Geoff Kelly Wine Reviews
Independent reviews of some local and imported wines available in New Zealand, including earlier vintages.

This article reports on an evaluation tasting of some 2010 minor Bordeaux reds presented to Regional Wines & Spirits of Wellington,  14 March 2013.  There were 14 Bordeaux,  plus 2 New Zealand wines of comparable price to serve as calibration points.  The tasting was fully booked,  and the presentation in two flights of 8,  completely blind,  proved popular.  Later that evening I added 4 more Bordeaux and another local red,  for this write-up.  Some of the wines are now sold out,  but Paul Mitchell (The Wine Importer,  Kumeu) hopes to secure further stock in June / July (indicated).

Invitation:   Like the 1928 and 1929,  and 1989 and 1990 vintages,  2009 and 2010 will go down as two of the greatest Bordeaux vintages in our lifetimes.  It is therefore imperative for people who love the claret winestyle to taste the young wines - as many as possible.

Building on our experiments last year with a new format for Worth Cellaring tastings,  Regional Wines is offering the chance to evaluate the first batch of 2010 minor Bordeaux (under $50) imported by the Auckland merchant Paul Mitchell. The tasting will be convened by Geoff Kelly,  a NZ senior wine judge who has been evaluating young vintages of red bordeaux systematically since the 1966 vintage.

We will have several well-known cru bourgeois Medocs,  and a range of other Bordeaux appellations totalling 14 French.  Some are cabernet dominant,  some merlot,  one has significant malbec,  adding interest.  Added to them will be two New Zealand cabernet / merlot (or reverse) blends in exactly the same price range.  They will be presented blind in two flights of eight,  so please come prepared to spit,  or to be picked up afterwards.

This should be a great exercise,  offering the chance to buy cellar-worthy wine after an affordable tasting of the range.  In case anyone thinks minor bordeaux do not keep,  the best of the 1982 cru bourgeois are drinking beautifully right now.  It is a short-notice tasting because stocks are small,  and demand for the good ones is likely to be keen,  since they now are very price competitive with many New Zealand cabernet / merlot labels.  So even by next Thursday,  some may be sold out.  Still important to have tasted them,  though !

2009 and 2010 Bordeaux:  In essence,  just like Hawkes Bay,  the 2009s are riper and warmer,  tending to the American preference (Parker:  "the greatest vintage that I have ever tasted",  the 2010s a little cooler and more 'classic' (meaning European preference).  2010 has the dubious distinction at the moment for being the most expensive Bordeaux vintage ever,  at the upper levels,  with the top growths in New Zealand all being over $1000 / bottle en primeur.  Old favourites like Ducru-Beaucaillou and Montrose have shot up too – $325 and $285 respectively en primeur,  both plus 20% yet to come.  

Jancis Robinson is the most careful / conservative of the wine reviewers I follow.  In Feb 2011 she cited consultant winemaker and academic Denis Dubourdieu as:  one of the University of Bordeaux's top oenologists.  She went on to make Dubourdieu's assessment of the 2010 vintage available on her website.  It is worth quoting from this:  

Prof. Denis Dubourdieu on the 2010 Bordeaux vintage:  [ summarised ]
After the much-awaited and much-vaunted 2009 vintage, which has fully lived up to expectations, could Bordeaux really be blessed with another great vintage the following year ?

Considering the weather patterns over the summer and analysis of the grapes during the 2010 harvest, the cautious answer was "Yes, maybe". However, once fermentation finished, the answer became "Yes, probably". And now that the wine has been put into barrel, malolactic fermentation is over, and the strategy for the final blend almost decided at the end of February, we can answer that 2010 will most certainly be a great and even a very great year for both red and white wines.

As an introduction to this vintage appraisal, it is always useful to refer to the conditions that "make" a perfect vintage for red Bordeaux.
#  Early, rapid flowering in June,  followed by ...
#  Weather that is sufficiently warm and dry to ensure pollination and give satisfactory fruit-set
   in all grape varieties
#  The gradual onset of water stress thanks to a warm, dry month of July in order to slow down
   and then put a definitive stop to vine growth during veraison (colour change)
#  Full ripening of the various grape varieties thanks to dry and warm (but not excessively so)
   weather in the months of August and September.  
#  Fine (dry and medium-warm) weather during the harvest making it possible to pick at full
   ripeness without running the risk of dilution or rot.

Even though flowering in Merlot was not ideal due to slightly cool, wet weather in June that caused coulure (shot berries), millerandage (hens and chickens), and low yields, 2010 fits all the above conditions thanks to a remarkably dry summer (but without any heat waves) that continued into a sunny, medium-warm autumn with average precipitation.

The halt to vine growth at the appropriate time was much more widespread in 2010 than in 2009.  With just 50 mm of precipitation from July to September, the 2010 vintage was the driest of the past decade, even more than in 2005, which had nearly twice as much rain over the same period.  The vines underwent greater and more widespread water stress in 2010 than in 2009. In that respect, 2010 is more similar to 2005 than 2009.  

The moderately warm daytime temperatures and cool nights in August and September encouraged the synthesis of aroma precursors and maintained good acidity in the grapes.  The relatively cool, sunny weather that prevailed during ripening in 2010 was propitious to preserving fruit and acidity. This was decisive for both the quality of white wines and the style of red wines. This means that 2010 was also a very great vintage for white wines, i.e. for both Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon grapes.

