Tag: James Suckling

Nov 11 2015

James Suckling Announces his Top 100 Wines of 2015

Posted on November 11, 2015 | By merrill@cellarit.com

You know the holiday season is fast approaching when the world’s top wine critics start announcing their top wines of the year.  The team at JamesSuckling.com tasted an astonishing 9,000 wines, and Suckling himself tried 7,500. With the exception of Champagne, Australia and New Zealand, which are covered for the website by Australian wine critic Nick Stock, Suckling reviews wines from all over the world and in 2015 travelled to wine regions in France, Italy, Chile, Argentina, Spain, and the United States!

The list of his top 10 wines in 2015 is an interesting compilation because to come up with the rankings, value for money and availability were considered alongside point scores. (None of the wines in the Top 10 scored less than 96 points.) Priced at US$70 or below, these are wines that can still be found for sale on WineSearcher.com.

The Flametree SRS Walcliffe Chardonnay 2014 from the Margaret River is the only Australian wine to make the top 10 list, coming in at no. 9.  Auscellardoor has it for the lowest price on WineSearcher.com- $48.90 per bottle.

This wine has been widely acclaimed. It was a star performer at the 2015 James Halliday Chardonnay Challenge, where it was awarded 97 points and rated the leading Western Australia Chardonnay of the Challenge. Wine critic Campbell Mattinson also gave it a terrific review:

96 Points. Chardonnay to blind the weary drivers. Nothing else can set fire to this glass. Score is irrelevant. This wine is wonderful. Flavour and funk. Tropical fruit, grapefruit, white peach, pear. Struck match notes scorch over pristine, mouthwatering fruit. Length. Poise. Precision.– Campbell Mattinson, The Wine Front, 26 August 2015.

2010-frescobaldi-castelgiocondo-brunelloSuckling’s Wine of the Year in 2015, the  Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi Brunello di Montalcino Castelgiocondo 2010, is still available from … Read the rest

Oct 10 2011

Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select: California’s Finest Cabernet Sauvignon?

Posted on October 10, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Wine critic James Suckling recalls a very special tasting he attended in Florence in 2006. The 1997 and 2001 vintages of top Californian cult wines, drawn from the cellar of Bordeaux Chateau owner and Swiss collector Silvio Denz, were blind tasted against a group of top Tuscan cult wines from the same vintages.

A dozen tasters, mostly Swiss wine merchants, declared the Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select the overall winner. Quite an accomplishment given that the Californian competition included celebrated names like Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley, Arajo Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Eisele Vineyard, Bryant Family Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley, Colgin Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Herb Lamb Vineyard, Dalla Valle Maya Napa Valley and Harlan Estate Napa Valley. (Florence Tasting: Cults Versus Cults or California Versus Tuscany by James Suckling, Wine Spectator, 27 November 2006)

While the result surprised Suckling, the Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select, first released in 1978, has long been making headlines. The Wine Advocate’s Robert Parker calls it one of Napa’s most profound wines.

Exhibiting flavours of black fruit, mocha, black plums, cassis, juicy black and red cherry, black tea, with spice and warm toast, the wine is aged for 32 months in 100% new 60-gallon French oak barrels and bottle aged for about a year before release.

When John Shafer bought Shafer Vineyards in the Stags Leap district in 1972, he was one of the first to cultivate vineyards on the hillsides. With gradients up to 45% and less than 50 centimetres of poor, rocky vocanic soil above weathered bedrock, conditions proved ideal for keeping yields low and creating ripe concentrated fruit.  The vineyards are sustainably managed with a range of vineyard exposures and a diversity of clones ensuring the consistency of the innovative Hillside Select style regardless of the vagaries … Read the rest

May 05 2011

Chateau Lynch-Bages: A Wine that Defies Official Classification

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

One of the most important things I’ve recently learned about Bordeaux is that while the official Bordeaux Wine Classification of 1855 can be a good indicator of quality and terroir, the wine region is also home to to a growing number of top producers whose wine regularly exceeds the expectations of their original lowly classification.

