The Market

the greeny-red wines of 2004

By billn on January 09, 2007 #ladypyrazines#the market

You only need to look at notes for the 2004’s tasted here in the last 2-3 months to see that something is going-on in those bottles – and it’s not entirely pleasant – so I had to write something about it.

Initially I felt compelled to say something, simply because I felt that others were (I felt) misrepresenting the wines (in general); by describing them as ‘green’ many were also taking the a logical assumption that the wines were unripe – many without even tasting them – and this was becoming accepted as fact by many others who also had not tasted nor would they based on this ‘fact’. I had my say, and it seems that we agree that there is something about these wines – let my try and explain.

This ‘vintage artifact’ is quite specific, and in quite a large percentage of wines it is also quite pronounced, let me try to define it:

Some people say green, some people say herbal, but I will define it as a type of cedar smell. At low levels it gives a pleasant cedar, or almost menthol edge; as it becomes more pronounced, it is more resinous, eventually resembling the well-known (in the UK) ‘coal-tar’ soap. What is really surprising, is that it is often quite pronounced on the palate too – though perhaps this is what burghound would better describe as ‘inner mouth perfume’.

So what isn’t it;

  • I would say it is not the smell of rot – though lots had to be triaged at harvest.
  • It is not the smell of stems – as many wines that were fully destemmed show the trait.
  • It is not (in general) anything to do with unripe fruit – Claude Kolm makes the telling remark (in the discussion linked above) that few people added sugar in this vintage – because the sugars were high enough without. It is a rare wine the truly unripe 2004!

It is a conundrum for two reasons:

  1. Wines tasted from barrel showed this only to a minor, let us say ‘normal’ extent, yet it has developed/amplified since bottling
  2. Different wines from the same cellar – so same viticulture, ripeness and vinification – are not the same, some show it and others don’t.

So that’s not really great news; it came almost out of nowhere, and is now undermining/dominating the personality of many, otherwise vivacious, flavourful wines. At a lower level this aroma may have been present in a number of vintages, though was quickly subsumed into a mix of secondary aromas.

Hopefully this will be no more than an interesting and transient interlude in the evolution of these wines, but having spoken to several trustworthy sources, no-one is totally sure.

I will keep testing the bottles of-course 😉

vintage 2005: price movements

By billn on January 04, 2007 #the market

Whilst they are far from commonplace, some producers are looking to extract a little extra from the consumers for this vintage. I have already forward purchased from several producers with prices at, or below, 2004/2003 levels, but some are going the other way: I am exhorted by a swiss merchant ‘attention – quantities are low’, but to restore the universal balance I see just in time that the prices seem too high

  1. Bourgogne Rouge @ 31 chf
  2. Gevrey (village) @ 73 chf
  3. 4 1er Crus @ 116 chf
  4. Clos de Vougeot @ 232 chf

Oh, and I must add 7.6% tax…
For your background information these local prices are close to double what other good producers charge. This is a well-known domaine with a great reputation, but with new/untested viticulture and elevage. Frankly, a joke – no bottles will be purchased chez nanson…

only two christmas disappointments…

By billn on January 02, 2007 #the market

Back to reality – Christmas is over – it seems in a flash!

Lots of friends were seen and surprisingly few bottles were drunk as I was mainly the chauffeur. My first disappointment is that I’ve finally given up trying to match red burgundy with the traditional Christmas meal – it doesn’t work – there are just too many sweet and salty elements on the traditional plate – white burgundy can continue, but next year I see something more cabernet-based!

My second disappointment was the sad case of UK wine prices. I will use the local (UK) Oddbins as my example, but note that I’m using them as a prime example of the UK wine trade and what (it appears) they can charge rather complaining specifically about them. I always liked Oddbins and even did a stint behind the counter at various branches in 1999 when I was on ‘gardening leave’ – it was great fun – though despite my staff discount, I always owed them money at the end of each month! The disappointment is that currently everything is overpriced, and even amplified when you want only one bottle – buying six will bring you a discount, but in the case of all their burgundy and most champagne even the ‘6-price’ is woeful. Berry Bros should also be in the firing line here – their ‘full-case’ prices are often reasonable, but just look at the price of anything less! Anyway, back to Oddbins, I won’t go into the list of burgundies that (as 6’s) are 50% more expensive than continental drinkers would pay – no value there – but a simple example was hammered home by an email from the swiss Co-Op the same day I visited Oddbins. ‘Oddies’ were offering Laurent-Perrier Rosé Champagne for well over £40 per bottle, but buy six and the price was (approx) £36.6. My local Co-Op had a Xmas reduction from 59 to 56 chf – that’s £24.3 per bottle – oh and I could just buy one if I wanted!

