St. Émilion Grands Crus Classés Tasting

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tjgriffin
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St. Émilion Grands Crus Classés Tasting

Post by tjgriffin » Tue Nov 03, 2015 2:17 pm

Hello Jeff,

I'm attending a tasting tomorrow in NY and I'm wondering if you have any suggestions for questions I could ask of the producers to make this an educational experience for me. I'm currently in Stage 1 of the MW Study Program and my academic knowledge of Bordeaux is pretty strong but I've never been there in person. Of course I'll be tasting but I'd like to take full advantage of the opportunity to question the folks that are making the wines themselves.

What are the current issues in Bordeaux in general and perhaps St. Émilion specifically? What do you talk about when you visit producers in Bordeaux?

Thank you for any advice you can give me.

Kind Regards
T.J.

Jeff Leve
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Re: St. Émilion Grands Crus Classés Tasting

Post by Jeff Leve » Tue Nov 03, 2015 2:30 pm

Thank for the post. Assuming I understand your question, other than grapes and terroir, perhaps brand recognition are some of the current issues that separate St. Emilion from other Bordeaux appellations. Alcohol levels, consumer acceptance are topics that also might be worth asking them about.

FYI, you can read details on every producer you will see at the GCC tasting on my site. Most are on the main Saint Emilion page http://www.thewinecellarinsider.com/bor ... t-emilion/

Some of the smaller estates can be found using the article search feature.

Of course, that is just me thinking what You might find interesting. What if I may ask, do You find interesting that you want to know? We can also work with that, and perhaps I can add on to that.

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Re: St. Émilion Grands Crus Classés Tasting

Post by tjgriffin » Tue Nov 03, 2015 5:22 pm

Thanks Jeff. Yes, definitely things like alcohol levels and brand recognition. I was also thinking about effects of climate change and plans to mitigate them, biodynamic and organic viticulture, copper sulfate, etc.

I did see the producer page on your website (which led me here) and it's great. I read about each of the producers and the summaries have prompted some question ideas as well. For example, one of the producers (I can't remember which one off the top of my head) moved to biodynamic viticulture but then switched to organic. I'm definitely going to ask about that. And one of the producers recently purchased an optic sorter and I'd like to find out how it's working out for them. Your website is a great resource for this producer information.

When you visit a producer, what do you ask about?

T.J.

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Re: St. Émilion Grands Crus Classés Tasting

Post by Jeff Leve » Tue Nov 03, 2015 11:12 pm

Being honest, I really think best questions are those that interest you, because the followup questions will be easy for you and interesting for you as well. You can ask about the effect of no more Parker En Primeur reports, which IMO is big, or what is their favorite wine website :)

As for what I ask, it's different for each chateau. It is normally focused on the vintage, updates, news, etc,,,, it can be specific, or it might be of a personal, family nature, their kids, wines they taste, etc. it depends on the people and the property.

But my needs are different than yours... that is why I think you want to hone in on what works for you. Does that make sense?

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Re: St. Émilion Grands Crus Classés Tasting

Post by tjgriffin » Wed Nov 04, 2015 6:06 am

That makes sense. Thanks Jeff. I didn't think about the Parker En Primeur reports. That is a big issue. I think I have enough material now to at least stimulate further conversation. I'll post a follow-up tonight after the tasting. Thank you for your help.

T.J.

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Re: St. Émilion Grands Crus Classés Tasting

Post by Michael Allen » Wed Nov 04, 2015 8:08 am

I am going to the the same St. Émilion Grands Crus Classés Tasting in Los Angeles Saturday at The Wine House. Because there are not so many chateau, it will be easier to meet the owners. At least I hope so.

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Re: St. Émilion Grands Crus Classés Tasting

Post by Jeff Leve » Thu Nov 05, 2015 9:19 am

TJ... What did you discover?

Michael... Maybe I will see you in Los Angeles, as I will also being to the event Saturday.

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Re: St. Émilion Grands Crus Classés Tasting

Post by tjgriffin » Thu Nov 05, 2015 9:52 am

Great tasting, I learned a lot. The winery representatives (some owners, some not) were very helpful and accommodating with my many questions.

Some highlights:
Many wineries are certified organic or biodynamic but do not advertise this on their bottles. One gentleman told me that his winery does it because they believe in it philosophically and not for marketing reasons.

Michel Rolland consults for probably half of the wineries in the room (I didn't count but it seemed that way). Apparently, he was a little nervous about organic viticulture in the beginning but now believes it is helpful based on the quality of the wines being produced.

Copper sulfate - dangerous because it's a bactericide, and at least one producer believes (I've heard this from other producers in other countries) that the bacteria in the soil is what facilitates the uptake of the minerals and nutrients in the soil to the plant, so in a way the soil micro biome is what we call terroir. Copper sulfate kills the bacteria in the soil.

Aside from Michel Rolland, there are a handful of other well-known consultants working with multiple properties. Is there a concern about too much uniformity in the wines? The châteaux owners would say that their terroirs are unique so it doesn't matter. I remain skeptical.

