Jonathan Ray – The Saturday Telegraph Weekend Magazine: Top Deals This Week
Chateau Les Eymeries
“Château Les Eymeries, Absurdly good value this . . . One of the classic recent vintages, it’s full flavoured and fruity, with sturdy tannins and structure but an underlying subtlety and suppleness too. Classy claret for the price, it’s ready to drink now with Sunday roasts etc but will keep.”
Jonathan Ray, The Telegraph – Top 10 French Wines – Jonathan Ray’s favourite wines . . .
Chateau Roques de Mauriac Rose
This blend of 60 percent merlot and 40 percent cabernet franc from Entre Deux Mers in Bordeaux is a beguiling rosy pink with elusive hints of wild strawberries on the nose. Light and understanding rather then full bodied and characterful, it is crisp, dry and very refreshing when serves chilled, either as an aperitif or with simple starters of smoked salmon or parma ham.
Andrew Barrow, Spittoon
Chateau Les Tonnelles
More banging on from me about how we should look to the independent merchant for the more interesting wines – small producers, interesting flavours, unknown grapes etc etc but such purchases do not have to be the idiosyncratic, often you just need something decent and mainstream but still retaining that small producer mentality. Very French (for which read Bordeaux) in style and structure – the aroma has a lovely fruity edge that needs a little teasing (swirl/decant) to really reveal itself – don’t forget that aroma offers so much to the overall enjoyment of wine – is that blackcurrant, blackberry, leaves, undergrowth?
Theo, 50 Connect
In preparing this article my mood became almost as gloomy as the wintry weather that’s still dogging us. As I surveyed the wine aisles of the major supermarkets and wine merchants, courtesy of my laptop, I was struck by how many are persisting with Sauvignon, Chardonnay and very little else – hardly sensational.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m fond of both these varietals. Chardonnay in particular can be thrilling if not given so much oak that it can be churned – as with the Montagnac Chardonnay for instance.
Mike Tipping, The Press, Tipping’s Tipples
I liked the approachable and affordable Château Puyanché, with its smooth tannins and lightly spiced plum and raspberry fruit.
The Journal, Helen Savage
Mail order specialists Bordeaux Undiscovered have found another good red Bordeaux that’s so modestly priced it’s hard to see where they make a profit.
Château Puyanche is a Merlot-dominated blend from rolling limestone hills of the Côtes de Castillon, the eastern-most and prettiest part of the Bordeaux region. Wines from the Côtes de Castillon have been good for many years, but they have suddenly become all the rage. This is a deepish ruby red with a typically ripe, soft, brambly smell with a touch of spice. It has plenty of fruit and an attractively firm tannic structure. It’s a really good chunky little claret and a snip at the price.
Andrew Barrow, Spittoon – Three Wines from France: The Montagnac Range
“Judging an independent wine merchant on its cheapest wines is a great indication of the overall care the merchant puts into its overall range. It is relatively easy to list great wines at the £10/£20/£30 price range but much harder to find something exclusive that is not one of the huge brands available from everywhere else. If consideration has been given to the most basic of wines you should trust the choices at higher prices too.
All are available from Bordeaux-Undiscovered.co.uk run by the able hands, and discerning palate, of Nick Stephens.
Montagnac Chardonnay , For those who relish the smooth, unoaked style of Chardonnay. Abounds with crisp apple, citrus and pear flavours with a nice little sherbet bite on the finish. Lovely drinking on its own but made for a great combination when served with (Waitrose) Fish Skewers with Thai Spices – Thai Style Salmon and Cod fish Patties lightly spiced with fresh coriander, lime and chili, served with a sweet chili and soy dipping sauce. (I should mention that the dipping sauce killed the wine as it would with almost anything bar water and beer! The sauce itself was terrible to burnt in flavour and very glutinous). Alcohol 13.5%. Scribblings Rating – 90/100 [3.75 out of 5]
Montagnac Sauvignon Blanc, Produced by a small co-operative that dates back to the 1930’s; their vineyards stretch from the banks of the Thau Lagoon to the foothills of the mountains on the right bank of the River Herault. Not a gooseberry in slight on this lemon-juice coloured wine. The palate is distinctly crisp with an element of smoke and flint. Soft, supple and easy to drink. Nice mineral-led finish. Alcohol 13%. [See also The Spirit World] Scribblings Rating – 86/100 [3.25 out of 5]
Montagnac Merlot This held my interest right the way through an easy mid-week meal of herby sausage and tomato sauce topping a pile of steaming pasta. Good concentration but again, easy drinking, with soft black fruits, chocolate and coffee complexity. A good pleasing finish. Alcohol 13%. Scribblings Rating – 88/100 [3.5 out of 5] “
Clive Platman, The Birmingham Post, Food & Drink “How A Career Change Lead To The Fine Wines of Bordeaux!”
