Tag: Neal Martin

Dec 12 2012

50 Wines to Try in 2013: No. 3 Chateau Pontet-Canet – A Brilliant Biodynamic Bordeaux

Posted on December 12, 2012 | By merrill@cellarit.com

You wouldn’t normally think that Château Pontet-Canet, a fifth-growth chateaux in Bordeaux, would be one of the leading examples of what the Wine Advocate’s Robert Parker describes as “profound evolution in quality” in Bordeaux over the past 30 years.

Since proprietor Alfred Tesseron took over the 200 acre Pauillac estate from his father in 1997, he has ushered in a series of innovations in both viticultural and winemaking practices that have led to a remarkable lift in the quality of his wines. Of the 2009 vintage, for example, Robert Parker remarked that it was “A wine of irrefutable purity, laser-like precision, colossal weight and richness, and sensational freshness, this is a tour de force in winemaking that is capable of lasting 50 or more years.”  (Wine Advocate #199 February 2012)

Granted, 2009 was a spectacular vintage, but Parker’s 100 point score was by no means a fluke. The wine has earned ratings of 93 or higher in both Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator tastings since 2000.

Château Pontet-Canet is a neighbour to plots owned by illustrious first-growths Château Mouton-Rothschild and Château Latour. Tesseron told the Wine Spectator’s Jo Cooke that “Every morning…we wake up and say, ‘We are a fifth-growth surrounded by first-growths, so we have to do better.’ We want to get as close as we can to the quality of our neighbors.” (Climbing the Pyramid: Alfred Tesseron is raising quality at Bordeaux’s Pontet-Canet by Jo Cooke, Wine Spectator, 30 April 2008).

Tesseron has made significant investments in both the vineyards and the cellar to achieve his lofty goal. Pontet-Canet was one of the first Bordeaux estates to eschew the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides. Since 2007 both the vineyard and winery have been biodynamic.

At times the natural approach to vineyard management has presented … Read the rest

Dec 12 2011

Pol Roger: The Preferred Champagne of Top Bordeaux Winemakers!

Posted on December 12, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

The Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin notes that on his visits to Bordeaux the proprietors of the châteaux typically serve Pol Roger: “Sure, if they are out to schmooze then Cristal is poured, but when they want to share a champagne that they like to drink themselves, then Pol Roger is the bubbly doing the rounds.” (To the House of Defiance: Pol Roger 1914 – 1998 by Neal Martin, October 2007, eRobertParker.com)

I’ve just finished reading Anne Sebba’s fascinating biography of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor. Sir Winston Churchill was one of the central figures in the dramatic events that led to the abdication of Edward VIII in 1936 so the King of England could marry the twice divorced Mrs Simpson.

Pol Roger was, of course, Churchill’s favourite Champagne, of which he famously quipped: “In victory, deserve it. In defeat, need it!” Churchill apparently made his first purchase of Pol Roger in 1908 and became a huge fan of the 1928 vintage, which he admired for its sweetness and richness. In the 1940s he developed a close friendship with Odette Pol-Roger, who was famously photographed by Cecil Beaton, the Duchess of Windsor’s favourite photographer.

By the time of his death in 1965, Churchill had procured over 500 cases of Pol Roger, and to mark his passing the Champagne House placed a black band on the white foil of bottles destined for the UK. In 1984 Pol Roger released the first Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill, based on the 1975 vintage and only soured from grand crus vineyards that were active during Churchill’s lifetime. Made in the richer style that Churchill preferred, the wine is now Pol Roger’s top cuvée, and is greatly admired for its complexity, elegance and finesse.

Located in the heart of Epernay, Pol Roger is the … Read the rest

Nov 11 2011

Wine Tasting: Château Rauzan-Ségla – An Exceptional 2nd Growth!

Posted on November 11, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Last Wednesday night I attended a Bordeaux Shippers‘ tasting at the Royal Automobile Club in Sydney. These tastings are a great opportunity to sample out-of-reach legendary Bordeaux wines like the Château Mouton Rothschild, Premier Cru Pauillac 1996 ($1,142) as well as some excellent Bordeaux in more affordable price ranges.

