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    The Top Ten Best Wines Tasted in 2016, and the Stories Behind the Wines

     

    Glasses TopTen Wines of the Year 300x227 The Top Ten Best Wines Tasted in 2016, and the Stories Behind the Wines

    2016 has been a roller coaster year for life, and with wine. As far as wine goes, The 2016 Top Ten Wines of the Year in many wines is by year of drinking so far. Much of that has to do with my methodology of creating the list of my 2016 Top Ten Best Wines of the Year. Of course the wines are chosen for their quality, style and character. In some cases, scarcity matters as well. However, the common denominator they all share is the unique, memory each wine tasting experience provides. Every wine on my 2016 Top Ten Wines of the Year is my own special time machine. I will always be able to look back and remember the wine and more importantly, the experience and the people I shared that bottle with.

     

    For those of you that read us on a regular basis, I know it looks like we have taken a break, and have not added much new material. But that is not true. While the front page has not seen as much movement as I would have liked, countless new pages have been added to our California wine coverage, with more to follow. The goal is to have over 100 of the best Northern California wineries covered. Cote Rotie and its neighbor to the south, Hermitage have also seen vast amounts of fresh material added. Chateauneuf du Pape offers more coverage on an ever increasing basis for you to read as well.

     

    Plus, as you have noticed, we are a completely new website. Earlier this year, we relaunched the site with a new, responsive design, more powerful, dedicated 4 GB servers and when you peruse any of the pages on wineries and chateaux, they now offer a very cool new feature, a keyword search, which moves you instantly to the section of the page you are most interested in reading. This really rocks for Mobile users. Bordeaux as you would expect has also seen numerous additions to the content provided. We have also added over 1,500 new tasting notes ! By sometime next year, we have close to 15,000 tasting notes on the site! So, as you can see, we have been very busy. 

     

    1795 Madeira 1 275x300 The Top Ten Best Wines Tasted in 2016, and the Stories Behind the Wines

    But 2016 has been much more than working on this website. As you can tell by all the new reviews on the site, I’ve been quite busy tasting a lot of wine. Some of the wines have been stunning. Others have been to put it politely, not worth watering my lawn with. And that says a lot as I live in California, which is rationing water! There has also been a few bottles of wine that deserve a place in my 2016 Top Ten Wines of the Year list.

    It seems like I have a lifetime of memories from just this year, when I look back at my list of The Top Ten Best Wines Tasted in 2016. I hope you have fun reading this list.

    #10 – 1795 Madeira is not your everyday wine. As a wine, it does not rank with any of the best wines I tasted this year, last year, or the year before. But as a glass of liquid contemplation, blended with a history lesson, it remains unequaled. This is 4 centuries old! In 1795, all the Founding Fathers were alive. George Washington was president, John Adams is Vice President and Thomas Jefferson resigned as Secretary of State. France adopts a new Constitution, Napoleon makes himself known, and Madeira had a great vintage. It only takes a glass with a bit of 1795 Madeira to make it all come alive again.

    The dried fruits, brown sugar, piquant orange with bitter chocolate, roasted tangerine, burnt caramel and sharp acidic character neither add, or subtract from the fact that this is oldest wine I have ever tasted. It is more interesting than pleasurable. But it was truly a great experience, regardless.

     

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    # 9 – 1983 Guigal  La Mouline – This wine is so good, words alone do not get the point across. It is not just the off the charts perfume, it is the erotic, sensuous texture, with its plush, silky, velvet drenched, tactile sensations that make this a surreal wine tasting experience. Enjoyed with my tasting group, 7 Blind Men, thank you for the treat! 100 Pts

     

    # 8 – 1966 Laville Haut Brion – White wines do not often make my annual list of the The Top Ten Best Wines tasted. I personally do not own the great white wines, most of which are white Burgundies. So I only get the chance to taste them on an infrequent basis. This bottle was served double blind to my tasting group, 7 Blind Men. I know, it really is a fun group that I am lucky to be a part of. When tasted, there was not one person that called the wine as being over 25 years of age. The wine deserves a spot on my Top Ten Best Wines tasted in 2016 because it was so young, fresh, vibrant, complex and enjoyable at 50 years years of age. 96 Pts

     

    1966 Laville Haut Brion 284x300 The Top Ten Best Wines Tasted in 2016, and the Stories Behind the Wines

    1966 Laville Haut Brion – Deep yellow in color, with a crushed rock, vanilla, marzipan, citrus, butterscotch, popcorn and lemon liqueur nose, it was hard to put the glass down. Rich, almost oily in texture, with ample freshness, the finish did not seem to quit. It remained with you for at least 40 seconds! The wine did not lose its fruit in the glass during the dinner. 97 Pts

     

    # 7 – 1982 Le Pin – Pomerol can often produce some of the greatest wines in all of Bordeaux. It is funny to think about it, but with the exception of Petrus , as recently as 1982, there were no expensive wines from this appellation. Generally speaking, Pomerol wines were thought of as good, by those few people that were aware of their quality, but for most wine lovers, they were not considered to be at the same level as the 1855 Classified Growths. By 1983, things changed. The word was out and prices skyrocketed. Petrus was until the 1982 vintage, priced about the same as any of the First Growths. But after the 1982 vintage, thanks to a little help from Robert Parker, Petrus was no longer affordable for most wine lovers. It took on a new, unique identity and became one of the world’s most, in-demand and sadly, expensive wines. Two other Pomerol estates were also seeking a crown to wear that same year.

