Last Tuesday was a big day – it marked the first time that the first vintage of Chateau George 7 was tasted outside the winery.
We are in the run up to the Bordeaux ‘en primeur’ week which will take place from 1-4 April. ‘En primeur’ refers to ‘futures’ - buying wine in the Spring after harvest while it is still in barrel and up to two years ahead of the official release. It has existed in Bordeaux for the trade for some time and more recently for the consumer. It applies most of all to the classed growths who command top prices and for which gambling on the value of the wine going up as it matures, can make a huge monetary difference. However, many more than just the top wines are offered up to the international wine trade who come to review the vintage during the first week of April. The influx of journalists, critics and buyers to Bordeaux - to taste, tweet, compare, and comment on what they think and predict of the harvest under debate – is still an important highlight of the wine calendar and invaluable to the Bordeaux wine industry.
As a small and (as yet) little known wine producer, ‘en primeur’ for me is about benefitting from the excitement and tasting frenzy in order to get feedback and early recognition for the wine. And an indication as to whether I should sell up and move on!
We have a schedule of trade and influencer tastings both pre and during primeur week that are organised by the appellation of Fronsac and the oenology team from Libourne. Bottles have to be labelled and capsuled (with the top disk of the capsule cut off to allow for the cork) so we expect to get through nigh on 50 bottles of samples. Because the wine is not finished, it is not yet 100% stable, so we pour fresh samples as needed and submit them before each tasting event.
The calendar of tastings kicked off on Tuesday with a blind tasting at the 'Maison des Vins de Fronsac' where the appellation is managed and oversees all producers who bottle under the Fronsac /Canon Fronsac appellations. Two highly respected palates blind tasted 35 Fronsac wines giving their critique of each one to the assembled group of winemakers and chateau owners who tasted along with them. So not only was it the first tasting outside the chateau, it was a tasting amongst wine professionals. Eek! Everyone (about 45 of us) in the room waited in anticipation as they swirled, scrutinised, swooshed and spat and we were free to dive in and add our comments. Only at the end were the wines behind each number revealed. Suitably, we had been given number 7! So everyone then hurriedly consulted their notes to see which were the ones they liked (or not!). The wines were not ranked per se, but each taster drew their conclusions as to where their own wine sat and how 2018 was shaping up as a vintage for our appellation.
Despite having done a lot of wine tasting training, I don’t cease to admire the details and subtleties a highly trained palate can pick up. Even more so when the wines are in development as they are currently.
I am thrilled (and oh so relieved) that the commentary was really very, very positive – highlighting the superb colour, the interesting nose, ripe fruit, the openness of flavours, the structure balancing tannin and fruitiness, a lovely acidity, the length of finish in the mouth and importantly, an overall style that is untypical of Fronsac. It also generated quite a bit of discussion as it was not recognised by some as a ‘traditional Fronsac wine’ which is precisely our goal - we are aiming for more of a New World feel but with the plus points of its Bordeaux origins. It was very well placed amongst wines which I have bought, enjoyed and are highly respected and it tasted better than some I look up to. Fellow producers I talked to afterwards told me how well they had marked it. That will do for starters, thank you.
In true French tradition, the morning was followed by a buffet lunch and a glass of wine before everyone headed back to the vines or the winery. And I went to seek out some more bottles for samples. Bring on the next tasting!