Christian Seely at the Zetter Townhouse: Great wines & great company

Fine Wine Tasting, Lay & Wheeler, Christian Seely
Success in turning around the fate of Quinta do Noval during his stint as Managing Director there meant that Christian Seely was offered the driving seat for the whole AXA Millèsimes company when Jean-Michel Cazes moved on to pastures new.

Since 2000, Christian has managed the portfolio with great success and we were thrilled to welcome him to host a dinner for our clients last night at the Zetter Townhouse in Clerkenwell. After an absolutely delightful glass (or three) of Christian’s Hampshire sparkling wine, Coates & Seely Blanc de Blancs NV (a beautifully mineral sparkling showing once more that the best vineyard sites in the UK have a lot in common with Champagne vineyards), it was time to sit down and start enjoying Christian’s wit and charm, and of course see how his wines fared with the excellent food.

The first comparison was a pair of 2007s from both sides of the river, namely 2007 Petit-Village from Pomerol and 2007 Pichon-Baron. Beyond the difference in taste between Merlot-dominated right bank and Cabernet-dominated left bank, this comparison also showed just how approachable the 2007s are. These two wines may well have been on the young side, but it would be difficult to argue that they did not drink beautifully, and both complemented the snails starter fantastically. The Pichon-Baron probably had the edge in terms of intrinsic quality, however the Pomerol may well have been a better match for the food.

The next comparison pitted Pichon-Baron 2003 and 2004 against each other. Christian’s opinion that the terroir shines through in these wines and dominates the vintage characteristic is hard to argue with – the surprising freshness on the finish of the otherwise typically rich, round and seductive 2003 was mirrored by a lovely richness of fruit to the more elegantly-styled 2004. It is difficult to really explain how wines can have a family resemblance year in, year out and yet also have a really different personality every vintage. Pichon-Baron, however, is an excellent example of this and showcases Christian’s ability to make the right decisions and get the right people in each of the estates he manages. As AXA’s portfolio includes incredibly different properties such as Pichon-Baron in Pauillac, Domaine de l’Arlot in Nuits –St-Georges, Suduiraut in Sauternes, Petit-Village in Pomerol, Diznoko in Tokaji and Quinta do Noval in the Douro, this is crucial.

The next wine was arguably “The Treat” of the evening – 1996 Pichon-Baron – and was everything one could hope for in mature claret. The tell-tale powerful style, dense fruit and perfect poise were taken to another level by the development of more complexity, especially a hint of savoury leather, spice and that should develop further over the next decade. This was a very special bottle indeed. 2001 Suduiraut with pudding was absolutely stunning, hitting the perfect balance between rich butterscotch and wild honey and the dried fruit and spice that come with age. The length was outstanding – let’s hope that Sauternes producers continue to ignore the economic truth about making this style of wine (in short, it makes almost no financial sense) so we can enjoy wines of this calibre in many years to come!

Finally, the cheese course brought a particularly interesting wine for us geeks – a 1997 Quinta do Noval Colheita, a style seldom seen on these shores, and essentially a vintage port that has been aged in oak cask in the same way as old Tawnies. This means it had shed its tannins and developed perfect balance, harmony and a wonderful complexity. Some say that all wine would be port if it could. It is my humble opinion that in all ports should aim to be as good as this!

All in all, a brilliant evening with fabulous wines and a charismatic and entertaining speaker – a great time was had by all and much gratitude is owed to Christian for his time!

Ludovic Surina

Focus on South Africa

2011 'Kika' Late Harvest Chenin Blanc, Miles Mossop, Stellenbosch
In the World of Wine as a whole, South Africa holds a very particular place. Its climate is not quite as hot as other “New World” countries but it is definitely warmer than France or Italy, for instance. The resulting wines have a very unique quality and the best examples could be said to combine the best of both worlds, with plenty of fruit yet an elegance and freshness seldom found in the warmest climes.

As we tasted the wines in preparation for this offer, even the most sceptical tasters among us could but admit that beyond established names such as the excellent Meerlust’s Rubicon Merlot from Stellenbosch, there was a wealth of brilliant value, interesting and rather delicious wines – a personal favourite was the Chamonix Reserve Pinot Noir from Franschooek. At £92.95/6 ib it is a great buy and will provide lots of drinking pleasure with its juicy, pure Pinot fruit and moreish quality.