The earliest-maturing Merlot grapes were picked on about the 21st of September and the Cabernets in the first half of October. These dates are fairly similar to 2009. All of the 2010 red wine varieties had two outstanding characteristics indicative of their excellent quality: the berries were both very small and deeply coloured,  and had greater anthocyanin content than in 2009 or even 2005

The sugar levels in 2010 red wine musts were generally significantly higher than in either 2009 or 2005, especially for the Cabernets. As a rule, acidity levels in the various grape varieties in 2010 were higher than in 2009 or 2005. In those plots where appropriate green harvesting took place, the grapes displayed bright fruit and were devoid of any herbaceous character.

The 2010 red wines have all the hallmarks of a very great Bordeaux vintage on both banks,  and for both Merlot and Cabernets. It is premature to describe the wines in detail, but their deep colour, complexity, intense fruit, freshness, and tannic density already indicate enormous potential. Liquid beauty !

Subsequent views of the 2010s were at first coloured by the high prices and some buyer resistance.  The en primeur campaign was therefore not a tearaway success.   Right now confidence and interest in the 2010s is growing apace.  It seems highly likely to me that 2010 will become a latter-day 1961,  a vintage many came to regret not buying because they then seemed expensive.  They remained the yardstick for decades.  A key point to bear in mind is that in the great vintages,  even petits chateaux can be well worth investing in.

The Tasting:  These Worth Cellaring tastings are being run along much the same lines as my Library Tastings.  We do however have 16 wines,  to enable us to review a greater range,  and achieve a better chance of finding one you like.  Note the pours are small (30 ml),  both to conserve your position with respect to the law,  and to lower the entry price.  Please do NOT drink all 16 x 30 mls,  as that will amount to 480 mls,  two-thirds of a bottle,  which for all except the largest citizens will put you in some jeopardy – particularly since the wines average nearly 14% alcohol – an enormous change from a generation ago.  So please come prepared to sniff and sip and savour rather more than actually swallowing.  Such a small volume can very easily be consumed,  without thinking. And spitting is encouraged.  Also,  we will get a better result if the mind is not clouded with fore-knowledge of the label,  so the wines will be presented blind.  It is much more fun to decide which wine one likes best,  before the price is known.  

The two flights will be divided strictly on their cost,  cheaper first.  Within each flight I will sequence them to optimise the sensory perception of the wines.  The first list below is alphabetical.  The ninth glass is to save the wine you like best as a reference point for Flight Two.  Do NOT tip out your wines till we have concluded the discussion for the first flight,  therefore !

Background info:  The basic minimum parameters for the bordeaux winestyle are:
AOC Bordeaux minimum requirements:  10% alcohol supposedly from grape-sugar-ripeness of 18° Brix,  maximum cropping rate 55 hl/ha (7.25 t/ha = 2.9 t/ac),  may or may not involve oak elevation,  most not chateau-bottled,  roughly 44,000 ha.                  
AOC Bordeaux-Superieur minimum requirements:  10.5% alcohol supposedly from grape-sugar-ripeness of 18.50° Brix,  maximum cropping rate 50 hl/ha (6.5 t/ha = 2.6 t/ac),  not sold before 12 months age,  usually some oak in elevation,  may be taste test requirement,  c.75% chateau-bottled,  roughly 10,000 ha.
Medoc,  Haut-Medoc and commune appellations:  (e.g. Margaux) vary around the Bordeaux-Superieur figures.  Most are chateau-bottled.  The regulations and definitions are labyrinthine and ever-changing.

2007 Red wine production in Bordeaux,  in litres (approx),  adapted from Bordeaux resident Jane Anson's site New Bordeaux:

Bordeaux AOC inc red Entre-Deux-Mers etc:
Bordeaux Superieur AOC inc red Entre-Deux-Mers etc:
Medoc & Haut Medoc:
Bourg & Blaye:
Individual west bank named AOCs:
Listrac  –     2,880,200
Saint Estephe  –   5,650,500
Pauillac  –     5,541,000
Margaux  –    7,136,000
Moulis  –    3,027,700
Saint Julien  –    4,358,800
Red Graves  –    11,981,300
Red Pessac / Leognan  –   6,038,100
Individual east bank named AOCs:
Saint Emilion Grand Cru  –    16,664,200
Saint Emilion & related  –    8,749,900
Pomerol  –    3,485,000
Fronsac  –    3,735,200




For comparison,  2007 New Zealand bordeaux blends totalled c.12,382,000 litres  [ i.e. roughly matching AOC Margaux and Pauillac combined ]

Abbreviations and Acknowledgements:  
I appreciate permission from Jancis Robinson to summarise Dubourdieu's 2010 vintage review from her site.  These notes and the italicised part of each wine review build on Paul Mitchell's Newsletter and website info,  but using the following as original and supplementary sources:  
JH:  Julia Harding @ www.jancisrobinson.com (sub needed for reviews)
JR:  Jancis Robinson @ www.jancisrobinson.com (sub needed for reviews)
L.P-B:  Lisa Perrotti-Brown @ www.erobertparker.com (sub needed for reviews)
MC:  Michael Cooper,  2013 Buyer's Guide to New Zealand Wines,  Hodder-Moa,  670 pp
RP:  Robert Parker @ www.erobertparker.com (sub needed for reviews)
ST:  Stephen Tanzer @ www.wineaccess.com (sub needed for reviews)
WS:  Wine Spectator @ www.winespectator.com (sub needed for reviews)

