Why Big Red Diary?

nice wine – now i feel so bad…


Yesterday evening I opened the first from a 12-pack of this wine, it had two specific attributes that contributed to my purchase of a full case; first it was a decently priced bourgogne from the 05 vintage which I could use as a bellwether to judge maturation of the vintage, but second, and a much sexier reason, it was in pretty 50cl bottles!

For years I’ve kept a half-bottle limit to daily wine exploits – of-course gatherings are allowed to surmount that total – but if drinking alone, 50cl seems a still tolerable stretch, and, when drinking in tandem there’s still enough for a decent glass each! I suppose though, I should carefully consider the ramifications of this increased uptake; am I now inevitably on the road to purgatory, to be found rolling, groaning in the gutter, to be cast out by neighbours and friends as I become abusive and violent to all? – clearly there is quite enough Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Les Charmes in the world to facilitate that course…

Apart from the occasional navel-gazing, in reality I leave discussion of the relative merits of alcohol consumption to the knee-jerk self-publicists (politicians) and those ‘in the business’ who cannot help but to instinctively react with their own knees. Decanter currently have two stories on this; first the plan to introduce a minimum price for alcohol in Scotland – despite this politicians’ photo opportunity, this is probably, on reflection, a good thing. Very cheap ‘alcopops’ that taste only like cola i.e. attempting to hide their ethanol-based roots, should have some reasonable barrier to entry, simply because they are targeted to a customer segment that doesn’t like the taste of alcohol, i.e. kids. Whereas, the Wine and Spirit Trade Association would have you believe that the Scottish government is ‘penalising Scottish businesses and consumers with its new Alcohol Bill – while doing little to challenge the main causes of alcohol abuse’. Hmm, probably complete nonsense!

Life is no easier across the water in the cradle of European fine wine where ‘a new pro-wine lobby with a budget of some €2m has been created to counter the effects of the French government’s ‘vilifying’ of wine”, as a ‘move against the ‘prohibitionist agenda ravaging France’. Really? Well what does that actually mean? Pierre-Henry Gagey tells us that ‘We are sick and tired of government vilifying wine’ in this respect he has a point. The current French administration appears to grab at every new medical report that shows a negative result when referenced to wine intake, without a balanced acceptance of those studies that run counter to the negatives. BIVB director André Segala told decanter.com ‘Our global objective is to stop a strong reduction in consumption [of wine] which follows in part by the “prohibitionist” agenda which has been ravaging France in the last few years and give wine its proper place in French society, of course with a message to drink in moderation.’ Ah moderation, of-course 😉 But is that global or France?

Anyway, my guilt in finishing the whole of this (50cl!) is only compounded by that fact that I enjoyed it… 😉

2005 Domaine Lejeune, Bourgogne
Medium-plus colour. Open, dark-red fruit aromas, faint iron. A palate that seems somehow a little attenuated (filtered?) and lacking a little gloss/brightness, yet there is good density, balance and flavour and there are no hard edges or angles – it is far from a chore to take the next sip. Reasonably open and still primary. A wine that is close to villages Pommard quality from many other vintages.
Rebuy – Yes

offer of the day – Leflaive 2008…

DOMAINE LEFLAIVE 2008 – Puligny-Montrachet

BOURGOGNE 75cl 34.00 Swiss Francs

PULIGNY-MONTRACHET 75cl 59.00 (69.50 – 2007 price comparison)

PULIGNY-MONTRACHET Les Clavoillons 75cl 79.00 (98.00)
MEURSAULT Sous le Dos d’Âne 75cl 86.00 (99.50)
PULIGNY-MONTRACHET Les Folatières 75cl 109.50 (139.00)
PULIGNY-MONTRACHET Les Combettes 75cl 109.50 (139.00)
PULIGNY-MONTRACHET Les Pucelles 75cl 139.00 (169.00)
PULIGNY-MONTRACHET Les Pucelles 150cl 283.00 (343.00)

BATARD MONTRACHET 75cl 229.00 (299.00)
CHEVALIER-MONTRACHET 75cl 295.00 (389.00)

Versus the 2007 prices this time last year, these are quite significant price reductions, and for an even better vintage too (in general – I didn’t taste the Leflaives). So perhaps the reductions recently seen on the Henri Boillot pre-arrivals will actually be reflected in retail prices in a more general context.

