Tuesday, 29 October 2013

HV Wines - The Languedoc-Roussillon deserves a Grand Cru Classification

The Languedoc-Roussillon is not only the largest wine region in the world but it is as well a rising star in the world of wine.
Since the mid 80's hugely talented wine makers took on the task and challenge to change the perception given to this region; Le vin de pichet or jug wine. Today it is the most exciting region in France producing amazing and great wines.

Yes, the Languedoc fuelled for a long time France and Europe with inexpensive and very ordinary not so good wines. The rise of the giant negociants in the region, gave it a bad name to anything coming from the south of France and Languedoc-Roussillon in particular. The Bordelais quickly classified them as peasants and small unsophisticated farmers, something Michel Rolland is more then happy to express, the film Mondovino is the proof of it (Michel Rolland is known as the flying wine maker from Bordeaux).

But against all odds, today the region is filled with star quality wine makers challenging many around even the likes of Bordeaux. Yes the Languedoc-Roussillon should strive for a well deserves Grand Cru classification.

So let's see who in this diverse region would be eligible to be classified Languedoc-Roussillon Grand Cru Classé. Like Saint Emilion they should set up a system that is revised every 10 years with specific criterias judging the wine, terroir, proprietor. As well as going up in the ranks some could actually loose a classification as well.

(information gathered for this classification; La revue de vin de France (magazine and guide), Bettane et Desseauve guide, Robert Parker guide, guide Hachette and Gault Millau guide).  Also this is judged on only one of the proprietor's wines.

From these sources here a vision of the possible Grand Cru of the Languedoc-Roussillon.

Grand Crus Classes du Languedoc-Roussillon

Premiers Grand Crus Classes

-Mas Julien, Coteaux de Languedoc, Terrasses de Larzac.
no internet site, something truly necessary these days no matter what.
-Domaines de la Grange de Peres, IGP Pays d'Herault Rouge.
no internet site, http://www.vins-languedoc-roussillon.fr/fr/grangedesperes01.php
-Domaine Gauby, Cotes de Roussillon-Villages, La Muntada
-Domaine Peyre Rose, IGP Pays d'Herault.
No internet site.
-Domaine Jean Michel Alquier, Faugeres, La Bastide d'Alquier.
No Internet site.

Deuxiemes Grand Crus Classes

-Domaine Leon Barral, Faugeres

-Domaine de Montcalmes, Coteaux de Languedoc.
-Domaine Alain Chabanon, Coteaux de Languedoc, Montpeyroux.
-Domaine Gardies, Cotes de Roussillon- Villages
-Clos Marie,  Coteaux de Languedoc Pic Saint-Loup
no internet site.
-Mas Champart, Saint-Chinian
no internet site.
-Domaine du Clos des Fees,  Cotes de Roussillon.
-Mas Cal Demoura, Coteaux de Languedoc, Terrasses du Larzac.
-Domaine Betrand-Berge, Fitou
-Domaine Le Roc des Anges, IGP Pyrenees Orientales

Troisiemes Grand Crus Classes

-Mas de Daumas Gassac, IGP Pays d'Herault.

-Prieure Saint-Jean de Bebian, Coteaux de Languedoc
-Domaine Les Aurelles, Languedoc Pezenas
-Chateau La Baronne, IGP Hauterive
-Domaine de la Rectorie, Colloure
-Domaine D'Aupilhac, Coteaux du Languedoc Montpeyroux
-Domaine Borie La Vitarelle, 
-Mas De Martin, Coteaux de Languedoc, Gres de Montpellier
-Ermitage de Pic Saint Loup, Languedoc, Pic Saint Loup.
-Domaine de la Grange de Quatre sous, Cotes de Roussillon. IGP Oc
No internet site.
-Domaine La Casenove, IGP Cotes Catalanes.
No internet site.
-Chateau Ollieux-Romanis, Corbieres-Boutenac.
Roc D'Anglade,  IGP Gard
-Domaine Canet-Valette,  Saint Chinian.
-Domaine Olivier Pithon,  IGP Cotes Catalanes.

Quatriemes Grand Crus Classes

-Clos de Rouge Gorge, IGP Cotes Catalane.
No internet site.
-Domaine de la Garance, Languedoc
-Domaine Jean Baptiste-Senat,  Minervois.
-Domaine des Mille Vignes,  Fitou
no internet site
-Domaine Matassa,  Vin de Pays des Cotes Catalanes.
-Domaine Sarda-Malet, Cotes de Roussillon.
-Domaine Le Conte des Floris, Coteaux de Languedoc.
-Domaine Le Soula, IGP Cotes Catalanes.
-Coume Del Mas, Collioure.
-Mas des Chimeres,  Coteaux du Languedoc.
-Mas Foulaquier, AOP LAnguedoc Pic Saint Loup.
-Chateau Estanilles, Faugeres.
-Gerard Bertand wines, Languedoc.
-Domaine de L'Hortus, Languedoc Pic Saint Loup.
-Chateau des Nouvelles,  Fitou.
-Domaine des Shistes, Cotes de Catalanes.
-Mas Bruguiere, Coteaux de Languedoc.
--Chateau Champs des Soeurs, Fitou.
- Yannick Pelletier wines, Saint Chinian.
Zelige Caravent, Coteaux de Languedoc.

