Why Big Red Diary?

weekend reading…

Something short and interesting:

Something a little longer and a little picturesque – longer to download too as it’s 10.3mb – it’s from another place of-course, but then there wouldn’t be room for any of that in Burgundy would there(?)

michel lafarge 1997 volnay 1er


What a wine; 3 days, three different results. Drunk over three nights, whilst over-nighting in the refigerator.

1997 Michel Lafarge, Volnay 1er Cru
Day 1. Medium rusty-red colour. Despite a certain 1997 ripeness to the fruit aromas, there is something of a cool edge and plenty of herbal notes – overall it’s ruff and gruff – not a lacy picture of Volnay. The leading edge is the acidity, though behind it the tannin is quite fine. The first flavours have a slight oxidised impression, but the best part of the wine is its extra dimension of very nice mid-palate flavour. Overall this wine lacks a lot of charm, and some aspects give me concern for further cellaring – still, this was my last.
Rebuy – No
Day 2. Same room, same time of day – looks less rust coloured (!?) The aromatics have really cleaned up, it’s still slightly austere but a little less herbal. More balance, and that slight oxidised flavour is gone, the fruit has an altogether younger and darker impression – I would even go as far as to say appeal! Whilst still not charming, I would say this is an altogether more ‘correct’ performance – one that indicates the vigour of youth rather than the previous day’s pallor of age…
Rebuy – Yes
Day 3. Like day 2, but more diffuse. Today the austerity coupled to the loose performance would give it the thumbs down. Interesting that the day 1 problem seemed to be something volatile in the wine – once it was gone, things really came together.
Rebuy – No

favourite olympic pic…

Noelle-Barahona-of-ChileNice that Whistler now has sunshine to go with the snow, and what a race yesterday!

The ladies downhill – carnage – with poor Anja Paerson, unintentionally leaping further than Eddie the Eagle(!) and in the process losing a nailed-down silver medal 🙁

I love this picture of Noelle Barahona of Chile disappearing underneath a barrier at the finish line – you may need to look twice 😉
Photograph: Clive Mason/Getty Images

2006 alex gambal bourgogne blanc


It’s not a proper tasting note I suppose, but I’m sure you’ll get the idea 😉

2006 Alex Gambal, Bourgogne Blanc
I might have written elsewhere that there’s a ‘deliciousness’ to chardonnay (sorry white burgundy!) that can really perk you up – particularly if you’re tasting at 9:00am! I recall a tasting about 1 year ago at Maison Alex Gambal, before we dived into the 2007s we tasted Alex’s most basic bourgogne blanc – a 2006 – it just hit the spot! For somebody of limited will-power there was absolutely no doubt that ‘on the spot’ I would order a case – not unexpectedly I have cases dotted around the Côte d’Or only waiting for my next visit – well, that and some cash of-course! I finally got around to picking it up (amongst other things) when I visited to taste the 2008s about 2 weeks ago. So, one year-on, how does this wine show? The 2006 vintage has endowed it with a little extra richness but it remains perfectly well balanced. Clearly then, this wine has only one obvious flaw – I bought it to use as a nice summer aperitif, but I’ve already drunk two bottles – it seems unlikely that any will survive to see the official starting date for summer time – clearly it’s not fit for purpose then!
Rebuy – Yes

offer of the day – DRC 2007 & 09 en-primeur price-drop…

louis latour en-primeurFirst there was Henri Boillot 2008, then Leflaive 2008 – though apparently the latter didn’t like seeing it in print here – now, fresh in it’s Louis Latour 2009.

20% sounds a lot, but it only brings prices roughly back down to (depending on who) vintage 2004 levels, and let’s not forget that some increased their prices already in 2002, 2003 & 2004 – a good vintage followed by two ‘short’ vintages.

Many producers are ‘hurting’ and expect no respite until they launch their 2009s – who can blame them if EPs are ‘well-priced’ – many need the cash!

