Tag Archives: Wine Searcher

Total Wine and the Amazon of Liquor

Followers of the SpitBucket Facebook page know that I’ve been closely watching the Tennessee Wine & Spirits Retailers Association vs. Blair Supreme Court case. It just wrapped up oral arguments on January 16th.

Photo by Miosotis Jade. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-4.0

It’s been my hope that the Supreme Court would issue a broad ruling that would expand on 2005’s Granholm v. Heald, opening up online sales of wine across state lines. Few things frustrate me more than trying to locate a wine that none of my local shops carry. If I could buy freely online from out of state retailers, that wouldn’t be an issue.

This was a large reason why I also donated and signed onto Wine Freedom’s Friend of the Court Brief for Byrd.

As oral arguments were finishing, it wasn’t long before analysis from in court observers trickled out. While it seems likely that the Court is going to strike down Tennessee’s residency requirement for retailers (which is at the heart of the case), legal experts like Sean O’Leary, the Irish Liquor Lawyer, predicts that the ruling is going be narrow and not tackle the broader issue of consumer freedom.

And that likely will be because of one of my former employers–Total Wine & More.

The Amazon of Liquor?

I have no particular knowledge about Total Wine & More’s involvement in Tennessee or the Supreme Court case apart from what has been publically reported.  When I worked there, I was only a sales floor associate, wine class educator and new store trainer. Essentially just a worker bee, if you will.

But even with my very limited insight, there was one Supreme Court exchange that O’Leary related to Forbes contributor Liza B. Zimmerman that jumped out to me.

O’Leary also thinks that the scope of the case has also remained narrow as the attorney for Total Wine—a large enough chain that interstate shipping is not key to their profit model—refused the invitation to go towards a discussion of direct-to-consumer sales. He adds that “Justice Gorusch challenged him and said ‘But isn’t the next business model just to try and operate as the Amazon of liquor? ‘ ”

In response, O’Leary says that “Total Wine’s attorney indicated that his client wanted to operate as a bricks-and mortar [store] and wants to be subject to Tennessee’s laws.” The long-term goal for the chain would be to “not to be discriminated against.” — Liza B. Zimmerman, Forbes.com 1/20/2019

Sidestepping or Something Else?

This “Amazon of Liquor” exchange has been featured in multiple reports on the case. It is often coupled with surprise at Total Wine’s demuring from aggressively fighting for online consumer channels. The initial response seems to be that Total Wine was sidestepping the issue.

The New York Times even noted Justice Elena Kagan’s skepticism to the answer of Total Wine’s attorney that those broader issues could be debated another day.

“Well,” she said, “we’re leaving a lot of things for another day, but they all seem to be demanded by the principles that you’re asking us to adopt.” Elena Kagan, as reported by Adam Liptak of The New York Times, 1/26/2019

While I’m disheartened at the likelihood of a narrow ruling, Total Wine’s stance doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. That’s because the mythos of Total Wine having eyes on being the “Amazon of Liquor” is way off course.

In fact, their entire business model is actually seriously threatened by a broad ruling opening up online sales.

Face-To-Face Contact

Shelf at Total Wine

Many wine lovers don’t know about David & Karen Dunphy’s 16 x 20 Wines. They only make a few hundred cases and have limited distribution.
Total Wine trains their associates to listen for clues so they can add-on bottles from small producers like this.
So if they hear that a customer enjoys Paul Hobbs’ winemaking, they may suggest the Dunphy’s wine.

Again, these are just the observations of a former worker bee. But from my past experience, the strength of Total’s business model doesn’t translate well to online sales.  Total Wine only succeeds if people physically walk into their stores and interact with their associates.

Total Wine’s model is built around three pillars–low prices, large selection and customer service. They utilize the first two pillars to get people into the store. Then they rely on their staffing to deliver on that third pillar of service.

Associates are trained from day one to work on building relationships with customers, listening to their likes and dislikes. They are instructed to use that feedback to “build the basket”. This is essentially recommending new wines that the customer may not have had yet and to keep adding bottles.

If someone comes in looking for a particular wine, the goal is that they don’t leave with just that one wine. Hopefully, they will have at least 2-3 more bottles of something new to try as well.

Often these extra bottles will be small producers and limited releases that Total Wine seeks out to bolster their selection. It’s the associate job to listen to the customer and make strong recommendations of wines they’ll like.  The hope (and key to Total’s success) is that the customer returns looking for these new wines.

But That’s Hard to Do With Online Sales

Total Wine’s best leverage of their large selection is by having customers fall in love with wines that they can’t find easily elsewhere. That’s not likely going to happen without face-to-face contact and relationship building by their staff.

While I don’t have any concrete data, I strongly suspect that people who go to a website for a particular wine likely only buy that one wine. Anecdotally, this was often how the online orders received at the stores I worked at played out. As an associate, these “in-store pick up” and later Instacart delivery orders were sources of endless frustration since our ability to build relationships with these customers was near non-existent.

Without building relationships, learning customer’s tastes and being able to “build the basket”, Total Wine’s strength as a major retail player is significantly reduced.

In fact (and, again, I have no special insight here), I would wager that the management of Total Wine actually dreads the idea of an “Amazon of Liquor”. Because such an entity would be their fiercest competitor and neutralize most of their strengths.

Low Prices
Wine Searcher screen grab

Since I can’t buy freely online, right now I use WineSearcher.com to get a general idea of how competitive the pricing is of the retailers in my market.

Take out your phone and look for a particular wine on WineSearcher.com. Not only can you easily find the average retail price but you can shop around to find the retailer with the lowest price.  That’s not always going to be the same retailer or even one that is local.

If you open up the floodgate for more online sales, retailers will be competing with more than just their local market in pricing. While that’s great for consumers, that’s not great for retailers like Total Wine who aim to have the lowest price in their market.

Large Selection

The typical Total Wine store leverages their large retail footprint to carry thousands upon thousands of wines. This is often far more than their local competitors. But that’s only a pittance of the amount of wine that could be available if consumers could shop freely online.

There are only so many skus that a physical retail store can carry. Total Wine might be the “big dog” now in markets. But online sales tosses that calling card out the window.

More like the Argonauts of Liquor

Total wine class

With online sales potentially neutralizing the strength of low prices and large selection, retailers like Total Wine would have to up their game to get people to shop in stores with more in-store education classes and tasting events.

Far from desiring to be the Amazon of Liquor, the Supreme Court testimony of Total Wine shows that they are more like Jason and the Argonauts trying to carefully navigate away from Themiscyra.

Right now things are going really good for Total Wine. Over the last 20 years, they’ve seen explosive growth with nearly 200 stores in 22 states.

Their business model of low prices and large selections makes their brick-and-mortar stores destinations for consumers. The relationship building and customer service of their staff keep those consumers coming back.  But that all begins with customers physically shopping in stores.

This is the irony in Tennessee Wine & Spirits Retailers Association vs. Blair.

Total Wine clearly wants to win the case, keeping their Knoxville location and opening up more stores. However, winning with a broad ruling could be worse for them than losing.

Many local retailers and governments try to keep Total Wine out by clinging to protectionist and discriminatory laws. They think these laws hurt Total Wine and will slow their growth. Yet it is the antithesis of these laws–allowing more consumer freedom–that would deliver the hardest blow to Total Wine.

In many ways, protectionist laws actually end up protecting Total Wine.

 

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The Real Influencers of the Wine World

Earlier this month, the Drinks Insight Network published their top ten influential wine experts in the beverage industry. They highlighted 10 Twitter accounts with 17,000-245,000 followers and a ranking of at least 54 on GlobalData’s “influencer score”.

Photo by Dantadd. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-2.0

Yes, that is Kevin Bacon.

I follow all these accounts on Twitter and it’s not a bad recommendation to check them out. But I only actively interact and read 2-3 of them–Jamie Goode (@jamiegoode), Robert Joseph (@robertjoseph) and Ken Alawine (@alawine). I follow Goode and Joseph for their engaging dialogue about wine topics while Alawine’s feed is a nice diversion of fun memes and infographics.

I don’t think I’ve ever been influenced to buy a wine mentioned by any of them.

And I’m an active social media user who is already motivated to seek out wine stuff.

If I’m so minorly influenced by the most prominent influencers, then what kind of influence do these folks (as well as other influencers/bloggers) really have on the typical wine consumer?

Do You Want The Brutal Truth? 

Very little.

I know this post is not going to make me friends among my fellow bloggers or “influencers”. But I can’t forget about my past life before I really started blogging. In addition to several years working wine retail, I studied winemaking at the Northwest Wine Academy with thoughts of one day opening up my own winery.

Bottling wine

One of my favorite photos from winemaking school. Featured here is my mentor, Peter Bos.

While I’ve moved on from that goal, I still have many friends who work at or own wineries in the Pacific Northwest. When I talk to them about my experiences working in the trenches selling wines like theirs, I’m not going to bullshit them.

I know how tough it is for a small winery to compete in a saturated market. With time and money scarce, I’m not going to encourage my friends to waste either chasing the favor of “influencers”–especially if it’s not really going to help them sell wine.

Yeah, this is a self-defeating post for a blogger to write. Oh well. But I will share with you the same advice I give my winemaker friends. While this is, of course, anecdotal, it’s drawn from my years of helping tens of thousands of consumers while working as a wine steward at a major grocery store chain and a big-box retailer.

It’s also the advice that I would put into practice myself if I started my own winery. There are real influencers out there that drive people to a store looking for wines. But few of them would rank an “influencer score”.

The #1 Influencer — Friends and Family

In over seven years working on the floor, I’ve never had a customer come in with a blog post, Instagram or tweet on their phone looking for a wine. Again, anecdotal, but that is the stark truth.

However, every single day I would have multiple customers come in looking for a wine that a friend or family member recommended to them. These personal recommendations are, by far, the most valuable currency in the industry—and not just in wine.

Of course, friends and family are on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can consider some social media influence from outside sources. But the reach of a blogger or “influencer” is going to be indirect and weaken with each link away from that personal connection.

The Bacon number of wine

A Few Good Men and some Sleepers

Essentially if we want to “Kevin Bacon” this, your best influencers are going to be the folks with a Bacon number of 1. When you start getting 2 steps or more removed from the consumer, the amount of influence dwindles considerably.

Advice for Wineries

Remember, keep your eye on the Bacon.

Personal recommendations from friends and family are more valuable than 90+ points from a famous critic. Wineries should seek these recommendations out every bit as aggressively as they court a high score.

Many wineries allow wine club members to bring guests to the tasting room for free. But I can’t think of many who do “friends and family” wine club events. Most events allow their members to bring only a single guest who is usually going to be a spouse.

How does that help you grow your clientele list? Think about expanding that allowance to 3-4 guests as well as promotions that reward current customers for referrals.

#2 Restaurant By-The-Glass Programs

While Millennials tend to be more adventurous than previous generations, there is always a risk in accepting a recommendation. For many, the risk of paying $7-20 for a glass pour of wine at a restaurant is more appealing than spending $25+ for a full bottle at a store.

After personal recommendations from friends and family, the second biggest driver of consumers to my wine shops was the desire to find something they had at a restaurant. Once in a while, a customer would be seeking something they ordered a bottle of but the vast majority of the time it was something they had from the BTG list.

Advice for Wineries
Photo by Iwona Erskine-Kellie. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-2.0

There is a reason why the big mega-corps focus so heavily on their on-premise accounts.

Getting on restaurant wine lists should always be a priority for small wineries. In many ways, it is the perfect setting for people to have their first experience with your wine–with great food and great company.

Placement on the BTG list is even more valuable than being on the general wine list. The intimidation factor is less while the openness to explore is greater. Of course, well-run programs will have talented sommeliers that can hand sell the entire list. However, there are very few consumers (like me) who indulge in things like playing the Somm Game.

Plus, for those consumers who are open to recommendations, the odds are better for your wine getting a BTG recommendation from the sommelier than getting one of your bottles recommended from the full list. Think about it. You’re competing against a dozen or so options by-the-glass versus potentially hundreds of bottle options.

I know competition for placement in these programs is high and brings a lot of challenges. But I firmly believe that the effort pays more dividends than chasing online influencers.

#3 First-Hand Winery Experience

While the influencers above drove more people to my shops, this is the area where wineries most control their destinies. Of course, the quality of your wine should be of paramount importance but second only to that should be the type of experience guests get in your tasting rooms.

Photo by Georg Botz. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-3.0

I know the sight of a “Bridesmaid Brigade” fills tasting rooms with dread. But they are all prospective customers, even if they don’t buy jack on that first visit.

Living so close to Woodinville Wine Country and within driving distance of all the major wine regions in the Pacific Northwest, I’ve seen the best and worst of tasting room experiences. I’ve also heard on the floor, from consumers, the best and worst as well.

The best experiences give people a reason to be excited about a winery. Often people visit 2-4 wineries on a trip, so the goal should be to stand out positively. Every tasting room is going to be pouring wine. That’s old hat. The memorable wineries are the ones that give their guests something more than just booze.

Advice for Wineries

I can not emphasize enough the importance of making sure you have a great staff working your tasting rooms. Pay the good ones well and work like hell to retain that talent. They are truly the difference between bringing home the bacon or burning it to a crisp.

I can’t count how many times I recommended a wine only to have a customer recount a bad tasting room experience that they (or friends and family) had. Even if it was several years ago when the winery was owned by someone else, it was a non-starter.

If I started a winery, I would take this Maya Angelou quote and frame it in my tasting room.

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. — Maya Angelou

#4 Published Media “Best of…” lists and Wine Competition Awards

My last retail holiday season was 2017 but I remember it quite well. This is when all the “Top Wines of the Year” and “Best of….” lists come out. It seems like every newspaper and magazine publishes some year-end compendium.

For retailers, these lists are both blessings and a royal pain in the ass. They’re easy sales because consumers come in ready to buy and you can fill their basket in 3 to 5 minutes—that is, if you happen to have the exact wine and vintages. The pain in the ass comes from nearly all these lists featuring wines of limited availability (sometimes even winery-only) or from a vintage long sold out.

Advice for Wineries
Photo by Wine Enthusiast Magazine. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-4.0

Customers coming into a wine shop with an actual print copy of a wine magazine is becoming rarer and rarer.

I ranked this one #4 but it could have easily been #5. The influence of traditional print media is certainly fading. When I first got into retail, I would almost weekly have customers coming in with the latest copy of Wine Spectator or the local newspaper critic’s column. Now it seems mostly concentrated on these year-end lists.

I’ve also noticed that the clientele that actively uses these lists skew older as well. Again, only anecdotal, but I suspect that the influence of these media sources will only continue to wane with the growing prominence of Millennials and Generation Z in the market.

Likewise, I see less excitement and influence surrounding wine competitions every year. But there is still some fight in the old girl. Personally, I don’t think they should have much any influence but people like shiny things. Wine competitions dish out lots and lots of shiny things.

For my own winery, I would still be entering competitions and sending samples out to the traditional print media. However, I wouldn’t put all my eggs in these baskets and focus more on the top #1-3 influencers above.

But you ultimately can’t discount the easy sales that a winery can get with prominent list placement. Nor can you downplay the influence that even a silly bronze medal sticker has in making a wine stand out on the shelf.

#5 Wine Apps

Wine apps with Yelp-like rating systems are another thing that I think shouldn’t hold much influence–but they do. As I described in my post Naked and Foolish, I think these apps are incredibly gameable and ripe for misuse.

My apprehensions aside, I realize that wine consumers (particularly the younger set) are downloading and using them. It’s not yet a considerable quantity, hence my #5 ranking, but it is growing. Before I left retail, I would see maybe a handful of customers a week whipping out their phones and scanning bottles to see how many “stars” something got. I can only expect that number to increase.

Advice for Wineries
Wine Searcher screen grab

While not necessarily a rating app itself, I often saw consumers on the floor using WineSearcher to check prices and critic scores.

While I doubt that wine apps would ever supplant the top 3 influencers, it is nonetheless a Bacon number 1 influencer that shouldn’t be ignored.

At the very least, I would recommend that wineries download these apps and pay attention to what scores their wines are getting from consumers. For small wineries that aren’t likely to get many inputs, it is probably not a bad idea to upload nice pictures of your labels. That way when someone is searching for your wines they can find them more easily.

I would avoid the temptation to add your own ratings and take part in the easy gaming of these apps. But that’s just me.

#?? Recommendations of Wine Stewards/Sommeliers

As a steward on the floor with face-to-face contact with consumers, I carried a Bacon number of 1. But how influential I truly was depended on a lot of factors. This makes it difficult to give a blanket ranking on how influential stewards (and in the same vein, sommeliers) really are.

For customers that I interacted with often and built a relationship, my influence would be only behind that of the #1 influencer–family and friends. I earned trust by learning their palates and backing up my recommendations with my knowledge.

But more broadly, my influence probably fell in the #3-5 range depending on the consumer’s personality (i.e. willingness to seek out a recommendation) as well as their past experiences with other stewards and wine shops. It’s very easy for a consumer to feel burned by a bad recommendation that they received one time, from one person, and then be skeptical about any recommendations they get–from anyone.

The hiring prowess and training programs of a wine shop/restaurant have an immeasurable impact on how influential their stewards and somms will be.

Advice for Wineries
Picture with Jean Triaud of Ch. Gloria

A pic from my retail days where I had a chance to meet Jean Triaud, the grandson of Ch. Gloria’s founder Henri Martin.
Trying the wine was nice, but I was able to introduce many more consumers to Ch. Gloria’s wines through the stories and insights that Jean shared.

After family and friends, wine stewards and sommeliers have the potential to be the second most potent influencer selling your wine. I would give the nod to a winery’s own tasting room staff vis-à-vis, but when you add up how many people visit your tasting room versus the numbers that visit wine shops and restaurants, the potential is higher with the latter.

It is undoubtedly in a winery’s best interests to influence these influencers. These are the folks that are in the trenches presenting your wine to consumers. They have the potential to move far more cases of your wine than a blogger like me ever will.

But it is not just about getting wine stewards and sommeliers to try your wines. Keep in mind that they’re likely getting samples, trips and other perks from dozens upon dozens of other wineries.

