Inside Bordeaux

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Inside Bordeaux

#1 Post by TChristenfeld »

My best wine purchase of the year has been not a bottle but a book: Inside Bordeaux, by Jane Anson. I went to college before the explosion in textbook prices, so this might be the most expensive book I have ever bought -- equivalent in price to a bottle of Chateau Lascombes 2015 -- but it has provided a great deal of geeky pleasure (perhaps even more pleasure, certainly more immediate pleasure, than the 2015 Lascombes would have) and a series of helpful shopping hints.

There are two important trends that the books documents in great detail. The first is that there has been, in the last two decades but perhaps at an accelerating rate, an enormous amount of investment in the region, in almost all the appellations. (It is harder to justify huge investments in wine production in the least prestigious appellations, like AOC Bordeaux, where there is effectively a cap on the price that can be charged for the wine.). There are new plantings, often based on a more scientific understanding of soil types, there is investment in vineyard management, with a widespread adoption of organic and even biodynamic practices, and there have been huge investments in upgrades of cellars and winemaking facilities. At the top end of the Bordeaux hierarchy, this level of investment is not necessarily new, but at all other levels it has driven a great improvement in the quality of the wines on offer. Prices have been rising, but nowhere near as sharply as the quality has been rising.

The second trend belies the area's reputation for hidebound traditionalism, to the extent that the reputation had survived an earlier shift to a taste for riper, oakier wines. Bordeaux is as susceptible to changes in fashion as any other wine region. The change that has been underway for the last 10-15 years is a change toward an emphasis on structure and aromatics in the wines, at the risk of a green quality, and away from the emphasis on richness, at the risk of a cloying quality. This means that there has been a wholesale move toward earlier harvesting, and away from new oak, and in general toward a less interventionist approach to winemaking. Obviously, the best wines will satisfy the drinkers who value structure and the drinkers who value intensity, but there are now lots of less expensive wines that offer great balance.

The book doesn't rate the chateaux and the wines, but Anson isn't shy about pointing to the producers that she particularly likes. (She is admirably polite about the producers that produce wines less to her taste.) Since January, when I bought the book, we have been buying and drinking inexpensivish bottles of Bordeaux, based on the Anson recommendations, in search of quality and value. We have found a lot of both. Here's a list of what we've tried, categorized as 1) definitely buy more; 2) maybe buy more; and 3) don't buy more:

1) Chateau Joanin Becot (Castillon), Chateau Capbern (St. Estephe), Chateau Puygueraud (Francs), Chateau La Garde (Pessac-Leognan), Chateau d'Aiguilhe (Castillon);

2) Clos Floridene (Graves), Chateau de France (Pessac-Leognan), Chateau Montpezat Cuvee Compostelle (Castillon), Chateau de Francs Les Cerisiers (Francs), Chateau Ampelia (Castillon), Chateau Rouget (Pomerol);

3) Chateau Haut-Segottes (St. Emilion), Chateau la Dauphine (Fronsac), Chateau Moulin Haut Villars (Fronsac), Chateau Moulin St. Georges (St. Emilion), Chateau Beausejour Duffau-Lagarrosse (St. Emilion), Chateau Lilian Ladouys (St. Estephe).
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Re: Inside Bordeaux

#2 Post by Neal.Mollen »

Very interesting post, Tim. Thanks. Capbern, d'Aiguilhe, and La Garde have been favorite value wines for us for some time. I've been meaning to run down some Puygueraud and this gives me the push to do so.
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Re: Inside Bordeaux

#3 Post by Curtis Chen »

Thanks for the insight on the book, I've been curious about it.

Recently picked up The Aviary Cocktail Book. That was just as expensive, but now it won't hurt as much if I buy Inside Bordeaux. Hashtag conditioning.

