H περιοχή της Καμπανίας είναι ιδανική για μια οινοτουριστική εκδρομή, αν βρεθείτε στη Γαλλία. Μπορείτε να κάνετε ένα ταξίδι αυθημερόν από το Παρίσι (είναι λιγότερο από 45 λεπτά με το τρένο από το Gare de l’Est) ή να απολαύσετε την πανέμορφη αυτή επαρχία με χαλαρούς ρυθμούς, αν πραγματικά θέλετε να εκτιμήσετε τι προσφέρει. Υπάρχουν πολλές…
© LVMH |
There’s nothing like finishing off a good meal with a glass of fine Cognac, but you have be careful that you don’t end up with a nasty surprise once the check arrives.
A confident assurance to your server that you’d like the best digestif in the house could backfire quite spectacularly when you look at how expensive some Cognacs can go. Put it this way: ordering the most expensive Burgundy on the wine list will be small beer by comparison.
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Cognac’s place as the world’s favorite digestif rests on its blend of richness, depth of flavor and balance. It is, after all, made from wine, so it simply continues the role of wine throughout a meal, complementing what has gone before. In essence, Cognac is what wine wants to be when it goes to heaven, and that mix of wine’s mystery and ethereality with the warming satisfaction of a well-made spirit, with its copper-and-wood seasoning, is irresistible.
Of course, Cognac – like all wine and spirit producers – depends on scarcity and age to support high-end prices and this is where it has a great advantage over so many other regions. Cognac produces an astonishing quantity of base wine each year – the Charentais production dwarfs that of Burgundy – so Cognac houses have a lot of potential spirit sloshing around. Most of those wines are used to produce everday Cognac, but the sheer volume means that there is plenty of brandy kept back to age.
This gives Cognac houses access to a broad range of old base wines with which to make their spirits. It also means that the larger Cognac houses have more old spirit knocking about the place too, so they are well-placed to be able to release older, limited-release bottlings that are manna from heaven for collectors and that underpin a lot of the distillery’s profits. One of Cognac’s other tricks to boost both the rarity value and the price is to present the expressions in limited-edition, specially designed decanters, something that will become painfully evident as you read through the list.
Looking at the list, it’s clear that it is slightly distorted by the presence of a massively expensive in first place, but there is a surprising level of consistency among the other nine wines. A bottle of each of the top 10 – based on the average retail price for each spirit – will cost you a total of $259,132, or almost $26,000 on average. The top 10 Burgundy reds would cost you a mere $58,500. Only the top 10 Scotch whiskies will cost you more, at a total of $376,322. Armagnac, Cognac’s close cousin, is a snip at $17,249 for the top 10 bottles.
There are familiar names on the list, as you would expect, with Hennessy bookending the list, but there are some less well-known names here too. Salud.
1. Hennessy Beauté du Siécle Grand Champagne Cognac If you thought Hennessy’s Richard Hennessy was pushing the boat out at an average of $3543, then wait till you find the Beauty of the Century on a wine list – its average retail price is $111,046. It does come in a melted-aluminum chest, though, and the bottle is Baccarat crystal. The spirit is pretty rare too, with the youngest component being 47 years old.
3. Louis XIII de Rémy Martin Black Pearl Grande Champagne Cognac The Louis XIII range is expensive even at the entry level ($2840 average price), but with up to 1200 eaux-de-vie from Grande Champagne going into it, that’s to be expected. Add on Baccarat bottles and you start really pushing the boat out. The Rare Cask bottling was put together by previous cellarmaster Pierre Trichet and has an average price of $27,404, while the Black Pearl (again in a Baccarat decanter) will set you back $23,644 on average.
4. Hine 250th Anniversary Cognac With a history stretching back to 1763, it’s unsurprising that Hine has plenty of old stocks of Cognac in its vaults. This was released to mark the company’s 250th anniversary (obviously) and is a vintage 1953 Cognac and it’s in a specially designed decanter. All of which goes some way towards justifying the $15,994 average price tag.
7. A. Hardy Privilege Caryota Cognac The Hardy name has been part of the Cognac tapestry since 1863, when an Englishman of that name relocated to the Charente. The first two of these Cognacs are part of a four seasons series, with the Printemps (Spring) bottling – in a Lalique decanter, naturally – hitting an average price of $15,830. The other bottling (Summer) is also clad in Lalique and costs $15,024. The Privilege bottling (also in Lalique) is made from pre-1014 eaux-de-vie and carries an average price of $13,327.
8. Pierre Chabanneau Fine Champagne Cognac Originally an independent producer and shipper of vintage Cognacs, Chabanneau later became part of the Camus Cognac house. These vintage bottlings date back to the 19th Century, explaining the $13,326 average price tag. At least they don’t come dressed up in a fancy bottle, though.
9. Martell Premier Voyage Cognac Released for the company’s 300th anniversary in 2015, the older eaux-de-vie in this bottling are from 1868, so it’s certainly got rarity value. It also has a swish decanter and a wooden stand. Only 300 were released, so that extra rarity boosts the price to $12,021.