THE WINES REVIEWED:  bordeaux blends

2010  Ch Beaumont
2010  Ch Bernadotte
2010  Ch du Bois Chantant Cuvee Lawrence H
2010  Domaine du Bouscat Caduce
2010  Ch Charron
2010  Craggy Range [ Merlot / Cabernets ] Te Kahu
2010  Ch Croix Figeac
2010  Esk Valley Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon / Malbec
2010  L'Etoile de Bergey
2010  Ch Haut Bellevue
2010  Ch Lanessan
  2010  Ch Marjosse
2010  Ch Patris
2010  Ch Peychaud
2010  Ch Puygueraud
2010  Ch Rollan de By
2010  Ch Saint-Marie Reserve
2010  Ch Saint Paul
2010  Te Mata [ Cabernets / Merlot ] Awatea
2010  Ch Tertre de Courban
2010  Ch Tour St Bonnet

2010  Ch Saint Paul   17 ½ +  ()
Haut-Medoc,  Bordeaux,  France:  14%;  $30   [ cork;  Me 50%,  CS 40,  CF 8,  PV 2;  average age vines 35 years;  cru bourgeois of Haut-Medoc (close by St Estephe);  c.12 months in oak 25% new;  Stephane Derenoncourt consults;  JR 10/12:  16  Firm and silky and confident. Dry finish. 2014 – 19;  JR 4/11: 16  Very dark crimson like most Stephane Derenoncourt 2010s. Luscious, almost-but-not-quite overripe nose. Dense and dramatic. So thick you could stand a teaspoon up in it. Very unusual. Rather tart and hard work on the end. A bit exaggerated but should be a good buy. Not relaxed but no shortage of impact;  Availability:  750s out,  1500s $60 ]
Classical dense ruby,  carmine and velvet claret blend,  the third to deepest.  Bouquet is rich and fully ripe cassis and darkest plums made aromatic with new oak,  which is a little apparent now,  reminding of best Australasian.  Palate shows ample berry to cover the oak,  lovely freshness and good richness with cabernet sauvignon firmness,  almost a blueberry bloom on the fruit in mouth,  yet all rather dry on the oak now,  needing time in cellar.  This wine is a perfect illustration of and candidate for the maxim:  in great years buy petit chateaux for the cellar.  Cellar 8 – 15 years.  VALUE  GK 03/13

2010  Craggy Range [ Merlot / Cabernets ] Te Kahu   17 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.4%;  $26   [ screwcap;  Me 80%,  CF 8,  CS 8,  Ma 4,  mostly machine-harvested;  13 months in French oak 28% new;  L.P-B for RP, 10/12:  89 +  … deep garnet-purple in color with pronounced red and black plum aromas plus hints of mulberries, baking spices, mocha, pencil shavings and lavender. Medium bodied with a good amount of berry and spice flavors, the flesh is well supported by a medium level of velvety tannins and lively acid, finishing long. Drinking nicely now, it should keep to 2018 +;  MC 2013:  ****½  A sturdy deeply-coloured wine, it has concentrated blackcurrant, plum and spice flavours, showing excellent ripeness and complexity;  Availability:  good;  www.craggyrange.com ]
Ruby,  a flush of carmine and velvet,  one of the lighter.  Bouquet is even more fragrant than the Saint Paul,  totally an illustration of fragrant merlot lifted by cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon.  It is not going too far to say there are reminders of moderate years of the great St Emilion Cheval Blanc here.  Palate shows exactly the suppleness you would expect from a St Emilion,  with greater inner fragrance and charm,  and the ratio of oak a delight in its subtlety.  Te Kahu is not a big wine,  but this far out-classes some much more expensive New Zealand and French bordeaux blends.  It is a great achievement for the Craggy Range team and their very-much-hands-on CEO Steve Smith,  whose passion for the Bordeaux wine style is becoming legendary.  Te Kahu captures that style to perfection in its pinpoint fruit ripeness and complexity,  coupled with restraint in oaking.  It will be very food-friendly.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  VALUE  GK 03/13

2010  Ch Lanessan   17 ½  ()
Haut-Medoc,  Bordeaux,  France:  14%;  $40   [ cork;  CS 60,  Me 36.  PV 4,  average vine age 30 years;  1 km S of Gruaud-Larose;  12 months in French oak 30% new;  JR 4/11  15.5  A little sweet and stodgy but competent. Drying tannins on the end even though it starts almost sickly sweet. Reasonable persistence.  2015 – 23;  RP 87:  Dark ruby/plum colored, with evolved notes of cedar wood, earth and underbrush, this wine possesses the classic tobacco leaf and black currants of a mid-level Medoc. It is medium-bodied, has good ripeness and should age nicely for 15 or more years;  Availability:  750s out,  more stock June;  www.lanessan.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  just above midway in weight.  This is the most beautiful Lanessan I have smelt,  the accuracy of the cassisy cabernet sauvignon just breathtaking.  There is a hint of blackberry in the sun,  but beautifully so,  nothing crass like so many Coonawarra cabernets with their blackberry ice cream aromas.  Palate shows the quality of the year,  freshest fruit and some acid,  not as rich as the Saint Paul but not as oaky either.  This is a beautiful and totally modern example of a cabernet-dominant Medoc,  contrasting perfectly with the east-bank styling of the Te Kahu.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 03/13

