A Wine Cry For HELP!

God in His goodness sent the grapes, to cheer both great and small; little fools will drink too much, and great fools not at all.

In my opinion life without passion is a life without meaning. Whether your passion be cooking, collecting or studying; a passion is something I wish for everyone. It may be something that drives you to better yourself, or hopefully better others or those around you. One of my passions is wine. I enjoy everything about wine, making it, drinking it and talking about it with fellow wine lovers. If my life depended on me reading a fictional novel, I would be in serious trouble. Ask me to talk about wine with you, put aside a few hours and cancel your plans.

Wine is a romance, each bottle has its own unique story and can captivate you with each sip. It can be seductive and ethereal, life changing sometimes but hopefully always memorable.

“A bottle of wine begs to be shared, I have never met a miserly wine lover.”

Some of my most memorable bottles of wine have always had one thing in common, someone else to share it with. Most of these moments have been shared with my beautiful wife and are as random as sitting in camping chairs in our un-finished apartment drinking Australian Shiraz. For wine alone can be fantastic, but with people you love, it is truly magical.

It is out of my love and passion for all things wine, that I write this post. I eagerly anticipate my monthly issue of the Wine Spectator. Amongst the many magazines I receive each month, I enjoy the Wine Spectator just a little more than others. I admire the opinions of James Laube, James Molesworth and Matt Kramer, I enjoy their writing styles and have learnt a lot about wine over the years. As anyone who reads the Wine Spectator knows, they also provide a comprehensive list of wines and ratings, and more importantly the prices.

I was particularly interested to read the review on the latest offerings from Bordeaux. The 2009 vintage is regarded by many to be comparable with those of 2000 and 2005, and precedes the 2010 vintage which by all accounts is also stellar. The top scoring wines should be very familiar to lovers of wine; Petrus, Latour, Lafite Rothschild, Haute Brion, Margaux et al are all the top of the list. Admittedly I have had one bottle of 1999 Petrus and one bottle of 1976 Lafite Rothschild, that is the extent of my experience with these “great wines”. I would like to  clarify the italics,  I for one second do not doubt that the latest vintage of Petrus, having scored 99 points is not great and just shy of perfect, my only complaint is that I will have to read about, due to me not being able to afford the $4000 a bottle price tag. Yes folks, you heard me correctly, $4000 a bottle.

Kudos for them being able to command those prices, for prices are ultimately driven by demand and while consumers [albeit it the super rich] continue to buy these wines, there will not be any price regulation for the foreseeable future. My heart bleeds for as much as I am passionate about wines, I just cannot afford to taste the best the wine world has to offer, at least not from Bordeaux. It is shame that their great wines, with proven pedigree and history will only be enjoyed by a small fraction of the wine loving market.

Okay, so Petrus is the highest scoring and most expensive wine, but all the first growths come in at over $1000 per bottle retail. It is worth mentioning though that there are some bargains to be had, Chateau Lynch Bages [96 points and $150] and Chateau Leoville Las Cases [98 points and $345], although $345 a bottle is still a touch out of my price range. One wine I have had in the past that is basically being given away is the Chateau Phelan Segur [92 points and $40].

Bordeaux is no doubt the leader of the pack when it comes to consumer frenzy, history, pedigree and wine quality but since it is out of my price range, I tend to search for quality wines from elsewhere, at a fraction of the cost. Consider for a moment that the Saxum James Berry Paso Robles was rated 98 points and received the distinction of being named wine of the year by the Wine Spectator, and comes in at a very reasonable $67 a bottle. Kosta Browne Sonoma Pinot Noir 2009 has just received that same honor and was rated 95 points and costs $52 a bottle. If my math is correct, you pay $40.40 for every point Petrus earned while you only pay $1.80 for every point for the Kosta Browne. We are obviously comparing apples to oranges here but I struggle to believe that Petrus is 22 times the better wine.

So all things being equal and based on $1.80 a point, my 88 point scoring second label LVD Viognier should retail at $158.40 a bottle. when you put it in those terms, $19.95 is one heck of a bargain.

Let me be totally honest here for one second; I may never try the great Bordeaux wine of my time, I will read wonderful articles about how the wine is made, keep visiting their websites to learn more about the estates and the people behind the wine and keep hoping that one day I might taste and see why these are some of the most sought after wines in the world.

