L'Assemblage Blog

Bordeaux 2018 – An Exceptional Vintage

Posted on 16/04/19, filed under Bordeaux | No Comments

Earlier this month we tasted our way around Bordeaux to assess the 2018 vintage. Fortunately it was a worthwhile trip with many successful wines that transcend classifications and appellations. However, it was not a homogeneous vintage but localised to specific sites.

Several vineyards were hit by hail and a wet spring into early summer led to an outbreak of mildew, reducing crops drastically. Those practicing biodynamic and organic viticulture suffered especially. Château Pontet-Canet and Château Palmer reported yields of less than 11hl/ha. Fine dry sunny weather in the second half of the growing season, from mid July into October, helped to save the harvest. Very hot day temperatures in July and August were moderated by cool nights, which preserved grape acidity levels.

Growers were rewarded with fully ripe healthy grapes, resulting in many superb wines. These were characterised by pure sweet berry fruit, big ripe tannins and moderately high alcohols. The top red growths have made the finest wines, although there are plenty of surprises across the region. We were particularly impressed with tannin management and fruit selection. There is less over extraction nowadays, more precise winemaking and better overall balance. This is an excellent vintage, hypothetically like a blend that presents the classic, pure finesse of the 2016s with the rich opulence of 2009 and the 2015s.

The dry whites are largely good, especially the Sauvignon based styles. The Sauternes and Barsacs were more variable. Some had just enough botrytis to make luscious mid weight dessert wines.

We will be offering a selection of the best chateaux as they are released. As quantity is less than last year and quality is greater, some producers will try to raise their prices. Hopefully these will be no more than the 2016 release offers.

Our highlights are as follows:

  • Cheval Blanc
  • Cos d'Estournel
  • Figeac
  • Pichon Longueville Lalande
  • Lafite Rothschild
  • Latour 
  • Leoville Las Cases
  • Mouton Rothschild
  • Haut Brion
  • Ducru-Beaucaillou
  • Pavie
  • Haut Brion Blanc
  • Pichon Longueville Baron
  • La Mission Haut Brion
  • Lynch Bages
  • Pavillon Blanc du Ch Margaux
  • Montrose
  • Vieux Chateau Certan
  • Beychevelle
  • Carruades de Lafite
  • Branaire-Ducru
  • Leoville Barton
  • La Mission Haut Brion Blanc
  • Domaine de Chevalier
  • Margaux

Domaine Prieure Roch 2016 – Tasting

Posted on 05/11/18, filed under Burgundy, Wine Tasting | No Comments

Domaine Prieuré Roch consists of 14 hectares of vines mainly in the Côtes de Nuits, around Nuits Saint Georges. The owner, Henri-Fréderic Roch, is also co -gérant of Domane Romanée-Conti and nephew of Mme Bize Leroy. He established the Domaine in 1988, applying similar meticulous care in both the vineyard and the cellar. Roch’s mission is to make the purest and most natural expression as possible from great pinot plots.

Today, the talented Yannick Champ manages the operations from their cellars in Prémeaux. With 15 years at the helm, the strive for perfection is clear to see. These wines may not have the power and body of DRC or the polished tannins of Domaine Leroy, but they exude a similar class. Their burgundies are packed with terroir expression and flavour, whilst still being light on their feet. The 2016s we tasted last week were sensual compelling pinots, bursting with vibrant aromas and delicate, detailed textures.

Nuits St Georges 1er Cru Clos des Corvées Vieilles Vignes 2016 (0.69ha Monopoly)

As much as 85% of the grapes were lost to frost in 2006, so for the first time the 1er Cru Clos des Argillières and Villages VV were blended with the 1er Clos des Corvées monopoly. High quality whole bunch millerandage grapes from 40-45 year old vines were vinified together. Yannick was pleased with the outcome but never wants to experience the challenges of having to blend affectively the ingredients of three wines together. Around 5000 bottles were produced organically, using no additives, no pumping over and no filtration. The wines were bottled under usual natural high pressure weather conditions in July 2017.

Intense raw pure cranberry, black berry aromatics infused with subtle herbs, medium bodied yet well structured tight fruit and a fresh seam of acidity right through the long finish. Linear style without the breadth of the more opulent 2015, gentle tannins, spice and a mineral, saline edginess. 91-93/100

Vosne Romanée Vieilles Vignes 2013

As with the previous wine, this was another challenging vintage. It was not just down to frost damage but rain and achieving optimum ripeness in a cool growing season. Yannick produced something very special considering. He blended the Vosne Le Clos Goillotte and Vosne Les Hautes -Maizières together, so you have the most serious village VV that money can buy from a difficult vintage.