     

    By 1982, Le Pin as a winery was only 3 years old and it also sky rocketed in price. Perhaps, 1979, 1980 and 1981 Le Pin had trouble selling. But 1982 Le Pin was a game changer for this little chateau. 1982 Le Pin earns a spot on the list because it really is one of those true unicorn wines you never think you are going to taste, due to its mix of rarity, price and sublime, hedonistic characteristics.

    1982 Le Pin Pomerol 1 300x296 The Top Ten Best Wines Tasted in 2016, and the Stories Behind the Wines

    1982 Le Pin – A wine I never thought I’d be able to taste, (again) and I was certainly glad I did. The nose, with its cherry pipe tobacco, floral, mint, oyster shell, wet earth, cherry and mocha aromatics was an easy hook. But the sexy, silky, exotic textures, purity of fruit, and velvet drenched finish brought it all the way home. Fully mature, if you have extremely wealthy friends with a bottle or two, have them pull a cork, as there is no reason to age this any longer. Thank you Eric Cotsen! 98 Pts

     

     

     

     

     

    #6 – 2000 Lafleur – Was it simply coincidence that Lafleur was next on my list of The Top Ten Best Wines Tasted in 2016? Or, was I just under the spell of all those decadent Pomerol wines I’ve managed to taste this year?

    With the 1982 vintage, Lafleur joined the same rarefied group as Petrus and Le Pin. Chateau Lafleur had a long history of quietly making stunning wine. In fact, JP Moueix remarked that the only wine of Pomerol that was as good as, or even better than Petrus was Lafleur! 

    2000 Chateau Lafleur is still a baby, with a lifetime of promise to look forward to? With that in mind, this was a great pair of wines to remember. But regardless of how I got here, this wine is off the hook! There are no two ways about it. At its best, Lafleur offers a kinky, exotic, hedonistic profile that is unequaled in other wines. 

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    I bought this wine as a future in 2001 for a then whopping $300 per bottle. That was the most money I had ever spent on a wine. Like Paul McCartney sang, “How I long for Yesterday.”

     

    2000 Chateau Lafleur – I’m thinking this is the wine of the vintage, and that says a lot, when you consider how many great wines were born in 2000. But I have had this stunning Right Bank wine more than enough times to feel quite comfortable proclaiming that. The bottom line here is, the wine is opulence on steroids. It has unbelievable levels of concentration. A mouth feel that words cannot do justice to, and a finish that breaks the one minute mark and keeps on going. 100 Pts

     

     

     

    # 5 – 1955 La Mission Haut Brion – There are great wines that you cannot stop talking about. And then, there are those wines that leave you speechless. Served double blind in my tasting group, from the moment I connected with this wine, it was obvious that I was in for a wild ride! Trying to think of the right thing to say about the wine, I was speechless! What makes it even more amazing when you think about older, mature wines is that even with little of the know-how growers and wine makers have today, with little selection, the best terroir, in the right hands was able to turn out wines of this quality. I have never done a year by year comparison between Chateau Haut Brion and Chateau La Mission Haut Brion over a long period of time. If I did, I am convinced that La Mission Haut Brion is the equal of Haut Brion in most vintages and there are several years when La Mission Haut Brion produced an even better wine. 1955 is one of those years.

     

    1955 La Mission Haut Brion Wine 300x273 The Top Ten Best Wines Tasted in 2016, and the Stories Behind the Wines

     

    1955 La Mission Haut Brion – An easy candidate for wine of the year. This is everything you dream about in a great wine, with room to spare. Once past the smoky, cigar store aromatics, the richness of the fruit, matched with its length and purity are really the stuff dreams are made of. Ridiculously expensive, but if you just won the lottery, or have wealthy friends, this bottle should be on your wishlist! 100 Pts

     

     

     

     

    #4 – 2009 Ducru Beaucaillou – To make my list of The Top Ten Best Wines Tasted in 2016, the wine had to be stunning, but it also needed a story, a special memento of the event that shares equal billing in my memory. This bottle of Ducru Beaucaillou did exactly that.

    For those of you that have had the pleasure of spending time with Bruno Borie, the proprietor of Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou in St. Julien , I am sure you know, he is fun, interesting and engaging, as well as a generous host. 

    We have been talking about cooking together for years, as we both share that passion. While we have not yet managed to share kitchen duties, I was able to enjoy a lunch prepared by Bruno Borie. As you can see, he really does work in his kitchen!

    Bruno Borie Ducru Beaucaillou Cooks 296x300 The Top Ten Best Wines Tasted in 2016, and the Stories Behind the Wines

    2009 Ducru Beaucaillou – There is so much ink in the color, it looks like a barrel sample. The wine perfectly combines power, elegance, flesh and opulence, with the breeding of a First Growth . This is breathtaking, even at this early stage of development. If you have a case, and you want a glimpse, pop a bottle. Else, give it until the wine is between 15-20 years of age. This is a future legend in the making! 99 Pts

     

     

     

    # 3 – 1934 Cheval  Blanc – OK, this choice might be a little sappy. But that’s OK, it’s my list of The Top Ten Best Wines Tasted in 2016, right? As you can now probably guess, the #4 wine of the year earned its place on my list this year for combining memories with a great wine.