Oh, and please don’t anyone waste my time by blaming the higher level of tax and duty in the UK, that would simply bring the price of the swiss bottle to (less than) £27…

Anyway, tomorrow I’ll post my ‘highs’ of 2006 i.e the best wines and the best things I’ve read.

Happy new year

still travelling, more news on mortet

By billn on December 18, 2006 #the market#travel

I’ve left New York behind and find myself in Philadelphia – well the airport Marriott anyway, and it’s definitely not grubby! The bar of the hotel throngs to quite a number of people cheering an (American) football team, on (as far as I can see) 6 TV screens in the bar area – maybe it’s a local team – turns out it’s Philly vs the NY Giants. Downtown Philadelphia looked like it might be quite nice with the sun setting on its tall glass buildings, but all I saw was the cab-ride from the quite impressive train station to the hotel ($46 just in-case you need to budget).

Regarding the domaine Denis Mortet, it seems it is all-change again: The excellent Claire Forestier is once-more without portfolio as the 24 year old Arnaud Mortet is now assuming the full-time role of technical director, his mother Laurence, will continue to manage the administrative side of things. I hope that Claire will find a more ‘stable’ role soon – unless of-course she is intentionally following the (helicopter piloting) path of the flying winemaker!

burgundy – the home of pinot noir

By billn on December 17, 2006 #the market

bivb burgundy advertisingApparently the ‘Brits’ like to name wines by their varietal. I’m not sure who came up with that statement, or how it applies to Chablis, Châteauneuf-du-Pape or ‘claret’ for instance, but someone was convinced enough to pay for a series of adverts in ‘lifestile magazines’ and the ‘colour supplements’ of the weekend newspapers in the UK and Ireland in the last months of 2006.

Apparently the campaign “helps to simplify the Burgundian appellation system and so makes the wines more accessible to the British, while serving as a reminder of the unique quality conferred by terroir.”
bivb burgundy 2007 event guide
Perhaps the money spent by the BIVB would have found a better home researching a solution to the white burgundy premature oxidation syndrome…

Much more useful from our friends at the BIVB is their guide to the Burgundian wine festivals of 2007, detailing almost 80 wine-related events throughout wine-growing Burgundy in 2007. It’s bilingual (French and English) and can be found in the regions tourist offices, hotels etc., etc. The same information can also be accessed through the BIVB’s website.

Tha Fabian Cobb seems a very cynical chap when it comes to this stuff – much more so than me…

christies change gear for the hospices de beaune

By billn on November 24, 2006 #the market

It seemed to me that in 2005 the selling ‘machine’ of Christies (at theit first attempt) did not really get into full gear for the sale of the 2005’s; prices were average and the wines should be excellent – perhaps Christies needed to get into the swing of things.

This year, for the 2006’s, the reds will (typically) be inferior to 2005 – note that I don’t say bad, just not as good – and the whites will simply be a different style, very good, but not necessarily ‘better’ than either 2004 or 2005. Despite this, the prices for the whites reached amazing heights vs the last two years and the reds were ‘in-line’ with the prices for 2005.

Two things to say: first, the pricing no longer (did it ever?) reflects the vintage quality – at least vis-a-vis other vintages – and second, let’s not get too concerned about it, because this is anyway a charity event. Clearly though, Christies were this year much more efficient at bringing private buyers to the table – perhaps this heralds a slow marginalisation of the négociants – at least as buyers – who knows(?) Perhaps not when I see that Maison Albert Bichot (alone) bought 104 barrels on behalf of themselves and long-standing clients.

Two reports follow; the first from the Decanter site here, and the more detailed and particularly recomended report from Jancis’ site here.

merchants and faulty bottles – some advice…

By billn on November 12, 2006 #degustation#the market

corksI don’t often whinge – I think!

When it comes to corked wine, my average is only around 4% detected – close to, but at the bottom-end of the rates from most studies – so I don’t consider myself a hypercondriac.

