What to drink in 2023: Rhône

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Photograph: Jason Lowe

In the second part of our series on what to drink in 2023, Katie Merry from our Buying team shares her thoughts on the best Rhône to drink this year.

Older isn’t always better

I’d like to begin with a remark on the recent trends of, not only the Rhône Valley, but all the classic winemaking regions. Historically, we gravitate to older vintages when thinking of withdrawing wine from our cellar and we buy En Primeur with the expectation of waiting a decade or more to crack into a case.

That said, one of the more delightful results of advancements in modern winemaking and increased knowledge of sustainable viticulture, is that modern wines are increasingly approachable in their youth.

Having recently returned from a trip to the Southern Rhône, I tasted wines whose names have always been synonymous with power and richness; Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas and Lirac. The 2021 wines, often straight from the barrel, were far from overpowering or overwhelming. They were elegant, pure, delicate and delightful. Of course, I don’t suggest we should be drinking everything the second they’re released, (most of which will be in March of this year), but it is heartening to know you may not need to sit on these gems for as long as previously thought.

Northern Rhône reds

When we discuss the Rhône, we really have two distinct sub-regions to deal with: the Northern Rhône and the Southern Rhône. Both have have their own unique crus and terroirs to confuse the matter. The north has emerged as the home of highly collectable wines, with many similarities to Burgundy in terms of classification, quality and the ability to age. As a result, savvy collectors from the past few decades will be greatly rewarded upon opening older vintages such as 2009 or ’10 Hermitage or 2015 or ’16 Cornas.

There is hope for those of us without the aforementioned vintages in our cellars. More recently, the 2018 proved a difficult but impressive vintage in the Northern Rhône, with wines that are early maturing and accessible, especially in Côte-Rôtie. An outstanding example is Domaine Rostaing’s Côte-Rôtie Ampodium, which is silky, incredibly complex and ideal for your decanter in 2023.

Surprisingly, if you have any 2020 vintages from St Joseph or Crozes-Hermitage, these crus have also produced some impressive wines that will delight anyone opening a bottle this year. While still 100% Syrah like their other northern counterparts, these are slightly rounder and beautifully juicy, drinking nicely right out of the gate. Many, for example those from Domaine Coursodon, will have a granitic lift, providing an elegance that hadn’t been unearthed from the earlier vintages of these lesser-known terroirs.  

Two Condrieu vintages for different experiences

It is also hugely important not to forget the white wines of the Northern Rhône, outnumbered as they are by the famous red. For Condrieu, this could be an exciting year for the adventurous drinker. Choice of which vintage to open in this case really does depend on personal preference, as there are two schools of thought. Condrieu from the last few years (for example, the lean and pure 2020 Condrieu Corbery from Domaine Mouton) would be perfect for something polished and floral, retaining a mineral note while rewarding with the classic, creamy mouthfeel of Viognier.

On the other hand, something from around a decade ago or more, such as a 2010 or ’08, can be a showstopper. If you have one of these in your cellar, now is a great time to start cracking into the mature cases – you can look forward to even more complexity, with toasty, honeyed and gingerbread flavours making it a talking point around the table. Either way, youthful or aged, if you open a Condrieu this year you’ll have an incredibly gastronomic white wine versatile enough to enjoy with apéritifs up to rich creamy pastas or white meat dishes.

Enjoy the young Côtes du Rhône

Next we move to the South, where you can truly see how much there is to enjoy from the last few years of winemaking. Our Own Selection Côtes du Rhône from the fresh 2021 vintage exemplifies this. As with each vintage we’ve worked on with Rémi Pouzin, he has continued to impress with energy, a mix of dark and red fruits, and the perfect element of spice. This is my go-to house red. Côtes du Rhône, generally, from 2021, ’20 and ’19 will all reward you for opening this year, so don’t hoard but enjoy.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape vintages

For the Côtes du Rhone’s big brother, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, your options are equally myriad. The 2018 wines, overall, are supple and perfumed. Domaine de Marcoux’s eponymous wine is one of the stars – absolutely one to drink in 2023 if you can but it will also delight over the next decade. Further afield, I’d scour your cellar for 2016, ’10 and ’07 – all excellent vintages and excitingly accessible now. They all deserve pride of place on the dinner table.