South African wines are of particular interest to Lay & Wheeler director Dave Smith:

“In the summer of 2010 I spent a wonderful fortnight in South Africa, a land of amazing landscapes, wonderful people, hospitality and of course fantastic food and wine. our trip included two nights in Franschhoek, the home to some of the finest fare in South Africa.

Nestled between towering mountains in the beautiful Cape Winelands, the magnificent Franschhoek valley is absolutely stunning. Spectacular vineyards cover these mountain slopes settled more than 300 years ago by the Huguenots, who brought with them their age-old French wine and Food culture.

Today, breath-taking scenery, warm hospitality, world class cuisine and the finest South African wines all combine to create lasting memories. For those of you who have been to South Africa our offer represents an opportunity to buy some of the wines that you may well have tasted on your trip. Those who have not been to this country of amazing diversity can take this chance to try something different and, if possible, arrange to visit the region without further delay.

I’m delighted to say that we have managed to unearth some very interesting wines from  this offer from the Cape Winelands, Franschhoek, Stellenbosch and I think you will be surprised at the quality and value on offer here – for me the Chenin-Semillon Cartology from Alheit is an absolute must-buy.”

Dave clearly isn’t the only one to feel that way – Cartology, available at £99.00/6 ib, was chosen today by Julia Harding MW as the Wine of the Week on We are absolutely delighted by this endorsement of a wine that impressed us a lot.

There is much to choose from beyond the couple of wines mentioned here and you can peruse the whole South African offer here.

Ludovic Surina & Dave Smith

Fast and (quite) furious…

The much-awaited fine wine Karting Championships came and went last night in a cloud of unleaded fuel and no evening tipples, (for a change) at Anglia Karting in Suffolk. Fine-tune race tactics and a little bravado were exchanged pre-race and tensions were high. Karting is a great ice-breaker for staff social settings, more especially as once uniforms and helmets are donned, all racers had trouble picking out who was who in the race line up – hence revenge on workmates can be both sweet and covert at the same time.

The idea of the ‘Arrive & Drive’ sessions is to race against the clock to achieve the fastest lap time. However, the temptation to catch, slipstream and overtake any of the other drivers was too much to be ignored. All 5 adrenalin junkies had a fantastic evening, the final race generating some debate over driving strategies. One driver’s description “defending his line” is another’s “incompetence and dirty driving” but all good fun and warranting of a re-match. Mr Luffingham’s win is still subject to a stewards enquiry, and any suggestions that he has been receiving driving tips from Michael Schumacher have been denied!

Sherry: bodegas and barrels; terroir on a small scale

Lay & Wheeler La Bota & Sacristia Rare Sherry

There are times when study is tough; long hours spent bent over a book, scribbling notes, cross-checking everything online, bending one’s mind around difficult concepts and information. There are other times when study is, maybe, not quite so difficult. The first weekend of July was one such time: a study trip to Jerez with a couple of fellow Master of Wine students, taking the chance that it would be worthwhile (even though we had not at this stage received our results from our first year exams). If nothing else, I suppose, we knew the weather would be better!

It is often said that the best way to understand a region is to visit it in person; no amount of book-learning can replace actually standing in a vineyard and looking around, talking to producers and getting a sense of “place”. With sherry however it is less about the vineyard and the fruit itself, but far more about how and where the wines are aged.

Terroir is a familiar concept to anyone who has read much about fine wines; usually in the context of a vineyard site, its aspect, the soil, the bedrock and the climate. Terroir is also a concept in Jerez, but it is based more on the barrels that the wine is in, where they are within the bodega and their position in the row.

I was mildly cynical about such claims. How could a few metres make a difference to how something tasted? However, a tasting with Eduardo Odeja, production manager for Grupo Estevez (who own La Guita and Valdespino) and one of the people behind Equipo Navazos, soon dispelled my cynicism. He dashed along the rows at the La Guita bodega, enthusiastically expounding the virtues of individual barrels, comparing two (one barrel and one row apart) that he said were like sisters, one serious, one mischievous, but obviously related. There were numerous examples along these lines and it was striking exactly how much one wine could vary so much after a few months in barrels in different locations.

