Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Moving with the times

Today, our mobile site has gone live. This means that anyone typing the URL http://bigredwine.co.uk into their mobile phone will no longer have to scroll around avoiding images and excessive (for a mobile phone) text but will instead find a much scaled-down version which anyone can visit here: http://m.bigredwine.co.uk.

Let us know what you think!

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Wine Advocate on Chateauneuf-du-Pape

Robert Parker's replacement for Rhone reviews, Jeb Dunnuck has given a stunning reappraisal of many wines from the 2011 vintage.

First a word about 2012 which he describes as "a great vintage for the whites". I could have told him that in April when I first tasted the white wines from Laurent Brusset, Domaine des Anges and Raymond Usseglio whose new Cotes du Rhone Blanc scores an outstanding 90 points. That seems fair to me; it is a truly superb white.

Raymond Usseglio's 2011 reds (in stock) all receive excellent reviews and, for me, it is about time his Part des Anges cuvee got the top score (not that I have any problems with the delicious 2011 Imperiale - I just think Stephane should be rewarded for his efforts and successes with this fairly new wine). This is a sensationally black-fruited wine that just goes on and on. I had a bottle of the 2007 with a friend a couple of weeks ago - he had not tasted this cuvee before and was completely bowled over. Yes, on paper 2007 is a better vintage but as Dunnuck says, 2011 is "a very good vintage for Mourvedre".

Domaines Grand Veneur and Cristia both received very favourable reviews for both their 2011 and 2012 wines too but as these are not yet in stock, I will confine myself to a "well done!" to them.

However, Xavier Vignon is fast becoming a name to watch. Indeed, his spectacular 2007 Anonyme, a wine blended from parcels he obtained from some of his most illustrious clients in Chateauneuf-du-Pape (who include Raymond Usseglio and Grand Veneur), sold out incredibly quickly. I have, just today, taken delivery of my case of the 2010 of this wine which, given the vintage, may be even better but, reading the Wine Advocate, I am already getting excited about several new wines from Xavier - including the 2011 Anonyme and a new white Anonyme - but also:

Sacrilege, a wine from the 2012 vintage which is a blend of 60% Grenache and 40% Syrah. The grapes are sourced from two of the most prestigious vineyard areas for these varieties but in one case it is not permitted to declassify the wine except as vin de France. This means Xavier is not allowed to state the origins of the wine and, whilst we know the back story, we cannot go against this, obviously. Anyway, vin de France it is and, as such, it may well be the most expensive one on  the market.

Reserve VII IX X which is a blend of the very best parcels of Anonyme from 2007, 2009 and 2010, likely to be the most expensive non-vintage wine ever made in Chateauneuf. More important, knowing Xavier and his wines, it is likely to be a phenomenon.

I have already reserved my cases of these!

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Gigondas in Decanter

December's issue, out now (as a subscriber, I received my copy before the end of October! I will never understand this) features the results of a tasting of Gigondas 2010/11.

The UK's leading Rhone specialist, John Livingstone-Learmonth, advises that the levels of ripeness in 2010 were excellent whereas there was more unevenness in 2011 which means, of course, caveat emptor (or, at least, buy a wine you either know or from a merchant you trust). He describes 2010 as a "more complete vintage" although the panel certainly does not write off the 2011 vintage at all.

A criticism that was levied against a few of the wines was heavy handed use of oak. When I first got to know Gigondas, it was a time of experimenting with new oak in the top cuvees (started, I believe, at Domaine les Gouberts) and it was fun for a while but Grenache doesn't always react well to the gentle oxidation that inevitably takes place in the barrel and, frankly, if you want an "international" style wine smothered in oak, you are unlikely to be interested in this blog!

It was good to read one of the other tasters, Christian Honorez saying "there is a core of really good producers in Gigondas who are making much better wines than many in Chateauneuf-du-Pape". Obvious, perhaps, but sometimes these things need to be spelled out. One of these is Laurent Brusset, currently at the helm of family estate Domaine Brusset.

I have been tasting and buying (and consuming) wines from this excellent estate along with several others from the village since the mid-1990s with wines dating back to the late 1980s and, whilst it would be only fair to say that from time to time another estate may come up with a marginally better wine, a wine with a Brusset label is quite often the best of the appellation in a given vintage. Moreover, and more important, the Brusset family has proven itself to be the most consistent estate in Gigondas. Even in the disastrous 2002 vintage, their Les Hauts de Montmirail was a lovely wine.

So, what of 2010? This is a vintage that bowled me over in just about every estate I visited - principally those I work with and a handful of others - and it was no exception here. The wines were harder at Domaine Brusset than in other Gigondas and Chateauneuf estates I visited, by which I mean that the structure, in particular the tannins, are less forgiving at this stage than in a vintage such as 2009. There is some good acidity here too. Actually, I can see strong stylistic links between the Rhone and Burgundy in this vintage. Of course, this is actually good news as it means, as with the 2005s, the wines will be able to evolve more gradually than in a more flashy year.

And the wines? My thoughts are already on record so it may be simpler to record the verdict of the Decanter panel:

Les Hauts de Montmirail 2010: "Sleek sweep of dark cherry fruit across the nose, good and pure. Bright, black cherry fruit and winter spices intermingle with smoky oak. Intense with some tar and graphite: complex and multi-layered, with noticeable Syrah." 2015-2029. 90/100

Le Grand Montmirail 2010: "Mineral nose of some depth which has a baked brioche character. Liqueur cherry and coffee flavours add to a palate full of red fruits and fresh acidity." 2015-2029. 85+/100

It's been a while since I tasted HDM (it would be a shame to drink it too young) but I bought some half bottles of LGM for myself (very useful things, half bottles!) and can certainly vouch for this wine. Lovely!