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    Black holes in the Bordeaux sky 

    Part 1: The endless race between the wine merchant and wine estate

    When a wine investor or collector wants to complement his or her cellar with a bottle of the most recent vintage of Château Pétrus, there is only one alternative: estate-made and estate-bottled Château Pétrus. If you want to purchase a Château Pétrus that is beginning to mature enough to drink, say a 1959 vintage, the situation gets more complicated. There are Pétrus wines in the market that do not carry the familiar and reliable label and whose contents have not been blended, let alone bottled, at the Pétrus estate. The labels of these strange-looking Pétruses carry names such as Van der Meulen, Lafitte or Hannappier in large lettering. The same labels also tell that the wine has been blended and bottled in places like Belgium, the Netherlands or Sweden. The prices of these wines vary widely. This strange phenomenon is not typical only for Pétrus, because there are also British Lafites, Dutch Cheval Blancs, German Moutons and Belgian Latours. Should you then dare to buy a “Belgian Pétrus”? Yes, because it may be even better and less expensive than the original French one!

     

    Bolshevist activity

    Up until the late 1960s, many Grand Cru estates used to sell all or part of their harvest in barrels to wholesale wine merchants who then bottled the wines. They also stuck labels on the bottles carrying their own information. This practice dates back to the 18th century, and as late as the 19th century, estate bottling was such a rare occurrence that the merchant’s name was often mentioned first on the labels of even the best-known estates, and the estate name in small letters afterwards.

                          It was not until the early 20th century that the largest and most prestigious estates started to bottle their wines at the estate. After the First World War, wine production was still a very unscientific activity; wine trade was dominated by large wholesalers instead of the estates, which made the ownership of a top-class estate in Bordeaux rather unprofitable. The most noted promoter of estate bottling was Baron Philippe de Rothschild. When he boldly bottled his entire 1924 vintage of Mouton-Rothschild himself, it was an unprecedented act. To underscore his position, the baron used works of the Cubist poster artist Carlu on his labels, which was called “Bolshevist activity” by Maurice Healy. Encouraged by de Rothschildt’s example, Château Latour, Lafite, Haut-Brion and Château d’Yquem started to bottle their own wines. Many top estates such as Château Petrus and Château Margaux, however, let the wholesalers bottle their wines until the late 60s.

     

    Rich merchants, poor estates

    The quality of wholesaler-bottled wine might vary a lot in comparison with estate-bottled wines, depending on who actually bottled it. The truth is that this system allowed unscrupulous merchants to increase their profits through blending unauthentic, cheaper wine in the bottles. On the other hand, several estates are guilty of this as well. Fortunately, you meet such bottles in the wine market very rarely. The other side of the coin is that there was a large group of wine merchants whose bottles were not only as good as estate bottlings, but often even better.

                          There are understandable reasons for this. The largest wholesalers with the best reputation tasted the wines barrel by barrel at the estate and then bought the best barrels. If necessary, they also blended the contents to guarantee even quality. Wholesale merchants had always made more money from the wines than the growers, which allowed them to invest more in first-class cellars. Significant operators in the market, the wholesalers also had excellent contacts with bottle and cork manufacturers who offered them their best products to guarantee the quality and preservation of the wines.

                          The wholesalers also bottled the wines at the optimal moment, whereas estates often bottled when other work at the estate gave them time for it. For example, the Château Latour 1961 bottling took a whole year at the estate.

     

    The New Roles

    When estate bottling was made legally mandatory for Grand Cru Classe wines in 1969, two centuries of wholesaler domination seemed to have come to an end.

                          The first half of the 1970s was a nightmare for wine wholesalers. They had made unsuccessful purchases and overloaded their warehouses with poor-quality 1972 and 1973 wines for which they could not find buyers. At the same time, the credibility of the merchants suffered because of a great wine scandal. Cruse, one of the largest and most reputed wholesalers, had bottled and marketed large quantities of AC Bordeaux classified red wine with the Cruse label. Which proved to be quite ordinary unclassified table wine. When Cruse’s forgery was revealed, the scandal erupted and the credibility of wholesalers was destroyed. The wholesalers also quickly lost their grip on the Bordeaux estates. The pricing, as well as the bottling, became the realm of the estates.