One of my favourites of the evening was the Château Rauzan-Ségla Deuxieme Grand Cru Classe Margaux 1996 ($185). Ok, not exactly a bargain, but this wine is widely regarded as a “super-Second”, and one of the best wines in the appellation after 1st growth Château Margaux.

One of the oldest estates in Bordeaux, Château Rauzan-Ségla has a bit of spotted history, which may be why its name is not as familiar as it should be to most people. Apparently Thomas Jefferson, one of the world’s greatest oenephiles, bought a few cases in 1790, and in 1855 the estate was ranked Deuxieme Grand Cru Classe, equal at the time to Château Mouton Rothschild. The Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin notes that the wines of the 19th century have become legendary. (Neal Martin, Château Rauzan-Ségla, eRobertParker.com, November 2006)

But for most of the 20th century, its reputation waned and it was not until the 1980s, when the château was taken over by the négociants Eschenauer, that the vineyards were replanted and the winery modernised.  Since 1994 the perfume house Chanel has continued to make a substantial investment in the estate, restoring its position as the head of the class of the 14 2nd Growths.

 

Less than 100,000 bottles of the Grand Vin are produced each year. A blend of 54% cabernet sauvignon, 41% merlot, 4% petit verdot and 1% cabernet franc, the wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks and then barrel aged for 18 to 20 months in barriques, … Read the rest

Aug 08 2011

Wine of the Week: Howard Park Leston Cabernet Sauvignon

Posted on August 08, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

The Howard Park Leston Cabernet Sauvignon is undoubtedly one of Western Australia’s top cabernet sauvignons. Ray Jordan of the West Australian recently singled out the Howard Park Leston Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 as the ‘Best of the Best’ of 500 wines from all over Australia selected for tasting. Here’s his review:

An opulent and densely packed cabernet from Margaret River. Just about the best yet under this label, with its deep, black fruits, dark chocolate and black olive aromas. Tannins are slightly chewy and the fine-grained oak lays a long path to a lingering finish. Excellent wine of great power and potential. (Aussie wines back in top form by Ray Jordan, Fresh Best Reds, The West Australian, 7 July 2011)

Howard Park is owned by Jeff and Amy Burch, and is one of the 12 members of Australia’s First Families of Wine. Neal Martin of the Wine Advocate recently spoke about how much he enjoys writing about family-owned wineries:

I can tell you, that as a wine writer, it is infinitely more rewarding composing a piece where an individual and/or a family are the proprietor and not a corporation. That is not to imply that the latter craft inferior wine, but rather that the lifeblood of a vineyard, the soul of a wine, is manifested and enhanced by the personality of the winemaker, the stories they have to tell, their trials and tribulations, their triumphs and disasters. It brings the words of an article to life and hopefully renders the prose more interesting to both write and read. (Keeping It In The (Australian) Family by Neil Martin, The Wine Advocate, August 2010)

What I most enjoy is seeing family wineries go from strength to strength without compromising the integrity or quality of their wines. Since it was … Read the rest

Mar 03 2011

Cullen Wines Diana Madeline Cabernet Merlot: An ‘exceptional’ Bordeaux Blend

Posted on March 03, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Of the 17 wines in the ‘Exceptional’ category of Langon’s Classification of Australian Wines only four are cabernets. Cullen Wines’ Diana Madeline Cabernet Merlot shares the stage with another Margaret River icon, the Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon. Indeed, both wines reflect their respective winemakers’ uncompromising approach to quality and obsessive attention to detail. No wonder these superior talents have lifted their wines to world-class status in a remarkably short period of time!

The Diana Madeline is a blend of cabernet sauvignon and merlot. Named after Diana Cullen, who founded Cullen Wines with her husband Kevin in 1966, this exceptionally elegant, balanced wine is the product of the consummate winemaking and vigneron skills of the couple’s youngest daughter Vanya.

