"Buy my book about the Roussillon on Amazon UK in paperback or eBook or black & white version, and Amazon USA: paperback or eBook or black & white. OR BUY IT DIRECT FROM ME (UK & EU only). Also available in the US from Barnes & Noble in hardcover, paperback or eBook. For other countries, tap on the link above the cover photo (below right)." Richard Mark James

30 September 2004

Big Turkish wine export push

An adaptation of this Turkish wine report was first published on Decanter.com on September 30th 2004: I've since added a bit more information and opinion. Click here to view my notes and thoughts on wines tasted on this delight-ful (ho ho) Turkish wine trip...

10 September 2004

Turkish Delight: wine touring September 2004

Apologies for the clichéd title, but it's an example of the kind of prejudice Turkish wine producers might have to overcome to get people to take their wines more seriously. I've posted my tasting notes below on most of the wines (leaving out a couple of stinkers) discovered on a fascinating trip to Turkey's vine-lands and their extraordinary city of Istanbul (must go back sometime...) in September 2004. We visited the coastal wine area of Marmara, west of Istanbul in Thrace region, and wineries in central Anatolia, Turkey's rocky Asian heartland nearer to Ankara. I never did get around to writing up my full thoughts on vineyards, wineries and potential for export; with some nice people, restaurants and carpet salesmen thrown in too. Perhaps one day when I unearth my notes again. During the meanwhilst, click here to read an extended version (I've since added a bit more info and opinion) of the news report I did for Decanter.com; or click there to view the published piece on Decanter's site.

DLC Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot 2002, Anatolia (12%) - Fairly attractive berry and currant aromas, a bit lean on the fruit v tannins and acidity, and a little 'reduced' again; not terrible but no chance against similar wine from elsewhere. 70-75
DLC Kalecik Karasi 2002, Anatolia (12%) - Not bad rustic cherry fruit, again a touch of sulphide on the nose, but it does have a better finish of savoury fruit, even if the acidity's a little bitter. 75-80
Sarafin Merlot 2002, Thrace - Interesting nose, gamey with a touch of oak and lightly leafy edges; reasonably fruity palate rounded out by vanilla oak, fair acidity gives it a fresher finish without being tart. Try with grilled aubergine paste. 85-87
Sarafin Fumé Blanc 2002, Thrace - Light citrus and honey notes with just a touch of oak on the nose, oakier palate but shows a little crispness and mineral character too, a touch unclean/sulphury on the finish but it's basically sound and a reasonable example of this style (take it or leave it). I prefer the straight Sauvignon Blanc. Local retail price approx. £8! 75-80
Sarafin Sauvignon Blanc 2002, Thrace - Not bad aromatic & crisp, slightly clumsy Touraine Sauvignon style; better with chargrilled aubergine paste or feta cheese. 80-83
Eurasia Two Continents NV (Öküzgözü Cabernet Sauvignon) - Blend of grapes from the European and Asian parts of Turkey. Spicy blackcurrant fruit touched up with light oak, rather bitter finish though; nice idea but... UK £4.99 77-80
Karma Gamay/Bogazkere 2001, Anatolia - Karma means blend (man). Toasty nose and palate with richer rustic side, quite firm but also has riper dried fruit characters; not bad but once again I detected sulphide off-notes. 75-80
Karma Merlot/Bogazkere 2001 (13.5%) - Also a touch unclean on the nose or is it me? However, this has much better fruit and depth than most of the others with nice dry yet rounded tannins without any of that bitterness, and the oak is well done. 83-85
KAV 2001, Anatolia (Öküzgözü Bogazkere) - Slightly burnt/cardboard flavour but has nice developed rustic fruit with dry tannins and bite; kind of northern Italian style that works better with all that Turkish lamb. 80-85
Riesling 2003, Thrace (12%) - Too much sulphur on the nose but it does have a nice zesty mineral palate and length; could have potential if handled a bit better. 80-85
Safir Muscat 2001, Thrace (12%) - Lovely grapey nose and fruity palate, elegant balance of acidity and light sweetness (just 13 g/l residual sugar). Nice aperitif. 85-87
Sarafin Cabernet Sauvignon 2001, Thrace (14.5%) - Rich dark colour showing attractive cassis and black fruits, good concentration and weight, very grippy tannins but not overly, get that high alcohol but it works within this framework; still a little reduced though. 87+
Sarafin Chardonnay 2002, Thrace (13.6%) - Attractive light butter and toast aromas yet nice aromatic fruit too, toastier palate but it's quite well done showing buttery richness v fresh acidity; just a tad too toasty on the finish (for me). Try with swordfish steak. 87+

