Tag Archives: Bordeaux

Celebrating the ‘Big 33′ with a bottle of 1979

Celebrating birthdays as you get older becomes more and more underwhelming, especially if you’re a guy and have a kid. Most of your energy throughout the course of your year is dedicated to celebrating other things, be it a child’s birthday, an anniversary, your wife’s birthday, Kwanza, etc. By the time your insignificant day comes around, all you’re likely hoping for is a day-off. Wine can offer you the opportunity to cast off the mundane and partake in history, while still kicking back on your couch.

This past weekend I celebrated 33 years with my twin, 1979 Comtesse Lalande which was still delivering a masterful experience.

Over the past few years, I’ve tried to spruce up these overlooked days by injecting a bottle of wine from my birth year. What I’ve gained out of this was a truly unique connection with the past that is in many ways indescribable.

There are a few things to keep in mind when choosing a wine to for an upcoming “33” or “42” or whatever age you’re turning:

1) Choose wisely – Not all wines are able to stand the test of time, in fact very few are. I know my Napa-phile friends won’t be happy with this, but for anyone over 35, don’t even bother with California. So where to look? In my opinion, stick with Bordeaux, Burgundy and Piedmont (Barolo) and even then, favor the better wineries.

2) Cost – Although this can be a pricey endeavor, it doesn’t necessarily have to be. Sure, if you want a bottle of 1964 DRC La Tache you’re going to plop down a fortune; however if you want to venture outside of the pinnacle of wine, you can find some decent deals. I’ve personally had tremendous luck using the site WineBid.com and $75-$150 will allow you to acquire a Super 2nd from Bordeaux pretty easily. There’s also your local higher-end wine shop that may be able to act as an intermediary and assist you in acquiring something rare without having to pay a 15% buys premium (as you must on WineBid).

Although not ideal, a crumbled cork does make for a nice picture!

3) Preparation – You’ll likely need two things to open your properly aged (which means not in the wine rack in your kitchen) wine: a Butler’s Friend and a decanter.

  1. Butler’s Friend: the essential tool for opening a bottle with a cork that’s likely brittle from years of storage. The lighly curved metal prongs slide in between the inside of the neck of the bottle and the cork, allowing you to gradually disgorge the cork (see picture for what happens when you don’t have a Butler’s Friend)
  2. Decanter: Do me a favor. Hold your breath for 2 minutes. What did you do immediately after the two minutes is done? You probably took a few long deep breaths to try to re-oxygenate your body. Wine does the same thing. Opening a bottle of wine is actually a pretty violent process for the juice inside. Give it an hour to catch its breath and see how it’s progressing along the way.

There’s an intimate link with history when you partake in a wine from your birth year. It’s an ethereal experience that can’t really be described. Hopefully you have the opportunity to partake at some point!

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Instagram: A wine geek’s dream

Ever since I got my iPhone 4S, I’ve been Instagraming like a fiend. One of my favorite subjects, besides myself of course (jk!), is wine. To a wine lover, there are very few things as photogenic as a seductive wine bottle. I figure I’d share a few of my favorites and hopefully you find as much joy out of them as I do! Find me on Instagram (@SENELWORLDWIDE).

I have a habit of saving the bottles of some of the “greats” that I’ve tasted through the years. Oddly, they make for an appealing picture!

Barossa Bold: Amazingly Aeromatic

Collateral Damage: Remnants of a Southern NH restaurant tour with Donelan Wine’s owner Joe Donelan.

Champagne with a View: 5th Anniversary Dinner at the charming Wellington Room (Portsmouth, NH)

In the Shadow of Greatness: ’01 Opus One

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The Wine World: Winning & Losing (Volume 11)

Wines sure to please any oenophile.

It’s been almost a month since I’ve reviewed the good, the bad, and the Barefoot Bubbly of the wine world. After an awesome night of sipping rosé at Zachys, and in the process meeting a couple awesome wine peeps, I figure the time has come for another semi-drunken rant about the recent goings on.

Now hold on to your decanters, it’s going to be a crazy ride.