2010  Ch Beaumont   17 +  ()
Haut-Medoc,  Bordeaux,  France:  14%;  $30   [ cork;  CS 53%,  Me 43,  PV 4,  average vine age 20 years,  planted at 6666 vines / ha;  12 – 14 months in barrel,  one third new;  this is a large-scale winery,  with 50,000 cases produced.  Cru Bourgeois du Medoc ranking 2010;  Jacques Boissenot consults;  JR  9/12:  16.5 +  Mid crimson. Really interesting, subtle nose. Dry finish but rather artful winemaking on the way there with a bit of the suppleness of fine classed growths. Sophisticated. Far from a blockbuster. Lafite-style Cru Bourgeois! 2015 to 2023;  RP 87:  … notes of roasted herbs and licorice, red and black currants. Medium-bodied, relatively lush and fruity in style, it can be drunk over the next 5-6 years.  WS 88:  Shows a rustic edge, with chestnut and tobacco leaf notes leading the way for brambly textured currant and blackberry fruit flavors. A fresh bay leaf note hangs on the medium-weight finish. Drink now through 2016;  Availability:  750s out,  2010 375s @ $16 and 2009 750s (not tasted) @ $32.50;  www.chateau-beaumont.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  one of the denser.  Bouquet is rich and strong,  but without the finesse of the top three.  This essentially hinges on the quality of the cooperage,  where notwithstanding the oak is said to be one third new,  there is also some leathery old wood,  more than the Bernadotte,  which may include trace brett at the positive complexity level.  Because of the lesser oak,  the varietal illustration isn't ideally sharp,  and the total styling is more old-fashioned.  Within that context,  however,  the richness gains it points.  It will cellar 5 – 15 years at least.  GK 03/13

2010  L'Etoile de Bergey   17 +  ()
Pessac-Leognan,  Bordeaux,  France:  13.5%;  $37   [ cork;  CS 54%,  Me 46,  planted at 7150 vines / ha,  average vine age 35 years;  the second wine of Ch Haut-Bergey,  amounting to 30% of production,  same owners as Clos L'Eglise;  16 – 18 months in French oak up to 50% new;  WS 88:  Compact at the core, with singed mesquite [[ I understand this refers to the smell / flavour of mesquite wood used for barbecuing ]], plum and briar notes, featuring a juicy, accessible finish that lets a light tarry hint check in. Now – 2015;  Availability:  750s good;  www.chateau-haut-bergey.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  very dense,  the deepest wine.  In the blind tasting,  this wine did not show up well due to reduction.  Unlike the Puygueraud,  however,  it breathes up.  So,  if using it in the next few years,  decant this wine splashily 10 times from one wide-mouth vessel to another.  It then reveals a modern,  Washington State-styled cabernet / merlot,  opulently ripe black fruits,  no cassis aromatics left here,  simply darkest fully-ripe black plums.  Oak is simpatico,  some new,  the whole mouth-feel (once aired) velvety and long.  Hard wine to score,  worth a gamble I think,  could end up exciting,  cellar 5 – 20 years.  GK 03/13

2010  Ch Haut Bellevue   17 +  ()
Haut-Medoc,  Bordeaux,  France:  13.5%;  $27   [ cork;  Me 55%,  CS 45,  PV 5 approx,  average vine age 26 years,  planted at 10,000 vines / ha;  at Lamarque,  NE of Moulis;  Jacques Boissenet consults;  Cru Bourgeois du Medoc ranking 2010;  RP 86:  From a property I don’t see that often, I like the supple tannins, opulent, rich black cherry and black currant fruit, and hints of subtle oak and forest floor in this 2010. It is a medium-bodied, elegant, yet fleshy wine, made from a blend of 55% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon and the rest Petit Verdot;  WS 87:  Features a friendly core of steeped red and black currant, with licorice snap, fruitcake and toasted wood spice notes. Remains open-knit through the finish, showing gently lingering fruit.  5,000 cases made.  Now – 2014;  Availability:  750s out,  2009 (not tasted) in June;  www.chateauhautbellevue.fr ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  rather nice,  midway in depth.  Bouquet here is for all the world like the Esk,  beautifully clean,  clearly aromatic on new oak,  but even more depth of berry.  In mouth that impression grows,  the ratio of berry to oak providing a model so many New Zealand winemakers could learn from.  This is a lovely Medoc,  not a big wine,  slightly fresh as befits the year,  but showing what ripe merlot / cabernet should be like.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  VALUE  GK 03/13