You need to sell them on what makes your winery unique and distinctive, just like you do to a consumer face-to-face. Successful wineries reach out to wine stewards and sommeliers and give them tools (great stories, behind-the-scenes insights, etc.) that they can share to the thousands of consumers they interact with yearly.

I’m not saying that bloggers and social media influencers have zero influence, though.

I don’t want to come across as slamming my fellow bloggers or denigrating their efforts. I know we’re all working hard to make original and useful content that people will want to read. Believe me; I feel the same flutter of excitement and gratification looking at page views and subscription numbers as you do.

But the truth is, is that we are, at best, Bacon number 2s when it comes to the true reach of our influence. We have some influence, but it is quite limited.

We can contribute content that shows up on Google searches when an already engaged and intrigued consumer looks for more info on a wine. Indeed, this is the area where we probably exert the most influence which is why creating original and compelling content is critical.

But that audience of actively engaged consumers is still relatively small. And those prospective consumers needs to be initially “engaged” by something else before they start searching–often by things in the Bacon number 1 realm like sommeliers and wine stewards.

Photo from Renee Comet of the National Cancer Institute. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under PD-author

Engage bacon is by far the most influential bacon.

Now bloggers and social media influencers can certainly influence those sommeliers and wine stewards. Stepping back and thinking about my retail days, I most certainly read blogs and got intrigued by wines.

However, when I step back further and look at the blogging and “wine influencer” scene–when I look at what I’m doing–I realize that we are mostly just influencing ourselves.

Spend any amount of time scanning the comments and likes on Instagram of notable wine influencers and you start seeing a pattern.
It’s the same people talking to each other.

Now, truthfully, that is great because this is a community that abounds with terrific friendships. One of the most edifying results of attending the Wine Bloggers Conference was meeting fellow bloggers that I could geek out with.

But we can’t mistake shared passion for influence.
Photo by J.Dncsn. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-3.0

Non-engaged bacon.
This is how I view my blog posts. They’re an ingredient that needs to be “cooked” before its sweet aroma influences anyone.

Wineries that invest hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars sending out samples to influencers are not getting their money’s worth. Especially compared to the return on investment they could get focusing on the Top 3 influencers I noted above.

Preaching to the choir will never bring people off the streets and into the pews. And getting people off the streets to check out wines is the whole point of marketing. It’s what wineries need to do in order to survive.

That is why when my good friends with wineries approach me about sampling their wines for review, I’ll accept them–but I’m not going to mislead them about my “influence.” I know that there are better ways that they could be spending their time and money.

And sharing that might be my real influence.

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Sip or Spit — Looking at Wine Predictions for 2019

This time of year, a lot of smart folks in the beverage industry lay down their cards to predict what major trends can be expected next year. As with pop culture and sports, these articles are fun to read but you don’t want to put too much stock put in them. (I mean, come on, you really thought Bryce Harper and Manny Machado would sign during the Winter Meetings?)

Photo by Randy OHC. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-2.0

Sip or Spit? How seriously should we take these wine predictions for 2019?

Of course, the value of such predictions rests in the quality of the source. I’ve always found the folks at Wine Intelligence, a UK consulting and research firm, to be sharp tacks. So I ascribe a little more weight to their assessments than I do other sources. Still, while there were some thing from their Five Predictions for 2019 worth sipping, there were others I certainly spat out.

1.) Alcohol intake will continue to fall in developed world markets (Spit with a little sipping)

As I noted in my article The Kids Will Probably Be Alright — Looking at Generation Z Trends, I don’t buy into the idea of Gen Z as the “teetotaler generation”. It is far too early and too small of a sample size to make that assessment. For Christ-sakes, 95% of them are still under 21! I surely hope that most of them are teetotaling right now.

However, I do think that the trend of “Drinking Less, But Better” that we’re seeing in the Millennial generation will continue with Generation Z. Alcohol is expensive and is full of calories. It’s clear that my generation, and likely the following one, have been adopting the mindset that if we’re going to spend the money and calories on something, it better be worth it.

Which is a good thing and something that should serve as a curb to the idea that moderate consumption of alcohol (like wine) is incompatible with a healthy lifestyle. That “incompatibility” seems to be the crux of the scare reports of Generation Z and Millennials turning away from alcohol.

From keg stands to Brose´
Photo by ProjectManhattan. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-3.0

Ramen–the lifeblood of the broke Millennial. Also a great pairing for under $15 Cru Beaujolais and Chenin blanc.

Yeah, we might be turning away from weekend keggers, cheap jug wine sangrias, Smirnoff and Fireball jello shots, but what we’re turning to is more mindful moderate drinking. Younger generations, like myself, are not drinking for the sake of drinking. We’re looking for something more than just a buzz.

Growing up in the age of technology and easy access to knowledge, we’re aware of the risks of binge drinking. But we’re also aware of the benefits of moderation. Plus, our “foodie” nature is far more incline than past generations to embrace the role of a glass of wine in enhancing the pleasure of even everyday meals—like ramen noodles.

So while bulk and mass producers may have reasons to worry about the upcoming generations, I don’t think quality minded producers need to fret as much.

2.) Overall knowledge levels about the details of wine and where it comes from will decline (Spit)

This prediction is based on Wine Intelligence’s 2018 US Portraits report of wine consumers. I don’t have an extra $3500 to buy the full report and dive deep into what methodology led to that conclusion, but on the surface this doesn’t pass the “sniff test”.

When you look at other observations and reporting, the level of wine knowledge among the average consumer has never been higher. For one, enrollments in wine certification programs have been booming. Google “Wine Appreciation Class” and you’ll get over 34 million hits, confessing to a wide interest among consumers to learn more.

This is something that I touched on in my article It’s Raining Masters, about the influx of successful Master Sommelier candidates. (This was before the cheating scandal broke) We are in the midst of a golden age of wine knowledge.

Yet, somehow, we’re getting “wine dumber”?

Even the post’s author, Richard Halstead, acknowledges the counter-intuitiveness of his prediction.

Over the past couple of years we have started to see an interesting and counterintuitive trend. More people in more markets around the world are saying they care about wine, that the category is important to them, that they take their time when buying wine – sentiments which we bundle up into a collective measure called “involvement”. At the same time, overall objective knowledge about the category – understanding of grape varieties, countries of origin, regions, and so on – has been in decline: people know fewer things about wine any more. — Richard Halstead, Wine Intelligence, 12/12/2018

One theory they propose is smartphone reliance. That does makes some sense and has been debated in other contexts before. There is also the idea that the globalization of wine has brought more stuff to the table for the average consumer to know about.

More to Discover, More to Learn, More to Enjoy
Photo taken my self and uploaded to Wikimedia Commons as User:Agne27 under CC-BY-SA-3.0

Once pursued only by the wine trade, now more and more wine lovers are signing up for advance certifications like the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET)

It’s no longer Napa, Champagne, Chardonnay, Cabernet and Pinot grigio. Now we’ve got Coonawarra, Franciacorta, Fiano, Touriga Nacional, Chenin blanc and so much more.

I suppose when you consider how much more is out there to learn and explore, the average wine consumer’s “overall” grasp of details may go down.

But that is like comparing the “knowledge level” of a middle schooler with that of a college student. The former is exposed to far less. Of course, it is easier to “master” more of that knowledge within their little world. However, the later’s exposure to exponentially more gives the potential for even greater knowledge.

While I’m open to hearing more thoughts on the matter, there so much counter-intuitiveness about this prediction that I’ll remain skeptical now.

3.) Vegan wine will become a thing (Sip)

This I buy completely. It’s a topic that I explored earlier this year with my article What’s fine (and not so fine) about Vegan Wines.

I have no doubt that we are going to see more wines labeled as “Vegan-friendly”. But I am concerned with the obsession over fining agents. Especially for people who adopt a Vegan-lifestyle for ethical reasons, it seems like a bigger quandary is to be had over viticultural practice like biodynamics that regularly employ the use of animal products. Furthermore, there are issues with what alternatives wineries may use to produce highly manipulated (though “Vegan-friendly”) wines.

Are the most “vegan-friendly” vineyards the ones being farmed with heavy saturation of pesticides and chemical fertilizers? It seems like it when you compare it to organic and biodynamic vineyards with high insect MOG and animal-derived fertilizers.

Mass produced wines like the PETA recommended Sutter Home and Moët & Chandon often employ these conventional, chemical dependent styles of viticulture.

While avoiding using animal-based fining agents to remove excess tannins and haze forming proteins, big mega-corps can use other tricks to manipulate the wine with things like lab designed enzymes, oak adjuncts and Mega Purple which will “smooth out” bitter tannins and cover up off-flavors. — What’s fine (and not so fine) about Vegan Wines 2/25/2018

4.) Wine brands with sustained investment strategies will prosper at the expense of second-tier competitors (Sip)

Unfortunately, this is a sad reality of business. Branding often trumps quality and care. W. Blake Gray had a great article on Wine Searcher recently that highlights this as part of the Gloomy Outlook for Smaller Wineries.

Gray ended the article with a very ominous quote from Dale Stratton of Constellation Brands.

“The game is going to be stealing share,” Stratton said. “The pie is only as big as the pie is. The game is going to be stealing share from other places.”

Watch your pie, small wineries. Watch your pie. — W. Blake Gray, WineSearcher.com 12/7/2018

While not every winery can afford a fancy marketing department, it is imperative of every winery to focus on what makes them unique.

For the small winery competing against the big mega-corps, your “brand” is your story and all the tidbits that set you apart from the mass-produced wines that line supermarket shelves.

It’s simply not good enough just to make good wine. There are thousands of producers across the globe making wine as good, if not better, than yours. But what those wineries (and certainly what the big mega-corps) don’t have, is you and your story.

Finding ways to weave yourself into the narrative of your brand is only going to become more important for small wineries to succeed. That is one of the reasons why it is a shame that many wineries have abandoned or don’t know how to successfully use social media platforms like Twitter.

5.) A mainstream producer will introduce cannabis-infused wine (Sip and then toke)
Photo by Bogdan. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-3.0

Does cannabis have terroir? We’ll probably be discussing that over the next decade.

This is probably the surest bet that any prognosticator can make. For an industry that will happily dive into whiskey barrel aging and weird coffee-infused hybrid wines, you know that development is already well on its way towards releasing a cannabis-infused wine.

The only question is, who will be first? Gallo or Constellation Brands?

Gallo has been leading the way on a lot of these trends with their Apothic brand. They’re a solid contender and a likely choice. Part of the fun is guessing what they’ll call it. Apothic Blaze? Apothic Kush?

However, Constellation Brands does actually have its own investments in the cannabis industry to the tune of $4 billion.

I’d be more incline to wager on Constellation developing a stand-alone brand for cannabis-infused wine. But I honestly wouldn’t be surprised to see them roll it out under an established label, like Robert Mondavi, to try to give this trend more legitimacy.

When that happens, be sure to pour one out for poor Robert spinning in his grave in St. Helena.

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Geek Notes — Decanted Podcast Episode 4 with Lenny Redé on Shopping for Wine

With the holiday season upon us, lots of folks will be hitting their local grocery stores and wine shops looking for wines to serve and give as gifts. That makes this a great time to review the Decanted podcast episode featuring Lenny Redé and their tips for shopping for wine (47:41).

Decanted Podcast screen shot

Full disclosure: Lenny was one of my mentors at the Northwest Wine Academy and is a long time friend. Though I’m obviously biased, I sincerely feel he is one of the most brilliant and personable folks in the wine industry. He was also a participant at my recent Joe Wagner vs The Oregon Volcano tasting whose insights were extremely valuable. At the time of this interview he was with Esquin Wine and Spirits, but he’s now at New Seasons Market on Mercer Island.

While I try not to be promotional with this blog, I have no qualms saying that if you want to discover more about wine and your own personal tastes, go visit Lenny and chat him up. It will be well worth the trip.

The Background

I first became aware of the Decanted podcast at this year’s Wine Bloggers Conference (now Wine Media Conference). While I didn’t get a chance to personally meet the duo behind the podcast, Dave Adams and Sandi Everingham, I heard from several of my fellow attendees that I needed to check them out (as well as the Weekly Wine Show which I reviewed last month).

A relatively new podcast, Decanted started earlier this year in February. Episodes are posted monthly with occasional shorter bonus shows in between. Most of the episodes tend to fall into the 30-60 minute range with the bonus shows usually being 10-15 minutes.

While the podcast has featured wines from the El Dorado AVA in California, Fraser Valley in British Columbia and most recently the Douro Valley of Portugal, the primary focus is on the hosts’ hometown Washington wine industry.

Local Washington Focus
Chris Upchurch

The Decanted interview with Chris Upchurch gave great insights on the origins of DeLille as well as Upchurch’s future plans for his own project.

Several of the episodes are inspired by local wine events that the hosts have attended such as the POUR Event of Urban Seattle Wineries (episode 1 with Bart Fawbush of Bartholomew Wines), Northwest Women Stars of Food & Wine (episode 5 with Lisa Packer of Warr-King Wines), Taste Washington (episode 8 with Chris Upchurch of DeLille and Upchurch Wines), The Sisters of the Vinifera Revolution (episode 11), Auction of Washington Wines (episode 15) and the Wine Bloggers Conference (episode 17 with Seth and Audrey Kitzke of Upsidedown Wines).

In addition to highlighting their favorite wines, Dave and Sandi of Decanted share their personal experiences and observations from attending these events. They also offer fantastic advice and practical pro-tips that wine lovers can use when attending events themselves.

A bit unusual for wine podcasts, the interviews are presented in a story-telling style with voice-over narration and background given by the hosts spliced in-between the answers of the guests. While I’m sure this adds quite a bit of work and editing, it enhances the value and professionalism of the podcast. Listening to the interviews feels like you’re watching a story feature on Dateline or 60 Minutes–with less murder and scandal, of course.

Fun Things I Learned and Enjoyed From This Podcast

(4:57) Great tip from Sandi about the value of being adventurous when shopping for wine instead of just getting the same ole, same ole. Dave follows this up with a tip about the importance of paying attention to vintages (especially for white wine) at grocery stores.

As a former wine steward for a major grocery chain (Safeway), I can attest to the truth of this. Often there are white wines that don’t sell very quickly. These wines would get old sitting on the shelf, losing freshness and flavor. While they might not be bad (and still considered “saleable”), they can definitely be past their peak. As a general rule of thumb, especially in grocery stores with white wines under $20, look for the youngest vintage to get the most for your money.

Tricks of the Trade

With endcaps, grocery stores are banking on you making a high margin impulse buy.

(7:50) One tip that I’m going to slightly disagree with is the advice to look for values on the endcaps. That’s not quite true. Again going back to my wine steward days, often these endcaps were paid displays bought by distributors or wineries with contracts negotiated at the corporate level. The grocery stores gets a sweet deal to promote these high volume wines in a high traffic location at the end of the aisle. While sometimes, they will pass the savings they’re getting onto the consumers, mostly these are high margin wines that just pad the store’s bottom line.

(8:32) Another tip that I’m going to disagree with is the advocacy for Vivino. This is just a personal misgiving but I’m highly suspicious of many of these crowd source review apps. They are extremely ripe for gaming–especially by large corporations with big marketing departments that want to promote positive rankings.

Just like with Yelp, companies are going to use these apps to influence consumers. But, unlike Yelp, many of these wine apps haven’t invested millions of dollars into dedicated fraud-detection teams and software algorithms to try to weed out the gaming. Also, these apps tend to revert back to the lowest common denominator with mass-produced and highly marketed wines rising to the top of the ratings while smaller family wineries often get overlooked.

But the idea of keeping your smartphone handy is not bad advice and I’m not completely against review sites.
Wine Searcher screen grab

The Wine-Searcher app is terrific for finding great deals. When I saw that my local wine shop had the Otis Kenyon Matchless Red at $20.99 (before coupon), I jumped on it because this bottle averages $29 at most retailers.

Personally, I think the most valuable app to have on your phone is Wine-Searcher. Not only do they tell you the average price of a wine (so you know if you’re getting a good deal or not) but they link to professional critic scores (which has their own pratfalls, I know) as well as the crowd sourced CellarTracker site.

While Cellar Tracker is also potentially game-able, the average user on that site tends not to be the typical buyers of mass-produced supermarket wines. This seems to make it less of a marketing target for corporations compared to Vivino. Also, you are more likely to have actual written reviews of the wines being rated (instead of vague and useless notes of “Yummy!”). These reviews tend to be much more helpful in figuring out if a wine matches your style.

(9:30) Dave and Sandi conduct a fun exercise of checking out the wine selection at places that don’t really have a wine focus. Well worth listening to see what they found at a Shell gas station, Walmart, Grocery Outlet and others.

Interview with Lenny Redé
Lenny at blind tasting

Lenny, center left, at my recent blind tasting battle pitting the Pinot noirs of Joe Wagner against several Oregon wines.

(19:30) The first part of the interview goes into Lenny’s background–including his work in the restaurant industry and time teaching at Le Cordon Bleu and the Northwest Wine Academy.

(24:30) One key distinction of local wine shops that Lenny highlights is that often the folks working at these small shops are the same people buying the wine. This is a big difference compared to grocery stores and large chains like Costco where the buying decisions are made by corporate buyers.

Essentially this means that when you walk into a small local shop, virtually every wine on the shelf is something that has been personally vetted. Someone tasted that wine and said, “Yes, this is a good wine that I want to bring into my store. This is a wine that I want to share with my customers.” That is a powerful endorsement and is world’s apart from the endcap displays at grocery stores that are there because a corporate buyer got cut a deal to feature them.

Don’t Be Afraid To Be Honest

(27:01) Another great piece of advice from Lenny is to never be afraid to tell the steward (or restaurant sommelier) your budget. The steward/somm’s goal is always to get you the best wine they can for that price point. This is advice that I regularly use myself when I play the Somm Game.

(31:06) Sandi asks Lenny what happens when he makes a recommendation that backfires and what wine drinkers should do. Lenny notes all the different variables involved that can impact people’s tastes and how they experience a wine. All great points but one thing I wished he touched on was the need of consumers to be honest about recommendations they didn’t like.