                          Not even the good-quality year of 1975 changed the situation, because it was commercially poor and the wholesalers were very cautious with their purchases. Château Mouton Rothschild and Château Lafite made a bold decision and bypassed the wholesalers altogether. They sold part of their wines in batches direct to collectors and investors through Christie’s auction house in London. This was considered a daring move and the final blow to wholesalers. There was no return to the previous situation, even if the wholesalers still sell three-quarters of Bordeaux wines. Many wholesalers -négociants- folded because of financial difficulties in 1974 and 1975.

     

    The best and the most reliable

    The largest and most traditional wholesalers were naturally the most reliable ones, as a good reputation was a matter of honour and the cornerstone of a successful business. The best-known are A&R Barriere, Van der Meulen, Barton&Guestier, De Luze&Fils, Sichel, Berry Brothers, Avery’s, Cuvelier&Fils, Hannappier, Calvet, Lafitte, Grafe-Lecocq, Charles Bardin and Sander’s, to name just a few.

                          Because wholesaler bottlings are often up to 20-40% cheaper than estate bottlings in the secondarymarket, they are good value for money. It is worth remembering, however, to make sure that all the external factors that affect the quality of the wine are in order. The price should also be in the correct proportion to estate-bottled wines. One should always pay attention to the the origin of the wine, because there are lots of counterfeit wines. Only few wholesalers used corks and capsules with vintage and estate information on the wine, in addition to their own data. That is why so-called easy counterfeits, bottles with changed labels, are being offered far too often.

     

    As a rule, excellent wines

    We have bought hundreds of wholesaler-bottled wines over the years, mostly to be enjoyed at dinners and tastings.  Our best memories are from Van Der Meulen Château d´Yquem 1921, De Luze&Fils  Château Lafite 1811 and 1900, Sichel&Fils Château Calon-Segur 1928, Van Der Meulen Château Pétrus 1947, Berry&Bros Château Palmer 1961, Sichel& Co. Château Cheval Blanc 1953, Barton&Guestier Château Margaux 1959, Lafitte&Co. Château Pétrus 1959 and Van Der Meulen Romanée-Conti 1923 and 1929. Unfortunately, we have also encountered major disappointments and hundrets of forgeries.

                          We do not recommend wholesaler-bottled wines as investments except in special cases, because one can never be quite sure about their origin or their authenticity. Uncertainty usually elicits healthy mistrust in wine investors as realising these wines may take a long time. On the other hand, the best wines from the best wholesalers can easily be recommended for enjoyment, because nine out of ten will reward the buyer, and not only through price.

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Wine Moments

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

 Daosa  has updated producer and wine information

1d 15h ago

Pekka Nuikki / Editor of the Fine Wine Magazines and Champagne Magazine, Wine Writer (Finland)  had a tasting of  22 Wines  from  12 Producers 

Tastingbook had a very interesting Bordeaux tasting. We compared the best vintages of the 1990s with the vintages of the 2010s. The basic essence of the wines had remained recognizable, but e.g. the alcohol percentage and structure are very different in the wines of the 2010s than in the 1990s. Everyone can decide for themselves whether it has gone in a better direction, but this tasting alone showed that Bordeaux today produces even higher-quality wines with a wide spectrum, which are also enjoyable almost as soon as they hit the market.

1m 4h ago

Pekka Nuikki / Editor of the Fine Wine Magazines and Champagne Magazine, Wine Writer (Finland)  had a tasting of  28 Wines  from  1 Producers 

Château Mouton-Rothschild tasting from vintage 1945 to 2005!