It is exactly this quality that forms the basis for the recent fashion for single and selected cask bottlings like La Bota range and the Sacristia AB Manzanilla that we are currently offering. Eduardo Odeja and Antonio Barbadillo Mateo have selected barrels that they believe offer very specific qualities and have bottled accordingly, creating unique wines that are some of the best that the region has to offer.

I was lucky enough to be able to taste the La Bota Palo Cortado no. 34 in situ, directly from its barrel – stored at the Fernando de Castilla bodega in Jerez, tucked away in a dark corner. It was extraordinary in its complexity and character; a beautiful and evocative wine that demonstrates ably how truly underpriced great sherry is.

Kat Wiggins

The wines from our current sherry offer:

Sacristia AB Manzanilla, Antonio Barbadillo Mateo
La Bota de Palo Cortado, No. 34, Equipo Navazos
La Bota de Fino, No 27, Equipo Navazos
La Bota de Fino Amontillado “Montilla” No. 24, Equipo Navazos
La Bota de Palo Cortado, No. 21, Equipo Navazos
La Bota de Oloroso, No.28, Equipo Navazos

Bordeaux – September 2012

Bordeaux 2012 Tasting Trip - Lay & WheelerFreshly back from a tour of Bordeaux last week, The Lay & Wheeler Management team share their thoughts and experiences

Dave’s View

Last week, I travelled to Bordeaux with Nick Dagley, our Fine Wine Buyer. I decided to take the scenic route of the Eurostar and TGV, whilst Nick travelled from Luton Airport – I think you can guess who arrived on time and who did not!

This was my first trip to Bordeaux, perhaps surprisingly given that I’ve been at Lay & Wheeler for nearly 30 years! Lay and Wheeler has an excellent reputation in Bordeaux and this was evident from the very first visit. We spent time at wonderful estates, where we were greeted with kindness and enthusiasm by each and every person that we met.

Day One Accompanied by Mathieu Chadronnier , the General Manager of négociant CVBG , our first day included a visit to the amazing (almost futuristic) cellars at Cheval Blanc, followed closely by a visit to Ausone. Whilst Cheval Blanc is a jaw-dropping example of modern architecture and design, the cellars at Ausone date back to medieval times and there could not be more contrast! In all we visited six estates in the afternoon and, for an inexperienced man in Bordeaux, it certainly felt like a tough, but thoroughly enjoyable day!

Wines tasted included: 2011 Cheval Blanc, 2009 La Tour du Pin, 2006 Cheval Blanc, 2008 La Conseillante, 2009 Fonbel, 2011 Ausone and the wines of Bon Pasteur and Fonroque (a possible new estate for us).

Day Two Car problems (Nick couldn’t work out our convertible Volvo roof!) meant a slightly late start, but we were soon into our stride with morning visits to Malescot-St-Exupéry and Labégorce – and lunch at the superb Château Palmer. If there was any doubt about the quality of the 2011 vintage, it was dismissed at Palmer – here both Alter Ego and the grand vin Palmer tasted brilliantly. Following a lunch that included the sublime 1985 Palmer and 2006 Alter Ego, we headed off to Las Cases and Pichon-Lalande, before pitching up at Mouton Rothschild, where they are currently finishing their enormous new chai. For me, the surprise wine at Mouton was 2011 d’Armailhac, which was well balanced, aromatic and comparatively easy to understand for someone like me who is not used to tasting such young wines. To round off the day Mathieu took us to Latour, where the 2009 Pauillac was showing very well indeed.

Wines tasted included: 2006/07/10 Malescot-St-Exupéry, 1999 to 2009 Labégorce, 2011 Alter Ego and Palmer, 1985 Palmer, 2006 Alter Ego, 2001 and 2009 Potensac , 2008 Nénin, 1997 Las Cases, 2004 and 2011 Pichon-Lalande, 2011 d’Armailhac, Clerc-Milon and Mouton-Rothschild, 2009 Pauillac de Château Latour, 2006 Forts de Latour, 2004 Latour and the wines of Cambon La Pelouse.

