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Claude Kolm/The Fine Wine Review

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  1. Adam -- The situation in Sauternes was so bad in the late 1960s and 1970s that it was thought that the wine would not survive -- the producers could not charge enough to cover their costs. One classified chateau, Myrat, actually did pull up its vines (they have since been replanted -- in the last year possible before the property would have lost its classified status). So, yes, those may well have been Yquems from the great years that your friend bought on the cheap. (Additionally, Yquem was not that expensive relative to other wines until the late 1980s/early 1990s.) Best reagards, Claude Kolm The Fine Wine Review
  2. Craig -- Surprisingly few top (IMO) producers use lots of new oak today. Sure, for the greatest vineyards, you often will see all new oak in the best cellars, but even there, not always. Roumier, de Vougue, and Mugnier all use half new oak or less for their Musigny and Bonnes-Mares, for example. At Chandon-de-Briailles, no new oak in the last few vintages, even for the Cortons. And Ponsot has never used new oak. Etc., etc. Yeah, Dominique Laurent made a big spalsh with Parker/Rovani, Tanzer, and Wine Spectator, but most people I know who are Burgundy fanatics do not like the wines except for an occasional one here and there, and in fact I'm told that Laurent's wines have taken a serious slump in the auction houses. Claude Dugat would be another oak hound whose wines command very high prices, but again, many people with deep Burgundy knowledge do not find his wines to be anywhere near the summit of Burgundy. The high prices are due to high Parker/Rovani scores (meaning that they bring in buyers who are not expert in Burgundy), rarity of the wines, and high markups by the importer. Guy Accad came along at a time when Burgundy was in crisis -- there wasn't much good wine around, and the younger generation knew it and was looking for a way to make something better. Accad was not the answer, but in fact he did a lot of good. Along with Claude Bourguignon, he focused attention on the vineyards and the problems that decades of herbicides and artificial fertilizers were causing, and he made a convincing case for denser plantation of the vines. In the cellars is where he got into serious trouble. But today the top producers know that they are making the kind of wine that they want to make, and they are selling it for a good price (they are not looking for Bordeaux-type speculative prices), so there is no pressure on the best producers to seek other magical ways to the top. With this core of leadership, I think that Burgundy will continue to make great wines and be the model wine region for people seeking purity and honesty in their wines. The whites have long been another story, primarily because of overcropping. But in the last several years, there has been some resistance to the prices for the whites, and as a result, more people seem to be cutting back in yields -- with correspondingly better wines. Best regards, Claude Kolm The Fine Wine Review
  3. Adam -- I'm not Steve, but I've had my share of Sauternes from the 1960s and am qualified to talk. It was a period when the wines were very difficult to sell, and there were several wretched vintages, as well. But there are many great Sauternes from that period. 1962 Suduiraut and 1971 Climens are about as great a Sauternes as you will ever come across. The properties that I am familiar with that made outstanding wine during the period are Yquem, Climens, Coutet, Suduiraut (much better than the present-day Suduiraut), Fargues, and Rieussec (also much better than the current wines). I have little familiarity with the wines of Lafaurie-Peyraguey, Sigalas-Rabaud, and the three Doisys from this period, but I would expect their wines to be excellent. Some of the other properties are likely to be dicier from that era. And yes, 1975 and 1976 Climens are great wines, but then it is a great property and one that shows amazing regularity. Best regards, Claude Kolm The Fine Wine Review
  4. Craig -- For red wine, I think Burgundy is the model wine region for all the world with a very strong core of producers and estates committed to making ever more pure wine with no compromises. Each year there are estates that formerly had been doing poorly that are coming back to quality. Drouhin-Laroze, Clos de Tart, and de Courcel are three examples of estates with great vineyard holdings that have made dramatic jumps in quality in the last 4-5 years. The movement to supress chemical fertilizers and herbicides is one example of the care that Burgundians are taking, and some top producers are now working the fields with horses so that the soil does not get compacted from the weight of tractors. Some producers are now doing two green harvests, and in more difficult years, two triages, one in the field and another at the cellar. In the cellars, while there was a brief mode for over-oaked wines in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but most producers have gotten over that (a couple of US importers go after the remaining producers who overoak). There was some experimentation with reverse osmosis in 1999-2000, but most quality producers who did experiment wound up rejecting the process. It's true that once you get beyond 100 or so top producers, the quality falls off rapidly, but again, that number keeps expanding -- a few years ago, I put that number at 60 or so. The de Montilles are great, especially in the period 1988-91, and the wines still are outstanding (2000 and 2001 were difficult at Volnay-Pommard, but even so, de Montille's 2001 Pommards look to be outstanding, and the 1998s and 1999s there were superb). Best regards, Claude Kolm The Fine Wine Review
  5. Well, of course, blue cheese and foie gras are two classic matches for Sauternes and the Sauternais like to make the case for Sauternes with all sorts of savories. In Richard Olney's Yquem, he prints several menus for Yquem all the way through a meal, and in some of his other writings he recommends Sauternes with raw oysters. But what is unique about Guiraud is that it really is, IMO, a Sauternes almost exclusively for savories and not for desserts. Best regards, Claude Kolm The Fine Wine Review
  6. mamster -- Chateau Guiraud is a very well-regarded Sauternes, but one that is quite peculiar. It is less sweet than most other Sauternes and has the oak that you note (which should blend with the wine in time -- it is way too early to be drinking 1999 Sauternes). I think of Guiraud as a wine to have with savory foods, say ham or certain tarts, and not as a dessert wine. Best regards, Claude Kolm The Fine Wine Review