1m 18d ago

Château Mouton-Rothschild 1959, Château Mouton-Rothschild
Château Mouton-Rothschild 1985, Château Mouton-Rothschild
Château Mouton-Rothschild 1968, Château Mouton-Rothschild
Château Mouton-Rothschild 2001, Château Mouton-Rothschild
Château Mouton-Rothschild 2002, Château Mouton-Rothschild
Château Mouton-Rothschild 1970, Château Mouton-Rothschild
Château Mouton-Rothschild 1988, Château Mouton-Rothschild
Château Mouton-Rothschild 1978, Château Mouton-Rothschild
Château Mouton-Rothschild 1976, Château Mouton-Rothschild
Château Mouton-Rothschild 1945, Château Mouton-Rothschild
Château Mouton-Rothschild 1979, Château Mouton-Rothschild
Château Mouton-Rothschild 1961, Château Mouton-Rothschild
Château Mouton-Rothschild 2003, Château Mouton-Rothschild
Château Mouton-Rothschild 1986, Château Mouton-Rothschild
Château Mouton-Rothschild 1983, Château Mouton-Rothschild
Château Mouton-Rothschild 1981, Château Mouton-Rothschild
Château Mouton-Rothschild 2005, Château Mouton-Rothschild
Château Mouton-Rothschild 1949, Château Mouton-Rothschild
Château Mouton-Rothschild 1966, Château Mouton-Rothschild
Château Mouton-Rothschild 1962, Château Mouton-Rothschild
Château Mouton-Rothschild 1957, Château Mouton-Rothschild
Château Mouton-Rothschild 1975, Château Mouton-Rothschild
Château Mouton-Rothschild 1971, Château Mouton-Rothschild
Château Mouton-Rothschild 1947, Château Mouton-Rothschild
Château Mouton-Rothschild 2000, Château Mouton-Rothschild
Château Mouton-Rothschild 1989, Château Mouton-Rothschild
Château Mouton-Rothschild 1982, Château Mouton-Rothschild
Château Mouton-Rothschild 1987, Château Mouton-Rothschild

Pekka Nuikki / Editor of the Fine Wine Magazines and Champagne Magazine, Wine Writer (Finland)  had a tasting of  26 Wines  from  3 Producers 

Château Latour tasting from 1928-1990 /  Château Latour 1945 presents a deep, garnet hue with subtle hints of brick-orange at the edges, indicating its maturity and long aging.The bouquet is incredibly complex and captivating, offering a symphony of aromas that evolve with each swirl of the glass. Initial notes of ripe black fruits such as blackcurrants and plums mingle with nuances of cedar, leather, and tobacco. As the wine opens up, delicate hints of dried herbs, truffles, and earthy undertones emerge, adding layers of intrigue to the olfactory experience.

 On the palate, Chateau Latour 1945 showcases its remarkable depth and structure. The velvety texture coats the palate with flavors of rich dark fruits, accented by touches of spice and a subtle minerality that speaks to its terroir. The tannins, though still present, have softened over time, lending a smooth and seamless mouthfeel. There is a beautiful balance between fruit intensity, acidity, and tannic grip, indicative of the wine's impeccable aging potential.

The finish is long and lingering, leaving an impression of elegance and sophistication. Subtle echoes of dark chocolate and espresso linger on the palate, accompanied by a touch of graphite minerality that adds to the wine's complexity.

100 points

2m 10d ago

Pekka Nuikki / Editor of the Fine Wine Magazines and Champagne Magazine, Wine Writer (Finland)  had a tasting of  22 Wines  from  19 Producers 

Tastingbook Napa Valley tasting 1986-2019 with all the best wines like Screaming Eagle, Harlan, Colgin, Bryant, TOR etc.

3m 3d ago

Pekka Nuikki / Editor of the Fine Wine Magazines and Champagne Magazine, Wine Writer (Finland)  had a tasting of  47 Wines  from  1 Producers 

Once in a lifetime Penfolds Grange tasting 1955-2005 in Helsinki.

3m 14d ago

Grange Hermitage 1982, Penfolds
Grange Hermitage 1960, Penfolds
Grange Hermitage 1968, Penfolds
Grange Hermitage 1972, Penfolds
Grange Hermitage 1990, Penfolds
Grange Hermitage 1993, Penfolds
Grange Hermitage 2000, Penfolds
Grange Hermitage 2002, Penfolds
Grange Hermitage 1960, Penfolds
Grange Hermitage 1979, Penfolds
Grange Hermitage 1966, Penfolds
Grange Hermitage 2006, Penfolds
Grange Hermitage 1967, Penfolds
Grange Hermitage 1956, Penfolds
Grange Hermitage 1964, Penfolds
Grange Hermitage 1976, Penfolds
Grange Hermitage 1978, Penfolds
Grange Hermitage 1971, Penfolds
Grange Hermitage 1970, Penfolds
Grange Hermitage 2007, Penfolds
Grange Hermitage 1991, Penfolds
Grange Hermitage 1958, Penfolds
Grange Hermitage 1987, Penfolds
Grange Hermitage 1995, Penfolds
Grange Hermitage 1994, Penfolds
Grange Hermitage 1992, Penfolds
Grange Hermitage 1957, Penfolds
Grange Hermitage 1965, Penfolds
Grange Hermitage 1961, Penfolds
Grange Hermitage 1955, Penfolds
Grange Hermitage 1962, Penfolds
Grange Hermitage 1975, Penfolds
Grange Hermitage 1983, Penfolds
Grange Hermitage 1986, Penfolds
Grange Hermitage 1989, Penfolds
Grange Hermitage 1997, Penfolds
Grange Hermitage 1988, Penfolds
Grange Hermitage 2001, Penfolds
Grange Hermitage 2005, Penfolds
Grange Hermitage 2003, Penfolds
Grange Hermitage 1999, Penfolds
Grange Hermitage 2004, Penfolds
Grange Hermitage 1969, Penfolds
Grange Hermitage 1977, Penfolds
Grange Hermitage 1959, Penfolds
Grange Hermitage 1998, Penfolds
Grange Hermitage 1996, Penfolds