A steward’s goal is to build a relationship with their guests. In many ways they are detectives trying to figure out your tastes. Every clue you can give them from what you absolutely loved and, especially, what wines didn’t appeal to you is immensely valuable. They’re human and taste is personal. A steward may misinterpret some of your clues and recommend a bottle that just doesn’t work. That is perfectly okay and most good wine shops will gladly accept that return. But they’re going to want to get their next recommendation right on the money so let them know what didn’t work.

Where To Find Value and Quality
Four Graces Pinot blanc

I’ll need to check out Lenny’s recommendation of Left Coast Cellar’s Pinot blanc but I wholeheartedly agree with him that Oregon Pinot blanc is delicious!

(35:55) Lenny is asked about some fun alternatives to common wines like buttery Chards. He makes several great recommendations here including checking out the fantastic Pinot blancs coming out of Oregon.

(41:30) Dave asks Lenny his thoughts on the best budget wines out there, especially under $20. He gives some great background on how the Washington wine industry is different from California and where people can find great value here. Lenny also highlights some of the deals with private labels and second labels from established producers–or “happy hour wines” as he calls them.

(44:40) Lenny is very excited at the quality of white wines coming out of Washington and encourages people to look at the Ancient Lakes area. Among reds, Malbec and Cabernet Franc are high on his list. Yes! Another person on the Washington Cab Franc train.

Final Thoughts

My favorite thing about the Decanted podcast is the “real world” perspective of Dave & Sandi. They approach the tasting events they attend and their interviews in much the same way that most regular, normal wine lovers would. When you get knee deep in the wine world, it is so easy to get caught up in a “bubble” that skews your perceptions. It’s particularly easy to get a bit jaded while looking at the world through the lens of wine being a business.

But at its heart, wine is fun. Wine is inspiring and discovering it is an adventure. The folks at Decanted get that and allow their listeners to get caught up in their own fun and adventure of discovering wine.

Crowds at the New Vintage

Seriously, always scope out a “home base” first thing at a tasting before the crowds hit.
I wished I had taken Decanted’s advice when I attended The New Vintage this year.

However, Decanted is still rooted in the realism of what every day wine drinkers experience hunting for good bottles at reasonable prices–as well as dealing with some of the more frustrating aspects of attending wine events (crowds, palate fatigue, etc). The pro-tips they give on how to maximize your enjoyment at these events and when visiting tasting rooms is solid advice that comes from their own personal experience.

Going Forward

As a young podcast, I hope they continue with their narrative story telling and sharing their experiences at wine events. They seem to have a good pulse on what’s happening and which events are worth attending so, selfishly, I would love to hear in their podcasts about future plans and upcoming events they are planning to attend. That would be a great heads up for tastings that I’d want to check out myself.

One constructive suggestion I have is regarding the audio music that plays during their narrative voice overs. Admittedly I don’t know if it is because of my podcast player (Overcast) but sometimes the music is a bit too loud and competes for attention with their narration.

But that is a small thing and overall I enthusiastically recommend folks check out the Decanted podcast!

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Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Gruaud-Larose, Lagrange, Ducru-Beaucaillou, La Croix Ducru-Beaucaillou

It’s been a few months since we’ve visited the 2017 Bordeaux futures campaign. Travel played a big role in that gap but my wallet also needed a bit of a break as well. But we’re going to return now and head to St. Julien to look at the offers for the 2nd Growths Gruaud Larose and Ducru-Beaucaillou, the third growth Chateau Lagrange and the second wine of Ducru-Beaucaillou.

If you want to catch up, a good place to start is with our first Bordeaux Futures 2017 post covering the offers of Palmer, Valandraud, Fombrauge and Haut-Batailley. There I also lay out my general outlook and philosophy on buying futures for this vintage.

You can also check out the links at the bottom to see what other offers have been previously reviewed in this series.

Ch. Gruaud-Larose (St. Julien)

Some Geekery:
Bottles of Chateau Gruaud Larose in Bordeaux

Bottles of 1815 Ch. Gruaud Larose resting in the cellars of the St. Julien estate

The reputation of Gruard-Larose dates back to the early 18th century when it was owned by a French knight, Joseph Stanislas Gruaud. In the 1750s, two of his descendants, a priest and a magistrate took control. The brothers purchased adjoining parcels, enlarging the estate to 116 ha (287 acres), and established a reputation for high quality.

Clive Coates notes in his work Grand Vins, that during this time the wines of Fond Bedeau (as it was known then) fetched some of the highest prices in St. Julien and was only behind the four First Growths in reputation.

Coates also notes the eccentricity of the magistrate Gruaud who eventually assumed control of the estate. He constructed a large tower, a replica of which is still in use today, in the vineyard so he could keep eye on his workers.

At the end of each harvest, he would also raise a flag up on the tower indicating the nationality of buyers who he thought would most appreciate the style of the vintage. If the wines were full-bodied and firm in structure, he would raise a British flag. For vintages that were more soft and easy drinking, he would raise a German flag. If the style of the year fell somewhere in the middle, then the magistrate would raise a Dutch flag.

The Establishment and Break Up of Gruaud-Larose

When the magistrate passed in 1778, the property was inherited by his daughter and son-in-law, Joseph Sebastian de La Rose. The new estate was christened Ch. Gruaud-Larose. As Lieutenant-Governor of the Province of Guyenne, M. Larose was able to get his wines served at numerous public events held by the nobility prior to the outbreak of the French Revolution. These events featured not only Gruaud-Larose but also those of his Haut-Medoc estate Ch. Larose-Trintaudon located outside the borders of Pauillac and Saint Laurent. Several cases of Gruaud-Larose also made their way to the nascent United States.

Following the outbreak of the French Revolution and the financial difficulties of the Napoleonic era, the descendants of Larose had to put the estate up for auction in 1812. It was purchased by a consortium of individuals who included the Baron Jean Auguste Sarget. Eventually disagreements with Baron Sarget and the heirs of the other owners led to a splitting of the estate in 1867. From then until 1935 when the Cordier family reunited the property, there were two Gruaud-Larose wines–Ch. Gruaud-Larose-Sarget and Ch. Gruaud Larose-Bethmann (later Ch. Gruaud Larose Faure).

The Cordier family maintained ownership of the property, along with the 4th Growth Ch. Talbot, the 5th Growth Ch. Cantemerle, Ch. Meyney in St. Estephe, Clos des Jacobins in Saint Emilion and Ch. Lafaurie-Peyraguey, for several decades until selling it to the Suez Banking Group in 1985. Gruaud-Larose went through a succession of owners until 1997 when it was purchased by the Merlaut family of the Taillan Group.

Ch. Gruaud-Larose Today
Chateau Gruaud Larose

Outside the chateau of Gruaud-Larose

Today it is part of a portfolio that includes the 3rd Growth Margaux estate of Ch. Ferriere, the 5th Growth Ch. Haut-Bages-Liberal in Pauillac, Ch. Chasse-Spleen, Ch. Citran and Ch. La Gurgue. It is unique among the 1855 classified estate in that the vineyards are relatively the same as they were when the estate was first classified.

Most of the estate is one large block of vines between Branaire-Ducru and Ch. Lagrange with another segment separated from the commune of Cussac and the Haut-Medoc estate of Ch. Lanessan by a stream. Compared to other estates in the Medoc, Gruaud-Larose tends to have a significant amount of clay in the soil (particularly in the parcels close to Lanessan). However, plantings in recent years has focused on increasing the amount of Cabernet Sauvignon and pulling up parcels of Merlot and Cabernet Franc.

The vineyards are farmed organically with several of the parcels farmed biodynamically. Around 18,000 cases a year are produced with some fruit being declassified to the estate’s second wine Sarget Larose.

The 2017 vintage is a blend of 67% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31.5% Merlot and 1.5% Cabernet Franc.

Critic Scores:

92-94 Wine Enthusiast (WE), 91-94 Wine Spectator (WS), 92-93 James Suckling (JS), 90-92 Vinous Media (VM), 90-92 Jeb Dunnick (JD)

Sample Review:

The 2017 Gruaud Larose is pliant, deep and quite expressive, while staying light on its feet. In 2017, Gruaud is a wine of precision and nuance rather than volume. There is lovely persistence and nuance in the glass. Even so, I can’t help thinking there is quite a bit of unrealized potential here. All of the wine was fermented in oak vats, with slightly higher than normal temperatures for the Cabernets. — Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media

Offers:

Wine Searcher 2017 Average: $73
JJ Buckley: No offers yet.
Vinfolio: No offers yet.
Spectrum Wine Auctions: No offers yet.
Total Wine: $74.97 (no shipping with wines sent to local Total Wine store for pick up)
K&L: $69.99 + shipping (no shipping if picked up at 1 of 3 K & L locations in California)

Previous Vintages:

2016 Wine Searcher Ave: $85 Average Critic Score: 92 points
2015 Wine Searcher Ave: $83 Average Critic Score: 93 points
2014 Wine Searcher Ave: $71 Average Critic Score: 92 points
2013 Wine Searcher Ave: $68 Average Critic Score: 89 points

Buy or Pass?

A lot of wine experts feel that Gruaud-Larose turned a corner after the 2009 vintages. While notoriously inconsistent and noted for wines that were often quite awkward and austere in their youth, the thinking was that this new era of Gruaud-Larose would bring the estate back to the some of the glory that originally earned it a 2nd Growth classification.

After visiting the estate in 2016 and tasting several of its recent releases at Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux tastings, I do think the estate has got the consistent quality part down pat. But I’m skeptical that the “awkwardness” and austerity of youth is gone. These wines are still remarkably tannic and well-structured. They are certainly built for the long haul which makes them a good investment for cellar-worthy vintages.

But for vintages like 2017 where I have an eye for more early-drinking styles, this is not an estate I have on my radar. Pass.

Ch. Lagrange (St. Julien)

Some Geekery:
Winery of Ch. Lagrange

The cuvier of Ch. Lagrange

The estate that is now known as Ch. Lagrange dates back to the Middle Ages when it was known as Maison Noble de Lagrange Monteil. Wine production has taken place since at least the 1630s when it was owned by Jean de Cours, the Sire de Paulliac, who acquired the estate by marrying Marguerite de Vivien.

In the 18th century, it came under the ownership of the Baron de Brane who also owned Brane Cantenac and Mouton Brane (later Mouton-Rothschild). At this time the wines were sold as Baron St. Julien.

During the French Revolution and into the Napoleonic era, the estate was owned by Jean-Valère Cabarrus who eventually became Napoleon’s Finance Minister to Spain. Cabarrus daughter, Thérèse, was notable for saving many nobles from facing the guillotine during the Revolution and being the lover of Jules Ouvard who owned both Clos Vougeot and Domaine de la Romanee-Conti.

The next couple centuries saw a succession of ownership changes including a time in the care of John Lewis Brown who owned Ch. Cantenac Brown in Margaux and Ch. Brown in Pessac-Leognan. For most of the 20th century, Lagrange was owned by the Cendoya family from the Basque region of Spain. Financial difficulties during that period caused the Cendoyas to have sell off parcels of vineyards including several hectares used by Henri Martin to found Chateau Gloria. In 1970, the Borie family of Ch. Ducru-Beaucaillou purchased 32 ha (79 acres) with a good chunk of that eventually becoming the estate Ch. Lalande-Borie.

Stephen Brook notes in The Complete Bordeaux that by the time the Japanese whiskey firm Suntory purchased the estate in 1983, it had shrunk from 120 ha (297 acres) to just 57 ha (141 acres) with under half the vines being Merlot.

Ch. Lagrange Today
Chateau Lagrange in Bordeaux

Visiting Ch. Lagrange in St. Julien.

Upon their acquisition of Lagrange, Suntory began investing millions into renovations in the vineyard and winery. Marcel Ducasse was brought on to manage the estate with Emile Peynaud and Michel Delon consulting.

Suntory and Ducasse initiated what Clive Coates called “a Renaissance” at Lagrange and noted that Suntory was uniquely qualified to help the 3rd Growth estate reclaim its standings. In addition to the vast capital from their whiskey empire (which now includes Jim Beam), Suntory is the largest importer and distributor of French wine in Japan. They also have owned a vineyard at the base of Mt. Fuji for many decades, the Yamanashi Vineyard, producing wine under the label of Ch. Lion. Suntory’s head enologist, Kenji Suzuta, spent time at Lagrange assisting Ducasse.

Ducasse introduced sustainable viticulture to Lagrange with many parcels farmed organically. He also began an extremely selective sorting regiment in the vineyard and the winery which necessitated the creation of a second wine, Les Fief de Lagrange, in 1985.

Stephen Brook notes that the strict selection process continued even after Ducasse successfully rehabbed Lagrange’s image and through his retirement in 2007. Today, under the direction of Bruno Eynard, many top quality parcels of Lagrange are still declassified down to the second wine, making Les Fief de Lagrange a top value in Bordeaux.

Today Lagrange produces around 60,000 cases of the Grand Vin each year.

The 2017 vintage is a blend of 78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot and 4% Petit Verdot.

Critic Scores:

92-93 JS, 89-92 WS, 89-92 VM, 89-91 Wine Advocate (WA), 91-93 JD

Sample Review:

The 2017 Château Lagrange is certainly a success in the vintage. Possessing a great nose of crème de cassis, violets, and spicy oak, it hits the palate with medium to full-bodied richness, a terrific mid-palate, present tannin, but a sexy, forward, charming style that’s already hard to resist. It should keep for two decades or more. — Jeb Dunnuck, JebDunnuck.com

Offers:

Wine Searcher 2017 Average: $46
JJ Buckley: No offers yet.
Vinfolio: No offers yet.
Spectrum Wine Auctions: No offers yet.
Total Wine: $44.97
K&L: No offers yet.

Previous Vintages:

2016 Wine Searcher Ave: $55 Average Critic Score: 92 points
2015 Wine Searcher Ave: $51 Average Critic Score: 91
2014 Wine Searcher Ave: $48 Average Critic Score: 91 points
2013 Wine Searcher Ave: $43 Average Critic Score: 89 points

Buy or Pass?

This 2009 Les Fiefs de Lagrange was outrageously delicious. I would put it on par with many 3rd Growths by itself in the $50-60 range.

This was another estate that I had the opportunity to visit in 2016. While I was a little underwhelmed with the 2012 Lagrange they poured, I was blown away by how scrumptiously delicious the 2009 Les Fief de Lagrange (Wine Searcher Ave $45) was. However, I don’t want to judge the Grand Vin too harshly on a youthful showing from an average vintage (especially compared to the more superior 2009 vintage).

But with that track record, I am going to be cautious. There is definitely value in the 2017 offering being priced less than the 2014-2016 vintages so I can’t blame anyone for pulling the trigger. I’m still going to take a “wait and see” approach. It’s unlikely that the price will jump dramatically so I’m okay with give it a Pass for now.

Ch. Ducru-Beaucaillou (St. Julien)

Some Geekery:

Clive Coates notes that Ducru-Beaucaillou was originally known as Maucaillou (bad stones) because of how difficult the stoney soil was to work with. Once the quality of the wine from the vineyard began garnering attention in the 1700s, the name gradually changed to Beaucaillou (beautiful stones).

The “Ducru” part of the name came in 1795 when Bertrand Ducru purchased the estate and commissioned the famous Parisian architect, Paul Abadie, to design the chateau. His descendants would later sell Ducru-Beaucaillou in 1866 to Lucie Caroline Dassier, wife of the notable Bordeaux merchant Nathaniel Johnston. Johnston unsuccessfully tried to change the name to just Beaucaillou but by this point the name, and its 2nd Growth classification, had solidified itself in the market.

It was during this time at Ducru-Beaucaillou when vineyard manager Ernest David accidentally stumbled upon the recipe for the famous “Bordeaux mixture“. According to Coates, David was looking to thwart thieves who were snatching grapes from the vineyard by painting the vines closest to the road with an organic blue-green mixture of copper sulfate and lime.

Neighboring growers and professors from the University of Bordeaux noticed that these treated vines did not get infected by powdery or downey mildew and convinced David to conduct more trials. Cautious about adverse effects on the Ducru vines, the trials that eventually confirmed the efficacy of the Bordeaux Mixture were conducted at another property of the Johnston family–the 5th Growth Ch. Dauzac in Margaux.

Ducru-Beaucaillou Today
Photo by Megan Mallen. Uploaded to Wikimedia commons under CC-BY-2.0

Bruno Borie of Ducru-Beaucaillou

In 1941, the estate was purchased by the Borie family who still own the property today. In addition to Ducru, the family owns the 5th Growth Pauillac estates of Grand Puy Lacoste and Haut Batailley. These estates are managed by Francois Xavier Borie with his brother, Bruno, managing Ducru-Beaucaillou.

From 1986 to 1995, the estate was plagued with systematic cork taint issues that required significant investment to eradicate. Many of the bottles from this period had to be recorked with those demonostrating noticeable TCA destroyed.

Beginning in the late 20th century, production of the Grand Vin at Ducru started decreasing from a high point of 20,000 to 25,000 cases in the early 1980s to around 9,000 to 11,000 cases today.

Since 2010, Virginie Sallette has been the technical director working with long time cellar master René Lusseau.

The 2017 vintage is a blend of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot. Due to more severe selection in this vintage, there is estimated to only be around 7500 cases produced for 2017.