    Pierre Lurton of Chateau Cheval Blanc and Chateau d’Yquem was coming to Los Angeles and we managed to schedule a friendly dinner. Friends asked what wines they should bring? Aside from the obvious, “Bring something good,” the only other instructions were, no vintages of Chateau Cheval Blanc please. One would assume Pierre Lurton drinks more than his share of Cheval Blanc already. Right?

    1934 Cheval Blanc 278x300 The Top Ten Best Wines Tasted in 2016, and the Stories Behind the Wines

    One friend sent me a picture of an old Cheval Blanc bottle, asking if that would be a nice wine for the night. I was busy cooking and did not even bother looking at the vintage, just the logo and asked him to please bring another bottle, as it would be more fun for Pierre Lurton to taste something other than Cheval Blanc. Good thing my friends do not always listen to me. He brought the bottle anyway.

    It is good thing that he did. As my father, Don Leve was with us at my home for dinner that night, the vintage on this older Cheval Blanc turned out to be 1934, his birth year! Of course I could not thank my friend enough. My dad has tasted more 1934 Bordeaux than most people on the planet. I am happy to say, now he has tasted 1934 Cheval Blanc as well.

    1934 Cheval Blanc – The color of rose hip tea, the wine is sublime for 82 years of age. Elegant, soft and fragrant, the red berry fruits alternate from sweet to tart, while the silky, soft textures really grab your focus. 94 Pts

     

     

    # 2 1959 Heitz  Cabernet Sauvignon – I do not drink enough Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. When I set my goals for 2017, perhaps that should be on the top of my list. For all those naysayers claiming that Caifornia Cabernet Sauvignon does not age, or evolve, this almost 60 year old bottle of wine disproves that theory! Joseph Heitz is one of the true pioneers of the rebirth of Napa Valley. I recently put together an extensive History of Napa Valley and California Wines and Joe Heitz is one of the most prominent people in the 20th century. Heitz was one of the earliest produces to plant and make wine from Cabernet Sauvignon. 

    Heitz Cabernet 1959 300x200 The Top Ten Best Wines Tasted in 2016, and the Stories Behind the Wines

    Tasted double blind, I was just this bottle was about 20 years younger than its true age. This is the first vintage of Heitz. As you can see from the image, they did not even have labels for their wine yet. Just a simple, typed sticker. The grapes did not come from his own vineyard. This was far too early for that To make his debut vintage, Joseph Heitz purchased grapes from another grower.

    I know I will never see another bottle of this stunner. And that’s OK, as I will retain the memory and the empty bottle for years.

    1959 Heitz Cabernet Sauvignon – Stunning in every sense of the word, especially when the wine was revealed, as it was served double blind. I was sure it was a strong, fully mature Pauillac . Full bodied, with a good concentration of fruit, cedar wood, cigar box, cassis and wet earth, this can easily go another decade or longer. What a treat Steve Matthesen!

     

    1900 Lafite Rothschild 2 The Top Ten Best Wines Tasted in 2016, and the Stories Behind the Wines

     

     

    # 1 – 1900 Lafite Rothschild – We had to arrive at the number one wine on my list of The Top Ten Best Wines Tasted in 2016 sooner or later. Well, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, we are here. The wine was not picked because it was the best wine of the year. Far from it. But it was certainly a bottle I would never have guessed I’d ever see, let alone taste. Achim Becker, who has a great website, although it is mostly in German, Wine Terminator, is one of those true wine lovers, with a passion for older wine. His tasting group, which I am proud to have come up with their name, “The Cellar Devils of Dusseldorf” are absolutely nuts, in all the right ways! I am more than happy that the hotel I stay in is within walking distance of where we eat. So, it is difficult for me to get lost, even after one of their debauched, Bacchanalian evenings. Trust me, in ancient Rome, The Cellar Devils of Dusseldorf would have dined with Caligula, often! Listen up you guys, I am already in training for my visit next year.

    1900 Lafite Rothschild – Served double blind, in my wildest dreams I never though the wine was this old. My guess placed it in the 1940’s. The nose showed off with the array of scents ranging from truffle, autumn leafs, forest floor, 5 spice, cigar box, lead pencil and cedar chest. A whisper of fruit popped in, but the secondary aromatics were all mattered here. Elegant, light on its feet and still offering spicy cassis flavors in the mouth, the silky tannins, freshness and extreme patina of age got even better in the glass! What a great experience! This is a wine I am not going to forget tasting. Speechless is all I can say. 94 Pts

    Well, that’s it for my Top Ten Best Wines Tasted in 2016. There is one commonality that all these wines share, they were all enjoyed with good friends. Because that is what we buy cellar and open our bottles for. 2016 was an amazing year of wine, friends and family. 2017 is rapidly approaching. Looking over this list, it is going to be hard to top it. But who knows? I might get lucky.