  7. You can drink it now or continue to store it. Tasting notes are available at Beaucastel's web site.
  8. 1988 Ponsots are drinking wonderfully now -- not just here, but at the estate, too. I see no connection between them and 1990 Leroy Beaumonts. The Ponsots demonstrate terroir, I didn't find it in the 1990 Leroys, although the Leroys from the last several vintages are quite different in style. Remington Norman took the words out of my mouth about the 1990s in piece on Leroy in his book on the great wine domaines of Burgundy. Best regards, Claude Kolm The Fine Wine Review
  9. Steve -- I admit that the top 1990s need more time, and some of them are fantastic. The question is -- which ones? I personally am not enamored at the moment by the Leroys (nor do I feel that her Beaumonts is great;in fact, I think that only Jayer/Rouget produce great wine from this vineyard -- to my tastes it is greatly overrated in general). I'd love to do a side-by-side tasting of Ponsot's 1988s and 1990s. Best regards, Claude Kolm The Fine Wine Review
  10. Read vintage charts and ask anyone who is not a total Burgundy freak, and 1990 is the great vintage of our generation. Talk to the people who drink Burgundy 4, 5, 7 times a week and may make sacrifices to do so and you are likely to hear a different story. No one disagrees that this is a high quality vintage – but there is much debate about just how high that quality is. What gives? This was a large vintage with ripe wines. Drought in the middle of the summer led to a natural dropping of the leaves (which most quality producers now do themselves if nature does not) to give more sun and ripening of the vines. Rain in the first few weeks of September provided just the nourishment the vines needed, and harvests began on September 20 on the Côte de Beaune and a week later on the Côte de Nuits. Because of the high yields, there was quite a bit of bleeding (saigner) of the vats in 1990. (Today the top producers would know better and would keep yields lower so that it would be much less likely that bleed the vats than they were then.) The resulting wines were high in alcohol but also had good acidity. Their richness made them extremely impressive when young. So what do the purists object to? The fact is, with some notable exceptions, that as impressive as the wines are, they lack a little nervosity and do not show the characteristics of their respective terroirs. One can now drink the wines of the Côte de Beaune with pleasure and the lesser wines of the Côte de Nuits. For the top wines of the Côte de Nuits, more time (5 years?) is required. Notable successes include Pousse d’Or, Lafarge, d’Angerville, de Montille, Lafon, Pothier-Rieusset, and Comte Armand on the Côte de Beaune. On the Côte de Nuits, the situation is more mixed. DRC’s, Jayers, and Rouimiers are great, but will the de Vogüés and Leroys ever shine? (The Leroys, at least, are made in a very different style today.) Given the premium that 1990s now command in the marketplace, one would be better advised to look for other vintages that can provide better value, and sometimes better quality. Best regards, Claude Kolm The Fine Wine Review
  11. Marcus -- I had overlooked the fact that you were only reporting the lowest auction prices. The results of that search are irrelevant to the point that I was making -- all it shows is that some bidders can beat the price that they could have purchased the wine for elsewhere. But the point that I was making is that some (other) bidders do not beat the price that they could have purchased the wine for elsewhere. To rebut my point, you would have to look at the maximum sales prices at auction. In other words, the point that I made in the Ledoyen thread is that the well-informed bidder should know what the wine can be bought for elsewhere is and not make any bids that would result in a purchase price above that, and some people fail to do that. Best regards, Claude Kolm The Fine Wine Review
  12. Marcus -- I checked your wines against the prices at the last Butterfield's sale here in San Francisco (March 17, 2003). (www.butterfields.com) It is unclear on the web page whether the prices are the bid price or the purchase price (which includes the 15% buyer's premium) -- but I assumed the former and added the 15% on. The results are as follows: Lafite: 3 lots sold, ranging from $468.39 to $477.57/bottle which is above the current Premier Cru price. Mouton: 4 lots sold, ranging from $440.83 to $523.59/bottle, which is just below the John Hart price you quote. Latour: 1 lot at $523.29/bottle Margaux: 7 lots ranging from $275.52 to $413.28/bottle Haut-Brion: 6 lots ranging from $247.96 to $358.17/bottle which is above the price that you quote for Grapes, NY Cheval-Blanc: 1 lot at $606/bottle. Additionally, Pichon-Lalande caught my eye. Six lots of it sold for $275 - $330/bottle. Wine-searcher gives a lowest price of $299.50, but in fact if you go to Premier Cru's website, you will see that they are selling it for $249.50 (interesting, since they are one of the firms listed on Wine-searcher. So bottom line is, some people at auction do better than they could in a store, but as I claimed, some do not. Moreover, given the current softness of the market (at least out here), I'm pretty sure that one can do some bargaining with stores (if one can locate stores with the inventory). Best regards, Claude Kolm The Fine Wine Review
  13. Marcus -- I did not mean to imply that you personally were engaging in folly. I only meant that one sometimes sees prices that are signifcantly above the costs of the same wines in stores -- that does not imply that one always pays more at auction. A question for you and then a few of observations: Do the auction prices that you quote include the buyer's premium? If not, you really should adjust your figures to add that in, in which case the results are closer. You are comparing individual bottle prices of very expensive wines with (presumably) individual bottle price allocations of wines sold in lots of a case or more. When wines get this expensive, it is possible that there is a significant reduction for case lots. The prices on wine-searcher.com surprise me. Not long ago (just before Christmas if I recall correctly), 1982 Mouton was selling here in the Bay Area for $425-499, and now the cheapest that you can find it for is $525. Finally, while the results are interesting, they are limited to wines from a single year, and a year where for whatever reason there seem to be significantly fewer first growths in the stores than in the recent past. For example, the only 1982 first growth at Premier Cru at the moment is the Lafite that you quote, and the only one at K and L is Petrus. Usually, both stores have more in stock -- suggesting that something may be going on with 1982 first growths. Best regards, Claude Kolm The Fine Wine Review
  14. OK, you disagree with Steve. And nobody is going to convince him (at least publicly, for there is a whiff of troll in his responses). So what?
