Located on the 45th parallel, the northern limit for the world’s great red wine regions, Bordeaux likes sunny summers to produce great vintages. The months of May, June, and July 2015 were among the hottest and driest on record. Water stress, so important for stopping vegetative growth and starting the ripening process, took place early, in July, and brought on a magnificent véraison (colour change) in early August. I have not seen such an early, even véraison since 2009.All our grapes were red by the 15th of August and many of them were already deeply-‐colored.
Fortunately, the month of August was less hot and more wet, which gave a certain vigor to the vines.
This month of August enabled the grapes, especially the white wine grapes, to “breathe” and retain their freshness. The first grapes were picked at the end August. Their juices were superb and the weather forecast for the next two weeks is looking excellent… We are thus quite confident this will be a great year!!!
The Merlot grapes will be harvested the last ten days of September and the Cabernets the first two weeks of October. These are showing magnificent potential, but we still need six weeks without a major disturbance.
The Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc grapes are slowly reaching perfect ripeness. As with every vintage, botrytis will call all the shots, but the conditions conducive to its development are all there.
It has been several years since Bordeaux has seen the dawn of such a beautiful vintage…
There are still a few weeks of suspense left before this promise is fulfilled.
Nicolás Catena, sailed from Italy to Argentina in 1898 and planted his first Malbec vineyard in 1902. Malbec had been a blending grape in Bordeaux. But Nicola suspected it would find its hidden splendour in the Argentine Andes. Domingo, his son, inherited that dream and took the family winery to the next level, becoming one of the largest vineyard holders in Mendoza.
By the 1960s, however, Familia Catena was struggling. The Argentine economy was in shambles and inflation rates were soaring. One year, Domingo realized that it would cost him more to harvest than to leave the fruit on the vines. He asked his twenty-two year old son Nicolás, a recent PhD graduate in economics, what to do about such a dilemma. Nicolás advised him not to harvest. Domingo could not follow his son’s advice with a clear conscience and picked anyway. Nicolás still remembers the sadness he felt for his father that year.
But in the early 1980s, Nicolás left Argentina to become a visiting professor of economics at the University of California, on the world-renowned campus at Berkeley.
Nicolás Catena returned to Mendoza with a vision in mind. From one day to the other, he sold his table wine producing company, keeping only Bodegas Esmeralda, the fine wine branch of the family business. At that time Argentina was perceived as a bulk wine producer and Nicolás was told by many of his colleagues in Argentina that he was “completamente loco” (completely crazy).
But Nicolás Catena is not someone to be easily discouraged. During the 1980s, Nicolás set out to discover the best places to plant vineyards in Mendoza. When recently asked why he decided to plant Chardonnay and Malbec in Gualtallary, at almost 5,000 feet elevation, Nicolás answered, “I felt that the only way we would make a leap in quality would be by pushing the limits of vine cultivation, by taking risks”. His own vineyard manager had told him that Malbec would never ripen there, but it did, and beautifully. Nicolás found that Mendoza was exceptional for vine growing, with each high altitude valley providing a unique flavor and aroma profile of the same varietal. He found that the poor soils near the Andes, discarded by the original European immigrants due to their low fertility, were actually ideal for quality viticulture. And that the desert climate was an asset because it allowed him to control quality and hang time through strict irrigation control.
Then came the challenge of what to do with Malbec. Nicolás did not have his father’s confidence in Malbec. Domingo Catena fiercely believed that Argentine Malbec could make a wine as worthy as any first growth Bordeaux. Nicolás was not sure that Malbec would be able to age. In 1989, after his father Domingo died, Nicolás put all his sorrow into trying to see if his father’s intuition was right. It took 5 years of working on the 60 year old Angélica vineyard before Nicolás was satisfied enough to make a Catena Malbec in 1994. Then came the question of which clones to plant in the new vineyards. Since there was no existing Argentine Malbec clonal selection, Nicolás decided to bring clones from Cahors, France. The French Chardonnay clones had given him his best white. But results for French Malbec clones were disappointing. They grew large berries and bunches with rustic aromas and flavors.