    Read more at:http://www.thewinecellarinsider.com/2016/12/top-ten-best-wines-tasted-2016/

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    The Top 2014 wines from the Bordeaux Left Bank

    2014 Mouton Rothschild - Deep in color with a complex nose of graphite, plum, blackberry and tobacco, this wine is sure to lure you back for yet another sniff. before you get to the first sip. It is full-bodied, silky, fresh and packed with sweet cassis, caressing your palate with a rich velour, leaving a lasting impression of espresso, cocoa and black raspberries. This wine has less concentration than 2009 and 2010 vintages, yet it still leaves you with sweetness, vibrancy and length. Using 81% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot and 3% Cabernet Franc, the wine reached 13.1% alcohol with a pH of 3.78. 95-97 Pts

     

    2014 Cos d'Estournel - Intense in color with a showy nose and the already present tones of tobacco leaves, anise, earth and vine-ripened berries, this wine is luxurious on the palate, plump and concentrated with roasted espresso bean, cocoa, warm berries, spice and freshness to the ripe fruits in the finish. Produced from a blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon,33% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Franc, the wine reached 14.2% alcohol with a pH of 3.77. The wine is aging in 80% new, French oak barrels. After a rocky start with the difficult 2013 vintage, Aymeric de Gironde has clearly stepped up his game! 95-96 Pts

     

    2014 Latour - Fleshy, ripe, concentrated and long, with refined tannins, lush textures, depth and layers of sweet, ripe, dense, juicy berries, the wine promises and delivers purity, length, richness and a serious, age worthy, vibrant character. If I can afford it when it comes up for sale, I’d buy it! Using 89.9% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9.2% Merlot, 0.6 Cabernet Franc and .03 Petit Verdot that reached 12.89% alcohol, the Grand Vin represented 33.9% of the production. 95-97 Pts

     

    2014 Margaux - A valentine of dark chocolate and roses melded with the aromatics of licorice, blackberry and cocoa create a complex perfume. The wine is elegant with a refined character, supple tannins and a burst of fresh cassis, cherry and cocoa that builds on the palate. The most striking quality to this wine is the clarity of fruit in the finish. While this vintage lacks the weight and density found in vintages like 2009 and 2010, the length is quite similar. Produced from a blend of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot, the wine reached 13.2% alcohol with a pH of 3.68. This represents 36% of the harvest. 95-97 Pts

     

    2014 Haut-Brion- Deep ruby in color, sweet, fresh and concentrated with layers of lushly textured, sweet, red and black fruits, this wine is bolstered with smoke, tobacco and tar. Silky, smooth and concentrated with velvety tannins flowing with pure cassis, the freshness feels good on the palate and will only get better. The wine was made from a blend of 65.5% Merlot, 32.5% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Cabernet Franc. The wine reached 14.25% alcohol with a pH of 3.67. 94-96 Pts

     

    2014 Palmer - Espresso bean, truffle, floral, plum and earthy scents pop quickly as your nose meets the glass. A polished and elegant debutante wrapped in a gown of velvety tannins, this wine is fresh, clean and pure leaving you with a sensuous drape of lingering fruits. This wine is the first fully biodynamic vintage for the chateau. Produced from a blend of 49% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot and 6% Petit Verdot, the reached 13.5 alcohol with a pH of 3.6. It represents 55% of the harvest, which took place between September 22 and October 14. 94-95 Pts

     

    2014 Montrose - Cavernous in color and succulently layered with summer boysenberries, there is a refined freshness and a luxurious, creamy, soft texture to this wine. The wine is powerful, tannic and carries the structure to age. A sweet, fruity finish envelops the senses and lingers nicely on the palate. Representing 47% of the production, the blend is from 61% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Petit Verdot. The wine reached 13.7 alcohol. This is a wine that could turn out better after elevage, so stay tuned. Herve Berland is clearly on top of his game producing sublime wines at both his St. Estephe chateaux today. There is going to be a lot of talk and attention focused on Montrose this year, as the annual Fete de la Fleur takes place at the estate in June. 94-96 Pts

     

    2014 Pichon Baron - Dark in color, with black, blue and cassis fruit complicated by smoke, earth and tobacco in the bouquet. This wine is rich, dense, long, silky and lush. There is a beautiful purity to the layers of ripe, sweet, fresh fruit and plush tannins. The finish builds and expands pleasantly in the mouth. This wine is probably better than the delightful 2003 and not far from the even more better 2005. Crafted from a blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot, the wine reached 13.3% alcohol with a pH of 3.7. The Grand Vin represents 45% of the harvest. 95-96 Pts.

     

    2014 Ducru Beaucaillou- Deep, dark ruby with purple in its hue, this wine is brimming with smoke, espresso, blackberry, black cherry, licorice, earth, a whole spice box of aromatics and that’s just the foreplay. The lush velour textured tannins, layers of dark berry liqueur and the lasting sensation of fresh, perfectly ripened fruit elevates this wine to the next level. This is the best wine of the appellation and once again, one of the top wines in the vintage. Produced from 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot, the wine reached 13.5% alcohol with a pH of 3.81 and is aging in 100% new French oak barrels. 95-96 Pts

     

    2014 Leoville Las Cases - With a deep, garnet hue, this full-bodied, concentrated, powerful wine starts off with cedar, earth and cassis. The firm, polished tannins leave your palate loitering about with spice and blackberry. This powerful, structured, bright, crunchy wine has a classic, fresh style. It’s important to note that its ample tannins and classic demeanor will require over a decade—probably two— before it really begins to drink well. Produced from a blend of 79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Cabernet Franc and 10% Merlot, the wine reached 13.8% alcohol with a pH of 3.49 and is now aging in 85% new French oak barrels. 95-96 Pts

     

    2014 La Mission Haut-Brion - Fleshy, bright, exciting and sweet, this full-bodied, tannic, rich and structured wine delivers a multifaceted finish of cassis, tobacco and dark berry but demands at least a decade to rise to its riches. The wine was made from a blend of 62% Merlot and 38% Cabernet Sauvignon with a pH of 3.67. 94-95 Pts