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Re: Inside Bordeaux

#4 Post by Arv R »

Nice writeup. I too find the price rather high, and the exclusive sales channel kind of strange, but Neil Martin and others have proven that there is demand for niche, high dollar books on the region. And as you point out, the kinds of folks who drop $$$ on a bottle consumed over an evening should not get alligator arms over a reference book of comparable $$$ that they will use for a decade or two.
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Re: Inside Bordeaux

#5 Post by Vince T »

I agree that Jane Anson’s book is a very nice resource. It’s interesting that you’ve got Capbern in 1 and Lilian Ladouys in 3. I find those wines very similar, with LL showing just a bit more overt oak. They both did very well in 16 and 17, with Capbern kinda knocking it out of the park in 16 for its $25 price.
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Re: Inside Bordeaux

#6 Post by Glen Gold »

Great recommendation! I read it pretty slowly, taking a lot of notes, and will just whisper "Chateau les Vimieres la Tronquera" but only on the condition that no one here tell anyone else about it. newhere
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Re: Inside Bordeaux

#7 Post by TChristenfeld »

Neal.Mollen wrote: April 6th, 2021, 12:32 pm Very interesting post, Tim. Thanks. Capbern, d'Aiguilhe, and La Garde have been favorite value wines for us for some time. I've been meaning to run down some Puygueraud and this gives me the push to do so.
Thanks, Neal. We bought the Puygueraud in January from Saratoga Wine Exchange, where they still have the 2010 for $22. This is my tasting note:

I bought this recently for $23. Now that we have tried it, we are thinking of buying a case (at $21.60 per bottle). In other words, this is another insane bargain (based on a recommendation in Jane Anson's Inside Bordeaux).

The initial impression is quite woody, very dry, leathery. Dark color, moderate tannins, lively acidity. There is some soft fruit behind the tannins, but with air, the blackberry flavors emerge, and the acidic balance persists. Delicious. At peak.
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Re: Inside Bordeaux

#8 Post by Chris Seiber »

TChristenfeld wrote: April 6th, 2021, 11:56 am

The second trend belies the area's reputation for hidebound traditionalism, to the extent that the reputation had survived an earlier shift to a taste for riper, oakier wines. Bordeaux is as susceptible to changes in fashion as any other wine region. The change that has been underway for the last 10-15 years is a change toward an emphasis on structure and aromatics in the wines, at the risk of a green quality, and away from the emphasis on richness, at the risk of a cloying quality. This means that there has been a wholesale move toward earlier harvesting, and away from new oak, and in general toward a less interventionist approach to winemaking. Obviously, the best wines will satisfy the drinkers who value structure and the drinkers who value intensity, but there are now lots of less expensive wines that offer great balance.
Are there some noteworthy estates which have migrated from a riper, oakier style towards earlier harvesting and less oak? If so, which ones?

That has happened a lot in California. A significant number of wineries pushed the limits of ripeness and oak in the early 2000s vintages, and in the last decade or so have pulled back considerably. It would make sense to me that might happen at some estates in Bordeaux, but I haven't heard stories to that effect. I'd be quite curious if you, or anyone else, knew of any.

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Re: Inside Bordeaux

#9 Post by TChristenfeld »

Glen Gold wrote: April 6th, 2021, 1:56 pm Great recommendation! I read it pretty slowly, taking a lot of notes, and will just whisper "Chateau les Vimieres la Tronquera" but only on the condition that no one here tell anyone else about it. newhere
Thanks. I heard you. That's on my list but I haven't come across it yet.
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Re: Inside Bordeaux

#10 Post by TChristenfeld »

Vince T wrote: April 6th, 2021, 1:30 pm I agree that Jane Anson’s book is a very nice resource. It’s interesting that you’ve got Capbern in 1 and Lilian Ladouys in 3. I find those wines very similar, with LL showing just a bit more overt oak. They both did very well in 16 and 17, with Capbern kinda knocking it out of the park in 16 for its $25 price.
Another one that I forgot to add to the list -- another definite repurchase -- is Chateau Tronquoy-Lalande (St. Estephe). We had the 2014 vintage of that and the Lilian Ladouys on successive nights, and the Tronquoy just seemed much livelier -- much more acidic, more precise, more exciting. The Lilian Ladouys was funkier and softer -- we enjoyed it a lot too, but for the money we would go with the Tronquoy, and we liked the Capbern better than both of them.
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Re: Inside Bordeaux

#11 Post by James Billy »

Jane seems to like quite ripe, oaky, modern wines which she calls 'sexy.' She doesn't exclusively like, them, but she definitely isn't a AFWE.