Whilst Leflaive are clearly a ‘premium brand’, I still consider these prices too high – but possibly closer to a sustainable ‘niche’.

2006 seigneurs de bligny gevrey 1er clos du chapitre


My first Clos du Chapitre, bought from the shop of the co-op Cave des Hautes Côtes just south of the Beaune periphique for €26.99. Seigneurs de Bligny is a brand/label of the ‘Caves’. This wine, in theory, is a monopole but there’s no such designation on the label – I asked someone at the ‘Caves’ and they said ‘we used to have monopole on the label, but now we’re not allowed!’ I suppose I’ll have to ask around to find out why. The coop is also one of the biggest owners of the next-door 1er cru of Craipillots which they sell for the same price – I thought I’d first try some of the ‘Chapitre’ first before returning…

2006 Seigneurs de Bligny, Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Clos du Chapitre
Medium cherry-red colour. The nose starts very unimpressively – burnt-rubber oak is the dominant aroma. 20 minutes in the glass and things are beginning to improve; a little smokiness a little nutmeg spice and high-toned fruit that becomes redder and redder and overlays the toasty oak. The first taste was as disappointing as the nose – muddy, oaky, dirty dishwater flavours. In tandem with the mist lifting from the nose, 20-30 minutes wait delivers a wine of transparency, elegant acidity, definite length, if far from stunning concentration or intensity – the tannin is on a low level with velvet-style texture and no astringency. Time in the glass adds lots of interest and dilutes the dirty dishwater flavour that comes from the oak – eventually I couldn’t taste it at all. For my taste this is far from a great 1er cru, and really doesn’t seem to offer much Gevrey character – I don’t know if it shows Clos du Chapitre character! – but it’s balanced and eventually very tasty with a nice sweetness to the fruit. Given the price, it shows reasonable value, but do decant!
Rebuy – Maybe

2004 jadot volnay 1er clos des chênes


2004 Jadot, Volnay 1er Clos des Chênes
Medium, medium-pale colour. The nose was largely absent for the first few minutes, only a slightly dense impression. Slowly it opens, eventually delivering wide, high-toned perfume that is clearly edged with the 2004 character – but here it’s character, rather than the oppression it delivers in many other wines. In the mouth this is very Jadot in its fine but narrow impression, born on super acidity – like so many ‘neither young nor mature’ wines from this producer. Fine, without power or intensity, yet there is subtlety and lovely delivery. For my own taste, this wine is as close as I can get to recommending, despite its obvious vintage character.
Rebuy – Maybe

PS A virtual prize for anyone who guesses the book (the author is excluded!)

chablis, bernard ginestet (1990)

chablis_ginestetThis is the second book from this series that I’ve managed to pick up. After ‘Le Montrachet‘ there is also (in theory) Chambertin, Clos de Vougeot and Corton in the series, but I’ve yet to see English editions of those latter three – if they exist(?) – but I continue my look-out!

Whereas Jean-François Bazin authored the ‘Montrachet’ volume, this was written by the series editor himself, Bernard Ginestet. By this translator’s hand (at least) the writing is completely engaging, despite the age of the material – the original in French dating from 1986, and this English translation published by Longman from 1990. Ginestet wears his massive love for the wines of Chablis – ‘the golden gate to Burgundy’ – not only his shirt-sleeves, but on most of the pages too. Nicolas Faith writes the forward – do people really need endorsements to sell books? – it seems all that people like Hugh Johnson or Robert Parker do!

