Exceptional wines for this beginning of 2017 + surprises and a few disappointments

Châteauneuf du Pape H. Bonneau Cuvée Spéciale 1998 : 19/20
Incredible balance (for me, much better than the cuvée spéciale 1990)
Navazos Amontillado 61 Bota NO : 18,5/20
Jerez Palo Cortado Equipo Navazos Bota 52 : 18,5/20

These 2 rancios produced by Navazos were both, as expected, “Haute-Couture”.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape Pignan 2005 : 18,5/20
Reynaud, as always.

Rousseau Gevrey-Chambertin Clos St-Jacques 2003 : 18,5/20
Rousseau at it’s best (same comment on this cru and vintage a few year ago during a lunch at restaurant l’Astrance in Paris)

Porto Taylor’s Vintage 2009 : 18,5/20
Unsurprisingly, a great fortified wine which should survive me.

Remarkable wines :
Champagne Salon 2002 : 18/20 (twice - still very young)

Savennières - Coulée de Serrant : Clos de la Coulée de Serrant “Moelleux” 1995 : 17/20 (rare semi sweet Coulée)

Saint Joseph blanc : Raymond Trollat “Chasselas” 2002 : 16,5/17 (a rare - forevergone ? - french Chasselas)

Pessac-Léognan : Château La Mission Haut Brion 1946 : 16,5/20 (the only 1946 Bordeaux in my life - the 1953 served beside was dead)

Bourgogne (Côte de Beaune) - Domaine d’Auvenay : Meursault Les Narvaux 2004 : 17/20 (Lalou …)

Languedoc (Terrasses du Larzac) - Domaine Peyre Rose : Coteaux du Languedoc ’’Syrah Léone’’ 2002 : 17/20 (for me, this domain is at the top of Languedoc)

Italie (Piémont) - Domaine Rinaldi : Barolo Brunate/Le Coste 2006 : 17,5/18 (old style Barolo has my preference and the 2011 Brunate/Le Coste was a monument in november 2016)

Navazos manzanilla pasada 59 : 18/20 (another Navazos)

Rioja Marques de Murrieta Castello Ygay blanco Gran Reserva Especial 1986 : 17,5/18 (THE spanish white)

Ajaccio - Domaine Abbatucci : Vin de France “Collection J.C. Abbatucci Général de la Révolution” 2013 : 17,5/20 (Vermentino, Rossola Brandinca, Riminese, Carcajolo Bianco, Biancone, Paga Debiti - arènes granitiques à sablo-limoneuses - an excellent corsican white)

Domaine Gavalas ‘Vinsanto’ 2008 Santorini : 17/20 (I like sweet wines)

Afrique du Sud : Swartland – Sadie Family « Soldaat » (grenache) 2014 : 16,5/20

Noticeable recent disappointments :
Casa Ferreirinha Barca Velha 2000 : (nearly) corked

Climens 1988 : weak (the 1988 was tremendous in youth, with it traditional brilliant bitterness - bad bottle or once again this difficulty for many Sauternes to age ?)

Climens 1997 : lack of complexity (I formerly had this “as old as my daughter” 1997 4 times, with ups and downs)

Lafite-Rothschild 1996 : really not a perfect bottle

Grands Echezeaux Mongeard-Mugneret (Vincent Mongeard) 1999 : lack of complexity (still too young ?)

Difficult to make a ‘great’ chasselas.


Chasselas is not common in France. It mainly exists, in very few quantities, in Savoie (Ripaille, Crépy) and Pouilly/Loire.

I tasted several very good (but as you say never great) chasselas in Switzerland … Among them : Philippe Darioli, Marie-Bernard Gillioz, La Colombe Sélection Girardet (Paccot, in Féchy), M. T. Chappaz Président Troillet, Stéphane Reynard et Dany Varone Clos des Corbassières, …

Now that Raymond Trollat is retired, it seems that Pierre et Jean Gonon continue to produce this Chasselas on St-Jean de Muzols (St-Joseph).

interesting to see recent positive notes on 2003 from many tasters.


In 2015, I really liked :
Clos de Tart 2003 (17,5/20)
Ghislaine Bartod Chamolle-Musigny Beaux Bruns 2003 (17/20)
Gevrey-Chambertin 1er cru Lavaut St Jacques Lucien Le Moine 2003 (17/20)

and a monster : Auvenay Narvaux 2003 (19/20)

Côtes du Jura Vin Jaune : Domaine Sylvie et Luc Boilley « 10 ans de fût » 2005 : 19/20
First encounter for me this great vin jaune (Boilley-Frémiot). A misknown domain (same top level than the unforgettable Arbois Vin Jaune Puffeney 1988 (17 years))

Jurançon Clos Joliette sec 1971 : 18,5/19
A third encounter with this pure magic manseng.