She also quite likes St Emillion. I notice the OP's group 3 includes a lot of them. There are rather a lot of bad wines from that appellation IMHO despite not being cheap.

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Re: Inside Bordeaux

#12 Post by TChristenfeld »

Chris Seiber wrote: April 6th, 2021, 3:00 pm
TChristenfeld wrote: April 6th, 2021, 11:56 am

The second trend belies the area's reputation for hidebound traditionalism, to the extent that the reputation had survived an earlier shift to a taste for riper, oakier wines. Bordeaux is as susceptible to changes in fashion as any other wine region. The change that has been underway for the last 10-15 years is a change toward an emphasis on structure and aromatics in the wines, at the risk of a green quality, and away from the emphasis on richness, at the risk of a cloying quality. This means that there has been a wholesale move toward earlier harvesting, and away from new oak, and in general toward a less interventionist approach to winemaking. Obviously, the best wines will satisfy the drinkers who value structure and the drinkers who value intensity, but there are now lots of less expensive wines that offer great balance.
Are there some noteworthy estates which have migrated from a riper, oakier style towards earlier harvesting and less oak? If so, which ones?

That has happened a lot in California. A significant number of wineries pushed the limits of ripeness and oak in the early 2000s vintages, and in the last decade or so have pulled back considerably. It would make sense to me that might happen at some estates in Bordeaux, but I haven't heard stories to that effect. I'd be quite curious if you, or anyone else, knew of any.
Chris, this is a good question. I'm swimming mostly in the bargain Bordeaux pond, so others may be able to answer better than I can. I would, though, point to two established chateaux that have made quite extensive changes, to general acclaim: Pontet-Canet and Palmer. Palmer has gone fully biodynamic, even though it has meant lower yields, and they have significantly lowered the amount of sulphur they use in the winemaking process. They also have shifted to the use of no exogenous yeast, and they are experimenting with the use of smaller casks. As Anson writes, "the intention is to put purity of flavor above everything else." Pontet-Canet has implemented a similar set of changes. A 1990 Palmer is one of the best wines I've ever had, but I haven't had any products of the new regime there. It is impressive, though, that they would make as many changes as they did to a process that was already producing one of the most reputable wines of the region.
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Re: Inside Bordeaux

#13 Post by Chris Seiber »

Pontet Canet is a good reminder that biodynamic doesn’t mean less ripe or less oak. I like PC a lot, but they’re fairly modernist in style.

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Re: Inside Bordeaux

#14 Post by Alex Frank »

Love Inside Bordeaux, and appreciated your list of producers that you've been trying. I'd suggest giving Lillian Ladouys another shot – though I've only had the '15 and '16, the latter was significantly better IMO and, to me, an absolute steal at $22. Seems like they're on an upward trajectory and might be worth another look. Wholly agreed on Capbern though, such a great chateau.

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Re: Inside Bordeaux

#15 Post by MattYackel »

I also recently purchased this book and find it quite informative.

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Re: Inside Bordeaux

#16 Post by Nate M »

I would really recommend the Capbern and Puygueraud. Both great values and have had recently in current vintage.
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Re: Inside Bordeaux

#17 Post by Nate M »

Neal.Mollen wrote: April 6th, 2021, 12:32 pm Very interesting post, Tim. Thanks. Capbern, d'Aiguilhe, and La Garde have been favorite value wines for us for some time. I've been meaning to run down some Puygueraud and this gives me the push to do so.
Neal, I don't know here you live, but wine.com has had puygueraud on the west coast for the past 6 months or so.
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Re: Inside Bordeaux

#18 Post by Julian Marshall »

This is a timely post - thanks Tim. What I liked about the book was the focus on terroir, with all the detailed maps.

There's a good review by Jamie Goode:
https://wineanorak.com/2020/06/11/books ... ane-anson/

It's a good read and definitely better than a bottle of Lascombes!

My only quibble would be that although she's right about the trend away from the Parker-inspired wines of the past, the ones she recommends are not perhaps the most convincing examples. In her defence, lots of châteaux are saying the same things about less oak, less alcohol, etc, yet their wines do not really actually add up to that - for example, when Troplong-Mondot was sold, the new team said they were looking for more freshness (not very difficult!), yet are still producing wines with high levels - 14.5° (2017) or 15° (2018).