Château Chadeuil – A cracking Merlot-based claret with delicious black-cherry and blackberry fruit, lifted with a hint of mocha. Supple, lithe and incredible value.
Chateau Puyanche – Cotes de Castillon – From a good-value appellation immediately to the east of St Emilion. Still tight, just decant an hour or two before serving to deliver delicious plum, leather and silky tannins.
Domaine de Ricaud Bordeaux Clairet – Uncommon in the UK, a clairet is a deeper-hued rosé, benefiting from long skin contact with the juice. Fuller on, this gave deep flavours of plum infused with spice.
Chateau Laures Entre-Deux-Mers – A white-only AOC that can deliver a class, crisp and purely herbaceous style, with great concentration of flavour. This ticks the box.
Seconde Collard Blanc de Noirs Grand Cru Champagne – A full-blown, powerful driven Pinot from a top grower in Bouzy with flavours of brioche, raspberry, chocolate and breadcrumbs, shot through with keen minerality. Try too the Grande Reserve and Vintage 1998.
La Fleur Morange 2001 – Right Bank claret at the top of its game. Perfectly poised, it had menthol, black cherry, tobacco and leather, retaining cool freshness throughout. Still young, is immensely complex. A world-class wine, worth the asking price.
Talking Heads, Off Licence News – Excerpts from Interview with Nick:
“When did you first develop a passion for wine?”
“When my father brought wine back from foreign business trips. We used to have a glass with a Sunday roast in the days when it was considered posh to have a wine on the table – how things have changed!”
“What tasting note best sums up your personality?”
“Easy to drink with solid traits one would expect from a good vintage. Fruity bordering on cheekiness, with the complexity of a well-matured blended wine, and sophistication and elegance showing through at times. A wine for all seasons.”
“What’s the most underrated and overrated wine in the UK market?”
“Most underrated is Château La Fleur Morange and most overrated are mass-produced wines by E&J Gallo and Blossom Hill.”
“If you could change one thing about the drinks industry, what would it be?”
“I’d introduce educational and informative labelling of product content, replicating food labelling so consumers know exactly what they are drinking.”
Clive Platman, Best Cellars, Food & Drink (Select Living), Birmingham Post
“From Bordeaux, Chateau Chadeuil is an amazing find, with delicious black-cherry fruit infused with mocha. Sold by the mail-order specialists www.bordeaux-undiscovered.co.uk (0800 8766958).”
The Journal, Helen Savage
Chateau Chadeuil and Clos Bernasse
“Talking of bargains, it’s some achievement to offer good quality claret – red Bordeaux -at such a good price, but that’s what ‘Bordeaux Undiscovered’ have done with Chateau Chadeuil . It’s a Merlot-dominated blend with a ripe, spicy, plummy smell and a chewy, brambly taste. Another goodie from the same on-line shop (www.bordeaux-undiscovered.co.uk ) also much took my fancy: Clos Bernasse, Côtes de Bergerac 1999, made by keen amateur cellist Jacques Blais. The wine is soft and fully mature, a style you don’t often find in the shops, with a perfumed plum and eucalyptus smell with a hint of figs; France is still the wine producer to beat.”
The Daily Telegraph – Jonathan Ray
“I’ve no idea why this is so cheap, but cheap it is and well worth snapping up. A blend of 60 per cent Merlot, 20 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon and 20 per cent Cabernet Franc from a fine vintage, this AC Bordeaux could give far better-known clarets a run for their money. Serve with confidence at dinner parties; nobody need know how little you paid.”
“Smaller wine merchants have reacted more quickly to customers’ need for less alcoholic wines. Nearly half of Bordeaux Undiscovered wines have an alcoholic strength of 12% or under. Owner and ex-chef Nick Stephens believes “higher alcohol wines fight with the food”. “You end up not enjoying the food or the wine. A wine with lower alcohol levels tastes fruitier and it brings out the flavours of many foods.”