     

    2014 Smith Haut Lafitte - With a deep color and a spicy-fruit-cigar-box sensation, the black and red fruits really shine through. There is a plush character to the texture with newness and lift, a touch of oak and sweet, ripe, spicy berries in the finish. From a blend of 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 39% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot, the wine reached 13.7% alcohol with a pH of 3.7. 93-94 Pts

     

    2014 Leoville Poyferre - Intense in hue with silky, bright tannins, this wine offers the palate an assortment of plump, ripe, dark-red skinned fruit and a long, lingering finish with distinctive depth, structure, balance and brightness in the end notes. Blending 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot, the wine reached 13.25% alcohol. 93-94 Pts

     

    2014 Pontet Canet - Inky, dark in color with purple accents in its hue, this wine packs a punch with its full-bodied style. Surprisingly elegant for Pontet Canet , this wine is fresh with sweet, ripe fruits accented by chocolate and black cherry tones. The tannins are neat and refined, leaving you with the sensation of licorice, chocolate-infused cassis and black and blue fruits. 93-95 Pts

     

    2014 Pichon Lalande - This is precisely what I’m looking for in a Pichon Lalande, silken and velvety tannins with a concentration and richness of ripe dark berries, chocolate and black cherries. This wine has length, polish, freshness and sensuous textures. A blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc and 6% Petit Verdot, the wine reached 13.2% alcohol, with a pH of 3.7 and was produced with 50% of the harvest. 93-95 Pts

     

    2014 Calon-Segur - Fans of the older, strict-style wine previously produced at this estate might be scratching their heads but I loved it! It is a rich, dense, fat and well-dressed grande dame of a wine with layers of sweet, ripe, juicy black fruits, supple, polished tannins and outstanding concentration. The plum-filled finish is long and clean, fresh, round and sweet. Produced from a blend of 66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot, the wine reached 13.8% alcohol with a pH of 3.70. Laurent Dufau has clearly upped the ante in the competition for the best wine in the appellation and the best is yet to come! 93-95 Pts

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    2011 Bordeaux: A difficult year in more ways than one.  / It’s a reasonable debate as to which got off to a more difficult start, the vintage, or the effort to sell the wines. If you’re a wine maker, you’re probably going with the topsy-turvy 2011 growing season. If you’re a wine merchant offering Bordeaux futures, your vote is cast for the almost non-existent 2011 Bordeaux futures campaign.

     

    2011 Bordeaux is the child of a difficult year. With today’s modern wine making abilities and vineyard management techniques at their disposal, the best producers were able to fashion some nice wines from an atypical year. They were able to turn lemons into lemonade. The merchants trying to sell the wines were not that lucky. The 2011 Bordeaux futures campaign got off to a rocky start and then went downhill. The campaign officially kicked in when Robert Parker posted a tweet that was heard around the world: “Heading Back to Bordeaux next week to taste the 2011. Absolutely no interest in this vintage, if my instincts are correct.”

     

    With fewer than 140 characters, Parker lowered expectations for the wines and the commercial viability for the vintage. Keep in mind that Parker wrote those words without tasting the wines. Once his official report was published, considering the arduous growing season the wine makers experienced, he was reasonably positive. He likened the wines to the underrated 2001 and 2008 vintages. That is a compliment. 2001 continues getting better, especially in the Right Bank. 2008 offered some very nice wines as well.

     

    What went wrong with the campaign?

    Fingers can be pointed in numerous directions, but the bottom line is that most of the wines were priced at more than what the market was willing to pay. They were too expensive. We wrote prices needed to drop by 50% to stimulate demand. We were not the only ones making the call for lowered prices. Journalists and all the top merchants begged for serious price reductions. 2009 was the most expensive vintage in history. People were shocked at the prices. But the wines were stunning! Many properties produced the best wines in their entire history. Yet, 12 months later, prices shot up even higher with the 2010 vintage. That is a lot for consumers to take. It was obvious to most people that prices needed to come down fast. Sadly, not enough chateau owners listened.

     

    The press and the wine buying public screamed for fair prices. While some producers gave serious reductions in their price, that is not the case across the board. On average, 36% of the wines saw reductions of only 10% from 2010. That was not going to get consumers to spend their money in a tight economy. On average, the wines were discounted 15.81% from 2010. Some chateaux understood the market and dropped their prices between 40% and 50%, but not nearly enough.

     

    To paint an accurate picture, it’s good to look at a few of the wineries that offered the biggest discounts:

    Angelus -38%, Ausone -55%, Beausejour Duffau -71%, Brane Cantenac -41%, Cheval Blanc -51%, Clinet -41%, La Conseillante -52%, Cos d’Estournel -45%, Ducru Beaucaillou -50%, L’Eglise Clinet -63%, La Fleur Petrus, -45%, Lafite Rothschild -50%, Latour -45%, Haut Brion -46%, Leoville Las Cases -48%, La Mission Haut Brion- 63%,Pavie -49%, Pavie Macquin -49%, Pichon Lalande -47%, Pontet Canet -31%, Mouton Rothschild -46%, Margaux -42%, Pichon Baron -45%, Troplong Mondot -40% and Vieux Chateau Certan at -45%.