Nicolás set out to develop his own selection of Argentine Malbec clones planting 145 clones in the La Pirámide vineyard. Of these, he selected the best five and began to plant them in different terroirs and altitudes.
By 1994, Nicolás and his team felt that they had identified their best vineyard lots for Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec. First with Cabernet Sauvignon in 1994, Nicolás bottled a small cuvée from the oldest and most uniform lots in the La Pirámide vineyard. Three hundred cases of Catena Alta Cabernet Sauvignon were made. In 1995, Nicolás bottled his first Chardonnay from cool climate Tupungato region, sourcing the fruit from Lot 4 of the Domingo vineyard for the Catena Alta Chardonnay. The next year, in 1996, two acres of lot 18 of the Angélica vineyard produced the best Malbec, and Nicolás made his first Catena Alta Malbec.
1997 was a phenomenal Cabernet Sauvignon vintage, and Nicolás Catena started plans to make another top cuvée, a wine that would fulfill those dreams that had started in the early 1980s. The wine, named Nicolás Catena Zapata (Zapata is Nicolás’ mother’s maiden name), was a blend of 95% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Malbec. It was released in 2001 through a series of blind tastings held in the USA and Europe where it was compared blind to Château Latour, Haut Brion, Solaia, Caymus and Opus One. The Nicolás Catena Zapata 1997 came in either first or second in every tasting.
This winery makes serious wines for all levels of wine enthusiasts. The 2012 Catena Alta Chardonnay made in a classic Burgundy style floral, lemon and citrus on the palate, 12 to 16 months aged in new french oak. The acidity is perfectly balance throughout the finish.
2010 Catena Alta Malbec and Cabernet, wines that are rich in blackberry fruit, spices and luscious tannins structure on the finish.
2009 Nicolás Catena Zapata, is probably the best wine made in Argentina, 75% Cabernet and 25% Malbec. Black cherry, blackberry, spices and violets, 24 months in new French oak. A great wine for the serious wine drinkers.
The story begins in 1804 when Henri Cuvelier set out to share his great passion for fine wine with his friends of the grand bourgeoisie residing in the rich and dynamic towns of the North of France, (Lille, Boulogne Sur Mer, Arras, Valenciennes…) To this aim, he created H. Cuvelier And Fils, a wine Merchant company whose rapid success continued to develop throughout the 19th century.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Paul Cuvelier and his young brother Albert, anticipating the inevitable rise in « château-bottled wines » to the detriment of the « tailor-made » blends of the wine merchants, decided to purchase top quality estates in the Bordeaux area. They bought Château Le Crock in 1903, then Château Camensac in 1912 and finally the prestigious Château Léoville Poyferré in 1920. It is interesting to note that, in early 1914, Paul Cuvelier had already come to Argentina, to discover the wines of Mendoza. He found them « pleasant to drink » although not adapted to the French taste at that time. He recommended a watchful eye be kept on their development. In 1946, the family group asked Max Cuvelier to create a second Fine Wine Merchant’s based in Bordeaux. It was, as it transpired, essential to have an address in the Pavé des Chartrons if one wished to be part of the Bordeaux wine world. This company has since flourished both in France and around the world.
In 1998 Bertrand Cuvelier made the happy choice of personally accompanying Michel Rolland in his great Argentine project, which was to become the« Clos de Los Siete »group. Three years later, Jean-Guy Cuvelier decided to join his cousin Bertrand in the joint aim of building a Winery and producing fine wines worthy of the family tradition. The agreement between Bertrand and Jean-Guy Cuvelier was symbolically signed in the great office of their common ancestor, Henri Cuvelier, in Lille-Haubourdin, in the north of France. Since then, the Winery has been built and each year the vines of Cuvelier Los Andes have contributed 50% of their production to « Clos de Los Siete », the wine signed by Michel Rolland. The success of this wine is worldwide due to the exceptional value for money it offers.
