April 2019

April news and views from Nick Jackson MW

In this newsletter: an update on the about-to-be-released Bordeaux 2018 vintage; a few days spent in Portugal and of course, the best wines I drank in the past month

Bordeaux 2018

At the beginning of the month, Sotheby’s Wine took me to Bordeaux to taste barrel samples of the new, 2018 vintage en primeur (Futures).  You can read my full vintage report, wine recommendations and tasting notes on the Sotheby’s Wine website.  The short version is, to quote myself, ’2018…is, with qualifications, a great vintage for red wines.’  While buying Bordeaux Futures is not as attractive to many drinkers as it once was, if you want to dip your toe in the water, 2018 is a great vintage to do so: there are many thrilling wines. The wines are beginning to be released now.

Portugal

After almost ten days in Bordeaux, I spent four days in and around Lisbon.  It’s a beautiful, historic city and one of Europe’s top tourist destinations at present.  A friend and I took the opportunity to visit some nearby vineyards.  One of the smallest and most distinctive wine styles in Europe comes from almost its westernmost point: Colares.  Here the vines are grown on sand perched above the Atlantic.  We had a wonderful visit with arguably the best producer, Viuva Gomes, whose tiny production white and red wines last for fifty years plus.

Just north of Lisbon we also had the opportunity to visit one of Portugal’s great white winemakers: Pedro Marques at Vale da Capucha.  He is making thrilling whites from indigenous varieties, packed with tension and vibrancy - seek them out!

Portuguese wine: a few pointers

Best regionsDouro (for red table wines and port); Bairrada and Dao (for long aging whites and reds); Alentejo (warm climate reds, occasional whites).  

Tips: buy old.  Portuguese wines last forever and never seem to go up in price, both for whites and reds.  Reds are dusty, dry and have only moderate alcohol.  Whites are salty and mineral.  Both colors are totally authentic, dry, affordable European wines.

Producers: One that is often available in the US is Caves Sao Joao/Quinta do Poco do Lobo, whose whites and reds last forever and are priced very reasonably.

The Best Wines I Drank in April

We were spoiled in Bordeaux by some very generous hosts.

  • Margaux 2000 - simply a brilliant Margaux.  Will really blossom in about 6-8 years, but already fabulously rich in aromas and flavours with a melting texture.  A rival to the exceptional 1996.

  • Cheval Blanc 2009 - this is already so gulp-able!  It may be more 2009 than Cheval, but who cares - this is spicy, exuberant, compelling. 

  • Champagne Salon 1999 - classic Salon in full bloom now with no need to wait any longer. Opulent, creamy, emphatic - an extroverted beauty.

  • Pichon Baron 1961 (magnum): it is always a privilege to taste one of the last century’s great vintages.  This is still so youthful - it could be 20 or 30 years younger, especially from magnum.  The yields in ’61 were tiny, and this is concentrated, rich and thickly textured, with a slightly port-like nose. It remains superb.

  • Champagne Bollinger Grande Année 2008 - the polar opposite to the Salon is the latest release from Bollinger. In this vintage they have tightened up their style significantly to produce a laser-focused wine of immense purity with good oak integration.  I have had so many issues with oxidation in Bollinger, but happily this looks like a totally different style of wine.