Sotheby’s sale smashes estimates
Monday 27 February
Wine sales at the latest Sotheby’s auction smashed pre-sale estimates, making more than US$2.2 million,
Initial estimates for the 25 February Finest and Rarest sale in New York were set between $1.3 and $1.9m. A 99% sell through rate was far more encouraging than its London sale three days earlier, where 77 lots - or 13% of items - remained unsold.
The sale was led by a case of Château Pétrus 1982 which fetched $58,188 nearing the high estimate.
There was also more evidence of Asian collectors going beyond Bordeaux and Burgundy with a rare nebuchadnezzar (15 litres - sounds like a good night in) of Italian wine, Masseto, which sold to a private Asian buyer for $49,000, several times the $12/18,000 estimate.
Duncan Sterling, head of Sotheby’s wine auctions, New York said: “We were pleased with the $2.2 million total achieved in our February sale. There was enthusiastic bidding from Asia and Latin America as well as a resurgence in the American market. A packed saleroom and spirited bidding from online buyers confirmed the market’s concentration on Burgundy including selections from DRC, Hubert Lignier and Jean-Marie Fourrier.
“Italian wines continued to be much in demand with stellar results for Masseto, Brunello from Gianfranco Soldera and Solaia,” he added
Sotheby’s claimed the sale was particularly notable for the renewed demand from American collectors alongside Latin America and Asia.
My first look at 2008 Bordeaux
Monday 19 September
I had my first opportunity to try the newly-arrived 2008 Bordeaux vintage last week, and I was pleasantly surprised. I admit, I’m no Bordeaux expert – the world has enough of those – but they were attractive wines.
Retailer Glengarry charged $79 to try seven wines with a retail value of $1800 and, astonishingly there were only around a dozen of us attending. If we had been in Hong Kong rather than Auckland, I’m sure the room would have been packed to the rafters. Still, it meant we were able to have seconds of our favourites!
Inevitably, the wines were all very tight even seven hours after decanting. Most were oak dominant with bags of vanilla or hazelnut on the nose and palate. However, there is a lovely freshess of fruit and a lightness on the palate despite great concentration coming from low yields. The wines all had lovely balance that comes when the fruit is not overripe with moderate alcohols and medium to fresh acidity.
Wines of the night were Chateau Pontet-Canet, a fifth-growth (and a so-called Super Second) from the village of Pauillac, practising biodynamics. It’s a seamless wine, dense and powerful yet only medium bodied. It’s a masculine wine style with firm yet fine, drawn out tannins. Black cherry and pencil lead aromas with lots of vanilla oak. Fresh with focus and drive. (19/20)
When you write that many descriptors plus a lot more I won’t bore you with, you know you’ve got a complex and fabulous wine on your hands. That’ll be why it’s NZ $280. If only I were a doctor or lawyer I’d have taken a case.
I really enjoyed the Leoville Barton, a second-growth from St Julien. A completely different wine to the Pontet Canet, it is much more feminine, silky and delicate. It doesn’t have the power nor the tannic structure of St Estephe or Pauillac. It is nicely focused on the mid palate and displays great balance. My note ends ‘A powerful wine wrapped up in soft silk’ (18/20). And at $90 cheaper than the Pontet Canet and $30 cheaper than Lascombes, which was a little bit strange for a Margaux, it represents good value.
Cos D’Estournel and Haut Brion’s second wine, Le Clarence, were both structured, powerful wines worth recommending too (I didn’t spit so they must have been smart!)
Disappointment of the night was the St Emilion estate Pavie Macquin. It was what I call ‘worked’. The winery had extracted the grapes to within an inch of their life and the fruit flavours and tannins were overextracted and a little bitter. If you paid $190 for it, you would feel robbed. Ah, but isn’t that Bordeaux for you?!
The week that was
Friday 19 August
French producers started to return to their estates this week after their annual August holidays. I was on the news desk at Decanter.com and here’s the highlights of this week’s news.
