To celebrate Shrove Tuesday with iDealwine this year, we decided to swap the traditional crepes and cider for a fine wine tasting with forty of our British customers and members of 67 Pall Mall. A format that our guests enjoyed and we’ll repeat it in other cities.
A WINE INSTITUTION
Pall Mall is one of the most prestigious venues in London, ideally located between Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace. It combines the most prestigious Members Clubs: Royal Automobile Club, Travellers, Athenaeum… very traditional, men only and with a population whose birth years often beat the oldest vintages sold on iDealwine.
A group of wine enthusiasts recently broke the establishment, creating in this same street a mixed club of young (relatively speaking) people, whose selection criteria is the interest for wine. After five years of reflection and work lead by passionate Grant Ashton and a very professional team, over 1200 wine lovers have joined this great venue, an old bank where thousands of very precious wines are stored in the impenetrable safe in the basement.
The wine list gives access to hundreds of wines by the glass, poured with the Coravin system, enabling lucky drinkers to taste fantastic wines at decent prices. Tastings and conferences are organised every week, with the finest wine personalities and producers coming from all around the world. We have thus decided to choose this place for a masterclass true to iDealwine’s identity, focusing on the discovery of the up and coming producers and more established ones.
The venue is ideal for a masterclass: impeccable service, bright light and extremely thin and light Zalto glasses. Four different formats of glasses are available, depending on the style of each wine, favouring a better appreciation of the aromas. With over 400 glasses in the room, crystals inevitably shook creating a nearly spiritual sound. All our senses were awaken!
Patrick Schmitt MW joined us to present the masterclass, alongside Angelique de Lencquesaing, co-founder of iDealwine and myself, in charge of international markets. A unique opportunity to listen to the comments of this knowledgeable and humble Master of Wine. We have now been working with him for two years as editor in chief of The Drinks Business, the leading international wine trade review in which we publish a monthly market analysis on wine.
During the masterclass, we added to his comments a factual presentation of each wine and the market evolution and trends observed. It was also an opportunity for Angelique to present the 2017 Barometer, 48 pages of analysis of the market and wine. With 50 000 lots sold last year and as the leader in the online auction market in Europe gives us the credentials to track with precision the trends in the fine wine market.
To open the tasting and as a good ice-breaker, we started with the 2010 Les Rachais from Francis Boulard, a Champagne blanc de blancs with a barrel fermentation in the style of a Krug or a Bollinger, giving delicious toasted notes and sweet almonds. Without any addition of sugar, the marked acidity counterbalances a creamy texture and fine bubbles. The wine is cultivated under biodynamic principles (Ecocert certified), and is a delicious and reasonably priced Champagne (€50 – 94 point Parker and 94 Galloni).
Still in white, we move onto Jura, a region that we particularly favour at iDealwine. The dynamism of some of its producers like Jean-François Ganevat and Stephane Tissot brought new excitement to the region, which is experiencing a growing demand, notably from American and Asian customers. Some prices reached the sky as this bottle of Vin Jaune 2000 from Domaine Overnoy sold for €1,032 in the first auction of November 2016. We tasted the Chardonnay Arbois Le Clos de la Tour de Curon 2014, one of the 30 cuvées of Stéphane Tissot. Cultivated biodynamically, its production is limited to 1,500 bottles, undergoing 24 months ageing in barrels, of which one third is new. A true gem, very fine with saline notes, it has a very firm acidity and full mouthfeel. Clearly inspired by Burgundy, yet respectful of Jura’s identity.
From Burgundy we tasted the Corton Grand Cru Les Grèves 2011 from Domaine des Croix (€50). Bought by the American Roger Forbes and farmed by talented David Croix, they produced their first vintage in 2005 and the vineyards have been farmed organically since 2008. Les Grèves comes from a coteau facing South (not common in the Côte de Nuits) enabling the grapes to reach a good maturity, while remaining very elegant: rich red fruit, some almost black cherry notes and a mineral crunch. Good, silky and textured tannins benefit this style of Corton, which is certainly a muscular wine. A domaine to buy before prices rise too much!
We then moved to the Loire with the Saumur-Champigny Franc de Pied 2012 from Domaine des Roches Neuves. Patrick, as most guests, is seduced by the freshness of this ungrafted Cabernet Franc, commenting on the difficult task of reaching the right level of maturity. Thierry Germain, from Bordeaux origins, evolved his style since his first vintage in 1991, from robust, concentrated and oaky wines, to a much more subtle, pure, fruity and silky style. He innovates a lot in the vineyard as well as in the cellar, notably with vines planted in gobelet en échalas and following biodynamic principles since 2005.