Excellent/great Saumur-Champigny Clos Rougeard Le Bourg 2002 (17,5/18 and the first time a Rougeard astonishes me).

Excellent Coulée de Serrant 1964 (17/20 - still very young).

Yesterday evening : Côtes-du-Rhône Pialade 2002 : 18/20
An amazing wine (thought Rayas 2002). So cheap.

Some disappointment with Méo-Camuzet Vosne-Romanée Brûlées 1999 (16/20) , still oaky and lacking fruit. Definitly not my style of pinot noir. So expensive.

Jurançon Clos Joliette 1979 unfortunatly corked (can be great).

I can’t remember who I was chatting with in Burgundy, but we were talking about how interesting a vintage 2003 has turned out to be with some age on it now.

Laurent, some notes of mine on 88 and 97 Climens from a Sauternes dinner in London a month ago:

"1988 Chateau Climens

Tremendous difference in colour from the D’Yquem here—light gold. Only hints at a panoply of baking spices, dusting of brown sugar, coconut and very light brush of nougat. What you’d expect—super-racy, like a bridled horse. Charged lemon and orange peel with marzipan backhit. And so energetic—I could drink this as a desert island wine. Better yet with some warmth, but still very structured, linear and 88. A very good bottle.

1997 Chateau Climens

Possibly the most intriguing of the Climens aromas—full of perfume and almost calvados. The guys think there’s a fair bit of sulphur still lingering here. On the tongue, it does show shorter compared to all the others and a little later some botrytis does prickle up. It gains some body and balance and by the end of the night is not bad at all, but a step below some of what we’ve had this evening."


As I wrote above, I formerly tasted Climens 1997 with ups and downs (but never at a high level).

I had tremendous Climens 1988 (freshly balanced, lovely bitterness), several times, when the wine was younger. I cannot say if the wine ages badly or if the bottle was weak. I clearly expected more.

Barsac Climens 1988 : 18/20 - July 2013
4ème ou 5ème rencontre. Toujours transcendant. Liqueur fraîche, sur des amers d’une grande noblesse. Longueur, finesse.

Climens 1988 : 18,5/19 – July 2008
Liqueur noble d’une (re)tenue exemplaire : safran, gentiane (amers impériaux).
Régulier (cf. le repas chez Biasiolo en avril 2007), toujours à ce même haut niveau.

April 2007 :
Barsac Château Climens 1988 : 19/20
Liqueur bordelaise parfaitement ciselée, retenue. Amers racés (évocation de gentiane) et équilibre irréprochable. Un travail d’orfèvre, reconnaissable. Finale exultante !

Châteauneuf-du-Pape Rayas red 2005 : 18,5/19
Yet another prodigious Rayas, solar (but without any heat), fruity, flowery, spicy (strawberry, rose, pepper, …). Shinny with an unforgettable thin elegance and an incredible charm. The best red wine in the world (see also Pignan 2005 above) ?

Rousseau Chambertin 2005 : 18,5/20
As expected, a great pinot noir, with cherry, smoked beetroot, flowers, cumin. Powerful, fully balanced, very tasty, very long (it is possible to drink it now, but as Rayas 2005, it possesses all the ingredients to age longly). High class worldwide red, but it is always so difficult to challenge Rayas.

A recent journey to Porto was the occasion to taste a few considerable wines :

Do Noval Porto vintage Nacional 2003 : 19,5/20
Nearly perfect, this vintage port, strong an elegant at the same time, seems in levitation.

Taylor Vargellas Vinha Velha 2009 : 19/20
Another great and rare vintage port.

Barbadillo Zerej II oxidativa de vuelta y media Obispo Gascon bota seleccionada (magnum) : 19/20
Drunk at restaurant Annua in San Vicente de la Barquera (2 étoiles Michelin). A great Palo Cortado, which reminded me the best wines of Equipo Navazos.

Bairrada Bussaco Branco Reservado 1955 : 19/20
Encruzado, Maria Gomes, Bical. Amazing white wine, very complex and long. The depth of its tastes reminded me the fantastic Clos Joliette (Jurançon) in old vintages (or the old vintages of Lopez de Heredia in Rioja).
Note : the 2001 white is a great wine but the 1958 red was a disappointment.

Bonneau du Martray Corton-Charlemagne 1995 : 18,5/20
Without surprise, an exceptional Côte de Beaune, mineral, concentrated and thin, ready to drink. Thought Grivault Clos des Perrières.
Châteauneuf-du pape Rayas red 2008 : 18,5/20
Second encounter with this vintage. Another great Rayas, signed. Fruity, flowery, spicy as always so elegant. Approachable now.