In summary, the Rhône’s variety works wonders on finding a good vintage to open, even if it does make it difficult to write about (with so many options). Whether you’ll be reaching for a 2020 Côtes du Rhône, a 2018 Châteauneuf or a 2010 Condrieu, you’re sure to find something for everyone’s tastes.

Category: Rhône Wine

Burgundy 2021: looking back

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Photograph: Jason Lowe

As Burgundy 2021 draws to a close, Commercial Manager Martyn Rolph shares his insights into this year’s En Primeur offer.

How would you describe this year’s Burgundy En Primeur campaign

It has been fun and challenging in equal measure. We love talking about these wines; there’s pleasure to be found in matching customers to the wines which best suit their tastes.

This is the smallest Burgundy vintage since 1981. Such a tiny vintage means that few of us get access to quite as many wines as we’d like. Indeed, there are many examples of certain wines not being made at all, such was the impact of the late frosts.

Introducing customers to lesser-known growers and areas has been important this year. Thanks to improved technology and winemaking know-how, the quality that can be produced is higher today than ever before – there’s good reason to look more broadly at different producers and sub-regions. There’s quality and value to be found from Santenay, Pommard, Montagny and Marsannay, to name just a few.

Various critics are as enthusiastic about these up-and-coming regions as we are. Neal Martin of Vinous said of Marsanne’s Domaine Jean Fournier: “The most underrated winemaker in the Côte de Nuits? I’d put Fournier up there… I cannot recommend these wines highly enough.” At the higher level, demand is huge for the established “top” villages – Gevrey-Chambertin, Vosne-Romanée, Chambolle-Musigny and so on.

For whites, Puligny-Montrachet is a particular challenge. We try to allocate these wines as widely as we can, but demand exceeds supply in so many instances. Next year there should be more juice, and we look forward to that. 

Were there any surprises this year? 

It wasn’t exactly unexpected, but it’s great to see customers discovering new wines, taking on board the enthusiasm of our Buyers and Account Managers. I think we’ve ended up with a little more stock than we’d first expected. There is a sense of 2021 not being quite as challenging as anticipated. The vignerons wouldn’t agree, however – many describe 2021 as the most challenging vintage of their careers. 

What did you secure for your own cellar? 

I bought some Bourgogne Blanc, which for me offers superb value. I love white Burgundy, and with three or four years of bottle age, the best Bourgogne Blancs can almost bridge the gap to village level St Aubin or Chassagne-Montrachet. They won’t have quite the same concentration, but similar characteristics shine through. And some even include fruit which has been de-classified from Chassagne, Meursault and other communes.

I picked up some Bourgogne Côte d’Or Blanc, Vieilles Vignes from Jean-Philippe Fichet, and Bourgogne Blanc from Benjamin Leroux. This is an excellent white vintage for those seeking crisp, mineral-laden Chardonnay.

For reds, I’ve become enamoured with the wines of Domaine Denis Carré in recent years, and David Moreau’s Santenay wines. I’d strongly recommend David Moreau’s Santenay, Cuvée S and Denis Carré’s Pommard, En Brescul. A final mention goes to the Montagny, Bonneveaux 1er Cru Blanc from Domaine Berthenet. This is a new producer for us, and has opened my eyes to the quality of this area. It’s available in various formats, too, which is always nice. 

Looking ahead, how’s the 2022 Burgundy vintage shaping up? 

We’re all excited about the 2022 vintage. That’s nothing new; Burgundy is such a passion for many of us at Berry Bros. & Rudd. Our teams that visited to taste in November 2022 are primarily focused on the 2021s, of course. But we eagerly seek the initial thoughts of the winemakers and even taste a small number of wines at a very early stage in their development.

With 2022 being a warmer year, we can expect fuller, darker reds with black-fruit character. The whites should be more generous in style also. The marvel of the best growers is their ability to maintain acidity and freshness in warmer years: 2019 and ’20 are good examples.

I hope we’ll see that for the 2022s. The size of the crop is the main talking point, though. It’s good news that red volumes may be slightly higher than this year. For the whites, we can hope to see significantly more – either close to or slightly above the 2020 vintage. Every vintage comes with its challenges, but 2022 is shaping up to offer high quality and better volume.

Our Burgundy 2021 En Primeur offer is now live.