There's nothing wrong with wines like d'Aiguilhe, Capbern or Tronquoy-Lalande, on the contrary, they are good in a particular style - but that style is the one which produces levels of 14.5° and 15° (I think all three "achieved" 15° in 2018). There's nothing wrong about a wine containing 15° alcohol but I'm not sure about how it can be described as less rich and more fresh.

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Re: Inside Bordeaux

#19 Post by Andy Sc »

TChristenfeld wrote: April 6th, 2021, 3:48 pm Are there some noteworthy estates which have migrated from a riper, oakier style towards earlier harvesting and less oak? If so, which ones?

That has happened a lot in California. A significant number of wineries pushed the limits of ripeness and oak in the early 2000s vintages, and in the last decade or so have pulled back considerably. It would make sense to me that might happen at some estates in Bordeaux, but I haven't heard stories to that effect. I'd be quite curious if you, or anyone else, knew of any.
Not only a few but almost all Chateauxs have moved away from the extreme(r) levels of ripeness, extraction and oak use of the 00s. Some a bit more and some a bit less but in my opinion it is quite obvious that most did. Of course, a lot of that progress has been met with ever higher temperatures and ever drier and longer growing seasons due to climate change which demands some sort of scaling back and eats up parts of that progress towards less extraction and ripeness.

I don't have the clear picture but here are some names on top of my head: Troplong Mondot is certainly a name that has massively scaled back in the past few vintages. Rauzan Segla, Canon, Pavie Maquin, Figeac, even Pape Clement, while still far too extreme for my taste, has scaled back a lot.
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Re: Inside Bordeaux

#20 Post by Mark Golodetz »

Andy Sc wrote: April 7th, 2021, 2:23 am
TChristenfeld wrote: April 6th, 2021, 3:48 pm Are there some noteworthy estates which have migrated from a riper, oakier style towards earlier harvesting and less oak? If so, which ones?

That has happened a lot in California. A significant number of wineries pushed the limits of ripeness and oak in the early 2000s vintages, and in the last decade or so have pulled back considerably. It would make sense to me that might happen at some estates in Bordeaux, but I haven't heard stories to that effect. I'd be quite curious if you, or anyone else, knew of any.
Not only a few but almost all Chateauxs have moved away from the extreme(r) levels of ripeness, extraction and oak use of the 00s. Some a bit more and some a bit less but in my opinion it is quite obvious that most did. Of course, a lot of that progress has been met with ever higher temperatures and ever drier and longer growing seasons due to climate change which demands some sort of scaling back and eats up parts of that progress towards less extraction and ripeness.

I don't have the clear picture but here are some names on top of my head: Troplong Mondot is certainly a name that has massively scaled back in the past few vintages. Rauzan Segla, Canon, Pavie Maquin, Figeac, even Pape Clement, while still far too extreme for my taste, has scaled back a lot.
Even Pavie has scaled back, not enough for my particular taste, but enough that I would drink some of the post 2014 wines if offered a glass.
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Re: Inside Bordeaux

#21 Post by Anthony C »

Vince T wrote: April 6th, 2021, 1:30 pm I agree that Jane Anson’s book is a very nice resource. It’s interesting that you’ve got Capbern in 1 and Lilian Ladouys in 3. I find those wines very similar, with LL showing just a bit more overt oak. They both did very well in 16 and 17, with Capbern kinda knocking it out of the park in 16 for its $25 price.
Been thinking about getting this book so this discussion is great.

Odd that Ladouys is a buy less of because I thought the Decanter reviews of recent vintages showed improvement. I thought those were written by Anson but I'd have to look them up again. We've been buying LL for a little while, oldest being 2013. We use it as a cellar saver for Bordeaux/Cabs.

But I will definitely look into some of these other values. Thanks all.
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#22 Post by Ed Steinway »

Agree on the sentiments regarding Inside Bordeaux. We bought it last summer and I think it is outstanding. I also agree about the comments regarding Capbern, and I would put the Lilian Ladouys in your '1' category, Tim. For less than $25 I think it is a great value. Another I would add is La Tour De Mons, which you can usually find for under $30. Two others that are popular on this board are Cantemerle and Lanessan. I have not had any recent versions of Lanessan, and there has been some discussion regarding it moving towards a less traditional profile.

