French wine

Disappointing 2008 Bouchard Père et Fils Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Les Beaux Monts

Drunk November 2017 @ home


I'm a big fan of Burgundy wine, but not such a fan of the crazy prices for top Appellations these days. Vosne-Romanée (Côte de Nuits , Cote d'Or) wines are a particular favourite and an opportunity to buy a Premier Cru from the Les Beaux Monts vineyard from Bouchard Père et Fils in Beaune a few years back on a wine tasting visit to the region was welcome. 

So I finally opened the 2008 vintage bottle a couple of days ago. First impressions were disappointing as the nose was very limited. More like a villages than a Premier Cru. The wine itself was heavy in acidity and a little tannic despite 9 years of ageing. Complexity was lacking. Gutted as was over 70 euros. I see the wine is now on sale for well over 100 euros. 

2008 was a tough year in Burgundy for winemakers. Fortunately, 2009 and 2010 were much, much kinder. The vintage is so important in Burgundy, compared with more stable climatic regions like California.

Vosne-Romanée map

2008 Burgundy Vintage Report

Little sunshine March/April sunshine and rainfall double the norm and more rain and a cool June saw protracted flowering with plenty of mildew around. July was sunnier but cool, dull weather returned mid-August and ripening was slow and erratic, grey rot creating further problems. A bright, sunny dawn on 14 September, with drying north-easterly winds, began concentrating grapes and clearing infection: sunshine persisted, and picking got fully underway under ideal conditions in the latter part of September.

Despite mildew, rot, and inconsistent ripening, 2008’s cool weather and late drying sunshine created a good balance of bright acidity and ripeness. Hallmarks are dark red colour, great purity of fruit, and a serious rather than showy character. The wines don’t have great depth but the best have purity and focus.

Château Haut-Marbuzet 2010, Saint-Estèphe, Bordeaux

Drunk@home December 2015

The winery

Château Haut-Marbuzet is a Bordeaux wine estate in the Saint-Estèphe appellation area of the Haut-Médoc. 

It was founded in the 18th century, taking its name from Marbuzet, the area where the property resides and  established by Alexander de Segur, who owned several Bordeaux wine properties including another, much better known St. Estephe vineyard, Calon Segur. At his death, the land was divided and sold and in 1825, the land was purchased by the MacCarthy family, who officially established the modern estate as it is known today.

In 1952 after Hervé Duboscq acquired Château Haut-Marbuzet, the focus and reputation of quality increased and his son Henri is now the current owner of the estate.  The Duboscq family also owns two other Bordeaux estates in the St. Estephe, appellation, Chateau Chambert Marbuzet and Tour de Marbuzet.

Initially listed among the Cru Bourgeois in 1932, and later promoted to Grand Bourgeois Exceptionnel in 1978, the estate was classified as one of 9 Crus Bourgeois Exceptionnels in the 2003 official listing.  

Located between châteaux Cos d'Estournel and Montrose, the vineyard covers 65 hectares and is planted with 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, and 10% Cabernet Franc. Overlooking the Gironde estuary, it is mainly located on the gravel ridge of Marbuzet and the plateau of Long Treytin with gravel, clay and limestone soils. On average, the vines are close to 30 years of age. 

On average, the estate produces about 30,000 cases of Haut Marbuzet per year. There is a second wine, MacCarthy. A second wine is produced from the vines under 12 years old, under the label Château MacCarthy, which bears the name of the Irish Jacobite family who created the vineyard.

The wine

This 2010 Château Haut-Marbuzet had a powerful blackcurrant nose which continued on the palate with a fruity dark fruit style. Quite high acidity and not the smoothest of finishes meant that a 35 euro price seems excessive. Despite this being a top vintage, pleasant enough but not outstanding. 

Louis Latour Gevrey-Chambertin 2010, Burgundy, France

Drunk October 2015 @ home

The wine

Gevrey-Chambertin is located around 10km from Dijon and is one of the most famous villages of the Côte de Nuits. In 1847 Gevrey-Chambertin was the first village of the Côte d'Or to join the village name with that of one of its Grand Crus - hence ‘Gevrey-en-Montagne' became ‘Gevrey-Chambertin. Planted only with Pinot Noir, here one finds the complete hierarchy of the Burgundian appellations: to the north, the premiers crus and to the south the grand crus. The village appellations are gathered on the bottom of the slope. The sparse and pebbly limestone-rich brown-red soils give Gevrey-Chambertin wines power and body. 

Average vine age 30 years with the soil composed of chalk and limestone, with an average yield 40 hl / ha and a hand picked harvest. The wine was aged 10 to 12 months in oak barrels, 20% new barrels.

