L'Assemblage Blog

Climatic Changes – environmental and political.

Posted on 17/02/20, filed under News | No Comments

The recent storms that batter and flood our coastline, icebergs the size of Seattle splitting from Antarctica, fires destroying even larger swathes of land in Australia; these are just some of the signs of climate change, along with the rising average temperatures in this century alone. As a wine merchant and part owner of a vineyard, we can see these changes in the wines made today from riper grapes with high sugars, less acid and higher potential alcohol than in previous decades.

Viticulture is on the front line and a perfect barometer of global warming. Pinot noir, for example, is one of the most fickle of all red wine grapes. It’s fragility in terms of its ripening and harvesting time, restricts where in the world it can be successfully grown to produce fine wine. Most Burgundian growers agree that preventative practices need embracing to avoid irreparable damage to their prized vineyards. Jean-Louis Trapet believes that organic and biodynamic practices will help vines cope with the extremes. Even though we’ve had success with our current 2018 Burgundy campaign, it still is one of the warmest vintages of the last decade. Certainly the level of ripeness has been well honed by the better winemakers. Philippe Pacalet believes global warming has improved the consistent quality of his range. However, maintaining terroir typicity will become more challenging.

The political climate is the other concern, as we face a new dawn outside of the European Union. The timing of Brexit could have been better, but it’s finally happened so time to adapt and move on. Most of the growers and merchants we trade with in Europe have reassured us of their loyal commitment to continue trading with us regardless of any interference from politicians, whose policies are rarely conducive to good business or democracy. Our relationships have been forged from the most difficult times in history, ravaged by plague, war and phylloxera are examples. Today we have Coronavirus, strikes, duty squabbles and trade wars to deal with. Ultimately we need each other to thrive but our enduring love for the finest wines will prevail, regardless of any hurdles that we must face.

Ch. Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande – A retrospective, 2000 back to 1961

Posted on 24/09/19, filed under Bordeaux, Wine Tasting | No Comments

Mid September is a pleasant time of year in Westchester county, New York,  where this fascinating vertical tasting took place.  A dozen of us sat around the table of a good friend, connoisseur and keen collector.  Pichon Lalande was living up to it’s fabled reputation  expressing the opulent fruit, herbal, cedar notes and minerality that I look for in this super 2nd Pauillac.  We were all impressed with the youthful, vibrancy among the older vintages.  

With thanks to our generous host and Heritage auctions, for underwriting this tasting, a significant amount of money was raised for two well deserving charities, Sloan kettering cancer research and Midnight Run. The Artist’s palate of Dutchess County laid on several delicious courses to complement the wines. 

Served blind initially was this bottle provided by myself for a bit of fun. Figeac 1986 was surprisingly quite light garnet in colour suggesting it was at least 10 years older but the aromatics reveal plenty of red fruits, old rose petal, herb and tea leaf notes. More like an old school, elegantly styled St Julien. Not a big wine but well poised with red currant, spice, subtle cedar nuances and mixed herbs. A mineral,saline edginess carries through on the finish. Charming with subtle complexity. 90/100

Pichon Lalande 2000

Not revealing much beneath its oaky bouquet. Just a glimpse of blackberry, herb and menthol. On the palate it’s big and brooding with dense four square yet fine tannins. It bears rich meaty currant fruit and mocha with hints of spice and vanilla. The oak is still prominent but the black fruit is all there packed in. Give it 20 years to reach its apogee and fully resolve itself. It reminds me of a modern day 1970 stylistically but better. 95+/100

Pichon Lalande 1996

Deep ruby with pure intense black and red berry fruit, with floral hints and cedar . This Cabernet dominant fruit flows into a finely balanced palate with enough silky plump merlot to pad the mid palate. There are notes of cigar box, mint and graphite contributing to the complexity. Exquisitely balanced with svelte tannins and a persistent finish. Absolute classic. 96+/100