Day Three If you haven’t been to a Bordeaux Château and have a picture in your head of what a château should look like, then the chances are it looks like Margaux. Set at the end of an avenue of trees the Château is absolutely stunning – we were not able to go inside but I can imagine what it is like. Managing Director Paul Pontallier met us, despite being busy finalising the plans for a major development project (watch this space for what is sure to be amazing, given the renowned British architect working with the Château). We tasted 2010 and 2011 Margaux. Back in 2011, Nick was of the opinion that the 2010 vintage was the best wine he had ever tasted en primeur – our tasting confirmed Nick’s view. Our tasting at Margaux was followed by time with the very entertaining Jean-Pierre Foubet at Chasse Spleen – I really enjoyed the 2010l’Héritage here – another 2010 that was very easy to taste. Lunch was at Grand-Puy-Lacoste – a Château that has made exceptional wines year on year, under the stewardship of François-Xavier Borie. An excellent lunch with father and daughter was accompanied by 2005 Haut-Batailley and 2000 and 1996 Grand-Puy-Lacoste, all of which were fantastic – but, for me, the 2000 had the edge. After lunch, we ventured out to Sociando-Mallet, which is one of the properties close to the the banks of the Gironde. This is another estate that has clearly invested in infrastructure – its wine-making and storage facilities are first class. 2011 La Demoiselle showed very well here (beautifully balanced and very much to my liking), whilst 2010 Sociando confirmed its status in Nick’s mind as one of the wines of the 2010 vintage. Then onto Château Montrose, where Hervé Berland has taken over the management of the estate following his move from Mouton. It’s early days here for Hervé, but I sensed that – with the huge investment being made – this is a property that aspires to even greater things.

And that, I’m afraid, was that – three days of splendid tasting and exceptional hospitality. Back on TGV and Eurostar, allowing me the time to write up my notes in a degree of comfort, safe in the knowledge that I’d arrive home on time and relaxed.

Wines tasted included: 2010 and 2011 Margaux, the wines of Chasse Spleen, 2011 Lacoste-Borie, Haut Batailley and Grand-Puy-Lacoste, 2006, 2007 and 2008 Lacoste-Borie, 2006 Haut Batailley, 2006 and 2000 Grand-Puy-Lacoste, 2011 and 2010 La Demoiselle, 2011 and 2010 Sociando Mallet, 2011 Tronquoy de Sainte-Anne, Tronquoy-Lalande and La Dame Montrose.

Nick’s view:

We are just back from a week in Bordeaux, where the harvest has begun – we saw white grapes being picked and pressed at both Mouton and Palmer. Bordeaux has had almost perfect weather in August, great for holidays and ripening grapes. Both were needed as, up until then, it had been quite a stressful time, with a sodden June and much work needed in the vineyards to keep things on track.

Most people we saw were planning on starting their Merlots in the last week of September, already with a potential alcohol of 13.5 or so degrees. The forecast is good, which will ripen skips and pips – as ever balance will be key for the wines of the right bank!

The Cabernets on the left bank look better and I suspect there will be some better wines made here. At Château Margaux, Paul Pontallier was as enthusiastic as ever, predicting great things for the Cabernet-dominated Grand Vin – assuming they don’t get a typhoon! Whilst there, we tasted both 2010 and 2011 with the Cru Classé buyer of our hosts CVBG. Mathieu and I agree that the 2010 is the best wine produced in this outstanding vintage anywhere in Bordeaux; we are happy to have some stock! During most visits we compared 2009, 2010 and 2011. On the left bank I prefer 2010, but can see many reasons to buy all three vintages.

My personal tasting highlights were:- 2011 Alter Ego – amazing value for a second wine, at the same level as Forts de Latour. 2011 Palmer – the best wine made in the Médoc in 2011! 2011 d’Armailhac – floral with crème de cassis; extremely open and approachable Pauillac 2010 Chasse Spleen – better value would be hard to imagine, unique terroir, perfect for Burgundy lovers! 2010 Sociando-Mallet – M. Gautreau is quite a character and was one of the very few to lower his price in 2010, the year he made his finest ever Sociando. Buy it while you can at the release price. 2010 Fonroque – Biodynamic Grand Cru St-Emilion. Well-situated, making exciting mineral wines. Watch this space…

Dave Smith & Nick Dagley

The 2012 St-Emilion Classification: The perfect compromise?

