Bordeaux:The new world

bordeaux,critic People & Places Articles
  • Tuesday 3 June 2008

After Steven Spurrier’s admission (left) that New World
wines make up only 1% of his cellar, Decanter
asked eight experts to each recommend five
ageworthy types to lay down next to all that
Bordeaux. Here’s what they came up with

Oz Clarke Wine writer, author and TV personality Steven’s cellar,isn’t unbalanced– if a cellar is a reflection of your taste and Steven’s errs to the classic, then why shouldn’t his do the same? But that is to underestimate Steven’s marvellously catholic view on wine. In 1976, he was the Young Turk who blew apart the selfserving oligarchy of France’s ancient wine regime. The exciting waves of change and innovation that ensued haven’t passed him by – I often taste wines from far-flung places with him – but perhaps he has been a little dilatory in his cellar selection, simply because it’s hard to beat the classics for sheer fascination.

It’s a rare pleasure to know a property through your adult life, to follow its ups and downs, triumphs and disappointments. When I do that with my smaller collection of classics, I gain a deep satisfaction no other wine types can match. The New World, by definition, has few wines with such track records, and I’d suggest to Steven that he needn’t buy whole cases – as one is inclined to do with Bordeaux or Burgundy. Most of my New World collection – which makes up a third of my treasures – is in single or double bottles. In the days before 9/11 I would normally return home weighed down by whatever had taken my fancy. Consequently, I’ve got loads of 1980s and 90s wines from Australia, New Zealand, California, South Africa and Chile. Some haven’t improved with age, but none have been dull. And I get a great thrill from being able to nip into the cellar and come out with a bottle that is probably the only one in Britain, maybe the world. You don’t believe me? How many 30-yearold New Zealand Pinotages have you got?

Oz’s five suggestions:

Grosset, Polish Hill Riesling, Clare Valley, South Australia 2007

Not just a classic Australian Riesling, but a classic Riesling by any measure. Scented and citrus now and sure to age for a generation. 2008–2025. £17.49; F&M, Lib, OzW, P&S, Smp, WFM, Wmb, You Tyrrells, Vat 1 Semillon, Hunter Valley, New South Wales, Australia 2000 A brilliant wine now passing from scrawny youth to peerless maturity, and with a flavour unlike any other in the world. 2008–2025. £20.50; HvN, Sel, Tes, Wai Tin Pot Hut, Hawkes Bay Syrah, New Zealand 2006 Syrahs from New Zealand’s Gimblett Gravels are so original, scented, savoury and sensuous they are one of the 21st century’s great creations. Who knows how long they’ll last: a decade ago they didn’t exist. 2008–2015. £12; Vll Alban Vineyards, Reva Syrah, California 2005 Steven may object to the high alcohol, but Alban makes a turbo-charged Syrah that’s wonderfully true to the memorable flavours of the northern Rhône. 2008–2015. £54; Bib, Hai, HvN, WTr Carmen, Nativa Cabernet, Maipo Valley, Chile 2005 A sop to Steven’s Bordeaux predilection. This Cabernet nods in the direction of Pauillac, then roars off in a majestic medley of blackcurrant, mint and the jumbled rocks of an Andean riverbed. 2008–2020. £8.95–£9.80; StG, Tan, Wai

JULY_p034-39 50 reasons.indd 34 19/5/08 10:18:32

Serena Sutcliffe MW

Head of Sotheby’s international wine departmentThe New World perennials in our

cellar are anything from Ridge and Grange, among the most complex and heady of wines. To us, New World mostly means California, partly because David[Peppercorn MW] and I started buying them in the late ’70s to see how they would age (amazingly well in many cases) and also because I am very involved in Sotheby’s US auctions. We have learnt that price is irrelevant – often modest,

reasonable, unfashionable names can stay the course with utmost grace.