The quality of Cabernet Franc goes down more quickly than other varieties when yields go up.

Choice of grape variety is very site specific in St. Émilion. Very.

Lots of old vines. Vines between 40 and 60 years of age produce grapes that are very balanced. 80 years is about the max for economic viability.

At least one winery does not work with négociants, which I thought was great.

One question came up that I'm going to post as a new topic.

Gentlemen, I'd love to hear your thoughts after you attend the tasting on Saturday.

T.J.

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Re: St. Émilion Grands Crus Classés Tasting

Post by Jeff Leve » Thu Nov 05, 2015 10:36 am

tjgriffin wrote:Great tasting, I learned a lot. The winery representatives (some owners, some not) were very helpful and accommodating with my many questions.
Thanks for the post. I'm happy to see you had a good time. What was your favorite wine? And your favorite winery to chat with?

Some highlights:
Many wineries are certified organic or biodynamic but do not advertise this on their bottles. One gentleman told me that his winery does it because they believe in it philosophically and not for marketing reasons.


Also, Bordeaux Chateaux do not want to be placed in the organic wine category, they want their wines to be sold as Bordeaux, from their appellation.

Aside from Michel Rolland, there are a handful of other well-known consultants working with multiple properties. Is there a concern about too much uniformity in the wines? The châteaux owners would say that their terroirs are unique so it doesn't matter. I remain skeptical.

Each wine is unique. The terroir, and the goals of the winery, as far as styles are different. Also, if you did not know, Michel Rolland is really primarily involved during the blending process, and not so much in the vineyards.

Choice of grape variety is very site specific in St. Émilion. Very. As a guess, I would say that is the same all over Bordeaux today.

This is one of the many changes that has taken place over the past several decades.

At least one winery does not work with négociants, which I thought was great.

Because we're chatting, may I ask why you think it's great?

One question came up that I'm going to post as a new topic.

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Re: St. Émilion Grands Crus Classés Tasting

Post by tjgriffin » Thu Nov 05, 2015 11:17 am

I was so focused on my questions that I did not evaluate the wines as seriously as I normally do. But Bellefont-Belcier, Fonplegade, and Laroze really stood out for me.

Though I've heard it before, I enjoyed hearing the story of Malbec (Pressac!) from Jean François Quenin of Ch. de Pressac. From a more academic perspective, Guy Meslin from Ch. Laroze was very helpful.

Re: Michel Rolland - I know that he's much more involved in vinification than viticulture but I think he has a big influence on the style of the wines produced from the wineries for whom he consults. If they're all following the same recipe, then, even if the ingredients may differ slightly, there's going to be some uniformity.

Re: Négociants - Having been on the sales side of things for many years, I disliked selling Bordeaux that was not exclusive to my distributor and most of them were not. I think it's better for all involved if a distributor is able to take ownership of a brand.

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Re: St. Émilion Grands Crus Classés Tasting

Post by Jeff Leve » Thu Nov 05, 2015 11:42 am

tjgriffin wrote:Re: Michel Rolland - I know that he's much more involved in vinification than viticulture but I think he has a big influence on the style of the wines produced from the wineries for whom he consults. If they're all following the same recipe, then, even if the ingredients may differ slightly, there's going to be some uniformity.
They all get a different unique recipe, and each of them take that advice to a different degree. Some do as suggested, others, listen and do what they like. Plus their terroir is going to dictate what they can, and cannot do.

Re: Négociants - Having been on the sales side of things for many years, I disliked selling Bordeaux that was not exclusive to my distributor and most of them were not. I think it's better for all involved if a distributor is able to take ownership of a brand.

Bordeaux has always been open market. Even if a producer does not use the Place de Bordeaux, it is unlikely those wines are still not open market, as few importers are going to buy all their wine. With a few exceptions, most notably Tertre Roteboeuf, all chateaux want their wines sold by negociants on the Place de Bordeaux. It is in the best interests of the producer and the consumer for wines to be with negociants. However, I get that can make it harder for some importers to compete, and thus, they do not carry the wines. But that defeats the purpose of capitalism.

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Re: St. Émilion Grands Crus Classés Tasting

Post by tjgriffin » Fri Nov 06, 2015 7:16 am

Hi Jeff,

I suppose you're right. I defer to your far greater understanding of the business of Bordeaux. For my own edification, what are the reasons that Tertre Rôteboeuf does not use négociants?

You make a good point about M. Rolland. Châteaux are still free to choose to what degree they would like to follow his advice.

I'd love to hear your assessment of tomorrow's tasting.

T.J.

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Re: St. Émilion Grands Crus Classés Tasting

Post by Jeff Leve » Fri Nov 06, 2015 8:09 am

tjgriffin wrote:Hi Jeff,

I suppose you're right. I defer to your far greater understanding of the business of Bordeaux. For my own edification, what are the reasons that Tertre Rôteboeuf does not use négociants?
I'm not sure what you know about Tertre Roteboeuf, but they march to the beat of their own drummer. They are a very unique property. http://www.thewinecellarinsider.com/bor ... roteboeuf/

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