Bordeaux classifications… what a can of worms they can be.

On the one hand you have the 1855 classification of left bank Châteaux, set in stone (apart from one “minor” amend in 1973) and controversial on the basis of its immovability even though times and wines have evidently changed. On the other hand you have the St Emilion classification, which is updated every ten years and is controversial on the basis of its upsetting property owners when châteaux are demoted or not promoted. I suppose, if one had a third hand, there is of course the more peaceable Pomerol classification; namely, none.

The last St Emilion classification took place in 2006 and ended in tears, recriminations and indeed court cases, with four properties – La Tour du Pin Figeac, Cadet Bon, Guadet and de la Marzelle – challenging the outcome. This led to all manner of legal shenanigans, as the demoted Châteaux fought to have the classification annulled, to the chagrin of those that had been promoted. In the end, a compromise was reached and a new classification date of 2012 set.

Therefore, it must have been with some trepidation that decisions were made regarding this year’s reassessment. Perhaps it is not that surprising that it is a less controversial classification that has now been published, albeit perhaps not entirely without surprises.

Moving on up…

The most notable change was the inclusion in the upper echelon of classification -Premier Grand Cru Classé (A) – of Châteaux Angélus and Pavie. Already seen as perhaps a cut above their Premier Grand Cru Classé peers in terms of reputation (albeit perhaps not without controversy in Pavie’s case) and certainly in terms of price, their promotion is not entirely surprising. Gèrard Perse of Château Pavie stated, ‘As soon as I heard the news, I was overcome with emotion… It was a brave move to promote two chateaux for the first time in 50 years to join the other Premier Grand Cru Classé As – but it seems logical that Saint Emilion should have as many First Growths as the Medoc.’

Promoted to Premier Grand Cru Classé status were Châteaux Canon La Gaffelière, Larcis Ducasse, Valandraud and La Mondotte

Moving on out…

This was also a classification of mysterious disappearances, as various properties vanished off the radar entirely. Not the act of a malicious re-classifier or unintentional slip of the pen, the following five properties have been merged with others.

Château Magdelaine has been merged with its Moueix sibling, Bélair-Monange.

Château Bergat has been integrated with Trottevieille

Château Cadet Piola is now incorporated with Château Soutard

Châteaux Haut Corbin and Grand Corbin are now both under the latter’s name

Château Matras has been included with Château Canon

 Moving on down…

The classification was not entirely without disappointment for certain properties, there were still demotions, with the following properties losing their Grand Cru status: Corbin Michotte, La Tour du Pin Figeac and La Tour du Pin.

Nothing can stop them?

So far, mostly the classification has been well received, however, a cloud looms on the horizon already in the form of the Carle family, owners of Château Croque Michotte, which has not been included in the classification. There has been a suggestion that they may make a legal challenge to this decision… And so it begins…

Kat Wiggins

The 2012 St Emilion Classification

Premiers Grands Crus Classés (A)
Château Angélus
Château Ausone

Château Cheval Blanc
*Château Pavie

Premiers Grands Crus Classés
Château Beauséjour (héritiers Duffau-Lagarrosse)
Château Beau-Séjour-Bécot
Château Bélair-Monange
*Château Canon
Château Canon la Gaffelière
Château Figeac
Clos Fourtet
Château la Gaffelière
Château Larcis Ducasse
La Mondotte
Château Pavie Macquin
Château Troplong Mondot
Château Trottevieille
*Château Valandraud

