Posts with the label "southwold tasting"


Southwold: 2015 Bordeaux under the microscope

Southwold: 2015 Bordeaux under the microscope

Friday 8th February 2019
by Tom Jenkins

It’s over thirty years since a group of pioneering British merchants first met in the small, seaside town of Southwold to assess a young Bordeaux vintage under blind tasting conditions. 

Luminaries such as the late John Avery and Bill Blatch, along with the likes of Clive Coates MW and our very own Hew Blair, were amongst the first tasters. Although the venue has changed, the name remains, as does the spirit and professionalism. The results are eagerly anticipated by Bordeaux Chateaux; this is the ultimate litmus test, affirmation of years of hard work or hard truths.

Now, here comes the caveat: this is perhaps not the most flattering time to taste these wines. In fact, in my experience it is one of the worst… Although barrel samples can be variable, there is an undeniable freshness and purity of fruit. Just after bottling, they are equally flattering, a year and a half after bottling, they are usually less gratifying. 2009 is a notable exception – these have always been gloriously easy to taste. The 2015s attracted comparisons to 2009 from barrel; however, on this showing, they are less flamboyant and more structured. There are very many notable successes, but it is by no means as uniform or as easy to taste as those spectacular 2009s.

Southwold: Bordeaux 2014 – very good, but not quite great

Southwold: Bordeaux 2014 – very good, but not quite great

Monday 19th February 2018
by Tom Jenkins

Last week, the great and the good of the British wine trade including journalists, merchants and multitude of MWs decamped to our new Southwold-on-Thames venue to dissect the 2014s.

After the demoralising 2013s, there was a palpable sense of anticipation. We have always admired this vintage for its classical style and elegance. As is custom, we start with several flights of St Emilion. The flights seem to get longer each year and usually feature unfamiliar names that leave us pondering, ‘why?’ There was no such bafflement this year. Vignerons appear to have used a lighter touch and coupled with the natural acidity of the vintage, the wines have a real sense of cohesion and energy. Top marks went to Francois Mitjavile’s Tertre Roteboeuf, such an unmistakable wine, there’s really no need to disguise its identity… My preference was Canon, John Kolasa’s last year at the helm – this is as classical and super-refined, and a mighty impressive showing from Troplong Mondot.

Tasting Bordeaux 2012 at Southwold

Tasting Bordeaux 2012 at Southwold

Tuesday 26th January 2016
by Tom Jenkins

The Suffolk coastal town of Southwold again played host to ‘The Great Claret Tasting’ 2016. This time it was the turn of the 2012s; a year characterised by poor flowering (so a small crop) and then, much like in 2000, the summer was late to arrive. Veraisons took a full month and ripening was a long, protracted process.

When we tasted the wines from barrel, we were impressed by the charming fruit and balance. We thought it would be an easy, ‘fruity’ vintage, which would give plenty of immediate drinking pleasure. By and large our assessment has been vindicated. We also felt that the vintage best suited the Chateaux of Pomerol and Pessac Leognan, although there were also some high quality wines produced from the noble terroirs of the Medoc and St Emilion.

Tasting Bordeaux 2011 at Southwold

Tasting Bordeaux 2011 at Southwold

Wednesday 28th January 2015
by Tom Jenkins

Following the spectacular duo of 2009 and 2010, some questioned the pulling power of the 2011s. Whether it was the charm of this somewhat derided vintage or the lure of cooked breakfasts and sea air, the Southwold regulars nearly all made the trip to Suffolk.

The vintage got off to the very best of starts. While we were tasting the embryonic 2010s from barrel, we basked in warm sunshine and admired the precocious vines. This was one of the earliest flowerings in recent times. Summer had arrived early - but it didn't last. Seasons were getting muddled. July and August were decidedly spring-like and didn't help grape maturity. Thankfully a fine September (except for the hail in St Estèphe) came to the rescue and provided relief for some very worried vignerons. 

My general perception of the vintage is quite positive. The wines have a soft ripe core that to my mind is reminiscent of the 2001s. They are charming and not at all aggressive or astringent. They don’t have the concentration or complexity of 2009 and 2010, but that is an unfair comparison. Having tasted two of the all-time great vintages, this was definitely a bump back down to earth. 

Tasting Bordeaux 2010 at Southwold

Tasting Bordeaux 2010 at Southwold

Tuesday 28th January 2014
by Tom Jenkins

Last week the great and the good of the wine trade (and yours truly) descended upon the picturesque seaside town of Southwold to re-examine the 2010 Bordeaux vintage. 

It resembled something of an MW convention – if anyone knows the collective noun for a group of Masters of Wine, send your answers on postcards… As ever, it was an honour indeed to taste in such illustrious company.

There was an enormous sense of anticipation; after all, this is the British wine trade’s favourite vintage, so expectations were exceptionally high. With this sort of reputation, it is unsurprising that the wines didn’t quite live up to their billing, but that is by no means a put down or for that matter a reason to quell our enthusiasm.
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