This summer a new label artwork gallery will be opening at Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Bordeaux’s most gregarious chateau. The gallery will show all the original artworks for the first time ever at the chateau in a permanent exhibition.
Mouton is unique in Bordeaux in that each year its label changes, with an artist being commissioned to design each vintage. The first label was commissioned by Baron Philippe Rothschild in 1924, from poster designer Jean Carlu, to celebrate the chateau’s move to estate-bottling. But the estate then returned to more traditional labels.
During WWII, Mouton Rothschild served as a military headquarters and production fell under the direct supervision of Goering. But when the estate was returned to Baron Philippe Rothschild (whose wife sadly died in a concentration camp) the Baron commemorated victory by commissioning the artist Philippe Jullian to design a label, which included a ‘V ‘for Victory.
Almost every year since, an artist is commissioned to design a label. Famous artists such as Chagal, Miro, Dali, Bacon, Lucien Freud, Picasso and even Prince Charles have all contributed for which they were paid five cases of the vintage that they were depicting, plus five cases of a previous vintage.
The new gallery, which is a separate space to Mouton’s Museum of Art in Wine, is part of a major renovation project due to be finished in the summer. The artwork will also continue to visit other cities for temporary exhibitions as it has done in the past.
Robert Parker has just revealed his eagerly awaited ‘barrel tasted’ scores for the 2012 Bordeaux vintage, which show some resemblance to the 2011 vintage.
His scores reflect the fact that it was a mixed vintage, with Parker favouring the right bank (particularly Pomerol) on his initial assessment. L’Eglise Clinet was the only wine on the Merlot-based bank to be awarded the potential 100-point score (he gave it 96-100) at this, albeit, early stage.
Parker comments: “While 2012 is not a great vintage, it is an excellent one in Pomerol, Pessac-Léognan and for some St.-Emilions.”
Other highly rated right bank wines include Trotanoy (96-98); Pétrus (95-98+); Ausone (95-97); Troplong-Mondot, Cheval Blanc, Angelus (94-96), and Pavie (94-96+) – the latter two being the subject of controversy in their hefty release prices.
Of the left bank, Parker commented that there were: “…charming, mid-weight, delicious wines without an excess of concentration or tannin.”
Relatively highly rated wines on the left bank include Haut-Brion (Blanc 98-100, Rouge 93-95); La Mission Haut-Brion Blanc (96-98+); Lafite Rothschild and Cos d’Estournel (92-95), and Latour and Margaux (92-94). Mouton Rothschild was the highest rated First Growth (95-97).
Others on the left bank that scored less favourably include: Leoville Poyferre (89-91); Grand Puy Lacoste (87-89); Lynch-Bages (87-89) and Langoa Barton (86-88).
Prompted by recent challenging vintages (and changes in market forces) in Australia, largely caused by severe droughts (and potentially climate change), the federal government has set up the Training Centre for Innovative Wine production at the University of Australia.
The government is investing $2.4 million to set up the new Centre which, according to Professor Vladimir Jiranek, will provide new knowledge, methods and technologies, as well as skilled researchers, to help the wine industry tackle its big challenges.
Professor Jiranek commented: ‘The Australian wine industry is facing major challenges through climate change, water restrictions, changing consumer preferences and rising wine alcohol content. This research training initiative comes at a critical time for the industry and will help in retaining the global competitiveness of Australia’s wine industry.’
According to Don Farrell, the Science and Research Minister, the Centre will help both grape growers and producers to forge ahead into new markets, including Asia’s burgeoning middle class.
Bordeaux’s chateaux are releasing their prices thick and fast for the 2012 vintage, with the majority dropping their prices. Here are some of the latest ups and downs.
Both Chateau Mouton Rothschild and Chateau Margaux have released prices at €240 ex-Bordeaux – a 33% price drop from the 2011 vintage. Margaux’s second wine (Pavillon Rouge) was priced at €75 (down 12%). Staying in the appellation of Margaux, Chateau Palmer has released at €160 (a 1% drop on its 2011 price).