2010  Ch Rollan de By   17 +  ()
Medoc,  Bordeaux,  France:  14%;  $40   [ cork;  Me 70,  CS 10,  CF 10, PV 10,  hand-picked;  great care with phenolic maturity,  hand-sorting;  from Begadan,  12 km NW of St Estephe;  12 months in barriques,  60% new;  Alain Reynaud consults;  Cru Bourgeois du Medoc ranking 2010;  JR 4/11:  15  Sample a bit tired and it all seems a bit leathery. 2014 – 19;  RP 90:  Consistently better than its humble appellation, this excellent wine offers up plenty of black currant fruit intermixed with cedar wood, licorice and incense in a medium to full-bodied, surprisingly concentrated and expansive style that should drink nicely for a minimum of a decade or more. There’s no need for patience with this sleeper of the vintage, given the sweetness of its tannins, attractive glycerin and fruit levels;  WS 90:  Solid, with a core of raspberry and steeped blackberry fruit inlaid with anise, apple wood and wood spice notes, all backed by a well-integrated graphite edge on the finish. Now – 2020. 27,000 cases made;  Berry Brothers (London) note that Italian master-winemaker Riccardo Cotarella also consults,  the cuvaisons are long,  and the property is:  a very reliable source of good value Medoc;  Availability:  low;  www.rollandeby.com/en ]
Ruby and velvet,  well above midway in density.  Bouquet is very New Zealand,  very cabernet it seems on the aromatics,  but on learning the cepage one has to reinterpret that as new oak,  potentially cedary.  Flavours in mouth are elegant,  a lovely wrapping of rich berry around the oak,  with the potential to develop an excellent bouquet in bottle.  This wine didn't show so well at the tasting,  but with air overnight it really blossomed.  It seems to be nearly on a par with the Lanessan,  but more oaky and slightly leathery / not quite so pure.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 03/13

2010  Esk Valley Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon / Malbec   17  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $25   [ screwcap;   Me 74%,  CS 13,  Ma 13;  12 months in French oak barrique-size,  25% new;  Availability:  limited,  moving to 2011;  www.eskvalley.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  the third to lightest.  Bouquet is nearly as fragrant as Te Kahu,  but more berry in character and less floral,  not the magic of cabernet franc,  more the robust berry character of malbec.  Palate is closer to the Saint Paul,  more oak than Te Kahu and more aromatic structure on the oak (rather than cabernet sauvignon),  but again,  this is a good evocation of modern petit Bordeaux.  It shows lovely berry,  and will cellar 8 – 15 years.  Fractionally less new oak would be good.  GK 03/13

2010  Ch Bernadotte   17  ()
Haut-Medoc,  Bordeaux,  France:  14%;  $45   [ cork;  CS 50%,  Me 44,  CF 4,  PV 2;  yield usually below 50 hl/ha,  up to 16 months in French oak,  typically 33% new;  from Saint-Sauveur 7 km W of Pauillac;  formerly same ownership as Pichon-Lalande,  then Roederer Group,  now Hong Kong.  Cru Bourgeois du Medoc ranking 2010;  JR  4/11:  17 (also another bottle 16)  Dark crimson. Scented with just the slightest hint of green. Sweet start and very luscious. Dramatic and crowd-pleasing with real potential for development. Neat finish. Shiny and should be VGV.  2016 to 2024;  RP 89:  Recently sold to a Chinese entrepreneur, in 2010 this estate produced a blend of 52% Cabernet Sauvignon and 48% Merlot. The wine is deep and clearly a sleeper of the vintage, with loads of fruit, glycerin and extract. Its excellent purity and loads of spice box as well as red and black currants make for a delicious, impressively endowed wine to drink over the next 10-12 years;  WS 89 - 92:  Racy and bright, with kirsch, floral and chalk notes. The finish has good nervosité and tension. Tightly wound now, but the length is there;  website non-functional;  Availability:  750s out,  2010 375s $23 and 1500s $90;  www.chateau-bernadotte.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  midway in depth,  attractive.  Bouquet initially seems modern,  a suggestion of charry new oak the first impression,  on indeterminate berry.  In mouth things change,  there is good berry,  but like the Beaumont some suggestions of older and coarser cooperage and leather creep into the flavour.  It therefore becomes a more representative Medoc than an exemplary one.  It should cellar well and soften over 5 – 15 years.  GK 03/13

2010  Ch Marjosse   17  ()
Entre Deux Mers,  Bordeaux,  France:  14.5%;  $25   [ cork;  Me 60%,  CS 20,  CF 10,  Ma 10;  owned by Pierre Lurton from Cheval Blanc;  JR 4/11  16:  Blackish purple. Scent of thick, sweet tea. Very much more ambitious than any AC Bordeaux I have tasted so far [ the 2010s ] with, almost, an overripe note. Thick and sweet. This should be very rewarding for those who seek an example of the modern right-bank style without, one hopes, the price tag;  2014 – 2018;  RP 85:  … this Bordeaux from humble origins displays sweet red and black currant fruits, some dusty, earthy notes, good freshness, acidity and a medium-bodied, satisfying, consumer-friendly appeal. As the French call such wines, it is a vin gourmand, meaning for uncritical drinking.  In an earlier review,  Parker notes:  Drink it during its first 2-3 years of life as this cuvee rarely ages.  WS 87:  Shows good flesh, with dark cherry and roasted plum notes, laced with a tobacco edge that takes over on the finish. Drink now. 16,665 cases made;  ST 88:  (78% Me 11% each CS and CF) Deep ruby. Fruit-driven aromas of blackcurrant, smoky plum and dried herbs. Juicy, spicy and firm, but with good fleshiness to the black fruit flavors complicated by floral, herbal and tobacco notes. The persistent finish features good grip and flavor authority and remarkably silky tannins. The best Marjosse ever;  website non-functional;  Availability:  out;  www.chateau-marjosse.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  older than most,  midway in depth.  On bouquet this is classic Entre-Deux-Mers,  beautifully ripe,  broadly plummy on the higher merlot,  a little leathery on the mostly older cooperage,  evocative as one kind of minor Bordeaux.  Palate is almost unnaturally rich,  and ripe and markedly soft and accessible,  yet with a hint of stalk firming it in a positive way,  so there is quite a tannic backbone.  Given both Wine Spectator's and Parker's bizarre consumerist remarks typical of so many American winewriters,  that Marjosse needs to be drunk either now or within 2 – 3 years,  what can one do but open a bottle of the 2000 to check the validity of such statements.  Their views prove to be simply nonsense,  if one has any liking at all for mature wines.  The 2000 is a little bretty,  yes,  and maybe drying to the finish,  but there is good colour and aroma,  fair fruit and structure,  and brett aside,  more finesse than the riper 2010.  Is temperature-controlled shipping to the US unknown ?  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  VALUE  GK 03/13