Nick enjoys drinking his wine as well as selling it – “I want to enjoy wine: I don’t just want a glass, I want three” – but finds it difficult to drink more than one glass of highly alcoholic wine as they “burn as they go down”. “To me drinking high alcohol wines are like drinking spirits: they numb the mouth and close the taste buds down.” He adds “Would you drink scotch with your roast sirloin of beef?”
The Scotsman – Rose Murray Brown
Cremant d’Alsace NV Joseph Pfister
“Sparkling Company – Lime blossom aromas, very creamy deep fruits, good finish for the price.”
The Independent – Anthony Rose
Bordeaux and good value are not always comfortable bedfellows, but there were a couple of oxymoron-defying examples, a herbal, blackcurrantly Chateau Chadeuil, a discovery at Bordeaux Undiscovered.
The Daily Telegraph – Jonathan Ray
Top wine deals this week
Château Les Graves de Barrau
A complete and utter steal from the Bordeaux specialists to be grabbed while stocks last: a fully mature claret blended from 60 per cent merlot and 20 per cent each of cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc. Soft, smooth and mellow, with velvety tannins and a touch of gravelly earthiness, it is delicious with garlic roast lamb or save it for the Christmas turkey (but don’t keep it for much longer).
Domaine de Ricaud Bordeaux Clairet
Clairet is a full bodied style of Rose particular to Bordeaux and if the name sounds familiar, that’s probably because it was the most common style of Bordeaux enjoyed in England until the 18th century – hence the name claret. It has a distinctive rich colour and a ripe strawberry nose. On the palate it’s brimming with lovely round red fruits – cherries and a hint of rose petals; summer in a glass, great value too.
Andrew Barrow – Spittoon
Le Roc du Chateau Pellebouc
Food magazine Delicious gave away, as with many other magazines, a 2009 calender with a recent issue. Each month displays a recipe, tuned to the season. What fun, thought I, to challenge my food and wine tasting ‘skills’ in recreating the recipe each month and selecting a wine to accompany. Here then is a wine, a Bordeaux red to accompany January’s Baked Venison Sausages with Lentils (recipe on SpittoonExtra).
Smooth, rounded, nicely textured. A blend of Merlot (90%) ‘for its roundness and balance’ plus a little Cabernet Sauvignon (10%) ‘to add to the body’. Deeply coloured with flavours of red fruits plus hints of spice. None of that tart, hollow, dusty-dryness you can find in cheaper Bordeaux reds – this has good fruit, a firm structure and lends itself nicely to the food in question; very nicely in fact.
Andrew BarrowScribblings Rating – 88/100 [3.5 out of 5]
Andrew Barrow, The Guardian
Everything’s Coming Up Rose
Domaine du Ricaud Bordeaux Clairet
All the retailers I spoke to yesterday were very positive about the continuing growth or switch to rosés. Bordeaux-Undiscovered, run by importer Nick Stephens, said his figures corresponded roughly with the report, with sales of rosé wines increasing 40% during 2008. Perhaps the trend is edging towards ‘almost reds’. Stephens said his darker rosés, including a delightful Domain Ricaud Clairet 2005, that saw sales increase by 53%.
Andrew Barrow – Spittoon
M de Malle
A touch of class here – from the blossom and wax aroma through to the ‘tinged with the exotic’ palate. A combination of softness, a gentle rounded mouthfeel with a complex wax and citrus burst on the finish. Dry. That citric burst finality comes complete with a hint of herb and a gravelly texture.
The wax references are courtesy of the Semillon component in the wine, the addition of which also tempers the forcefulness of the majority Sauvingon adding a touch of richness along the way. The blend, for those like me fascinated by such wine geekery, is 70% Sauvignon Blanc and 30% Semillon. Alcohol 13.5%.
Is there also a hint of tarragon in the wine or is that just the mouth-watering aromas eminating from the kitchen? For Bordeaux Undiscovered recommend M de Malle Graves with chicken in a Tarragon Sauce to accompany. Rather than frying chicken breasts a hole poisson, stuffed with fresh tarragon was roasted and served with a sauce of chicken stock, roasting juices and Dijon mustard. A delicious match.