Grands Crus Classés
Château l’Arrosée
Château Balestard la Tonnelle
 *Château Barde-Haut
Château Bellefont-Belcier
Château Bellevue
Château Berliquet
Château Cadet-Bon
Château Capdemourlin
 *Château le Chatelet
Château Chauvin
*Château Clos de Sarpe
Château la Clotte
 *Château la Commanderie
Château Corbin
*Château Côte de Baleau
Château la Couspaude
Château Dassault
Château Destieux
Château la Dominique
 *Château Faugères
Château Faurie de Souchard
 *Château de Ferrand
Château Fleur Cardinale
 *Château La Fleur Morange
*Château Fombrauge
Château Fonplégade
Château Fonroque
Château Franc Mayne
Château Grand Corbin
Château Grand Corbin-Despagne
Château Grand Mayne
Château les Grandes Murailles
Château Grand-Pontet
Château Guadet
Château Haut-Sarpe
Clos des Jacobins
Couvent des Jacobins
 *Château Jean Faure
Château Laniote
Château Larmande
Château Laroque
Château Laroze
 *Clos la Madeleine
Château la Marzelle
Château Monbousquet
Château Moulin du Cadet
Clos de l’Oratoire
Château Pavie Decesse
 *Château Peby Faugères
Château Petit Faurie de Soutard
 *Château de Pressac
Château le Prieuré
 *Château Quinault l’Enclos
Château Ripeau
 *Château Rochebelle
Château Saint-Georges-Cote-Pavie
Clos Saint-Martin
 *Château Sansonnet
Château la Serre
Château Soutard
Château Tertre Daugay (Quintus)
Château la Tour Figeac
Château Villemaurine
Château Yon-Figeac

Pomerol Dinner with Moueix at The Zetter Townhouse

We were thrilled to welcome our customers and Edouard Moueix to dinner at London’s Zetter Townhouse last week. A glass of Vilmart’s 2001 Coeur de Cuvée Champagne sharpened our palates and whetted our appetite for the evening ahead. Edouard’s introductory comments on how JP Moueix is a young company (he’s ‘only’ third generation) and how they are merely “poor farmers” in Pomerol set the tone for an informative, humorous and engaging dinner.

The snails came first: mauricette snails and meatballs with royale de champignon sauvage which was paired with 2005 & 2003 Certan de May. The 2005 was compact, with a glossy texture of red berry fruit which made it accessible, yet with its best years still at least half a decade away. The 2003 in contrast was much more expansive and broadly-framed by grainy tannin. An opening contrast between the heat of 2003 and the drought of 2005.

A comparison of 2003 La Fleur Pétrus and 2003 Hosanna accompanied beef daube provençal with mashed potato. The Hosanna had a fabulous intense aroma of essence-like black fruits. The palate was rich, multilayered and delicious. The La Fleur Pétrus was lithe and fresher in comparison and not as flagrantly showy as the Hosanna, favouring subtlety and nuance for its style.

A pair of English cheeses was selected to match 2005 Hosanna and 2005 La Fleur Pétrus. Both 2005s were thrilling and affirmed, yet again, what a great vintage 2005 is. Hosanna was impressive: it was deep, dense and seductively textured with an underlying minerality and freshness. La Fleur Pétrus combined weight and concentration with poise, elegance and finesse. As with the 2003, it was not as showy and opulent as the Hosanna, but the one I would choose to be drinking in ten years’ time.

After six red wines, the chilled, sweet Château Coutet 2001 was just the thing to lift and freshen the palate. It was intensely aromatic with notes of blossom, honey and peach, whilst the palate was richly complex, delineated, ethereal and vibrant. It paired well with the iced lime parfait and strawberry compote.

Edouard closed the evening by noting that he had not made any reference to any vineyard or winemaking techniques: “too dull, not interesting”. He continued by passionately espousing his belief that these wines are for drinking, for enjoying, for sharing, and all thirty people in the room had done just that. Thank you Edouard for a superb evening!

Adrian Heaven

Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe

Châteauneuf-duPape from BrunierA recent Southern Rhône tasting we organised for a famous bank’s staff Wine Society included a mini vertical of 3 mature vintages from Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe. All three of them showed great family resemblance beyond vintage differences, which we took as a great testament to the respect of the fruit and the terroir at this estate.

The domaine, which is under the ownership of the Brunier family is considered the jewel in their crown . The vines have an average age of 50 years, and are planted on the Plateau de Crau in the south east of the Châteauneuf appellation. Taking its name from the signal tower built here in 1792 for the optical telegraph, this grenache-dominant wine with some Mourvèdre, Cinsault and other permitted Châteauneuf varietals used in the blend is as traditional in its style as Châteauneuf gets. The Bruniers employ traditional winemaking methods, ageing the wine in foudres for eight to 12 months after nine months in concrete vats, then bottle the wines without filtering. These superb wines are rich, elegant and beautifully balanced, and display flavours that are much more opened, perfumed and savoury than the more modern (and often also excellent in their own way) modern styles of Châteauneuf with their deep, pure and intense fruit style. The Bruniers believe in the creation of “vins de terroir, not recipe wines; wines for the table rather than for tasting”.