Of course this is not official but it gives you a very good idea the large variety of quality wines and wine makers the region holds and I think that it should consider seriously to look into an official classification.

This region deserves its total recognition as a well established, classy, talented and outstanding wine region. All the wines above are to my knowledge truly amazing and brilliant, yes there are surely some wines I have missed out but then I did not had the opportunity to try them all, but the list above is truly outstanding and full of character.

Have a look at the links, try to find these wines and you will see what i mean with truly amazing.

Till next time please drink responsibly.


Thursday, 24 October 2013

HV Wines - Imaginacio by Masperla Priorat DOQ 2008, Spain

I found this wine at Laithwaites near London Bridge, just next to Vinopolis, which is the centre of wine so to speak here in London.
I am not to familiar with Laithwaite's as they are predominantly an online vendor. In London they hold one shop and the variety you get is pretty good and many at very affordable prices which is one of their strengths in my view.

These days there is a big enough clientèle with a wallet most of us would dream of  who can afford the trophy wines we all know. So the opportunity to cash in on wines with great structure and talent but at still very reasonable prices has just only began. We are living as far as I am aware in the golden age of wine, with all the technology at the wine makers finger tips and a much better understanding from the product itself and as well more of us who fall in love with wine and can afford it, there is no better time to enjoy and discover wines from all corners of the world and many wines to inspire and to seduce us.

As with all products there is always the aspect of marketing, besides producing the gem of the world, if you don't get your wine in the right limelight, then the kick of bitter sweet aggravation and frustration is a pill hard to swallow.

Imaginacio by Masperla Priorat DOQ 2008 


When we talk about the difference between the Priorat region of Priorat, and the Priorat Qualified designation of origin. Priorat qualified designated region is located 30 km from Tarragona and 150 km from Barcelona. It is composed of 23 municipalities home to 9300 inhabitants and cover about an area of 500 km2. The capital is Falset 2800 inhabitants. The Priory has always stood by its captivating landscapes and its winemaking tradition. This tradition comes from the Carthusian monks of Scala, who came from Provence, to the twelfth century.

Priorat is truly in the heart of Catalonia, it is with Rioja the only DOQa qualification in Spain the highest acclaim one can have. It is known for its red wines predominately even so a huge effort on white wine cultivation has been established. The vines are planted on terraces between 100 meters and 700 meters.
The region is surrounded by mountains, which in one way helps protection from sharp icy winds in the winter as well as filtering heat with the help of the sea air which lays further down the land during summer. 

Priorat has climbed the ranks since the early nineties when experienced wine makers like Rene Barbier restored in the 1970's le Clos de Mogador, a very old winerie open up like a roman amphitheatre over the valley of Siurana. Others followed suit and today these wines are amongst Spain most expensive on the market.

One very famous wine maker Alvaro Palacios has made great waves with critics and his wines from Ermita and Finca Dofi. The locals called those new wine makers at the time "the Immigrants" as with their new ideas and techniques were absolutely unfamiliar and foreign. But in the late '80's they started with a small cellar and introduced their wines to the crowd, much to their delight and amazement of how beautiful and characterful  the wines were.  

So in 2000 the area received its acclaimed recognition of DOQa. Today many investors look to grab a piece of the land and grow vines. But as with all in Europe one cannot plant vines anywhere and at anytime. The market is already flooded with too much wine (even so 2012 was the smallest year in production for about 30 odd years), many vines have to be ripped out as a measure to control production. 

Spain is the largest vineyard in the world but only the third in production. The intense heat in Spain makes the production smaller then countries like France and Italy.
Spain today is one of the exciting countries regarding wine as much for its value as for its quality. Long time before the Spanish didn't really export their wines as it was part of a culture structure and not a commercial exploitation.

You will find many Spanish wines at very affordable prices and fairly good for its value, regions like Priorat, Ribera del Duero, Rioja, Rias Biaxas, Penedes, Navarro , Conca de Barbera, Aragon just to name a few, are where many star wines are produced.

The main red grape variety used in Garancha Nero (Grenache Noir) but they use also Carinena, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah.

The main white grapes they use are, Pedro Ximenez, Macabeo, Garnacha Blanca (Grenache blanc) and Chenin.  

Imaginacio by Masperla Priorat DOQ 2008 

Altair Vineyards is the domaine where Masperla works under. It was established in 2005, when wine makers from France (Burgundy) a wine merchant from Bordeaux and a wine consultant with a family from Priorat got the common idea and desire to start Masperla. Very quickly they attracted the attention of great wine enthusiasts and the wine itself received approved acclaim. The winery is young but the experience behind is matured and ambitious.  www.masperla.com

The appearance is very velvety, dark red. Looks young and vibrant, intense with a good brilliance (acidity indication). The legs roll down in heavy motion allerting a high content in alcohol (15%).

Acute oak a bit sharp feeling very new, layers of spice and vanilla follow. Then the fruit make their entrance, ripe, warm, luscious. Currants, blackberries, smokey/grilled  hints and eucalyptus and dots of dry wood.