DRC-2007-GBPNeither the harsh filter of youth nor the frequently traumatic growing season betray the irreversible beauty of these 2007s. They possess grace, a rare quality in even great wines that combines a delicate but persistent richness with purity, elegance, concentration and length.
Source: Corney & Barrow

Of-course not all producers are suffering, some domaines get cash up-front from their local distributors, and need have little consideration for the general economic cycle – That will be Domaine de la Romanée-Conti then!

With yields of 26-32 hl/ha for their reds (38 for Le Montrachet) the yields are a little above average, and quite a bit higher than they achieved for the 2008 vintage.

new vines for méo-camuzet and champy…

News from the BIVB:

In December, the Méo-Camuzet estate (Vosne-Romanée) acquired a beautiful 68-are plot in Corton Perrières and a 19-are plot in
Corton La Vigne au Saint. Both are planted with old vines of fine Pinot Noir. The estate has been able to use grapes from these two
terroirs as of its 2009 vintage, widening its selection of Corton reds.
The Méo-Camuzet estate already owned an enclosed vineyard of 45 ares at Rognet-et-Corton. Its range also includes some of the
most prestigious Côte de Nuits appellations: Clos de Vougeot, Richebourg, Echezeaux, Vosne-Romanée Premier Cru, etc.

The firm Champy (Beaune) is currently finalising its takeover of the Laleure-Piot estate (Pernand-Vergelesses). This will come into
effect with the 2010 vintage. Champy’s cultural approach (it has organic certification) will therefore be implemented as of the next
harvest. The estate has around ten hectares, with a range of appellations including Pernand Villages and Premiers Crus, as well as red
Grands Crus (Corton Rognet and Corton Bressandes) and whites (Corton-Charlemagne).

sunshine in mürren…

A lovely day in Mürren yesterday. Even the long-legged red-head didn’t get too cold – with her coat!

Dry River: Martinborough’s Cult Pinot Noir

martinborough-dry-river-pinotThere is nothing else quite like Dry River Pinot Noir in New Zealand, or even in the world for that matter.  Dry River, located in Martinborough, North Island of New Zealand, was the name of one of the oldest Wairapa sheep stations in New Zealand, dating to 1877. It was later named Dyerville, and it was here in 1979 that Neil and Dawn McCallum planted a vineyard.  The area subsequently became known as the Martinborough Terrace, now famous for Pinot Noir.

McCallum is an opinionated winemaker, a committed “terroirist,” who is highly respected by his peers.  His wines have achieved cult status in New Zealand, although he never submits the wines for judging.  At Dry River there is no tasting room, yet the wines are quickly sold to an eager mailing list of customers.  A few bottles are exported to the U.S., Asia, and the U.K.. The wines of Dry River are known for their longevity.  A tasting McCallum staged with Bob Campbell MW in 2004, and reported in The World of Fine Wine (Issue 19, 2008), revealed that older vintages of Pinot Noir dating back to 1989 were still youthful.  Campbell enthusiastically described the wines as showing “high levels of flavor intensity and ripeness, and impressive longevity.”  McCallum uses little oak (20%), and the Pinot Noirs have high levels of grape tannins, requiring 3 to 4 years to start opening up.

In 2002, the winery and 30 acres of vineyards were sold for $7 million with the new owners infusing cash for expansion and updated equipment.  McCallum has remained on as the chief winemaker.  McCallum writes extensively and his musings are posted on the Dry River website under the “Jottings” heading (www.dryriver.co.nz).  You fill find these essays very scholarly, informative and insightful.

2006 Dry River Martinborough New Zealand Pinot Noir 13.5% alc., $80.
Approaching Syrah in color and structure.  Very contemplative nose showing nuanced scents of a variety of wild dark berries, with noticeable oak-derived notes of spice, browned marshmallow, brandy and vanilla.  Utterly amazing intense and saturating flavors of plums, blackberries and currants with a savory, woodsy undertone, and a hint of tangerine peel on the extremely long finish.  Easy to mistake for a young Grands Cru Burgundy with the tip off being the amazing persistence at the end.  A truly unique Pinot Noir of great distinction that stands out from the New World crowd.  Serve this wine blind to any of your Pinot geek buddies, let them try to guess its origin, and you will find many surprised as well as happily satiated winos.