2010  Domaine du Bouscat Caduce   16 ½ +  ()
Near Fronsac,  Bordeaux,  France:  14.5%;  $20   [ cork;  Me 70%,  CS 20,  CF 5,  Ma 5,  average age 37 years planted at an average of 5,000 vines / ha;  Bordeaux Superieur from 10 km WNW of Fronsac;  cuvaison c.25 days,  elevation in puncheons and larger,  unknown (small) percentage new.  Caduce is the entry level wine and largest cuvée of three qualities from Bouscat.  Claude Gros consults;  RP 88:  … bottled unfined and unfiltered. Now get this – it finished at 15% natural alcohol, so you’re dealing with a very ripe style, even though this vintage is renowned for its relatively high alcohols. But the pHs, or strength of the acidities, of these wines are relatively impressive, giving them a freshness that belies their alcoholic clout. The Caduce displays breathtaking blue and black fruits, some sweet licorice and charcoal notes, a dense ruby/purple color, medium to full body, beautiful purity and a silky texture. Drink it over the next 3-4 years;  WS 88:  a dusting of cocoa slowly melds into the core of plum and blackberry fruit, while singed mesquite and espresso notes emerge more on the finish. Solid grip runs throughout. Now – 2017;  best info located at website given;  Availability:  good;  www.thewinecellarinsider.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  one of the densest.  Bouquet is rich but old-fashioned,  plenty of berryfruit richness but no new oak,  so the nett impression is soft and a bit leathery,  in the style of one of the more quantitative districts (Bourg,  Blaye,  Entre-Deux-Mers).  In mouth the fruit richness is exemplary,  such a contrast with the Te Mata Awatea.  It becomes so hard to work out which attributes are preferable,  richness of fruit all slightly old-fashioned,  versus a lack of real berry in new oak with immaculate elevation.  Cellar 3 – 12 years.  GK 03/13

2010  Ch Saint-Marie Reserve   16 ½ +  ()
Entre Deux Mers,  Bordeaux,  France:  13%;  $20   [ cork;  Me 63%,  CS 37;  Bordeaux Superieur in central Entre Deux Mers;  cuvaison up to 35 days,  12 months in French oak;  Denis Dubourdieu consults;  RP 87:  This soft, consumer friendly, up-front and endearing Bordeaux is a … healthy dark ruby and the wine ideal for drinking over the next several years;  Availability:  good ]
Ruby and velvet,  older than some,  above midway in depth.  Bouquet shows quite noticeable  cassis / cabernet sauvignon for an Entre-Deux-Mers wine,  good berry and ripeness,  and some new oak.  Initially opened,  in flavour the wine has rather biting tannins,  so at this stage it seems astringent.  Well worth cellaring at the price,  where it should soften over 5 years,  and cellar 5 – 12 years.  If you have to drink it now,  decant it splashily half a dozen times.  That is not a euphemism for the wine being reductive,  but simply an opportunity to try to soften the tannins with some oxygen.  It is surprisingly clean and rich at the price.  GK 03/13

2010  Te Mata [ Cabernets / Merlot ] Awatea   16 ½  ()
Havelock North district mostly,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $36   [ cork;  CS 42%,  Me 40%,  CF 12,  PV 6,  hand-harvested;  c. 18 months in French oak 40% new;  Availability:  limited,  moving to 2011;  www.temata.co.nz ]
Ruby,  the second to lightest wine.  Bouquet is oaky in a style inclining to Rioja,  vanilla pod,  a hint of orange zest,  and red fruits.  Could there be some American oak ?  In mouth the wine (apart from being a bit acid) is technically perfect,  but red fruits outweigh black,  and it lacks actual berry weight and flavour.  There simply are not enough ripe grapes here for the impact of the oak,  so it seems more an elegant facsimile rather than the real thing,  no matter how beautifully made.  Perhaps an increasing percentage of the climatically less-appropriate Woodthorpe fruit (from the Dartmoor Valley) is being used in this wine.  A much lower cropping rate and better ripeness are needed here,  but unlike Craggy Range (where the cropping rate for Te Kahu is known to be exactly comparable with good minor chateaux),  Te Mata is secretive about this component of their practice,  as for other detail.  I am not alone in doubting some examples of the Te Mata reds,  which ride on the reputation of occasional very good years:  Jancis Robinson comments on the Awatea from the (in general) even richer 2009 vintage as:  "Lighter than the average red bordeaux nowadays – more like a red bordeaux from the 1970s!".  