Kavaklidere kavaklidere.com

Altin Köpük Brut NV, Anatolia (Emir) - Not bad nutty Cava style with reasonable bready fruit and bubbles, could be a bit drier on the finish (for me anyway). Acceptable apero or with pud. 80+
Inci Damlasi Brut NV (Emir Narince Semillon Muscat Sultana) - Actually a Thracian/Anatolian/Aegean blend pumped up with CO2, it's not bad in a cheap Cava way showing a bit of cakey fruit and residual sugar set against fresh acidity. 80
Ancyra Kalecik Karasi 2003, Anatolia - Attractive easy drinking cherry and redcurrant fruit, perhaps the acidity's a bit high but nice simple stuff nevertheless. 80+
Angora red 2003, Anatolia (Cinsault Gamay Cabernet Sauvignon) - Appealing soft cherry fruit, Teroldego-esque attractive style. 80+
Angora Sultaniye 2003, Anatolia - Fresh and clean aromas, quite zingy with a touch of crisp acidity plus some weight and length aided by quite high (but integrated) alcohol (14%). Nice quaffer / fishy wine. 80+
Bogazkere 2000, Anatolia - Resin & balsamic aromas with mixed dried fruits, attractive enough style but has very dry firm tannins so needs to go with hearty food like lamb or chicken. 80+
Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot 2002, Anatolia - Rather herbaceous and bitter, a bit oxidised too... 70
LAL rosé 2003, Anatolia - Dry crisp elegant Provencesque style, shows fair weight (of alcohol) too and a little fresh acidity; the fruit's perhaps beginning to fade a bit on the finish. Try with spicy grilled peppers soaked in olive oil. 83
Narince 2002, Anatolia - Tank sample (why not bottled already?) as the 99 was a bit oxidised and passed it (what a surprise). The 2002 was much livelier and more interesting (so why keep it in wood and tank for so long?) with rounded oaked character freshened by good acidity and some zingy fruit. 83-85
Öküzgözü 2000, Anatolia - The grape with the most accents. Rather thin in colour, mature dried red fruits with a touch of oak on the nose; has a bit of grip in the mouth, at/past its peak really but reasonably attractive in that old fashioned way. 75-80
Sauvignon Blanc/Sultaniye 2002, Anatolia - Yeasty gooseberry nose, delivers a little juicy fruit contrasting with an oilier side and fair acidity; quite nice but better to drink the 2003 now. Good seafoodie. 80
Selection Narince/Semillon 2000, Anatolia - Rounded honeyed fruit, quite nice depth of fruit and style to start, but it dies on the finish; needs to be drunk younger. 79+
Selection Öküzgözü/Bogazkere 2001, Anatolia - Lovely Pinot Noir-esque fruity nose, quite silky palate rounded out by a touch of vanilla oak; the fruit's at its peak, but drinking nicely now. Try with spicy kebab. 85+


Cabernet Sauvignon 2002, Anatolia - Displays reasonable creamy blackcurrant fruit, pretty tangy in a cheap Chilean CS kind of way, but it's OK. 77-80
Kalecik Karasi 2002,
Anatolia - Perfumed cherry fruit, stylistically a sort of Pinot Noir/Garnacha cross; light dry tannins on the finish yet fruity enough to please. 80-83
Misket 2003,
Anatolia - Aromatic and grapey, clean and fresh, nice quaffer and promising too. 80+
Narince 2002,
Anatolia - Oily nutty characters, it's a bit oxidised but does have a touch of freshness left holding it together. 75+