Vanya Cullen followed in her winemaker mother’s footsteps, taking over as senior winemaker in 1989. Like her parents, she was very interested in applying organic principles in the vineyard, but after attending a workshop on biodynamic viticulture with Anne-Claude Leflaive of Domaine Leflaive and Aubert de Villaine from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, she realised the value of making both the vineyard and winery biodynamic. (The Matriach of Margaret: Cullen Wines by Neal Martin, eRobertParker.com May 2010)

The results of this conversion (the vineyard was certified biodynamic in 2003 and the winery in 2008) is clearly demonstrated in the fresh, elegant style of the Diana Madeline. As a result of the use of biodynamic viticulture, Cullen has seen a marked improvement in the structure and oxygenation of the soil, which in turn has enhanced the tannin ripening of the fruit. Consequently, the grapes can be harvested earlier at lower sugar levels and higher acidity.

Indeed, Lisa Perrotti-Brown of the Wine Advocate cites the 2008 Diana Madeline as “another example of Cullen’s emerging ability to achieve physiological ripeness at lower alcohols … Read the rest

Feb 02 2011

Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon: A World Class Wine

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

In 2007 a bottle from the inaugural 1973 vintage of the Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon (only 250 cases were made) sold at Langton’s for a record $2,301!

Perhaps not surprising for a wine that is widely considered the benchmark Margaret River cabernet sauvignon and a standout on the world stage. Jancis Robinson reported that the Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 was the pick of the night at a blind tasting of eleven 2001 Bordeaux style blend wines organised for 36 wine lovers at the 2008 World Economic Forum. It beat some pretty serious competition, including the Napa Valley’s famed Screaming Eagle and Harlan Estate and even Chateau Lafite! (Jancis Robinson MW on the Davos Tasting, JancisRobinson.com reprinted in Moss Wood, Late Autumn News, Issue 66, May 2008)

In my previous post, Margaret River: Australia’s Answer to Bordeaux?, I mentioned that the Margaret River experiences far less vintage variation than Bordeaux due to more reliable weather patterns. But I don’t want you to think that vintage isn’t important or that Margaret River winemakers don’t face serious challenges in the vineyards that require considerable skill and management.

In a very interesting interview with the Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin, Keith Mugford, who has co-owned Moss Wood with his wife Clare since 1985 and first started making wine for Moss Wood back in 1978, singled out the following years as the best vintages: 1975, 1980, 1985, 1990, 1995, 1996, 2001 and 2005. He explained that these were the years that the wines obtain “mulberry and black fruits, cigar and a touch of leafiness.” Cool years, such as the 1982, 1987, 2002 and 2006 vintages, produced wines with a fine texture, less concentration and according to Mugford a ‘gritty astringency’. Hot years, which include the 1976, 2000 and 2007 vintages, have a ‘sumptuous generosity’ … Read the rest

Dec 12 2010

Martinborough Pinot Noir: All about the Terroir

Posted on December 12, 2010 | By merrill@cellarit.com

In my last post, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc: Top Producers Create an Exciting Alternative Style, 14 December 2010, I mentioned that our friends served the sublime Cloudy Bay Te Koko Sauvignon Blanc 2004 with a magnificent roasted prawn dish. Well, the follow-up course and wine were equally spectacular. This time they chose another New Zealand wine, the Dry River Pinot Noir 2002, to complement beautifully steamed John Dory with Asian flavourings and lightly sauteed greens.

New Zealand’s success with sauvignon blanc is in danger of being eclipsed by the Kiwi’s formidable achievements in creating superlative wines from one of the world’s most difficult noble grapes: pinot noir.

Top producers in the regions of Central Otago, Malborough and Martinborough are making an array of very fine pinot noirs at various price points.

Martinborough is the only one of the three regions on the North Island, but in terms of climate it is significantly cooler than neighbouring wine region Hawkes Bay and, according to the leading winemakers who call it home, the soil type and climate make it New Zealand’s closest approximation to Burgundy – home of the world’s most acclaimed pinot noirs.