Back to ‘Chablis’: In the 189 pages are lots of maps, geography and geology, plus the fine detail of the vineyards and their classifications plus, importantly, a fine supporting narrative. I have only one complaint about this book, and that is despite Ginestet setting the stage very early for some analysis and dissection of the Kimmeridgian versus Portlandian ‘battle’ between the producers, a battle that is still fought today, I got to the end of the book to find he somehow sidestepped the whole issue – never mind.

One interesting thing that I took away with me was the clear emphasis of this book that Vaudésir was the king of the Chablis Grand Crus. This is only 25 years ago, yet today, most would offer Les Clos as ‘top dog’ – is that due to a change of weather, viticulture or perhaps the Anglo-Saxon choice of the reigning critics?

You can pick this book up for (relative) peanuts from online sellers, and it’s worth buying. I leave you with with a few favourite ‘snippets’:

Near Biene, an artificial lake was created to water the hundred or so hectares of vines round about. Everything was taken into consideration – except the catfish which eventually blocked the watering sprays!

Let him who, after the third or fourth jug of wine, feels his reason disturbed to the point of not being able to recognize his wife, children, or friends any longer, and ill-treating them, let him then limit himself to two jugs, unless he wishes to offend God and be despised by his neighbour. But let him who, after drinking four, five or six, still remains able to do his work and to conform to the orders of his ecclesiastical and secular superiors, let him then humbly and gratefully drink what God has allowed him to take. But let him beware of overstepping the limit of six jugs, for it is rare that the infinite goodness of the Lord grants one of His children that favour which He has accorded me, His unworthy servant. I drink eight jugs of wine daily and no one can say that he has seen me yield to unjustified anger or ill-treat my parents or acquaintances. So then, let every one of you, my brothers, strengthen his body and rejoice in mind with the quantity of wine which the Divine Goodness has allowed each of you to absorb.
Quoting the Archbishop of Mayence (1563) !

Hugh Johnson adds a pinch of British salt to the subject: “To be on form, they need at least three (and sometimes up to 10) years’ ageing in the bottle. Those which are matured in wood (the minority) live longer and better. The aroma and flavour they develop are the very quintessence of an evanescent characteristic which will escape you if you drink only young Chablis all the time. I can define it only in this way: a combination of a flavour of apple and hay with a hint of boiled sweets and a mineral after-flavour which seems to have come from the entrails of the earth.” Hugh! dear friend, spare me the boiled sweets.

All white meats cooked in a sauce go well with Chablis, which stands up perfectly well to spicy dishes (even better than a champagne or rosé). With curried lamb, for example, however hot, a Chablis if not too old a vintage will be wonderful, whereas the best red wine would be killed. It is a well-nigh impossible challenge to find a wine to drink with asparagus, spinach, sorrel or broccoli. But the personality of the great Chablis wines renders them impervious to attack by such vegetables.

2005 lamblin chablis vaudésir


In-tandem with the CERN large hadron collider (LHC), back again after a few days ‘rest’. Hopefully my annual winter cold is now already behind me and I can continue to polish my technique 😉

2005 Lamblin et Fils, Chablis Vaudésir
Medium yellow colour. The nose has hints of roast hazelnut, a little volatility, perhaps marzipan too, later I think it’s more high-toned, citrus fruit than volatility. A little oily texture, but a certain minerality too. Good balance then this wine’s peak selling point – a super burst of dimension in the mid-palate with a length to match. This wine is far from a cheaply priced grand cru, but has a lot going for it; it’s a decent price and it’s very, very tasty – nothing else needed here!
Rebuy – Yes

abbreviation of content plus the high cost of false attribution

No bottles to open as I’m trying to rid myself of this damn cold, it also curtailed my domaine visit plans for the end of last week. So the net result is that the Autumn Report will be abbreviated versus my plan A – 120 2007 tasting notes from 2 tastings are missing, and also 2 domaines. At least I will could reschedule the visits for December, but too late for the ‘waiting’ report. That said I’ve no excuse but to ‘crack on’ and finish it – perhaps by the end of next week…