Melen Winery - Marmara, Thrace

Gewurztraminer 2003 - Light lychee character, zesty and quite elegant with zingy fresh length; nice enough in a leaner style despite a tad of bitterness on the finish, which is overcome by seafood. 80-83
Kalecik Karasi 2003 -
Lovely aromatic sour cherry nose, shows lively fruit with rustic edges, quite fresh acidity to finish but still attractive. Reminds of Blaufrankisch or Cabernet Franc style. 85+
Melencik Rezerve 2003 -
A touch reductive/SO2 on the nose plus some sweet oak too, quite silky palate to start with reasonable fruit and fresh acidity, finishes a little bitter and toasty. 77-80
Merlot Rezerve 2003
- A bit samey with those black cherry and spicy oak characters and rounded oaky palate; decent wine but too similar to the Shiraz. 80-83
Mistell NV
(19% fortified) - 55 year old 'sweet sherry' aged in mulberry wood barrels. Interesting walnut and dried fruit nose, mature oxidised (not surprisingly) and quite rich with woody vanilla notes, quite fiery yet complex and long. 87+
Muscat Reine de Vin 2003
- Another seafoody dry white. Clean and lean style, better on the finish in terms of grapey Muscat character with crisp mineral length. 80-85
Narince 2003
- Fresh clean mineral nose with similar profile on the palate, refreshing acidity and aromatic fruit on the finish; attractive if not very characterful, better with seafood though. 80+
Shiraz Rezerve 2003
- Hint of oak with peppery black cherry fruit, light herbal notes too; shows reasonable weight and concentration with some coconut oak rounding out the good grip and acidity. New wave-ish style, goes well with all that lamb.  87+

16 July 2004

Burgundy growers disagree with proposals for AOC reform

Burgundy growers disagree with proposals for AOC reform

A version of this news item first appeared on Decanter.com on 16/7/2004.

Growers and producers from the BIVB, the region’s main trade body, issued their initial reactions to President of the INAO – the organisation that sets and enforces the rules for French Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée wines – René Renou’s plans for AOC reform, presented at a packed meeting last week. Renou reiterated his message about the crisis surrounding the French wine industry in the face of surplus production and cut-throat competition from the New World, predicting “part of the French vineyard area will disappear.” There would be two distinct paths for Burgundy wines: the modern branded commodity route and those at the top end.
On the one hand, Renou now advocates the use of varietal names on labels for regional appellation wines, thus appealing to consumers internationally; while hinting at a Vin de Pays category for cross-regional blends or declassified wine. Measures providing an “honourable way out” for unwanted production are on the cards. On the other, higher quality standards will be resurrected within the new AOC framework, AOC d’Excellence and Site et Terroir d’excellence proposals. A complicated hierarchy of village then Premier and Grand Cru wines already exists in Burgundy based on specific sites and ‘terroir’. “I see this creating greater complexity, whereas we want to simplify the wines we offer,” commented Jean-Michel Aubinel, who represents growers in Macon, adding that the Site et Terroir d’excellence scheme would entrench rivalry between neighbouring properties if applied to one and not the other.
Côte d’Or growers also expressed concerns about the apparent haste and the way quality checks would be imposed, as well as opposition to the introduction of Vin de Pays in the region. BIVB members will debate the pros and cons of Renou’s plans over the summer, with a view to getting reforms off the ground by early 2005 at the latest. Jean-François Delorme, President of the BIVB added: “We’re not against these reforms, just expressing doubts. The growers are aware they need to do something to adapt themselves better to the demands of today’s market. René Renou’s message has been well received; we need to find a new context and vision.”

22 May 2004

"New" South Africa & South African Syrah - Shiraz

New South Africa
 OK, so names such as Vergelegen and Beyerskloof can hardly be called new, but it was difficult to pass them by without catching up on the latest from these two leading producers. Beyers Truter was also involved in an empowerment project, whereby the farm workers bought a majority share of Bouwland winery and vineyards; Beyers remains a partner and winemaking consultant. Delaire was a pleasant surprise, their wines showing real elegance and charm. In addition, Stellar Organics is an impressive operation, now farming or purchasing over 1000 tonnes of organic grapes. The Cabs and Shirazs are especially promising. Tasting notes to follow from the London Wine Fair May 2004.

South African Syrah - Shiraz
 Call back shortly to discover a dozen highly recommended Shiraz/Syrahs from the Cape, tasted in May at the 2004 London Wine Fair. These rich spicy reds are all from the 2001 and 2002 vintages. The latter, in particular, is looking big and sexy; but South African winemakers need to watch those alcohol levels, the downside of waiting longer to get full ripeness in Shiraz grapes.

17 May 2004

Pass the Bolly or "If it's the 85, you were expecting me..."

Notes and views on the Champagne market and the art of blending, based on a presentation to MW students on 17th May 2004 by Ghislain de Montgolfier from Champagne Bollinger. After the text, you'll find a few ecstatic tasting notes and reviews (well, Bolly is pretty good, no?) of the 'finished product' including Special Cuvée, La Grande Année 1990-95-96-97 and the incomparable one-off 1985 RD ("if it's the 85, you were expecting me," as 007 might have said...).