The attack throws you all over the palate, red ripe fruits, with a good freshness, the tannin appear quickly which is a good indication this wine can go a bit further, a dry feel follows very quickly. The acidity is well balanced and it last for some time, the end the oak finish the wine off, lingering on in the back of the throat.

This is a wine that definitely needs breathing and if you have a decanter please decant it 1 hour before serving, if you don't have one open the bottles 5 hours before serving. This is a wine that is far from shy, a wine that asks for meat and patience. It is a well made wine but for me 15% alcohol is just that little bit too high, even so they have done a good job to keep it fairly light (for the type of wine it is) and fresh. If you want to discover something different and you like your big flavoured full bodied wines, this one will play game with you.

I rate this wine 18/20 80/100 (rated as a very good wine)

Until next time please do drink responsibly. 

Thursday, 17 October 2013

HV Wines - Chateau Tour St Bonnet 2003 Cru Bourgeois Medoc

Château Tour St. Bonnet 2003 Cru Bourgeois Medoc

I choose this wine for this weeks blog because for under £20 a medoc, interesting vintage and a cru Bourgeois, is not always easy to find here in London and the UK for that matter. As for those who do not know, but on each bottle of wine here in the UK, there is about £1.89 of duty tax so even a bottle bought from the winemaker at £3 will be sold for at least £5.50 plus in wholesale. 
That means on the shelve  in your local wine shop it, will most likely look like a £9/10 priced bottle and don't think that supermarket will give you a better deal, they just have bigger buying power then independent wine shops. 
They will crush the winemaker but still sell it at the same price than any other wine shop around. They do know that most people will/ prefer buying everything in one place. Thank god that we do still have wine lovers doing the effort to look around and find interesting buys and discoveries. This wine in the supermarket would most likely be a tat higher. I found this wine at The Sampler in South Kensington London.  www.thesampler.co.uk


The Medoc lays between the Gironde River and the Atlantic ocean, but it is only a small stretch of land which starts from the north of Bordeaux to the village of St Vivien de Medoc touching the Gironde river where vines are planted. It is along that stretch of land where the terroir makes one of the most renowned and amazing wines in the world.

Much of the Medoc was marshland before vines were planted. In the 17th century the Dutch drained the land in an ambitious project to eventually plant vines. This was done to give the British an alternative solution to the wines of the Graves, Spain and Portugal which they were consuming in abundance. 

The region is divided into two parts; the Bas-Medoc in the north (which is known as Medoc, the word bas felt demeaning) and the Haut-Medoc to the south. Looking on a map of the region it might appear weird to have the Haut-Medoc south and the Medoc north. But it refers to the land structure orientation in accordance with the river. Bas refers to territory lower down the river whilst Haut-Medoc is further away from the sea. Wines are produced throughout the Medoc, although all of the renowned and famous wines come from the Haut-Medoc. 

The Haut -Medoc holds appellations like Margaux, Pauillac, Saint Julien and Saint Estephe. The vines in the Medoc sit on a soil structure of gravel, stones, clay, sand, sandstone, limestone, limestone/marl. The gravel plays an important role as it keeps the vines relatively warm due to its heat absorbing factor but the roots can go easy deep down looking for water when in need of a drink.
There is great variety throughout the Medoc and where the soil has proven to produced better wines, in time towns and villages have emerged, today known all over the world.

The grape varieties

Cabernet Sauvignon; is the most used grape in the Medoc and some Chateaux's use up to 80%. It is a grape with much body and structure. Thick red fruits and tannins, deep in colour. It is a grape that ideal works in blends, on its own it will not give the wine its full potential.

Cabernet Franc; This grape is seen as the little brother of the Sauvignon. This grape lays the basic cords, with its fruits, strength and body. It is used in small percentages as its persona isn't shy but needs to be contained.

Merlot; The most elegant of the three, but gives you full body, with dark colours. Merlot will give roundness, length and finesse. A grape that can be produced on its own but ideally with a bit of Franc blend as they do in St Emilion and Pomerol, this suddenly becomes magic and if well made astounding. (Petrus, Trotanoy, Le Pin just tname a few).

Malbec; its real name is Cot. This grape originated from the South West and Cahors. Malbec is rustic, intense with blackberry as its predominant fruit factor. Its less full bodied then the Merlot and soften in tannins then the Cabernet. But it is a grape that works well with the three above and makes good blending combinations.

Petit Verdot; holds a lot of spice, riche in tannins and very perfumed as a grape. It is a bit the SOS grape as it will be used when really needed to harmonise the wine. On its own it needs much time to age and lacks directions. It is produced on its own and only added to the wine in small quantities according to the vintage.

Carmenere; tiny percentage planted in Bordeaux, it is more used in the Latin American countries, Chile one of them. This grape gives lost of colour and much body, not so astringent as the Cabernet Franc.