The smoothness of Pomerol
In Bordeaux we head towards Pomerol, discovering the 1995 Château Clinet (95 Parker). A very good vintage but a wine to drink now, the tannins are silky but the colour is relatively evolved and the tertiary notes start to take over the fruit. This wine was produced before being bought by the Laborde family and thus before the heavy investments conducted in the vineyard and cellar. We follow this vineyard and its evolution closely both in quality and price, remaining an affordable Pomerol. We mentioned La Conseillante in our discussion and the quality of its recent vintages, another rising star to follow closely (see iDealwine article in The Drinks Business of March 2017).
This was one of the wines expected by many. An extremely popular one whose prices have recently climbed to settle above €100 on average and gradually gaining the status of Languedoc icon with a few other acolytes like Peyre-Rose, Montcalmès or Mas Jullien. We tasted the 2002, 10th vintage of Domaine de la Grange des Pères: complex, powerful and an original wine with this blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. The result of the audacious bet of his owner Laurent Vaillé, in the wake of his neighbour Aimée Guibert from Daumas Gassac. A biodynamic approach which he refuses to claim unlike many other producers.
The Cornas from Auguste Clape 2013 (€69, 95 Vinous, 95 The Wine Advocate) was a very classic choice and a good representation of the greatest producers of the appellation. Although still very young and robust, it showed wonderful potential. The appellation is clearly buoyant (see iDealwine article in The Drinks Business) and some prices are starting to get closer to those of Côte-Rotie and Hermitage. With only 102 hectares in production, shared among a handful of renowned producers (Germain, Voge, Courbis to name but a few), prices should continue to rise. In mature vintages, Clape wines often exceed the threshold of €100, still below those of the late Noël Verset whose prices have recently flared as a bottle of the 2000 sold for €312 in the November auction.
Apotheoses of La Chapelle
Finally comes the tasting of Hermitage La Chapelle 1989 (€228), a legend rated 100 points by James Suckling and 96 by Robert Parker. Despite the expectations, he did not disappoint anyone, quite the contrary. Powerful, still very young, with supple tannins, a complex nose of black fruits, rich, spicy and with great length. 1989 was a warm vintage in a region rocked by the sun and yet no over-ripening with a beautiful freshness. A wine of which some vintages are still very accessible and commonly found at auction. Others unlike this 1961 bottle of perfect pedigree, sold on iDealwine in May 2016 for €13,320. Establishing the record for the most expensive bottle of the year.
A nice blind surprise
For the regular customers of iDealwine, you know that we never miss a chance to organise blind tastings! In the company of such a great group of wine lovers and collectors, I chose a great unclassified wine from Saint Estephe: Haut Marbuzet in a tannic vintage, 1988. Many went to great classified wines of Margaux or Saint Julien in the 90s, probably because of the finesse of the wine and the high proportion of Merlot. Difficult to select a single winner, we finally decided to award the four closest winners each with €100 of wine on iDealwine. Enough to buy at least two bottles of this delicious wine (€42 only)!
SWEET NOTES AT SWEET PRICE
To close this beautiful series, we ended with a few sweet notes at low prices. Sauternes and Barsac always offers a very good quality/price ratio, especially in mature and ready to drink vintages. You can now buy a superb Guiraud 1983 for €62 or a Climens 1990 (95 points Parker) for only €114. From an investment point of view, it is necessary to be unfortunately more patient before seeing prices take off like the Yquem 1914 that sold for €3,120 or the 1945 that sold for €4,080. These wines suffer from too low consumption, impacted by the level of sweetness of the wines and cornered by the association with desserts or consumption for celebrations only. We opened a very beautiful Coutet 1988 (€72 19/20 Revue de Vins de France and 91 Wine Spectator), a delicious mixture of quince, apricots and honey. A perfect wine to drink now but whose freshness could allow you to wait a few more years.
Finally we tasted a series of four natural sweet wines (VDN) from Rivesaltes: 1947, 1957, 1967 and 1975. Very fashionable at the beginning of the century, these wines fell into oblivion after the First World War and many producers left their stocks sleeping in their cellars until a dynamic entrepreneur came to revive these hidden treasures. He worked with the domains and French customs to confirm the wines and their vintages. iDealwine has been chosen as a partner for their distribution and therefore gives access to a few privileged customers to the limited stocks of these very old vintages. Deep, powerful, chocolate, copper… unique palates and very different personalities. Discover these wines before it is too late!
THE START OF A SERIES OF MASTERCLASSES!
The strong demand for this type of tasting prompts us to create other masterclasses reserved for our most loyal customers in HK, Paris and Brussels. Make a note of a new rendezvous at the China Club in Hong Kong in May, where we will also open beautiful bottles, a mix of great classics and producers to follow while commenting on the latest trends in the market for fine wines on auction. Be ready, as the London tasting’s places sold in just a few hours!