Château Lynch-Bages is certainly an example of a wine that consistently punches above its rank. The estate is classified as Fifth Growths (Cinquièmes Crus), but the deliciously rich, aromatic and still youthful 1995 Château Lynch-Bages was a highlight of last Thursday’s Bordeaux tasting, standing up particularly well against the first growth Château Latour 2001. In fact, the Wine Advocate’s Neil Martin argues that “value-for-money aside, in recent years, several verticals have confirmed that Lynch Bages is a Second Growth in all but name and furthermore, it can occasionally flirt with First Growth quality.” (Neil Martin, How to run a Chateau: Lynch Bages 1959 – 2006, eRobertParker.com, January 2010)

The success of Château Lynch-Bages is due to the foresight and talent of the Cazes family, who bought the Pauillac estate in 1939 after managing it during the early 1930s. As Jean-Michel Cazes explained to the Wine Spectator’s James Suckling, his grandfather “was a very good winemaker. After World War II, he was one of the few winemakers of the time that made riper, more modern-style wines. He believed in harvesting riper grapes and looking for good concentration and more color.” (James Suckling, Long-Lived Lynch-Bages: The Bordeaux estate shines in a tasting back to the 1929, Wine Spectator, 15 November 2007).

During the 1980s Jean-Michel Cazes secured the worldwide reputation of the estate by travelling abroad to promote the wines. Today, the 222 acre estate is run by Jean Michel’s son, Jean-Charles, … Read the rest

Feb 02 2011

Château Pape Clément: Creating Wine of First-Growth Quality!

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

One man who is considered just as influential in Bordeaux as the legendary American wine critic Robert Parker is the oenologist Michel Rolland. Rolland is a consultant oenologist to hundred of wineries in the Bordeaux and around the world. He is credited with turning around the quality of such famous estates as Château Lascombe and has been a consultant to some of the best estates in California, counting names like Araujo, Harlan Estate and Dalla Vale among his clients.

Bordeaux is all about the blend, and according to wine critic James Suckling, “Rolland’s blending skill is phenomenal… It’s not so much that he is better than other top tasters at evaluating the quality of a wine, or that he knows more tricks as a veteran winemaker. Where he shines is in his ability to taste different lots of wine in a winery and then decide which ones work best together to make a great bottle.” Rolland’s palate is backed up by some formidable science. He has a laboratory in Libourne that employs eight full-time technicians who analyse wine samples from about 800 estates in France each year. (Top Gun: Consulting enologist Michel Rolland makes some of the world’s best red wine by James Suckling, Wine Spectator, 30 June 2006)

At Chateau Pape Clément Rolland works with one of France’s leading businessmen and winemakers Bernard Magrez. Pape Clément is a jewel in the crown of 35 vineyards owned by Magrez in France and around the world.  In 2009 the International Wine and Spirit Competition awarded Magrez the title of French Wine Producer of the Year.

Together, Rolland and Magrez have made numerous improvements in the vineyard and the winery over the last decade. Yields are limited through crop thinning, and de-leafing helps the grapes to ripen by … Read the rest

Feb 02 2011

Château Haut-Bailly: Reaching New Heights with the 2009 Vintage

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

Like Château Haut-Brion, the fortunes of Château Haut-Bailly have greatly improved under the direction of an American financier. American banker Robert Wilmers bought Haut-Bailly in 1998, and like Clarence Dillon of Haut-Brion, he saw the wisdom of retaining top talent – promoting Veronique Sanders, the granddaughter of the previous owner, to the top job as manager of the estate.

In less than a decade, Sanders has succeeded in elevating Château Haut-Bailly to such a level that the esteemed American critic Robert Parker believes it a worthy contender to the icon wines of Pessac-Leognan: Pape-Clement, La Mission-Haut-Brion, and Haut-Brion.

Here’s Parker’s review of the stunning 2009 vintage:

The greatest Haut-Bailly ever made? One can’t speak enough of the job Veronique Sanders has done in 2009, allied with the owner, the American banker Robert Wilmers, who has given her carte blanche authority. Tiny yields have resulted in the most concentrated Haut-Bailly I have ever tasted. Eclipsing even the 2005, the 2009 (a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot, and 3% Cabernet Franc) possesses 13.9% natural alcohol. Dense purple to the rim, it exhibits a precise, nuanced nose of mulberries, black cherries, black currants, graphite, and a singular floral component. A wine of profound intensity and full-bodied power, yet stunningly elegant, and never heavy or massive, it builds incrementally on the palate, and the finish lasts over 45 seconds. Remarkably, there is not a hard edge to be found in this beauty. The Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc were harvested between October 7 and 14, which explains their phenolic maturity. The wine’s extraordinary freshness, elegance, and precision are nearly surreal. This tour de force should age brilliantly for 40+ years. (Tasted two times.) (Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate #188 April 2010 96 to 98+ points. Drink 2010 -2050)

In a sense, Robert … Read the rest