Meanwhile, Chateau Canon and (its sister estate) Rauzan Ségla have both released at €36.50 ex-Bordeaux (a 42% drop from 2011). In Pauillac, Clerc Milon released at €31 (down 13.8% on 2011), Chateau d’Armailhac €25 ex-Bordeaux (a drop of 16%).
In Sauternes, Chateau Climens released at €41 ex-Bordeaux (41% down on 2011) , and Chateau Coutet at €31 (a 26% drop on 2011).
On the right bank, over in Saint-Emilion, Beausejour Bécot released at €30 (over 13% down on 2011).
Bucking the trend are Chateau Angélus and Chateau Pavie of Saint-Emilion, which both came out with prices of €180 ex-Bordeaux – representing rises of 30% and 58% respectively for these newly promoted chateau in the Saint-Emilion Classification.
The 2011 Port vintage looks like it is going to be the first widely declared vintage since 2007. In fact, 2011 has all the hallmarks of a ‘classic’ year with great individual character rarely seen in the Douro in recent years.
Fonseca Vintage Port
Several producers have declared 2011 recently, including Taylor’s, Fonseca and Croft (The Fladgate Partnership). This was done on St George’s Day, as is the company’s custom; with chief winemaker, David Guimaraens, describing the wines as having ‘elegance as well as depth and stamina’.
Guimaraens added: ‘The 2011s stand out for the purity of the fruit and the quality of the tannins, which are silky and well integrated, but provide plenty of structure.’
Fladgate also declared Vargellas Vinha Velha, made from selected old vines on the Quinta de Vargellas estate.
Meanwhile the Symingtons declared Graham’s, Dow’s, Warre’s and Cockburn’s, praising the strong winter rains in 2010 as being crucial, resulting in with ‘an exceptional depth of colour and concentration, rarely seen in the Douro and with marked minerality from the schistous Douro soil’.
Our stoic wine experts, Mike King, Nicholas Marlowe and Richard Marlowe, have just spent the week in Bordeaux on a mission to taste (and survive) the annual en primeur session. Below is Mike’s report…
As usual those who worked hardest in their vineyard and have the most understanding and active relationship with their vines, terroirs and Mother Nature’s quirks from one vintage to the next have performed admirably and shown the great improvements and investments that have been made in vineyard management and practises over the past decade or more, coupled of course with the benefit of the huge technical advances that have been made in that time.
There remain, of course, a great number who don’t have such an attitude and aptitude, clearly exposed in their samples from what was a very demanding vintage and which for the majority of producers 15-20 years ago might well have been a disaster. There were some distinctly flat/dull wines with green tannins, and in a number of properties this is true year in/year out given the approach to the art (or lack of) of winemaking from vineyard to glass they adopt.
If prices move down towards the levels of the 2008 vintage certainly amongst the better wines of the vintage there could be a Primeurs market, if of course the chateaux and negoce are disposed to sell, which is of course always a big ask.
Of the bigger names, we particularly enjoyed Eglise Clinet, Evangile, Margaux, Lafite, Ducru Beaucaillou, Calon Segur, Palmer, with strong efforts also at Smith Haut Lafitte, GPL, Pontet Canet, Duhart-Milon, Clerc-Milon the Langoa/Leoville Barton duet and notably Claire Villars’ Ferriere & Haut-Bages Liberal. CFW favourites of La Clotte (especially), Clos du Clocher, Chateau Veyry and Bel-Air La Royere also looked pretty good. Biggest disappointments came from Cos d’Estournel, Latour, Haut-Brion, Angelus and a clutch of others that we often find somewhat lacking in inspiration, such as Montrose, Leoville Las Cases, Pichon Lalande and Leoville Poyferre.
According to Bloomberg, Treasury Wine has just increased the recommended retail price for Penfolds Grange by 15% as Chinese demand for high-end wines outpaces supply, and following a 100-point Robert Parker rating.
Treasury Wine Estate Ltd is the world’s largest pure-play listed wine company, whose five foundation brands include Penfolds, Beringer Vineyards, Lindeman’s, Rosemount Estate and Wolf Blass.
The recommeneded retail price for the 2008 vintage has risen to Aus$785.00 (£538), and is the second rise in just four months, putting it 26% above the price of Penfolds Grange 2007, according to Sandy Mayo, the global brand business director for the Barossa Valley estate.