WINNING

One last "Sniffy Sniff" with Gary V...sad.

Gary Vaynerchuk – After years of making the wine world a playful and witty place, Gary V has called it a day on his daily wine blog. Considering his raise as a social media mogul, it was only a matter of time; however since it was Wine Library TV (his original blog) that motivated me to create my own blog, this certainly carries a bit of emotion. The Final Grape was announced yesterday on his current blog, The Daily Grape. Good luck Gary, it’s been a fun ride.

New Resveratrol StudyReason number 9,377,984 why wine is the greatest beverage ever. Sure, the study indicates that the results are based on the pill; however we all know that incorporating wine into a healthy lifestyle, that’s two glasses for men and 1 glass for women per day, ensures that you’ll live forever. If you don’t live forever, that means you didn’t follow the instructions correctly.

Oakland Raiders – Which NFL team would you want to play for? Most would pick the New England Patriots or the Pittsburgh Steelers, but not I. I’d want to don the silver and black of the Oakland Raiders; however only for the preseason. Why? Their training camps are held in Napa. ‘Nuff said. On an interesting, and somewhat unfortunate aside, most Raiders forgo the benefit of being in the area to keep in peak physical condition. A while back I sat down with former Raider tight-end and owner of The Loft (a wine bar in Southlake, TX) Rickey Dudley, who told me it wasn’t until after his NFL days were over that he got into wine. Rickey, you’re a better man than I. I wonder if that’s why I never made it as a kicker in the NFL? Considering Sebastian Janikoski is the biggest boozehound on Earth I’m sure there were other reasons.

’09 California – I’m hearing through the grapevine (pun intended) that ’09 Cali Cabs, especially Napa, are finishing up their barrel development astonishingly well. This might be a nice area to park some of that money that was originally allocated for Bordeaux. Your loss Frenchy!

LOSING

Gallo’s Barefoot – More like Bare-ass. Thank you America, the worst wine ever conceived is now the fifth-largest wine brand in the US. Step it up folks, you deserve better!

Lieb Cellars – I guess if you live in NY you feel as if you are entitled to benefit from the 9/11 Commemoration. Shocking, New Yorkers feeling entitled, what’s the world coming to?! Lieb Cellars of Long Island has decided to market a 9/11 “Commemorative” wine line-up, with a scant 6-10% of the proceeds going to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. To quote food celeb Anthony Bourdain on Twitter, “9/11 Wine. Think about it. What tasteless, exploitative fuck thinks that’s a good idea?” Yea, I’d say that sums it up.

Bordeaux – Suzanne Mustacich wrote a solid article for Wine Spectator entitled Did China Really Save Bordeaux. Simply put, for this vintage yes, for the long run, watch out, this shit’s gonna get ugly! As a whole, Bordeaux has a distorted view of itself. Sure, the top names can garner the attention of the trophy hunters; however the rest of the Gironde needs to watch out. Asia, and specifically China, isn’t as brazenly ignorant as you think. If you get too greedy they’ll balk and your disenfranchised base won’t be there to catch you.

Kymberlee Fernandes – It may be a bit harsh to throw Kim under the LOSING category; however the piece entitled A Guide to Wine Investment isn’t a guide, but rather 5 paragraphs of fluff. I know this article wasn’t written for a huge publication; however if even one person potentially acts on it, it needs be more thorough. There’s a lot more that goes into wine investing; however one would believe that it’s as easy as picking up a case of expensive Bordeaux. There’s a lot more to it and to lead readers to believe it’s that simple is irresponsible. If you want to learn the basics of wine investing, read Wine: Understanding and unlocking its investment potential, I feel you’ll find it 1,000,000 times more beneficial. I know it’s my article, but it’s damn good.

Sonoma, Italy? – Wine may have a European feel to it; however Sonoma isn’t in Italy the last time I checked, thus they better start following our laws. Sonoma PD busted four tasting rooms for serving their undercover 18-year-olds wine. The perps: Valley of the Moon, BR Cohen, Imagery Estate and Schug. Shame shame, we know your name!

