B.C. Banquets – Sweet Wine & Goat Meat

Recently discovered ruins of a 3,700 year old palace in Northern Israel have given the world a view into the life of an ancient wine collector. Who was the mysterious Canaanite owner of the private and “palatial” Bronze Age wine cellar? While that question may never be answered, the discovery and analysis of the cellar itself will provide plenty of interesting data on ancient wine. The cellar, a 15-by-25 foot storage room, contained 40 3-foot tall jars capable of holding up to 500 gallons of wine, a capacity equal 3,000 bottles.

All of the jars were found broken and covered in debris as a result of what researchers are calling a “violent event,” such as an earthquake. Analysis of the residue on the broken jar fragments showed remnants of tartaric and syringic acids as well as other substances known to be used in the making of “medicinal wine,” once popular in ancient Egypt and still available in ancient wine-making strongholds such as Greece, producer of the infamous resinated Retsina wines. Additionally, comparative research between the 40 jars shows that additives such as honey, mint, cinnamon bark, juniper berries and resin were blended with red and white wines in a formulaic and consistent way, indicating that recipes were used and executed with precision, producing the large amounts of homogeneous wine.

The existence of such a collection of wine, “largely unmatched in age and size,” indicates the power and wealth of the owner. The consistent quality of the wine indicates a professional wine-making touch and, again, the significant financial freedom of the owner. In a time when such wealth was truly unique and most wine was, by modern standards, unhygienic and unpalatable, guests of the mystery collector were treated to what may have been the DRC or Lafite of the era.








Pay Attention to the State of Burgundy

Sunday was the annual Hospices de Beaune charity auction, if you love Burgundy pay attention. This year a basic economic principle was responsible for two records, the least amount of wine ever brought to auction sold through for the highest total amount ever achieved. Supply and demand. The most recent vintages in Burgundy have been well documented for their inconsistent/destructive weather and resulting low yields. While ’09, ’10 & ’11 have thrived despite the obstacles the jury is still out on ’12 and more so ’13. Variable would perhaps be the best way to describe the two most recent vintages, years in which quality will depend more than ever on the foresight, skill and luck of each producer. Some producers will make great wine, others not, the only certainty is the miniscule quantity that will be available.

The results of the 2013 Hospices de Beaune are considered to be a worthy measure of value for Burgundy in the year ahead and this year can perhaps, more than any other year, be considered accurately prophetic solely on the strength of its adherence to supply and demand. “In all, 443 barrels (each 228 liters) were on offer, compared to 518 last year, which was also a small harvest. In 2011, 761 barrels were sold.” This year the 443 barrels (43 different cuvees) raised a record 6.9 million euros ($9.3m), which includes the buyer’s premium. “The average price per 228-liter barrel increased by 26.6 percent to 13,013 euros ($17,560) against 10,278 euros ($13,870) in 2012.” Red wines experienced the biggest rise, up 28 percent, while whites recorded a 20 percent increase.

Also noteworthy is the winning bidder for the the “piece du President,”  456 liters of 2012 premier cru Meursault-Genevrières. While the wine and price were relatively unremarkable compared to past “pieces du President,” often wines of grand cru quality, it is worth knowing that winning bid was placed for the first time by a Chinese buyer. Worth knowing because the ever-growing number of Chinese in the fine wine market means ever-increasing buying power from the East. Buying power that was once firmly focused on Bordeaux is now refocusing on Burgundy. While this is not news, what is news is the enhanced effect that the growing demand will have on the already small annual production of Burgundy as the supply dwindles due to unfavorable weather. Established collectors need to face the reality the Burgundy pie is shrinking, historically low yields and the growing Asian market mean that there will not be nearly enough of the good stuff to go around. This is an irreversible trend that will soon see the casual drinker of Burgundy priced out of the market as the miniscule supply concentrates in the hands of the world’s financial elite.






Tasting Group 75 Selections for November

2007 Domaine Olga Raffault Chinon “Les Picasses”       

Loire Valley, France     

100% Cabernet Franc.  The commune of Chinon in France’s beautiful Val de Loire is home to a spectacular medieval castle, the Château de Chinon, and likely the finest Cabernet Franc in the world.  Chinon is the largest of the 4 red wine appellations in the area.  Early-ripening Cab Franc thrives here and turns out fresh, light to medium bodied, food-friendly red wines with silky tannins & aromas of raspberry, lead pencil, tobacco, dill & other herbs.  Alcohol levels are always reasonable in the Loire, where it seldom gets extremely hot.  Since Olga’s death a few years ago, the Domaine is run by her granddaughter Sylvie and Sylvie’s husband Eric de la Vigerie.  The Chinon of Les Picasses tends to be of a dark cherry profile, rustic & earthy, reflecting the traditional methods used to make the wine.  The ‘Picasses’ spends two to three years in oak, to reduce the wine and soften the tannins, and is usually released about 4 years after the vintage.