When one looks at other New Zealand reviews of this exact wine,  they describe a quite different liquid from that in my bottle / glass.  Comments like:  'deeply coloured',  'dark red berry fruits',  'plum and blackberry flavours',  'loads of plummy, spicy flavour',  'the palate showing lovely weight ',  'top value' … and,  needless to say,  gold medal ratings.  How do we explain this ?  In the simplest terms one or two wineries in New Zealand have so succeeded in mesmerising New Zealand and Australian winewriters (and sometimes further afield) that factual evaluation of the actual wine in the bottle is scarcely ever seen.  Instead the label,  the PR materials,  the reputation (based on best vintages only) and pronouncements are (in effect) reviewed.  This is exacerbated by Te Mata being masters in presenting every vintage as the best in some way or another.  All this is infinitely sad,  for winewriters should be serving their readers with accurate first-hand tasting advice based on the specific vintage in hand.  Blind tasting,  with foil wines included,  is needed to achieve that.  So,  2010 Awatea is an interesting but expensive wine,  in my estimation,  which will cellar 5 – 12 years in its lightish fragrant style.  GK 03/13

2010  Ch du Bois Chantant Cuvee Lawrence H   16 ½  ()
Saint Emilion satellite districts,  Bordeaux,  France:  14%;  $17   [ cork;  Me 90,  CS 10;  Bordeaux Superieur;  Availability:  low ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  dense.  This wine needs a good splashy decanting,  to reveal a darkly plummy core of dense merlot fruit.  In mouth the concentration of soft rich berries in this bottle is colossal,  it is not over-oaked,  and the whole thing (once aired) is soft and velvety.  If Awatea had this many grapes per bottle,  with Te Mata's elevation such a wine would be really something.  NB:  unless very well aired,  this wine will seem plain.  Hard to score therefore.  Cellar 3 – 12 years.  VALUE  GK 03/13

2010  Ch Tour St Bonnet   16 ½  ()
Medoc,  Bordeaux,  France:  14%;  $27   [ cork;  Me 45,  CS 45,  Ma 5,  PV 5;  average vine age 35 years planted @ 9000 / ha,  cropped @ 40 – 50 hl/ha;  cru bourgeois of Medoc;  up to 3 weeks cuvaison;  18 months in oak (more large vats than barrels I suspect);  JR  4/11:  16  Solid, well balanced, just very slightly tart but lots to get your teeth into here. Quite suave even if a bit lacking in charisma. Lots of mineral character.  JH @ JR 10/12  14.5:  Ripe and plummy. A bit flat on the palate. Slightly bitter aftertaste and dry.  2014 – 20;  RP 90:  A beautiful sleeper of the vintage, this is possibly the best wine I've ever tasted from this over-achieving estate near St.-Christoly-de-Medoc. … about $15 a bottle, making it an absolutely staggering value in the worldwide marketplace. The 2010 exhibits classic cedar wood, tobacco leaf, creme de cassis, licorice and some balsam wood notes in a strong, medium to full-bodied, layered style with good opulence, purity and overall harmony. A real beauty, it should be drunk over the next 4-5 years;  Availability:  good;  http://tour.saint.bonnet.uk.free.fr ]
Ruby,  a flush of velvet,  older than some.  Bouquet is a little unusual,  clean with a slightly perfumed edge to it,  the cassis component showing well.  Oak is clean and subtle on bouquet.  In mouth however it is like the Beaumont,  some old cooperage showing up leading to old-fashioned leathery notes,  and the wine is leaner.  It is still pretty good alongside many simpler New Zealand bordeaux blends,  where a reluctance to crop at AOC rates is still evident.  A pleasant example of a minor Medoc,  maybe trace brett here too,  worth cellaring 5 – 12 years.  GK 03/13

2010  Ch Tertre de Courban   15 ½ +  ()
Entre Deux Mers,  Bordeaux,  France:  23%;  $17   [ plastic sleeve / foam 'cork';  Me 70,  CS & CF  30;  same owners as Ch La Galante;  Bordeaux Superieur;  Availability:  low;  www.la-galante.fr ]
Ruby,  the lightest wine.  Bouquet is fragrant,  more red currants than black,  with clean new oak.  Palate is more apparent than real,  a lack of actual fruit,  less even than Awatea,  but there are pleasant oak-influenced red berry flavours.  At the price,  oak via chips is likely.  It smells and tastes youthful now,  it is pure,  but there isn't much substance to cellar for too many years.  At the price,  could be cellared 2 – 6 years or so.  GK 03/13

2010  Ch Charron   15 +  ()
Blaye,  Bordeaux,  France:  13.5%;  $17   [ cork;  Me 90,  CS 10;  Cotes de Bordeaux;  Availability:  low ]
Ruby and velvet,  in the middle for depth.  There is quite a jump at this point,  to a plainer style of wine.  This one shows a very familiar minor Bordeaux smell,  particularly from the 1970s.  The wine is quite rich,  but smells as much of well-worn leather as browning plums,  all in old cooperage.  As with some others,  in mouth the leathery qualities become a bit bretty / animal,  but the fruit richness and softness will be food-friendly.  Cellar 3 – 10 years,  in its style.  GK 03/13