Critic Scores:

97-98 JS, 95-97 WA, 94-96 WE, 93-96 WS, 93-96 VM, 96-98 Jeff Leve (JL), 94-96 JD

Sample Review:

There was no frost at Ducru-Beaucaillou in 2017 due to its proximity to the estuary. This barrel sample comes from the final blend, which was made in early 2018. Composed of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot and sporting a deep garnet-purple color, the 2017 Ducru-Beaucaillou is intensely scented of blackcurrant cordial, blackberries and lavender with hints of crushed rocks, iron ore, rose hips and Provence herbs plus touches of wood smoke and sandalwood. Medium-bodied, very firm and grainy in the mouth, it possesses lovely freshness, lifting the intense flavors, finishing long and minerally. Sporting an incredible core of muscular mid-palate fruit, this wine should age incredibly. — Lisa Perrotti-Brown, Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate

Offers:

Wine Searcher 2017 Average: $169
JJ Buckley: $167.94 + shipping (no shipping if picked up at Oakland location)
Vinfolio: $175 + shipping
Spectrum Wine Auctions: No offers yet.
Total Wine: $169.97
K&L: $169.99 + shipping

Previous Vintages:

2016 Wine Searcher Ave: $206 Average Critic Score: 95 points
2015 Wine Searcher Ave: $199 Average Critic Score: 95 points
2014 Wine Searcher Ave: $151 Average Critic Score: 95 points
2013 Wine Searcher Ave: $126 Average Critic Score: 92 points

Buy or Pass?

While Ducru is a wine that I never want to open up too young, it’s virtually an automatic buy for me every year. Just stellar stuff that’s usually worth bending my financial discipline a bit for. While the 2017 is priced a little above the 2014, the reduced yields and supply likely played a significant role.

It’s still well below 2015 & 2016 levels and is a wine that I can see jumping $20-25 higher when it hits the market. That makes its a justifiable Buy for at least a bottle or two.

La Croix Ducru-Beaucaillou (St. Julien)

Some Geekery:

La Croix is the second wine of Ducru-Beaucaillou that was first introduced in 1995. Since 2005, the wine has been produced from dedicated plots located near Ch. Talbot instead of just declassified fruit from the Grand Vin.

Starting with a limited release in 2009 and with all bottlings since 2010, the labels have been designed by Jade Jagger, daughter of rock star Mick Jagger.

The 2017 vintage is a blend of 58% Merlot, 39% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Petit Verdot.

Critic Scores:

92-94 WE, 92-93 JS, 90-93 VM, 89-92 WS, 89-91 WA, 90-92 JD

Sample Review:

The Merlot here is grown on sandy-gravel soils and brings both freshness and structure. There’s good balance, plush autumnal berry fruits and lovely spice, supported by well placed, delicate tannins. It’s a clear Médoc twist on the varietal, even though this is a little lusher and more approachable than in recent years where Cabernet Sauvignon has been higher in the blend – last year it was at 66%, but vintage conditions in 2017 affected some of the crop. It’s a little different in expression from 2016, but is an extremely high quality, great drinking wine. (91 points) — Jane Anson, Decanter

Offers:

Wine Searcher 2017 Average: $45
JJ Buckley: No offers yet
Vinfolio: No offers yet.
Spectrum Wine Auctions: No offers yet.
Total Wine: $44.97
K&L: No offers yet.

Previous Vintages:

2016 Wine Searcher Ave: $56 Average Critic Score: 92 points
2015 Wine Searcher Ave: $58 Average Critic Score: 92 points
2014 Wine Searcher Ave: $50 Average Critic Score: 91 points
2013 Wine Searcher Ave: $35 Average Critic Score: 90 points

Buy or Pass?

My affinity for Ducru certainly extends to its second wine which I often buy. A bit unusual in being a Merlot-dominant Medoc in this vintage, I find that these Merlot heavy blends usually fall picture perfect into the role of “Cellar Defender” that I’m seeking in years like 2017.

The pedigree, coupled with solid pricing under 2013-2016 vintages makes this a good Buy for me.

More Posts About the 2017 Bordeaux Futures Campaign

Why I Buy Bordeaux Futures

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Langoa Barton, La Lagune, Barde-Haut, Branaire-Ducru

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Pape Clément, Ormes de Pez, Marquis d’Alesme, Malartic-Lagraviere

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Lynch-Bages, d’Armailhac, Clerc-Milon and Duhart-Milon

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Clos de l’Oratoire, Monbousquet, Quinault l’Enclos, Fonplegade

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Cos d’Estournel, Les Pagodes des Cos, Phélan Ségur, Calon-Segur

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Clinet, Clos L’Eglise, L’Evangile, Nenin

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Malescot-St.-Exupéry, Prieuré-Lichine, Lascombes, Cantenac-Brown

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Domaine de Chevalier, Larrivet Haut-Brion, Les Carmes Haut-Brion, Smith Haut Lafitte

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Beychevelle, Talbot, Clos du Marquis, Gloria

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Beau-Séjour Bécot, Canon-la-Gaffelière, Canon, La Dominique

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Carruades de Lafite, Pedesclaux, Pichon Lalande, Reserve de la Comtesse de Lalande

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Vieux Chateau Certan, La Conseillante, La Violette, L’Eglise Clinet

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Montrose, La Dame de Montrose, Cantemerle, d’Aiguilhe

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Clos Fourtet, Larcis Ducasse, Pavie Macquin, Beauséjour Duffau-Lagarrosse

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Kirwan, d’Issan, Brane-Cantenac, Giscours

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Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Kirwan, d’Issan, Brane-Cantenac, Giscours

Photo by davitydave. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-2.0We are in the home stretch of our series on the 2017 Bordeaux Futures campaign with only a few more offers left to review.

Today we’re making our second to last stop in Margaux to review the offers of the 3rd Growths Ch. Kirwan, d’Issan and Giscours as well as the 2nd Growth Brane-Cantenac.

In our previous visits to the commune we explored the offers of Marquis d’Alesme, Malescot-St.-Exupéry, Prieuré-Lichine, Lascombes and Cantenac-Brown as well as that of Ch. Palmer.

You can check out the links at the bottom to see other offers from across Bordeaux which we have reviewed so far in this series.

Ch. Kirwan (Margaux)
Some Geekery:

The origins of Kirwan date back to the 17th century when the land belonged to the noble de Lassalle family. In 1710, the Bordeaux negociant Sir John Collingwood bought the property which eventually passed as a dowry to his daughter when she married an Irishman from Galway named Mark Kirwan.

In 1780, Thomas Jefferson visited the estate on his tour of Bordeaux and ranked the wines of Kirwan as a “2nd Growth” behind his ranking of First Growths Latour, Lafite, Margaux and Haut-Brion.

Photo by Gilbert LE MOIGNE. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-3.0

Label of Chateau Kirwan featuring the Chateau and the portraits of Armand and Jean-Henri Schÿler

After Mark Kirwan passed away in the early 19th century, the estate went through a succession of owners until it family came into the hands of Camille Godard, the mayor of Bordeaux. In 1882, Godard bequeathed the estate to the City of Bordeaux who contracted the negociant firm Schröder & Schÿler to manage the property.

By 1925, the Schÿler family had purchased Ch. Kirwan outright. The property is still in the hands of family today with Nathalie Schÿler managing.

In 1991, the Schÿlers brought Michel Rolland in to consult. Prior to this, Rolland had worked almost exclusively with clients on the Right Bank making Kirwan his first foray into the Haut-Medoc. He quickly made several substantial changes, insisting on lower yields and more strict selections with the creation of a second wine, Les Charmes de Kirwan, to help limit the fruit that would go into the Grand Vin. Since 2002, all the fermentation have been done via native wild ferments.

Ch. Kirwan is unique among the classified growths with virtually all of its 40 ha (99 acres) vineyards being the same as they were during the 1855 classifications with only slight changes in the cépage assortment. Today the vineyards are planted to 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, 10% Petit Verdot and a little bit of experimental Carménère.

Over the years the amount of Cabernet Franc has decreased (and replaced with Cabernet Sauvignon) but Kirwan still has one of the highest percentages of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot planted in the Medoc. Most of the Cabernet varieties are found on the deep gravelly-sand soils of the Cantenac plateau while the Merlot thrives on the more clay and limestone-based soils on the western side of the Margaux commune near Arsac.

The 2017 vintage is a blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot. Around 16,000 cases a year are produced.

Critic Scores:

93-95 Wine Enthusiast (WE), 90-92 Wine Advocate (WA), 89-92 Wine Spectator (WS), 89-91 Vinous Media (VM), 89-90 James Suckling (JS), 90-92 Jeb Dunnuck (JD), 88-89 Jeff Leve (JL)

Sample Review:

This is well extracted, with dark berry fruits, attractive tobacco leaf and charcoal notes. It has that same savoury frame that so many from Margaux have this year, and the fruit character is not bursting with generosity but is still expressive and lyrical. It really does offer something for those looking for a more sculpted wine. Medium term drinking. (91 points) — Jane Anson, Decanter

Offers:
Wine Searcher 2017 Average: $45
JJ Buckley: No offers yet.
Vinfolio: No offers yet.
Spectrum Wine Auctions: No offers yet.
Total Wine: $45.97 (no shipping with wines sent to local Total Wine store for pick up)
K&L: $46.99 + shipping (no shipping if picked up at 1 of 3 K & L locations in California)

Previous Vintages:
2016 Wine Searcher Ave: $47 Average Critic Score: 92 points
2015 Wine Searcher Ave: $56 Average Critic Score: 92
2014 Wine Searcher Ave: $46 Average Critic Score: 91
2013 Wine Searcher Ave: $43 Average Critic Score: 89

Buy or Pass?

Photo by Ryan O'Connell. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-2.0

Merlot berries being sorted at Ch. Kirwan during the 2010 harvest.

Kirwan has been charming the pants off of me since the 2009 vintage (WS Ave $79). Both the 2012 (WS Ave $55) and 2014 vintage were released in the mid $40s and offered stellar value for the quality they delivered. Even the troublesome 2011 (WA Ave $54) and 2013 vintages of Kirwan drank way above their similarly priced peers with the former starting to see a steady price bump as more folks have catched on.

That personal track record of producing a savory, yet elegant style which hits my pleasure spots as well as pricing which fits perfectly in line with the 2014 vintage makes this a Buy for me.

Even though it looks like most critics have been poo-pooing this years release, this is a case where I’m going to go with my gut and past experience instead of numerical scores.

Ch. d’Issan (Margaux)
Some Geekery:

Engraved above the door in the entryway to Ch. d’Issan is the estate’s Latin motto–Regum Mensis Arisque Deorum “For the tables of kings and the altars of the gods”–which pays tribute to the property’s long history and presence on the tables of royal families throughout Europe.

Legend has it that wine from the vineyards of d’Issan were served at the wedding banquet of Eleanor of Aquitaine and King Henri II in 1152.

Clive Coates notes in Grand Vins that following their defeat at the Battle of Castillon in 1453, the English Army made their last stand at d’Issan. At the conclusion of the Hundred Years War, the property was granted as a reward by King Charles VII to the Comte de Foix for his service is fighting the English.

Centuries later the wines of d’Issan were well stocked in the cellars of the Prince of Wales (later George II) along with those of Latour, Lafite, Margaux and Pontac (Haut-Brion). While serving as the Ambassador to France, future US President Jefferson ranked the estate (then known as Ch. Candale) as a “3rd Growth” following his tour of the wineries of Bordeaux. In the 19th century, the favorite claret of Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria was reportedly Ch. d’Issan.

Image from The U.S. Diplomacy Center exhibition page which states All materials in this exhibition are in the public domain and can be reproduced without permission.

When Thomas Jefferson visited the estate in 1780, he ranked the wines Ch. Candale (named after its then owners) as a 3rd Growth–a ranking that would later be affirmed in the official 1855 Classification done by the Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce.

The estate gets its name from its time under the ownership of the 17th century French knight Pierre d’Essenault who acquired the estate as a dowry with his descendants running it till 1760.

The modern history of the estate began after World War II when it was purchased by the Cruse family who also owned the 2nd Growth Ch. Rauzan-Ségla. The Cruses eventually sold Rauzan-Ségla in 1956 to focus completely on d’Issan.

The estate is still managed today by the Cruse family however, in 2013, Jacky Lorenzetti acquired a 50% stake in the ownership of d’Issan to go along with his holdings of Ch. Lilian Ladouys in St. Estephe and Ch. Pedesclaux in Pauillac.

When the estate was officially classified as a 3rd Growth in 1855, the vineyards were planted almost entirely to the obscure variety Tarney Coulant (also known as Mancin). Today the 44 ha (109 acres) of d’Issan vineyards are planted to 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot with the percentage of Merlot increasing in recent years.

The 2017 vintage is a blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon and 35% Merlot. Around 6000 cases a year are produced.

Critic Scores:

93-94 JS, 90-92 WA, 89-92 VM, 92-94 JL, 89-91 JD

Sample Review:

The 2017 d’Issan is plump, juicy and forward. There is lovely depth and texture to the 2017, but without the explosive energy that has characterized some recent vintages, including the 2015 and 2016. Plush fruit, silky and soft tannins all add to the wine’s considerable appeal. I expect the 2017 will drink well with minimal cellaring. In 2017, d’Issan is a wine of finesse, persistence and nuance rather than power. The blend is 65% Cabernet Sauvignon and 35% Merlot. Harvest started on September 18, the earliest since 2003. Quite unusually, there was no break in between the picking of the Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Indeed, some of the younger vine Cabernet came in before all the Merlots were in. Tasted four times. — Antonio Galloni, Vinous

Offers:
Wine Searcher 2017 Average: $60
JJ Buckley: $61.94 + shipping (no shipping if picked up at Oakland location)
Vinfolio: No offers yet.
Spectrum Wine Auctions: No offers yet.
Total Wine: $59.97
K&L: $59.99 + shipping

Previous Vintages:
2016 Wine Searcher Ave: $71 Average Critic Score: 93 points
2015 Wine Searcher Ave: $76 Average Critic Score: 93
2014 Wine Searcher Ave: $63 Average Critic Score: 92
2013 Wine Searcher Ave: $51 Average Critic Score: 89

Buy or Pass?

Photo by Unozoe. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-3.0

The castle looking chateau of d’Issan.

The history geek in me absolutely adores the story of d’Issan. But I’ve only have had tasting experiences with a couple of vintages of d’Issan–both stellar years (2005 WS Ave $119 and 2009 WS Ave $95). While its relatively easy to make good wines in vintages like those, I find that the mettle of an estate shines in the more average to sub-par vintage.

So while I love the story, without having a bearing on what the d’Issan team can do in vintages like 2017 or poorer, I’m not inclined to gamble on their 2017 offer. Pass.

Ch. Brane-Cantenac (Margaux)
Some Geekery:

Founded in the 18th century as Domaine Guilhem Hosten and later known as Chateau Gorce-Guy, Brane-Cantenac received its current name when it was purchased in 1833 by Baron Hector de Brane, known as “the Napoléon of the Vineyards”. To finance the sale, Brane sold his Pauillac estate Brane-Mouton (later known as Mouton-Rothschild). The “Cantenac” comes from the plateau that the estate’s 75 ha (185 acres) are located on.

In 1866, Brane-Cantenac came under the ownership of the Roy family who also owned neighboring d’Issan. Under the Roys the estate would fetch among the highest prices of all the classified 2nd growths with some vintages being on par with the pricing of the First Growths.

The modern history of Brane-Cantenac began in 1920 when it was purchased by the consortium behind the Societe des Grands Crus de France that also owned Ch. Margaux and Ch. Giscours as well as Chateau Lagrange in St. Julien. Among the shareholders were Léonce Recapet and his son-in-law, François Lurton. After dissolution of the consortium in 1925, Recapet and Lurton purchased Brane-Cantenac with the estate later passing to François’ son, Lucien.

Lucien Lurton would go on to acquire several estates that he turned over into the care of his 10 children in the 1990s. His son, Henri Lurton, took control of Brane-Cantenac in 1992.

While mostly traditional in style, Brane-Cantenac was one of the first in Bordeaux to adopt the use of the use of an optical sorter during harvest and in some vintages will make use of a reverse osmosis machine–mostly in rainy vintages to remove excess water that has swelled the grapes.

The author and Henri Lurton at the 2016 UGC tasting featuring the wines of the 2013 vintage.

Around 25% of Brane Cantenac is farmed organically with only ploughing and organic manure used throughout all the vineyards. Additionally 12 ha (20 acres) are farmed bioydnamically.

The 2017 vintage is a blend of 74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot with this vintage being the first vintage to include Petit Verdot in the final blend. Around 11,000 cases a year are produced. In 2017, most of that year’s frost hit the portion of vineyards usually allocated towards production of the estate’s second wine, Baron de Brane.

Critic Scores:

94-96 WE, 92-93 JS, 91-93 VM, 88-91 WS, 89-92 JD, 91-94 JL

Sample Review:

The 2017 Brane-Cantenac was picked from 14 September to 2 October at 31.2hl/ha after frost destroyed 35% of the vines in April. It is matured in 75% new oak and 25% one-year old and it has 13% alcohol. It has a tightly wound bouquet with broody black fruit, tar and a touch of graphite, very Pauillac in style as usual. The palate is medium-bodied with fine tannin, very linear and precise, not a deep Margaux and unashamedly classic in style with dry, slightly brusque tannin. The finish is dominated by tobacco and pencil lead notes with healthy pinch of pepper on the aftertaste. Classic Brane-Cantenac through and through. Tasted on three occasions. — Neal Martin, Vinous

Offers:
Wine Searcher 2017 Average: $64
JJ Buckley: No offers yet.
Vinfolio: No offers yet.
Spectrum Wine Auctions: $413.94 for minimum 6 bottles + shipping (no shipping if picked up at Tustin, CA location)
Total Wine: $69.97
K&L: $66.99 + shipping

Previous Vintages:
2016 Wine Searcher Ave: $75 Average Critic Score: 93 points
2015 Wine Searcher Ave: $80 Average Critic Score: 94
2014 Wine Searcher Ave: $60 Average Critic Score: 92
2013 Wine Searcher Ave: $56 Average Critic Score: 90

Buy or Pass?

Describing Brane-Cantenac as the “Pauillac of Margaux” is a spot-on description. Outside of the top estates of Ch. Margaux and Ch. Palmer, no one else in the communes makes a more structured and age-worthy Margaux than Brane-Cantenac. Compared to its 2nd Growth peers and even the highly esteemed Pauillac 5th Growths Lynch-Bages and Pontet-Canet, Brane-Cantenac is often vastly underpriced for its quality level.

