“In 1977 I hope I go to heaven…” | 1977 Château Latour

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The Clash was probably not thinking of Bordeaux vintages when they released “1977” as the B-side to “White Riot” (nothing to do with white wine) in March 1977…

It was the first of four unusually late Bordeaux vintages that had wet winters and/or springs.

By early September the grapes were so unripe that there were warnings of an abysmal vintage to come – even worse than 1972!

But the sun came out in September – there were more hours of sunshine and the lowest rainfall for a hundred years – and the year was saved.

Château Latour’s grapes were harvested 3-17 October. As a point of comparison, the 1982 was harvested 16-30 September.

It might be the best wine of this difficult vintage, which is often the case with Latour in challenging years: The deep gravel soil (with its drainage) and the vineyards’ proximity to the Gironde estuary – only 300 metres away – mitigate against rainfall and frost.

Arden’s bottle of 1977 Latour came from an Oxfordshire auctioneer, who supplied us with the previous owner’s purchase receipt – impeccable provenance.

As 45-year-olds go, it’s a good ’un…

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Don’t Diss Me | Three litre-bottles of DRC La Tâche 1986 & Richebourg 1976 from Norfolk

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Arden Fine Wines retains an extensive “library” of empty bottles of fine wines.

Most of them were consumed by Arden staff (purely for professional purposes, of course…) and they evoke happy memories of great wines enjoyed with friends. But the empty bottles also represent authentic examples of rare wines against which we can compare future purchases.

(And prevents less scrupulous people from refilling them and offering them for sale.)

Recently we acquired two empty Domaine de la Romanée-Conti jeroboams – La Tâche 1986 and Richebourg 1976 – from an auctioneer in Diss, Norfolk.

DRC bottles Diss

It was a very hot summer in 1976 and the sunbaked Pinot Noir grapes of the 18-acre Richebourg vineyard in Vosne-Romanée (of which DRC owns just under nine acres) were turned into deep-coloured, tannic wines.

It was also the year that the A6 “Autoroute du Soleil” from Paris to Beaune was opened, so all those nice Parisians could now visit the wineries of the Côte d’Or very easily.

The La Tâche 1986 is of a good mid-80s vintage and still has most of its wax capsule intact (apart from the bit that was removed when the bottle was opened, of course).

The “Percy Fox & Co Limited” slip label represents the then sole UK distributors of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. Percy Fox became part of Diageo and then Treasury Wine Estates, offering Blossom Hill rather than DRC.

These two big beauties are sadly empty but we do have 75cl bottles of 1975 La Tâche and Romanée-St-Vivant – which are not empty promises…

  • 1975 DRC Romanée-Conti Saint Vivant
    1975 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti | Romanée-St-Vivant (1x75cl)
    £1,360.00
  • 1975 La Tache
    1975 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti | La Tâche (1 x 75cl)
    £1,495.00
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PROJECT FRONT FOOT: NEWSLETTER SPRING 2022: ROAD TRIP SPECIAL

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From my friend Vic Mills:

“Hi Stuart,

Greetings from Berlin. Hope this finds you fit and well.

A busy quarter for the project culminated in our three-day hack around western Europe earlier in the month delivering kit to clubs and refugee cricketers in France and Germany. Hence this Road Trip Special.

Of other news, I can confirm that Rogue Cricketer (p17) … or what I did during lockdown … is set for publication on 4 July. Much to do on several fronts in the interim, including the planning for several weeks in Canada May/June. Enjoy the attached and stay well.

Cheers

Vic”

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Wor vintage: 1943 Château Margaux from a Newcastle cellar

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The great English city of Newcastle is 280 miles north of London.

It’s a long way to go for a bottle of wine – unless it’s something special.

As they say in Newcastle: Noo tha yoor heor at the toon yee might want te knaa a bit more aboot aad Margaux an stuff…

This beautiful bottle of 1943 Château Margaux was acquired by Arden from a Newcastle auctioneer.