     

    Those are most of the wineries offering the best discounts from the previous vintage. On the other side, here are a few examples of wineries that refused to listen to what the market clearly stated it was willing to pay:

    Beychevelle -16%, Cantemerle -6%, Cantenac Brown -24%, Les Carmes Haut Brion -4%, Dassault -3%, Duhart Milon -9%, Gruard Larose -17%, Hosanna -25%, Magdelaine -16%, Magrez Fombrauge -9%, Monbousquet -3%, Palmer -24%, Petit Village -11%, Providence -16% and Soutard -18%.

    Of course there are numerous other examples of pricing available, but this short list paints an accurate picture of the prices being asked for the vintage. In the end, the market is going to decide on a fair price. Because the market has declared it is unwilling to pay the prices asked, the majority of wines are not selling. These wines will need serious discounts to sell through. In most cases, that is going to happen once the wines are in bottle and available for delivery.

     

    The wines that were discounted to appropriate levels sparked some demand. Chateau Pontet Canet, Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou, Vieux Chateau Certan, Chateau Lynch Bages and Chateau L’Eglise Clinet are some of the wines that managed to sell. In a series of conversations about sales of 2011 Bordeaux wine, the name that popped up again and again as the most successful wine of the campaign was Pontet Canet.  Shaun Bishop of JJ Buckley was the first major American merchant to make that point. “Pontet Canet is riding a huge wave of success in the American market right now. The chateau has done a great job of building their brand in the U.S., and combined with a perfectly scheduled release date in the campaign at very good pricing, it was one of our top sellers. Vieux Chateau Certan from Pomerol was another winery that performed well this year.”

    Browett was equally open as to his best-selling wine, Pontet Canet. Browett said, “It haws the quality of a Super Second and sells for a lot less money.”

     

    Of course there are other properties that experienced limited sales, but across the board, it is hard to call this effort successful. That lack of success will force prices down when the wines are in bottle. John Fox of Premier Cru was able to sell a few wines, most notably Pontet Canet, Vieux Chateaux Certan and Ausone. When asked about the First Growths, “The First Growths did not sell as well as we expected.  Ausone sold through, due to their pricing policy. But across the board, sales of the traditionally solid First Growths were moderate at best.”

    While the First Growths did not sell with some retailers, others experienced at least slightly more demand. Stephan Browett of Farr Vintners sold all the Latour and Lafite he was able to gain allocations of.  When asked what wines did not sell for him, he offered a candid reply. “Cheval Blanc was a complete failure as far as sales in this campaign.  The wines being made at Cheval Blanc are great, but they are pricing the wines at levels our customers will not pay.”

     

    The pace of the campaign was another problem.  There was no rhyme or reason as to the schedule of releases.  Instead of an orderly campaign, some wines were released to fast. On one day dubbed Super Tuesday, 40 different wines were offered for sale. That was far too many wines for the market to absorb. Shaun Bishop of JJ Buckley agreed on the lack of the lack of cohesion: This year, like last year, saw the chateaux and negociants release too many wines at once, which made it difficult for many wineries to get appropriate campaign visibility. We prefer to tell the story behind the wines and offer our personal perspective—it's hard to do that when 20-30 wines are released on one day. The wineries, negociants and retailers all suffer when relases are congested like they have been during the last two years. Many of the Super Seconds of the Medoc suffered from weak sales this vintage. At least some of this can be attributed to the bottle-necked scheduling of offers we saw this year.”

     

    Due to the perceived quality of the wines, and the lack of interest from consumers, 2011 Bordeaux should have been a quick campaign. However, far too many wines took too long to price and consumers lost interest in buying them as a future.

    The common refrain heard in Bordeaux is, the market sets the price.  Stephan Browett of Farr agrees. When asked what pricing was needed for 2011 Bordeaux to reach customer acceptance, he was quick with his response. “As the vintage is comparable with 2008, the wines should have been priced at the level that 2008 is selling for today.”

     

    Other merchants had similar comments on the pricing for 2011. Mark Bedini of Fine and Rare Wines remarked, “We only managed to sell 20% of the amount of wine we sold in 2010. The high prices created a missed opportunity for a useful vintage. As a point of reference, we sold the smallest amount of wine for an En Primeur campaign in the history of the company.”

    It is important to keep in mind that just because most wines are not worth buying as futures does not mean the wines are not worth taking a serious look at once the wines are in bottle.  The 2011 Bordeaux futures campaign offered a few surprises, starting with Chateau Latour's announcement that this would be the last vintage offered as a future. Starting with 2012, Chateau Latour will hold back the wines until the estate declares them ready to drink.

     

    When this was first announced, consumers and merchants question this action. Could this be a harbinger of things to come? How many other chateaux will stop selling their wine as a future?

    Chateau Latour occupies a different position from most Bordeaux chateaux. They have the unique combination of a small production coupled with a big demand for their wine. The sole owner does not need the cash flow. The estate knows where the buyers are. It could easily sell its entire production to consumers and merchants at a price and time of its choosing.


    Most Bordeaux estates do not have that same ability. Since the top 50 properties are flush with cash, they could easily go 3-5 years without selling a bottle. I've had that conversation with numerous owners. Although that move is quite possible, the situation is complicated. To follow in Latour’s big foot prints, the estate would also need an owner with autonomy. Many of the top properties have numerous shareholders. Not everyone is going to agree on that course of action. Other estates might have interests in several properties that do not have the same selling as Latour. Some chateaux are also negociants. If they stopped offering their wine, that could cause an adverse reaction.

