintage would make another great addition to a budding wine cellar. Craig commented that over time they have gradually been reducing the % of American Oak across the entire range, if you remember the wines from a decade or more ago.. these are very different.
Craig also hosted an event down at our Hutt Road store in Wellington and Meredith summed up the wines nicely. “Looking back at my tasting notes, the words elegant and refined kept cropping up. They were also not overtly ‘Australian’ in the old sense which was very refreshing. The overwhelming impression in each of them was clearly one of great balance, and that’s what we are looking for in all of the great wines of the world. It’s a sense of harmony, where all the elements of fruit, tannin and acidity come together.”
The finest wine of the night was their icon Meschach Shiraz 2009, a great demonstrating of beautiful balanced power. Most of the fruit for this comes from small parcels around 100 years old that bring great intensity, but Craig explained that when they are tasting the lots, it is balance not concentration that is their primary concern. We double decanted this about 5 hours prior to the tasting and it really is showing well right now with beautiful complexity and great length. 2 days later it hasn’t skipped a beat, which match Craig assertion that it easily has 20 years ahead of it. For a wine that is acknowledged as one of Australia’s greatest Shiraz, it’s also great value at under $150.
The wines tasted in the night were: PinotNoir/Chardonnay Methode NV, Filsell Shiraz 2013, Distinction Balthasar Shiraz 2013, Cameron Cale Cabernet 2013 Distinction Corryton Cabernet 2013, Holy Trinity GSM 2012, Meshach Shiraz 2009, 10yr Tawny, 20yr tawny.
I’m so excited I can barely contain myself! I am finally able to start tasting some of the 2010 Burgundy’s that have arrived. As we are still basking in sunshine I am going to kick off this round of tastings with Vincent Girardin white wines on Wednesday March 13th – details on the Glengarry web site
I did a tasting of Vincent Girardin white wines just over a year ago and they were stunning every sip was a delight. Vincent’s origins date back 11 generations so his roots are buried deep in the hallowed soils of Burgundy and he knows every vine and parcel of land. The white wines that Vincent produces find their essence in their finesse and extreme purity. He manages to find the perfect balance between acidity and richness and while the wines are a delight to drink early they will benefit enormously from some time just laying about in a cellar.
I am going to open nine wines in total starting with a generic Meursault and finishing on a high with a Corton Charlemagne and his Quintessence Corton Charlemagne.
Watch this space for the summary of these wines I am certain that they will not disappoint!
To say that Anne Gros makes good wine is like saying Valerie Adams can throw things.
Every time I have the very great privilege of tasting Anne’s wine I am surprised and delighted all over again. One of the great things of course about the last tasting that I did was that all of the wines were from the great 2009 vintage. This vintage has proved itself again and again and while Anne Gros has established herself in the challenging vintages the rewards in a stunning vintage are undeniable.
We went through and tasted all of the 2009 Anne Gros wines that we have in stock here and they were all spectacular from bottom to top and even though they were approachable now the group thought that most would benefit further from a bit of age.
We started with the Bourgogne Chardonnay as a little palate cleanser it showed some lovely white floral notes and hint of toasty oak. We followed with the Bourgogne and Bourgogne Hautes Cote de Nuit both showed well and offered extremely good value although most thought that the Hautes Cote de Nuit could do with another year or so bottle age the Bourgogne was on the whole pleasurable now. We then moved in to the Chambolle Musigny La Combe D’Orveaux and Vosne Romanee Les Barreaux and both of these are a step up from most village wines and her skill in getting the most out of her grapes shines here. Anne gets a wonderful depth of flavour in her wines but without massive extraction just sublime.
But wait there’s more! (This by the way is the part of my job that doesn’t feel like working at all!) We did the Clos Vougeot, Echezeaux and Richebourg. Just for fun one of the group suggested that we did them blind this was great as it took away any preconceptions that we may have had. I am happy to say that I did guess them correctly when it came to the reveal –phew reputation intact! They were as expected all remarkable and a delight to taste the Richebourg stood out from just the sheer power of the wine, this is a massive wine and would be a worthy addition to the cellar of a serious Burgundy collector. With that said the star of the night was without a doubt the Clos Vougeot it was elegance personified and enjoyed by all. The Echezeaux was a star in its own right it had lovely spice notes and fantastic structure it was another five star wine but just slightly overshadowed on the night by the Clos Vougeot
This was a very special tasting of one of the world’s greats, the very first ultra premium wine in America. Opus One was founded in 1980 as a joint venture between Baron Philippe de Rothschild of Bordeaux 1st Growth Château Mouton Rothschild, and American icon Robert Mondavi, to create a single Bordeaux style blend based upon the finest Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.