Back in 1979 Neil and Dawn McCallum of Dry River recognised that the deep, free-draining gravelly ‘Martinborough Terrace’ was ideally suited to the pinot noir grape. They were very picky about their site selection, as within ten kilometres of where Dry River is located,  rainfall and soil quality vary enormously. Their efforts proved fruitful, and along with other pioneers like Ata Rangi, Chifney, Dry River, Martinborough Vineyard and Te Kairanga they decided they would define and demarcate the terroir they had adopted, just as such areas are described and mapped in France and Germany. From 1986, wines made from within this area were given a seal of origin … Read the rest

Nov 11 2010

Grenache: Standing Tall as a Single Variety Wine!

Posted on November 11, 2010 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Chateau Tanunda recently picked up the Single Estate Red Wine Trophy for The Everest Old Bushvine Grenache 2008 at the International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC) in London. The IWSC is one of the most prestigious competitions in the world, so the trophy represented a big win for Chateau Tanunda. Here’s what the judges had to say about the wine:

Dark crimson purple to rim. Wow! What a seductive nose! The characters are almost decadent in their exotic power. Old vine complexity shines through here. Crushed raspberry, asian spice, loganberries, sandlewood, lavendar, chocolate mints, fruitcake, framboise, ferrous earth, leather, coal, cocoa bean … the list could be endless. Full bodied, lavishly rich and compelling in the mouth, layers that wash again and again over the palate, changing in ever more complex ways. Well. This is one of the most thrilling wines I have ever tasted.

I was intrigued that a single variety grenache had won because on its own grenache doesn’t seem to be a popular wine style. In fact, Neal Martin of the Wine Advocate argues that “the absence of a global grenache icon is something that hampers respect and recognition of the variety.” Grenache is typically used as a blending variety, think Châteauneuf-du-Pape, but as Martin observes “pure grenache is more common in Australia where clusters of ancient vines provide more incentive to bottle the vineyard separately.” (The Unsung Chameleon Next Door: Grenache Symposium 2010, Grenache: Playboy Or Nobleman? by Neal Martin, eRobertParker.com, September 2010).

Even so, only a handful of Australian wine producers make a single variety grenache. d’Arenberg in McLaren Vale is unusual in the sense that it is somewhat of a grenache specialist. Its portfolio contains eight wines with a grenache component and two single variety labels, The Custodian and The Derelict Vineyard. … Read the rest

Nov 11 2010

Showcasing the Margaret River in Sydney

Posted on November 11, 2010 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Neal Martin, eRobertParker.com wine critic, recently said, “Margaret River has already achieved great things, but not as great as what will follow.” (Final Thoughts on Margaret River, June 2010).

In less than 45 years the Margaret River, one of the most geographically isolated wine making regions in the world, has garnered an extraordinary level of recognition both in Australia and overseas.

And as a recent showcase of 25 labels from the region at the MCA in Sydney last week attests, the Margaret River is still an extremely dynamic and emerging wine region. In addition to the icon wineries, which include Vasse Felix, Moss Wood, Leeuwin Estate and Cullen,  a growing number of small, family-run wineries are making wines of distinction, and many new and long-established wineries are successfully experimenting with a range of different varieties and blends.

Margaret River has long been synonymous with Bordeaux style cabernet sauvignon and cabernet blends. Indeed, at the Showcase I overheard a number of guests say that they were restricting their tastings just to the reds. But Margaret River also makes outstanding chardonnay (Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay and Pierro Chardonnay are rated ‘Exceptional’ and ‘Outstanding’ respectively in Langton’s 2010 Classification of Australian Wine), and many of the wineries make excellent sauvignon blanc/semillon and semillon/sauvignon blanc blends.

For such a young wine region Margaret River has an enviable number of celebrated wineries.  Xanadu, Woodlands, Voyager Estate, Fraser Gallop Estate, Lenton Brae, Wise Wine, Cape Mentelle, Brookland Valley, Celestial Bay, Fermoy Estate, Flametree Wines, Juniper Estate were some of the stand-outs from a long list of acclaimed wineries which were represented at the showcase. Yalumba, the famous brand more commonly associated with the Barossa and Coonawarra, showcased its … Read the rest