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James Suckling

Taking a Break from Barrels

Posted: Apr 3, 2007 11:23am ET
I just lit up a Montecristo Petit Edmundo, and the spicy and tobacco character in the smoke is seducing me like a lost girlfriend who wants me back, and is willing to do anything to make me happy.

It’s just what I need after tasting close to 500 barrel samples in Bordeaux for the Wine Spectator over the last two weeks. I have been in Bordeaux tasting the region’s newest vintage. (Check out my report on www.winespectator.com.) And it’s been hard work. A lot of the reds showed excessive tannins either from being made from slightly unripe grapes or overextraction during the fermentation and macerations. But there are also some superb wines including: Latour, Margaux, Mouton, La Mission-Haut-Brion, Léoville Las Cases, Pétrus, Trotanoy, Vieux-Chateau-Certan, Lafleur, and Pavie. There are another two dozen or so outstanding wines.

My tasting has been an aid to people interested in buying 2006 Bordeaux as futures, or “en primeur.” Basically, it’s buying the wines as they age in the cellars of the various châteaus and securing the wines you want at a particular price and a certain quantity. In the past, people bought the wines at lower prices as futures than when they arrived in the market two years or so later in bottle. But it’s not as sure now with the large increases in prices for the last vintage as futures, 2005, but the ‘05s are amazing wines. They may be as great as the legendary 1961. I tasted a number of them during my stay this time and they continue to spellbind me.

I wish I could say the same about 2006. It is not a year to buy many futures, especially for Americans with the weakness in the dollar against the euro. Unless prices come down significantly, I doubt there will be much action in the world market for futures, except with a few precious names. But if someone wants to buy, there are some interesting wines.

Anyway, what a pleasure to be sitting outside right now on the balcony of my hotel in Bordeaux at Les Source de Caudalie puffing away on a PE Monte on a sunny spring afternoon. La vie est belle! Life is beautiful. The PE is 92 points too!

Last night, I smoked a La Gloria Cubana Medaille D'Or No. 4 from 1993. It was made in the Partagas factory. I bought these from Raffi’s Cigars in Geneva about six or seven years ago. And the cigar was excellent. It’s rich and spicy with loads of decadent earth and coffee character. I smoked it with a buddy from Hong Kong, Paulo Pong, after a dinner at the hotel. It was a great smoke. 94 points. Paulo is a wine merchant, and he, like hundreds of other merchants from around the world, are here to taste the new Bordeaux vintage. Paulo is also one of “the” great cigar collectors.

Sometimes when I am tasting young, raw barrel samples I secretly think about how nice it would be to enjoy a good cigar. Barrel samples make your palate feel like sandpaper sometimes, especially after 50 or so in a day….


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