There was a wartime shortage of chromium, which gives glass a deeper green colour. Chromium was used – with iron – to make stainless steel rather than wine bottles. So wartime bottles like this Margaux are a pale green-blue.

From 1935 – when AOC was established – until 1952 Château Margaux had (unexpectedly, to modern eyes)“APPELLATION HAUT-MÉDOC CONTROLÉE” on the label.

I don’t know why this was so but it’s correct and evidence of veracity – unlike the 1949 bottle that I called-out last year

The Tyne Bridge was opened in 1928. Arden also has available a half-bottle of Château Margaux 1928 to commemorate this important event.

In the meantime: Hev a canny weekend!

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She Sells Sichels on the Seashore: 1937 Sichel & Cie Volnay

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Volnay was served at the royal table for the coronation of Louis XV in 1722.

(Louis was only 12 years old so probably did not drink it himself.)

His father the “Sun King” Louis XIV is said to have preferred Volnay to all other wines.

We could do with some sunshine and Volnay in Mayfair…

(It was snowing when Elior and I were photographed!)

This bottle of 1937 Sichel & Cie Volnay was made the year before Allan Sichel (with three other parties) bought the then extremely dilapidated Château Palmer in Bordeaux.

Coming only two years after appellation d’origine contrôlée had been established in France as a certification of authenticity granted to certain geographical indications for wines, cheeses, butters, and other agricultural products, 1937 was the best Burgundy vintage of a difficult decade of economic depression and then war.

Ripened by a hot, dry summer, the Pinot Noir grapes were made into tannic wines that were built to last.

Now 85 years old, this 1937 Volnay still retains a deep colour.

It might be just the thing to warm you up while it snows in April…

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Clos network | 2009 Louis Jadot Clos de la Roche

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Worcester Cathedral, in the pleasant county of my birth, dates to 1084.

Burgundy was already famed for its wines by this time. There are church records that mention donations of vines between the villages of Aloxe and Pernand by Charlemagne to the Abbey of St. Andoche in Saulieu in the eighth century.

Maison Louis Jadot was established in Beaune in 1859, at about the time that Worcester Cathedral was being restored by Sir George Gilbert Scott, architect of the Midland Grand Hotel at St Pancras Station, among many famous buildings built by him.

Clos de la Roche 2009 Worcester Cathedral

The 42-acre Clos de la Roche vineyard is in the north of Morey-Saint-Denis, close to the Grands Crus vineyards of Gevrey-Chambertin, and yields about 60,000 bottles per year.

Jadot does not own vines in Clos de la Roche, hence the wine is bottled as plain “Louis Jadot” – as contrasted to wines made from Jadot’s own vineyards, which are labelled as “Domaine Louis Jadot”.

French winemakers say “Août fait le moût” (“August makes the must”) and this was rarely truer than in August 2009, when Burgundy basked in sunshine – with the occasional (and very welcome) drop of rain – to ripen the Pinot Noir grapes perfectly for the harvest in early September. It’s a mighty fine Burgundy vintage.

Six bottles left here of 2009 Clos de la Roche – if they’re not enjoyed next to the River Severn in the meantime…

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A strobogrammatic vintage | 1961 Château Mouton Rothschild

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It was a superlative year for Bordeaux in 1961, producing wines of power and majesty.

Control of temperature during fermentation was better than it had been in, say, 1928 or 1945, so the tannins were reined-in and the wines were very attractive from their early days.

Arden recently acquired a bottle of the great 1961 Château Mouton Rothschild from a cellar in Essex.

It has a “La Bergerie” neck label. This was the negociant company acquired by Baron Philippe de Rothschild in 1933 from the Comte de Ferrand  as part of the deal that saw the Baron purchase Château Mouton d’Armailhacq.

The ullage reflects its age – it’s 61 years old, you know!

(Alas, 1961 wines do not always look as good as my doppelgänger George Clooney, also of 1961.)