And like that I’m out. Peace!

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Bordeaux: Exploiting the Red Dragon, but at what cost?

Buy a half-case or more of French wine and get 1/2 off shipping with code “wine15″

This past week, I received a couple emails that expressed concerns regarding my views on the Chinese and their impact on the Bordeaux wine trade. These emails deserve to be addressed as I’ve taken a hard and very opinionated stance. They even ask to be addressed as to allow my readers to know the truth. Thus, I thought I’d clarify my comments regarding my feelings towards the Chinese Consumer and the Bordelais in a response to these two emails. Let me preface this by saying J-P.G. wrote a second email seeing the humor and my perspective in the whole thing.

Email #1

Dear Mr.Senel,

My name is E.C., a wine lover working involved in wine sector in China Mainland.

My classmate passed me a link to your website (The Wine World: Winning & Losing #7), as he found this picture and he knew the original model is me.

 I don’t think your comment underneath the picture is a kind of praise. Also, I don’t like the way you say:

The Chinese – Chateau d’Yquem is just the latest in a long line of overpriced French wine that the Chinese cannot get enough of. Let’s not forget that these are the same toads that pay $700-800/bottle for Torbreck’s Laird. Create enough interest in anything and the Chinese will buy it by the truckload. Obviously not saying d’Yquem is bad, but be original people!

I’m not stealing your wine, but saving the descending European wine industry on behalf of our Chinese people!

Your should feel happy that Crazy Chinese are becoming more and more interest in drinking imported wine.

That’s beneficial to soften economic crisis and maintain world peace.

I earnestly ask you to respect me and the painter Mr.Jean-Pierre GOT and do something good and graceful.

Perhaps one day you happen to come to Guangzhou, I will invite you to dinner and let you know how we Chinese people drink your wines.

Thanks and Regards,

E.C.

 Email #2

Erol,

This poster (called “Retour d’Expo”) was created and printed for Interwine China 2007, an international wine trade fair that takes place twice a year in Guangzhou.

The bike you describe as “made from communist tanks” is in fact, my own bicycle, built in France by “Cycle Kela” in 1935.

I am sure your readers will deserve having that correct information.

 Best regards,

 J-P.G.

Dear Madame and Monsieur,

I appreciate your concern over my tone and opinions surrounding the topic. The beauty of running a blog is that it’s a forum for me to voice my opinion, albeit an educated one . In the next few paragraphs I’ll address your concerns and further elaborate my stance on the my interpretation of the current producer/consumer relationship and in my eyes, it’s potential pitfalls.

China's lust for luxury has caused hyper-inflation in the price of Bordeaux wines; however is China to blame?

My issue isn’t primarily with the Chinese; however they’re part of the problem (much in the same light homebuys were at fault for purchasing homes they had no business purchasing in the US). Currently, China is exhibiting the lavish consumer-frenzy that most nations do while going through an economic boom; however with the sheer mass the middle to affluent population that’s spending ungodly amounts of money on luxury good. This includs wine and it’s making that market over-bloated and pricing out a diverse base of people. We’ve seen this before, with commodities, houses, art, etc. and it’s typically ends with staggering casualties for the industry that’s overbought.

Now, according to your email (E.C.), you seem to be under the impression that you are “saving” the French wine market, how magnanimous of you (sarc). What’s potentially happening is the Chinese consumer is creating a Sino centric-bubble that will largely price out the vast majority of people who brought Bordeaux to where it is today and then that bubble will burst. In fact I know this is a real worry as the Chinese government is taking steps to reign in inflation to prevent a potential “hard landing” which would likely happen if they allowed this hedonistic spending to continue. In fact just today, the Chinese government released a statement elaborating the difficulty they’re having with this. Thus, in the short term China is providing tremendous inflows of capital; however the mid-to-long term ramifications could end up being disasterous.

Outside of the rampant consumerism of China, which isn’t solely the Chinese citizens’ fault, as they’re experiencing this increased materialism as a reaction to millenia of individualistic oppression. In fact it wasn’t until the later ’70s & ‘80s that a certain level of individual freedoms really broke through the headwinds. 