It was a busier week than anticipated with the harvest beginning unusually early in Bordeaux. Sauternes star Chateau d’Yquem and rose producer Chateau de Sours started to pick the first grapes on Wednesday.
On Friday. Champagne producers in a number of villages were also permitted to start the harvest. The only harvest that has ever been earlier was the sweltering 2003 vintage. Grape growers and Champagne houses came to a compromise to allow 12,500kg to be harvested per hectare this year – more than 20% up on 2010, in response to growing demand
Heading to the southern hemisphere, New Zealand was covered in snow. The white stuff even fell in Auckland for the first time since 1939. Unhappily for one winery, it wasn’t just the weather that was gloomy. Gisborne winery Amor Bendall has gone into liquidation. The company has faltered amid the oversupply situation, the strength of the New Zealand dollar, and tough competition. The question is, who’s the next victim?
Over the Tasman, Australia is also struggling with its oversupply problems, and change is not happening fast enough, according to its generic body, Wine Australia. Its chief executive has been brutally honest, admiting many players are still in denial that the problem is long-term and requires major change. The new realities reshaping the industry include depressed trading conditions in its two main export markets: the US and the UK; the continued strength of the Australian dollar, higher production costs and tougher competition in all markets. Bulk wine sales and ‘opportunistic brand trading’ have also eroded margins, said Wine Australia’s Andrew Cheesman.
A good day: finding a bottle of Lafite under your bed
Thursday 28 July
It’s August in London, which means the wine trade goes AWOL. Some of us mere mortals have to work, but the daily grind is eased by a free corkage deal with several Michelin-starred restaurants in the big smoke.
Five of London’s Michelin starred restaurants, The Square (2*), The Ledbury (2*), Chez Bruce (1*), La Trompette (1*) and The Glasshouse (1*) allow you to bring your own plonk for free if you’re a Bordeaux Index customer.
Last year I had a rather boozy and delicious meal at The Ledbury with several wine journos. We almost didn’t get there due to a rather elderly black cab driver having little Knowledge. This year, it’s going to be Sunday lunch at Chez Bruce.
Tina Gellie, chief sub-editor at Decanter, will be my date and lucky for her, while rummaging under my old bed at my parent’s house, I found a bottle of 1989 Lafite-Rothschild I had forgotten I had been given by my uncle. At £8960 a case (Fine & Rare Market data), I have had worse surprises.
On the down side, I’ll have to drink it rather than sell it on, as my dad has written his initials (JG)on the label in black marker pen a bid to try and claim it as his own – typical Scouser. However, all in all, a fruitful day.
Big Brother goes to Bordeaux
Sunday 13 February
The MW seminar week is a Big Brother social experiment. Put 50 students from 13 different countries in a Bordeaux chateau for a week to eat, sleep and study together 14 hours a day (not counting the beer drinking and table football time) and it’s no wonder you leave feeling doo-lally.
My brain hurts and body pleads for no more wine and no more food. Luckily I have a week in the Alps snowboarding to recuperate!
Bordeaux is known for its foie gras, lamb, and duck as well as its world-class wines but instead we were served some typical British pub fare including gammon and pineapple on the first evening, which set the scene for the rest of the week. We were also treated to a pimped up version of a 1970’s classic party dish: remember cheese and pineapple on sticks in a tin foil covered orange? Think bigger. Much bigger. A foot high gold paper-wrapped cone with tropical fruit. What a treat! (If anyone has photographic evidence of this, let me know)
We were also lucky enough to taste a blend of red wine and sodium chloride. Mmmm, salty wine. And that was only one of the 24 wines the AWRI’s oenologist, Geoff Cowey, subjected us to. He managed to redeem himself on the bring-a-bottle evening, however.
So, it was an assault on the brain and the palate – and sometimes not for the right reasons.
However, I now have new friends in Washington DC, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Carcassone, Hungary…Whatever happens on this course, these social experiments are worth your participation.