However, it is that highly structured and exceptionally age-worthy style which causes me to avoid Brane-Cantenac in vintages like 2017 when I’m looking for more shorter term “cellar defender” wines. While the estate is a stellar buy in cellar-worthy vintages like 2009/2010 and 2015/2017, it doesn’t fit the bill on what I’m looking right now so Pass.

Ch. Giscours (Margaux)
Some Geekery:

While the origins of Giscours goes back to the 14th century, the first documentation of winemaking at the property dates to 1552. In the 18th century, the estate was owned by the Marquis de St. Simon whose family saw the government confiscate Giscours during the French Revolution.

The property was sold in 1793 to two Americans, John Gray and Jonathan Davis. Eventually Giscours was acquired in 1845 by a Parisian banker, the Comte de Pescatore, who hired Pierre Skawinski to manage the property.

Photo by Ken Case. Released into the public domain and uploaded to Wikimedia Commons.

The exterior of Ch. Giscours.


Over the next 50 years, Skawinski would go on to develop many innovations in the vineyard and winery including the design of a new plow as well as the use of sulfur spray to combat powdery mildew. He also developed techniques of gravity flow winemaking at Giscours that his sons would later take to other notable Bordeaux estates like Léoville-Las Cases, Lynch-Bages and Pontet-Canet.

In 1875, Giscours was purchased by the Cruse family who had their hand in the ownership of several Bordeaux properties. They sold the estate in 1913. By 1952, Giscours came under the ownership of an Algerian vigneron, Nicolas Tari. In 1976, Tari’s son, Pierre, was one of the judges at the famous “Judgement of Paris” wine tasting in 1976.

Today Giscours is owned by Eric Albada Jelgersma who also owns the 5th Growth Margaux estate Chateau du Tertre, the Haut-Medoc estates Ch. Duthil and Ch. Houringe as well as the Tuscan estate of Caiarossa.

In 1995, Alexander van Beek was brought in to manage the estate and is credited with taking Giscours (as well as du Tertre) to new heights of success.

All the vineyards are sustainably managed with 20% farmed biodynamically.

The 2017 vintage is a blend of 71% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot and 5% Petit Verdot. Around 25,000 cases a year are produced.

Critic Scores:

94-96 WE, 92-93 JS, 90-93 VM, 90-92 WA, 89-92 WS, 92-94 JL, 89-91 JD

Sample Review:

An up and coming Margaux estate, the 2017 Château Giscours offers a complex bouquet of sandalwood, damp flowers, sous bois, and spicy red fruits. It’s slightly stretched and firm on the palate, with medium-bodied richness. I’d like to see more fat and texture here, but I suspect it will put on more weight with time in barrel and bottle. It should drink nicely for a decade. — Jeb Dunnuck, JebDunnuck.com

Offers:
Wine Searcher 2017 Average: $59
JJ Buckley: $60.94
Vinfolio: No offers yet.
Spectrum Wine Auctions: $365.94 for minimum 6 bottles + shipping
Total Wine: $59.97
K&L: $59.99 + shipping

Previous Vintages:
2016 Wine Searcher Ave: $68 Average Critic Score: 93 points
2015 Wine Searcher Ave: $72 Average Critic Score: 93
2014 Wine Searcher Ave: $67 Average Critic Score: 91
2013 Wine Searcher Ave: $52 Average Critic Score: 90

Buy or Pass?

The 2005 Giscours is such a beauty but even in sub-par vintages Giscours has been producing winners that over deliver for the price of a 3rd Growth.


Probably one of the best buys in Bordeaux is the 2005 Giscours (WS Ave $102). This is a wine that is drinking at its peak now and is easily outshining wines almost twice its price. I’ve been fortunate to enjoy this wine several times with a few bottles still left in the cellar.

Likewise the 2012 (WS Ave $75) and 2014 are still punching above their weight though both were closer to $55 when they were released. It’s been clear for sometime that Giscours has been an estate on the ascent but, sadly for our wallets, the prices are starting to catch up with its stellar quality level.

That makes seeing a 2017 future offer below 2014 levels quite surprising. While I doubt the price of the 2017 will reach into the $70s, it’s far more likely that the wine will be closer to 2014 by the time this wine hits the shelf in 2020. It’s worth it to Buy now and lock in the futures price.

More Posts About the 2017 Bordeaux Futures Campaign

Why I Buy Bordeaux Futures

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Langoa Barton, La Lagune, Barde-Haut, Branaire-Ducru

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Pape Clément, Ormes de Pez, Marquis d’Alesme, Malartic-Lagraviere

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Lynch-Bages, d’Armailhac, Clerc-Milon and Duhart-Milon

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Clos de l’Oratoire, Monbousquet, Quinault l’Enclos, Fonplegade

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Cos d’Estournel, Les Pagodes des Cos, Phélan Ségur, Calon-Segur

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Clinet, Clos L’Eglise, L’Evangile, Nenin

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Malescot-St.-Exupéry, Prieuré-Lichine, Lascombes, Cantenac-Brown

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Domaine de Chevalier, Larrivet Haut-Brion, Les Carmes Haut-Brion, Smith Haut Lafitte

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Beychevelle, Talbot, Clos du Marquis, Gloria

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Beau-Séjour Bécot, Canon-la-Gaffelière, Canon, La Dominique

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Carruades de Lafite, Pedesclaux, Pichon Lalande, Reserve de la Comtesse de Lalande

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Vieux Chateau Certan, La Conseillante, La Violette, L’Eglise Clinet

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Montrose, La Dame de Montrose, Cantemerle, d’Aiguilhe

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Clos Fourtet, Larcis Ducasse, Pavie Macquin, Beauséjour Duffau-Lagarrosse

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Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Clos Fourtet, Larcis Ducasse, Pavie Macquin, Beauséjour Duffau-Lagarrosse

We head back to St. Emilion to look at some of the 2017 Bordeaux Futures offers from 4 of the 14 Premier Grand Cru Classé ‘B’ — Clos Fourtet, Ch. Larcis Ducasse, Ch. Pavie Macquin and Ch. Beauséjour Duffau-Lagarrosse.

Photo by Colin. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-2.0

In our previous jaunts to St. Emilion we examined the offers of Clos de l’Oratoire, Ch. Monbousquet, Ch. Quinault l’Enclos and Ch. Fonplegade as well as Ch. Beau-Séjour Bécot, Ch. Canon-la-Gaffelière, Ch. Canon and Ch. La Dominique.

You can also check out our first Bordeaux Futures 2017 post covering the offers of the St. Emilion estates of Ch. Valandraud and Ch. Fombrauge with more links at the bottom of the page featuring other estates across Bordeaux that we have reviewed so far in this series.

Clos Fourtet (St. Emilion)
Some Geekery:

Located on the limestone plateau, near the entrance to the town of St. Emilion itself, Clos Fourtet was first born as Camfourtet–a defensive fortification built during the Middle Ages to protect the village. Roughly translated as “Camp Fort”, vines were planted by the late 18th century when it was owned by the Carles family who also owned Ch. Figeac.

Photo by Ernmuhl at lb.wikipedia. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under : CC-BY-SA-3.0

The Chateau of Clos Fourtet.

In 1868, the estate’s owners, the Rulleau family, changed the name to Clos Fourtet. In 1919, the property was purchased by the Ginestet family–a powerful negociant family who owned several properties throughout the Bordeaux. They would own the estate until 1948 when it was “traded” to François Lurton in exchange for the Ginestets receiving his share of Chateau Margaux.

Under the Lurton family, the quality in the vineyards and winery steadily improved with François’ grandson, Pierre Lurton, taking over winemaking in the 1980s. Pierre would continue to manage the estate until 1991 when he left to manage Cheval Blanc. He was succeeded by Tony Ballu who is still managing Clos Fourtet today.

In 1999, the Lurtons sold Clos Fourtet to Philippe Cuvelier who made his money in the office supply industry. Cuvelier retained Ballu and brought in his son, Mathieu, to assist in managing the estate. Jean Claude Berrouet, the former winemaker of Chateau Petrus, and Stéphane Derenoncourt consult.

In addition to Clos Fourtet, the Cuveliers also own the St. Emilion estates of Ch. Les Grandes Murailles, Clos St. Martin and Ch. Cote de Baleau as well as the Haut-Medoc cru bourgeois Ch. Poujeaux.

All 20 ha (49 acres) of the estate are farmed sustainably with parcels being converted to biodynamic since 2010.

The 2017 vintage is a blend of 86% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc and 4% Cabernet Sauvignon. Around 4,500 cases a year are produced.

Critic Scores:

93-96 Wine Spectator (WS), 94-95 James Suckling (JS), 92-94 Wine Advocate (WA), 92-95 Vinous Media (VM), 94-97 Jeb Dunnuck (JD), 93-95 Jeff Leve (JL)

Sample Review:

The 2017 Clos Fourtet is very good, but also very tightly wound. Powerful and tannic, the 2017 is likely to require many years to come in its own. Today, the 2017 is certainly less charming than some recent vintages and other 2017 Saint-Émilions. There is certainly no lack of depth or concentration. The dark red/purplish berry fruit, rose petal and lavender flavors are very nicely delineated. Clos Fourtet is one of the wines that improved over the two weeks I followed it. I won’t be surprised if it is even better from bottle. — Antonio Galloni, Vinous

Offers:
Wine Searcher 2017 Average: $102
JJ Buckley: No offers yet.
Vinfolio: No offers yet.
Spectrum Wine Auctions: $629.94 for minimum 6 bottles + shipping (no shipping if picked up at Tustin, CA location)
Total Wine: $104.97 (no shipping with wines sent to local Total Wine store for pick up)
K&L: $104.99 + shipping (no shipping if picked up at 1 of 3 K & L locations in California)
Previous Vintages:

2016 Wine Searcher Ave: $123 Average Critic Score: 94 points
2015 Wine Searcher Ave: $122 Average Critic Score: 95
2014 Wine Searcher Ave: $98 Average Critic Score: 93
2013 Wine Searcher Ave: $81 Average Critic Score: 91

 

Buy or Pass?

The 2014 Clos Fourtet was one of my favorite wines during the 2017 Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux tasting highlighting the wines of the 2014 vintage. I ended up buying several bottles that night which are still in my cellar.

While I appreciate that the 2017 pricing for Clos Fourtet is tilting closer to 2014 instead of 2015/2016 pricing, I’m quite content sticking with the sure thing of the 2014s I bought so I will Pass.

Ch. Larcis Ducasse (St. Emilion)

Some Geekery:

The origins of Larcis Ducasse date back to Roman times when the hillside slope on the southern end of the St. Emilion plateau (near modern-day Ch. Pavie) was particularly prized by Roman viticulturists.

The modern history of the estate began in 1893 when it was purchased by Henri Raba. Through the female line of his descendants, the property has remained in the ownership of the same family for over a 120 years with Jacques-Olivier Gratiot managing the estate since 1990 when his mother and niece of Henri Raba, Hélène Gratiot-Alphandéry, passed away.

While the last half of the 20th century saw the quality level of Larcis Ducasse dip, things began to turn around when Gratiot brought in Nicolas Thienpont in 2002 to manage the estate. Well known for his work at fellow Premier Grand Cru Classé ‘B’ estates Ch. Pavie Macquin as well as Château Berliquet, Thienpont began a series of extensive renovations in the vineyard and winery.

Photo by Isabelle Albucher, Released on Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-4.0

Stéphane Derenoncourt consults for Larcis Ducasse as well as several other estates in St. Emilion.

Since 2005, the entire estate was converted to organic viticulture and, with the assistance of consultant Stéphane Derenoncourt, wine production methods were changed to incorporate whole berry fermentation, micro-oxygenation and gravity flow movement.

Several prime parcels of the 11 ha (27 acre) estate are located next to the Premier Grand Cru Classé ‘A’ estate of Ch. Pavie while others neighbor Ch. Pavie Macquin, Canon-la-Gaffelière, La Gaffelière and Troplong-Mondot.

The 2017 vintage is a blend of 92% Merlot and 8% Cabernet Franc. Around 3000 cases were produced.

 

Critic Scores:

 

94-95 JS, 92-95 WS, 92-94 WA, 92-94 Wine Enthusiast (WE), 91-93 VM, 92-95 JD, 91-94 JL

 

Sample Review:

Blueberries, blackberries, violets, licorice and ample crushed rock notes all emerge from this medium-bodied, tight, firm 2017 Larcis Ducasse, which comes from a magical terroir not far from Pavie. It doesn’t have the density or depth of the 2015 or 2012, yet has beautiful purity of fruit, ripe tannins, and considerable elegance and purity. I suspect it will put on weight with time in barrel and evolve similarly to the 2008. — Jeb Dunnuck, JebDunnuck.com

Offers:

Wine Searcher 2017 Average: $69
JJ Buckley: No offers yet
Vinfolio: No offers yet.
Spectrum Wine Auctions: No offers yet.
Total Wine: $69.97
K&L: $69.99 + shipping

Previous Vintages:

2016 Wine Searcher Ave: $79 Average Critic Score: 93 points
2015 Wine Searcher Ave: $90 Average Critic Score: 94
2014 Wine Searcher Ave: $59 Average Critic Score: 91
2013 Wine Searcher Ave: $51 Average Critic Score: 90

Buy or Pass?

 

Larcis Ducasse is another estate that I bought several bottles of the 2014 vintage of. However, my experience with this wine and previous vintages is that it is going to need a bit more time in the bottle than typically what I would hope for with a “cellar defender”. The 2012 (Wine Searcher ave $68) likewise was charming and undoubtedly age-worthy though I fret I may only have a single bottle left of that vintage in the cellar.

I strongly suspect the 2017 will follow the same pattern. But with the 2014 and 2012 being much more attractively priced, I’m going to Pass on this offer in lieu of hopefully finding more of these older vintages on the market.

Ch. Pavie Macquin (St. Emilion)

Some Geekery:

Ch. Pavie Macquin was once part of the large Pavie estate that extended from the top of the St. Emilion plateau and down the southern slope. In 1887, Albert Macquin purchased the Chapus-Pavie and Pavie-Pigasse sections located on the top of the plateau to form the estate that now bares his name.

Macquin earned his fortune in the aftermath of the phylloxera epidemic pioneering grafting techniques to plant Vitis vinifera vines onto American rootstock. Noting the susceptibility of vines planted on limestone soils to develop chlorosis (a nutrient deficiency particularly impacting iron uptake), Macquin advocated for the use of Vitis berlandieri rootstock which had much more tolerance to lime-rich soils. Over the next several years, his nursery produced more than 1 million grafted vines to help replant the Libournais after the devastation of phylloxera.

Today the estate is ran by Macquin’s grandchildren, Benoît and Bruno Corre and Marie Jacques Charpentier. In 1990, the owners brought in Stéphane Derenoncourt to consult and assist with converting the vineyard to biodynamic viticulture. However, a particularly bad attack of mildew in 1993 caused Pavie Macquin to lose more than 2/3 of its crop and ended the estate’s experimentation with biodynamics. The vineyards are still farmed organically but without certification to maintain the flexibility of being able to respond if another viticultural hazard threatens a vintage.

Under Thienpont

In 1994, Nicolas Thienpont of the notable Belgian merchant family–whose extended members own such illustrious properties as the Pomerol estates Le Pin and Vieux Chateau Certan as well as the Margaux estate Clos des Quatre Vents–was brought in to manage the estate.

The oak leaves and noose on the modern labels of Pavie Macquin pay homage to the unique history of a large oak tree on the estate.

The 15 ha (37 acres) of Pavie Macquin are located above Ch. Pavie, next to Pavie Decesse, on the plateau with Troplong Mondot to the west and Ch. Trottevielle to the north.

On the property is a large solitary oak tree believed to be hundreds of years old. According to legend this tree was the site of criminal executions and the modern bottles of Pavie Macquin pay homage to this history with the image of two oak leaves and a noose on the label.

The 2017 vintage is a blend of 80% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Franc and 2% Cabernet Sauvignon. Around 4,500 cases a year are produced.

Critic Scores:

 

95-97 WA, 94-96 WE, 94-95 JS, 92-95 WS, 92-94 VM, 93-95 JD, 91-94 JL

Sample Review:

Delicate, soft, skillfully shaped tannins and mature, dark fruit proffer sweetness and lift at the core of this year’s presentation. Full bodied, lush and polished with juicy fruit characteristics, length and complexity, the vintage is about stylish refinement, vibrancy and purity of fruit. — Jeff Leve, The Wine Cellar Insider

Offers:

Wine Searcher 2017 Average: $73
JJ Buckley: No offers yet.
Vinfolio: $75 + shipping
Spectrum Wine Auctions: No offers yet.
Total Wine: $74.97
K&L: $74.99 + shipping

Previous Vintages:

2016 Wine Searcher Ave: $89 Average Critic Score: 94 points
2015 Wine Searcher Ave: $94 Average Critic Score: 92
2014 Wine Searcher Ave: $69 Average Critic Score: 92
2013 Wine Searcher Ave: $50 Average Critic Score: 92

Buy or Pass?

 

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I’m just not very inspired at these 2017 prices compared to those of the still available and very delicious 2014 wines that are out on the market.

Like 2017, the 2014 vintage was an uneven year that was mostly saved by a nice Indian summer which led to a dry and warm harvest. Coming off the releases of the fairly rough years of 2013 and 2011–and then succeeded by the blockbuster 2015/2016–prices for 2014 have kept steady as the wines have made their way to market with a quality level that has surprised many.

2017 could also go own to surprise folks in the bottle but, for my money, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush so as long as the pricing for 2014s are more enticing I’m going to Pass on gambling on the potential of 2017.

Ch. Beauséjour Duffau-Lagarrosse (St. Emilion)

Some Geekery:

 

Like neighboring Ch. Beau-Séjour Bécot and Ch. Canon, Beauséjour Duffau-Lagarrosse was once part of a large ecclesiastical estate that was tended in the Middle Ages by the monks of Saint-Martin de Mazerat.

In the 17th century, the Beauséjour half of the property (known as Peycoucou) came into the hands of the Gerès family who were the current Lord of Camarsacs. A descendant of theirs married into the Carles de Figeac family in 1722 with the estate bequeathed to the new couple as a dowry. It wasn’t until 1787 when the couple’s son, a general in the Bourbon army, rechristened Peycoucou as Beauséjour meaning “Good day”.