The Medoc Vintages

2012 88/100 early maturing/ medium life
2011 88/100 short life/ early drinking
2010 98/100 slow maturing/ longevity
2009 99/100 early maturing/ longevity
2008 90/100 early maturing/ good life
2007 86/100 short live/ early drinking
2006 88/100 early maturing/ medium life
2005 98/100 slow maturing/ longevity
2004 88/100 slow maturing/ medium life
2003 91/100 early drinking/ medium life
2002 88/100 early maturing/ short life
2001 89/100 early maturing/ medium life
2000 96/100 slow maturing/ longevity

Château Tour St. Bonnet Médoc 2003 AOC

One of the least know Cru Bourgeois of the Medoc. First of all Cru Bourgeois has not such a big impact like the Grand Cru Classes of the Medoc. In 1932 the list of the Cru Bourgeois was created of which there were 444 Crus Bourgeois, 99 superior and 6 superior exceptional. In real terms it does not make much a difference even so there is debate to restructure the list as it gives little impact on the market.

Chateau Tour St. Bonnet contains 40 hectares of vines, with the average age of the vines at 35 years old. They use 45% Merlot,  45% Cabernet Franc, 5% Petit Verdot and 5 % Malbec.
They Ferment their wine in concrete tanks/vats, and mature their wine in oak barrels. They produce about 120,000 bottles a year.

This house stand in line with traditional Medoc style wines. Rich in fruit, oak matured and tannins. As with all Bordeaux wines the secret lays in the tannins, Bordeaux is all about tannins.

Visual:  The colour is dark ruby red, reflections of intensity and body, the legs rolling down indicates that this wines carries a fairly large alcohol content (13.5%). The brilliance is not overwhelmingly impressive, telling me that the acidity might be lacking. But overall this wine shows masculinity and boldness. I think that this will be no means light.

Nose:  The first signs when smelling is deep ripe dark reds fruits, plums, black cherries, currants and to some extend really on the bottom layers a hint of leather. A vague air of spice appears and 4 to 5 year old oak surfaces here and there. The intensity of the alcohol after awhile begin really to play part as a leading role. 

Palate: The fruits do burst on the palate in all excitement, but do somewhat dissipate in rather fast pace than a more preferred adagio of subtleness and refinement. The acidity jumps a bit all over the place with little strength. The balance between the aromas and acidity is not well balanced and so makes this wine hitting all corners of your palate light a rowing team totally out of rhythm, no chance of a golden, silver or bronze medal. The finish is medium to short and does not apply to anything without food. 

Conclusion: For the price I paid I am not totally disappointed, but I was hoping for the vintage it was and the Chateau it is (even so it is not a overly known Chateau), to be of better standard and to hold better together. This is a chateau that has some quality terroir and should produce something better. It is still a wine that will rate better than many others for around this price but I do think that the just price for this wine is more £17 then £19, obviously it is once again a bit of little greed to much of the guys from THE SAMPLER.

Rating:  I rate this wine 17.5/20 75/100 (rated as a good wine) 

Until next time please do drink responsibly. 

Monday, 14 October 2013

HV Wines - Bordeaux: An insight

Much can be said about Bordeaux, the most iconic wines are produced in this region, also amongst the wines with the highest price tag. A fascinating history, as well a battle to make sure with all means possible to stay the untouchables, the jewels, the majestics.

Today, I want to have a closer look to the whole En Primeur game.
For those who are not very familiar with what en primeur is; it is a system set up so you pay for a wine/vintage, which you physically only will receive in three years time at a lower price then when it finally hit the shelves, that is if it gets the chance, as today most of those trophy wines end up in private wine cellars and top restaurants. Of course there are always risks involved, but if you know which Chateau to buy then the rewards are truly very happy runnings to the bank. No one else in the world has a system like the one Bordeaux has. But do not be fooled that is only for the trophy wines, your lower end 3 euro bottle of proper Bordeaux plonk will not be eligible for the En Primeur game.

When in the 19th century the system developed , the negociants played an important role in the later stages of the wine production. They were the ones purchasing the wines from the chateau's, back then bought in barrels. They then were responsible for its elevage (the maturing of the wine). Ones they thought the wine was ready for sale they sold it off either in barrel or in bottle. So then at the time it was the negociants that controlled the market. Today is still the same but only for the lower end Bordeaux wines, the trophy wines (the top 7%) do control their price and allocations to negociants, whose role has basically has been reduced to that of a trader, buying and selling of the wine.

La place de Bordeaux
Most of Bordeaux's wines are sold on the "Place". Now the role and relative importance of the players have changed over the years, but the basic system has remained unchanged. The negociants make deals to purchase the wine from the chateau only via the meditation of a courtier. Now do not forget that until the railway extended throughout the region, travelling far to all corners of the wine country was no easy matter, this made the courtier an essential intermediary for the negociants, who them remained in Bordeaux, from where the name La place de Bordeaux comes from when you speak in wine terms with people from the industry.

Before 1974 it was the negociants that set the price and allocations of the wine, which made them extremely formidable players and rulers of Bordeaux. Today they have becomes more and more the not so good friend of pretty much all chateaux. They are pushed around and told how to roll by the top tier, but then they treat the lower end of the Bordeaux wine spectrum like proper dirt, selling some vintages at a price well below market levels. I find this quite strange to set a price on wine, I always thought it is the consumer deciding what price it want to pay for a specific product, the essence of a vintage plays such a minute role when it comes to the lower end of Bordeaux wines. At least for the so many years of trading should they not know what price tag the wine should hold in respect to the region and wine maker? The lower end of Bordeaux is in such a crisis, some winemakers don't even want to sell their wine off to the negociants and send it straight to distilleries of which the European agriculture department/viticulture pays a compensation fee towards the wine maker.

