Why 2015 Bordeaux is so Good

Best Vintage Since 2010

It has become clear that the 2015 Bordeaux is one of two things: either very good, or very, very good. These incredible wines are being sold as futures at en primeur and are rumoured to be the best vintage in a decade. What’s more is that all three Bordeaux styles are being hailed as a success – reds, dry whites and sweet whites. This is something that hasn’t happened since 2005. The three that has particularly stood out are: Pessac-Léognan, Saint-Émilion and Margaux.

Near Perfect Conditions

As with all wine, the environment is what makes or breaks a vintage, and 2015 had particularly good conditions. Like 2003, it was dry but it wasn’t extremely hot and it started raining at just the right time in most areas. Because of these perfect harvesting conditions, producers could take their time and most of the Bordeaux wines during this year turned out great. There was one area in which the rain didn’t quite come at the right time, and instead only arrived during the September harvest. Although this wasn’t catastrophic, the wines of Saint-Estèphe and from the north of Pauillac may not be as finely tweaked as they could be. Bear in mind that these wines are still verging on greatness. Unfortunately this also affects the overall score which is why you can rest assured that in reality 2015 is an even greater year than what is rumoured. Ratings aside, this year is an absolute pleasure to drink.

Does This Mean Prices are Sky High?

Just because the year is great, it doesn’t always mean that the vintage will be overpriced. Prices are only decided after the market is assessed by producers which could take days, weeks or months after wines are tasted and reviewed. It is also important to note that although all three styles are being touted as great, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the entire vintage is a success. What this means is by all means, buy some of this highly recommended fine vintage, but do it through a reputable wine broker.

The Low-Down on Organic and Biodynamic Wine

Some winemakers prefer organic and biodynamic viticulture methods of producing wine. Several Burgundy estates have started converting to organic produce and other estates maintain selected vineyards that produce biodynamic wines.The Bordeaux region is particularly suitable for this method because the climate there produces mists that are a natural pest repellent. What this means in laymen’s terms is simply that these winemakers are not using chemicals and fertilisers during the winemaking process. Another difference between organic and non-organic wine is the use of sulphites, which increase the shelf-life of non-organic brands but can also influence the flavour. The reason the organic methods are becoming so trendy is that more and more people worldwide are becoming health conscious and environmentally aware. As a result, they are demanding to know exactly what they are consuming.

Taking it a Step Further: Biodynamic Wine

Biodynamic wine starts off as organic wine and then goes further by using agro-ecology and ecologically self-sufficient methods to cultivate it. This wine is produced with careful consideration of the earth’s natural rhythms, the moon, and the stars. Biodynamic winemakers also introduce medicinal plants like Valerian, Dandelion, and Chamomile into the process. Yes, this sounds very complicated and it is, but if a winemaker takes so much care in producing wine, the product may certainly reflect that in taste and quality.

Despite Controversy, it’s Still About Preference

In France winemaking tends to be highly traditional and anything unorthodox can unsettle wine producers and clients who are used to conventional methods. There is also controversy about sulphites. In Europe and Canada organic wines may have added sulphites – in the US this is not the case. Some may argue that European organic wines cannot even be called organic, others take more of a relaxed approach. At the end of the day, it all comes down to personal preference. It is certainly an interesting way of making wine and looking out for your health and the planet. Whether the taste is up to par, one can only find out by tasting. And, as with all wine purchases, it is vital to only deal with a reputable wine merchant.

From Corks to Screw-On Caps – Wine Is Full of Surprises

If you are a wine enthusiast you’ve probably noticed that screw-on caps are no longer only used on cheap wines. More and more often bottles of really good wine are being unscrewed, rather than uncorked.

How Did the Screw-On Cap Trend Begin?

Believe it or not, screw-ons have been on the market since the late 1950s. Although back then they were generally associated with cheap plonk, and a fine winemaker would by no means let such a cap anywhere near his/her brand. It was only in the early 2000s when Australian winemakers decided to put practicality before prestige and started using screw-on caps for high-end bottles of wine as well. It is cheaper, and surprisingly has additional merits as well…

Science Seals the Deal

Some winemakers prefer the screw-on method for wines that are meant to be drunk young like Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio. The screw-on caps provide a better seal than cork and keep oxygen out of the bottle, which ensures a well-preserved and crisp wine. Chardonnays and red wines, on the other hand, are of a heavier, fuller and a little more complex nature. As such, they could actually benefit from a slight presence of oxygen, and so corks may be a better choice for them. The extra air softens the tannin through oxidization and makes the wine smoother in taste and texture. However, not all winemakers agree with this approach.