Hi, I’m Matt and I’m…
In a twist to that ‘personal ethics’ tale. I really do have the impression that wine writer Martin Isark earns as much from his legal activities, as he does from ‘wine writing’ – that said – and whilst the initial sum discussed sounds silly, what price can you put your reputation? Unlike (apparently) Matt Skinner / his publishers, Isark, really doesn’t like the wrong attribution of his work, though the Decanter story is less than clear, I can only assume the words ‘incredible value’ were clearly attributed to Isark, otherwise there can be no case to answer. Otherwise I will sue everyone who says ‘Rebuy – Yes’ (or no, or maybe!!) 😉

hospices de beaune auction…


I see that people were very enthusiastic at the Hospices de Beaune auction:

2003 (château) chorey-lès-beaune


2003 Chateau de Chorey, Chorey-lès-Beaune
Medium, medium-plus colour. The nose has a ripe, macerating acid-red cherry centre. The fruit flavour is a mix of darker cherry – shaded much more to black. Good acidity and with a rasp to the tannin. A very nice dimension of good fruit in the mid-palate and quite okay length. Many of the most successful 03s come from the less vaunted appellations – here’s a perfect example that shows better than Chorey from most other vintages.
Rebuy – Yes

hi, i’m matt and i’m…

This made me laugh today…

the rights and wrongs of a base pricepoint


Pinot noir is a tough mistress, if you want good behaviour, you have to pay – and frankly may still not get the behaviour of your hope!

Regional wines, ‘Bourgognes’, made by ‘small’ producers often have the same level of care and attention both in the vineyard and in the cellar that is devoted to the producer’s more expensive bottles. They can be good bottles, occasionally very good if the vintage favours; 2003, 2005 spring easily to mind, I expect 2009s should also be very good. They are never going to show the the energy and dimension of vines from more gifted sites but, if I may, they offer not only a decent amount of varietal character, but also quite some burgundian character.

I do buy regional wines, but I’d estimate that only about 5-8% of my drinking has such labels. Wines typically cost about 15-25 swiss francs, depending on the optimism of the producer – but what about the cheaper stuff, built for the supermarket shelves, can it be any good? – particularly for 10 francs or less…

Among the best of the genre comes from the venerable Maison Albert Bichot and everything is pared-down for cost-saving; a thin, plastic ‘tear-off’ capsule, a short ‘plastic’ cork (only 39mm) that slides out of the bottle and off the corkscrew very easily, a light bottle and 12%. That sounds just about what you would expect, but you might not expect them to vinify everything themselves, or take a vieilles vignes designation! Albert Bichot are now the largest buyers of grapes (as opposed to must/barrels etc.) in the Côte d’Or, so at least they have a fighting chance of producing something red I suppose:

2007 Albert Bichot, Bourgogne Vieilles Vignes
Medium, medium-pale colour. Forward, friendly strawberry, no bubblegum, and with a slight grassy/herbal backdrop. Decently smooth texture, a sweet-sour fruit impression with acidity that whisks you along just fast enough to avoid you contemplating the sour! Actually the sour is not so bad – let’s call it a talking point. No impression of ‘thin’, also no impression of tannin. Some length, this is actually quite drinkable. It’s not as good as the 2005 or 2006, less beaujolais-esque than the 2005, it’s somehow, almost redolent of proper burgundy…
Rebuy – Maybe

I guess this type of wine, even with such unexpected attention to detail (at the price), is aimed at a specific audience, I’m not sure which one though. It’s better, or at least as good as a 10 franc Beaujolais, whereas at the normal 15+ francs you can buy good cru Beaujolais, so bourgognes typically have a much more competition here. There is a certain level of expectation at this price-point, and this wine did excede those expectations by a comfortable margin, but not enough to become a repeat buy. I would rather spend 15 francs than 10 francs for a bourgogne, but only from some-one who tries as hard as Maison Bichot to give you the maximum for your cash, rather than somebody providing an ostentatiously heavy ‘statement bottle’ for their bourgogne…

very deep pockets

I assume so anyway…

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