France is the biggest European receiver of agriculture funds so no surprise when President Hollande of France fought hard and lost to increase the overall EU budget, as a large chunk of the new budget was for the agriculture department, which incidentally is the largest piece of the EU pie.

So Bordeaux has to rip out vast amount of vines as about 10 to 15% of the wine produced every year, can't be sold. You see for a long time France didn't think (well that is the lower end wines) that they would be affected by the rising popularity of the new world wines. Their arrogance got the better of them and still today some of them do not realise how fast the new world has caught up with the old world.

Of course today the lower end of the Bordeaux wine know that they are vulnerable as their own (the French that is) have reduced drinking wine significantly since the "Evin" law, who is aimed to fight against smoking and drinking. So regardless that the negociants role has changed they still do play an important part of the system.

Any given person that is in the trade and wants to buy Bordeaux wine has to go through a negociant. They still hold about 70% of the trade and almost 100% of the top tier wines.
The En Primeur is a system then gives the Chateau and Negociant cash in advance for a product only delivered in three years time, who on earth would do such a thing, knowing that the outcome could be dramatically different?

As you may not know, but when the critics write about the new Bordeaux Vintage, they taste a wine that has hardly matured for 6 months and isn't bottled. So when it arrives on your table in three years time, that wine could have swung either way and you could end up with something that actually was totally misjudged and could as well been downgraded financially.
But don't be alarmed as the judges at the en primeur tasting have been doing this for a very long time and have a very good insight where the wine will go. As well the En primeur wines are in such demand that I do believe that they are still and will be a good investment for those looking to make a healthy profit. Most of the drinkers of these high end wines have no extended in-depth knowledge of how the wine technically evolves and most of them do drink these wines way too young.

Marketing has played a big part in selling, you just have to look at how LVMH sells Dom Perignon. You truly believe that producing 5 million bottles plus of a so called high end champagne can give you bottle after bottle of high quality product?

As with much in wine and champagne, "too many drink with the eyes".

You see today the system has attracted so many enthusiasts and serious investors that it has become a game (when you have the money) too exciting to miss out. Yes it will always be some sort of a gamble, but then isn't life a gamble?

Today discontent over profits being taken further down the chain has led over the last couple decades to the development of a system in which the first growth no longer simply release their wines en primeur, but divide them into tranches. In a good year, the first tranche (known as prix de sortie) may be quite small to test the waters, usually the price is very attractive but the quantities as mentioned very restricted. Then second and third tranches are released later at steadily increasing prices if the campaign is going well.
But Chateau's today begin even to release they first tranche at smaller quantities, especially if it is a very good vintage like the 2005,2009,2010. Chateau Latour had even gone a step further and pulled out of the En primeur system, will other Chateau's follow?

As Chateau's see the price of their wine price rising, there must be the urge to rethink the system, but then if the En primeur does comes to a halt, that will lead to many people losing their job. So to find the right balance will the chateau's act in good faith or will it only be a question of greed? Knowing us humans, greed is a sickness most of us can't control and heal especially when the floods of plenty are flowing your way.

The En Primeur is a fascinating system that has made a liquid red, white or golden, become a product worth more than oil and gold in term of short term financial return, a product you drink and later discard.

We truly must be in love to fork down such cash for a product that does only last in our mind and on our bank statements. I do believe that soon drinking a Margaux, Haut-Brion..... will be as much a status of wealth then just drinking these exceptional wines for the love of it. Fascinating story created to a region that has much to thank to the British as they were the first madly in love with them even. The Dutch played a big part as well, promote these wines worldwide and buy them by the bucket load and engineered the swamp that was the Medoc to a field of gold today .

For all of you who are looking to invest money into a product with healthy return, Bordeaux and Burgundy wines are truly something to look into and a couple of Champagnes are on the move as well.

Until next time please drink responsibly

(information soucre "what price Bordeaux? Benjamin Lewin MW)

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

HV Wines - Cos D'Estournel truly amongst the greatest.

Chateau Cos D'Estournel 2eme Cru Classe

Image result for chateau cos d'estournel
Cos D'Estournel is the Chateau where the allegiance between dream and science unite.

The creator of Cos; Louis-Gaspard d'Estournel, constructed a Chateau solely for his wine. A façade with the little towers in forms of pagodas, coming straight out of an oriental dream, hiding the wine store house. His inspiration obviously came from his trips to Asia but as well wanting to create an image that would not easily be forgotten. He died in 1853 just before the official 1855 classification, who rendered justice to this terroir (land) the fruit of his vision. Of course Cos has exchanged hands a few times from the Martyn's, then Errazu, Hostein-Charmolue, the families Ginestet and finally Prats. For a very long time Bruno Prats has been the man and the face of Cos, giving rebirth and enlightenment to this wine so emblematic and classy. The Chateau was taken over in 2000 by Michel Reybier, an industrial in the agro-industrie, owner of luxury hotels living in Geneva Switzerland.