But the wine itself is still blood-dark, suggesting that it’s good to go…

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Château Clerc Milon 1975

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Château Clerc Milon 1975… 🍷 😋

This Pauillac estate was acquired by Baron Philippe de Rothschild (of Mouton Rothschild) in 1970, when it was called Château Clerc-Milon-Mondon.

He dropped the Mondon part of the name and redesigned the label, modelling it on a silver “jungfraubecher” wedding beaker from Augsburg dating from 1609.

The beaker is in the form of a lady raising a coupe above her head. This coupe forms one drinking vessel and the skirt of the lady forms another. A newly-married couple would drink from both parts of the beaker at the same time, trying not to spill anything.

From the 1983 vintage, the label was illustrated with a drawing of a pair of commedia dell’arte dancers, based on a 17th century piece displayed in the Museum of Wine in Art at Château Mouton Rothschild.

Parts of the label of this Clerc Milon bottle were missing, so the vintage was unknown.

The label design meant that it could be of any year from 1970 to 1982… 🤔

The cork was embossed with 1975 – a good mid-1970s Bordeaux vintage, of which this Clerc Milon was a decent example: Darkly-coloured, tannic, cedary, and getting close to the point of no return – but still worth opening and drinking (which I did 🍷).

#ArdenFineWines #Mayfair #finewine #oldwine #rarewine #ClercMilon #Pauillac

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The Ballad of the White Horse | 1996 Château Cheval Blanc

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The origin of the “white horse” name of Château Cheval Blanc is uncertain, though an apocryphal story links it to a post house that once stood at the site of this great Saint-Emilion estate.

Henri IV, who always rode white horses, is said to have changed horses here on the way to Pau.
Having started professionally in wine in 1996, this was the first Bordeaux vintage that I worked with when it was offered en primeur in 1997.

I don’t recall offering Cheval Blanc that year – but, 25 years later, here it is

1996 Cheval Blanc
1996 Cheval Blanc

This is a fine vintage of Cheval Blanc that recently came in and out of Arden Fine Wines’ new office in Upper Grosvenor Street, Mayfair, London.

Looking south, the view shows the Marriott Grosvenor House hotel and The Dorchester.

We look forward to welcoming our clients and friends to Upper Grosvenor Street to discuss other vintages of Cheval Blanc and similarly important matters.

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Talkin’ ’bout a Revolution | 1956 Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos from the collection of Dr. Olah László

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On 22nd October 1956, the harvesting of grapes in Tokaj, in northeastern Hungary, began.

A day later, 20,000 protesters gathered in Budapest to hear Péter Veres, the president of the Writers’ Union, read a manifesto that demanded Hungarian independence from all foreign powers.

At this time, Hungary was governed by the Marxist-Leninist Socialist Workers’ Party and was a satellite state of the Soviet Union.

In November 1956, 150,000 troops and 2,500 tanks from the Soviet Union entered Hungary and quelled what had become an uprising.

Repression of the Hungarian Uprising killed 2,500 Hungarians and 700 Soviet Army soldiers, and compelled 200,000 Hungarians to seek political refuge abroad.

Wines were made in 1956 but it was a year that had to be wiped from existence by the Communist regime. All 1956 wines were subsequently labelled as 1957.

Miraculously, some 1956 wines survived this troubled period. During the 1960s, Dr. Olah László of the Hungarian National Wine Institute discovered unreleased wines when exploring old cellars in the 1960s. He hid them and some were eventually released for sale.

This rare bottle of 1956 Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos from the collection of Dr. Olah László came to Arden Fine Wines from a private client, who said:

“My father escaped Hungary in 1956 but went back from the 1980s onwards, every few years or so. 1956 was obviously an important year for him (and other Hungarians who left that year: there were many), so I’m not sure if he took it with him when he left or whether he acquired it afterwards as a sort of memento.”

See more about this historic bottle here.

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