Fermented Grape tasting notes

This Louis Latour Gevrey-Chambertin 2010 was from a good vintage in the Côte de Nuits. The nose was powerful with cherry and raspberry. It was smooth on the palate with just the right level of acidity balanced by some nice fruit notes including strawberry, cherry with hints of vanilla and dark chocolate. For a villages wine this was very enjoyable, helped by the good weather conditions in Burgundy in 2010.

Baron Edmond De Rothschild Chateau Clarke Listrac-Medoc 2009, Bordeaux, France

Drunk @ home October 2015

The winery

The origins of the Château Clarke estate date back to the 12th century when the Cistercian monks of the Vertheuil Abbey first planted vines. In 1818  the knight Tobie Clarke purchased the land that would permanently bear his name. The Château is rare since it is known for the quality of its great red wine but also for its white wine and whose production began around 1890 under the name "Merle Blanc Château Clarke" 

After being repeatedly handed down and finally sold, the property was bought in 1973 by the Baron Edmond de Rothschild. 

He decided to redraw the vineyard: existing vines are uprooted and replanted in full. Started in 1974, the process ended in 1979, with the first vintage of Château Clarke being bottled in 1978.

In 1998, Benjamin de Rothschild took over the running of the Château together with the ooenologist Michel Rolland.

The estate of Château Clarke is in the south of the Médoc on the Listrac-Médoc, in the centre of the limestone plateau and West of the Gironde estuary. The area has limestone clay soil providing outstanding resistance to drought and the proximity of the Atlantic Ocean provides maritime influences typical of the Bordeaux region.  The soil is particularly suitable for the cultivation of Merlot in a region where traditionally the Cabernet Sauvignon is dominant. 

The vast majority of land is dedicated to the cultivation of red grapes on 55 hectares and Merlot represents 70% of the plantings. This is supplemented by Cabernet Sauvignon. Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Muscadelle, which make up the assemblage of Merle Blanc, are grown on just 3 hectares, for a limited production.

The wine

  • Hand picking, hand selection of the grapes (before and after destemming)
  • Merlot : 6th to 16th of October 2009
  • Cabernet Sauvignon : 20th to 23rd of October 2009
  • Vating by gravity, cold maceration, vinification in wooden vat and stainless steel tanks. Pumping over and pigeage. Automatic thermoregulation system. Micro oxygenation in tank. Malo-lactic fermentation in new french oak barrels.
  • Ageing 70% in new barrels, rest in second fill barrels. Duration : 16 months
  • 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon. Alcohol 13.5 %

Fermented Grape tasting notes

2009 was a very good year in Bordeaux (together with 2010) with very expressive, fruity wines and this Château Clarke 2009 is no exception. A powerful silky wine with strong blackcurrant and black cherry on the nose and palate with herby notes in evidence and a long satisfying finish. This was easy drinking wine with tannins and acidity nicely in balance with the fruit. Very enjoyable, though on the expensive side (£30). 

Château Lucas Lussac Saint-Emilion 2010, Bordeaux, France

Drunk September 2015 @ home

The winery

Château Lucas is located in  Lussac Saint Emilion in Gironde fifty kilometers northeast of Bordeaux and has been run and owned by Frédéric Vauthier, for the last 20 years.  The AOC "Lussac Saint-Émilion" is close to the town of Lussac.

The estate is named after the place called "Lucas" with links to the English presence in the region, between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries following the marriage (in 1152) of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry Plantagenet King of England from 1154.

Lucas Castle was owned by the same family who owned the Abbey of Faize in recognition of loyal service to the king and ownership ceded to an ancestor of Vauthier in the late sixteenth century.

The estate is around 20 hectares, and the average age of vines is 35 years. Soils are clay loam and limestone, with rock outcropping averaging 40 cm. The blue clay is Montmorillonite and is the characteristic terroir of Saint-Emilion.

The wine

  • Area: 8-10 hectares, Annual production: 40 000 to 70 000 bottles
  • Soil: clay loam calcareous
  • Average age of vines: 25 years
  • Crop mode: reasoned fight without insecticides or weedkiller
  • Grape harvest machine and manual
  • Winemaking: reassembly and shedding at 28-30 ° C / 15-21 days maceration
  • Ageing 80% vats, 20% old barrels
  • Grapes: 50% Merlot - 50% Cabernet Franc

Fermented Grape tasting notes

This was an easy drinking Bordeaux from a good vintage 2010 and for the price very enjoyable at around £11 a bottle. Lacking harsh tannins or excess acidity, the Merlot and Cabernet Franc were expressed as plenty of plum,  and blackcurrant silky tannins with a nice long finish. Of course not the most sophisticated, but I can't see anyone complaining if you served this at a dinner party. It shows even value Bordeaux can be good when the vintage helps the fruit.