The real blame in this situation is on the Bordelais chateau owners for embracing severe greed in the light of what is a painful reality in the world. The world’s economic situation is a crap show. Be this as it may, to address E.C. as the savior, if China wasn’t around to buy wine, Bordeaux wines would still be purchased and purchased at steep premiums in great vintages. HOWEVER, the chateaux know the Chinese are willing to pay absurd premiums on top of the premiums already priced in. Thus, even after taking into account a 7-8% increase in the Euro/Dollar exchange, there’s a general additional 10-30% price increase from the ’09 to the ’10 vintage is ludicrous and can even be viewed as exploitation (and that’s not even taking into account the >40% increase on First Growths and top Right Banks). This is especially true considering ’09 is largely equal, if not superior, in quality to ’10. What this illustrates is that chateau owners are nothing more than pimps who are whoring their products, with China playing the role of the Johns. That’s not what wine is about and that’s what I take umbrage to. This will only get worse as more and more outside influences enter the Bordeaux wine market (i.e. wealthy foreign investment, namely Chinese wealth purchasing chateaux to exploit the lust for these wines in their native country).

As for my digs against Communism, well I’m a Capitalist, as is China. Yes, China is capitalist, just not democratic. China at this point loves things of value and status, from wine to high-end cars to luxury apartments, with great socioeconomic disparity throughout the country. Doesn’t sound like Communism to me, yet somehow China still hides behind a guise of Communism that’s largely an extension of its imperial “Middle Kingdom”, self-serving past. Thus, there’s some humor to be had in taking digs here and there. It’s nothing personal, just levity.

As for the painting by J-P.G., I like what it represents, that’s why I selected it. The version used in the post that caused this reaction was one I found on another site (they made the modifications). The joke I attached to it was meant to lend some silliness to a stuffy topic. That’s what my site is all about! Whether the bike is made out of recycled Communist tanks, Peugeots, or Renaults, it doesn’t matter…it’s was a joke!

In the end, it’s my opinion that China is willingly being taken advantage of by the Bordelais with the consideration of wine lovers and collectors from other parts of the globe being largely overlooked. If the Chinese bubble bursts, the base that was there purchasing Pontet-Canet, Pichon-Lalande, Smith-Haut-Laffite and others prior to the 30% increases will already be contentedly diverting their wine dollars elsewhere and may never come back to Bordeaux. Thus, you may not be “saving” Bordeaux, but causing a massive contraction at a future point that could decimate the French wine industry as a whole (as this same scenario is playing out in Burgundy, but on a slightly smaller scale). It’s a shame.

Well, that was deep for a Monday. Enough of this serious sh*t, pour me some wine!

Erol

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2009 Bordeaux Pricing is Set: Now What?

It is amazing what the hype-machine out of Bordeaux can achieve. The 2009 Bordeaux Futures are without a doubt, a success. The demand for this vintage has exceeded my expectations! I thought that the stagnation of our economy would put downward pressure on the futures. However, it turns out that Asia, Hong Kong to be more precise, is playing their trump card (in conjunction with strong demand from US Venture Capitalists). To this, I say “let them!”…

To find out how you can approach this in a responsible manner and capitalize on some favorable pricing, read 2009 Bordeaux Pricing is Set: Now What?

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What to do about the 2008 Bordeaux Futures?

In a word, DISASTER, for now!

The poor economic conditions of late 2007-early 2010 have created more patient buyers of Bordeaux futures.  No longer is the demand so high that collectors will shell out huge sums for what are clearly inferior wines.
 
Now, the 2008s have to compete with the newly canonized “legendary” 2009 vintage for a place in your cellars.
  
Did the 2008s ever stand a chance?  Is there a bright side to this?
 
Check out  What 2009 Bordeaux Futures Means for the 2008 Futures written exclusively for Cork’d to find out the interesting opportunity that the ’09s have created for the ’08s!