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#23 Post by Vince T »

Julian Marshall wrote: April 7th, 2021, 1:05 am This is a timely post - thanks Tim. What I liked about the book was the focus on terroir, with all the detailed maps.

There's a good review by Jamie Goode:
https://wineanorak.com/2020/06/11/books ... ane-anson/

It's a good read and definitely better than a bottle of Lascombes!

My only quibble would be that although she's right about the trend away from the Parker-inspired wines of the past, the ones she recommends are not perhaps the most convincing examples. In her defence, lots of châteaux are saying the same things about less oak, less alcohol, etc, yet their wines do not really actually add up to that - for example, when Troplong-Mondot was sold, the new team said they were looking for more freshness (not very difficult!), yet are still producing wines with high levels - 14.5° (2017) or 15° (2018).

There's nothing wrong with wines like d'Aiguilhe, Capbern or Tronquoy-Lalande, on the contrary, they are good in a particular style - but that style is the one which produces levels of 14.5° and 15° (I think all three "achieved" 15° in 2018). There's nothing wrong about a wine containing 15° alcohol but I'm not sure about how it can be described as less rich and more fresh.
I agree that these tend to be in a similar style - but to me, they do carry a sort of freshness and balance that is very attractive in more classically proportioned years. I'm not tried any 2018s, but I'm not sure I'd use it as a measuring stick, given it stands out as high even when compared to other ripe vintages. Capbern hit 14.6%, but Montrose also clocked in at 14.8%. Capbern was 14% in 2016.
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Re: Inside Bordeaux

#24 Post by Julian Marshall »

Good point, Vince. When even a wine like Haut-Bages Libéral hits 14.5° in 2018, you know there's a problem! It's a vintage I'm going to avoid completely.

I think there is a general problem with the change of climate. It is hard to make classically proportioned wines when the conditions are not the same as before. But also, there are probably a lot of lessons that need to be unlearnt - it was not that long ago that Bordeaux actually lacked ripeness - all the techniques designed to increase concentration and ripening in the vineyard are obsolete. Perhaps some châteaux are afraid too that their customers have got so used to the overripe style that they will not like anything else. In the meantime, I've yet to taste a Clos du Jaugueyron that was overripe, so it must be possible!

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#25 Post by Arv R »

Alex Frank wrote: April 6th, 2021, 5:43 pm Love Inside Bordeaux, and appreciated your list of producers that you've been trying. I'd suggest giving Lillian Ladouys another shot – though I've only had the '15 and '16, the latter was significantly better IMO and, to me, an absolute steal at $22. Seems like they're on an upward trajectory and might be worth another look. Wholly agreed on Capbern though, such a great chateau.
L-L used to be a wine to only buy in ripe years - long ago I bought 90 and 03 - but is more consistent under new ownership and I bought 14, 16 recently. There seems to be a big market premium for 2016 across St Estephe, but I don't know if that is really warranted for 'drinking' category of wines rather than salable/speculative ones.
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#26 Post by Vince T »

Arv R wrote: April 7th, 2021, 9:13 am
Alex Frank wrote: April 6th, 2021, 5:43 pm Love Inside Bordeaux, and appreciated your list of producers that you've been trying. I'd suggest giving Lillian Ladouys another shot – though I've only had the '15 and '16, the latter was significantly better IMO and, to me, an absolute steal at $22. Seems like they're on an upward trajectory and might be worth another look. Wholly agreed on Capbern though, such a great chateau.
L-L used to be a wine to only buy in ripe years - long ago I bought 90 and 03 - but is more consistent under new ownership and I bought 14, 16 recently. There seems to be a big market premium for 2016 across St Estephe, but I don't know if that is really warranted for 'drinking' category of wines rather than salable/speculative ones.
What market premium are you seeing? All of the above mentioned wines are in the $20-25 range, and good value for Bordeaux or practically any region. At the next step up, you’ve got Meyney, Dame de Montrose, Lafon Rochet — all outstanding and under $40 (at least at release).
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Re: Inside Bordeaux

#27 Post by Arv R »