The fantastic run of vintages enjoyed by the Rhône (since 1998, only 2002 has been poor, everything else has been good to fabulous) means there is plenty of excellent wines available on the market. This means that there is no reason for prices to rise too much, and these mature Vieux Télégraphe vintages can be picked up for great prices – definitely a wine to stock up on as we approach the winter months.

You can see our current selection of Vieux Télégraphe here.

Ludovic Surina & Will Hepworth

Is there still shine in trading fine wine?

Fine Wine market update from Senior Wine Advisor Will Hepworth

As the summer break draws to a close for many of us now returning suitably refreshed to our desks it is with some anticipation that we chart a course away from the August doldrums towards (hopefully) a final quarter of the year that will bring a fair wind and calmer waters in the fine wine market. There is little doubt that the last twelve months in the fine wine market have been choppy, with the occasional deep depression and poor visibility – proving that it is not entirely immune to the vagaries of the state of the wider global economy.

The primary drivers for the impressive gains seen in the market over the last five years are now those largely responsible for its overall decline over the last twelve months, namely the Bordeaux First Growth châteaux and their associated second label wines. It is widely felt that the high values seen at the peak of the market just over a year ago were unsustainable, having been propped up by speculation on potential future increases in value. However, the slide in value experienced by brands such as Lafite are so dramatic as to be seen by many as an  overcorrection. Prices on some of the more “unfashionable” vintages are now low enough to be considered a relative bargain, offering room for growth, indeed it is worth looking at some of the ‘04s, ‘06s and ‘08s we are currently offering at prices that have dropped considerably from this time last year and now look a good buy as a result.

Whilst Bordeaux continues to form the backbone of trading activity on Liv-ex, its proportion has dropped to 86% over the last few months. Burgundy (albeit at the very top end) continues to be of interest for speculators, together with premium Italians and top-end Champagnes. Against a backdrop of falling Bordeaux prices, these sectors have outperformed the wider market, seeing modest value growth. It’s not all doom and gloom in Bordeaux however, as a second string of châteaux have risen to prominence over the last few years. The significant investments made by the owners of these properties over the last decade are now paying dividends as the quality of the wines they produce has risen to a level that is often consistent with that of the First Growths. This band of rising stars was given recognition late last year by the influential American wine critic, Robert Parker, naming them in his “Magical 20” list. Further credence was lent to this selection with Parker’s re-assessment of the extraordinarily successful 2009 vintage, with a record number of wines receiving a perfect 100 point score amongst which there was a high proportion from Parker’s Magical 20.

From an investment perspective, we are talking about a surprisingly narrow universe of wines. The top 25 châteaux in Bordeaux and a handful of properties from other regions dominate. Indeed, Liv-ex figures would appear to indicate that just eight wines – the five First Growths, plus Petrus, Cheval Blanc and Ausone – account for more than 80 per cent of a typical wine fund’s “portfolio” by value. Given the stratospheric pricing on these wines from the best vintages the emergence of this “second tier” of investment grade Bordeaux provides a useful entry point for those priced out of the top tier.

Many of these so-called “Magical 20” wines– such as Leoville Las Cases, Lynch Bages and Pontet-Canet – have seen an increase in demand over the last 12 months and it is possible that this trend could continue.*

Will Hepworth

*The market for wine can be volatile, and no guarantee can be given as to the likely future value of wines. Past performance of the wine market is not necessarily a guide to its future performance. Lay & Wheeler cannot be held responsible for any loss suffered, whether due to a downturn in the market or otherwise. Lay & Wheeler provides advice on the basis of its best endeavours, however all decisions to purchase and sell remain with the client. The information provided above is only for your general guidance and is not intended to address your particular requirements or to be relied upon in making (or refraining from making) any specific decisions, investment-related or otherwise.


A Perfect Marriage?

Lay & Wheeler Wine Advisor Hayley Wright shares her thoughts on selecting the perfect wine for her upcoming nuptials – can you help her choose?