The 2003 yield has also allowed the production of the first edition of «Cuvelier Los Andes-Coleccion». Then the 2004 harvest saw the arrival of our first edition of «Cuvelier Los Andes – Grand Vin ». With the 2005, Cuvelier Los Andes S.A., aside from its significant contribution to «Clos de Los Siete», can now present three wines, produced with the help and advice of Michel Rolland: Coleccion – Grand Vin – Grand Malbec. The quality of these wines, produced from young wines, is well beyond our original hopes. Will the Argentine cousins rival in the future with the fine wines of Bordeaux. It is for the consumers to decide. Time will tell.
A last word: We are proud to announce that the new generation has decided to join the crew, taking on the sales and marketing of the Cuvelier Los Andes S.A.
Cuvelier Los Andes is a great winery in Mendoza Argentina, led by there very talented winemaker Fedemco Bieeotto who was well trained in his craft in California and assisted by the world renown consultant Michel Rolland.
One of the reasons there wines are so fresh and vibrant is the introduction to a new wine making technique called Micro Vinification which means the winemaker put whole berry fruit in steel tank or barrel for fermentation. This technique reduces the amount of oxygen the grapes are exposed to during fermentation.
This winery make very good white wines, Viognier, and Chardonnay, but make no mistake they are a great red wine making winery. These wines aren’t your ordinary Argentina wines they are made fresh, lively and in the French style of wine making.
I tasted through several of the Cuvelier wines and the best of the best was the 2008 Cuvelier Los Andes Grand Vin “WOW” what a great wine that was powerful from the first time I smell the wine and when I put it on my palate it was explosive with fruits of blackberry, blueberry, spices, my final description as it coated my palate was “A Mouth Full of Joy”.
The wines of Viña Cobos are the result of a shared dream inspired by the passion of an American winemaker and two partners from a wine-producing culture deeply rooted in European traditions. Their founding aspiration: to produce a Malbec of power and elegance unequaled anywhere in the world. The inaugural 1999 vintage of Cobos Malbec received the highest score upon release for any Argentine wine. Since then, Paul and partners have grown their family of wines, which continue to receive even greater accolades. Cobos, Bramare, and Felino offer three tiers of exceptional Chardonnay, Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from Marchiori Vineyard 60 to 80 year old vines and other select properties within Mendoza.
Cobos Malbec represents “true north” for Viña Cobos; it is the founding inspiration for the Argentinean portfolio. It is produced only in exceptional vintages from the oldest vines (60 to 80 years) in the Marchiori Vineyard. It exhibits levels of concentration and power rarely achieved in Argentina – or in other top wine growing regions of the world – for that matter. I didn’t get the opportunity to review the Vina Cobos wines and hopefully next time I will get the opportunity to tastes these wines to let you know how good they are.
Bramare Appellation wines are sourced selected vineyard blocks to express the full lushness and personality of both the Luján de Cuyo and Valle de Uco growing regions.
I tasted through six of these wonderful wines, they are beautifully made from Malbec or Cabernet Sauvignon. These are big rich powerful wines that displays fruit of blackberry, blackcherry, cinnamon and blueberry fruit on the palete. Even though the wines are big and powerful they still possess a very elegant velvet finish.
The Felinos exhibit a great balance of pure, concentrated fruit, lively acidity and smooth tannins. Our Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Chardonnay are vibrant, mouth-filling wines that pair exceptionally well with food.
The Felino Malbec 2012, was a very easy drinking wine somewhat spicy, cinnamon and blackberry fruit, I thought it was a very good mid priced Malbec for the market
My highly anticipated journey to the Saint-Emilion region in Bordeaux, France, was to begin with a leisurely, three hour train ride from Paris in first-class. Before leaving Paris I stopped by a picturesque wine store and purchased two bottles of the local wines to enjoy on the way. I would quickly realize how fortuitous this purchase was since upon my arrival to Gare De Nrt , I discovered there were no first class seats!