Category: Burgundy Wine

What to drink in 2023: Burgundy

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Photograph: Jason Lowe

Deciding which wines to withdraw from your cellar can be a real challenge. In the first of our unmissable series on what to drink in 2023, our Wine Director Mark Pardoe MW shares his suggestions for the Burgundy vintages you should consider drinking this year.

In January 2023, the wines from the challenging but interesting 2021 vintage come to market. It might seem premature, but the lighter generic and village wines, in both red and white, will provide deliciously fruity, early-drinking pleasure when they arrive throughout the year. The more serious wines will require some time before they are considered, but these lighter, uncomplicated wines will be delicious now.

But 2021 is atypical in the current climate, and wines from the recent warm to hot years of 2018, ’19 and ’20 do need more time. For earlier vintages, we need to consider the red and white wines separately.

White wines

We can begin with 2017, which is delicious to drink now, although the Premiers and Grands Crus still have plenty of life. The 2016 vintage, another year like ’21 when the vines were badly affected by spring frosts, should be approached now.  The ripening was not as even as in 2021 and though the best will keep, their evolution might be a little unpredictable. Both 2015 and ’14 can be kept, although ’13 can surprise but should be addressed now, at all levels. The 2012 is a personal favourite, drinking well now but still with some life in the top wines, with ’11 not far behind. Earlier than that (even if you have any bottles), everything is ready to be broached, although more time could be given to 2007 and ’08. 

As is often the case in Burgundy, definitive (and subjective) advice depends on the style of wine you like. If you favour a fuller style of white Burgundy, my tip would be 2015 for a youthful example and ’05 for something fully mature. More mineral, more ascetic pleasure can be found in 2017 and ’12.

Red wines

For 2017, as in white, so in red. The middle-range wines are so delicious now but hold on to the top wines a little longer. The same can be said of the 2016 reds, although they do have a sterner core. Don’t even think about touching the 2015s (unless of a modest appellation) but ’14 and ’13 are ready to go. The 2012 reds have a little more to them. The more modest wines are ready and delicious. The best can be drunk now but they feel like there is a little more to come. The 2011s, if you have any, should be drunk although the good examples are still holding up well.

To follow the “something old, something new” format of the whites, and in a bolder or more subtle style for the reds, consider the following tips: young and full-bodied 2016, and ’09 (or ’05) for more maturity. Lovers of the more sculpted, joyful and ethereal expressions of Pinot Noir should find companionship in 2017 (but the ’14s are also lovely now) and vintages like ’08 and even ’02.

However, one of the joys of great Burgundy, and especially Pinot Noir, is its accessibility at almost any age. Thus there are no unbreakable rules, only personal preferences. Whichever Burgundies you choose to drink this year, approach them with an open mind and allow them time to evolve in the glass. The pleasure of great Pinot Noir is as much in the aromas as the flavours.

Category: Miscellaneous

New Year Sale: focus on Bordeaux

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The vat room at Château Beychevelle, producer of one of our favourite Bordeaux wines from our New Year Sale.
The vat room at Château Beychevelle in St Julien. Photograph: Jason Lowe

Our New Year Sale brings you savings on a fantastic range of fine wines and spirits from leading producers until 31st January 2023. Here, we look at five of our favourite bottles from Bordeaux – from Classified Growth Claret to mouth-watering dry white and rosé

We sell Bordeaux all year round here at Berry Bros. & Rudd, from our Good Ordinary Claret to the finest First Growths. Our annual En Primeur offer is the busiest date in the calendar, of course, but we’ve always got a range of interesting bottles ready to go. Many of them are featured in our New Year Sale, which runs until 31st January. Here, we’ve picked out a range of red, white and pink Bordeaux bottles that are worth a closer look – and a few from further afield, just in case.

Left Bank Claret to drink now

2019 Amiral de Beychevelle, St Julien

A bottle of Amiral de Beychevelle.
Photograph: Krystian Krzewinski

Château Beychevelle derives both its name and its iconic dragon-boat label from a local legend. The property is located along the banks of the Gironde Estuary, historically the major trade route in and out of Bordeaux. Back in the 16th century, passing boats would lower their sails towards the estate in homage to its then-owner, the Duc d’Epernon. In the local Gascon dialect, this act was known as bêcha vela (or baisse voile in modern French). This in time became “Beychevelle”. Today, the château is one of Bordeaux’s best loved, classified as a Fourth Growth in the 1855 classification.