Recent examples include Mirassou Cabernet Sauvignon Harvest Selection

1974, Firestone Cabernet Sauvignon First Harvest 1975 and Stony Hill Chardonnay 1991. We have always been fans of Kalin Cellars, the most recently consumed being a Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 1987 that I thought was mature Margaux! Every time we pull out an Opus One, it wins friends – the 1991 in magnum the other day was quintessentially California, like sinking into deep-pile carpet. Our latest Ridge was York Creek Cabernet 1982, its 20th anniversary year, with this vintage’s long hang-time giving a Bordeaux feel to the Californian spice. Of course, old Australian wines can be equally rewarding but unfortunately we have less of them and long ago finished those magical Lindemans Hunter River Rieslings (Semillons, in fact) which tasted like Laville Haut-Brion. But the other evening we did down a magnificent Tyrrell’s Hunter River Dry Red 1977 Vat 5 Winemaker’s Selection, a brilliant take on sun-kissed, leather-scented Shiraz. Many South American wines appear one-dimensional to me – I never seem to refind the thrill, decades ago, of Weinert’s old-vine Malbecs that I drank on my first visit to Buenos Aires. One asks oneself if the current high alcohol New World wines will stay the course, but I am prepared to try with Noemia from Patagonia – a total original. I just hope someone will pick me up from the floor if my experiments get the better of me. Chateau Montelena, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, USA 1999 Montelena’s Cabernets keep on delivering the goods, with no fanfare but plenty of skill and good sense. Tremendous value, too. £68–£88; Ass, BBR, F&R Colgin Cellars, Cariad, Napa Valley, California, USA 2001 Colgin boasts meticulous winemaking and exciting wines. This Bordeaux-type blend from the Madrona Ranch is my favourite. NA/UK; +1 707 963 0999

Harlan Estate, Proprietary Red, Napa Valley, California, USA 1997

This has become a classic. The 1994 is currently stupendous, totally complete

and with a satiny texture and inky, violetty fruit. £918; Tur Schubert, Block B Pinot Noir, Martinborough, New Zealand 2006 The 2003 was divine earlier this year, but the 2006 is set to arrive in the UK in June. I still think Martinborough Pinots are the most elegant in New Zealand. £27.95; Ell, NZH, Swg Two Paddocks, First Paddock Pinot Noir, Central Otago, New Zealand 2006 Great wine to satisfy the most ardent of Pinot fusspots (count me in), this rarely

produced wine is special and has a few splendid drinking years ahead. £17.78 Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Ridge and Chappellet are the Californian wines I

buy most often. In the past I have stocked some South Africans such as Hamilton Russell Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and Meerlust, Thelema, Vergelegen and Rustenberg Cabernets. Recently there’s been little or nothing from South

America – though I am a fan of Argentina’s Bodegas Caro. Leeuwin Estate, Art Series Chardonnay, Margaret River, Western Australia 2004 I don’t know of any another New World Chardonnay that has such consistently balanced precision and potency and an equilibrium that lasts while it mellows. 2011–2017. £37.50–£43.50; BdI, F&M, HoM,Maj, McF, Oxf, PlG, Vik McWilliam’s Mt Pleasant Elizabeth

Semillon, Hunter Valley, New South Wales, Australia 2000 Good Hunter Semillons start life almost like lemonade, at what seem absurdly low strengths, then fill out with a supple toasty richness that turns them almost into white Burgundies. 2008–2023. NA/UK; +61 2 4998 7505 Chappellet, Signature Cabernet Sauvignon,

Napa Valley, California, USA 2005 Hard to find, but Donn Chappellet admires Latour and has got remarkably close at times in his vineyard high on

Pritchard Hill in St Helena. From 2018. £30–£34; Hax, Wcc Henschke, Hill of Grace, Eden Valley, South Australia 2002 As dear as Grange, but an icon Aussie Shiraz (and I have a granddaughter called Grace). From 2018. £195; F&R, L&W, McF Ridge Vineyards, Monte Bello, Santa Cruz, California, USA 2004 In addition to this famed Bordeaux blend, Ridge’s Zinfandels are splendid too. And don’t forget Ridge Chardonnay. From 2018. £56–£75; Div, Evy, F&R, Quf, ScC, Smp, WnS, WSo, WWin, You