2010 Weingut Friedrich Becker Estate Pinot Noir              

Pfalz, Germany           

100% Pinot Noir.  This is a rare treat.  Those crafty Germans tend to keep their reds for themselves, as relatively little of it is made in that country’s marginal cool climate.  The Pfalz is one of the more southerly & mild of Germany’s 13 distinct wine zones and is the country’s largest producer of red wines.  It is a 9-mile wide stretch of land situated near the French border and in fact, many of Friedrich Becker’s vineyards lie in an area that has been variously Alsace or Germany over the years and through the wars.  The vineyards were grandfathered in under a 1955 accord between Germany & France.  Becker is widely considered to be the finest producer of Pinot Noir in the country & this is only the estate’s entry-level wine. This light-bodied Pinot shows a lovely balance between gentle tart, red fruits, acidity and some minerally character. It’s made in traditional 2,400 liter (i.e. big) wood casks.  It is a perfect expression of German Pinot Noir.

2012 Ransom Vineyards Pinot Gris                               

Eola-Amity Hills, Oregon  

100% Pinot Gris.  Here is the basic philosophy of Ransom Vineyards: “It is the function of wine to enhance fellowship, discussion, and the exchange of ideas. So visit the market, invite over friends and family, and raise a toast to health and happiness through good meals, conversation and socializing!”  We agree & we suggest that you save this for Thanksgiving.  The star of the Oregon wine scene is indisputably Pinot Noir but sisters Pinot Gris & Pinot Blanc have charms of their own & are shaping up to be great companion whites.  It’s about time – after nearly 50 years of being grown in Oregon, Pinot Gris is finally getting its due & is now the second-most planted variety (red or white) in the state.   Ransom Vineyards makes a tiny amount of organically farmed Pinot Gris – just 232 cases.  The 2012 vintage was outstanding.  Look for aromas of apple, brioche & wildflower.  The palate is creamy and mineral-tinged and juicy acidity dominates.

Who Doesn’t Love Coche?

2005 Meursault Blanc

At 4.25 ha, Meursault Blanc is the second largest vineyard site of Domaine Coche-Dury behind 12 ha of Meursault Cote de Beaune Rouge. Their third largest vineyard holding is 1 ha of Bourgogne Blanc.

-All Coche wines are raised in barrel and aged for 15 to 22 months, depending on the vintage and wine.

-All wines are bottles unfiltered.

“At the beginning of the growing season, the vines start on a pretty even playing field with their neighbors, at least in terms of appearance. But the further Spring and Summer advance, the more striking the difference becomes. The Coche-Dury vineyards are tended like gardens, every vine immaculate, no pushing weeds, even the stony topsoil raked to perfection. The vines are vibrant, bursting with life and energy from their roots, buried deep in the soil. The Coches are the first out in the vines every day in Burgundy, and among the last home…These long hours pay off at the end of the year, because the reward is some of the most beautiful grapes in Burgundy, and that is the secret to their stunning success.”
-Dixon Brooke, KLWM




Parker’s 2010, 2011 & 2012 Napa Rating Campaign

Robert Parker, the “big taste” maker, is back in the Napa Valley. The man largely responsible for the supremacy of Cabernet Sauvignon throughout the valley, whether terroir appropriate or not, is once again taking a stand for his beloved grape. In the most recent issue of the Wine Advocate, in a section entitled “Curtain Call – Return of the King” (referencing his return as Napa critic after the sudden departure of Antonio Galloni), Parker makes the type of splash that only “the King” can by giving no less than 12 Napa Valley wines a perfect score; 10 from the 2010 vintage. Think about that, 10 wineries made PERFECT wine in Napa Valley in 2010. Not almost perfect, PERFECT. One producer alone turned out 3 PERFECT wines. What did you do in 2010?

Parker’s Perfect Dozen (low retail price included where available):

-2009 Hundred Acre Deep Time – n/a

-2010 Hundred Acre Few & Far Between – n/a

-2010 Colgin Cariad – $575

-2010 Colgin IX Proprietary Red – $500

-2010 Colgin IX Syrah – $375 (Parker’s first non cabernet 100 point Napa red wine)

-2010 Screaming Eagle – $2,300

-2010 Shafer Hillside Select – n/a

-2010 Spottswoode – $145

-2010 Turnbull Fortuna Vineyard Cabernet – n/a

-2010 Dominus – $175

-2010 Hall Cabernet Exzellenz – n/a

-2011 Bevin Tin Box – n/a

In addition, a handful of other producers received a less definitive interim score, a range of points, that upon further review may see them achieve 100 points. On Parker’s site, the first page (out of 30) of the Napa ’10, ’11, ’12 section has Parker giving 3 wines either 98-100 or 96-100. Somewhat predictably all three wines are from Parker favorite Abreu. Clearly 2010 is a banner vintage, but perfection in such quantity?

We know that rating wines for score is a largely subjective pursuit but Parker’s bold and adamant declaration that the wines above were not 98 or 99 but 100 points leaves no room for a real debate. But in the end, “perfection” in Napa is little more than a reason for a price increase. Those who care watch with anticipation and hope as ultra-premium wines become trophy wines upon Parker’s decree. Even if his 100 point scores are technically debatable, to engage in such a debate would be useless. When “the King” speaks the market responds, even if it seems like “the King” is just trying to stay relevant.