In the early 1800s, the wines of Beauséjour merited critical acclaim with Clive Coates noting in Grand Vins that they were often ranked 5th in the commune behind only those of Belair, Troplong Mondot, Canon and Ausone.

Eventually the estate passed to a cousin, Pierre-Paulin Ducarpe, who upon his death saw the estate divided between his two children. His son received the half that would become Beau-Séjour Bécot while his daughter, who married into the Duffau-Lagarrosse family, received the other half.

Today, the same family still owns Beauséjour Duffau-Lagarrosse.  Since 2009, Nicolas Thienpont has been in charge of winemaking with both Michel Rolland and Stéphane Derenoncourt consulting.

The estate is composed of one single 6.5 ha (16 acres) parcel that spans the top of the St. Emilion plateau, west of the city, near Beau-Séjour Bécot and Canon and along the slopes near Clos Fourtet, Ch. Angelus and Clos Saint Martin.

The 2017 is a blend of 88% Merlot and 12% Cabernet Franc.  The winery produces around 800 to 1,200 cases of the Grand Vin each vintage.

Critic Scores:

 

95-96 JS, 94-96 WA, 94-96 WE, 93-96 WS, 92-94 VM, 93-96 JD, 94-96 JL

Sample Review:

Very dark. Ripe, dark black plums and just a touch of red cherry. Then quite oaky on the palate, rich, firm, smooth, with chocolate on the finish from the oak. Needs quite a bit of time. Chewy on the second taste. No lack of fruit but the structure dominates at the moment. (16 out of 20) — Julia Harding, JancisRobinson.com

Offers:

Wine Searcher 2017 Average: $107
JJ Buckley: No offers yet.
Vinfolio: No offers yet.
Spectrum Wine Auctions: $659.94 for minimum 6 bottles + shipping
Total Wine: $109.97
K&L: $109.99 + shipping

Previous Vintages:

2016 Wine Searcher Ave: $121 Average Critic Score: 94 points
2015 Wine Searcher Ave: $153 Average Critic Score: 94
2014 Wine Searcher Ave: $89 Average Critic Score: 93
2013 Wine Searcher Ave: $73 Average Critic Score: 91

Buy or Pass?

 

With pricing averaging nearly $20 more than the 2014 vintage, this offer for Beauséjour Duffau-Lagarrosse already had one strike against it. Then couple it with a very oaky style that multiple tasting notes from critics suggest is going to need quite a bit of time and I have little reason to see this 2017 wine fitting my plans for a “cellar defender”. Pass.

More Posts About the 2017 Bordeaux Futures Campaign

Why I Buy Bordeaux Futures

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Langoa Barton, La Lagune, Barde-Haut, Branaire-Ducru

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Pape Clément, Ormes de Pez, Marquis d’Alesme, Malartic-Lagraviere

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Lynch-Bages, d’Armailhac, Clerc-Milon and Duhart-Milon

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Clos de l’Oratoire, Monbousquet, Quinault l’Enclos, Fonplegade

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Cos d’Estournel, Les Pagodes des Cos, Phélan Ségur, Calon-Segur

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Clinet, Clos L’Eglise, L’Evangile, Nenin

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Malescot-St.-Exupéry, Prieuré-Lichine, Lascombes, Cantenac-Brown

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Domaine de Chevalier, Larrivet Haut-Brion, Les Carmes Haut-Brion, Smith Haut Lafitte

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Beychevelle, Talbot, Clos du Marquis, Gloria

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Beau-Séjour Bécot, Canon-la-Gaffelière, Canon, La Dominique

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Carruades de Lafite, Pedesclaux, Pichon Lalande, Reserve de la Comtesse de Lalande

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Vieux Chateau Certan, La Conseillante, La Violette, L’Eglise Clinet

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Montrose, La Dame de Montrose, Cantemerle, d’Aiguilhe

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Kirwan, d’Issan, Brane-Cantenac, Giscours

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Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Montrose, La Dame de Montrose, Cantemerle, d’Aiguilhe

Photo by davitydave. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-2.0

For the last several postings in our series about the 2017 Bordeaux Futures campaign, we’ve been skipping around Bordeaux to focus on the offers from different communes.

Today we’re going to take a break from that to look at some individual offers from the St. Estephe 2nd Growth Ch. Montrose and its second wine, La Dame de Montrose. Then we are going to head out to the Haut-Medoc AOC to check in on the 5th Growth Ch. Cantemerle before ending on the offer from another Vignobles Comtes von Neipperg estate with Ch. d’Aiguilhe in the Côtes de Castillon region of the Right Bank.

If you are new to our Bordeaux Futures series, be sure to check out my post on Why I Buy Bordeaux Futures as well as the our first Bordeaux Futures 2017 post covering the offers of Palmer, Valandraud, Fombrauge and Haut-Batailley.

At the bottom of page are links to the offers of other estates that we’ve reviewed so far in this series.

Now onto the offers.

Ch. Montrose (St. Estephe)
Some Geekery:

Photo by Rosendahl. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under PD-author

The vivid pink color of heather flowers in bloom on the hill that would become Montrose could be scene by sailors on the Gironde.

Founded in 1815, Ch. Montrose was the youngest estate to be classified 40 years later in the 1855 classification. However, the history of the land dates back much longer when it was part of the historical Calon-Ségur estate that was once owned by the Marquis de Ségur–the “Prince of Vines” who also owned what would become the First Growths of Ch. Latour, Lafite and Mouton-Rothschild.

The descendants of the Marquis sold Calon-Ségur in 1778 to Etienne Théodore Dumoulin. His son, also named Etienne Théodore, took interest in an unplanted hill on the property near the Gironde known as La Lande de l’Escargeon that was covered in heather, stunted trees, gorse and bramble. Underneath this growth was a croupe of gravel soils that Dumoulin suspected would be ideal for grape growing.

Dumoulin cleared the hill and renamed it Montrose (hill of pink) with the name likely alluding to the pink (rosé) heather flowers that were visible to sailors on the Gironde when they were in bloom. While Dumoulin would later sell Calon-Ségur in 1824, Montrose would stay in his family until 1861 when it was sold to an Alsatian businessman, Mathieu Dollfus.

Clive Coates notes in Grand Vins that Dollfus was a very progressive employer for his time–building housing and a well for all his winery and vineyard workers, offering them free medical care and paid maternity leave as well as dividing 10% of the profits between them on top of their salaries.

When Dolffus passed away in 1887, the estate was sold to the Hostein family who owned Ch. Cos d’Estournel. In 1896, it was passed to Louis Victor Charmoule who was born at Ch. Figeac in St. Emilion and married into the Hostein family.

The Charmoule family would own Ch. Montrose for more than 100 years until 2006 when it was sold to the Bouygues brothers who made their fortune in the construction and telecom business.

Photo by BerndB mailto:cassandros@cityweb.de  Released on Wikimedia Commons under  CC-BY-SA-3.0

A bottle of 2000 Montrose, one of the last few vintages of the Charmoule family.

Under the Bouygues ownership, Herve Berland–formerly of Ch. Mouton-Rothschild–was brought in to manage the estate and Jean Bernard Delmas, previously of Ch. Haut-Brion, was coaxed out of retirement to oversee the winemaking both at Montrose and at the Bouyques’ neighboring sister property of Ch. Tronquoy Lalande.

The 2017 vintage is a blend of 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot. Around 15,000 cases a year are produced.

Critic Scores:

96-99 Wine Advocate (WA), 96-97 James Suckling (JS), 94-96 Wine Enthusiast (WE), 94-96 Vinous Media (VM), 91-94 Wine Spectator (WS), 97-99 Jeff Leve (JL), 93-95 Jeb Dunnuck (JD)

Sample Review:

This has more Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend this year, the highest level since 2006, because the Merlot didn’t quite make it through the September rains unscathed. The wine is correspondingly powerful with a robust accompanying acidity that promises a long life. The fruit character is savoury, succulent and extremely persistent, with fleshy blackberry alongside touches of redcurrant and a pulsating freshness that keeps on coming. Harvested 12-29 September with twelve days spent actually picking, compared to sixteen days over the last few years, with more hands on deck. They have never been affected by frost, as far as they can remember, and 2017 was no exception. The wind is always such a benefit here. (96 points) — Jane Anson, Decanter

Offers:

Wine Searcher 2017 Average: $133
JJ Buckley: $132.94 + shipping (no shipping if picked up at Oakland location)
Vinfolio: $138 + shipping
Spectrum Wine Auctions: $839.94 for minimum 6 bottles + shipping (no shipping if picked up at Tustin, CA location)
Total Wine: $134.97 (no shipping with wines sent to local Total Wine store for pick up)
K&L: $129.99 + shipping (no shipping if picked up at 1 of 3 K & L locations in California)

Previous Vintages:
2016 Wine Searcher Ave: $197 Average Critic Score: 95 points
2015 Wine Searcher Ave: $177 Average Critic Score: 94
2014 Wine Searcher Ave: $141 Average Critic Score: 95
2013 Wine Searcher Ave: $98 Average Critic Score: 92

Buy or Pass?

Montrose is a stalwart in my cellar but even though I know the style has been changing to make the wines more approachable younger, I never want to touch a bottle until it has at least 15 years of age on it. A couple years ago, I opened up a 2005 with just a little over 10 years of age and it was heartbreaking how tight and not ready that wine was–especially since that was my only bottle and it is now fetching over $200. Lesson learned.

Needless to say that means that even though this will undoubtedly be a tasty bottle and a solid value with pricing under 2014 levels, Montrose’s style doesn’t fit with my personal objectives of finding early-drinking “cellar defenders” from this 2017 vintage. So while this will be good buy for other Bordeaux fans, it will be a Pass for me.

La Dame de Montrose (St. Estephe)

Some Geekery:

La Dame de Montrose is named after Yvonne Charmolue, mother of Jean Louis Charmolue who created the wine in the 1980s. In January 1944, more than a year before World War II would come to an end, Yvonne’s husband, Albe Charmolue, passed away leaving just Yvonne to care for the estate and her young son.

During this time, Montrose was still recovering from having the chateau and several of the winery’s buildings occupied by the Wehrmacht artillery with portions of the vineyards used as a rifle range by the German soldiers. The unit’s presence and its location near the Shell petrol refinery in neighboring Pauillac made the area a frequent target for Royal Air Force bombers with several bombs that overshot their targets hitting the vineyards and creating huge craters.

Photo by BerndB; GNU free licence; mailto:cassandros@cityweb.de;. Released on Wikimedia Commons under  CC-BY-SA-3.0

A bottle of 1953 Montrose–one of several post war vintages that the widow Yvonne Charmolue would oversee the production of.


With only the assistance of Marcel Borie, owner of the 5th Growth Ch. Batailley and mayor of Pauillac, Yvonne single-handedly managed Ch. Montrose for the next 16 years until Jean Louis was ready to take over in 1960.

In 1982, around 30,000 cases a year of the Grand Vin of Montrose was produced. With the introduction of La Dame de Montrose in 1984 as well as the reintroduction of a mostly restaurant-only third wine, Le Saint Estephe de Montrose, in the 2000s that number has been halved to around 15,000 cases a year of the Grand Vin being produced from the 95 ha (235 acre) estate.

Today a little more than half of the crop is declassified with La Dame de Montrose getting around 30% of the total crop and Le Saint Estephe de Montrose getting about 20%. The remaining fruit is sold off in bulk.

The 2017 is a blend of 49% Merlot, 43% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Cabernet Franc and 4% Petit Verdot. Around 10,000 cases a year are produced.

Critic Scores:

91-92 JS, 89-91 WA, 88-90 VM, 90-92 JD, 89-91 JL

Sample Review:

Deep crimson. Much more scented than the Tronquoy-Lalande, lovely dark fruit on the nose. But still with that savoury graphite quality of the grand vin. Fully ripe but not sweet. Even a touch floral. Silky texture, tannins are so supple. Lightish but juicy on the mid palate and with a good balance between fruit and freshness even in this lighter mode. (16.5 out of 20) — Julia Harding, JancisRobinson.com

Offers:
Wine Searcher 2017 Average: $38
JJ Buckley: No offers yet.
Vinfolio: No offers yet.
Spectrum Wine Auctions: $221.94 for minimum 6 bottles + shipping
Total Wine: $39.97
K&L: No offers yet.

Previous Vintages:
2016 Wine Searcher Ave: $41 Average Critic Score: 92 points
2015 Wine Searcher Ave: $46 Average Critic Score: 91
2014 Wine Searcher Ave: $40 Average Critic Score: 90
2013 Wine Searcher Ave: $36 Average Critic Score: 88

Buy or Pass?

While I’m a huge fan of Montrose and I adore the story of La Dame, this is another second wine that has never really wowed me–even though it remains a decent value as the prices of other second wines keep jumping. There is nothing offensive about the wines but for the same $40-50 price point, I can find plenty of other Bordeaux wines that deliver more pleasure for my money.

I wouldn’t be opposed to purchasing this at a restaurant but even with pricing below 2014, there is nothing very compelling about this wine to entice me to buy for the cellar. Pass.

Ch. Cantemerle (Haut-Medoc)
Some Geekery:

Ch. Cantemerle is one of the oldest estates in the Haut-Medoc with a history dating back to the 11th century when the property belonged to the Lords of Cantemerle. Unlike the other vassals who were seigneurs of the powerful Lords of Blanquefort, Cantemerle were direct vassals of the king and had many privileges.

From a private postcard collection. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under PD-OLD

Ch. Cantemerle circa 1900-1920.


In 1575, the estate came into the hands of the Villeneuve family who would own Cantemerle for over 300 years and count Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, author of Beauty and the Beast, as an extended member.

In the 19th century, the wines of Cantemerle where held in high esteem and regularly ranked as 4th or 5th Growths. But its entire production was sold almost exclusively through Dutch merchants so when the local merchants and brokers of Bordeaux put together the original 1855 Classification, Cantemerle was omitted.

When the owner, Madame Caroline de Villeneuve-Durfort, heard about this slight, she barged down to the offices of the Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce while the Paris Exposition unveiling the classification was still taking place. With over 40 years worth of receipts, she argued successfully to the head of the broker’s union that the wines of Cantemerle had a long track record of fetching prices on par with many of the wines that were included in the classification.

For her efforts, Cantemerle was added to the original document listing the estates of the 1855 classification, albeit clearly in a different handwriting than the other estates.

In the 20th century, the property came into the hands of the Dubois family who owned Cantemerle until 1981 when it was sold to the French insurance group SMABTP with the Cordier family (of Ch. Talbot and the notable negociant house fame) managing the vineyard and winemaking.

Today Cantemerle is still owned by SMABTP where it is part of a portfolio that includes the St. Emilion estates of Ch. Haut Corbin, Ch. Grand Corbin and Ch. Le Jurat. In 1993, Philippe Dambrine replaced the Cordiers as estate manager and is still responsible for production today.

The 2017 is a blend of 71% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot and 4% Petit Verdot. Around 25,000 cases a year are produced.

Critic Scores:

93-94 JS, 92-94 WE, 89-91 WA, 89-92 VM, 87-90 WS, 87-89 JD, 90-92

Sample Review:

The 2017 Cantemerle is deep, fleshy and wonderfully expressive. Savory herb, tobacco, menthol, licorice, dark red cherry, smoke and incense run through this super-expressive, pliant Haut-Médoc Grand Cru Classé. All the elements simply meld together effortlessly. Rose petal, lavender and a host of floral notes add perfume to the finish. The 2017 should be one of the finer values of the year. Tasted two times. — Antonio Galloni, Vinous

Offers:
Wine Searcher 2017 Average: $29
JJ Buckley: No offers yet.
Vinfolio: No offers yet
Spectrum Wine Auctions: $179.94 for minimum 6 bottles + shipping
Total Wine: $31.97
K&L: $29.99 + shipping

Previous Vintages:
2016 Wine Searcher Ave: $34 Average Critic Score: 92 points
2015 Wine Searcher Ave: $37 Average Critic Score: 91
2014 Wine Searcher Ave: $34 Average Critic Score: 90
2013 Wine Searcher Ave: $37 Average Critic Score: 88

Buy or Pass?

Sourced from http://www.tenzingws.com/blog/2015/5/28/original-handwritten-letter-of-the-1855-classification-of-bordeaux

The inclusion of Cantemerle under Château Croizet-Bages in the original 1855 classification is noticeably smaller and in a different handwriting. Source


The history geek in me loves the story of Cantemerle and particularly the feisty Madame Villeneuve-Durfort who wouldn’t take no for an answer. When I look at photos showing the shaky and hastily added Cantemerle to the 1855 classification, I chuckle thinking of Madame Villeneuve-Durfort hovering over the shoulder of the scared broker and his pen.

However, despite that love and affection for the story, outside of the 2010 Cantemerle (WS Ave $55), I really haven’t found much in the glass to excite me. The pricing is certainly intriguing because there aren’t many classified growths being sold for less than $40–much less under $30–but I prefer to take a wait and see approach with Cantemerle. I may get a bottle when it hits the market (likely around the $35 price point then) and see if there is finally something there worth getting excited about. Till then I’ll Pass.

Ch. d’Aiguilhe (Côtes de Castillon)
Some Geekery:

While wine has been produced at the estate since the 1700s when it was owned by the Leberthon family, the modern history of Ch. d’Aiguilhe (meaning “needle”) began in 1989 when it was purchased by Stephan von Neipperg.

Von Neipperg, who also owns the St. Emillion Premier Grand Cru Classé ‘B’ estates La Mondotte and Ch. Canon-la-Gaffelière as well as Clos de l’Oratoire, Ch. Peyreau, Clos Marsalette in Pessac-Léognan, the Sauternes Premier Cru Ch. Guiraud, Capaia in South Africa and Bessa Valley in Bulgaria, brought in his longtime consultant Stéphane Derenoncourt and began renovating the estate and vineyards.

All the vineyards are farmed organically with many parcels biodynamic.