Vince T wrote: April 7th, 2021, 10:57 am
Arv R wrote: April 7th, 2021, 9:13 am
Alex Frank wrote: April 6th, 2021, 5:43 pm Love Inside Bordeaux, and appreciated your list of producers that you've been trying. I'd suggest giving Lillian Ladouys another shot – though I've only had the '15 and '16, the latter was significantly better IMO and, to me, an absolute steal at $22. Seems like they're on an upward trajectory and might be worth another look. Wholly agreed on Capbern though, such a great chateau.
L-L used to be a wine to only buy in ripe years - long ago I bought 90 and 03 - but is more consistent under new ownership and I bought 14, 16 recently. There seems to be a big market premium for 2016 across St Estephe, but I don't know if that is really warranted for 'drinking' category of wines rather than salable/speculative ones.
What market premium are you seeing? All of the above mentioned wines are in the $20-25 range, and good value for Bordeaux or practically any region. At the next step up, you’ve got Meyney, Dame de Montrose, Lafon Rochet — all outstanding and under $40 (at least at release).
I mean that 2016 for an estate costs more than their same production in vintages like 2014, 2015. Some difference is warranted, but for young wines, it seems like a lot to me. 2016 Phelan Segur vs the 2014 is one example I've been keeping an eye on for example.
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Re: Inside Bordeaux

#28 Post by Karl F »

Neal.Mollen wrote: April 6th, 2021, 12:32 pm Very interesting post, Tim. Thanks. Capbern, d'Aiguilhe, and La Garde have been favorite value wines for us for some time. I've been meaning to run down some Puygueraud and this gives me the push to do so.
1) Chateau Joanin Becot (Castillon), Chateau Capbern (St. Estephe), Chateau Puygueraud (Francs), Chateau La Garde (Pessac-Leognan), Chateau d'Aiguilhe (Castillon);

Really delighted to see these wines mentioned.

Love d'Aiguilhe...have a half dozen of these as well as Joanin Becot 2012 and 15.
The 2015 Capberns were gotten at Costco a few years ago for 20$
Siran 15 too.

The d'Aiguilhe is a favorite Neal.
92 from Wine Spectator

Total wine had some of the 2012 Becot left and I grabbed a few more a month or so ago including a coupon.

Good Stuff!
Karl F.

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Re: Inside Bordeaux

#29 Post by Marcu$ Stanley »

TChristenfeld wrote: April 6th, 2021, 11:56 am The change that has been underway for the last 10-15 years is a change toward an emphasis on structure and aromatics in the wines, at the risk of a green quality, and away from the emphasis on richness, at the risk of a cloying quality. This means that there has been a wholesale move toward earlier harvesting, and away from new oak, and in general toward a less interventionist approach to winemaking. Obviously, the best wines will satisfy the drinkers who value structure and the drinkers who value intensity, but there are now lots of less expensive wines that offer great balance.

The above has been the official Bordeaux propaganda line but I'm not sure I buy it. Yes, there is less crude and overt extraction, "Parkerization" than there was, maybe less late picking, that is true. But less intervention? Where is all the new investment going if it's not going to interventional technologies, more sophisticated grape selection, etc.? I mostly drink pre-2010 Bordeaux, but from dipping my toe into more recent vintages many wines strike me as having an even more slick, engineered, international style to them than I remember from the past. They have for lack of a better word a very "glossy" quality when young. Also, after a couple of years of lower alcohol levels (2012, 2014, 2016, etc.) we seem to be seeing 14-15+% alcohol routinely again.

I would really like to see a book that went inside the actual technological and craft changes over the past couple of decades in Bordeaux, the way William Kelley has been trying to do in Burgundy, rather than just talking about a "less interventionist" approach or "tea bag" extraction, which lets face it is basically a marketing pitch to align with current styles. But winemakers tend to be pretty close mouthed about what they are actually doing.

