Tag: Bordeaux

May 05 2011

Château Latour: The Epitome of Great Bordeaux

Posted on May 05, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

This Thursday evening I’m attending a very special tasting of classic Bordeaux wines at Wine Vault in Artarmon. Sponsored by Bordeaux Shippers, our host for the evening is The Wine Front’s Gary Walsh. Thursday’s session is sold out, but I believe tickets may still be available for a second session on Thursday 2 June.

One of the highlights of a very special lineup is the Château Latour 2001. It sells for around $1,000 a bottle, so I’m sure Thursday night will be one of my only chances to sample this great wine. In preparation I thought I would do a little research on one of the world’s most acclaimed drops. While most of us probably can’t entertain the possibility of buying a bottle of Latour, Margaux, Lafite, Mouton or Haut-Brion, these First Growths are the benchmarks for style, character and status, informing the aspirations and direction of some of their best New World competitors, who typically make wines a little gentler on the hip pocket!

Château Latour is one of Bordeaux’s five original First Growth (Premier Cru). Its elevation to First Growth status dates back to the 1855 Bordeaux Wine Official Classification that was done ahead of International Exhibition in Paris. But as early as 1787, one of the world’s greatest connoisseurs of wine, then minister to France, Thomas Jefferson, deemed La Tour de Ségur a vineyard of first quality.

Situated on the banks of the Gironde estuary, Château Latour is at the very southeastern tip of the commune of Pauillac in the Médoc region of Bordeaux. Here 78 hectares are under vine, but only the best grapes from the oldest vines of the 47 hectares surrounding the Chateau, known as L’Enclos, can be used in the production of the Grand Vin. Since 1966 the Latour has also produced … Read the rest

Feb 02 2011

Making Sense of Bordeaux

Posted on February 02, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

When most people think of the great French wine region of  Bordeaux, a few images usually come to mind: magnificent estates with gloriously grand white stone mansions; wines of unattainable status with lofty prices to match; an intransigent 19th century classification system; and a seemingly impenetrable network of negociants who sell the wine en primeur when it is still in the barrel.

But take a closer look at Bordeaux and a more complex and fascinating picture begins to emerge. While the region has been shaped by centuries of tradition, it is also incredibly dynamic.

Decanter, for example, has reported on a string of Chinese purchases of prestige estates in Bordeaux over the last few years. To be alarmist about this development, however, would be to overlook how important foreign ownership has always been for Bordeaux. Indeed, the fortunes of many of the best estates were revived during the 20th century by farsighted Americans millionaires like Clarence Dillon, who bought Chateau Haut-Brion in 1935 at the height of the Depression.

Foreign consumption of Bordeaux wines has always been key to the region’s prosperity. In the 17th century, Francois-Auguste de Pontac of Chateau Haut-Brion created a buzz for ‘new French claret’ when he served his wine at his fashionable eating establishment, Pontack’s Head, in London. Soon shiploads of Bordeaux were travelling up the Gironde river to the British Isles. Apparently French excise taxes at the time also facilitated the export market, making it cheaper to send wine to London than to Paris!

Today, like Australia’s McLaren Vale and the Yarra Valley, for example, Bordeaux struggles with the effects of urban encroachment. Tourists often get lost in a maze of suburbs before finding their way to the different estates. Smaller vineyards owners are finding it hard to make ends meet in the … Read the rest

Sep 09 2010

Australian Cabernet: A Worthy Contender to Shiraz’s Crown!

Posted on September 09, 2010 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Campbell Mattinson, the well respected wine critic and a principal author of the popular wine blog The Wine Front, remarked in a recent post, Notes from a cabernet masterclass Tuesday, Aug 10 2010, that “when we talk of what Australian wine does best we invariably mention shiraz first, semillon second, chardonnay or riesling third and then cabernet or pinot noir.” In his opinion, a recent Dan Murphy’s cabernet masterclass, which included stars such as Mount Mary, Cullen, Yeringberg, Balnaves, Wantirna Estate, Petaluma, Yarra Yering, Voyager Estate and Moss Wood, would have equaled, if not surpassed, a similar tasting of  twenty or so Australian top-flight shiraz or chardonnay.

So why isn’t Australian cabernet getting the attention it deserves? In James Halliday’s list of the 100 Top Wines of 2009 and 100 Tops Wines of 2008, the two varieties, shiraz and cabernet, are fairly evenly represented, so you probably can’t argue that top Australian wine critics are biased towards shiraz-based wines. Of course, Penfolds Grange and Henschke’s Hill of Grace have set the bar pretty high for aspiring makers of fine Australian shiraz, and the international profile of Australian shiraz has certainly been lifted by influential American wine critic Robert Parker’s great enthusiasm for the variety. But could fashion also have something to do with it?

In a fascinating article Eric Asimov of The New York Times observes that younger Americans have lost enthusiasm for French Bordeaux, Bordeaux Loses Prestige Among Younger Wine Lovers, 18 May 2010: “Not so long ago, young wine-loving Americans were practically weaned on Bordeaux, just as would-be connoisseurs had been for generations. It was the gateway to all that is wonderful about wine. Now that excitement has gone elsewhere, to Burgundy and the Loire, to Italy and Spain. Bordeaux, some young wine enthusiasts say, is … Read the rest