After weeks of painstakingly compiling lists, shortlists, guest lists and even lists of lists, my Fiancé and I finally booked a venue for our forthcoming wedding.  There is an overwhelming array of things to consider, such as capacity, location and date availability, but one particular benefit of our chosen venue was the clincher for me-they don’t charge corkage or force you to choose wine from their own list.  As a wine lover, it is important to me to be able to drink wine that our guests and I will enjoy on this special and important day and feel quite justified in having thrown one option out immediately on the grounds of its choices of simply ‘red, white or rosé’…..!

Another major decision is the menu, and for various reasons we have decided on the rather fun and politically savvy step of hiring a fish and chip van rather than having a sit down meal, leaving more valuable time to crack on with the important business of partying.

Lots of options spring to mind when pairing wine with greasy fare, with considerations regarding tannin and acidity levels.  Do we go for a zingy light white or something a bit richer with maybe a touch of spice?  And let’s not forget the reds which may be preferred by those opting for the burger or sausage option.  Or perhaps a wildcard rosé choice would be a crowd pleaser?   I also rather like the fun pairing alternative of something sparkling. Finally, do I stick to a cheaper option, or should I blow the budget?

The options are endless but I have prepared a shortlist with tasting notes below and it would help a great deal if you could let me know what you think we should drink!

Hayley Wright

UNDER £10.00

2007 Château de Chantegrive Blanc, Graves

The Chantegrive Blanc 2007 is a very pretty Sauvignon Blanc- dominated
blend (a little Sémillon brings a touch of weight to the texture). This
piquant, floral and citrussy white will provide a perfectly refreshing
summer drink, or an excellent accompaniment to grilled, meaty fish such
as Sea Bass or Monkfish

2009 Chablis, Pierre Quénard

Fine and light on the nose, with notes of white flowers and citrus. On the palate, there are crunchy apple and pear characters, zesty acidity and a steely minerality, which adds both structure and elegance. With a long finish and a surprisingly mouthfilling texture, this would match well with shellfish or white meat dishes.

2008 Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Nuits, Domaine Michel Gros

Beautiful maroon purple in the glass with sweet cherry fruit on the nose. Perfumed, with lifted acidity and a fine, elegant freshness.Although immensely approachable whilst young, this will keep for at least five years

2009 Fleurie, Domaine de la Chapelle des Bois

Chapelle des Bois is a small domaine, which has been in the same family for seven generations. The current owners, Chantal and Eric Coudert-Appert, are passionately involved in every aspect of the winemaking process, from hand-picking the grapes to the traditional processes in the winery itself. This gives them control over every detail, allowing them to create extremely high-quality Cru Beaujolais.
Charming on the nose, with bright cherry aromas and a hint of spice. On the palate, this has concentrated red berry fruit and a touch of savoury earthiness that gives it a real sense of depth and distinction. This is beautifully balanced, classic Fleurie and will be delicious with summer salads, grilled poultry and barbecued fish.


2009 Mâcon Chardonnay Clos de la Crochette, Héritiers du Comte Lafon

This wine has the ripest fruit profile of the wines, tending towards tropical fruits. The wine remains balanced, with the volume and richness offset by the fresh thread of acidity running along the palate.

2009 Grüner Veltliner Alte Reben, Weingut Bründlmayer

A selection from different vineyards, made exclusively from vines over 50 years old. This has a lively nose, balanced by notes of cream, spice and lentils. Texturally rich on the palate with an attractive white peach nature and a long finish. Bründlmayer are the masters of Grüner and this demonstrates their style superbly.

2009 Santenay Clos des Hâtes, Hubert Lamy

With a beautiful strawberry nose, the freshness and purity of this wine, combined with excellent structure and texture make for an extremely appealing Santenay that will by no means disappoint.

2009 Volnay Vieilles Vignes, Maison Roche de Bellene

Expressive and elegant, this is the epitome of delicate Volnay. The rose-petal scented nose is followed by lovely fresh red fruit on the palate, with plenty of length.


Carte d’Or Brut, Champagne Drappier

Primarily made from Pinot Noir, this is close to being a Blanc de Noirs in style. Attractive on the nose, with delicate notes of red berry fruit, a touch of florality and some savoury bread-like characters. On the palate, this is balanced and elegant, with pear and red berries and a dart of citrus acidity. Perfect as an apéritif.