Despite all the smug reports of doom and gloom surrounding the French wine industry, somehow the Champagne just keeps on flowing. The French themselves remain the thirstiest consumers of the world’s most famous sparkling wine. In 2003, the Brits (the no. 1 export destination) set a new record by buying 34 million bottles, thereby eclipsing the pre-millennium frenzy of 1999. Americans managed an impressive 19 million (considering they make quite a lot of their own sparkling wine) closely followed by Germany, avid fizz drinkers as they are (Sekt, Cava, Asti…), with 12 million bottles. Stats for this year so far indicate a continuation of this mood.

Of the ‘multinational’ Champagne groups, which are mostly listed companies, the big daddy of them all is luxury goods conglomerate LVMH, whose brands include world leader Moët & Chandon, Mercier and Dom Pérignon totalling 60 million bottles. Rémy owns Piper-Heidsieck and Charles Heidsieck (a personal favourite by the way) representing 8 million bottles, about the same figure as British giant Allied Domecq with Mumm and Perrier-Jouët. Laurent-Perrier group is no slouch with sales of 10 million bottles, plus a further ten counting recently acquired Malakoff/Oudinot. Taittinger may give the impression of being a bit niche yet accounts for 4 million bottles. (In addition, Marne et Diffusion – essentially the 6 mill+ Lanson label – should really also figure here, but I don’t think they were mentioned).
The next batch could be termed ‘new players’, meaning recent mergers or acquisitions rather than new on the block. The names brought up include Vranken-Pommery, Martel, Duval-Leroy, BCC (De Venoge, Boizel etc.), Thiénot (Joseph Perrier, Canard-Duchêne), sales of which take place mostly in France and via supermarkets. The remaining companies are family owned, such as Roederer & Deutz, Bollinger, Pol Roger, Gosset and Bruno Paillard, who tend to sell through specialist channels (wine shops, restaurants etc.).

The Champagne ‘appellation’ is home to 15,000 (rather wealthy I’d imagine) growers who own 89% of the vineyards; 100 Houses, including the above, make up the other 11%. There are three increasingly important co-operatives emerging, and about 1000 growers now produce their own labels, another burgeoning trend. These small growers each have 2 hectares (ha) or less planted at a density of 8000+ vines per ha, i.e. very compact and all worked by hand; so you can appreciate where the real power lies. This is reflected in the price of land in the region, now around a staggering €1 million per ha!

The current surface area in production has reached the permitted limit of approx 35,000 ha, so the outcome could be shortages. The ‘Echelle des Crus’ (pricing scale of grapes from the different vineyard hierarchies) system set by the CIVC (Comité Interprofessionnel des Vins de Champagne), which determines the base price, could become irrelevant as growers are charging higher than established prices. Putting this in context with sales and production helps to explain these developments.

Total Champagne sales (including France) in 1950 were 33 million bottles; in 2003 this stood at 291 million with a peak of 327 million in 1999. Yields averaged 5,400 kg/ha from 1950-59 but in 2000 they came to 12,539. However, this isn’t a bad thing per se: 1970, 1982, 1990 and 2000 are examples of high yielding yet very good quality vintages; others such as 1987 were low in both because of poor weather. 290 million bottles of Champers are currently quaffed around the world, showing growth of 2-3% per annum. Maximum production of 295 million has already been attained, so scarcity could rule if the above continues (I detect an element of clever 'panic' marketing here).

The Négociants (merchant companies who trade in grapes and wine) usually buy 60% of the harvest and thus influence prices, which are particularly competitive for the best ‘crus’. Increasingly, growers are organising themselves into co-ops to make ‘vin sur lattes’ (wine sold before disgorgement), although I believe by law this is due to stop. The co-ops are, therefore, selling less and less grapes, and more still wines are available. As a result, there’s arguably a “danger of Champagne styles merging,” according to
Montgolfier. Bollinger say they won’t buy wines, as this would affect consistency of style and quality. Grape prices in 2003 were €4.25 per kg plus premiums of up to 20% for Grand Cru. In comparison, this is 15 times the price for Cava grapes, 6x Touraine and 5x California.

Moving on to Bollinger itself starting with a few facts and a bit of philosophy. The brand accounts for less than 1% of global Champagne sales, so the spotlight is clearly on quality. Independence through family ownership allows them “no compromises and a long-term financial view,” a fortunate luxury in these times of consolidation. For example, just four cellar masters have worked there in 60 years to maintain uniformity. Their focus is on the best possible grapes and trying to control supply. They buy grapes only in the main regions of the Marne and only Premier Cru (PC) and Grand Cru (GC) level.