The aromatics are off the charts, intense red berries and cherry pith, floral nuances with notes of cinnamon and rhubarb. Medium, light in body but so flavoursome reflecting the greatness of the terroir, especially the layered limestone minerality from the Clos Goillotte. Combined with mixed herb, spice and subtle tannins, this culminates into a long, dry, precisely balanced finish. 92/100

Vosne Romanée 1er Les Suchots 2016 (1.02 ha)

Since 1994 they have rented this plot from DRC. Whole cluster vinification in 100% new oak. Classic perfumed aromas of violets, raspberries and spice notes. Fresh vibrant red fruits follow through with medium depth and a long mineral drive. Linearity with firm acidity and crystalline fruit. Elegantly composed. 93-94/100

Clos Vougeot 2016 (0.68ha)

Ruby red with red berry fruit aromas. The palate displays solid raw fruit extract showing depth, earthiness and a layered structure. There is a dry, savoury, tannic character. It needs at least 3-4 years to evolve. Too tight and tense for now. 92-94/100

Chambertin Clos de Bèze 2016 (1ha)

Deep black and red fruits, fresh and intense. That ripe pure fruit is layered and beautifully textured on the palate, balanced by superfine tannins and fresh acidity that lifts the finish. There are subtle herb and oak nuances in the background and a mineral backbone that lingers down the length of the wine. Very fine detail here compels you to take another sip. Will drink best from 2025 onwards. Very impressive. 96-98/100

Vosne Romaneé Le Clos Goillotte Monopole 2016 (0.55ha)

Bright ruby and mauve robe. Powerful aromas of raspberry, cherry skin and white flowers. Medium to full bodied on the palate displaying layers of ripe fruit, subtle dry tannins and that mineral spine that seems to hold it all together with precise acidity. There is a creamy texture that gently unfolds on a perfectly balanced long finish. This is rich and seductive in style, very much like its neighbour La Tache, and an ethereal charm closer to grand cru Leroy. Fabulous stuff  95-97/100

Tasted by Guy Willings, 1st November 2018

France’s 2018 vintage so far and our Autumn selections

Posted on 14/10/18, filed under Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, News | No Comments

After a slow start, perturbed by a cool damp spring followed by a hot dry summer, the 2018 vintage has turned out to be an unexpected success throughout much of France. Apart from the south which experienced an abnormally wet season.

At last Chablis has been blessed with the vintage they’ve waited four years for, having suffered hail, frost and flooding in recent years. Domaine Defaix say this has been ‘a fantastic vintage in terms of yields, concentration and acidities’. Very clean Chardonnay bunches, unaffected by oidium or mildew, were gathered by mid September. Healthy natural yeast growth on the dry skins ensured prompt alcoholic fermentations. So far Champagne and white burgundy have enjoyed similar conditions. The champenois are already hyping this up as a great vintage, in-line with 2008, 2002 and 1996. The Loire and Bordeaux whites also seem to have faired well. 

The red grapes have almost been harvested in Bordeaux. Chateau Le Grand Verdus picked all their merlot by the first week of October. Owner, Thomas Le Grix de La Salle reported ‘Good quality and quantity, it makes our heart warmer after 2017..’ when they lost 80% of their fruit to late spring frosts. The Cabernets could be even better than the merlots this year. As with the Pinot Noir in Burgundy, there will be many success stories and a few disappointments. Some vineyards received last minute showers to cool and plump up their dry bunches, whereas others missed the rains and suffered from heat stress. Both grapes are extremely fickle to grow and must be harvested in a small weather window, having achieved optimum ripeness whilst conserving their aromatics, acidities and fresh fruit qualities. The best wines will taste similar to the great 2015s.

Full reports for each region will be assessed next year when the wines will be tasted. Meanwhile, we have the brilliant 2015/2016 Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Rhône arrivals. Our list is studded with the best performers. The magnificent 2008 Champagne vintage continues to interest our connoisseurs as does our 2016 Vintage Port offerings. Elsewhere, more greats from 2015 and 2016 are pouring in from Italy, Spain  and the Americas. 

Finally we have a full range of wonderful back vintages purchased directly or from the finest cellars. We hope you enjoy these Autumn selections.