Episode 31 – 28th October 2020
My Wednesday Wines have rather brief, but explosive tasting notes today because this is one hell of a week for epic new releases. I have six, not two, wines for your delectation today and while a few of the bottles mentioned below are previews, and so there are currently no stockists in the UK, these wines are on their way to our shores imminently. Others are ‘futures’, so these have a longer wait time but you must put your name down now. Luckily, I can guarantee that one wine is definitely here and ready to go, so that’s a relief. Either way, these are all super-important wines worthy of serious consideration for your cellar.
A Billecart-Salmon Trio
2009 Billecart-Salmon, Vintage (to be launched in November in France and the UK, approx. £65.00) is a very rich creation from this perennially elegant House. If you want to see what happens to the Billecart model when the sunshine beats down, then this is it. Full, imposing, heady and main-course-shaped, this is Billecart for power-lifters! 17/20 (Drink now) By contrast, NV Billecart-Salmon, Brut Nature (previously called Extra Brut, approx. £41.75, www.thechampagnecompany.com; £47.50, www.champagnedirect.co.uk) is a taut, racy number and it is as far removed from the ’09 vintage as could be. The tension and poise here are sensational and in terms of value for money (The Champagne Company price seems a little too competitive to me!), this is a cracker. Lean, mean, spankingly clean this is an awesome aperitif style. 17.5/20 Drink now Finally, 2007 Billecart-Salmon, Cuvée Nicolas François (launched last Friday and arriving soon, approx. £140.00) is an absolute joy. It is made from 79% Grands Crus and 21% Premiers Crus, with 60% Pinot Noir coming from the Montagne de Reims and the Vallée de la Marne and 40% Chardonnay coming from the Côte des Blancs. The dosage is 6 g/l and a perfectly-judged 15% was vinified in oak barrels. As always with Billecart NF it spends over ten years relaxing in the cellars in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ before release. In terms of sophistication, elegance and unrivalled precision, this is the wine to buy. I raved about the 2007 Cuvée Louis and this wine is made in a similar vein. This is a sensational vintage for Billecart and NF will outlive Louis given that it has more horsepower under the bonnet. Still a little youthful and closed, there is massive complexity here delivered in the most mesmerising sotto voce voice imaginable. I would love to see this wine in a few years but I think it will be a decade before ’07 NF fully blossoms. I am in complete awe as to how these wines are so fine and so laser-sighted in their youth. NF is a class apart. 19.5+/20 Drink 2022 – 2035
2019 Château d’Esclans, Garrus Rosé, Provence, France ( arriving soon, but one merchant has preview stock – £99.95, www.finewinedirect.co.uk).
Garrus is always awesome and, every so often, it is completely unpredictable. The 2019s from Château d’Esclans are sublime and Garrus ought to be the most obviously masculine and imposing in the portfolio but, strangely, I felt that the perfume and the initial attack was positively gentle and come-hither in its composure and allure. So, I did what any right-minded person would do and relaxed into another sip. I then realised that I had been tricked! Garrus is as structured and proud as ever and yet it is sporting a kindly disguise to lull you into a false sense of security. Many will drink this wine too early, fooled by the glossiness and initial enchantment on offer. But they will soon realise that this wine’s finish is firm and unyielding, pointing to a long and graceful life – as long as you have the patience. This is a sensational vintage for Garrus and I rate it as highly as the epic 2015 and that means that this is a perfect 20/20 in my notes. Nothing comes close in 2019 (apart from its sibling, Les Clans) and I have tasted hundreds of bottles. The difference between this wine and the 2015 is that the ’15 was very obviously statuesque with amazing flanks and bold musculature. By contrast, this 2019 is subtle, brooding, complex and intricately perfumed. The nose is cool and soothing and the palate is a veritable iceberg of power and equilibrium and while we can only sense the scale of grandeur of this wine, the signposts on the surface are already devastatingly attractive. You simply must buy and keep this wine for at least twelve months before you pop a cork! 20+/20 Drink 2021 – 2027
Rathfinny released its ‘Rathfinny Reserved’ offer last week and I was lucky enough to taste pre-release samples of the two wines over the weekend. RR is an exclusive opportunity to reserve an allocation of two wines from the exceptional 2018 vintage. Rathfinny Estate has set aside 500 six-bottle cases of both their 2018 Blanc de Noirs and 2018 Blanc de Blancs to be purchased en primeur.
The reasons to stick your hand up early are that 2018 is an epic vintage and yet it is not a large harvest. In addition, buying wine en primeur is the cheapest way to secure the stock you would like, as you are bidding on a wine long before its release. While this method of buying Bordeaux has been somewhat sketchy over recent history, Rathfinny’s Reserve prices are indeed very keen. These two RR wines have spent their first year in the bottle and they will spend a further two years on lees in Rathfinny’s temperature-controlled cellars. The plan is to disgorge the wines in early 2022 and deliver them in the summer of the same year.
Of course, the only way that I could write about wines such as these is to taste them and so owner Mark Driver and winemaker Jonathan Médard kindly hand-disgorged some samples for me. The bottles were topped up and sulphited, but they had no dosage and clearly are two years short of their lees ageing but, in any case, they were sensational (see below)! I do not allocate scores to unfinished wines but it is clear to me that these wines are on track to be the finest releases I have ever seen from this estate.
The offer allows you to purchase both of the wines in 150cl magnum and 75cl bottle formats, with a minimum order of 24 standard bottles (4 x 6 bottle cases) and you can find the full details here: https://shop.rathfinnyestate.com/rathfinny-reserved/
2018 Rathfinny Reserve Blanc de Blancs (£26.00 bottles, £54.00 magnums).
Precise and pure, with stunning weight and length, this is a great wine with epic acidity and more tension than any wine I have seen from Rathfinny before. The freshness and accuracy here are thrilling and if it looks this shocking after only one year of ageing, goodness knows what will happen with more yeast nourishment. In terms of value for money, this might be the wisest sparkling wine purchase of the year.
2018 Rathfinny Reserve Blanc de Noirs (£26.00 bottles, £54.00 magnums).
Utterly brilliant and also fabulously bewitching, this cuvée has a serious bite of acidity and a full-frontal assault of devastating Pinot fruit. The perfume is amazing, balancing nobility and wildness and the weight is more dynamic and keen than in previous vintages. This is a terrific release and I venture that with two more years of ageing it will be not only one of England’s greatest red grape sparklers but it will also rival the finest from over the Channel.