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Chris Kissack
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Chris Kissack

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Sometimes when I return from the Bordeaux primeurs I seek out a Bordeaux antidote, a wine with more freshness and zip than all the dark, sweet, tannin-laden barrel samples I have been tasting and spitting. More often than not I turn to the Loire Valley, no surprises there, for something white, the more minerally the better. Savennières, anyone?

It is perhaps a sign of the high quality offered by some corners of Bordeaux in the 2015 vintage that, on returning home to Scotland, I just wanted to keep the Bordeaux ball rolling with some other wines from this, the most preeminent of all wine regions. So I have been drinking St Emilion and Pomerol all weekend (as well as a couple of pints of Summer Lightning from the Hop Back Brewery - perhaps that was my real antidote), and whereas the wines from St Emilion were, while good enough, really nothing to write home about, this lone representative from Pomerol gave out a little more joy.

Keeping the Bordeaux ball rolling.
http://buff.ly/1Xqd5i5
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Weekend Wine: Château Montviel Pomerol 2004
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After three very awkward vintages, I think 2014 must have come as a relief to the vignerons of Touraine. The 2011 vintage had been complex, with some delicious sweet wines in Vouvray, and some very fine reds, both styles from vines that took advantage of a long period of warm weather during autumn. The dry whites have tended to be a bit clunky though, in my experience, the wines a clash of mismatched sugar and phenolic ripeness. The 2012 vintage was mean and meagre in Vouvray; flooding during the growing season didn't help, and the red wines are similarly lean. There are drinkable red wines, especially from the most dedicated domaines such as Bernard Baudry, but it was far from being a memorable year. The 2013 vintage was blighted by a summer hailstorm that did its best to wipe out livelihoods in the region (but failed, as far as I am aware, thankfully); the whites from Vouvray are decent enough taking that into account, but the reds are petit vins in all senses of the word, with grainy unripe tannins and the 'normal' alcohol levels the undeniable result of chaptalisation in the majority of wines I have encountered.

So fingers and toes were crossed for 2014, and in the end things went well overall........

Read on in my next two reports on Loire 2014, with two-dozen wines from Touraine and the Central Vineyards.
http://www.thewinedoctor.com/tastingsformal/loire2014_2016touraine.shtml
http://www.thewinedoctor.com/tastingsformal/loire2014_2016central.shtml
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Just a week or two ago I was down in London to participate in a panel tasting of Saumur and Saumur-Champigny for Decanter magazine. Three of us - myself, the ever-effervescent Jim Budd and Laure Patry, head sommelier for the Jason Atherton restaurant group (Pollen Street Social and the like) - spent the best part of the day tasting our way through dozens of wines, mostly from the 2014 vintage. If you're interested in Saumur (and, I wonder, who isn't?) then I think the tasting is slated for publication in the May edition.

During a lull in the day, with the tasting all done but before we summed up our thoughts on the wines, Laure asked Jim and I whether or not we had a favourite region in the Loire Valley.....

My weekend wine, the François Pinon Vouvray Cuvée Tradition 1997.
http://www.thewinedoctor.com/weekend/francoispinon_vouvraytradition_1997.shtml
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Weekend Wine: François Pinon Vouvray Cuvée Tradition 1997
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As March draws to a close the minds and eyes of the wine trade are already turning towards Bordeaux, and the forthcoming primeur tastings of the 2015 vintage. Indeed, before this week has come to an end I will already be in the region, front-crawling my way though a sea of 2015 primeurs samples.

With this in mind, this short report closes the book on my recent 2013 Bordeaux updates.

I return to the 2013 vintage to check out Cos d'Estournel, Les Pagodes and Goulée.
http://www.thewinedoctor.com/tastingsformal/cosdestournel2016.shtml
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As my understanding of Muscadet has increased over the years I have become aware of many domaines beyond the famous names that are worthy of our interest. It isn't hard to pick out domaines such as Domaine de l'Ecu, Pierre Luneau-Papin or Jo Landron as sources of quality; look back to see what was being written about this region twenty years ago and you find these names cropping up with reliable regularity. These names aren't new to the world of wine. What is perhaps more challenging is identifying other as yet unsung domaines, or up-and-coming domaines.

I taste the latest from the Lieubeau family, mainly forthcoming releases from the 2015 vintage, plus a few older cuvées.
http://www.thewinedoctor.com/tastingsformal/lieubeau2016.shtml
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My tasting and drinking this weekend has been all over the place, from brand new Côtes du Forez only pulled from the vat and bottled a month-or-so ago, and similarly youthful St Estèphe (pulled from the barrel rather than the vat, but still very recently bottled) to moderately mature Pauillac and Vouvray, both hailing from the 2003 vintage. But the wine that intrigued me the most sat between these two extremes, and it was this pétillant cuvée from Xavier Weisskopf, of Le Rocher des Violettes.

