Could it be because Pete just returned from Bordeaux, or that it’s Earth Day and I am thinking about human stewardship of the planet? Or is it because it is a wine I have frequently purchased for my own personal pleasure that I have selected to write a few words about the lovely white Entre-Deux-Mers from Chateau Ferran? For all the above reasons and more, I have the 2015 Chateau Ferran Entre-Deux-Mers on my mind. Entre-Deux-Mers is a expansive Bordeaux appellation but within it are a few choice sub-appellations. One of note is Haut Benauge and this is where you will find Chateau Ferran. Haut Benauge is directly across the Garonne River from Graves and because it is on high ground it is considered a choice location to grow wine grapes.
Chateau Ferran is a family-run estate that converted to organic and biodynamic farming nearly ten years ago. In preparation for this write-up, I visited Chateau Ferran’s website. The website has plenty of information about the winemaking, the farming philosophy and such, but there is practically no mention of the people who make the wine or run the estate. I think this is a deliberate exclusion. It suggests to me that the Ferran family places more importance on the land, the soil, the biodiversity of the vineyards, than on human intervention.
This Entre-Deux-Mers is a blend of equal parts Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon with 10% each of Sauvignon Gris and Muscadelle. I am drawn to the yellow fruit flavors, reminiscent of peaches and apricots, that linger long on the palate. It has no pungent, grassy flavors so often associated with Sauvignon Blanc. All tank fermented, with some time on the lees, it has gorgeous floral aromatics that bring to mind citrus blossoms and acacia. The finish is slightly creamy and is very fresh. It has filled in very nicely as my Friday Night Fish Fry wine, making a lovely match with baked, breaded Petrale Sole.
Julien Ferran is the current winemaker who took over from his father, Alain. Julien is a biologist by trade, so his interest in biodynamic farming is not unexpected (check out
this video of Julien discussing geobiology in the vineyard). I know for many the principles of biodynamic farming are controversial and verge on the cult-like, but in my anecdotal experience with wineries who embrace biodynamics, I see a direct connection between the exhaustive, conscientious work down in the vineyard and the quality of the wine. This under $15 Bordeaux blanc is impressive because of the effort that went into it and the final outcome, its deliciousness.
Samples of Chateau Ferran were sent to us by another French winery who included them among their own samples. We had no prior relationship to Chateau Ferran when we tasted the samples. We knew nothing of them other than they were friends of a wine family with whom we were starting to do business. Based solely on the quality (and price) of the samples, we purchased a pallet of Chateau Ferran. This is atypical of TWH to pull the trigger so quickly, but good wine is good wine – we recognized it immediately, so we felt there was little risk.
The last few weeks have had a recurring theme for me that centers around the question, “what do you believe in?” I have been asking myself a lot of questions about what I am willing to stand up for personally, socially and spiritually. I’ll spare you my existential angst, but if I’m comparing two wines of equal pleasure to me and one is made by a small family who farms organically and/or biodynamically and the other is mass-produced, industrially made, I am going to pick the former every time. The 2015 Entre-Deux-Mers is coming home with me tonight. I am not sure what is on the menu, but I’ll start the evening with a chilled glass of it. Tastes good and it’s good for you! – Anya Balistreri
“Take more pictures!” We say it each time one of us travels to any wine region. We say it because no matter how many pictures any of us take, we can always use more. So when I left for Bordeaux back at the end of March, I had this phrase stuck in my head. It’s not easy to take oneself out of the moment in order to capture an image or two, but I made an effort. I found myself with a couple of free hours in Saint-Emilion last Friday morning, and the bulk of my images were snapped then and there. I will try to scatter a few of my faves from this year’s Bordeaux trip throughout this write-up. This is one avenue in which all of us here at TWH could use a little encouragement! If you would like to see more on-location pictures from us, don’t hesitate to tell us, “Take more pictures!”
