Monday, 18 July 2011

Majestic Wine - Recommended Whites

Hello all,

Welcome to the second part of the Majestic recommendations, if you missed last week's Recommended Reds then you can find it here:

We've had some superb whites lately from Majestic and it's worth keeping your eye on them for 20%-off offers that they regularly do. What made these stand out was the added dimension of complexity, either from lees-aging, barrel fermenting or just plain old good winemaking! There's so much more than just fruity plonk from a damn-good white wine, and I think Majestic carry a good range for very little money, in the grand scheme of things. If you're not keen on whites then I suggest you give some of these a try; hopefully they'll change your mind...

Anyway, without further ado, here are the best we've had in the past few weeks...

First up, three great Chardonnays from around the globe:

From South Africa was the stunning Vergelegen Chardonnay 2010 (13.5% and I can't remember how much, but about £11 I think). Awesome smells of honeyed fruit, mint leaves, nutty and creamy, stony fruit and D could smell mown-grass. On the palate it displayed that smoked ham and cheese characteristic of a good barrel-aged Chardonnay (like Applewood smoked cheese!), the sweetness of ripe peach and a slight lemon zing. It developed more fruit, apricot, honey, vanilla and almond with time. Purity, balance, restraint and elegance are all fluffy wine "buzzwords" but, thinking about it, they really do make sense with this wine. Effortless drinking and great complexity 8.5/10. Very much in the same vein was the Errazuriz Wild Ferment Chardonnay 2009 (13.5%). Yeasty, bready smells coupled with honey, woodsmoke, vanilla and tropical fruit. The taste was immense, again smoked ham and cheese evident, "flinty" minerality, tropical fruit and some zingy citrus. Alcohol was apparent but not too overpowering and a slight bitter edge dropped it half a mark on the Vergelegen; giving 8/10. Finally for the Chardies, the Villa Maria Cellar Selection Chardonnay 2010 was another beaut; on the nose, citrussy sharpness mingled with wet-stone minerality, nuttiness and a herby whiff of asparagus/nettles/grass. Great complexity of taste too with plenty of acidity, a lemon/lime zing tempered by a sort of meringue-like sweetness/creaminess. Tropical fruits mixed with peach along with a woody, vanilla, oaky character with an underlying minerality. Lovely 8/10.

I'm a big fan of Italy's Alto Adige region, where the whites always exude a freshness that makes  me think of the snow-covered Alps nearby. Not letting the side down was the Stella Alpina Pinot Grigio 2009 (13.5%). Lots of lemon/lime citrus zing, searing acidity (but not in the slightest bit harsh) and superb fruit purity. Great value too (this was £7.99 on offer) 7.5/10. We've not often had many wines from the US on here (which is bordering on criminal) so I thought we'd give this a shot, from the organic Bonterra Vineyards Viognier 2008 from grapes grown in the Mendocino and Lake Counties and about £9.99. It might have been the several glasses of other wines we'd had before this talking but, this was good! Deep, bright gold in colour it smelled of lemonade, vanilla and peach. Awesome complexity on the palate with toasty, yeasty bread and pure peach nectar. I'd like to re-confirm this at some point but my pissed score is...I'm fairly sure... 9/10! (The handwriting was starting to waiver around this point). Hmmm, one to come back to I think. Lastly, the Torres Vina Esmerelda 2010 was again a pleasure. This was covered more in-depth in my Torres feature but still deserves a mention here. For about £8, this is superb. A blend of Moscatel and Gewurz it is really peachy and smooth, very drinkable with a long refreshing lemon/lime finish. Great stuff and great value 8/10.

So there you have it, some great whites from Majestic and for the most part, great value too.

As always,

Speak to you soon,



Monday, 11 July 2011

Majestic Wine - recommended reds

Hello all!

Majestic Wine have currently got a cracking little deal on, 20% off any two bottles from Spain, New Zealand, Australia, Chile and Italy (Oh and Beaujolais but I didn't get any of those!) so I thought I'd give some recommendations for the ones we've liked over the past few weeks. Reds this week, whites next week. Obviously this is just a small selection (we'd loved to have bought the whole lot, but funds and sense prevailed) so there's plenty more on offer, I suggest you take a look. Enjoy!

From Spain we have...