Owning 160 ha of vineyards – 83% on PC and GC sites – supplies 2/3 of their needs. This means they don’t have to purchase from co-ops and work with contracted growers to influence decisions in the vineyard. Pinot Noir forms the backbone of the blends. PC and GC grapes make up min. 80% of the Special Cuvée and 100% of Grande Année and RD (Recently Disgorged); optimal maturity is required. In addition, ‘Bolly’ (Ghislain coined this nickname himself, so the House appears fond of the Ab Fab publicity) is not used on any other product; and no Bollinger sparkling wine is produced elsewhere (a little dig or a touch of jealousy perhaps, given the quality of e.g. Moet's Australian Chandon wines or Roederer's in California?).

Reserve wines play a very important role in the house style and quality of non-vintage Champagne (it’s actually illegal to blend any into vintage wines, which should be 100% from the year declared – Bollinger “doesn’t” but allegedly some do). The company holds more than five years worth of stock, as if they had to use too much in poor vintages to balance out, it’d mean less available for following years “to the detriment of quality.” More on reserve wines to follow.

Quality: the key areas are origin of grapes and variety, selection of musts, control of acidity, first fermentation, reserve wines (see I told you) and yeast lees ageing. The vines planted in Bollinger’s vineyards amount to 100 ha of Pinot Noir (mostly PC and GC), 41 ha of Chardonnay and 19 ha of Pinot Meunier. Special Cuvée is a blend of 60% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardy and 15% Pinot Meunier. Grande Année is often at least 65% Pinot Noir (30% of it from the village of Aÿ) & 35% Chardy. Pinot Noir from the GCs gives “backbone, vinosity (does that word exist in English? I guess it means winey mouth-feel) and complexity”; Chardy offers “elegance and finesse”; and Pinot Meunier adds “freshness and lightness”. Bolly only uses the ‘cuvée’ or first pressing (the first 2050 litres of juice from 4000 kg of grapes), which also has the lowest pH (see acidity below), and sell the second and third pressings. Some cast-offs, huh.

Control of acidity is the cornerstone of balance in the wines and their ability to mature. In a good year, the ‘cuvée’ has a pH of 2.9 – 3.1, i.e. pretty acidic. The first fermentation in cask is the next step in this process. Bollinger doesn’t use new casks and have their own cooper, but also buy 4-5 year old Burgundy barrels of 205 litres capacity. The GC and part of the PC (Chardy) musts are barrel-fermented, so 100% of the reserve wines and Grande Année plus a fraction of the wines for Special Cuvée are also barrel-fermented. In cask, the malo-lactic fermentation (MLF: the secondary bacterial fermentation that converts malic acid to softer lactic acid) is prevented (although some MLF is sometimes done for Grande Année – still with me?!), whereas the wines in vat do undergo MLF. The reasoning is preservation of malic acid (normally decreases during vinification leaving mostly tartaric acid) levels for longer ageing ability.

So balance of acidity is maintained by lower pH of wines in cask (due to no MLF - lactic bacteria struggle to do their thing in a high acid environment - and presence of protective sulphur dioxide) and higher total acidity (TA) in grams per litre (the usual measure) in tank, despite doing the MLF in tank (which in fact reduces TA); meaning therefore, they put the wines higher in acidity in tank. As for yeasts, the same ones are used for musts in cask and tank, and Bollinger buys good quality selected yeasts rather than develop their own strains, as some houses do.