I stood in the galley of the train surveying the cast of characters with whom I would share the first leg of my journey to the southwest of France: There was a retired Scotland Yard police officer, a military officer on home leave, and two other people just traveling home for holiday. Wine is a great communicator …..I offered a glass to all my galley mates, as well as the ticket collector who had been the bearer of the first-class-bad news, and thus started our journey, in true Buggs’ style!
Needless to say, once the retired police officer learned that I had just retired from the FBI after 22 years of service, we would have a very interesting conversation that allowed the three hours to pass relatively quickly! The delicious wine from southern France purchased from the local market in Paris would also help.
Finally, as we approached our destination , I asked the officer’s advice on how to travel from the train station to my hotel in Saint-Emilion. He was happy to direct me to the trolley that travels around the city…what he neglected to point out was that it stops running at 6pm and I would find myself at the train station at 7pm sharp.
As we pulled into the station, I was reminded of the movie “They Call Me Mr. Tibbs”, when Mr. Tibbs gets off the train in Mississippi back in the day. …. I seemed to be entirely alone at the station. The conductor had suggested a taxi, a normal suggestion in any other circumstance, but since there is only ONE taxi in Saint-Emilion and he was otherwise occupied far away in Bordeaux, I could sense that things were about to get interesting. Finally I called the Hotel receptionist in the likely event that they might have a vehicle available. I was told that no car was available but it was a short mile and a half and I should walk.
As an ex-athlete and wine appreciator, I thought this might be a grand idea….I felt up for a little exercise after the long train ride, and the opportunity to fully appreciate the beauty of the great city of Saint-Emilion. Sort of like killing two birds with one stone, so to speak! Perhaps it was the wine or perhaps the exhilaration of having arrived at my first destination….or perhaps even the anticipation of the comforts of my hotel at the end of the day, either way, my optimism quickly diminished when reality set in: I had a 50 pound suitcase, a backpack and two bottles of the best Champagne I had ever tasted (pictures will be enclosed), when I realized the road ahead was entirely uphill, AND made of cobblestones so deep that the wheels of my suitcase were already in protest!
Stage one of my uphill journey: I set out with a determined enthusiasm…..only to discover that I had charged off in the wrong direction. I turned around, crossed the railroad tracks again and started off again, enthusiasm level dipping only slightly. Several cars would pass me during this time and I have to admit that I was hoping – no ! even counting on – the great French hospitality toward foreigners, and ready to accept a ride even if it were by mule. But I was a black man, at night, clearly in distress and sweating profusely, but no cars, bikes or mules even slowed down for me! Despite my predicament, I couldn’t help notice the great Chateaux of Saint-Emilion in the distance and I was at least appreciative for the scenic view!
My hotel was located in the center of town, or so I thought. Upon arrival, I didn’t see my hotel immediately but did notice a Pizza establishment with some lights on that seemed to be open. I asked (in my best French –not) where this hotel was located, and in his best English (not) he pointed up the hill. All I could think of was, “NO WAY”! So started the second part of my walk….to the highest point in the town, rumbling along on the antique cobblestones….
As I mentioned earlier, I am an ex-athlete, and as such, I am aware of my physical limitations and how that can be stretched to the end by the power of the mind. Gone were the romantic thoughts of the sommelier…..this was an endurance test, requiring motivation, drive, and control. I was reminded of a quote from one of our great American Generals, “If you are going through hell, keep going”. As I had absolutely no other options, I completed this walk on sheer will power.
In closing, I was so determined to experience the true greatness and history of this wine region that this experience was but a bump on the ole cobblestone road. I finally met my friends from South Africa at the hotel, who had incidentally arrived by (my) taxi from the Bordeaux Airport. My trip was worth every step that I took to reach Saint- Emilion. I visited several great wineries including Chateau Angelus, Chateau Figeac, and Chateau Chatelet and I enjoyed the great cuisine of this wine region. And I discovered once again that perseverance pays!
Perrier Louet Belle Epoque, what a great Champagne
Nicolas Feuillatte Palmes D’Or WOW
Top of my journey, the highest point in St Emilion