Something about Bordeaux & Burgundy
A couple of things happened recently. Firstly I went to Beaune for the Hospices de Beaune Wine Auction Weekend1. It was an interesting affair, basically back to back long lunches and late dinners, in the company of other importers and merchants from around the world, thanks to the seemingly endless hospitality of Burgundy grandee Jean-Pierre Nie. Four days in Beaune, culminating in a long dinner for 600, yes six-hundred, guests at Chateau du Clos de Vougeot.
A few weeks before that I went to the big Institute of Masters of Wine, yearly Bordeaux Wine Tasting. It was the 2019 vintage, and a majority of the first growth estates were there, alongside around 120 other Bordeaux wines. Also a slightly ridiculous affair.
Both events however opposite they may be, proved worthwhile in their own weird way.
The IMW Bordeaux Tasting
The Vintners Hall is just a 15 minutes on a Brompton from Green Park. You barely need to get your brogues and red cords damp in the November rain before you’re left to wait outside while the first session finishes.
The tasting is one of the only organised Bordeaux events where a good number of the First Growth (FG) properties have their wines open to taste. This year was the turn of the 2019 vintage, a jumble of MW’s, MW students and members of Joe Public all politely jostling for bottles.
There’s a section for St Emilion and Pomerol, and then a room full of left bank regions, and excepting the First Growths, the tables are free pour tastings. All very civilised, a little splash of this, a smidge of that.
There’s also plenty of MW’s on hand busily replacing empty bottles.
I kicked off with a whip around the right bank, and there was a top selection of estates, Figeac, Canon, Troplong Mondot, Pavie Macquin, Clinet and l’Evangile, all fantastic. Then moved onto the left bank sub regions. 2019 is really ripe, silky and fruit forward across the region.
The FG table was attended, you had to get your card stamped for one allocated taster per person. There was Haut-Brion, Margaux, Lafite, Angelus and Cheval Blanc2.
The White Horse and The Angel both ticking the “opted-out-right-bank-premier-first-grand-cru-classe-class-A classification” boxes, but only after these 2019 wines were made, obviously. Keep up. Meanwhile less than 3 feet away, was at least 4 unattended bottles of the post-2022-reclassification-de-facto St Emilion top dog Ch Figeac.
It’s easy to say there were some great wines in the room, because there was. But it’s just as easy to say most of them are really fucking expensive for what they are. Very lovely, young wines that could get better, but who knows.
My general opinion of the 2019 vintage, correlates with that of which I’ve read subsequently, which is that the wines are pretty fantastic. Silky, vibrant, upfront and already complex yet approachable, dense yet alive. Delicious now as well, I’d gladly smash my way through a bottle of Cos d’Estournel 2019 if you handed it to me tomorrow.
Still what do I know? I got a message of someone who’d ben at a different Bordeaux tasing recently who thought the 19’s were a bit stalky. Ho Hum.
As you asked; My top picks were Langoa as ever, Batailley, Cos, Figeac. The list writes itself really. I’d take any of those over the FG table if I was paying. I’ll never get the hype, but they keep the wine world spinning around.
Bordeaux pops up pretty often in tasting exams, so regardless of their relevance, regardless of their cost, age-worthiness, and style, I need to know how to spot a St Julien from a Pauillac.
A Ridiculous Few Days in Burgundy
Before we get into this, best to say upfront; This trip was a freebie and I’m very gracious for the invite and hospitality of Tony & Robert at Hayward Bros for asking me along.
We spent a few days visiting some of Hayward Bros Burgundy agencies and growers, Jaffelin, Bachey-Legros and Alain Chavy were highlights for me, all really very good producers and making really quite special wines.
From a study perspective, I gathered more case study info in three visits that I did in the rest of the trip, and more than I have done for a long time from a podcast or a website.
SO. The Hospices des Beaune is a big, old beautiful hospital, and they have a massive charity auction there each year. Big Hospital. Auction. Pretty much the reason we were in the town of Beaune. Beaune. Hospital, Big Auction.
Strolling through Beaune on the first evening we were there, I pointed out the internationally renowned auctioneer Sotheby’s logo on a gazebo outside a big beautiful old building, in Beaune and said, OUT LOUD… “Ohhh, are Sotheby's doing something in town?”.
Tony calmly explained that is precisely why we were in town, outside the big beautiful old Hospital. That’s pretty much how the few days started and finished.
After the work/buying/study bits were done, we then spent three solid days of long lunches, brief strolls, bus journeys and late, even longer dinners. If you’ve ever been on a classic wine-trade wine trip, you know what I mean, but at the culmination of the lunches and dinners, I was overwhelmed.
On Friday night, a couple of us opted out of the long-seafood dinner and went for a beer and some chips in Beaune which was welcome respite. The buzz and hubbub in town was fab, so manny people drinking some of the best wines in the world with the abandon a Freshers’s week payday.
The last big dinner at Chateau de Clos du Vougeot, was the black-tie dinner. I’m not a black-tie guy, and fitting in isn’t my strong point. I wasn’t quite dressed appropriately, and I think out of 600 guests, I was the only person not in a dress, without a bow-tie on3.
The Chateau is no longer a winery, but now owned by the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin. It hosts numerous ‘table d'hôte’ dinners, the Hospices event being the biggest in the yearly calendar.
The food was endless, the hospitality on-point and the culture and history of events like this remain relevant to a world of wine that they’re still in sync with. Napkin waving, speeches, folk group sing alongs, a sense of pride in tradition, and a nostalgia for the here and now.
I’m glad I got the chance to go. It’s really something you have to experience to understand.
Bordeaux or Burgundy
Because these two regions are fundamental to the wine world, but other than both making wine they are polar opposites culturally and stylistically.
I’d pick Burgundy any day of the week.
Now known as HdBWAW
Notable exception for Labour and Mouton.
One gracious host in a red and gold robe politely handed me a ‘spare’ bow-tie kept aside for those who may have misplaced theirs.