Bloomberg reports that Treasury Wine is hoping to boost its sales by targeting 60 Chinese cities within a 5-year period, and is planning on allocating 7000 of its 9000 case production of elite wines to China.
Penfolds Grange is one of Australia’s finest and most famous wines, officially listed as a heritage icon of South Australia: a 100% Shiraz of extraordinary dimension and power. Richly textured, intensely concentrated and packed with fruit sweetness.
Penfolds was founded by an English doctor (Dr Christopher Rawson Penfold), who migrated to South Australia in the mid-19th Century. Penfold had a firm belief in the medicinal value of port and sherry and began making fortified wine for his parents then for the wider market.
This estate ethos continued until the 1950s when Jeffrey Penfold tasked winemaker Max Schubert to cater for changing consumer tastes. Almost single-handedly Schubert (who died in 1994) lifted Australia’s wine industry out of mediocrity, primarily through the revolutionary Grange Hermitage, and has arguably been the most influential figure in the modern Australian wine industry.
It’s that time of year when the great and the good of the wine world, including three of our bright young things (ok bright things) descend on Bordeaux to taste the latest vintage.
And the initial news is that attendance is up on the year before, while reports on the quality vary, with many commenting on what could be an irregular year with winners and losers – a winemaker’s vintage then – where human skill is a greater overriding factor than soil and climate alone, plus plenty of investment into the latest flashy crop-saving equipment of course.
According to Decanter Magazine’s consultant editor Steven Spurrier, who has begun tasting both Left and Right banks, he believes that producers have mad a huge effort in tackling a tricky vintage, and found it considerably better than the previous 2011 vintage. We shall, of course, await the expert analysis of our own team who have their noses to the glass as I write this.
James Lawther MW of Decanter commented, ‘It’s an uneven vintage, which is logical given the difficulties of the year. On the Right Bank the successful appellation seems to be Pomerol, an earlier ripening zone. Elsewhere in St Emilion and the other satellite appellations it very much depends on the terroir and the human input.’
In terms of numbers, Mouton Rothschild and Margaux has reported 1500 tasters and Lafite expects 1350, the same as last year, according to Decanter.
However, as for sales, well that will depend on the price…
According to Bloomberg, six magnums of Leflaive Montrachet Grand Cru spanning 2005 to 2010 vintages fetched the top price of £76,050 at a Christie’s International Plc auction in London this week.
A half case of Chateau Latour 1961 (sold to Asian trade) and a five-bottle lot of Hermitage La Chapelle 1961 Rhone, each sold for over £28,000 in a sale that raised over £800,000.
According to Bloomberg: “Wine prices have revived over the past four months after the London-based Liv-ex Fine Wine 50 Index slumped in November to its lowest level since March 2010. It has rallied 10 percent since then, including 2.9 percent in February, and in January advanced 3.5 percent, its biggest monthly gain for two years.” Some analysts believe this is due to renewed interest from the Chinese market.
The Latour sale was part of a wider sale by the government as part of its austerity drive, including its state-owned Hospitality Fund Cellar, which included six lots of labels deemed too expensive to serve at official functions – and raised over £70,000 in total. Of these, six bottles of Chateau Petrus 1970 contributed over £10,000, beating an estimate of £6,000.
According to Decanter Magazine, New Zealand producers are beginning to rub their hands at the prospect of an outstanding 2013 vintage.
The exceptionally dry autumn and summer has created problems of drought for many involved in New Zealand pastoral agriculture (and the England cricket team), but while many farmers have been praying for rain, the dry spell has led to optimum growing and ripening conditions for grape growers.
‘We are expecting a very high quality harvest in all our regions,’ NZ Winegrowers’ CEO, Philip Gregan, told Decanter.com.
‘Quality is looking outstanding, with extended long, warm ripening conditions and no disease pressure,’ added Yealands Estate owner Peter Yealands, based in Awatere Valley, Marlborough.
Inventory levels are very low at present, following a record low harvest in 2012, and a big crop is needed as the country looks to boost its export sells further, which are already 6% up on the previous year.