Nick Stephens, MD of Bordeaux Undiscovered, has a great report on the company blog of Chateau de Malle (an actual Chateau dating from the 17th century, more famous perhaps for its Sauternes and Italian style gardens rather than its white wines) in addition to the recipe details.
Andrew Barrow, The Observor
Domaine du Ricaud Bordeaux Clairet
The Rise of Rose
The bottle that Rob enjoyed so much, behind closed curtains obviously, was Domaine de Ricaud Bordeaux Clairet from one of the nether regions of the Entre-deux-Mers.
On a man-acceptance scale this (colour aside), is right up there. Dry and delicious with or without food, it’s a classic Claret (the ultimate real man’s wine) blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (50%), Merlot (35%) and Cabernet Franc (15%); a classic Bordeaux spread but made to be a rosé rather than a red. Someone at least has been listening to what the British consumer really wants and has responded with a wine of excellent structure, fresh, clean flavours that end with raspberry jelly that also has a gorgeous mouth-feel and surprisingly good length.
Ned Halley, The Western Daily Press, Today’s Tipple
Domaine du Ricaud Bordeaux Clairet
The first to mention is Domaine de Ricaud Clairet is a Bordeaux name for rose, made by keeping the juice on the skins just long enough to impart a nice pink hue, and lots of character and flavour, too. This wine is a vivid magenta colour, smells of fruit blossom and is packed with strawberry-blackcurrant flavour. It is crunchy fresh, yet long on the finish. Easily the best rose I have tasted this year, it’s simply delicious.
Les Graves du Barrau
Bordeaux, of course, did not make its name selling pink wines. It’s claret, the region’s red, that did it, and Nick has a nifty choice. Chateau Les Graves de Barrau tastes well above its price level, still vigorously fresh and brambly in spite of its maturity, it’s claret the way the French like it. Nick recommends decanting it, and I agree.
Chateau Les Tonnelles
Chateau Les Tonnelles is a big, bold red with dark fruit typical of its origin, the commune of Fronsac. I agree with Nick that the wine has a hint of blueberry, and that it will suit drinkers who like the upfront style of Australian red wine.
The dry white wines of Bordeaux are much-loved by the French, but largely overshadowed by New World competition here. Nick has some fine examples, such as Chateau Laures, made from the region’s traditional blend of sauvignon blanc and semillon grapes, richly coloured with a floral perfume and fresh, slaking fruit. This is a fine, delicate wine to drink either as an aperitif or with grilled fish.
Andrew Barrow, Spittoon
The Semillon really comes though on the nose giving a lovely herby touch to the lemon-citrus that dominates. Palate is nicely rich and full with a slight spritz and good acidity balancing it all out. A honeyed touch to the lemony complexity all melds together wonderfully.
Clive Platman Birmingham Plus
Champagne Blanc de Noirs Brut
Secondé-Collard Blanc de Noirs Brut NV
Whilst a “Blanc de Blancs” Champagne will be exclusively Chardonnay, a Blanc de Noirs can be a combination of the two black varieties, Pinots Meunier and Noir. Chardonnay gives structure and finesse, whereas Pinot Noir provides richness and power. Pinot Meunier, the least well-regarded, offers red fruits and is faster maturing. It is therefore used as the backbone of cheaper supermarket blends.
Secondé-Collard are growers in Bouzy, on the south-east corner of the Montagne de Reims, which is famous for Pinot Noir. This cuvee is from a Grand Cru vineyard, meaning it is 100% Pinot Noir, as no Pinot Meunier vineyards qualify for Grand Cru status.
As expected, this was full and rich, but had an off-putting sulphurous note. Nevertheless, there was a minerally fresh quality as the wine broadened on the palate to give raspberry and chocolate flavours.
Theo – 50 Connect: Barbecue Bliss
Montagnac Cabernet Sauvignon
This remarkable little wine offers you masses of sweetly toned blackcurrants – just the thing to off-set the charcoal bitterness – with touches of green pepper and herbs.
Easy drinking and fun, this is a wine that will have your guests coming back for more.
Andrew Barrow – Spittoon
Fleur de Luze
Who ever makes scampi at home? A dish one may assume is now relegated to certain “family” restaurants and frozen ready meals. Of course the home-made version is leagues ahead of any ready-meal.