Taylor Tawny 40 years : 19/20
Marvelous rancio for this tawny port (assembled years), with a complex endless finish.

Taylor Very old Single Harvest 1967 : 18,5/20
Remarkable colheta too, with a great old rancio.

Dow’s 1985 : 18,5/20
Powerful (graphite, smoke, tar) and subtle. I love all these styles of port (vintage, LBV, tawny, colheta).

ONE OF THE VERY BEST red wines in the world !!! [cheers.gif]

The 2008 Rayas is astonishing for the (quite weak) vintage in CdP - from the texture a bit like the 1997 (Emmanuels 1st vintage he made totally on his own) which is still fine when well stored.

Not much to add to the 2005 R. - will be simply great in 10-12 years …

FWIW - in my Rayas(+Pignan+Fonsalette+de Tours)-tasting in spring we had the 2014 Rayas from bottle (yes, Emmanuel sold me a bottle in advance as an exception: quite bright but saturated colour, incredible pure deep sweet Grenache fruit with underlying spices, cherries and exotic flowers, perfectly balanced, incredible elegance, very lively and an immense joy to drink, but nevertheless primary (IMHO it will still gain in complexity with time in the bottle, but so early on it was already a relevation, much more impressive than from cask), reminded me on a more concentrated 1994 R. - high 90ies in points. [dance-clap.gif]

But it won´t hit the market before 2020/21 … [shock.gif]


Rayas red is always very exciting …

2016 should turn out to be … amazing :slight_smile:

But 1998 remains a (slight) disappointment.

I will be there in a month to taste the 2016s … hard to imagine that it is another step up from 2015.

One may call the 1998 (R.+P.) disapointing - but only in relation to the vintage and it´s potential. It is definitely an outstanding Rayas, on a level with the fine 1999 (and better than 92/93/94/96/97), but yes, the question remains if (or how much) it would have been better if Jacques still had made it.
(Remember: Jacques´ last vinified vintage was the 1996, Emmanuel´s first the 1997, and the latter is superior imho).

I do think that Emmanuel needed some time to fully adapt to the vineyards (and maybe to the cellar) … moreover there had been some replantings … and maybe simply the selection of juice from young vines was not strict enough …
but the results are fine … only not really great.


Here is an excerpt (in french, by Pierre Citerne) of the conclusion ending the Rayas tremendous verticale we had in 2010 :

Les vins d’Emmanuel Reynaud, qui a pris la succession de son oncle, semblent vouloir atteindre à davantage de finesse, d’élégance, de précision dans la définition du type Rayas. De vins peut-être plus aériens, moins chargés, moins imposants (pour l’instant… Rayas peut se densifier avec l’âge, nous avons pu le vérifier plusieurs fois), qui s’éloignent encore davantage de Châteauneuf pour affirmer plus haut l’unicité du cru, un vin « autre », comme un Musigny du Soleil… Peut-être plus apollinien que dionysiaque (en tout cas un vin de caractère gréco-latin, ce qui pourrait excuser en partie la comparaison mythologique éculée…) Je suis personnellement très heureux, après avoir entendu des années durant d’assez nombreuses critiques négatives concernant le style d’Emmanuel Reynaud (critiques qui m’ont toujours semblé fondées davantage sur le syndrome du « c’était mieux avant » que sur une observation objective de l’évolution stylistique du vin), que la sensibilité et la justesse de son approche soient enfin largement reconnues.

interesting article.
It is definitely the case that Emmanuel is always on search for elegance and finesse (more than for pure power), but it is possible that he did slightly too much in that direction in his first vintages (very short cuvaison and maceration) … and that he found the perfect balance only a bit later … let´s say from 2003 onwards … (although the 2002 is incredible good for the vintage).


I really love Rayas 1999, 2000 and of course the magnificient 2001.

Rayas 2002 is special, lighter/evanescent but still delicious (by the way Pialade 2002 is great too).

Quinta da Gaivosa Tawny 20 years : 18,5/20
Tasted at the domain with Alves de Souza.
Exceptional tawny port with a graceful long rancio (red and black fruits jam, orange marmalade, cocoa, liquorice, multiple spices, Bellota, dried fruits, camphor, cigar, …).
Complex and fully balanced (absolutly no heaviness and with an alcohol perfectly integrated).

Able to compete with the very best tawny productions (and it is only a 20 years).
Not too expensive.

I already loved the “mere” 10 years old tawny 10 years ago, during a former visit.

Emilio Hidalgo Jerez Palo Cortado Privilegio VORS : 19/20
An amazing Palo Cortado, with and endless powerful but thin rancio.