Just to throw it out there, my address is

Keswick Vineyards

1575 Keswick Winery Drive

Keswick Virginia 22947

United States of America

Attention: Winemaker Stephen Barnard

If any of the first growth chateaus, or any wine lover that has a first growth  bottle to spare  I will be most grateful. I promise you I will enjoy every drop and ensure I share it with someone special.

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Last night I took a trip to South Africa and France

I love wine, I drink my weight in wine and if you have seen me lately you will know that I am saying I drink a fair bit. One of the most fascinating things about this elixir is that it transports you to another world, in that the wine you drink reflects the area or place in which it was grown. Why is a Chardonnay from California so remarkably different to one from Burgundy?

The concept of Terroir speaks to this notion, that due to a variety of influences [soil, elevation, row direction, planting density, cropping levels etc] a wine from distinctly different areas will always taste unique. No matter the influence of the winemaker, a Chardonnay grown in the Cote d’Or of Burgundy will taste remarkably different to one grown in the Russian River AVA of California. You could argue that there are stylistic similarities [full malo-lactic fermentation or the use of French oak], but the inherent differences in the wine will always take you back to the place where it all starts, the vineyard.

Thai food was on the menu last night, and I thought it the perfect opportunity to break open a few bottles of wine. I am beginning to see a trend between Asian inspired dishes and my need to open up really good wine.

Springfield Estate "Wild Yeast" Chardonnay 2008

Last nights trip of choice was to South Africa, with a gorgeous Springfield Estate 2008 Wild Yeast Chardonnay and France, with a 2005 Chateau Haut Bergeron from Sauternes.

The Chardonnay is made by winemaker Abrie Bruwer, and the estate is located in Robertson, South Africa. I have always been an admirer of this producer and if you get the chance, look for the “Life from Stone” Sauvignon Blanc and the “Methode Ancienne” Cabernet Sauvignon, you will not be disappointed. With many tools at a winemakers disposal nowadays, this winemaker tends to go back to basics and focus on the vineyard, producing world-class wines that reflect the sense of place. His wine making philosophy is one of minimal interference, fermenting wines with natural yeast, avoiding filtration unless absolutely needed and as the website quotes “let the wine make itself”.

The 2008 harvest was by all means a fairly tricky one, with cooler than average temperatures and higher than average rainfall. Many producers talk about the fight against fungal disease and the importance of picking at the right time. The biggest positive is that cooler temperatures lead to  retention of acid in the fruit and better phenolic ripeness. [Information taken from Angela Lloyds 2008 harvest report].

The Springfield Chardonnay is fermented entirely in stainless steel tank but is allowed to undergo 100% malo-lactic fermentation, and is furthermore aged on the lees for over a year prior to bottling.  The wine displayed gorgeous tropical aromas that followed through onto the palate, marked by vibrant acidity which ensured this Chardonnay was lively and focused. I have been pretty down on Chardonnay wines recently, but this wine will certainly change a few opinions and is a champion that Chardonnay still has plenty to offer the consumer. You owe it to yourself to seek this bottle out and give it a try; not withstanding it is from my home country, I really loved this wine!

From New World to Old World, a dessert wine from Sauternes finished the evening off.

Chateau Haut Bergeron 2005

This particular Sauternes is made up of 60% Semillion and 40% Sauvignon Blanc.

Many experts believe the Haut-Bergeron to be the best of the Non-Classified Sauternes. Part of their vineyards are in Barsac, with the remaining vineyards in Preignac [right next to the world-famous Chateau D Yquem].

The first thing you notice is the gorgeous color which is brilliantly gold, with amber tinges. The aromas are rich and luscious with apricots, honey and caramel tones. This wine is wonderfully textured, rich and lengthy and I suspect there is a fair amount of new oak in this wine [although I cannot confirm]. For all my praises;  my wife Kathy did not enjoy this wine at all, alluding to a smell that just did not agree with her. The beauty of wine is that we each have our own opinions. I thought this wine to be showing beautifully though and may still have a few years left in the bottle, although I would probably drink it in the next 2-3 years.

What a way to spend an evening, eating Thai food, drinking South African and French wine will sitting in Charlottesville US.  Life is good especially when you can share it with people you love.

This was one trip worth taking, and that for me is the ultimate beauty of wine. Tonight I think I might visit Australia.

Here’s to wonderful wines

Cheers

Stephen

Keswick Vineyards