     

    The situation at Chateau Latour is unique. What could change in time is that, as prices rise and margins shrink for negociants and merchants, wines would not be offered for sale as futures. They would only be sold in bottle. There are hundreds of millions of bottles of Bordeaux made every year. The system needs money and negociants to work to sell most of the wine.

     

     

     

     

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    Me

    Jeff Leve- Founder, Contributor and Editor of “The Wine Cellar Insider”

    The Wine Cellar Insider focuses on Bordeaux wine. Thousands of exclusive, searchable wine tasting notes with ratings, winery histories and profiles, images, in-depth articles, links and up to the minute harvest news. The Wine Cellar Insider also publishes special guest contributors ranging from chateaux owners, wine makers, consultants, negociants, retailers and more. T

    he Wine Cellar Insider is the world’s leading source for Bordeaux harvest news. We also offer a wine and food community where you can talk about wine with others. Wine and Food Talk Forums
     

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    Pro Me

    The Wine Cellar Insider focuses on Bordeaux wine. Thousands of exclusive, searchable wine tasting notes with ratings, winery histories and profiles, images , in-depth articles, links and up to the minute harvest news. The Wine Cellar Insider also publishes special guest contributors ranging from chateaux owners, wine makers, consultants, negociants, retailers and more. The Wine Cellar Insider is the world’s leading source for Bordeaux harvest news. We also offer a wine and food community where you can talk about wine with others. Wine and Food Talk Forums

    Jeff Leve has traveled to the Bordeaux wine region to barrel taste more than 20 times. He’ll be there twice this year. Each visit includes tastings at all the major Bordeaux Chateau and lasts between 2-3 weeks. The visits also include several tastings at Bordeaux negociants. He is in Bordeaux on average at least twice a year. Jeff Leve is also in Chateauneuf du Pape on a regular basis. Jeff Leve has been officially inducted into the following important Bordeaux societies:

    The Jurade of St. Emilion
    Jurade
    Hospitaliere de Pomerol
    de l’Ordre des Hospitaliers de Pomerol 
    Commanderie de Bordeaux, MedocGravesSauternes
    Commanderie de Bordeaux
    Fronsac La Confrérie des Gentilshommes Fronsac Confrerie

    In the Rhone Valley, Jeff Leve is also a member of the Brotherhood of Chateauneuf du Pape; La Confrerie Bachique de Chateauneuf du Pape. Les Echansonnerie Des Papes

    Jeff Leve is a self taught, wine enthusiast who has been tasting, collecting and traveling to wine regions in France, as well as in America for over 15 years.

    Jeff Leve has given speeches on wine, most recently in China for the Hong Kong Trade Board at the International Wine and Spirits convention in Hong Kong. Our notes and scores are being carried by several web sites including ours. They are on Robert Parker’s site as well as the other following important web sites including;

    Wine-Searcher – Wine-Searcher
    Liv-ex Exchange – Liv-ex Exchange
    BordOverview – BordOverview
    Bertrand Le Guren Bordeaux Ratings Overview – Bleguern
    Farr Vintners – Farr Vintners
    Bordeaux Index – Bordeaux Index
    Fine & Rare Wines London –  Fine and Rare Wines London
    Los Angeles Wine Company LA Wine Company
    Wallys Wine and Spirits Wallys Wine and Spirits
    Wine Decider Wine Decider
    Numerous other merchants, chateaux and Bordeaux negociants use them as well.

    He also writes about Bordeaux wine and the wine market for Pekka Nuikki’s Fine Magazine and previously for Tasted magazine, which are distributed to over a dozen countries. He is also the moderator for Robert Parker’s web site.   In his home city, Los Angeles, California, he consults numerous restaurants, merchants and private collectors on cellar acquisitions. He’s the former president of the Westwood Food and Wine Society, a Los Angeles based tasting group that has been together for over 4 decades. He is the founder and president of “7 Blind Men”, an important, Los Angeles based wine tasting group, dedicated to tasting wines blind.

    Aside from wine, he is the president of a broadcasting company: The Mike Harvey Show. His passions include travel, cooking, music, collecting historic artifacts by 60’s rock music artists and his personality filled Yellow Labrador, HerculesHercules , better known as Herky by his friends and fans has his own page on this site as well.

    Visit Jeff Leve’s Facebook profile or join the The Wine Cellar Insider Fan Page on Facebook.

    We prefer you ask wine questions in the Wine and Food Talk Forums  but if you want to send wines for reviews, or have business or personal related questions, you can use the Contact page.

    The Wine Cellar Insider was founded and is managed as well as edited by Jeff Leve. The Graphic design was created with the help of Todd Pearl Designs.


    Read more at:http://www.thewinecellarinsider.com/about/

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    Digital Me

    All About Bordeaux Wine, The Complete Bordeaux Wine Guide to the Best Bordeaux Wines and the Top Bordeaux Chateaux

    This page is all about the best Bordeaux wine. It is the complete guide to the top Bordeaux wines, wineries and winemakers with easy to follow links to everything you want to know about all the best, Bordeaux wines, chateaux and vineyards featured in The Wine Cellar Insider . 

    This Complete All About Bordeaux Guide to Bordeaux and the best wines of Bordeaux offers links to detailed histories and wine tasting notes , with ratings for all the important Bordeaux chateaux and all the best winemakers, vineyards and chateaux. Each page in the complete Bordeaux wine guide features images and information on the terroir, soils and wine making techniques used to produce Bordeaux wine. We cover everything about Bordeaux and their chateaux, with complete profiles, detailed information and an analysis for all the best chateaux. Not only do we cover all the top Bordeaux wines and producers. We also focus on the all the best, affordable, Bordeaux wines to help savvy consumers discover the best deals for Bordeaux today. The Complete All About Bordeaux Wine Guide is also a detailed, guide to all the top Appellations of Bordeaux.