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Re: Inside Bordeaux

#30 Post by TChristenfeld »

Marcu$ Stanley wrote: April 9th, 2021, 8:56 am
TChristenfeld wrote: April 6th, 2021, 11:56 am The change that has been underway for the last 10-15 years is a change toward an emphasis on structure and aromatics in the wines, at the risk of a green quality, and away from the emphasis on richness, at the risk of a cloying quality. This means that there has been a wholesale move toward earlier harvesting, and away from new oak, and in general toward a less interventionist approach to winemaking. Obviously, the best wines will satisfy the drinkers who value structure and the drinkers who value intensity, but there are now lots of less expensive wines that offer great balance.

The above has been the official Bordeaux propaganda line but I'm not sure I buy it. Yes, there is less crude and overt extraction, "Parkerization" than there was, maybe less late picking, that is true. But less intervention? Where is all the new investment going if it's not going to interventional technologies, more sophisticated grape selection, etc.? I mostly drink pre-2010 Bordeaux, but from dipping my toe into more recent vintages many wines strike me as having an even more slick, engineered, international style to them than I remember from the past. They have for lack of a better word a very "glossy" quality when young. Also, after a couple of years of lower alcohol levels (2012, 2014, 2016, etc.) we seem to be seeing 14-15+% alcohol routinely again.

I would really like to see a book that went inside the actual technological and craft changes over the past couple of decades in Bordeaux, the way William Kelley has been trying to do in Burgundy, rather than just talking about a "less interventionist" approach or "tea bag" extraction, which lets face it is basically a marketing pitch to align with current styles. But winemakers tend to be pretty close mouthed about what they are actually doing.
I have tried to suggest that the Anson book may be the Bordeaux book you are looking for, and you shouldn't be put off by my feeble summary. Her primary focus is on soil types, on the ways in which "the interplay between grape, soil, climate and man is becoming ever more refined," but she is also spending a lot of time in the cellars and reports extensively on what's happening there.

I am happy to take this opportunity to recommend again William Kelley's excellent article on the 'naturalistic fallacy,' in which he argues that "every wine ... is unavoidably the product of intention." So perhaps we could follow his lead and differentiate more and less 'explicitly interventionist' approaches to winemaking -- and then we can see that the current fashion in Bordeaux is an emphasis on less explicitly interventionist winemaking. I mentioned Chateau Palmer earlier in the thread; certainly, the decision there to introduce no commercial yeasts and only minimal amounts of sulphur could fairly be characterized as less explicitly interventionist.

In this light, there are many ways to invest in wineries without investing in interventional technologies. To take one example: Several contributors to this thread have recommended the recent vintages of Chateau Lilian Ladouys in Saint Estephe. What I learn from the Anson book is that the estate was "seriously run-down" as recently as 1989. Two sets of owners have invested a lot of money in basic infrastructure, in enlargements of the vineyard through the purchase of adjoining properties, in hiring experienced staff to oversee the vineyards and the winemaking, in field grafting and replanting to take advantage of a more sophisticated understanding of the soil types (which is in turn the result of investment), in the installation of a gravity-flow system, and in wine barrels (30-40% new oak).

Anson's conclusion about Chateau Lilian Ladouys: "It's a wine that is really starting to bear the results of all the investment: expect bright, juicy character, unfussy berry fruits with touches of cedary oak, and tannins that have been considerably tamed from vintages even as recent as 2008." I had drunk a bottle of the 2014 and found it tasty, but a bit soft compared to the 2014 Tronquoy-Lalande -- based on the feedback here, I am going to try the more recent vintages of Ladouys.
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Re: Inside Bordeaux

#31 Post by JohnWoo »

As a value BDX buyer myself, I recommend Vrai Canon Bouche and Chateau des Laurets.
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Re: Inside Bordeaux

#32 Post by GregT »

(It is harder to justify huge investments in wine production in the least prestigious appellations, like AOC Bordeaux, where there is effectively a cap on the price that can be charged for the wine.).
Not sure I buy that. It's only true if things are immutable and if you study Bordeaux and learn that you're not supposed to pay more or the "lesser" appellations are not as good as the others.