This year’s trip to Bordeaux was a very good one. I can sum it up briefly: Flights went well, weather was great, and the new vintage’s barrel samples were great. I made all of my appointments, was only late to two of them; I shared some great meals and wines with friends and associates, and experienced zero stress. Maybe I didn’t take as many pictures as we would have wanted, but that’s just gravy.
You will doubtless be hearing all about the 2016 vintage in Bordeaux very soon as the futures campaign has officially begun. We don’t envision any of the region’s famous producers to be releasing their prices this coming week, nor the next, but since the city of Bordeaux will be hosting VinExpo come mid-June, it is likely that the campaign will be finished by then. In the meantime, I will be working as hard as I can to keep you all up on our purchases and offers as quickly as possible. Whether by emails like this one, links on our website, or articles in our paper newsletter, we will be sure to alert you to our offers for 2016 Bordeaux futures. With the recent experiences of these tastings in my mind, please feel free to contact me should you have any specific questions about any of the wines.
These are exciting times, as the new futures campaign is in its infancy. We have noticed that several suppliers in Bordeaux have put a moratorium on sales of any 2015 wines in the past few weeks. Perhaps they are waiting for the new vintage to be received by the public, and will adjust their prices accordingly. Unfortunately, these adjustments seldom tend to be favorable for consumers. Anyhow, WE will continue to offer our 2015’s, and believe it or not, there are still some bargains out there. One of my favorite wines, vintage after vintage, for over a decade, is Château Larrivet Haut-Brion. I don’t think it’s in print anywhere, but in my personal cellar, my broadest vertical of red wine is of Larrivet Haut-Brion. Why? Quality. Price. Period.
Picture from Panoramio.com
Many years ago, I penned an email about (what was then) a recent experience tasting the 2005 Larrivet Haut-Brion out of half bottle. I still remember the enthusiasm I had for that wine, and if you take a peek in my cellar, and into the cellars of my Bordeaux drinking pals, you will find several bottles from this fine Pessac-Léognan château. Slowly but surely, each year I taste the wine from barrel and also the most recently bottled vintage. And coincidentally, my cellar grows each year we receive new wines from Larrivet Haut-Brion. I fondly remember visiting the property 9 years ago when they hosted the UGC Pessac-Léognan tasting, and John and I had lunch there after the tasting. A week ago Tuesday, I drove right past it as I had a late appointment at Château Haut Bailly, just across the road. Say what you wish, terroir is terroir, and having a neighbor like Haut Bailly is a good thing! Tasting the 2015 Larrivet Haut-Brion from barrel last year was another excellent display of dark, complex fruit, herbs, and earthiness. The palate was silky and seamless; with the finish displaying immense potential for the young, coiled barrel sample.
The Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin had this to say about the 2015 Larrivet Haut-Brion: “The 2015 Larrivet Haut-Brion might be overlooked against some startling other 2015s with “Haut Brion” in their name, which would be wholly unfair because this is a potentially great wine. It has an outgoing bouquet with plenty of bright and bushy tailed red fruit that is well defined and very nicely focused. The new oak is carefully used here and gives it real lift. The palate is medium-bodied with fine grain tannins, fleshy in the mouth with crisp acidity and a nicely composed, lightly spiced finish. This is an excellent Pessac-Léognon and it will hopefully will be well priced.”
If you’re still reading all the way down here – I thank you! As I said above, this year’s Bordeaux trip went very well. I tried to take more pictures, and I sure hope these are to everyone’s liking. I’m no photographer, but I like to give these kind of things a shot when I can. I was able to taste the 2016 version of Larrivet Haut Brion out of barrel, and I must say, I continue to be impressed by the efforts made by the winemaking team. As my vertical continues to grow, I encourage any of you who enjoy fine quality Bordeaux for a reasonable price to join me! – Peter Zavialoff
Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments about taking pictures while on location, the 2016 Bordeaux futures campaign, Bordeaux in general, Château Larrivet Haut-Brion, or English Football: peter@wineSF.com