From all of us here at TWH, we hope you all had a wonderful holiday season. To many, especially in the hospitality business (which, kind of, includes the wine biz), this is a relatively quiet period of time when many of us catch up on things put off by the mayhem of said holidays. From a personal perspective, the mayhem will continue throughout the month culminating with the annual visit of Bordeaux's Union des Grands Crus, who will be pouring the recently bottled 2015 vintage here in San Francisco on January 25.
Having tasted many barrel samples from the 2015 vintage back in the spring of 2016, I have some thoughts, impressions, and biases of what I experienced, and I am looking forward to tasting the finished wines, now in bottle, to further those impressions. I say biased, because it happens. We all have favorites. Our favorites are not necessarily the finest things in any particular category, but they do usually offer plenty of personal appeal. When it comes to wine, my favorites are from Bordeaux. Time and space does not allow me to list all of my favorites, though in no particular order, some of my favorite Bordeaux chateaux include: Margaux Gruaud Larose Coutet Ducru Beaucaillou Haut Batailley (fingers crossed the recent ownership change doesn't affect the wine) Grand Puy Lacoste Calon Segur Pichon Lalande Mouton Rothschild La Lagune Vieux Chateau Certan I recognize this bias, and when I taste these, and other favorite wines, I try to just focus on what's in the glass. It goes the other way too. There are many chateaux, some of them famous, which have produced wines which don't always resonate with me. I mean the wines are fine, there's nothing wrong with them, they just come up short in the "Wow" department. With me anyway. I recognize this bias as well, though it seems each year at least one of these wines surprises me. What was the biggest surprise for me during the 2015 barrel tastings? Which wine am I going to pay particularly close attention to at the UGC tasting? The 2015 Château Olivier Rouge.
Chateau Olivier is one of Bordeaux's oldest chateaux. Parts of it date back to the 11th century! It has been owned by the de Bethmann family since the 19th century, and it is said that the son of England's King Edward III, The Black Prince, enjoyed hunting there. Historically, Olivier has been more famous for their white wines, however recent investments and soil surveys have resulted in increased production and quality of their red wines. The Wine Advocate's Robert Parker once referred to Olivier as "a perennial underachiever," though in his tasting note for the 2009 rouge, he declared it to be the best Olivier he had tasted up to that point. Sure 2009 was a precocious vintage, but this was a sign that things were on the upswing at the property. Fast forward six years, and here's what TWA's Neal Martin had to say about the 2015 after he tasted it from barrel: "The 2015 Chateau Olivier offers vivacious red cherry and crisp strawberry fruit on the nose, biding its time, gently unfolding in the glass until it takes full flight. The palate is medium-bodied with fine tannin and smooth wild strawberry and raspberry fruit, laced with cedar and a pleasant saltiness. This is one of the best wines from Chateau Olivier in recent years, thanks to its greater depth and harmony. Laurent Lebrun has done a great job here."
And from Decanter Magazine: "Power and poise of rich, muscular tannic frame for good ageing potential. Continuing the more serious expression of Olivier over last few years, begun with the inclusion of the new Bel Air plot of vines that represents 30% of the blend. New addition also in 2015 of 1ha of Petit Verdot, representing 5% of wine along with 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot."
My note from the UGC barrel tasting: "Fresh, clean, brambly red fruit aromas, Merlot noticeable. Palate is medium bodied, well constructed! All components firing with slight grip on finish, but that's a good thing. Surprise!
Since December 2014, we have enjoyed a very favorable currency conversion rate vs. the Euro. This kept prices for both the 2014 and 2015 Bordeaux futures down, and in both vintages, bargains abound. Unfortunately, this past week, the Euro broke out of its three year range and closed near $1.22. Combine that with the fruit lost due to late April's frost, and it's easy to predict that the 2017 Bordeaux wines will not be the bargains we are hoping for. So when I see quality like that of the 2015 Olivier rouge for such a price, it's easy to say, "Put me down for six!" - Peter Zavialoff
***The 2015 Château Olivier is available on a PRE-ARRIVAL basis. It is expected to arrive sometime during 2018. Please understand that overseas shipments are sometimes subject to delays, though we are expecting this wine to arrive sometime in the spring or early summer.