The inspiration for a little home deep-frying was a recommendation by Bordeaux Undiscovered in the press pack they supplied with a few samples. The match, Scampi with Tartare Sauce and this Bordeaux Sauvignon Blanc was sensational and highly recommended.
Wine Tasting Note: Fleur de Luze, Bordeaux, France.
Stockist: Bordeaux Undiscovered [More on UKWOL]
Fresh, light, gently grassy, lemony and refreshing. Hints of lime, grapefruit, apple and just a smidge of orange.
And simply THE best match for scampi – or in my case deep-fried, breaded prawns. Even handling the spiky tartare sauce wth aplom. Not being as forcefull as, say,a New Zealand, Sauvignon or as minerally as one for the Loire this, relativey simple, Bordeaux blanc seemed perfectly matched.
The Daily Telegraph – Jonathan Ray
Le Roc du Chateau Pellebouc
Claret’s the thing for a Boxing Day lunch of left-over turkey (shudder). . . Le Roc du Château Pellebouc (12.5% vol, France; Bordeaux Undiscovered 0800 876 6958) looks the business . . . young, firm and structured
Mike Tipping – Tippings Tipples
Made from Merlot and Cabernet Franc, Chateau Roques Mauriac Classic Rose is quite appealing. It will work on its own or with a variety of foods. Nicely dry and creamy in the mouth, it has strawberry ice lolly aromas and flavours of red berry fruit, with herbs and spices.
Alan Hunter: Vino Club:
Mathilde de La Fleur Morange
I had the great pleasure of meeting Nick Stephens this week at his home in Gloucestershire to learn more about his passion for wine, particularly his speciality – Bordeaux. Also we found that we have a similar background as we studied at the same food and wine academy. So with this combined experience it is no surprise that wine and food matching play an important role in Nick’s crusade to bring the best of both worlds to his clients.
Nick has a mission not only to bring the Grand Crus of Bordeaux to our attention, but also to seek out other classics from not so well known producers that are just as dedicated and professional in their wine craftsmanship, in the true Bordeaux style.
As I was due to dine with friends later that day I purchased a couple of bottles of a St Emilion wine that Nick recommended – Mathilde de la Fleur Morange and I was certainly not disappointed. The wine was superb and you can read about it in much more detail, accompanied by a tasting video here.
A deliciously decadent claret from St Emilion – 100% merlot from 50 year old vines. An explosion of deep crimson fruit subtly combined with soft tannins makes this wine an experience not to be missed. Produced by Veronique and Jean Julien under the expert guidance of brilliant Narbonne based oenologist Claude Gros.
Taste on its own first and then match with a succulent rack of lamb roasted slightly pink with rosemary and served with a light juniper berry, redcurrant and red wine gravy. I will be creating this sauce for a shoot dinner soon, so keep a look out. Simple sautéed potatoes with softened caramelised red onion, also lightly minted peas would bothe be a
great companion to the lamb.
This wine has been highly praised by top wine expert, Robert Parker and also Master of Wine and writer Jancis Robinson who called it “exotic and hedonistic” (Jancis also endorsed the wonderful cuvee Ange I discovered on my travels around the Languedoc region of southern France –
The ‘Mathilde’ was amazing, the colour and texture of deep crimson satin, packed with merlot fruit and so well balanced with subtle tannins made this wine a beautiful example of St Emilion at its original best.
It had a depth that was not aggressive particularly at 14.5% alcohol, but almost gentle on the palate then giving way to an explosion of flavours – blackcurrants, red fruits with a hint of liquorice and faint wisps of smoke. I loved it and so will you!
This wine is made by Veronique and Jean-Francois Julien from their vineyards in St-Pey D’Amens, perched almost on the edge of St Emilion and apart from most other surrounding St Emilion vineyards, truly a unique spot. The soil here is so special that Nick has a sample of it in a glass case in his study!
Exceptional value for money here!
Alan Hunter: Vino Club: My Wines of the Week
Sancet, Cotes de Gascogne
I matched a couple of wines over the week-end at my Private Dining Venue – The Vineyards – for a party of 18 guests. They had chosen a menu beforehand so I had time to research some interesting wines to match all the courses. I needed just a red and a white and as I had no previous knowledge of their taste in wine, the choices had to flexible and adaptable to suit the guests and the menu.