The 2017 vintage is a blend of 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. Around 20,000 cases a year are produced though with close 60% of the production being lost to frost in 2017, that number will be much lower this vintage.

Critic Scores:

90-93 WS, 89-90 JS, 88-90 WA, 85-87 VM, 91-93 JD, 90-92 JL

Sample Review:

Brought up in 30% new barrels, the 2017 Château d’Aiguilhe offers a gorgeous perfume of framboise, blueberries, strawberries, and flowers. Possessing medium body, fine, silky tannin, impeccable balance and obvious minerality on the finish, it’s seriously good Côtes de Castillon that over-delivers. — Jeb Dunnuck, JebDunnuck.com

Offers:
Wine Searcher 2017 Average: $22
JJ Buckley: No offers yet.
Vinfolio: No offers yet.
Spectrum Wine Auctions: No offers yet.
Total Wine: $23.97
K&L: $22.99 + shipping

Previous Vintages:
2016 Wine Searcher Ave: $24 Average Critic Score: 90 points
2015 Wine Searcher Ave: $26 Average Critic Score: 90
2014 Wine Searcher Ave: $26 Average Critic Score: 90
2013 Wine Searcher Ave: $20 Average Critic Score: 87

Buy or Pass?

As I noted in my reviews of the 2017 offers for Canon-la-Gaffelière and Clos de l’Oratoire, I strongly equate the wines of von Neipperg and Derenoncourt with very New World-ish, Napa-like styles. While that is a style that I tend to avoid during more highly regarded Bordeaux vintages (where I’m looking for more classical and age-worthy Bordeaux), this more lush and fruit forward style fits perfectly into the mold of short-term consumption “cellar defenders” I aim for in vintages like 2017.

And the value is always there as well with it being very difficult to find sub-$30 Napa wines drinking to level of Château d’Aiguilhe. While I’m not going to spring for cases, this is an easy Buy for several bottles.

More Posts About the 2017 Bordeaux Futures Campaign

Why I Buy Bordeaux Futures

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Langoa Barton, La Lagune, Barde-Haut, Branaire-Ducru

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Pape Clément, Ormes de Pez, Marquis d’Alesme, Malartic-Lagraviere

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Lynch-Bages, d’Armailhac, Clerc-Milon and Duhart-Milon

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Clos de l’Oratoire, Monbousquet, Quinault l’Enclos, Fonplegade

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Cos d’Estournel, Les Pagodes des Cos, Phélan Ségur, Calon-Segur

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Clinet, Clos L’Eglise, L’Evangile, Nenin

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Malescot-St.-Exupéry, Prieuré-Lichine, Lascombes, Cantenac-Brown

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Domaine de Chevalier, Larrivet Haut-Brion, Les Carmes Haut-Brion, Smith Haut Lafitte

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Beychevelle, Talbot, Clos du Marquis, Gloria

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Beau-Séjour Bécot, Canon-la-Gaffelière, Canon, La Dominique

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Carruades de Lafite, Pedesclaux, Pichon Lalande, Reserve de la Comtesse de Lalande

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Vieux Chateau Certan, La Conseillante, La Violette, L’Eglise Clinet

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Clos Fourtet, Larcis Ducasse, Pavie Macquin, Beauséjour Duffau-Lagarrosse

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Kirwan, d’Issan, Brane-Cantenac, Giscours

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Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Vieux Chateau Certan, La Conseillante, La Violette, L’Eglise Clinet

Photo by Antoine Bertier. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-2.0

Vineyards of Ch. Gazin in Pomerol.

After striking out completely on our last visit to Pomerol where we explored the 2017 Bordeaux Futures offers for Ch. Clinet, Clos L’Eglise, L’Evangile and Ch. Nenin, we head back there to see if maybe, possibly, somehow there will be anything resembling a decent value in the offers from Vieux Chateau Certan, La Conseillante, La Violette and L’Eglise Clinet.

Or maybe I will just end up buying more 2014s? Though that vintage has been more hit or miss for me in Pomerol than it has been in St. Emilion and on the Left Bank.

While I did pick up some Pomerols during the 2015/2016 campaigns, rising prices and difficulties in finding good, consistent values has lead to this appellation taking up an ever shrinking amount of space in my cellars.

But, hey, it never hurts to keep exploring. So let’s see what we’ve got here.

First time visitors are encouraged to check out the first Bordeaux Futures 2017 post in the now 13 article series that covered the offers of Palmer, Valandraud, Fombrauge and Haut-Batailley and laid out the groundwork for our approach with buying 2017 Bordeaux Futures.

So far we’ve reviewed the 2017 offers of more than 50 Bordeaux estates and compared them to the current retail pricing over previous vintages. You can check these out and more via the links at the bottom of the page.

Now onto the offers.

Vieux Chateau Certan (Pomerol)
Some Geekery:

Clive Coates notes in Grand Vins that the name “Certan” was originally spelled Sertan and likely derived from an old Portuguese word for “desert”. It was reported that when Portuguese settlers were traveling through the area in the 12th century that they found the soils to be so poor and arid that they thought little could grow successfully there.

Vines were planted by at least the 18th century when the property came under the ownership of the De May family who were merchants of Scottish origins. The De Mays also owned neighboring Ch. Nenin until 1782 when it was sold so that the family could focus all its attention on Vieux Chateau Certan.

After the French Revolution, the property was split among the heirs with one part becoming what is now Ch. Certan de May. The other part that remained Vieux Chateau Certan would stay in the De May family until 1858 when it sold to a Parisian businessman, Charles de Bousquet. Unfortunately soon after the acquisition, the ravages of phylloxera hit and the estate entered a period of several decades of financial hardships.

The tower of Troplong-Mondot in St. Emilion which Georges Thienpont sold to focus on Vieux Chateau Certan.


The modern history of Vieux Chateau Certan began when it was sold to a Belgian wine merchant, Georges Thienpont, who also owned the St. Emilion estate Troplong Mondot. It was Thienpoint who had the idea of using bright pink capsules so that he could easily spot bottles of Vieux Chateau Certan in his clients’ cellars.

While financial difficulties in the 1930s would cause the Thienponts to sell Troplong Mondot, the family still retains ownership of Vieux Chateau Certan today with Georges’ grandson, Alexandre, managing the estate.

In 1978, when the Loubie family was selling Ch. Le Pin, Alexandre’s father Léon was looking to buy the property and absorb its 2 hectares of vines into those of Vieux Chateau Certan. But when the pricing couldn’t be worked out, Thienpont convinced his nephew, Jacques, to purchase the estate that has now go on to achieve cult status in Bordeaux.

The 14 ha (35 acres) of vines at Vieux Chateau Certan covers 3 distinct soil types with different grape varieties planted on each type. The parcels located next to Ch. Petrus and sharing some of its famous blue clay are planted to Merlot. Here there are some plots that have been planted in 1932 and 1948, making them some of the oldest vines in Pomerol.

On the soils that are a mixture of clay and gravel, Cabernet Franc is planted and accounts for around 30% of all Vieux Chateau Certan vines. In the winery, Thienpont treats the Cabernet Franc differently than other producers by fermenting the wine at high temperatures (30C/86F) and having malolactic fermentation take place in stainless steel tanks instead of in the barrel. The amount of Cabernet Franc used in the final blend varies depending on vintage with some years like 2003 being 80% Cabernet Franc.

The parcels on red gravel are planted to Cabernet Sauvignon which account for around 5% of all the vines. All the vineyards are farmed sustainably.

The 2017 vintage is a blend of 81% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. Around 4000 to 5000 cases a year are produced.

Critic Scores:

97-98 James Suckling (JS), 96-98 Wine Advocate (WA), 95-97 Wine Enthusiast (WE), 94-96 Vinous Media (VM), 96-98 Jeff Leve (JL),

Sample Review:

The 2017 Vieux Château Certan is a rapturously beautiful wine. Dark, sumptuous and seamless in the glass, the 2017 is going to tempt readers early. This is the first vintage that includes a bit of young vine Cabernet Sauvignon planted in 2012 to complement the old-vine Merlot and Franc that are the core of Vieux Certan. A wine of exceptional balance and purity, the 2017 dazzles from start to finish. There is an element of tension in the 2017 that is incredibly appealing. “We are back to Bordeaux,” adds Alexandre Thienpont in reference to the personality of the year as compared to both 2016 and 2015. — Antonio Galloni, Vinous

Offers:
Wine Searcher 2017 Average: $231
JJ Buckley: $239.94 + shipping (no shipping if picked up at Oakland location)
Vinfolio: No offers yet.
Spectrum Wine Auctions: No offers yet.
Total Wine: $239.97 (no shipping with wines sent to local Total Wine store for pick up)
K&L: $239.99 + shipping (no shipping if picked up at 1 of 3 K & L locations in California)

Previous Vintages:
2016 Wine Searcher Ave: $281 Average Critic Score: 95 points
2015 Wine Searcher Ave: $330 Average Critic Score: 96
2014 Wine Searcher Ave: $190 Average Critic Score: 95
2013 Wine Searcher Ave: $156 Average Critic Score: 91

Buy or Pass?

The 2009 Vieux Château Certan rocked my world and my mouth drools at the thought of how delicious the 2003 Cabernet Franc-dominated VCC must be tasting today. But, alas, the trend of 2017 pricing that we saw in our last foray into Pomerol is still holding true here with an average price well above the comparable 2014 vintage that is still on the market.

While I have no doubt that this will probably be a tasty wine, there just isn’t the compelling value to make this a worthwhile futures purchase. Pass.

Ch. La Conseillante (Pomerol)

Some Geekery:

Photo by RenseNBM. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-4.0

A bottle of 1940 La Conseillante with the distinctive purple capsule still visible.

La Conseillante is one of the oldest estates in Pomerol being founded in the 1730s by Catherine Conseillan, a Libournais businesswoman who was known as a dame de fer for her work in the metal industry where she sold ploughshares and wires for vine training.

For the first couple decades the vineyards were managed via a métayage system of sharecropping until 1756 when Madame Conseillan took full control of the property and built a chateau. She managed the estate until her death in 1777 when the property passed to her niece and then a succession of owners until it was purchased by the Nicolas family in 1871.

A well connected negociant family who owned Nicolas Freres, it was the Nicolas family who began using the distinctive purple capsules on the bottle. When they purchased the estate the vineyards of La Conseillante was planted to around a third Malbec, a third Merlot and a third of Cabernet vines split between Sauvignon and Franc.

The property is still owned by the Nicolas Family today. In the early 2000s, Jean-Michel Laporte was brought on as winemaker with Gilles Pauquet as a consultant. By 2013, Michel Rolland replaced Pauquet as consultant and, in 2015, Laporte left La Conseillante and was succeeded by Marielle Cazaux who used to direct the winemaking at Ch. Petit Village.

The 12 ha (30 acres) of vines are now planted to 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc with plans to increase the percentage of Cabernet Franc up to 30%. Nearly two-thirds of the vines are close to Vieux Chateau Certan and Petrus. Other parcels are close to Ch. Beauregard, L’Evangile, Petit Village and the St. Emilion border with Cheval Blanc. Many of the parcels are farmed organically.

The 2017 vintage is a blend of 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc. Around 4,500 cases a year are produced though with the frost damage of 2017, production will be lower for this year.

Critic Scores:

95-97 WA, 95-97 WE, 94-95 JS, 93-95 VM, 95-97 JL, 94-96 Jeb Dunnuck (JD)

Sample Review:

With 15% lost to frost (just 1.5ha entirely lost), the final yield was 34hl/ha, with no second generation fruit in the wine. It’s an excellent take on the vintage, the austerity coming through on the attack before it opens to a wonderfully smoky mid-palate with loganberry and blackberry fruit, showing real fullness and volume. This has texture, structure and good aromatics, with a great sense of energy and persistency. The plot affected by the frost was a Duo parcel, so they will make a small amount of second wine but not as much as usual, and the overall production will be 85% grand vin. In organic conversion. 70% new oak. (94 points) — Jane Anson, Decanter

Offers:
Wine Searcher 2017 Average: $165
JJ Buckley: $169.94 + shipping
Vinfolio: No offers yet.
Spectrum Wine Auctions: $1,019.94 for minimum 6 bottles + shipping (no shipping if picked up at Tustin, CA location)
Total Wine: $169.97
K&L: $169.99 + shipping

Previous Vintages:
2016 Wine Searcher Ave: $213 Average Critic Score: 95 points
2015 Wine Searcher Ave: $192 Average Critic Score: 94
2014 Wine Searcher Ave: $106 Average Critic Score: 93
2013 Wine Searcher Ave: $93 Average Critic Score: 91

Buy or Pass?

My only experience with La Conseillante has been with their very delicious 2014 release. While I would certainly like to explore more of their bottlings, at the prices being asked for their 2017 futures I’m going going to Pass and look into stocking up on more of the 2014.

Ch. La Violette (Pomerol)

Some Geekery:

Ch. La Violette is a relatively young estate that was founded in the late 1800s by a cooper, Ulysse Belivier. Despite a very enviable location on the plateau of Pomerol flanking Ch. Trotanoy and what is now Le Pin, the wines of La Violette were marred in obscurity until 2006 when it was purchased by Catherine Péré Vergé.

Péré Vergé, who also owned Chateau Le Gay and Chateau Montviel in Pomerol, Ch. La Graviere in Lalande-de-Pomerol and Bodega Monteviejo in Argentina, brought in her longtime consultant Michel Rolland. Over the next several vintages, the winery was renovated and all Cabernet Franc vines uprooted and replaced with Merlot.

Very labor-intensive viticulture practices were put in place with each individual vine in the tiny 1.68 ha (4 acres) estate being “manicured” by hand throughout the growing season with individual green and unripe berries removed during several passes in the vineyard after veraison. After harvest, instead of using a machine, the grapes are destemmed by hand with a very selective triage and sorting. Coupled with severe pruning in the winter months, this produces incredibly low yields that can be as low as 18 to 20 hl/ha (a little over 1 ton/acre).

Catherine Péré Vergé passed away in 2013 and today the estate is managed by her son, Henri Parent, who has also added the Pomerol estates of Ch. Tristan and Feytit-Lagrave to the family’s holdings. Michel Rolland still consults with Marcelo Pelleriti managing the winemaking.

The 2017 vintage is 100% Merlot. Only around 250 cases a year a produced.

Critic Scores:

94-96 WA, 94-95 JS, 92-94 VM, 91-94 WS, 93-95 JL, 93-96 JD

Sample Review:

The 2017 La Violette is another silky, elegant effort that has a Burgundian flare. Black cherries, blueberries, violets, white flowers, and spice characteristics all emerge from this seamless 2017 that is as classy, silky and pure as they come. Total class and up with the crème de la crème of the vintage. — Jeb Dunnuck, JebDunnuck.com

Offers:
Wine Searcher 2017 Average: $249
JJ Buckley: No offers yet
Vinfolio: No offers yet.
Spectrum Wine Auctions: No offers yet.
Total Wine: $254.97
K&L: No offers yet.

Previous Vintages:
2016 Wine Searcher Ave: $263 Average Critic Score: 93 points
2015 Wine Searcher Ave: $336 Average Critic Score: 94
2014 Wine Searcher Ave: $273 Average Critic Score: 92
2013 Wine Searcher Ave: $205 Average Critic Score: 91

Buy or Pass?

Throughout the 2017 Bordeaux Futures campaign, I’ve been pretty disciplined in only going with wines from estates that I have a track record of previously tasting and enjoying. In more stellar vintages like 2015/2016, I’m far more adventurous and open to trying new estates but in more average years like 2017 I prefer to be conservative.

I’ve bent that rule already for the 2017 Carruades de Lafite and I think I’m going to have bend this one again for the La Violette. For one, the price is compelling being under both the 2016 and 2014 vintage. But, truthfully, my prime motivator is how much of a unicorn La Violette is and this maybe one of the few opportunities I will ever get a chance to try this wine.

Beyond just how scarcely limited it is, the only time that I’ve ever seen La Violette has been on restaurant wine lists topping over $800 a bottle. That is far more riskier of a venture for me to try a new estate versus buying a bottle as a future.

More ideally, I would want to spend the $9-14 extra to get the better 2016 vintage but I didn’t see any future offers for this last year so I would have to do some investigating to see how many of the offers for the 2016 on Wine Searcher are legit. But right now I’m inclined to go with the sure thing and Buy the 2017 just so I can bag this unicorn.

Photo by cassandros@cityweb.de. Released on Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-3.0-migrated

A bottle of 1961 L’Eglise Clinet made by Pierre Lasserre of Clos Rene.

Ch. L’Eglise Clinet (Pomerol)

Some Geekery:

The origins of L’Eglise Clinet date back to 1803 when Jean Rouchut first purchased some lands near the church (église) and cemetery for a vineyard. 1882, his descendants purchased vineyards belonging to the Constant family of Ch. Clinet and entered into a joint venture that would be known as L’Eglise Clinet.

In the early 20th century, the owners took a very hands off approach to winemaking–first by entering a leasing agreement in 1914 with a negociant firm to make the wine and then formulating a sharecropping arrangement with Pierre Lasserre of Clos Rene in 1942 that would last for more than 40 years.

In 1983, Denis Durantou took over his family’s estate and today still manages L’Eglise Clinet along with Saintayme in St. Emilion, Ch. Montlandrie in Cotes de Castillon and Ch. Cruzelles and Ch. Chenade in Lalande-de-Pomerol.

Much of L’Eglise Clinet’s 4.4 ha (11 acres) of vines escaped the devastating 1956 frost which means that L’Eglise has some of the oldest vines in Pomerol with more than a quarter being over 75 years of age. Two parcels of old vine Cabernet Franc located near the cemetery were planted in the early 1930s.

The current ratio of planting is 85% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc and 1% Malbec, however, all of the Malbec is actually part of a field blend interspersed with the old vines and is gradually being replaced by massale selection of Cabernet Franc. Many of the parcels are farmed organically.

The 2017 vintage is a blend of 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. Around 1000 to 1500 cases a year are produced.