Louis-Gaspard knew very well that his Chateau was sitting on one of the most beautiful terroirs in the Medoc. The gravel is deep sitting on a layer of limestone with veins of clay running along. The land sharply descends towards the small river La Jalle du Breuil separating Cos from Lafite. To the back of the Chateau, there is a stretch of land near the valley of de la Plagne where the soil is more clay-limestone mix. The water drains naturally but the deeper layers keep moist which is good for the roots when in need of a drink, which is of course favourable for the vines. Since Michel Reybier bought the chateau, the vine surface has grown by 15 hectares, plots of land growing old vines just next to the existing land, today the total surface of Cos D'Estournel is 85 hectares, 55% is Cabernet Sauvignon, 41% is Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot, Merlot is the grape that gained land since the chateau bought the extra hectares.
Since the year 2000 a total change of vision has been introduced regarding the culture of how the wine is made at Cos.

For that a reasoning weed programme according to the different plots of lands has been established. For some plots a total weed planting programme has been effected, as for other plots just a row or two or none at all. A soil study has permitted in 2004 to define this vision, the rows of vine who traditionally produce grapes for the first wine have been reconsidered and studied, and without any taboo nor priority have been removed or even amputated. About 15% of the vines for the first wine have been reworked and kept so only the highest quality vine is kept. The vines newly planted will be kept separated for 15 years and fertilisation is done vine per vine. The winemakers responsible for the vines in question are present during the vinification.

Behind the Facade

At Cos d'Estournel everything happens behind the facade, that of Louis-Gaspard with its oriental bells, the Indian sculptures, as if the time here has stopped when returning from a trip to India. The modern times hide behind the big wooden door of the Sultan de Makassar, you have to push open to discover the latest wine technologies invented.
Here at Cos the cellar is based on the principle that all wine making has to be done by the force of gravity, avoiding all action to pump the wine. The tanks who go through the process of racking are places on elevators, a unique technique. Stainless steel conical tanks of 115 hectolitres with double walls all designed to give the pomace (solid part of the grape;skins, pits etc...) the right space to breath, which is advantageous for when the wine goes through the barrel process. When the juice is emptied the pomace expanse and brakes up, so when the juice is poured on top of the pomace, its compresses and rises back to the top of the tank, so this way the extraction is more complete and harmonious.

The grapes arrive in small wooden crates, they are laid out on treadmill going up to the first floor of the cellar, on a vibrating table they are selected by a team of about 12 people. Then the grapes are cooled down in an air-tight chamber to 5-7 degrees to stabilize before fermentation which can last up to one week. After the Scratch (separating the raid from the grapes) and a light crush of the grapes, they are transported on small vats above the tanks. In the tanks they will receive yeast which ignite the fermentation process which will reach up to 28 degrees. Here they don't pump the wine nor do they punch the cap of the pomace (to extract colour and aromas), only racking (moving wine from one tank/barrel to another using gravity only) twice a day, with the tanks elevated by lifts. The quality of the extraction is meticulously observed and controlled, so the pits stay intact, without liberating their astringent tannins and bitterness. The first part of the fermentation (when the must stays in contact with the juice) which last for about 4 weeks. Then we separate the pomace, which ends up in a press, and the juice/ wine is separate from the must.

The Malolactic process (malo acid that transforms to lacto acid, a natural conversion making the wine softer and rounder) happens in the tanks after this has completed, the wine is poured into barrels (70% new oak for the first wine). They go every four months through the racking process for a duration of 14 to 15 months. Then with egg whites they bond the wine and go through a light filtration and after that "Le Grand Vin" about 45% (for 2011) of the harvest is ready to be bottled.

The Style of the wine

Cos is a wine that always cuts by its velvety and charm character, an immediate effect without excluding the density and high quality for laying down. Since the works on the land and the refurbishment of the new cellar, the wine has gained precision in its fruit and a more profound density. The extreme quality of the land is beginning to take shape in the wine, with remarkable phenolic qualities and a high attention to freshness with a tension that gives the wine an extreme beautiful brilliance. Consequentially to the balance of the materials the oak benefits the elements letting the wine speak for itself. In its style, the density and sweetness (not in the term of sugar) makes the wine expresses its full potential.

To sum up all what Cos D'Estournel stands for, is a wine amongst the greatest and should definitely be considered a grade to 1st growth.

A vertical of Cos D'Estournel    

1995; 18.5/20. Earthy nose, confit red fruits, soft spices, meat juice and dead leaves. Palate; soft,very aromatic, final note very expressive, ends with truffles, drink now

2000; 18.5/20. red pepper nose, roasted fruits, soft spices, fresh mint, undergrowth. Palate; still young, fruity, incredible hold and vivid. very expressive and enhancing, full of energy. long life assured.

2001; 18/20. powerful nose, red fruits roasted, wooden spices, balsamic, begins to give sent of truffle. Palate; velvety, deep and great final expression, beautiful nervousness. Long life

2002; 15/20. Nose a little ether, stewed fruit, very oriental flavours. Palate; light and very smooth, intense, tannins still very structural, drink now is the best time to understand this vintage.