6 | J U L Y 2 0 0 8

Hugh Johnson OBE Author and world-renowned wine writer It was old wines that attracted me to the New World, old wines that gave them their sense of identity and (occasionally overdone) selfconfidence. In the 1960s in California it was the few 1940s and 1950s that were admired; in Australia in the 1970s the mature classics of such legends as Maurice O’Shea stimulated aspiration in young winemakers. I still have one or two of these ancients, and buy a scattering of new vintages of what have proved the longest-runners.

Sadly there is no New World wine I prefer to my European favourites for regular drinking. We have fifty times the variety in Europe. I fear Steven feels the same.

How much from the New World do I have in my cellar? About 80 bottles,

ranging from the 1970s (Napa, Barossa) to 2003, plus recent samples which I

nearly always find over-alcoholic. There is a special niche in my cellar

for Hunter Semillon, a featherweight style without parallel elsewhere.

Elsewhere from Australia I am glad to have Yarra Chardonnays, occasional

Coonawarra Cabernets and both varieties from Margaret River. And Rutherglen

stickies, of course. From New Zealand I buy a little Hawkes Bay and Waiheke

Cabernet, Milton Chardonnay from Gisbourne, and Central Otago.

Frank Prial Former wine critic For The New York Times My cellar, half of it American, reflects a previous nomadic lifestyle. There are about 500 bottles in my proper cellar in New Jersey, a few cases in Paris, some bottles at my old office at The New York Times and still a few others, I hope, in a warehouse in Oakland. Had I but world enough and time, in Andrew Marvell’s words, I’d include

wines from Franschhoek, Tasmania, British Columbia and maybe even Long

Island in my suggestions for Steven’s cellar, but I love the US West Coast, so

will stick to those wines. I must admit that my chances of ever drinking much of these recommended bottles myself are minuscule. Like Pétrus and Romanée-Conti, many US wines – reds in particular – are becoming millionaires’ wines. That is, unless you are on the winery list and can buy direct, though these days, one must get on a list to get on the list. As for Steven, I’m sure most of these wineries would love to have a bottle or two of their wines nestling snugly in his cave.

Dominus Estate, Proprietary Red, Napa Valley, California, USA 2004 Christian Moueix tears himself away from Pétrus just often enough to insure that his California wine retains the elegance and restraint that one would expect to find in a great Bordeaux. California fruit from a Pomerol point of view. £47–£57; BdI, Evy, Far, Nsn, Sec Quilceda Creek, Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington, USA 2004 Washington’s still little-known wines can be attractively angular, with little California corpulence. Like this beauty, which has exceptional power and intensity. Quilceda Creek’s winemaker-owner Alexander Golitzen is a nephew of legendary US wine guru André Tchelistcheff. £156; Tur Ridge Vineyards, Monte Bello, Santa Cruz, California, USA 2004 Most know Ridge for its Zinfandels, but this Cab-dominant blend has been a Califonia classic for decades. The word I always associate with Monte Bello is long. It takes a long time to come around and has a long finish. Muscular and intense. £56–£75; Div, Evy, F&R, Quf, ScC, Smp, WnS, WSo, WWin, You Shafer Vineyards, Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon, Stag’s Leap District, Napa Valley, California, USA 2003 Hillside Select is aged for a full four years, three in oak and one in bottle.