Tasting of the constituent parts (1-4 all from 2003):
1. Pinot Noir Aÿ (fût = cask) – very light tinge of pink in colour, quite toasty with a touch of milk chocolate and aromatic too; shows reasonable weight with nice creamy red fruits set against quite firm acid structure and length, yet it’s fairly soft and rounded at the same time.
2. Pinot Noir Verzenay (fût) – creamy and fruity displaying attractive aromatic esters plus a hint of toasty yeast in the background, has higher acidity than 1 with sharper mineral finish yet still offers rich roundness too. Wines from Verzenay are known for their ageing potential.
3. Chardonnay Mesnil-sur-Oger (fût) – shows clean fragrant peach and butter notes with subtle lightly bready characters, nice elegant fruit contrasts with fresh acidity and greener notes, yet still soft-ish and fruity on the finish.
4. Pinot Meunier Venteuil (cuve = tank) – fragrant, floral and peachy with rounded fruit v crisp acid structure, lighter and more one-dimensional in the sense of linear palate focus.
5. Aÿ 1998 (reserve wine with no dosage, stored in magnums) – fairly rich and buttery tinged with yeasty pungency, very firm acid framework leading to creamier rounder finish, green edges v weighty mouthful, tight and long. Reserve wines lend overall balance and also balance out the cru wines depending on the vintage.
6. ‘Assemblage’ (final blend) for Special Cuvée (mostly parts 1-4 + another 25 or more + a small proportion of 5 then 3 years lees ageing in bottle) – nice balance of fragrant red fruits, light yeast and creamy grapey characters too, complex lingering nose; soft concentrated fruit with greener acid backbone, notes of chocolate and red fruits too, rounded v tight finish.
Richard M James Sept. 2004

My notes and scores on various Bollinger Champagnes (with a bit of techy info to start just to set the scene), tasted after this seminar and on other occasions as indicated:

Special Cuvée (7.7 grams per litre (g/l) total acidity (TA), pH 3.05 and dosage of 7 to 9 g/l residual sugar; blend of two vintages with 5-10% reserve wines and 3 years yeast lees ageing = twice the average for NV Brut, by the way) - Lovely balance of fresh floral fragrant fruit and light toasty notes, complex yeasty baked bread underneath; similar characters on the palate with additional creamy and lightly tropical fruit v fresh acidity and yeast intensity, 'winey' viscosity builds to focused length. Impeccable balance and style. May 2004. 91
And previously (among other occasions): Aged and rounded palate with nice tangy yeast character, shows the usual classy subtle balance of intensity, concentration, age and freshness; finishes very dry and long with beautiful firm acidity. Class, pure and simple. Safeway Champagne tasting July 2002 (under reconstruction...).

1996 La Grande Année (70% Pinot Noir & 30% Chardy; 9.2 g/l TA and dosage up to 10 g/l) - Yeastier than the SC with baked malt bread undertones yet at the same time lovely and fresh & fragrant, floral and also showing ripe red fruits, addictive aromas; gorgeous fruit and weight, yeast intensity, super concentration leading to fine tight structure set against seductive roundness and 'sweet' ripeness; offers mouth-coating weight and length v elegance and real class. Very good indeed: needs another 5-10 years in bottle, still tastes young. May 2004. 95

1995 La Grande Année - Much more golden than the SC with riper smokier nose, also has more tropical fruit and fatter 'sweetness' (not really sweet with only 8g/l dosage coupled with very high acidity), quite rich and concentrated yet elegantly balanced; shows creamier development on the palate with weighty length and yet again tight acid structure. Still youthful really, will be fab over 5-10 years. March 2002. 94

1995 La Grande Année - A touch of oak and aged maturity on the nose, very yeasty and concentrated in the mouth developing to a tight finish with bite of acidity on its huge length. Far too young at the moment, wow... Safeway Champagne tasting July 2002 (under reconstruction...). 93

1997 La Grande Année - Closed yet complex Champers showing green fruit edges contrasting nicely with subtle toast and cream, very tight fresh palate and length; needs more time to develop. October 2004. 93

1985 RD (65% Pinot Noir & 35% Chardy; 8 g/l TA, pH 3 and dosage of 3-4 g/l (very dry); disgorged on 10/9/03 i.e. aged in bottle on the yeast lees for nearly 18 years!) - Deep golden colour; mushroom, coffee and chocolate, very ripe and very yeasty yet still shows underlying freshness combined with a creamy yoghurt character too, such a wild complex nose; wow: super rich and concentrated yeasty flavour, toasty maturity v tight acid framework, uncompromising richness and style, mouth-filling flavours. Extraordinary stuff although not for everyone. May 2004. 97

1995 Grande Année Rosé - Fairly full pink colour, scented red fruits and chocolate on the nose, nice ripe floral fruit set against zingy crisp stylish length; rounded, very fruity and weighty yet showing impeccable balance and panache. March 2002. 94

1990 La Grande Année - Arguably the best of the superb 90 vintage, this just keeps getting better as it lounges in bottle. It's very rich and concentrated but still showing fine balancing acidity on the finish; try with food too. No wonder James Bond switched (back?) to Bolly. One of my Home Magazine wines of the month (under reconstruction...), January 2000 issue. 94-96


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