Amiral de Beychevelle is the estate’s second wine. It is a rather typical blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (68%) and Merlot (32%). Technical Director Romain Ducolomb and his team use young vines and de-selected fruit from the grand vin to craft an altogether more accessible expression of the estate. Neal Martin of Vinous notes its “medium-bodied, fresh and elegant” palate, calling it “a lovely Amiral”.

Save 20% on 2019 Amiral de Beychevelle now.

Right Bank Claret to drink now

2016 Domaine de l’A, Castillon-Côtes de Bordeaux

Stéphane Derenoncourt dreamt of buying a St Emilion First Growth back in 1999, though he couldn’t do it on his shoestring budget. Instead, he widened his search over the border into Castillon. The gently rolling limestone hills here have an obvious appeal to Stéphane, a consultant to some of the Right Bank’s finest wine estates. Indeed, Domaine de l’A sits on a topographical continuation of St Emilion’s hills and valleys. “This is a very good place to make wine with a lot of identity,” Stéphane tells us.

The 2016 vintage here “captures the essence of Merlot and Cabernet Franc,” says Mark Pardoe MW, our Wine Director. “A scented nose of black rose petals greets you amidst aromas of hedgerow fruit and black cherries. The palate is seamlessly balanced with very fine ripe tannins and a glorious velvety structure.”

Save 10% on 2016 Domaine de l’A now.

Left Bank Claret to lay down

2017 Château Giscours, Margaux

Photograph: Krystian Krzewinski

Château Giscours is one of the best-known estates in Margaux. It’s also one of the biggest, with 95 hectares under vine in 2017. The estate was ranked a Third Growth in 1855. Its history has had some dramatic ups and downs since, but it has been on a hot-streak in recent decades. Owner Eric Albada Jelgersma and managing director Alexander Van Beek have ushered in a new era with an ever-greater focus on the vineyard. Their practice of co-planting means that there is a wide range of vine age within individual plots here, and there are some very old vines indeed – some dating back to 1926.

The blend for the 2017 grand vin is dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon (71%) along with Merlot (24%) and Petit Verdot (5%). It was aged in 50% new oak for 12-15 months. Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW calls it “medium-bodied with wonderful freshness defining the palate and elevating the red and black fruits.”

Save 10% on 2017 Château Giscours now.

Dry white Bordeaux

2019 Asphodele, Château Climens

Sauternes is best known for its luscious dessert wines, and with good reason. But it has also become a hotspot for crisp, dry white Bordeaux in recent years. And Asphodele from Château Climens is a great example of the style. The estate’s Bérénice Lurton introduced the wine with the 2018 vintage. “Knowing the qualities of Climens, I always wondered how we could express them with a dry white,” she tells us. After some experimentation, she found that the estate’s “older vines are better for sweet wine and the younger vines are better for dry”.

“Fresh green apple and peaches combine with a floral hint on the nose of this beguiling dry wine,” says our own Barbara Drew MW of the 2019 vintage. “Beautiful and delicate now, this dry Sémillon has layers of subtle flavour, and will evolve in bottle for another 5-6 years.”

Save 20% on 2019 Asphodele now.

Crisp Bordeaux rosé

2021 Le Rosé x Giscours

Among those recent developments at Château Giscours is this new rosé, launched with the 2019 vintage. One dedicated parcel, planted exclusively to Cabernet Sauvignon, provides the fruit. In the cellar, the team use the direct pressing method of rosé production. This involves a very light touch and yields incredibly pale and delicate wines. James Suckling commends the 2021 vintage for its “delicious fruit and a slightly tangy finish”.

Save 10% on 2021 Le Rosé x Giscours now.

What else to look for

If Bordeaux just isn’t your thing, fear not. We’ve got a range of wines, spirits and mixed cases available. Among many highlights, you’ll find 2021 Domaine de Triennes, a Southern French rosé from the Seysses family of Domaine Dujac and Aubert de Villaine of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. There’s also a 2020 Beaujolais-Villages Aux Chânes from Domaine des Jeunes Pousses, Thibault Liger-Belair’s incubator for aspiring vignerons. From Rioja, you could try a Reserva or Gran Reserva from Bodegas Amézola de la Mora. Or for something a little different, try this Central Otago Pinot Noir from Akitu.

Prices are valid while stocks last until January 31st 2023, when our New Year Sale will end.

Category: Bordeaux Wine