The extra time means a near-perfect evocation of superb fruit and soft tannins in a wine that will last for decades. Robert Parker said he can’t remember a poor one; neither can I. £174.48; F&R Williams Selyem, Westside Road

Neighbors Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, California, USA 2005

The ‘neighbors’ are the vineyards that supply the grapes for this dark, complex,

Gevrey-like Pinot. Williams and Selyem are no longer in the cellar but the wine still tastes hand-crafted. Perhaps the most sought-after of all the California

Pinots. NA/UK; +1 707 433 6425

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Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Ridge and Chappellet are the Californian wines I buy most often. In the past I have stocked some South Africans such as Hamilton Russell Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and Meerlust, Thelema, Vergelegen and

Rustenberg Cabernets. Recently there’s been little or nothing from South

America – though I am a fan of Argentina’s Bodegas Caro. Leeuwin Estate, Art Series Chardonnay, Margaret River, Western Australia 2004 I don’t know of any another New World Chardonnay that has such consistently balanced precision and potency and an equilibrium that lasts while it mellows. 2011–2017. £37.50–£43.50; BdI, F&M, HoM, Maj, McF, Oxf, PlG, Vik

McWilliam’s Mt Pleasant Elizabeth Semillon, Hunter Valley, New South Wales, Australia 2000 Good Hunter Semillons start life almost like lemonade, at what seem absurdly low strengths, then fill out with a supple toasty richness that turns them almost into white Burgundies. 2008–2023.

NA/UK; +61 2 4998 7505 Chappellet, Signature Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, USA 2005 Hard to find, but Donn Chappellet

admires Latour and has got remarkably close at times in his vineyard high on

Pritchard Hill in St Helena. From 2018. £30–£34; Hax, Wcc Henschke, Hill of Grace, Eden Valley, South Australia 2002 As dear as Grange, but an icon Aussie

Shiraz (and I have a granddaughter called Grace). From 2018. £195; F&R, L&W, McF Ridge Vineyards, Monte Bello, Santa Cruz, California, USA 2004 In addition to this famed Bordeaux blend, Ridge’s Zinfandels are splendid too. And don’t forget Ridge Chardonnay. From 2018. £56–£75; Div, Evy, F&R, Quf, ScC, Smp, WnS, WSo, WWin, You Vincent Gasnier MS Sommelier, author and consultant Some years ago, when I arrived in the UK from France, it was a surprise to learn that South Africa was a large wine producer – God had not given France the exclusive right to make wine!

Now, of course, I know that there are many wonderful New World wines, many of which can be laid down to improve. Have I ever been disappointed? Of course! Some New World wines are greatly overpriced, the result of marketing strategies which try to set them up as an exclusive brand or boutique wine. Many mature far too quickly to be cellared. So how do you go about choosing New World wines to cellar? Microclimate and especially the producer will be crucial – do your homework before you buy. The alcohol also needs to balance the fruit, so if it’s a big wine with little alcohol when young, the acid, fruit and tannin will become overpowering with age, while a Pinot Noir at 15% will feel too hot if its fruit and structure fades over time. Although there are hundreds of wines to choose from at every budget level, it’s important to choose the grape varieties with ageing potential.

My cellar is made up of 35% to 40% New World wines, and most of these are Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and, to a lesser extent, Pinot Noir. I find vintages matter less with New World wines but the country, grape and producer will be very important. And what about screwcaps? I originally thought such wines would not improve in bottle, but Bonny Doon’s Le Cigare Volant has a screwcap, and after six years in my cellar it was stunning, and still veryfresh. Although it would break my heart to see Latour with a screwcap, I am a great believer in them, and their role in preserving wine quality.

Peter Michael Winery, Point Rouge Chardonnay, Calistoga, California, USA 2005

This has a perfect balance and good acidity in the Chassagne-Montrachet

style. 2008–2015. £172–£203; F&R, VCl, Bodegas Catena Zapata, Catena Alta Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina 2004 This is a superb wine with bags of fruit,

but also good alcohol, tannin and acid structure. 2008–2014. £24.95–£29.95; Bib, Hai, Har, Wbc, WDi, WMn Glaetzer Wines, Amon-Ra, Barossa Valley,

