You have to see Château Grillet to truly appreciate it. An amphitheatre of terraced vines is carved into the perilously steep slopes overlooking the Rhône river. The small property sits below the majority of the vineyard, with lower terraces spreading right and left, and some new plantings curling away upriver towards Lyon.
Château Troplong Mondot has produced one of the more divisive wines in Bordeaux over the last quarter of a century. The full-blooded, ripe, inky, high-alcohol and fully-extracted style drew three-digit scores from many critics and scorn from others. With a traditionally British palate, I have found these wines impressive to taste in some vintages, though never something I would drink, or buy, myself; a tasting pour has always been more than enough. There has, however, been a seismic change since 2017, when Aymeric de Gironde was brought in to manage the estate. The results are already impressive, with changes in all aspects promising even more to come.
Nyetimber's Tillington Vineyard produces arguably the greatest wine in England; we have been supporters, and fans, of the wine since the first vintage was cautiously released nearly a decade ago. With the release of the 2014 vintage imminent, Brad Greatrix (who makes the wines alongside his wife Cherie Spriggs) came to Farr Vintners for the first vertical tasting outside the property of the first four vintages of this wine: 2009, 2010, 2013 and 2014.
One of the joys in being part of both the Southwold and Ten Years On tasting groups is the middle night dinner, where members bring special bottles from their own cellars based on a specific theme. This year, the 2012 Ten Years On tasting gave us a great excuse to look at the legendary 1982 vintage forty years on. This was an exciting prospect, particularly for me, as I have had much less exposure to these wines than the more senior members of the group. It is well known that 1982 launched Robert Parker’s career when he hailed the ripe, seductive style as a great vintage. Of course, he was not alone in that view, though there were dissenting voices concerned with the ripeness of fruit and tannin paired with low(er) acidities that could affect the longevity of the vintage.
The annual “Ten Years On” blind tasting returned to its normal schedule after recent delays due to the pandemic. This year we looked at the 2012s, with 2018 Southwold fresh in our minds.
Grower Champagne is now firmly established as a source of great, individual wines that offer something different to the grandes marques that have dominated sales and production in the region for so long. The concept of owning, farming and then making wine is not a stretch in most regions (and, indeed, many of the larger houses in Champagne own at least some vineyards from which they make wine), but the focus on quality of fruit and effort in the vineyard to produce high quality sparkling wine is the essence of these wines. In a recent visit to Egly-Ouriet, it was possible to see just how much work Francis Egly has put into every aspect of his wines, resulting in a recent 100-point score for his magnificent 2008 Millésime. I drank this wine recently in Spain, and it is an absolutely stunning offering, well worth its perfect score with ample richness to match the hallmark ’08 acidic tension. A profound champagne worthy of patience in the cellar.
The Southwold Group has tasted the top wines of Bordeaux from the latest physically available vintage together for over 40 years. This used to take place – as the group’s name suggests – in Southwold in Suffolk, but it has now moved to Farr Vintners where we taste in a purpose-built modern tasting room. As a fairly recent member 2018 is my sixth Southwold, and the ninth vintage that I tasted en primeur.
The following blog was written before the sudden passing of Eloi Dürrbach in November but has been edited following the sad news. Eloi's work and vision made Trevallon one of the great and best-known wines of France, which will rightly continue under his family's stewardship.
William Kelley has achieved a lot in his short career in wine. In 2015, time spent producing wine in California turned to a permanent writing role at Decanter (alongside pieces written for Noble Rot and The Robb Report). By 2018 he was snapped up by The Wine Advocate to focus on Burgundy and Champagne, as well as the California coast. Multiple writing awards and nominations have followed, and there are two embryonic wines being made in Burgundy.
The annual “Ten Years On” blind tasting this year was delayed from February because of the pandemic but eventually took place at the beginning of October 2021 – appropriately exactly ten years after the harvest’s last Cabernet Sauvignon grapes were picked.