    In the complete Bordeaux guide you’ll also discover detailed articles on a myriad of important Bordeaux topics ranging from; Bordeaux wine buying guides, the grapes used in producing Bordeaux, how to make red and white Bordeaux wine, how to taste Bordeaux wine, The First Growths , what Bordeaux negociants really do and more! You can easily search through all the top Bordeaux regions and the best Bordeaux appellations for all the important Bordeaux wines you desire to discover. You can also read a detailed history of the Bordeaux region: History and description of the Bordeaux Wine Region and its Wines

    The Complete Bordeaux Guide to Bordeaux and its Wines, links to Bordeaux Wine Buying Guides

    You can read detailed vintage and harvest summaries from 1900 to today! In the complete Bordeaux guide you can learn about and the historic 1855 Classification of the Medoc . You can also read a detailed history of the Bordeaux region from its birth in Roman times to today. The complete Bordeaux guide also offers detailed information on the Bordeaux negociant systems, The First Growths, maps of all the major Bordeaux regions, appellations and communes.

    The Complete Guide to the best Bordeaux wines and wineries

    The Complete Bordeaux Guide to everything about Bordeaux and its Wines offers links to fully detailed profiles, histories, wine tasting notes, ratings and look at their terroir, soil and wine making techniques, along with images for every important Bordeaux Chateaux from the Left Bank , Right Bank , Pessac Leognan GravesHaut Medoc, Listrac, Moulis and other AppellationsSauternes/BarsacPetits Chateau and Satellite Appellations sorted: Alphabetically, Grouped by Region
    .


    Read more at:http://www.thewinecellarinsider.com/wine-topics/wine-educational-questions/bordeaux-resources-buying-guides-education-questions-answers/

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Wine Moments

Here you can see wine moments from tastingbook users. or to see wine moments from your world.

Jeff Leve, Wine Writer (United States)  had a tasting of  3 Wines  from  3 Producers 

1795 Madeira is not your everyday wine. As a wine, it does not rank with any of the best wines I tasted this year, last year, or the year before. But as a glass of liquid contemplation, blended with a history lesson, it remains unequaled. This is 4 centuries old! In 1795, all the Founding Fathers were alive. George Washington was president, John Adams is Vice President and Thomas Jefferson resigned as Secretary of State. France adopts a new Constitution, Napoleon makes himself known, and Madeira had a great vintage. It only takes a glass with a bit of 1795 Madeira to make it all come alive again.

The dried fruits, brown sugar, piquant orange with bitter chocolate, roasted tangerine, burnt caramel and sharp acidic character neither add, or subtract from the fact that this is oldest wine I have ever tasted. It is more interesting than pleasurable. But it was truly a great experience, regardless.

4m 19d ago

Jeff Leve, Wine Writer (United States)  had a tasting of  6 Wines  from  6 Producers 

"Top 2014 Left Banks:Mouton Rothschild - Deep in color with a complex nose of graphite, plum, blackberry and tobacco, this wine is sure to lure you back for yet another sniff. before you get to the first sip. It is full-bodied, silky, fresh and packed with sweet cassis, caressing your palate with a rich velour, leaving a lasting impression of espresso, cocoa and black raspberries. This wine has less concentration than 2009 and 2010 vintages, yet it still leaves you with sweetness, vibrancy and length. Using 81% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot and 3% Cabernet Franc, the wine reached 13.1% alcohol with a pH of 3.78. 95-97 Pts"

1y 1m ago

Jeff Leve, Wine Writer (United States)  had a tasting of  20 Wines  from  19 Producers 

"Bordeaux 2011 Vintage part V -Fine Le Pin."

1y 10m ago

Jeff Leve, Wine Writer (United States)  had a tasting of  22 Wines  from  21 Producers 

"Bordeaux 2011 part 4"

1y 11m ago

Jeff Leve, Wine Writer (United States)  had a tasting of  15 Wines  from  15 Producers 

"2011 is the debut vintage for the Decosters, the owners of Fleur Cardinale and Secret de Cardinale. With the name Croix Cardinale, are you sensing a pattern here? Truffle, chocolate, licorice and jammy black berries are found in the perfume. Rich, polished, sexy and long, the plush finish is filled with chocolate-covered plums. From a blend of 70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, the wine reached 15% alcohol and will be aged in 100% new oak. 91-93 Pts"

2y 21d ago

Jeff Leve, Wine Writer (United States)  had a wine moment

“Château Smith Haut Lafitte 2011/ From an assemblage of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc and a drop of Petit Verdot, the wine will be aged in 60% new oak. This is a deep, dark-colored Pessac Leognan with a perfume offering licorice, coffee, earth and jammy black raspberry. Rich, full-bodied, plush and intense, the wine ends with a fresh, long, floral and sweet finish with spice, espresso and black cherry. 92-94 Pts”

4y 3m ago

1 Wines 1 Producers 1 People

Jeff Leve, Wine Writer (United States)  had a tasting of  29 Wines  from  23 Producers 

"Bordeaux 2011 Part II"

4y 6m ago

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