French in style but Californian in execution, Opus One is produced with uncompromised attention to detail and this was an extremely rare opportunity to taste six vintages together, 2003 to 2008. We were even contacted by Opus One themselves as they don’t often hold this large a vertical. At over $600 a bottle most of the attendees had never tried the wine and thus there was a lot of anticipation. We started with the vintage 2004 from Champagne Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin which is their best value wine by far. Stunning quality for only a slightly higher price, everyone should be drinking vintage champagne! Though just to show it can happen to the best, we did had a corked bottle which had to be hastily replaced.
The two older vintages showed a lot more maturity than the others, that is to say they were approachable now.. Bear in mind I double decanted all the wines at 11am and they then sat in the bottles with the corks out until 8pm! These wines can handle a lot of air and have significant aging potential. Both the 2003 and 2004 were very Bordeaux left bank in style with a fine slightly earthy grain. The 2005 Opus One came out the consensus wine of the night with its dark blackcurrant and cassis intensity. For me the 2006 needed the most time with all the complexity sandwiched together in very tight layers that were saying “Come back in twenty years”. I loved the open elegance of the 2007, a real outlier, a Burgundian Opus One. So refined and impeccably balanced this what I’d buy for myself. The 2008 was the hardest to assess, this only arrived from Bordeaux (Where it is sold worldwide through the negociants there) a few weeks ago. It seemed a little simple and one dimensional in comparison to the others, but really this is just too young to make a call on right now. From a very hot vintage the fruit is just swamping everything else and was the most Californian in style. Overall this was an extremely impressive tasting, the wines are very much left bank Bordeaux in style rather than ‘traditional’ Napa. Though with richness of fruit that you only see in years like 2009 in Bordeaux. In fact, all the wines showed a lot of similarity with Mouton itself in their refined flamboyance. These are built for the long haul and in my opinion, 10-15 years is the minimum for getting the best out of them. For my palate I think the sweet spot would be around 20-25 yrs of age.
This was a really interesting tasting to host and one I’d been especially looking forward to. Clos Vougeot (Or Clos de Vougeot) is one of the most famous Pinot Noir vineyards in the world, and the largest of the Grand Cru vineyards on the Cotes de Nuits in Burgundy. Being so large (50.96ha) and having such a long history (The wall around it was finished in the year 1336) it now is divided amongst almost 80 different producers. The goal of the evening was to try and get an idea of the vineyard style by tasting seven different cuvees from some of our top producers, all from the great 2009 vintage.
We ‘warmed up’ with a Grand Cru Chardonnay, the Bonneau du Martray Corton-Charlemagne 2009. Bonneau du Martray is one of the greatest producers from this vineyard and we have recently started importing these wines into New Zealand again after a long absence. It didn’t disappoint with exceptional power, rich phenolics and stunning length. Then it was on to the 2009 Clos Vougeots. In order of tasting. Francois Lamarche, Gros Frere et Souer, Vincent Girardin, Faiveley, Michel Gros, Anne Gros, and Alex Gambal. What came across most strongly this evening was that 2009 is a sensational vintage for Burgundy. Some of the richest and lushest fruit we have seen in many years, giving the wines a very sexy ‘New World’ appeal upfront, but with great structure behind, ensuring they will continue to improve over the long term. The next most interesting aspect for me was that there was no one wine that really stood up as significantly better than the others. The quality was extremely high across the board and it really came down to stylistic preference as to where the favourites lay. The Gros family came through well with Gros Frere and Anne Gros both being very popular. I think there were also many people pleasantly surprised by the high quality of the Girardin, a producer famed for his whites but not well known for his excellent reds.
I honestly enjoyed all of them fairly equally, but if I had to go home with just one it would have been the Alex Gambal. This is a wine that can be enjoyed now (Make sure it sees some air) but has is still aromatically restrained with such a tight core of dense fruit that it will only blossom over the years. This deserves to be allowed time to show it’s best and I can’t wait to see what this is like in another decade or so.