Screw-On Resistance

Some sommeliers argue that screw-on caps don’t allow for calculated levels of ‘oxygen ingress’, while real corks are variable with oxygen ingress rates. There is also the cultural issue – while certain wine lovers may enjoy the quick and easy process of opening a screw-on capped bottle, traditionalists strongly argue that opening a bottle of good wine with a corkscrew is part of the wine drinking ritual. With wine it is hard and maybe even wrong to separate between product, experience and history. For some it is the actual wine that matters more than the packaging, and for others the ceremony is as important as the taste. Whether you opt for this change or against it, it cannot be denied, screw-on caps are here to stay, as are synthetic corks and even boxed and canned wines, but that’s a debate that deserves a blog-post of its own.

Plan the perfect dinner by learning how to pair wines

Wine Pairing is a Bit Like Baking a Good Cake

Just like a pinch of salt is vital to bringing out the flavour of a cake, it is also essential to have the right wine with the right food to get the taste experience just right. Here are a few guidelines to bear in mind when pairing food and wine.

1. Prestigious with Prestigious, Humble with Humble
The first and most important principle is simply to have fancy wines with fancy food, and to have simpler wines with simpler foods. There is absolutely no need to have a pricey Pinot Noir with a ham and pickle sandwich. Conversely, having expensive tenderloin on the menu may present the perfect opportunity to open that bottle of lush Bordeaux you have been saving.

2. Delicate Flavours vs. Bold Flavours
Again, the idea is to match the wine to the food, and that means taking the flavour into consideration as well. A robust Shiraz could beautifully balance a bold curry, while it would overwhelm a delicate sole au gratin.

3. Contrast or Mirror?
In some cases, you may want to create a taste sensation by mirroring flavours. For example, a Chardonnay with creamy seafood pasta. At other times, it works better going in opposite directions, juxtaposition in food can be exciting and delectable. Seafood pasta can also be enjoyed with something sleek, crisp, and tingling like Champagne.

4. Go for Something Flexible
Chardonnay is delicious on its own, but is so full-bodied that it could taste dull and hard with certain foods. If you are uncertain, go with a Riesling or a Sauvignon Blanc to be safe. The most flexible reds are Burgundy, Chianti, and other wines that have more fruit and less tannin.

5. Fruity with Fruityfruits
When serving dishes that contain fruit, like duck with figs or pork with apples and cider, pair with fruity wines such as Muscat or Riesling.

6. Acidity and Saltiness
Salty food works well with the acidity in wine. Imagine how well Champagne would pair with smoked salmon or a good Chianti with Parmesan cheese. Asian dishes with a lot of salty soy sauce go particularly well with wines that are high in acidity like Riesling.

7. Sweetness and Saltiness
Pairing salty dishes with sweeter wines can create a delicious fusion of flavours. This is what has made the old European tradition of serving salty Stilton cheese with sweet Port so successful.

8. High-Fat Food and Robust Wines
Food with a lot of butter, cream, or animal fat needs an intense and rich wine. Good quality Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon works particularly well with dishes like grilled steak with creamy sauce, or duck.

9. What about Umami?
Known as the fifth taste in addition to sweetness, sourness, bitterness, and saltiness, umami is being used more often in contemporary cuisine with flavours from foods like soy sauce and wild mushrooms. Adding umami heightens the overall experience, so adding wild mushrooms to a steak with Cabernet Sauvignon further enriches an already sensational pairing.

10. Watch out for the Sweet Stuff
When pairing wine with desserts, consider the level of sweetness. The sweetness of the dessert could easily knock out the character of the wine, and a very sweet dessert can cause wine to taste dull. The ideal marriage is between a reasonably sweet wine, and a slightly less sweet dessert like a fruit or nut tart.

Food and Wine Bliss

Finally, in addition to observing these guidelines, the best route to successful pairing is through experimentation, which is also the most enjoyable way to learn this particular skill.

Reasons for Buying En Primeur

The en primeur wine industry is full of magic, mystery and suspense, and if that’s not enough it’s also a good investment that doesn’t necessarily require wine expertise. If you are new to the field of buying wine futures, prepare to be pleasantly surprised in more ways than one.

The Basics

En primeur, also called wine futures, is the early purchase of very young wine, hence the name, that hasn’t yet been bottled. It works like this: every spring, when the Primeur campaign opens, thousands of wine professionals visit the Bordeaux region, some come to taste and review, while others come to purchase or invest. More than 150 of the top Bordeaux estates welcome buyers, retailers, journalists and wine experts from all over the world to taste samples of the latest vintages on offer, and prices are set based on the feedback they receive. Wines are released for sale in a number of phases, and prices are adjusted along the way. While Bordeaux is the en primeur capital,the tradition has expanded over the years to include the markets of Burgundy, California, the Rhone Valley, Italy and Port.

Why Buy En Primeur?

If you know wines, you know that they can change significantly in the months between the en premier tastings and the bottling. However, this risk can be controlled by dealing only with established and reputable wine merchants, and the advantages of investing in wine futures are many.