South Australia 2006 This is a big monster of a Shiraz. Very compact but already velvety. 2013–2014 £30–£45; Cdn, Cmb, F&R, GWW, JEB, OzW, PrV, Swg, WCw Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Fay Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, USA 2004 This has the Napa Valley signature with great elegance and a soft finish. Superb value. 2008–2014. £47.50–£56.70; Fah, WTr Joseph Phelps Vineyards, Insignia, Napa Valley, California, USA 2004 This is the prestige wine from the first Californian winery to make a Bordeaux blend under a proprietary label. It offers complexity, richness and attractive fruit in a velvety texture. A classic to rival the French, with a great potential for ageing. 2013–2026. £120.45; PrC ➢

PHOTOGRAPHS: THOMAS SKOVSENDE(2); DEBBIE ROWETim Atkin MW Wine critic for The Observer You’re being a little hard on yourself, Steven, but you’re right that 1.26% is a meagre showing for the New World. I reckon the comparable figure for my cellar would be 25%. Also significant is that the average price of the New World bottles (and their subsequent value for money) is considerably lower than the French, Italian and German wines that dominate my collection. As far as age-worthy New World wines are concerned, I buy a small number of specific things: Australian Rieslings (Grosset, Lehmann, Howard Park, Yalumba), New Zealand Pinot Noirs (Ata Rangi, Felton Road, Bald Hills, Neudorf), cool-climate Australian Shiraz (Clonakilla, Yarra Yering) and Argentinian Malbecs (Pulenta, O Fournier, Achaval Ferrer, Trapiche Single Vineyard). And I’ve got bits and pieces of other things – California Zinfandel, Cape Chenin (Ken Forrester, Raats Cellars and Teddy Hall), Cape Syrah (TMV, BWC and Boekenhoutskloof), some Kiwi and Aussie Chardonnays (Yattarna, Tapanappa, Kumeu River, Cullen, Shaw & Smith and Neudorf) and some reds from Chile (Matetic EQ Syrah and Antiyal). I’m not a New World Cabernet drinker, so can’t help you there, but you’ll love these five. Mesh, Eden Valley, South Australia 2006 This shows the huge cool-climate potential of Aussie Riesling. £13.49–£16.49; AGW, AVW, AWO, Evy, F&M, Jer, Nid, PlG, Rsv TMV, Syrah, Swartland, South Africa 2006 Rhône-style Syrah with real elegance and perfume. £12.35; RdW, WaD Pulenta Estate, Gran Corte, Mendoza, Argentina 2005 An ageworthy, full-flavoured Bordeaux blend from one of Mendoza’s star names. £14.50–£19.50; BBR, But, Evy, WnW, You Neudorf, Moutere Pinot Noir, Nelson, New Zealand 2005 Tim and Judy Finn’s top Pinot is consistently one of New Zealand’s most sophisticated. £26–£29; Btl, F&M, RdW, You Yarra Yering, Dry Red No. 2, Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia 2005 A complex take on Côte-Rôtie, complete with a little Viognier. £34; BBR,

Far JULY_Roger Jones Owner, The Harrow at Little Bedwyn, Decanter Restaurant of the Year My interest in Australian wines started way before we set up the restaurant 10 years ago – 30% of our 900-bin list is now Australian. We hold vertical years of many iconic wines and have more than 150 cases in our cellar. We’re searching for more wines from cooler climate areas and recently visited Tasmania and the Great Southern, where the new breed of premium wines are coming from. Our sales of Australian dry Rieslings are way ahead of any other white wine. The great bonus for ageing these is the low opening cost and, with 99% under screwcap, you have a guarantee they will be in perfect condition. Tasmanian Pinot and South Australian Semillon are other good ageworthy screwcap options.