Pichon Lalande 1990

Along with Ducru this is considered one of the failures of the vintage. The 1990 has a deep mauve robe, the aromatics display mixed berry, herb and pepper. The fruit falls short leaving just the oak tannins and an alcoholic kick on the finish. It’s disjointed and poorly balanced. 80/100

Pichon Lalande 1989

Sweet soft ripe berry fruit. There are some secondary sous bois, soy and graphite nuances intermingled with the fruit. The ripe plum and mulberry fruit is lush and opulent. It dominates the mid palate. The acidity seems low and tannins have fully integrated over the years. Forward and delicious. Drink now to 2024. 95/100

Pichon Lalande 1988

Bright ruby with brick red rim. Subtle ripe plum, expresso and mocha notes. Meaty, medium bodied mid palate. Supple textured tannins supporting the ripe fruit, vanilla and cedar mixed with tobacco leaf. This is well balanced with enough acidity and moderate alcohol. One of the best wines of the region In this vintage. 91/100

Pichon Lalande 1986

Bright ruby with slight bricking. Earthy, minerality, ripe berry fruits with forest floor, pepper and cedarwood. Meaty mid palate displays sweet solid fruit, textured tannins, vanilla and graphite notes. A solid classical style that is drinking beautifully now. Drink to 2030. 94/100.

Pichon Lalande 1985

An exotic bouquet of ripe mulberry fruit, sous-bois, soy and Asian spices. Medium bodied with smooth tannins and moderately low acidity. Silky light sweet fruit, spice and a long lateral finish. Not classic but quite delicious now. Drink up. 92/100

Pichon Lalande 1982

Intense mature blackberry, cedar, vanilla and graphite nose. Fabulous depth and purity on the palate. Lush berry silky fruit supported by filigree tannins with mixed spice notes. Generously layered and opulent. Delicious Pauillac and one of the vintage highlights. Will continue to drink well for another 20 years. 99/100

Pichon Lalande 1981

Medium bodied with sweet mulberry and blackberry confit with sous bois. The acidity seems quite low. Mature, meaty with soft textured tannins. Surprisingly vibrant. Drink now. 91/100

Pichon Lalande 1978

Very pretty bouquet of old dark fruits, tobacco leaf, dried herbs and old cedar. Medium bodied, low acid, smooth tannins and a finish that gently fades. Very fine for this good vintage saved by an Indian summer. 89/100

Pichon Lalande 1975

Lighter ruby to brick red. Dusty old fruit, burnt dried herbs. Light to medium bodied, old spice, fading fruit with volatility acid on the finish. It was a good wine for the vintage but now falling away. 83/100

Pichon Lalande 1970

Garnet red with brick amber. Dusty bouquet of old cedar, leather and tea leaf. Medium bodied palate, some dry tannin extract remains as the sweet currant fruit gradually fades on the finish. This exudes old school winemaking charm . 90/100

Pichon Lalande 1962

Served blind, soft red fruit with leather, forest floor and spice. Some thought this was a Rhône but the minerally tobacco notes are classic Pauillac with that hint old cedar wood. Pretty though just holding up. 88/100

Pichon Lalande 1961

Deep garnet hues. Dark plum fruits., mocha, cigar box with hints of cinnamon spice on the bouquet. Opulent, full bodied mid palate, rich lush fruit with fine velvety tannins, not unlike the 1982 in style with a intense harmonious finish. Drink now but can enjoy for several more years. Remarkably vibrant example. Profound. 99/100

A bottle of 1900 Quinta do Sibio Vintage Port  was opened to conclude this fabulous dinner.  This came from a good cellar in deepest West Sussex .  Sibio was one of the better single quintas in the early twentieth century. Unfortunately it had not had enough time to settle after just a week  of standing.  It’s  colour was amber brown and still cloudy.  The fruit was a little dried out but it had some interesting fig, caramel and almond notes with adequate length. 83/100

By G J Willings

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