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2009 Bordeaux full of promise for the future

2009 Bordeaux - Photo courtesy of Olivier Magny & O Chateau

 Throughout the last year, I’ve been watching with a keen eye on any news regarding the quality of 2009 Bordeaux, especially the release and pricing of the 2009 futures.

During this time, I’ve seen countless blog posts and newspaper entries that have sung the praises of this vintage as if the authors of the entries were in Bordeaux themselves to harvest, press and taste the wines. 

The only problem is, few of them were. Considering the potential importance of the upcoming release of the 2009 futures, I thought this would be a good opportunity to sort the wheat from the chaff.

What are Bordeaux futures and why do people buy them? 

Why is this vintage important?

What makes 2009 potentially great?Will I buy 2009s?

To find out the answers to these questions and more, check out 2009 Bordeaux Futures: Separating the Wheat from the Chaff that I wrote exclusively for Gary Vaynerchuk’s Cork’d.

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Get quality for less with Bordeaux seconds

As published in the 12/2 edition of the Nashua Telegraph (click here for the Telegraph version).

For most of us, times have been tough, and a bottle of one of the best Bordeaux wines is too steep to even dream about, let alone consider buying!

Most people cannot even begin to rationalize paying $300, $600 or even $1,000-plus for a single bottle of wine. Truth is, even in better times, or for those who can still imagine spending that much, it would be hard to pull the trigger. So how are we to partake in the craft that these amazing wine houses put forth?

The answer: Bordeaux second wines.

The craft of winemaking in Bordeaux is one that demands perfection, and, surprisingly enough, a good amount of the houses periodically achieve it. The dilemma and opportunity arise from this quest for perfection. Only the best grapes go into the estate wines. Obviously, this would leave a lot of waste if the remaining grapes went unused or sold to lesser crafters.

The question was posed, what do we do with all of the grapes that are still excellent, but not perfect? The answer came in the 18th century, when Bordeaux’s major wine houses began using these grapes to create their “second” wines.

Bordeaux seconds are an opportunity for us, mere monetarily restricted mortals, to enjoy wines crafted by the elites. Names such as Chateau Latour, Chateau Margaux and Chateau Petrus, just to name a few, are now available to us without the need to shell out a week’s or month’s pay! The best part, you sacrifice little in terms of quality and complexity.

Using Wine Spectator’s ratings as a guide, a 2004 Chateau Petrus was rated 93 points and would run you around $900. Now, compare that to its second wine, Chateau La Fleur-Petrus, of the same vintage. It will run you around $80 and is rated 92 points – that’s less then 1⁄10 the cost! If that is not a deal, then I don’t know what is!

Examples such as this are quite common, and Bordeaux seconds are carried quite readily by wine merchants and liquor stores for this reason.

Here is a list of some of the estates and their corresponding second wines:

Bordeaux first-growth second wines:

Chateau Latour: Les Forts de Latour.

Chateau Margaux: Pavillon Rouge de Chateau Margaux.

Chateau Mouton-Rothschild: Le Petit Mouton de Mouton Rothschild.

Chateau Haut-Brion: Bahans Haut-Brion.

Chateau Lafite-Rothschild: Carrudades de Lafite-Rothschild.

Other Bordeaux second wines (a little more affordable and just as enjoyable):

Chateau Lynch-Bages: Chateau Haut-Bages Averous ($25-$40).

Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou: La Croix de Beaucaillou ($25-$40).

• Chateau Petrus: Chateau La Fleur-Petrus ($60-$95).

Chateau Palmer: Alter Ego de Palmer ($70-$100).

Numerous second wines of Bordeaux are knowingly available at the New Hampshire Liquor Store off Exit 6, behind Nashua Mall.  We are lucky to have this resource in our own backyard. 

The next time you are looking for a wine to celebrate a special occasion, holiday, birthday or wedding, keep an eye out for Bordeaux seconds. They have all of the prestige and quality without the astronomically high price.

Until next time, cheers!

Question: Have you ever had a Bordeaux Second wine?  How yould you rate the quality?

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