2003; /7/20. very ripe nose, confit currants, hints of balsamic, animal, undergrowth. Palate; intense and round oily, final very expressive. A wine more characteristic with the south then its usual St Estephe, but great results and very well made, drink now

2004;16/20. nose very open, complex, spiced red fruits, oak discreet, notes of peppers and mint. Palate; expressive, smooth, long freshness and vivid, elegant with personality, drink now

2005;18/20. First conical tanks, roasted red fruits, soft spices, orange zest. Palate; full, velvety, beautiful balance, long complex trail, lasting with no ending, long life assured.

2006; complex nose, grilled red fruits, hints of undergrowth, oak. Palate; thick smooth very aromatic, strong tannins and spices, final very long lasting. lay down not ready

2007; 16.5/20. toasty nose, smoked, soft spices, grilled red fruits. Palate; good structure, tannins still a bit oaky, fnal very expressive. drink now but decanting or wait a bit longer.

2008; nose red peppers, mint, oaked and peppers notes. Palate; very fruity and smooth, spices tannins, long lasting with much freshness. A classical medoc style wine, intense. keep

2009; 19/20. A complex nose, spiced, very ripe red fruits, refined oak. Palate; very thick and silky, tannins refined, final very long and complex. patience please.

2010; 18.5/20. Nose slightly buttery, spices fruits, mint, still a bit shy. Palate; smooth, with a young fruit, with hint of beautiful fresh tannins, a beautiful and long balsamic ending. keep

2011;17.5/20. beautiful floral note, ripe big red fruits, deep and profound wooden spices. Palate intense, beautiful long refined trail, bursting fruits, beautiful tonic freshness. long lasting on notes of pepper. keep

So there you go, a little insight on this amazing Chateau, fairy like and talented. Still reasonable affordable but be quick it is not going to last. This is a wine that deserves and will be awarded "Premier Cru Classe" watch that space.
(source of info La revue du vins de France July-August)

till next time please drink responsibly.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

HV Wines - Chateau Les Amoureuses Cote Du Rhone, Special Reserve

Chateau les Amoureuses special cuvee Cote du Rhone

I was out and about looking for this week's wine for the blog. At first I wanted to find an American red but as mentioned before prices here for descent American wines do not come cheaply and  I want to lecture about wines that are affordable for most of us, I do not want to find  wines that come at a higher price than £17/ £18. Cleary on occasion I  will go higher when I think, that a wine  might be truly worth it.

I went back to one of my favourite wine shops here in London "Philglass & Swiggot", http://www.philglas-swiggot.com/
Here as well, I began my search for affordable wines.as the red American wines were out of the price range I am targeting,  I began to wander around. At first, I looked into Australian wines and to my absolute delight, they stock the entire range of the marvellous, "Some Young Punks", which I described in my blog a couple of weeks ago. I will definitely come back to this winery and try out some other members of the family and share it with you.

Eventually after some browsing I ended up in France and in the region of the Rhone Valley, to be precise. Chateau Les Amoureuses Special Cuvee La tradition (this is a one off edition apparently). Now this is not a big winery, and its wine is only available here, in the UK, at Philglass and Swiggot. I had an interesting chat with the owner of the shop and she really insisted that I should try this out. The winery recently has been taken over by new owners, and as a result it has been taken in a new direction.  One of the reasons for this new infusion of cash is that some big wine critics (Parker for one) has written great reviews about this winery and so, as a consequence now everyone wants to have a piece of the action.

Even though for most people it will be hard to find this wine, I want to talk about it, as surely more outlets will want to sell it soon and the range of the winery is as amazing and refreshing as the Special Cuvee. Initially when I picked this wine I was intrigued as it is extremely rare to find a wine with a blend of different vintages. These things do not really happen, except if you drink proper  plonk, and I always find it fascinating, to encounter wines with a difference. According to the shop owner, when the winery was bought up by the new owners they looked at what was there, and available.  The vintage 2009 was very good but 2010 was even better, so they decided to blend the two vintages together as an experiment, to see what might be created. This spirit of adventure and experimentation reminded me slightly of Champagne, as the talent of the Champenois is the art of blending. So for those living in London and want to try something totally unique in its process I recommend that you rush to the door and head to any of the excellent Philglass & Swiggot shops (there are three of them in London) and grab a bottle at £14.95, which seems very reasonable to me.

Rhone Valley
The Rhone valley is one of the few regions left in France where you can find extreme good wine which is tremendously good, value for money. The Rhone valley is separated into two parts; the Northern part and the Southern part. About 200 km long it stretches from the town of Vienne to Avignon. It is thought that the vines from the Rhone Valley could well be amongst the oldest, vines in France. The Rhone river starts its course in the Swiss Alps and runs all the way down ending up in the Mediterranean and is about 800 km long.  The Northern Rhone is named Septentrionale (Hermitage) and the Southern part the Meridionale (Chateauneuf-du-Pape) which is the biggest of the two. According to history, the Greeks were the ones who first  planted vines in the Rhone valley. But the Persians may well have also set foot there and as a consequence, it is generally agreed that they introduced the grape Syrah, (Shiraz)  and planted it in the region.
However  it was the Romans, who initiated and fully deployed the culture of wine making in the Rhone Valley..