Actually it would be hard not to invest in the less prestigious appellations and stay in business. Improving those wines will increase sales. Improving the other wines won't matter because people buy them by the brand. One of Parker's early achievements was demonstrating that the brand didn't matter as much as the wine. That's an opinion that's past now but the truth of it still holds.
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Re: Inside Bordeaux

#33 Post by RTP Latham Richard »

I have had several of the named wines. They had high QPR, but very seldom were given high scores from me. I do not mind paying a bit more for better wines, as long as they are reasonably priced. RTPL

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Re: Inside Bordeaux

#34 Post by TChristenfeld »

GregT wrote: April 10th, 2021, 12:40 pm
(It is harder to justify huge investments in wine production in the least prestigious appellations, like AOC Bordeaux, where there is effectively a cap on the price that can be charged for the wine.).
Not sure I buy that. It's only true if things are immutable and if you study Bordeaux and learn that you're not supposed to pay more or the "lesser" appellations are not as good as the others.

Actually it would be hard not to invest in the less prestigious appellations and stay in business. Improving those wines will increase sales. Improving the other wines won't matter because people buy them by the brand. One of Parker's early achievements was demonstrating that the brand didn't matter as much as the wine. That's an opinion that's past now but the truth of it still holds.
You might be right. Here are the relevant parameters:
  • There are roughly 5,000 producers in AOC Bordeaux.
    The average price per bottle (2018) is just over 4 euros.
    There are chateaux that produce 1 million bottles per year, but an annual production of 35,000-50,000 bottles is more typical. (Chateau Thieuley, for instance, produces 36,000 bottles per year.)
If you are going to make the investments that would justify a price increase, you have to have some confidence that the resulting quality improvements will allow the market to differentiate your wine from the wines of your 4,999 peers. If, on the other hand, the 4 euro/bottle is effectively a commodity price, then there is a small likelihood of a positive return on investment. (There is an interesting report here on "The Cost of Producing a Bottle of AOC Bordeaux": https://vineyardintelligence.com/the-co ... -bordeaux/.)
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Re: Inside Bordeaux

#35 Post by Brian Crabtree »

I certainly agree about Ch la Dauphine. Their wines of the early 2000s were wonderful and I had a delightful visit there several years ago, but their style now is clearly in the very ripe, high extraction, high alcohol style. Seems to be true of most Fronsac producers from what I see.

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Re: Inside Bordeaux

#36 Post by TChristenfeld »

Brian Crabtree wrote: April 10th, 2021, 7:08 pm I certainly agree about Ch la Dauphine. Their wines of the early 2000s were wonderful and I had a delightful visit there several years ago, but their style now is clearly in the very ripe, high extraction, high alcohol style. Seems to be true of most Fronsac producers from what I see.
Yes, La Dauphine was probably our least liked of the wines we've tried. This is my tasting note for the 2015:

My wife, kicking and screaming, did not like this at all. I liked it a lot at first, when the chocolatey-minty richness was balanced by moderate acidity, but the acidity faded pretty quickly, and then what's left is a somewhat decadent concoction.
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Re: Inside Bordeaux

#37 Post by cepotts »

For all the value wines being discussed or recommended here, is the consensus that they are intended to be consumed early or do they need extended cellaring? It’s not clear in this discussion if all the investment is resulting in a wider array of choices for early enjoyment or for laying down for 20+ years.
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Re: Inside Bordeaux

#38 Post by TChristenfeld »

cepotts wrote: April 11th, 2021, 6:38 am For all the value wines being discussed or recommended here, is the consensus that they are intended to be consumed early or do they need extended cellaring? It’s not clear in this discussion if all the investment is resulting in a wider array of choices for early enjoyment or for laying down for 20+ years.
Good question: I doubt there is a consensus, exactly, but I would say that, in general, the wines are more for early consumption or medium-term cellaring, with two clear caveats -- it depends on the specific wine, and it depends on the taste of the specific wine-drinker. I haven't come across anything that is a tannic monster (with the possible exception of the 2016 Moulin St. Georges), though there have been several that will certainly become more integrated and less acidic with a few more years in the cellar. A few specific takes: The 2009 La Garde and the 2010 Puygueraud are at peak now. I had several wines from Saint Estephe (Capbern 2010, Tronquoy-Lalande 2014, Lilian Ladouys 2014) that are tasty now but will certainly improve with another 5 years or so in the cellar. I would guess that you could drink with pleasure any of the wines that have been mentioned by the time they are celebrating their 10th birthdays, and many will be drinkable younger if you decant them a couple of hours before consuming.
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