...the excellent and great value (£6.99) Sangre de Toro 2008 from Torres.  Superbly fruity with plum, blackberry and violets with some spice (8/10). Two decent Riojas in the form of the CVNE (pronounced "Coonay") Crianza 2007; (£9.99) very light weight with bright, spicy raspberry, cherry, vanilla and oak (7.5/10) and a Gran Reserva 2003 from Berberana Vina Alarde (£10.99). Delicious with that lovely mellow, smooth, strawberry flavour of aged Rioja and a creamy vanilla woodiness from the oak. (7.5/10). Last up a lovely Ribera del Duero 2006 from Emilio Morro; (£13.99) caramel, chocolate, vanilla and red berries on the nose followed up by bright red fruit, "grippy" tannins and lots of creamy blackberry - superb 8.5/10.

From New Zealand we had some beauts...

The Martinborough Vineyard Te Tera Pinot Noir 2009 (£12.79) was mind-blowing! Bright, clear ruby red smelling of sweet caramel and vanilla, cherry and raspberry - like a berry cheesecake, amazing. The texture was pure silk and abundant fruit on the palate; raspberry, strawberry, redcurrant, blackberry, black cherry, the whole gamut followed by a long, dry and herby finish. First class 9/10! Another Pinot was the Villa Maria Cellar Selection 2008 (£10.79) which had a blueberry, violet and cinnamon whiff about it with plenty of bite and grip in the mouth. Blackberry and dark cherries flowed and although great at 7.5/10, paled in comparison to the Te Tera. The Craggy Range Te Kahu 2008 (£12.99) Bordeaux blend had the typical smoky plum, cherry and blackcurrant of its Cab, Merlot, Malbec and Cab Franc grapes. Smooth tannins and lots of black fruit, powerful and long, but ever so slightly hot  7.5/10.

From Italy we had...

Yes! A Pinot from Italy! And it was great! The Bacaro 2009 was £4.99!!! It smelled of blackberries and oaky spice and delivered with silky tannins, lots of dark fruit, cherry, blackberry and a long finish. With fresh acidity this could age well for a few years too (7.5/10). AMAZING VALUE!

From Chile we had...

A very good 2008 Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon. (£9.99) Intense, smoky, oaky blackcurrant and cedar and in the mouth it was warming, tannic (a good food wine) and had lots of dark fruit; blackcurrant, blackberry and plums but a little hot. 7.5/10

And last-up, from Oz, we had...
a respectable Jim Barry Lodge Hill Shiraz 2009. Classic nose of blackberry, blueberry, dark chocolate and oak. In the mouth it was smooth and bright with a crunchy texture. Plenty if plum and bramble fruit with hints of coffee and mocha. Tasty 7.5/10.

So, there we have some great reds from Majestic from their current offers. Next week, we'll be polishing off the whites so stay tuned.

As always, speak to you soon!



Monday, 4 July 2011

Wine Investment - The Complete Novice Way - 1 year on

Hello all,

A while back I wrote about our Wine Investment so I thought it was time for an update on how things are going, with it being a year since we made our purchases. Oh and please read the disclaimer below!

*Disclaimer* - you really should seek sound, professional financial advice before investing. Investments can go down as well as up. This is not a recommendation to invest all that you have in wine, it is purely our story!

As I said, D and myself are saving for a house deposit and with the pathetic rates offered by savings accounts at the moment, we opted to invest in wine. As complete novices, it was a bit daunting, but we read around the subject a lot and decided to go for it. Our goal was simple: make as much interest as we can over the next 5 years and try to beat the best ISA or Bond we could find. I think the best one we found was a 6% bond with 5-year lock-in of capital.

What did we get?
The 2009 vintage was expensive, but hailed as the "vintage of a lifetime" and "not to be missed". We were advised by Berry Bros to concentrate only on the 2009s as they would be the ones with the most re-sale potential in a few years, given the outstanding vintage. However, I didn't fancy the risk of putting it all into one vintage, "What if the 2010 vintage, or the next, or the one after that is better than 2009" were my thoughts at the time, and luckily, spurred-on by some cracking advice from Bordeaux Index, I decided to get a few back-vintages. The rest we did spend on 2009s. As luck would have it, the 2009s haven't really returned anything over a year but those back vintages...Wow, I wish I'd put the whole lot into them! Anyway, here's what we bought and what they would cost now to buy...

Ch. Pontet Canet 2009: Purchase Price (PP) then £1150, PP now £1300.
Ch. Lynch Bages 2009: PP then £1040, PP now £1250 (we also bought another 6-bottles in the first tranche from Berry's at a much cheaper £432!).
Ch. Montrose 2009: PP then £1350, PP now £1600.
Ch. Sociando Mallet 2009: PP then £315, PP now £330.
Ch. Mouton Rothschild 2002: PP then £2900, PP now £4000.
Ch. Pontet Canet 2003: PP then £600, PP now £1030.