  15. What I find truly astonishing about this thread is people's refusal to recognize that everyone (yes, even Steve) is entitled to his or her own opinion. It just goes on and on and on with people stating different opinons, but no new arguments being made. Clearly Steve has a very set view of what grand cuisine is, and that view is different from those of others. So what? Some people like Picasso or Pollack and others don't. Once you get down to the reasons for the difference of opinion being a fundamental difference in definitions, as here, there is nothing more to say. So why has everyone put so much energy into this? Why wasn't this just a one page thread?
  16. Yes, exactly what I have predicted in print. Wait 6-12 months, and retailers will be giving gthe 2000s and 2001s away (and some are already giving the 2000s and some 1999s (!) away). Best regards, Claude Kolm The Fine Wine Review
  17. What's that all about, Claude? Robert -- The book documents for many different kinds of ingredients/food how the bureaucracy and/or economy either makes it difficult or impossible for the best of artisinal products to survive in Italy and discusses some brave artisans who continue to struggle against these problems, sometimes undercover because what they do is illegal.
  18. For Italian, Steve, try Oliveto in Oakland -- Paul Bertolli, the chef there, is a former Chez Panisse chef (author of The Chez Panisse Cookbook, in fact). He is a fanatic on ingredients and even makes many of his own products, such as balsamic vinegar and sausage.
  19. I hate myself for doing this, but I have to cop out on this one. I agree with Peter-due to the lack of equivalent quality ingredients, some of which are only available within a few kilometers of some small Italian town, and also due to the need of most U.S.-based chefs, whether Italian by birth and/or training or not, to pander to the American concept of what great Italian food should be, true Italian cooking cannot be replicated here. And not just in restaurants-I am a pretty fair cook of the Piemontese classics, but try as I might, I'm always better in the old country. While I think that someone like Molto Mario may fare better by adapting Italian recipes and techniques to ingredients available here than a transplanted Italian chef would, I find Mario to be making up with enthusiasm and showmanship what he lacks in real grounding in the best Italian culinary traditions. A lot of the recipes in his cookbooks fall flat on their faces, despite superficial appeal when you first read them. Still, I applaud the effort on his part. I find most New York Italian restaurants to be parodies at best. You can dine very well, to be sure, but rarely authentically. Galileo in Washington comes as close as I've seen. Strangely, a restaurant called Il Palio in Chapel Hill, NC is probably number 2 on my list (amazingly strong Piemontese-driven wine list as well). I,too, have not eaten there in years, but Il Mulino was my favorite in NYC as well. Actually, if you read Burton Anderson's Treasures of the Italian Table (now out of print), the Italian government and now the EU are doing a pretty good job of making sure that you can't get authentic Italian food in Italy, either.
  20. Auction prices have become increasingly disconnected from the market for individual producers. I suspect that for pruducers such as Roumier, Rouget, Rousseau, Meo, Dujac, de Vogue, DRC, and maybe even Leroy you are going to see price increases, likely even substantial ones unless there is a severe worldwide recession. The 2002 vintage is already much awaited and many importers talked their producers into keeping prices stable for 2001 with the promise that they would accept higher prices for the 2002s. And on top of that, you've got a dollar that's depreciated 20-23% against the Euro since the 1999 vintage was bought. Where you are most likely to see some softening of the prices (and I'm not predicting it by any means) is with the large producers -- Jadot, Drouhin, Faivleley, and Bouchard P&F -- they have so much wine to move that cash flow is more important to them than it is for small producers. Best regards, Claude Kolm The Fine Wine Review
  21. So if it is obvious which one can be drunk, then it is redundant to specify it.
  22. Lots of 1978s had problems with uneven ripening of the grapes on the bunch. In Burgundy, today, they'd triage. In Bordeaux back then, not.
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