My approach to merchants when I have a bad bottle is simply to point out the problem and in a friendly-way ask (where possible) for a replacement, no histrionics, no emotion. The level of professionalism that merchants display at this juncture usually defines the longevity of your/my relationship with them – that’s my experience anyway. Those that can swiftly achieve the replacement, without fuss – I don’t need an apology as it’s clearly not their fault – tend to be my main suppliers, those that cannot are quickly ‘discarded’.

Why discarded? – That’s easy; there’s a big difference between ‘fault’ and ‘responsibility’. There is no blame attached to a bad bottle, but in a commercial transaction there is a responsibility to supply product (any product) that is fit for purpose – if it’s faulty it needs replacing. One ‘specialist’ merchant in my country of domicile points to the fact that their low (merely average) pricing does not allow for replacements – tant pis pour toi – they no longer have any business with me.

There are grey areas (of course) like when I had a bottle very recently with two winemakers; the bottle was clearly corked. I made my normal request and had the following experience:
“Do you still have the bottle?”
“No, I opened it in Burgundy and chose not to drive 260km back to Switzerland 4 days later with the faulty bottle and its contents” (which is anyway still 150km from the merchant’s location – I wonder if I was expected to post at my own cost an already opened bottle?)
“okay, I’ll have to check what we can do with my director – because this is an expensive bottle” (€90)

We anyway agreed, without further comment on what the ‘director can do’, that I would pick-up the replacement at a tasting. I got the bottle, but also with a note saying that I would be charged at 50%. Hmm. I have not yet made a fuss, because I have not yet been billed. It is also quite possible that I would have had 100% refund if I had been able to produce the bottle and its bad contents – though this implies a certain lack of trust and definite logistical issues. For now I will keep my powder dry, but a similar such occurance will certainly be the last with this merchant.

Personally speaking, only a portion of my faulty bottles will ever be replaced, as I only see it in the young wine when tasted at my first purchase. Once the bottles have lain in my cellar for more than a year – even if the problem is TCA (which will have been there since bottling) – I become philosophical and tend to agree (possibly wrongly): tant pis pour moi!

I think I’m very fair, I know that some people would say overly-so (?)

a new manager at domaine bertagna

By billn on October 30, 2006 #the market

christophe vial bertagnaChristophe Vial is the new estate manager at Domaine Bertagna in Vougeot, he will be assisted by the new vineyard manager Arnaud Lecoeur and cellarman Denis Rozat.

For the last five years, Christophe Vial was cellar-master at Domaine de Montille in Volnay. He now takes over from Claire Forestier who left the domain in March and is now to be found at Domaine Denis Mortet. Christophe’s replacement at de Montille is Gaétan Marchand who was a cellar-master at the Domaine de la Vougeraie in Premeaux.

Swings and roundabouts!

Bans des Vendanges 2006

By billn on September 18, 2006 #the market#vintage 2006

The info we’ve been waiting for:

  • Côte de Beaune : 18 September
  • Côte de Nuits : 20 September
  • Hautes-Côtes de Beaune et de Nuits : 23 September
  • Châtillonnais : 15 September

Around Auxerre (Yonne)

  • Crémants de Bourgogne, Saint-Bris : 11 September
  • Irancy : 16 September
  • Vins du Vézelien : 18 September
  • Chablis : 16 September

The weather has been pretty good; clear skies, sunshine & 28°C for much of September (above average) and only two days with a little rain – half the September average – but then we’re only halfway through September! Anyway I’m hoping to be getting my hands dirty at the triage table this weekend so will send updates as we go.

Two additional snippets of Burgundy-related info:

  1. Following a 21% increase in volume for the last quarter of 2005, worldwide export figures for the first six months of 2006 confirm Burgundy ‘s top form, with a boost of 12% in volume and 11% in value compared to the same period last year. Even more noteworthy, is the progress of Crémant de Bourgogne : where despite low volume, exports rose by 22% in volume and 60% in value from January to June year on year, continuing the trend started in 2005 when exports of the region’s sparkling AC took off (source : BIVB).
  2. On the UK market, volume exports of wines for the period January to June 06 show a 4% increase on 2005 (+1% in value). For Crémant de Bourgogne volumes, the uplift is 13% over the same period (source : Douanes Françaises).

Burgundy Report

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