2010  Ch Croix Figeac   15  ()
Saint Emilion GCC,  Bordeaux,  France:  14.5%;  $40   [ cork;  Me 78,  CF 22;  half-bottle reviewed,  available also in magnums but not 750s;  not related to Ch Figeac;  Stephane Derenoncourt consults;  vines average about 35-40 years of age;  WS 90 – 93:  Dark and winey, with lots of crushed plum, braised fig and cassis notes pumping along. There's a nice graphite spine and solid drive on the black tea-tinged finish;  Availability:  750s out,  2010 375s $20 and 1500s $80. ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  well above midway.  Even though there is rich fruit in this wine,  the bouquet is marred by reduction,  which is more persistent than one would wish.  In other words,  decanting the wine splashily a few times doesn't much change it.  In mouth the concentration of velvety fruit is if anything richer than the Bois Chantant,  but the sulphides introduce a bitter note to the tail.  Pity,  again one views the northern hemisphere comments with dismay,  noting they illustrate the perils of publishing barrel sample reviews.  Scarcely worth cellaring 5 – 15 years ... yet ... could possibly surprise.  If cellared,  decant many times very splashily.  GK 03/13

2010  Ch Peychaud   14 ½  ()
Cotes de Bourg,  Bordeaux,  France:  13.5%;  $17   [ cork;  Me 75,  Ma 15,  CS 5,  CF 5,  up to 6 weeks cuvaison followed by elevation mainly in s/s for up to 9 months;  website non-functional;  Availability:  good;  www.chateau-peychaud.com ]
Ruby,  some velvet,  below midway.  This is another old-style wine,  fair berry and plum,  old oak yet with hints of new (chips ?).  Fruit weight is medium in mouth,  the oak mostly seems older with hints of animal and brett,  the wine all a little acid.  The nett result is tolerable old-fashioned very plain minor bordeaux,  to cellar 3 – 8 years,  at the price.  GK 03/13

2010  Ch Puygueraud   14 +  ()
Cotes de Francs,  Bordeaux,  France:  14.5%;  $30   [ cork;  Me 70%,  CF 25,  Ma 5;  average age 30 years,  4500 vines / ha;  12 –16 months in French oak 40% new;  located east flank of the St Emilion satellite districts;  Stephane Derenoncourt consults;  JR 4/11,  16:  Polished and lively. Well done. Dry  finish but appetising.  2015 – 20;  (Another bottle) 15.5:  Dark crimson. Easy, well balanced but not very ambitious. Nice, medium-everything wine;  RP 87:  This wine hit 14.5% natural alcohol in 2010, which I think is an all-time high. This attractive wine is surprisingly elegant, lush and fruit forward, as one might expect from this unheralded appellation. Deep ruby/purple, with plenty of fruit, the team of Nicolas Thienpont and Stephane Derenoncourt have done a super job with this inexpensive wine;  WS 89:  This has a solid frame, with graphite and roasted cedar holding the core of steeped plum and currant fruit together. A loam hint chimes in on the medium-weight finish. Now – 2015;  Availability:  good;  www.nicolas-thienpont.com/puygueraud/puygueraud.htm ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  the second deepest.  I had such high hopes to acquire this wine,  since the cepage is one followed by several winemakers in the Auckland district.  It would be good therefore to have a good Bordeaux analogue in the same price range.  However,  one sniff and it is rich and dark in the modern way,  but heavily reductive.  How can all these northern hemisphere commentators not see this ?  I guess the answer is:  they eschew (or are incapable of) technical evaluation.  Rabbiting on about graphite is all very well,  but the factual approach is better,  I believe.  Fruit in mouth is wonderful,  the modern American-influenced approach to wine,  but the reduction introduces a persistent bitter note,  which I doubt the wine will ever surmount.  Heavy clumsy stuff if you are sensitive to sulphide,  not worth cellaring.  GK 03/13

2010  Ch Patris   13  ()
St Emilion Grand Cru,  Bordeaux,  France:  14%;  $34   [ cork;  Me 80%,  CS 10  CF 10,  planted at 5400 vines / ha,  hand-harvested;  average vine age 45 years;  unknown months in French oak up to 60% new;  JR 4/11:  15.5  Lighter crimson than most. Very light nose. Juicy fruit but a little bit of greenness and drying tannins on the finish. 2016 – 24;  RP 88:  95% Me and the rest CS is soft, attractive, plump and seductive, with loads of incense, licorice, black currants and jammy cherry-like notes. Some roasted herbs, mocha and spice box are also present in this wine. WS 89:  More forward than most of the pack, with plum and blueberry fruit, a good stitching of tobacco leaf and an integrated roasted vanilla bean note through the finish. Not as grippy as when tasted from barrel, this seems quite approachable already. Now – 2019;  Availability:  good;  www.chateau-patris.com ]
Ruby,  some velvet,  just above the middle for weight.  This was the real dud in the tasting,  the wine immediately showing VA and brett on bouquet in the tasting,  and oxidised and skunky flavours on the palate.  The ratio of oak to fruit is good,  the oxidised suggestion makes one wonder if the cork might be defective in this particular bottle,  but the grubby qualities of the wine suggest otherwise.  Not worth cellaring.  GK 03/13