1995 rené engel vosne-romanée 1er les brulees


Yes I know it’s (yet) another Vosne, but my 1999 Pavelot Dominode was corked – honest – at least this is a good bottle 😉

1995 René Engel, Vosne-Romanée 1er Les Brulees
Medium rusty-red colour, more rust than red at the edges. Forward aromas of part fresh, part baked red fruits over a sterner and much more mineral depth – a raspberry jelly aroma is one of the last from the glass. Impact in the mouth – this isn’t a wine that widens across the palate, it starts at full width. Velvet tannin that is faintly edged with astringency and a fresh burst of dimension across the mid-palate. The mineral aroma is also reflected in the flavours. A success! The fruit flavours remain relatively primary, take that together with the slight astringency and I would guesstimate that this is at least 5 or 6 years from being ‘mature’
Rebuy – Yes

Interesting eh? A premier cru that needs 20 years to be mature, yet most publications tell us to drink in the first 5 years…

this week’s reading…

Just a few things that have passed over my desk in the last week:

  • Tim Atkin has more free time. I really don’t know if it due to the growth of wine-writing on the internet, or whether it is the more simplistic (general) loss of revenue suffered by traditional news media at the hands of the internet, either way, one of our best wine communicators has found himself with more leisure time. I read that he regularly received 500 emails a week from the paper’s readers – I wonder how many of the paper’s remaining journalists are so ‘interactive’ with their audience(?)
  • The cork industry is preparing a €20m advertising campaign using cork’s ‘scientific background’ to convince the public of its benefits.” It seems that they have (already) largely lost the battle for the ‘pop and pour’ market, only great performance will (eventually) save them in the high-quality area. I am the first to admit that DIAMs are great and that quality bottles seem to have a much lower incidence of TCA in the last vintages – but my 99 Pavelot Dominode was corked yesterday!
  • Romanée-Conti 2007. It must be that time of year, the first notes for the 2007s are beginning to creep out. Looks like I didn’t get my invite this year after declining last year – though I did only decline due to a heavy cold – I assumed it would have be frowned upon to cough and sniff over Aubert 😉
  • Eric LeVine’s CellarTracker. I can’t believe Jancis didn’t mention that I was partnered up with CellarTracker long before Burghound and Vinfolio 😉 Anyway this is a nice portrait of a genuine and enthusiastic guy…

my NoteFinder sucks…, so…

As mentioned in a post last week, the original notefinder application is becoming close to useless – killed by the rising number of users.

So whilst my new version is not (functionally) complete – ie the links to appellations, profiles and websites etc. are not currently working, and the tasting dates are wrong – the note finding part itself seems to function absolutely fine.

So please feel free to point your searching habits to the NoteFinder (2) here – let’s call it the ‘alpha’ version 😉

d’ardhuy 2005 vosne-romanée 1er les chaumes (+ being boring!)

I realised that I have become rather predictable after tidying in the cellar this weekend – I started to dig out bottles that needed revisiting, only to realise that almost every second bottle came from Vosne-Romanée. I had a similar feeling last year when most came from Gevrey…

I suppose that I have at least made a token move south in the Côte d’Or, but maybe I need to to make a late new year resolution – only to buy wines from south of Vosne for the rest of 2010! I certainly don’t have enough Nuits, Ladoix, Aloxe, Pernand, Beaune………

2005 d’Ardhuy, Vosne-Romanée 1er Les Chaumes
Deeply coloured. The nose has dark, brambly fruit and plenty of spicy, herbal aspects. In the mouth the acidity has become a little forward though far from overwhelming. A lovely borderline ripe flavour that has a hint of mint to go with its piercingly long finish – there’s added depth through the mid-palate. Rather smooth, this is very good now – even if it’s on its ‘sleeptime downslope’. Very-much enjoyed.
Rebuy – Yes

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