10. Hennessy Timeless Cognac This one ticks all the boxes, really. It’s from a run of 2000 bottles and it’s a blend of the 11 best vintages of the 20th Century. Released in time for the Millennium frenzy, it – almost inevitably – arrives in a Baccarat crystal decanter.
© Lafleur |
If you want to fool a blind taster, Lafleur is your wine.
Yes, it’s a Pomerol, and yes, it’s bang next door to Pétrus; but where Pétrus is all opulent Merlot, Lafleur is half Cabernet Franc – which puts it closer to Cheval Blanc. And if you ask Baptiste Guinaudeau, who manages the property with his wife Sylvie, what Lafleur is like, he says it’s halfway been Vosne-Romanée and Pauillac, according to your palate.
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So far, so elusive. And actually, even finding the place isn’t that easy. You have to look for an anonymous house and 4.5 hectares (11 acres) of vines between Pétrus, La Fleur de Gay, Hosanna and Vieux Château Certan. By a process of elimination, you will have found Lafleur.
In 1872, Henri Greloud, who already owned Le Gay, bought these vineyards and named the wine Lafleur. On his death, it passed to Charles Greloud, who did little with it and, in 1915, sold it to a cousin, André Robin.
In 1947, his daughters Thérèse and Marie inherited Le Gay and Lafleur. Neither ever married and they relied on each other for companionship: they were classic quiet country spinsters, reluctant to change, modest in their wants. They lived at Le Gay, where they had been brought up, and continued to share the same bedroom as when they were children. They ran their châteaux effectively, but they didn’t invest or move with the times – and therefore didn’t follow the fashion for pouring chemical weedkillers and fertilizers on to their vineyards. Nor did they plant the new, high-yielding clones; Lafleur still boasts impressive genetic variation. Even after the 1956 frosts, they didn’t uproot; instead they cossetted their vines back to life. Some of the vines at Lafleur are very old indeed.
Thérèse died in 1985, and Marie leased both properties to her second cousin, Jacques Guinaudeau (great-great grandson of Henri Greloud) and his wife Sylvie. The Guinaudeaus weren’t exactly awash with money either. But what Jacques and Sylvie brought to Lafleur was an obsession with quality.
Marie died in 2001. Super-rich owners were ready to pounce, but the Guinaudeaus sold Le Gay and bought Lafleur. At around the same time their son Baptiste began working at the estate, and like his parents, he is entirely focused on the vineyards. There’s nothing fancy about the winemaking here; it’s all about viticulture.
© Lafleur | The terroir
This is the key to Lafleur, the reason why this small plot can produce compelling wines of astonishing complexity. A soil study in 1999 revealed five different soils, some gravelly, some sandy, but one which was strikingly different, with richer, deeper clay. Since this runs in a diagonal strip, an acre and a half in size, across the other parcels, it makes life complicated, but now it produces Pensées de Lafleur – which is no longer a second wine but a separate cru.
A quick look at the difficult 2016 vintage gives an idea of the precision here. It rained all spring, so cellarmaster Omri Ram says that «we hedged the canopy 15-20cm more on top, so the vines could lose water». In mid-June, drought set in. «Then, instead of helping the vines to get rid of water we had to do the opposite, and reduce the canopy by 5cm, make it slimmer on the sides, reduce the volume of leaves, and remove secondary shoots, which have the most active leaves, while leaving leaves on the west side to protect the clusters against the sun.»
The vines responded with a Pensées that is all silk on the outside and grippy, almost spiky, on the inside – tense, black-fruited, fresh. Lafleur 2016 is tight and concentrated, powerfully wound and closely knit, with black fruit wrapped in silk. «It’s a great vintage,» says Ram. «And nobody in Bordeaux saw it coming. We were fighting the whole season, with never a minute to stop and breathe, and see what we had in our hands.»
Not many people know
If you can’t afford Lafleur, the Guinaudeaus also own Château Grand Village in Fronsac, a Bordeaux Supérieur, and here, as well as making a creamy, poised red and a toast-and-lime white, they keep a library of massal selections from Lafleur: 67 vines, which will be used to maintain the genetic diversity of Lafleur.
What the critics say
Tim Atkin MW calls Lafleur the «Burgundian of Bordelais, both in the vineyard and in the cellar», because of its size and level of detail. Stephen Brook settles for «one of Bordeaux’s greatest wines… [Guinaudeau’s] flowing mustache suggests a flamboyant nature, but the wine he makes is classic.» Robert Parker goes further and numbers it among the world’s most distinctive, exotic, and greatest wines.
There are, though, only 1000 cases of Lafleur made each year, and 400 of Pensées. Good luck.
Prices worldwide on Wine-Searcher (US$, ex-tax, per 750-ml bottle):
|Wine Name||Avg. Price|
|Château Lafleur, Pomerol||$732|
|Château Lafleur Les Pensées de Lafleur, Pomerol||$137|
|Château Grand Village, Bordeaux Supérieur||$21|
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