VOLUME 14
Featured in this issue

The Personal Wine Curator Vintage Ratings have been Updated

With the world’s top regions’ vintage qualities for 2006 becoming more widely assessed, we have added the available ratings for most of the categories in The Personal Wine Curator. PWC uses vintage ratings in comparison to aging potentials of wines from a given region (along with your information as to the quality of a wine) to help you determine the date range of your wine’s “life” span. Download the latest update now!

Preview of Version 3.0 of The Personal Wine Curator!

We announced in Vol. 12 of The Blend that version 3.0 of the Personal Wine Curator is coming in the fall. Here’s another preview of what’s to come: Save your favorite wine lists and searches!

Hate to keep searching for the same wines over and over again? So do we, so starting with v3.0 when you've got a set of search criteria -- for example, all Bordeaux from the Right Bank older than 1999 -- you can save that list, give it a name and pull it back up any time you want. And if you add wines to your cellar that fit those criteria, they'll automatically be added!

Yearly Beloved: The Wine Lover’s Devotion to Vintage Ratings

Echoing Nietzsche, wine writer Frank J. Prial of the New York Times declared the vintage chart to be “dead.” His point was that winemakers, using their skills and technology, can produce good wines in any vintage and thus have “rendered the vintage chart obsolete.” Of course, vintage charts have always been problematic, given their very general assessments of entire vasty fields of France (and others). Meso-, Macro-, and Micro-climates thrive in every slopey hill, valley floor and meandering barranca. Different grapes reflect the changes in climate, as well as soil types, aspect, etc. in their flavors differently. New World wine regions have the luxury of very consistent weather year in and year out, while irrigation has leveled the playing field the world over.

So why do we cling to the practice of relying on vintage ratings to guide our wine choices? One reason is certainly commercial. Producers have an incentive to tout the next vintage as the best ever in order to create a buzz about their product and tantalize buyers into paying increasingly higher prices. History and tradition are factors too. Famous old vintages of Bordeaux carry an ethereal mystique to go with the sticker shock. In much the same way that certain enthusiasts are loathe to dispense with the dear old cork in favor of less faulty closures, the notion of pedigreed premium quality wine coming in a bottle without a date on it is heretical.

Vintage ratings with a degree of detail are more helpful. The Wine Advocate breaks up the region of Bordeaux by sub-regions when assessing the quality of a vintage and even adds a key to how a wine from that vintage may be evolving (“T= Still tannic, youthful or slow to mature”). But even Robert Parker knows that the best wines from any vintage can still be great wines. In his 15 ratings of 2006 Pauillac, an “87” on his Vintage Chart, Parker rated not one wine at 87 points or below, while all 15 were rated 90 points and above, including a possibly “perfect” Mouton-Rothschild (96-100 points).

One recommendation for using the guidance of a vintage guide is to look for great wines from underrated rated years, as the prices for these wines are often marked well below their brothers and sisters from the so-called “classic” years. Another fairly safe bet is to buy and try lots of different less well-known wines from the outstanding years. It’ll cost you less, plus it’s fun to explore unchartered terrain.

Just as reviews, recommendations, cool labels and great looking sales people can have a positive influence on your purchases, so too can vintage ratings. But don’t always take them to heart.

The Blend’s Monthly Featured Producer: LÉOVILLE-POYFERRÉ

Saint-Julien has three properties that were all once part of the vast Léoville estate going back to the 17th and 18th centuries. With the death of the proprietor, Blaise de Gascq, the property was split among various family members and in the ensuing years, was parceled into three distinct châteaux: Léoville-Barton, Léoville-Las-Cases, and Léoville Poyferré. The latter, which comprises the central portion of the original estate, including the château, had its ups and downs until the current owner, Didier Cuvelier, took over in the late 1970s. With advice from Emile Peynaud and Michel Rolland, Cuvelier invested some serious money and effort into bringing the property back to its former greatness. He replanted the vineyard, doubling the Cabernet Sauvignon vines (and reducing the more Right Bank suited Merlot) and incorporating the old vines from their Moulin Riche vineyard. With modern facilities and more use of new oak, things really turned around and by the early 1980s, the Château was putting out a string of good wines. Since the 1990s the quality has truly been up to the level where this property should be. Along with the grand vin is their second wine, Chateau Moulin Riche, and also a third wine, Pavillon des Connetables.

Recommended Wine:

wine labelThe wines of Château Léoville Poyferré have an aromatic complexity that ranges from currants and cherries to mushrooms (for older vintages). Thanks to its notable Saint-Julien terroir, the grand vin achieves terrific balance. Over time, the wine develops a sultry, velvety quality in addition to elegance and finesse, and has tremendous potential for aging. The 1999 is now showing an almost opaque ruby red with good viscosity. The aroma gives off that familiar Saint-Julien expression of light cedar and currant, with a touch of black cherry and a bit of menthol. On the palate it’s quite dry, light-medium bodied and earthy, with flavors of bright red fruit, church incense and what we like to call “Grandma’s attic,” a comforting cedary element. While 1999 was not the sensational vintage that 2000 was in Bordeaux, this vintage of Léoville-Poyferré has an average price of $78 (we bought a bottle for $45) as compared to $175 for the 2000.

Pairs well with braised beef, chicken pot pie, Gouda cheese, halibut, pintade, and grilled salmon among many other dishes. About $78 USD. (current average)

Catalog this wine in The Personal Wine Curator cellar software like this:

  • Producer: Léoville-Poyferré
  • Wine Name/Appellation: Saint-Julien
  • Vintage: 1999
  • Varietal: Bordeaux Blend
  • Type: Red
  • Vineyard/Sub-sub:
  • Sub-region: Saint-Julien
  • Region: Bordeaux
  • Country: France
  • Body: Medium
  • Distinction: Bordeaux, Red (Cru Bourgeois/Cru Classé
  • Drink after: 2002
  • Drink by: 2017

PWC Tips and Tricks

Print your bottle tags and labels in batches of equal quantities ... CLICK HERE.

Did you know: Vintage Wine is Not Necessarily From the Year on the Label?

Most countries allow a vintage wine to be blended with wine that is not from the year printed on the label. On the low end, Chile and South Africa allow a mere 75 percent of the wine to be exclusively from the year stated. In Australia, New Zealand, and most of Europe, the minimum allowed is 85 percent.  In the United States that number is also 85 percent, unless the wine is designated with an AVA appellation, such as “Rutherford,” in which case the minimum requirement goes up to 95 percent. All vintage designated wine sold in the U.S. is supposed to go by the 85 percent rule, but enforcing that kind of regulation on foreign imports is a bit like asking sparkling wine producers to refrain from using the word “Champagne” on their label when the wine doesn’t actually come from Champagne.

Great last minute Father's Day gift idea -- PWC Gift Certificates

The Personal Wine Curator can be purchased as a gift certificate and printed immediately right from your computer. Giving somebody the software as a gift has never been easier. It’s just the thing for last minute gifts. Once the recipient gets the certificate, all he or she has to do is go to our website, type in the certificate number and download the software! It’s that simple. No shipping costs or time constraints. Buy gift certificates HERE.

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