My weekend wine, the 2013 Pétillant, from Le Rocher des Violettes.
http://www.thewinedoctor.com/weekend/rocherdesviolettes_montlouispetillant_2013.shtml
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Weekend Wine: Le Rocher des Violettes Montlouis Pétillant 2013
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The south-facing slopes that lie against the edge of the limestone plateau of St Emilion, just to the south of the town, have proved their worth in recent years. Although there is an impressive gathering of châteaux up on the hard calcaire à astéries that lies beneath and around the town, those who know the wines of St Emilion have long regarded this slope of limestone and clay, the Côte de Pavie, as special. This belief has, over the years, been reinforced by the St Emilion classification, perhaps most notably in 2012. Without a doubt the biggest surprise of the new classification was the elevation of two châteaux to premier grand cru classé, level A, one of which was of course Château Pavie, the other Château Angelus. Their elevation did tend to overshadow other promotions made in the new classification, one of which was also on the Côte de Pavie. This was Château Larcis Ducasse, promoted from grand cru classé to premier grand cru classé, level B.

An update to my Larcis Ducase profile. Five pages of detail including the winemaking philosophies of David Suire.
http://www.thewinedoctor.com/bordeaux/larcisducasse.shtml
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Chris Kissack

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There is sometimes a sense of mystery surrounding the less well-known names of the famous Médoc communes, especially in Pauillac and St Julien. Cru Bourgeois estates are still relatively common sights in Margaux and St Estèphe, especially in the latter where they outnumber their classed growth peers in the way that girls used to outnumber boys at the Cabin, Liverpool's stickiest nightspot. In Pauillac and St Julien, however, châteaux and vineyards not entitled to the cru classé moniker are increasingly rare beasts. They do exist, although even when we find them their history is somewhat soured by association with the grandees of the appellation. Looking at St Julien for example, the ever-popular Clos du Marquis essentially started out as a second wine for Château Léoville-Las-Cases while Château Moulin Riche, initially an independent estate, suffered the same fate on behalf of Château Léoville-Poyferré before it was reborn as a separate entity in the 2009 vintage.

The story of Château Lalande-Borie also owes much to one of the classed growths of the appellation, although here the association seems wholly positive......

Read on in my new profile of another less well-known domainee in St Julien, Château Lalande-Borie.
http://buff.ly/1pLbSH1
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With Bordeaux, having first formed an opinion on the style and quality of the wines in any one vintage, starting at the primeurs, I will then return to them again and again, as they hit two, four or more years of age, reviewing my opinions each time. In the UK we are blessed with multiple tasting opportunities, and as if those weren't sufficient it is quite easy for me to fly to Bordeaux to retaste, as I did with the 2013 vintage last October. And it is now less than a week before I head out to Bordeaux once again, for the 2015 vintage primeurs, to start the cycle over once again. During nine days of visits I will taste hundreds of barrel samples, my first contact with the vintage.

In the Loire Valley, building an overview of a vintage is a much more complex affair, gathering together notes and opinions in a much more piecemeal fashion. There is no such thing as primeurs week in Nantes, Angers, Tours or Sancerre. Nevertheless, for the past few years I have done my best in this regard, publishing detailed growing season reports backed up with as many notes as I can pull together. Without a primeurs-style though (i.e. there are no huge tastings of embryonic barrel samples), these wines have always tended to be those the vigneron will be bringing to market soon. As a consequence, these earliest reports tend to be weighted towards Muscadet, Cabernet d'Anjou, early drinking reds and whites from Anjou, Bourgueil, Cheverny, Touraine and the like, as well as a selection of wines from Sancerre of course.......

Read on in my new tasting report, Loire 2014: Second Taste. Here in my introduction I take a brief look back at the growing season, before I get stuck into my tasting notes for Anjou and Saumur in this vintage, from Anjou Blanc up to Quarts de Chaume. Tomorrow, I will add Touraine and the Central Vineyards.
http://www.thewinedoctor.com/tastingsformal/loire2014_2016introduction.shtml
http://www.thewinedoctor.com/tastingsformal/loire2014_2016anjou.shtml
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Leith, that place where The Proclaimers wanted us to believe the sun shines, has a long and illustrious history as a port. Situated as it is below Edinburgh at the mouth of the Water of Leith, looking out on the Firth of Forth and the North Sea beyond, it is hardly surprising that in its heyday it saw millions of tonnes of cargo landed each year. There were once more than one hundred warehouses on Henderson Street built purely for the storage of wine and brandy, an indicator of the strength of the wine and spirits trade in these parts. Sadly, those days have long gone; even the Vintners Rooms, a restaurateur's nod to this ancient vinous heritage, has long closed down.