Firstly, there is the price, en primeur wines are usually much lower in cost than they will be once released, making them a good investment. Then there is the opportunity, when you buy en primeur you are given the chance to buy wines that are high in demand and limited in quantity. These wines could easily become impossible to find on the market after they are bottled. Finally, there is the mystique, the excitement of buying something that hasn’t yet become the fullest and best version of itself.

You Don’t Have to Be a Wine Expert to Enjoy a Visit to a Tasting Room

Wine tastings are an exciting experience for wine enthusiasts. If you love the aroma of the old favourites and find yourself curious by the unexplored, if your pallet is fascinated by the complexity of the taste, you will no doubt enjoy a visit to a tasting room.

Sommeliers and other wine professionals have specialised wine tasting processes, but they are not the only ones who enjoy the ritual-like experience of discovering wines. Wine tasting rooms have a large informal following, and a set of less publicised guidelines. Even though recreational wine tasters take a less analytical approach, it is still important to stick to these rules.

What are the Rules?

The practice of wine tasting is as ancient as wine making and the conventions of tasting room etiquette have evolved through the ages. Nevertheless, a few unspoken rules and suggestions have stood the test of time, and here they are:

  • Eat something – Don’t go to a wine tasting event on an empty stomach.
  • Leave your preferences at home – You may have never enjoyed Pinot Noir, but go ahead and give it a go anyway, you may be pleasantly surprised when trying something unusual one day.
  • Don’t wear a fragrance – Although you may be used to your scent, it can ruin the experience for everyone else within range.
  • Don’t show off – Even if you are an expert, try not to talk too technically. You will be taking the fun out of the experience for those who are not as knowledgeable as you.
  • Spit or swallow? – Believe it or not, it’s up to you. You can go ahead and swallow the wine you are tasting , it’s not all about getting educated, there should definitely be some fun involved. However, if you will be visiting several tasting rooms, moderate what you take in.
  • Don’t request ‘the good stuff’ – That is rude, but feel free to express your opinion about the wines you’ve tasted, it will help your host understand what you should taste next.
  • Linger meaningfully – Most wineries are happy to allow people to taste a wine again when they are considering a purchase, however, not when they are trying to get drunk.
  • Make a purchase – Some wine tastings are free, and others waive the tasting fee in lieu of a minimum purchase. Depending on the circumstances, it would be polite to buy at least two or three bottles.
  • Tips? – Tipping staff at a winery is entirely at your discretion. Even though tasting rooms may seem like bars, they are not. If a staff member was particularly attentive and it feels like the right thing to do, by all means, go ahead and give them a tip.

Tannins in Wine

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Tannins but Never Dared to Ask

Tannin is a polyphenol that naturally occurs in bark, fruit skins, leaves, seeds and wood. Approximately 50% of plant leaves are tannins. The word comes from the Latin word for oak bark, ‘tannum’. In wine, tannins come from either the wine grape skins or seeds, or from wood. It is the element that gives it a dry taste. It also adds astringency, bitterness and another highly sought after element: complexity.

The Taste of Tannin

When you take a sip of wine, mostly red but also white sometimes, the taste of the tannins will catch you particularly in the front part of your mouth and in the middle of your tongue. If this doesn’t sound familiar, try taking a mouthful of unsweetened black tea, which is almost 100% pure tannin dissolved in water, it tastes dry and sharp. Tannin can be found in quite a wide variety of foods. Here are a few examples:
– Nuts like almonds and walnutsblack-tea-tannins
– Dark chocolate
– Cloves
– Cinnamon
– Grapes
– Pomegranate
– Red Beans

Grape Tannins

Grape tannin comes from the stems, seeds and skins of grapes. When making white wine, grape skins are extracted before the fermentation process, whereas red wine grapes are fermented with their skins and dissolved over time. This means that red wines are generally higher in tannins than white wines. Nonetheless, even in red wines tannin levels vary. For example, Nebbiolo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Temprannillo and Petit Verdot are high in tannin while Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, Primitivo, Merlot and Grenache have significantly lower tannin levels.

Wood Tannins

But the grapes themselves are not the only source of wine tannin. Wines that are aged in wooden barrels absorb tannins from the wood, which in this case is usually oak wood due to the interesting flavours it infuses into the wine. And even when the aging process doesn’t take place in a wooden barrel, oak chips and tannin powders are becoming increasingly popular as a more affordable substitute.

Are Tannins Healthy?

Tannin is quit a controversial topic health wise. At some point, it was marked as a cause for migraines but the debate about the connection between migraines and tannin is on-going. Other than that, studies have shown that tannins have antioxidative properties, as primary and secondary antioxidants. They assist the prevention of cellular damage and are effective against bacteria and viruses., not to mention reducing blood pressure – just one more reason to love wine.