During the 17th and 18th Centuries, the Wines from the Rhone valley had the same reputation as Burgundy wines and were greatly out mastering the wines from Bordeaux. This changed dramatically during the Napoleonic wars and much of the grandeur of the Rhone wine diminished, due in the main, to the  blockades and politics. This was principally the fault of  the Brits who systematically blocked all the ports in France.  As a consequence of their action the Bordelais could not negotiate with the Spanish in order to import their Spanish wines, which they'd used to blend with their own, creating a beautiful colour wine, which was extremely popular at the time. Instead they turned towards Hermitage and used Rhone wines to blend with their own Bordeaux,  (very common practise then at the time).

After that period, the vines were severely affected by two new diseases Odium and Phylloxera which destroyed much of the Rhone vines, and the crisis of 1930 didn't do much to help either to put this region back on its feet.
Today these wines are better than ever and offer great value and quality.

The wine region of the Rhone Valley

·        Cote Rotie
·        Chateau-Grillet
·        Condrieu
·        St.Joseph
·        Crozes-Hermitage
·        Hemitage
·        Cornas
·        St.Peray
·        Cotes-Du-Rhone
·        Clairette de Die
·        Chatillon-en-Diois
·        Coteaux du Triscastin
·        Cotes de Vivarais
·        Cotes-Du-Rhone Villages
·        Gigondas
·        Chateauneuf-Du-Pape
·        Lirac
·        Tavel
·        Vacqueyras
·        Cotes deVentoux
·        Cotes de Luberon
·        Rasteau (vins doux naturel)
·        Beaumes de Venis

Of course the most renowned wines from Cote du Rhone are Chateauneuf Du Pape, Cote Rotie, Condrieu, Cornas, Crozes Hermitage, Hermitage, St. Joseph, Gogondas, Vacqueyras and Cote du Rhone/ Village.

Rhone valley grape varieties

Syrah (Shiraz)
Grenache Noir
Terret Noir
Picpoul Noir

Grenache Blanc

The most iconic wine from the Rhone valley is undoubtedly, Chateauneuf-du-Pape. It is so called,  because in 1308,Pope Clement V, resided there for a brief period before the papacy returned to Rome. Chateuneuf-du -Pape is entitled due to its AOC to use 13 different grape varieties for its wine (red and white combined), today this is hardly practised anymore and the predominant grapes (Syrah, Grenache, Mouvedre, Cinsault) are used to make the red, Chateauneuf while (Rousanne, Marsanne, Grenache Blanc) are used for the white.

Some great names from the Rhone Valley are;

Chateau Beaucastel http://www.beaucastel.com/en/
Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe http://www.vieuxtelegraphe.com/

Cote du Rhone's vintage chart (RP chart)

1995 90/100
1996 86/100
1997 90/100
1998 90/100
1999 95/100
2000 87/100
2001 89/100
2002 78/100
2003 90/100
2004 82/100
2005 89/100
2006 92/100
2007 89/100
2008 79/100
2009 98/100
2010 94/100
2011 88/100

1995 90/100
1996 82/100
1997 82/100
1998 98/100
1999 90/100
2000 98/100
2001 96/100
2002 58/100
2003 96/100
2004 85/100
2005 95/100
2006 90/100
2007 98/100
2008 86/100
2009 93/100
2010 97/100
2011 88/100

Chateau les Amoureuses special cuvee Cote du Rhone

There is little information available  about this winery, as they are going through a total new restructure, but have no fear, if you are a fan of Cote du Rhone, then this wine will definitely not disappoint you. In London, the only place to find this winery is at the excellent, purveyors of wine. Philglass and Swiggot.

Grape Varieties: Grenache Noir, Cinsault and Mouvedre

Bought: Philglass and Swiggot

Price: £14.95

Visual: The colour stands out, a dark ruby red, looking vibrant and youthful. The brilliance is good, indicating a good acidity.

Nose: The first hint you get is a bouquet of dark red fruits, black berries juicy and sweet. Quickly followed by currants and blackberries and deeper down layers of spices (garrigue). After little time of breathing flurries of cacao and smooth hints of caramel. You have a constant arrival of fruits after fruits, this wine truly has been crafted the way a wine should be

Palate: The attack is good and strong, the fruits burst all over the palate and the balance between the aromas and the acidity is greatly crafted. You would think that this wine will fall heavy like a brick on your stomach, but actually the freshness and balance produces the total opposite. The mid palate hold beautifully with the fruits warming up nicely towards the end. It lingers on fairly long and ends in a note of over ripe dark cherries and berries.  

Conclusion: For the price paid (£14.95) this is superb value for money. A name to hold on to and to follow. The texture and technique of this wine is very well made. Truly a great discovery, this wine will bring joy and conversation. I do recommend this wine to all who like their Rhone wines, or wines with great character.   

Rating: I rate this wine 18/20 80/100 (rated as a very good wine)

Till next time please drink responsibly.