So with the assistance of Nick Stephens from Bordeaux Undiscovered we chose – Sancet Cotes de Gascogne 2011. This white wine was bursting with a combination of flavours of fresh melon, ripe pears and hint of guava, also a lovely fragrant undertone of soft liquorice. Great with both the Duck and Pork Fillet, the aubergine dish and the ravioli. If a
white was needed throughout, then this was the one!
This wine was an interesting blend of Ugni Blanc, Colombard, Gros Manseng [the grape used to make the delicious wine from Jurançon] with a 10% support of Sauvignon Blanc. Everyone loved it, a very good wine
therefore a very good choice!
The red wine Nick offered was a Merlot based claret from vineyards
situated just 18 miles north of the city of Bordeaux – CHATEAU CHADEUIL
Overseen by expert wine consultants that are responsible for the inimitable Premier Grand Cru Classé St Emilion – Cheval Blanc – this wine was exceptional value for money.
Again all enjoyed this wine so much with its lovely flavours of black cherry, mocha, spice, plum, blackberries and a hint of vanilla, it complemented well the main course dishes. This is so important for me to make sure that the food and wine experience at The Vineyards is
Cremant d’Alsace Joseph Pfister – a dry, creamy, fruity blend of Pinots
Cremant d’Alsace Jean Baptiste Adam – bone-dry with an almond-brioche flavour I recommended a Crémant d’Alsace with Asian food in my first column, as a match for spicy Sichuan and milder Chinese dishes, but I can’t help feeling that Alsace’s dry sparkling wine
remains quite a well kept secret in the UK. Too well kept in my view, so I hope I’m about to change that.
Gary White: Chelsea and Fulham Wine Society
Château Mondain ‘Chevalier D’Albran’ (Bordeaux AoC)
Tasted 03/09/11 with Beata, Sara and Jean Marc. 13.5%. Blend M 70, CS and CF 15% each. Deeper purple colour. Great aromas of cassis, toasty oak and pencil box, the most classically claret-like of the four wines tasted. Dark fruits and hint of bell peppers and some vanilla in the mouth. Good grip, firm tannins, fruit slightly masked for now but long finish. Reminds me of a young Right Bank wine. Superb value. From 2013, 16.5 / 20.
Château Millet Lartigue (Bordeaux AoC)
Tasted 03/09/11 with Beata, Sara and Jean Marc. 12% ABV. CS/M and CF. Clear, mid-purple colour. Quite plummy nose but a little disappointing on the palate. Probably needs another year or so. From 2012, 13.5/20
Château Roc de Levraut (Bordeaux Superior AoC)
Tasted 03/09/11 with Beata, Sara and Jean-Marc. 13.5%. 60/40 CS/M blend. Clear, mid-purple colour, cassis on the nose, firmer tannins, well balanced and a good finish. Plenty of berry fruits on the palate. A well made wine, from 2012. 15.5/20
Château Loyasson (Bordeaux AoC)
First of four wines I enjoyed from Nick Stephen’s excellent Bordeaux Undiscovered
petit chateauz range. 13.5% ABV. Merlot /CabSauv 50/50 blend. Clear, light ruby colour. Full, fruity nose, black fruits. Plummy on the palate, a rather short finish, with soft tannins. Seems to be from quite young vines made to be drunk young, perhaps. From 2010, drink now. 14/20
Spittoon: Andrew Barrow’s Really Secret Event (17 wine bloggers/enthusiasts)
“Wines generously supplied by Bordeaux Undiscovered
Champagne Barnaut Secondé-Collard Blanc de Noirs Brut NV
This proved the star of the tasting if the conversation was anything to go by, but also view the mentions on Gastonomy Domaine “a lovely toasty nose and a crazily low price” and Wine Woman Song “has the nose of a much more expensive Champagne”.
Adam Crémant d’Alsace Chardonnay Extra Brut NV
This I slipped on while nibbling on the canapés; all seemed divine.
Chateau Laures Bordeaux Blanc, Entre Deux Mers
Fleur de Luze, Bordeaux This I enjoyed a few months ago as a great accompaniment to Scampi with Tartare Sauce – every bit as fresh and delicious now.
Clive Platman, The Birmingham Post, Food & Drink
“How A Career Change Lead To The Fine Wines of Bordeaux!”
