Michael Robinson

For Bordeaux wines, Jonathan’s your man

  • Jonathan Maltus is world-famous for making small lots of top Bordeaux wines
  • Quality, not quantity: Jonathan Maltus is world-famous for making small lots of top Bordeaux wines

I have just printed off a detailed five-page vintage chart for our sales team and our stores.

It informs us that years with a 98-100 rating are classic, 94-97 are superb, 90-93 are excellent, 87-89 are very good, 83-86 are good and 80-82 are acceptable.

It occurs to me that Mother Nature was in a particularly co-operative mood in 2015 with the St Emilion region of Bordeaux (Right Bank) in at 96/100 and the Medoc (Left Bank) 98/100 and Napa Valley 95/100.

The auction house Sotheby’s says this regarding Tuscany: “2015 is not just a great vintage across Italy, it’s also an important one. Important because the style of wines in this vintage are the best expression yet of where Italian wine is at present. Italian winemakers are now moving into an era of transparency, to grape variety and terroir. And in a warm, sunny vintage like 2015, the wines produced are glorious. I haven’t tasted a bad one yet.”

Let me recommend a few, starting with a new arrival from St Emilion, garagiste Jonathan Maltus who is world-famous for making small lots of top Bordeaux wines.

In fact, the best-known wine critic, Robert Parker recently awarded him 100/100 for one of them. Fortunately, Jonathan is happy to defy, in some cases, what a Bordeaux wine must cost and so we offer you his 2015 vintage claret for $19.35.

This merlot and cabernet sauvignon blend is deep crimson with a bouquet of rich fruits that is ready to enjoy now as it exhibits a lovely softness and good balance. This wine is only made in exceptional years.

For the cellar, you would be spot-on to put a case away of Alter Ego de Palmer 2015, that is the second wine of the biodynamically-farmed Chateau Palmer in Margaux. I will quote James Suckling who rates it 96/100: “This is sensational, characterised by such purity and beauty and with aromas of blackberries, dark chocolate, walnuts, cedar and lavender. Full-bodied, tight and focused — in part thanks to sensational tannin tension that is intense yet polished. Needs five to six years of bottle age to come together. Great second wine of Palmer.”

This lists for $132.30, but a six-pack wooden case is $714.42, or $119.07 a bottle.

San Felice Il Grigio 2015 Chianti Classico Reserva is made only from the finest sangiovese grapes, carefully selected from the estate vineyards.

This reserva represents the perfect blend of the traditional and the modern. It spends some 24 months in oak, with about 20 per cent in small barriques, and one year in the bottle. The front label bears Titian’s famous portrait of a medieval knight in armour.

Deep ruby red colour. The nose is intense and persistent with the typical notes of sweet violet and wild red berries. An austere, full-bodied wine, with succulent tannins and fresh acidity. Enriched with an aromatic complexity that originates from a delicate dosing of wood. James Suckling rates it 94/100 and writes of the purity of its fruit. $28.90.

In the 1970s Tuscan winemakers rebelled against the government rule that required white grapes like malvasia and trebbiano to be blended with their classic sangiovese. If this was not done, then only the lowest classification of “vino da tavola” could go on the label. Finally, in 1994, the high quality of “Super Tuscans” was recognised and awarded their own IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica) classification.

We offer Castello de Volpaia 2015 Balifico IGT, a blend of 65 per cent sangiovese and 35 per cent cabernet sauvignon. This fully certified organic wine is a vivid ruby colour with a dark purple tinge. The nose is elegant, displaying aromas of blackberry and blueberry with hints of oak and cinnamon. This wine is smooth on the palate, with red fruit flavours, good structure and a long finish. This deep and powerful offering will develop beautifully over the next fifteen years. $52.50.

Some of my fondest memories are of sitting down to taste, in the late 1970s, with my new bride and folks that would go on to place Napa Valley among the finest wine areas in the world. The AVA, almost completely planted out now at 45,000 acres, is dwarfed by 296,000 in Bordeaux.

A most remarkable day and evening, in those long ago 1970s, was the time spent with André Tchelistcheff who was known as “the dean of American winemakers”. In 1938 Frenchman Georges de Latour, owner of Beaulieu Vineyards (BV), visited France in search of a new winemaker for his Napa Valley estate and Tchelistcheff came to California where he helped establish the BV Georges de Latour Reserve label. The world discovered the relationship between cabernet sauvignon and the soils and climate of Napa Valley.

Deep and intense, Beaulieu Vineyard’s 2015 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon reveals the superb concentration of the vintage. Opulent layers of blackberry, black cherry and juicy plum character unfold with complex nuances of violet and mocha. Ample, mature tannins provide firm structure and rich texture for the mouth-filling flavours. Nicely integrated hints of allspice, cinnamon and caramel from toasted oak barrels lace the aromas and lingering finish. This big, generous Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon is approachable and delicious now, yet promises cellar worthiness.

The blend is 94 per cent cabernet sauvignon, 2 per cent petit verdot, 2 per cent petite sirah, 2 per cent merlot. For more than 100 years BV has offered us classic Napa wine. $54.35.

I should emphasise that vintages do vary depending on whether the resulting wines are red or white and, as you have observed, this has been all about red.

This column is an advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. E-mail mrobinson@bll.bm or 295-0176. Burrows Lightbourn has stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554), Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355) and St George’s (York Street, 297-0409). Visit www.wineonline.bm