So how well have we done?
The 2009s have increased by about 20% on average in a year. A fine return you may think, but, if we were to sell them back to the merchant we would probably be charged about 20% commission, wiping out any return. Also, the prices have remained flat almost since this time last year. Were they released at too high a price? Who knows...But, all is not lost. I think there will be a price movement next summer when the wines get shipped and become physically-available rather than lying in a barrel at the Chateau. Hopefully, this will stimulate some trading.

Well, the positive note comes from the back vintages. Pontet Canet 2003 (Parker score = 95) has been a stellar performer. Even at the merchant buy-back price of £850 it has returned nigh-on 42% in one year!!! If I'd had the presence of mind (or a crystal ball) to invest everything in this wine I'd now be a happy bunny! I'm not aware of any other investment with similar risk profiles that has done that well this year! The First Growth; Mouton 2002 (Parker score = 94) has also performed well, returning nearly 21% at the buy-back price of £3500. This proves that the high prices of the 2009s (and now 2010, but more on that below...) has had a great effect on the resurgence of the back vintage, and not necessarily the best ones. 2002 and 2003 are far outshone by 2000 and 2005 but have performed significantly better in terms of Return on Investment. If you were lucky enough to hold some of these, plus the 2004/2006 vintages then you will have made a killing lately!

So, after one year, if we were to sell up now, we would probably make about 21% return. Beat that you crappy 3% ISA! However, we're in it for the 5 year term (at least) so we won't be selling anytime soon, unless of course, the bottom falls out of the market and prices head South!

So what about this year? 
Well, this year (2010), funnily enough, was another "Vintage of a lifetime! Not to be missed! But different to 2009, more classic!". That left many people asking "How the hell...?" and whether it is climatic coincidence or sales rhetoric, there's no doubt that the critics really rate this vintage. Comparisons with 2005 are abound and contrasts and similarities are drawn against the 2009s. Release prices for the majority of chateau actually rose in 2010 (with the exception of only a few) despite the huge prices of last year. With release prices higher than any available vintage of the last 10 years (with the possible exception of the 2000 millennium vintage) it's hard to see how any short term returns can be had. Many exceeded even the high-estimate release prices of many merchants.
Did we buy any? Yes, but only one case; Ch. Pontet Canet 2010 - luckily on the first tranche (ish) for £1200. Was that a good idea? In all honesty, I don't know. The last tranche price quickly rose to £1395 but has now dropped back to about £1320 due to lack of demand. What's slightly worrying is that our merchant still has a load of the 2009 unsold and lots of the 2010 too. Is demand waning, or is the price too high? Only time will tell, I guess.

Any advice?
To anybody looking to get in now? Value is hard to find now. I would be very careful. Back vintages are catching up fast with consumers buying the (now) "underpriced" wines of 1996/2001/2004/2006. But, these may be approaching their peak. Even the once very expensive 2005 looks underpriced compared with the last two years.  If I were getting into it this year I'd have a much tougher time of picking the right wines. If all else fails then follow the sage advice of wine investment: If you've got plenty of dough then First Growths are probably a good bet. Historically they've always done well. The Chinese demand for Lafite is insatiable, and although there are signs of demand slowing, prices will probably going to continue to rise. For those of us not on City Bankers' salaries - "super seconds" and other "Blue-Chip" wines are a better bet, but the prices for these are also approaching stratoshperic. Cos, Palmer, Pontet Canet, Lynch Bages, Beychevelle, Pichons, Leovilles, etc - the usual crowd. With my personal affinity for Pontet Canet, I'd say there might be some mileage in the 2006, rated at half a point above the 2003 (at 95+) and about £200 cheaper, but on the move upwards! But hey, it's a gamble. Get good advice from a reputable merchant before buying anything and remember to sprinkle a little healthy skepticism on everything they try to sell you too!

So what does the future hold...?
Luckily we got in at a good time. We have a decent enough return to see us over the next year. However, I'm not selling my 2009s yet and we have several years to go (four, at the very minimum). It will be nice to see a rise next summer when the wines get shipped and become physically-available. Hopefully, Robert Parker will be kind in his re-scoring and things should take a turn for the positive. With regards to the 2002/2003 bottles we hold - I think I'll keep a keen eye on them. If there are signs of a negative slope perhaps it would be prudent to sell, but history says to hold onto them - in general, value goes up with time.

If you're thinking of taking the plunge - good luck

As always, speak to you soon!