I’ve certainly invested badly in other countries, especially France and Italy, but can truthfully say that everything that I have invested in from Australia has shone, with Cabernet Sauvignon from the 1990s doing particularly well. Moss Wood, Chardonnay, Margaret River, Western Australia 2005 Classic, world-class Chardonnay from a region that produces many other stars. Keith Mugford is hitting a new high in quality. 2015–2025. £22.50; Jer, Lay Pewsey Vale, The Contours Museum Release Riesling, Eden Valley, South Australia 2002 The benefit is that this is already six years old on release. I recently drank a very fine Eden Valley Riesling from the 1970s under screwcap which shows that stelvin works. 2009–2030. £12.50–£15.95; BWC, Evy, Jer, YouMerricks Creek, Close-Planted Pinot Noir, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria, Australia 2005 Met Peter Parker in his tiny vineyard last year; his 2004 vintage was a Dujac Charmes-Chambertin in disguise. 40% whole-bunch pressing gives it an intense, perfumed aroma. 2009–2016 £33; CeD Mitolo, Savitar, McLaren Vale, South Australia 2006 I list more than 50 Australian Shirazes, with Ben Glaetzer as one of the rock stars. This sublime wine oozes class and evolves into a silky textured, perfectly balanced wine that is sheer perfection. From 2012. £28.15–30.52; AVW, Evy, Far, Lib, N&P, WSr Moss Wood, Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River, Western Australia 2004 One of the finest Cabernets in the world. Proven star which ages for decades. As close to first growth Bordeaux as you will get. 2014 -2034. £36–£43; Jer, LayJames Hocking Group wine director for Californian specialist retailer Vineyard Cellars California and the New World make up 75% of my cellar, built up over the past 15 years.

Disappointments have been few and my impression is that Californian wine has great ageing potential. My cellar is designed to give drinking pleasure now and in many years to come and, essentially, I tend to focus on specific regions for specific varietals. For Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley rules! Oakville, for me, has the best wines in terms of finesse, character and ageability but I also have a soft spot for Diamond Mountain, particularly Diamond Creek Vineyards – a beautiful site crafting bottles that really helped me understand what all the terroir fuss was about. My desert-island Pinot Noir comes from the Sonoma Coast and I love the Chardonnays from Knights Valley and Russian River. In terms of style, I have always favoured leaner, high-acid vintages such as 2002 and 2005, and have an intense dislike of over-oaked, confected wines (2001 being guilty in some styles such as Chardonnay). My thoughts over the years lead me to believe that California is a producer-led, rather than a vintage-led area. Find a winery you like and stick with it is a philosophy that has worked well for me. I have no issues with high alcohol – 15% and more is fine with me, so long as balance is achieved. Darioush Viognier, Napa Valley, California, USA 2006 I discovered Darioush Khaledi’s wines last year and have been really impressed. The acidity will keep this Viognier fresh for a good few years – they are some of the brightest around. 2009-2012. £19.53; VCl

Littorai, Charles Heintz, Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, California, USA 2005 Sonoma is California’s best area for delicate and structured Chardonnay and

Pinot Noir. Ted Lemon is a great producer, whose lean, balanced Chardonnays have considerable ageing potential. 2010-2016.

£40.11–£43.55; Arm Morlet Family Vineyards, Proportion D’Orée, Sonoma County, California, USA 2006 Luc Morlet, winemaker at Peter Michael for some years, is now making wine under his own label, and what an entrance he’s made with this blend of Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle. Elegant and crisp, I’ll be

drinking this for a good few years yet. 2010-2015. £30.65; Har

Pax Cellars, Cuvée Christine Syrah, Sonoma County, California, USA 2005 My best find in the past five years and the only serious alternative to great Hermitage or Côte-Rôtie. Powerful but restrained, this Syrah is one of the greats.

2012-2020. £46.41–£50.39; Swg Rudd Estate, Crossroads Cabernet

Sauvignon, Oakville, California, USA 2004 My favourite part of Napa and a great

estate. Still youthful, this Cabernet will be continuing to impress well into the next decade with it’s brooding rich fruit and huge length. 2010-2020. £47.50; WaD For full UK stockists turn to p10

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