We’re hoping that you all had a happy and safe Halloween, wherever you may be. We had a bit of a parade in the shop today with folks in costume; little and not so little alike. It got me to thinking. Earlier in the week, on my usual Wednesday off, I was finishing up a little business with some people whom I wasn’t familiar with, and was asked, “Do you always have a day off during the week?” I answered affirmatively, but explained that I work on Saturdays, which balances that out. But Saturdays are good days here at TWH; that’s the day that we receive the most foot traffic. More foot traffic means more interaction with more customers! A fairly regular Saturday customer popped in for another case of 2010 Château de Malleret (it wasn’t his first!), and as I helped him out, we got to chatting about it.
As anyone who has done so can attest to, bringing up Bordeaux with me will be met with much enthusiasm as well as a story or two. It started with the Malleret, and how pleased I was when I tasted it from bottle at a negociant’s office in Bordeaux. I explained to this gent that I was proud that I found such a wine that has been enjoyed so much by our customers (and staff) for such a reasonable price. I also pointed out that I probably don’t get to taste it if I just went to Bordeaux for the barrel samples. He then began to ask about the barrel samples and how one can appraise a wine not yet in bottle. This warrants a long story, so I’ll spare you that one. The short of it is, speaking for myself, you can’t. At least I can’t tell you what it’s going to taste like 5, 10, 15, 20, and 25 years down the road. I explained that a bottle of wine is a living thing, and that tasting a barrel sample and describing its complexity 20 years in the future is tantamount to pointing at an infant and declaring it to be a Senator. BUT – tasting a barrel sample does give you an overall impression of a wine’s potential structure, acidity, tannin, alcohol, and most important, balance. Taste enough samples from various appellations, and one gets an impression of the overall character of the vintage. I know, I know. It must be nice … It’s work. Trust me on that one.
Back in late March/early April, I was in Bordeaux for the annual tastings. I arrived on the Wednesday before the hectic week, giving me time to visit growers and negociants. The UGC tastings are important, as that is where many of the well-known chateaux pour their samples. But these days we know there aren’t any bargains at a UGC tasting; hence the negociants’ tastings. I’ve come in habit of hitting one major tasting of barrel samples (see above photo) on Sunday. Hundreds of wines; many of which are petits chateaux. I said it was work, right? With the 2014 vintage, I found many samples to my liking. I get particularly excited when I like one and I know that it’s going to be inexpensive. This year the barrel sample that packs the most quality for the lowest price for me is the 2014 Château Sénéjac, Haut-Médoc. Not being used to the current dollar/euro conversion rate, I was thinking $18-$20 in my head when I tasted it. I felt it worthy. My tasting note ended with “The right stuff.” Underlined. “Good, honest wine”, I called it. It had excellent weight, pleasant extract, the right amount of acidity and tannin, and most importantly, all in balance. When I got back and we crunched the numbers, we offered it as part of our 2014 futures. $13. Not a typo. $13. For a bottle of Bordeaux. Okay, not yet a bottle, but for a bottle in the future. $13. What?
Okay, one must have a modicum of patience when they buy Bordeaux futures. They take 3 years after vintage to arrive stateside. The 2014 Château Sénéjac will arrive here by the end of 2017. When it does, it probably won’t be $13 (if any is unsold in the first place). Here’s what The Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin had to say about the 2014 Sénéjac:
“The Château Sénéjac 2014 has a fresh, lively bouquet, energetic blackberry and boysenberry fruit leaping from the glass. The palate is medium-bodied and tones it down a little. But there is commendable energy here, well-judged acidity and plenty of blackberry and raspberry fruit on the finish that linger long in the mouth. This comes recommended. (89-91 points)”
With Halloween behind us and November upon us, we will be unveiling our 38th Anniversary Sale very, very soon. Keep an eye out for that. For those of you who are experienced with buying Bordeaux futures, a six-pack of Sénéjac is a no-brainer. For those of you who have never bought them, here’s a low cost opportunity to partake in the exercise, which is actually quite fun and exciting once the wine arrives. Seriously, $13. Do you like wine? $13. Boom! – Peter Zavialoff