Vintage  1921  has new information

3m 15d ago

Vintage  1928  has new information

4m 11d ago

Pekka Nuikki / Editor of the Fine Wine Magazines and Champagne Magazine, Wine Writer (Finland)  had a tasting of  9 Wines  from  8 Producers 

Bouchard La Romanée 1870 is a rare and remarkable wine that offers a glimpse into the distant past of winemaking. This wine has withstood the test of time, and it's a privilege to experience a piece of wine history.

In the glass, the La Romanée 1870 exhibits a translucent garnet hue with delicate brick-red undertones. The color has evolved gracefully, showcasing its considerable age.

The aromas are a testament to the wine's long journey through time. On the nose, there's an intricate tapestry of dried roses, cedarwood, worn leather, and aged tobacco. These tertiary aromas are layered with nuances of dried red fruits, including faded cherries and cranberries. The bouquet is delicate yet still captivating, offering a sensory journey through the years.

On the palate, the wine is remarkably well-preserved, considering its age. It presents a medium body with gentle, resolved tannins that have softened over the decades. The flavor profile is a harmonious blend of dried fruit compote, sun-drenched figs, and hints of truffle and forest floor. There's a subtle herbal note, reminiscent of dried thyme and sage, which adds complexity.

The finish is remarkably persistent, lingering gracefully on the palate. It carries echoes of the wine's initial fruitiness, interwoven with a whisper of spice and earthiness. The wine's longevity is on full display in this enduring finish.

The Bouchard La Romanée 1870 has gracefully aged and evolved, it still retains its elegance and a glimpse of the vibrant wine it once was. It offers a rare opportunity to connect with the past and appreciate the artistry and craftsmanship of winemaking from a bygone era.

This wine should be approached with reverence and savored slowly. It's a testament to the enduring magic of fine wine and serves as a reminder of the rich heritage of winemaking in Burgundy. Drinking a wine like this is not just a tasting experience; it's a journey through time and a celebration of the art of aging gracefully.

5m 1d ago

Pekka Nuikki / Editor of the Fine Wine Magazines and Champagne Magazine, Wine Writer (Finland)  had a tasting of  7 Wines  from  1 Producers 

The Philipponnat Clos des Goisses 1952 is a legendary Champagne that has gracefully stood the test of time, showcasing the remarkable aging potential of this historic cuvée. As I gently pour this golden elixir into the glass, it immediately reveals its extraordinary complexity.

On the nose, a symphony of aromas unfolds. The initial whiff offers enticing notes of toasted brioche and warm croissants, a testament to the extended aging on the lees. Delicate scents of dried apricots, candied orange peel, and roasted nuts soon follow, creating a harmonious blend of richness and elegance. There's a subtle hint of honey and a touch of minerality that adds depth to the bouquet.

The palate is equally captivating. This Champagne possesses a remarkable effervescence, with tiny, delicate bubbles that dance on the tongue. Flavors of ripe yellow apples, baked pears, and lemon zest greet the palate with a delightful freshness. The mouthfeel is creamy and luxurious, a testament to the extended aging.

What sets the Clos des Goisses 1952 apart is its impeccable balance. Despite its age, it maintains a vibrant acidity that keeps the wine fresh and lively. The finish is exceptionally long and layered, leaving a lasting impression of citrus, toasted almonds, and a subtle saline minerality.

5m 11d ago

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