Of course it was not all about wine. Leith had many other industries, from shipbuilding and whaling to glass manufacture and fishing. Sadly I suspect there is now about as much life left in Leith's fishing fleet as there is in its bonded wine warehouses. Even so, The Ship on the Shore seems ideally placed on the waterside to take advantage of anything that might be landed here. The concept - high quality Scottish seafood served with minimal dressing up - is undeniably appropriate, and in the spirit of this place, even if in practice the provenance of their seafood is somewhat more distant. The scallops are hand-dived and come from Mull, the mussels are not from neighbouring Musselburgh but are rope-farmed in the Shetland Isles, while the oysters hail from Loch Creran. But that's fine. It's all freshly shipped in, and it all comes from sustainabile sources.

A restaurant review: I pop down to The Ship on the Shore for some sustainable Scottish seafood.
http://www.thewinedoctor.com/restaurants/shipontheshore.shtml
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Restaurant Review - Ship on the Shore, Edinburgh
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Chris Kissack

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In the spring of 2013 I found myself once again in Bordeaux, ready to get to grips with the latest vintage during a week of primeur tastings. Working my way through Pessac-Léognan I eventually came, at midday, to Château Haut-Bailly not just to taste the result of all their efforts in the 2012 vintage, but also to take advantage of a fifteen-vintage vertical they had promised me, to celebrate fifteen years of ownership by Robert Wilmers. These are, after all, opportunities one simply can't turn down.

You might think the talking point of the tasting would be whether the 2005 vintage was superior to the 2000, or how the under-rated 1998 vintage stacked up against the 1996. As it turned out though, the real buzz concerned the recent purchase by Robert of Château Le Pape, an estate hidden just around the corner from Château Haut-Bailly. A domaine with a chronically low profile, Château Le Pape was nevertheless in possession of good terroir, and it seemed to be hidden in plain sight, nestled among a number of classed growths. In was clearly ripe for new investment, and it seemed that we could expect improvements in the quality of the wine as a result.

I profile Château Le Pape, a domaine recently taken on by the team from Château Haut-Bailly, and of which we can expect good things.
http://www.thewinedoctor.com/bordeaux/pape.shtml
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Chris Kissack

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Our formative years are important ones. As youngsters, as teenagers, or as young men and women setting out to change the world, our environment shaped our beliefs, philosophies and personalities much more than - at the time - we perhaps realised. The arts can have a profound effect on us at this impressionable age. The music we listened to perhaps felt transient, but in fact it stays with us for the rest of our lives. We saw the work of great directors such as Jean-Luc Goddard and Stanley Kubrick for the first time, learning that moving pictures can also move emotions, and we discovered the power of the words written by Wells, Orwell, Hemingway and their ilk. As humans, we grew, moving in character towards the adults we are today.

The discovery of wine perhaps comes a little later in life, especially so when it comes to increasingly expensive cru classé wines of Bordeaux. Even so, I suspect each of us has had our own significant, formative experiences. Some will indeed be transient, for a multitude of reasons, not least the fact that the wine world does not stand still; châteaux change hands, and styles of wine change. When we return to a familiar piece of music, a film or a favourite novel, while it may feel dated it is in fact us, and the world around us, that has changed. The work of the artist remains the same, a time capsule moving ever forward, ever available, ever the same. With wine, however, it is impossible to infinitely return to the same wine, first because wines themselves age and evolve, and secondly because the supply of any one wine is necessarily finite. Eventually we must give up on that old favourite, and drink a younger vintage instead. Sometimes the memory the new vintage evokes can be joyous, but these younger wines can also disappoint. That's wine. And that's life.

Today, I publish another in my series of St Julien profiles updates, as I overhaul my account of Château Léoville-Barton. I expand the profile from 1 to 6 pages, with piles of new historical detail, new information on the domaine today, and new images throughout.
http://www.thewinedoctor.com/tastingsprofile/leovillebarton.shtml
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  • Winedoctor
    2000 - present
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Chris Kissack is the author of Winedoctor.
Introduction
Chris Kissack is a British wine writer, creator and author of Winedoctor online, and the Pocket Guide to Bordeaux in print. Having launched Winedoctor online in 2000, Kissack was one of the earliest writers to adopt the internet as the main medium for his writings.
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  • Douglas High School
    2014
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