Critic Scores:

97-98 JS, 96-98 WA, 95-97 VM, 92-95 WS, 94-96 JL, 92-94 JD

Sample Review:

Black core with purple crimson rim. A hint of oak char on the nose but underneath that is pure black fruit and a creamy character. Smooth and rounded on the palate, the fruit and the oak already well melded. The finish is darker and more savoury, the oak char closing the circle. But the harmony is very good. Not as charming as La Petite Église but longer-term in potential. (17 out of 20) — Julia Harding, JancisRobinson.com

Offers:
Wine Searcher 2017 Average: $231
JJ Buckley: $239.94 + shipping
Vinfolio: No offers yet.
Spectrum Wine Auctions: No offers yet.
Total Wine: $239.97
K&L: $249.99 + shipping

Previous Vintages:
2016 Wine Searcher Ave: $313 Average Critic Score: 93 points
2015 Wine Searcher Ave: $290 Average Critic Score: 95
2014 Wine Searcher Ave: $211 Average Critic Score: 94
2013 Wine Searcher Ave: $177 Average Critic Score: 92

Buy or Pass?

L’Eglise Clinet is another Pomerol estate that I have no previous track record with so that is one strike against this offer for me. But, unlike La Violette, the pricing for the 2017 compared to other vintages is not compelling enough to come close to enticing me to bite here. Pass.

More Posts About the 2017 Bordeaux Futures Campaign

Why I Buy Bordeaux Futures

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Langoa Barton, La Lagune, Barde-Haut, Branaire-Ducru

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Pape Clément, Ormes de Pez, Marquis d’Alesme, Malartic-Lagraviere

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Lynch-Bages, d’Armailhac, Clerc-Milon and Duhart-Milon

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Clos de l’Oratoire, Monbousquet, Quinault l’Enclos, Fonplegade

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Cos d’Estournel, Les Pagodes des Cos, Phélan Ségur, Calon-Segur

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Clinet, Clos L’Eglise, L’Evangile, Nenin

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Malescot-St.-Exupéry, Prieuré-Lichine, Lascombes, Cantenac-Brown

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Domaine de Chevalier, Larrivet Haut-Brion, Les Carmes Haut-Brion, Smith Haut Lafitte

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Beychevelle, Talbot, Clos du Marquis, Gloria

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Beau-Séjour Bécot, Canon-la-Gaffelière, Canon, La Dominique

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Carruades de Lafite, Pedesclaux, Pichon Lalande, Reserve de la Comtesse de Lalande

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Montrose, La Dame de Montrose, Cantemerle, d’Aiguilhe

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Clos Fourtet, Larcis Ducasse, Pavie Macquin, Beauséjour Duffau-Lagarrosse

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Kirwan, d’Issan, Brane-Cantenac, Giscours

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Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Carruades de Lafite, Pedesclaux, Pichon Lalande, Reserve de la Comtesse de Lalande

Photo by Anonymous circa 1900-1920 from private postcard collection. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under PD OldWe are heading back to Pauillac to look at the offers for Carruades de Lafite–the second wine of Ch. Lafite-Rothschild–the 5th Growth Ch. Pedesclaux, the 2nd Growth Ch. Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande and their wine second wine–Reserve de la Comtesse de Lalande.

In our previous forays to this highly regarded Left Bank commune we looked at the 2017 Bordeaux Futures offers for Lynch-Bages, d’Armailhac, Clerc-Milon and Duhart-Milon as well as that of the 5th Growth Ch. Haut-Batailley in the very first post of this continuing series covering the 2017 campaign.

You can check out the links at the bottom of the page to see more offers that we’ve explored.

Carruades de Lafite (Pauillac)

Some Geekery:

Carruades de Lafite is the second wine of the legendary First Growth, Ch. Lafite-Rothschild. First introduced in the 1850s during the period of “the Vandelberghe Mystery” ownership, Lafite helped pioneered the practice of producing a second cuvée to compliment the Grand Vin.

However, in practice the designation was used sparingly for the next 100 years till the Rothschild family reintroduced the wine in the 1960s as Moulin de Carruades–named after a parcel of vineyards on the Carruades plateau that was first acquired by the estate in 1845. Located near the chateau, most of the fruit from these prime plantings actually end up in the Grand Vin instead of their namesake wine.

Photo by PA. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-4.0

Château Lafite-Rothschild

Instead, Carruades de Lafite (renamed in the 1980s) gets its fruit from selected parcels designated for Carruades as well as some younger vines from the 112 ha (277 acre) vineyards of Lafite since vines less than 20 years of age are never used for the Grand Vin of Lafite. All the vineyards of Lafite are farmed organically and sustainably with some parcels farmed biodynamically.

Since 2016, Eric Kohler has overseen the winemaking of Lafite and its second wine. Prior to taking over as technical director, Kohler was in charge of the Domaines Barons de Rothschild estate of Domaine d’Aussieres in Languedoc as well as their South American properties–Vina Los Vascos in Chile and Bodegas Caro, their joint-venture project with the Catena family in Argentina.

In 2017, Jean Guillaume Prats (of Cos d’Estournel and LVMH fame) was named president of Domaines Baron Rothschild with Saskia de Rothschild, daughter of Baron Eric de Rothschild, joining as chairwoman in 2018.

The 2017 vintage is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc. Around 20,000 cases of the second wine are made each year.

Critic Scores:

92-93 James Suckling (JS), 91-93 Wine Enthusiast (WE), 90-93 Vinous Media (VM), 90-92 Wine Advocate (WA), 89-90 Jeff Leve (JL)

Sample Review:

The 2017 Carruades de Lafite is quite deep and fleshy at the outset. Black cherry, plum, lavender and rose petal are pushed forward in this dark, racy second wine from Lafite-Rothschild. Deep, textured and beautifully resonant, the 2017 has a lot to recommend it. This is a strong showing. Like many of his colleagues, Technical Director Eric Kolher opted for gentle extractions and incorporated a relatively high amount of press wine (14%) into the blend. — Antonio Galloni, Vinous

Offers:
Wine Searcher 2017 Average: $225
JJ Buckley: No offers yet.
Vinfolio: No offers yet.
Spectrum Wine Auctions: No offers yet.
Total Wine: $189.97 (no shipping with wines sent to local Total Wine store for pick up)
K&L: $229.99 + shipping (no shipping if picked up at 1 of 3 K & L locations in California)

Previous Vintages:
2016 Wine Searcher Ave: $275 Average Critic Score: 91 points
2015 Wine Searcher Ave: $323 Average Critic Score: 91
2014 Wine Searcher Ave: $329 Average Critic Score: 91
2013 Wine Searcher Ave: $322 Average Critic Score: 89

Buy or Pass?

Photo from anonymous postcard collection. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under Pd-Old

The vineyards of Ch. Lafite circa 1900-1920.


Since I haven’t had the opportunity to taste any previous vintages of Carruades de Lafite or Lafite-Rothschild, my instinct in a vintage like 2017 is to pass in favor of buying wines that I have a personal track record with.

But damn is this 2017 offer tempting–especially with Total Wine’s offer that is more than $30 less than the Wine Searcher average and only requires a payment of 50% ($104.87) upfront. I had to triple check it just to make sure that I had the price right.

While I don’t personally buy Bordeaux futures as investments, there is no doubt that the price of this wine is going to continue to rise. Besides 2016, you have to go back to 1984 (WS Ave $243) to find a vintage of Carruades de Lafite that is averaging less than $300 a bottle with several vintages (2005, 1992, 1991) averaging over $400 a bottle.

This is another head vs heart battle except it’s my heart telling me to stick with the 2017 wines that I know I will personally enjoy drinking while my head is telling me to look at these hard numbers and go with what looks like a very solid buy. I’m going to have to ponder this a bit more but right now I’m leaning towards Buy for maybe a bottle or two.

Ch. Pedesclaux (Pauillac)

Some Geekery:

Ch. Pedesclaux is a relatively young estate that was founded in the early 19th century by Pierre Urbain Pedesclaux who purchased land near Ch. Grand-Puy-Lacoste and d’Armailhac.

A well-connected negociant family (Edmond Pedesclaux was one of the brokers who helped craft the original 1855 classification), the Pedesclauxs owned the estate until 1891 when it was sold to the Comte de Gastebois. The next several decades saw years of neglect until Lucien Jugla of Ch. Colombier-Monpelou purchased the property in 1950. Jugla and his heirs carried out extensive replanting in the vineyards and it was during this time that the vineyards of Pedesclaux became very Merlot-dominant.

In 2009, the Jugla family sold Pedesclaux to Jacky Lorenzetti who owned the St. Estephe Cru Bourgeois of Lillian Ladouys and in 2013 acquired a 50% interest in the Margaux 3rd Growth Ch. d’Issan.

Photo by Clément Bucco-Lechat. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-3.0

In addition to his Bordeaux estates, Jacky Lorenzetti is also president of the Rugby club Racing Métro 92 based in the Paris suburb of Nanterre.

Under Lorenzetti, optical sorting was introduced and Vincent Bache-Gabrielsen was brought on to manage the property. The amount of Cabernet Sauvignon in the vineyards have steadily increased as additional parcels next to Ch. Lafite and Mouton-Rothschild have been acquired to go with other plots of enviable terroir close to Lynch-Bages

The estate still has significant amount of Merlot planted with 48 ha (119 acre) estate planted to 48% Merlot, 47% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Petit Verdot and 2% Cabernet Franc. However, most of the Merlot is used in the estate’s second wine, Fleur de Pedesclaux, with many vintages of that wine being 90% Merlot and the 2012 vintage being 100% Merlot.

The 2017 vintage of Ch. Pedesclaux is a blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot. Around 9000 cases a year are produced.

Critic Scores:

93-95 WE, 93-94 JS, 90-92 VM, 89-91 WA, 88-91 Wine Spectator (WS), 90-92 JL

Sample Review:

The nose pops with black currant, tobacco leaf, licorice, cedar and forestry aromatics. On the palate, the wine displays freshness in the fruits and cream on the tannins. Medium/full bodied with a lot of black and red fruits, which carry through to the endnotes, this has both charm and age ability. The higher percentage of Cabernet adds complexity and character to the wine. — Jeff Leve, The Wine Cellar Insider

Offers:
Wine Searcher 2017 Average: $42
JJ Buckley: No offers yet.
Vinfolio: No offers yet.
Spectrum Wine Auctions: No offers yet.
Total Wine: $44.97
K&L: $41.99 + shipping

Previous Vintages:
2016 Wine Searcher Ave: $48 Average Critic Score: 92 points
2015 Wine Searcher Ave: $50 Average Critic Score: 91
2014 Wine Searcher Ave: $44 Average Critic Score: 90
2013 Wine Searcher Ave: $37 Average Critic Score: 89

Buy or Pass?

I’ve only had a couple opportunities to taste Pedesclaux–all from vintages during the Lorenzetti era–but I haven’t been terribly impressed. The wines weren’t offensive at all, but I was hard-pressed to justify their price versus the value being delivered by their sister estate of Lillian Ladouys from the same vintages in the $25-35 range.

The potential of the terroir is undoubted so this estate is certainly worth keeping an eye on and revisiting. But for the same price I’m more incline to revisit the 2014 and Pass on buying futures of the 2017. I will, however, likely pick up some bottles of the 2017 Lillian Ladouys (WS Ave $20) when they hit retail shelves in 2020.

Pichon Lalande (Pauillac)

Some Geekery:

What is now Ch. Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande and its neighboring estate, Ch. Pichon Longueville Baron, were first planted in the 1680s by Pierre de Mazure de Rauzan who also owned the large Rauzan estate in Margaux.

His daughter, Thérèse, married the Baron Pichon de Longueville in 1694 and received the property as part of her dowry. Clive Coates notes in Grand Vins that during the early 18th century, the quality of the Pichon Longueville estate was of high repute, second only to that of Latour in the commune.

Upon the death of Baron Joseph de Pichon Longueville in 1850, the property was divided between his 5 children with his two sons receiving the portion that would become Ch. Pichon Baron and his three daughters– including Virginie, the Comtesse de Lalande–inheriting what would become Ch. Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande.

Photo by BillBl. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-2.0

Ch. Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande

The property would stay in the hands of the sisters and their heirs until 1925 when it was sold to Edouard and Louis Miailhe. The Miailhe brothers expanded the vineyard holdings of the estate and planted significant acreage of Merlot. Edouard’s daughter, May-Eliane de Lencquesaing inherited the property in 1978 and would go on to take Pichon Lalande to high levels of success and recognition.

In 2007, she sold the property to the Rouzaud family of the Champagne house Louis Roederer where it is today part of a portfolio that includes the Bordeaux estates of Chateau de Pez and Ch. Haut Beausejour in St. Estephe as well as Chateau Reaut la Graviere in Lalande-de-Pomerol as well as managing interest in many other properties across the globe.

Since 2012, Nicolas Glumineau (formerly of Ch. Montrose) has been in charge of winemaking with Jacques Boissenot and Hubert de Boüard (of Ch. Angelus fame) as consultants.

Located on the Gironde side of the D2 highway, most of Pichon Lalande’s 89 ha (220 acres) are located next to Ch. Latour and Pichon Baron with some parcels close to Lynch-Bages. The estate also owns 11 ha of vineyard land in St. Julien that neighbor the vineyards of Léoville-Poyferré and Léoville-Las-Cases. Because these vines were historically used in the wines Ch. Pichon-Lalande before the 1855 classification, they are still permitted to be used in the Grand Vin or second wine of the estate.

All the vines are farmed sustainably with several hectares being farmed 100% organic. Since 2014, Pichon Lalande has been experimenting with biodynamics with Vincent Masson consulting.

The 2017 vintage is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot. Around 15,000 cases a year are produced.

Critic Scores:

95-97 WE, 95-96 JS, 94-96 WA, 93-95 VM, 92-95 WS, 96-98 JL, 93-95 JD

Sample Review:

If you just taste the big name Pauillacs, you would be hard-pressed to understand that 2017 has been a challenging year. This is one of my wines of the vintage, no question. It’s from 21ha, biodynamically farmed, with Vincent Masson as consultant. Just a few plots further away from the river were affected by frost. The slight austerity of 2017 is evident, with a savoury quality to the fruit, but this is exceptionally good, with plenty of stunning fruit and well defined tannins. The aromatics are very refined, and the intense cassis fruit doesn’t sacrifice any intensity or power. It demonstrates the energy that Comtesse has displayed so consistently in recent vintages, with gorgeous finesse and structure to the tannins. The new cellar has raised the level of Cabernet from 65% to 70+%, with 12% press wine. This is going to age extremely well. (94 points) — Jane Anson, Decanter

Offers:
Wine Searcher 2017 Average: $125
JJ Buckley: $129.94 + shipping (no shipping if picked up at Oakland location)
Vinfolio: $129.00 + shipping
Spectrum Wine Auctions: $749.94 for minimum 6 bottles + shipping (no shipping if picked up at Tustin, CA location)
Total Wine: $124.97
K&L: $126.99 + shipping

Previous Vintages:
2016 Wine Searcher Ave: $189 Average Critic Score: 95 points
2015 Wine Searcher Ave: $172 Average Critic Score: 95
2014 Wine Searcher Ave: $119 Average Critic Score: 94
2013 Wine Searcher Ave: $114 Average Critic Score: 91

Buy or Pass?

Pichon Lalande is one of my favorite estates and virtually an automatic buy every year. While the prices have been steadily raising, I always believe that the quality and value they deliver out performs many “Super Seconds”.

Unquestionably age-worthy, I appreciate the versatility in the estate’s style to deliver approachable pleasure in its youth in both stellar (2005, 2010) and rougher vintages (2011, 2013). While I may end up keeping this bottle longer than my ideal “cellar defender” role of 5 to 7 years, I see little reason to not think that this consistency will continue.

With prices in line with the very delicious 2014, this is a definite Buy for me.

Reserve de la Comtesse de Lalande (Pauillac)

Some Geekery:

Photo from private post card collection. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under PD-Old

Château Pichon-Longueville-Lalande circa 1900-1920.

Ch. Pichon Lalande produced its first second wine to compliment their Grand Vin in 1874. However, like Lafite and their second wine, the designation was only used sparingly until Reserve de la Comtesse de Lalande was introduced for the 1973 vintage.

While it can include fruit from any of Pichon Lalande’s holdings (including their St. Julien vines), a consistent component of the Reserve de la Comtesse de Lalande has been parcels located in the commune of Ste. Anne near the 5th Growth Ch. Batailley.

The 2017 vintage is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot. Around 6,000 cases a year are produced.

Critic Scores:

92-93 JS, 90-92 VM, 88-90 WA, 89-91 JD, 89-91 JL

Sample Review:

The second wine of Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, the 2017 Réserve de la Comtesse is a final blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot and the rest Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Still aging in roughly 40% new French oak, it has a medium-bodied, rounded, moderately concentrated profile to go with classic Pauillac lead pencil, tobacco leaf, and assorted earth dark fruits. It’s balanced, charming and already approachable. — Jeb Dunnuck, JebDunnuck.com

Offers:
Wine Searcher 2017 Average: $42
JJ Buckley: No offers yet.
Vinfolio: No offers yet.
Spectrum Wine Auctions: $251.94 for minimum 6 bottles + shipping
Total Wine: $42.97
K&L: $42.99 + shipping

Previous Vintages:
2016 Wine Searcher Ave: $48 Average Critic Score: 90 points
2015 Wine Searcher Ave: $49 Average Critic Score: 91
2014 Wine Searcher Ave: $42 Average Critic Score: 89
2013 Wine Searcher Ave: $40 Average Critic Score: 88

Buy or Pass?

While I adore the Grand Vin of Pichon Lalande, and am usually quite pleased with the value of most seconds wines, I will confess that the Réserve de la Comtesse has never really wowed me. For whatever reason, this is one second wine that has always felt decidedly “second best”.

It’s likely that as Pichon Lalande has been steadily increasing the amount of Cabernet Sauvignon in their vineyard, the fruit of these young vines have been making their way to this second wine–and that may contribute to the harshness and hollowness that often characterize my notes of the Réserve de la Comtesse. There are plenty of other more compelling buys in the same price range that makes this a Pass for me.

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