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14 October 2004

"Bandol harvest finishes early..."

This news story first appeared on Decanter.com in shortened form on 14th October 2004:
The costumed tradition of les Vendanges du Rond-Point des Mourvèdres – harvesting of 225 Mourvèdre vines planted on the roundabout near motorway exit La Cadière-Le Castellet north of the town of Bandol – took place on Thursday 7th October in temperatures of over 25°C, despite threats of rain issued by weather forecasters. The event usually symbolises the vintage in full swing but this year marked the finishing touches, and summed up the positive mood surrounding this year’s crop.
Michel Bronzo, owner of La Bastide Blanche and President of the Bandol Association, described 2004 as “following in the footsteps of 2000 and 2001, both great years for Bandol, after the difficult 2002 vintage and exceptionally hot 2003.” Nevertheless, he estimates production is 10-15% down on last year. Summer 2004 experienced more even temperatures, consistent sunshine and a little rain in August and September, followed by a drying Mistral. But, according to most growers, not enough rain to avoid near drought conditions. Bandol escaped the storms seen elsewhere in France, and the fine weather continued through September until the last grapes were picked in the first week October.
Eric de Saint-Victor of Château de Pibarnon, who finished picking their last parcels at the end of September, commented: “we already had excellent sugar and polyphenol levels, it would’ve been a pity to wait any longer… it could be a great vintage.” Freddy Estienne from Domaine de la Laidière was also enthusiastic: “we completed the harvest on Saturday 2nd October, it’s never been that early here.” He predicts 35-40 hectolitres per hectare (hl/ha) overall including whites and rosés. Yields for Mourvèdre for red wines will be nearer 25-30 hl/ha, also confirmed by Domaine de la Tour du Bon and Domaine de la Vivonne. Reynald Delille of Domaine Terrebrune in the commune of Ollioules ventured a cautious “very good” for the vintage, with average volumes of 35 hl/ha.

The ceremonial picking and pressing of grapes were followed by a tasting at the roadside (fortunately, the cops had partly blocked it off knowing what Med French drivers can be like...): I've highlighted a dozen favourites, a mix of young and older Bandol reds and rosés, on this page.
And either side of this event, I toured around several estates for some research I was doing on the Mourvèdre variety (links to article written for Wine Business, USA): Pibarnon, Laidière, Terrebrune, Vivonne, Tour du Bon, Bastide Blanche, Lafran-Veyrolles, Gros'Noré, Tempier, Ott and Sainte Anne. So overall, you'll find 150+ recommendations and reviews on this page including a few excellent older vintages...

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.


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