Over the course of a year, I receive any number of wine samples and, to be totally honest, a goodly percentage are truly unremarkable and more than a few barely drinkable. It was therefore some surprise when Nick Stephens sent me a bottle of Chateau Chadeuil, a red Bordeaux for under a fiver.
Hitherto, I did not believe it possible to source a decent claret at this price, but this had a real “wow” factor. In fact, I was so impressed that I resolved to find out more about his mail-order business, “Bordeaux-Undiscovered”, and recently drove down to his premises not far from Tewkesbury, for a private tasting.
Nick, aged 52, has an impressive CV. He began his working life in hotel management, and later became a chef. Then, in a radical career change, he qualified as an accountant and, from there, set up a recruitment company which was bought out by Manpower in 2001.
So far, so good, but throughout his life, Nick has had a passion for wine, in particular classic Bordeaux. His interest was kindled by his wine-buff father, and honed during his spell in catering. The result is that he has been seriously collecting and investing in blue-chip claret over a number of years.
After visiting Bordeaux on a regular basis, Nick began to realise the sheer scale and potential of France’s largest fine-wine region. There was an almost limitless number of petits chateaux producing wine of extraordinary quality, yet at bargain prices. The problem was that these wines never crossed the Channel. Realising this gap in the market, he established his on-line mail-order company, Bordeaux-Undiscovered in March 2007.
His sister company, Interest in Wine was set up following an invitation to a valuer to assess his personal wine stock. The value had appreciated considerably and turned Nick on to the idea of wine as an investment.
The accountant in Nick compared the Stock Market returns to the appreciation of his cellar. Between 1995 and 2003, the value of his wine investment increased by over 43% compared to a fall in the FTSE by nearly 6%. Moreover, the last three Bordeaux vintages have produced substantially better retun than stocks and share.
Nick believes that people want simple investments. The problem is that hedge-funds are too remote. Once a year, the investor receives notice of his returns with little or no idea how it was achieved, or how much was taken by the investment company.
With a wine investment, why not receive a monthly newsletter, attend wine-tastings, or even visit the vineyards in Bordeaux? Not only is there a good return, but the investor could equally enjoy his personal returns.
Nick is confident that, if the portfolio selection is made from around 30 blue-chip Chateaux, plus a few flyers, there is little risk. With the burgeoning economies of China, India and Russia, demand for prestige wine has never been greater and, with a limited supply of great wine, investment in commodities, along with oil or gold, appears to a safe bet. Nick is now actively seeking investors.
The third string to his bow is a relatively unknown “vin de garage”, La Fleur Morange. It’s from a 2-hectare vineyard in St Emilion that was acquired by a cabinet-maker, Jean-Francois Julien, a man with attention to detail.
The attraction was the complex soil composition, which supported 100-year old vines. Hitherto, the wines were sold off to the local co-operative, but since 1999, have been carefully crafted to realise their true potential. Now much sought after, the 2005 received a near-perfect 19 from Jancis Robinson, and a five-star rating in the wine-buffs’ magazine, Decanter. Nick has sole UK distribution rights.
Chateau Chadeuil A cracking Merlot-based claret with delicious black-cherry and blackberry fruit, lifted with a hint of mocha. Supple, lithe and incredible value.
Chateau Puyanche From a good-value appellation immediately to the east of St. Emilion. Still tight, just decant an hour or two before serving, to deliver delicious plum, leather and silky tannins.
Domaine de Ricaud Bordeaux Clairet Uncommon in the UK, a clairet is a deeper-hued rose, benefiting from long skin contact with the juice. Full on, this gave deep flavours of plum infused with spice.
Chateau Laures A white-only AOC that, on song, can deliver a clean, crisp and purely herbaceous style, with great concentration of flavour. This ticks the boxes.
Seconde-Collard Blanc de Noirs Grand Cru Champagne A full-blown power-driven Pinot from a top grower in Bouzy, with flavours of brioche, raspberry, chocolate and breadcrumbs, shot through with keen minerality. Try, too, the Grande Reserve and Vintage 1998.
La Fleur Morange 2001 Right-Bank claret at the top of its game. Perfectly poised, it had menthol, black cherry, tobacco and leather, retaining cool freshness throughout. Still young, it’s immensely complex. A world-class wine, worth the asking-price.