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2013年,Bordeaux酒莊實力的試金石

2013年,Bordeaux酒莊實力的試金石

Wine

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2013年,對波爾多區來講,絕對不是一個順風順水的年份,用香港人的集體回憶來比喻的話,至少以紅葡萄的種植而言,應該都是SARS或者97樓市大跌的級數。不過,正所謂釀酒本身就是一件集合天、地、人的事情,在天公不作美的情況下,人的因素就變得更加明顯。所以,也可謂是一個考驗一眾莊主/釀酒師技術還有決斷力的年份。

For Bordeaux, 2013 was definitely not a year to remember by. The level of despair is almost comparable to grim of SARS in Hong Kong, or the great real estate crash of 1997. Having said that, producing wine is of course an amalgamation of nature and nurture. When nature deals such bad cards, it is up to the people to persevere. Indeed, this vintage truly showcases the tour de force of the great winemakers and wineries.

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根據波爾多大學今年的報告,一般而言,一個波爾多的優秀年份必須具備以下5個要點:

To understand the severity of the conditions in Bordeaux for 2013, we must first gather some background on what would be the ideal case for production of quality wine grape:

1. 早而迅速的開花,以確保容易施肥,保證產量以及未來成熟平均。Early and rapid flowering to ensure quality as well as quantity of production by allowing plenty of time for ripening.

2. 適當的缺水壓力而保證年輕葡萄不會過大以及確保單寧。Water stress to ensure good concentration of fruit and tannins

3. 在缺乏水份的情況下,葡萄株在葡萄變色(véraison)前停止生長。Under water stress, the arrest of grape growth (véraison)

4. 採摘前日照充足,以保證葡萄可以完全成熟。Lots of sun before harvest to ensure proper ripening

5. 收獲階段氣候良好,以保證葡萄在收獲前不會受到黴菌的侵害。Good dry weather during harvest to prevent growth of fungus.

 

很遺憾,就2013年的氣候而言,以上要點全部不中。寒冷潮濕的春天導致開花延遲,而開花期間的暴雨使得部分花蕾停止生長,之後七八月的強烈風暴導致葡萄株繼續生長,部分地區還受到冰雹的打擊,導致葡萄發育不良,最致命的是,九月十月的潮濕天氣使得灰黴菌(Grey Rot)於收獲前就開始快速散播。許多酒莊都面臨要提早採摘未成熟葡萄,或者冒著被葡萄被灰黴菌侵蝕的危險等待葡萄成熟這般的兩難局面,事實上,因為開花期的暴雨,以及灰黴菌,大部份酒莊的產量僅為平時的1/3至一半,有小部分莊園甚至因為灰黴菌而最終全軍覆沒。

Sadly, none of the boxes beside these points were checked for the 2013 vintage. A wet and cold spring delayed flowering and caused wide spread flower abortion. This not only affected grape growth, but reduced quantity significantly. Even though July and August had plenty of sun, they were followed by periods of severe storms and hail. This prevented proper ripening of the grapes further, but the physical duress from the hail storms caused harsh flavours to develop in the grapes. The final nail in the coffin was hit when humid and cool conditions during harvest allow rot to spread widely and quickly. Preventing many vineyards the chance to leave their grapes until they have a proper chance to ripen. It became a big gamble to take because overnight, a significant portion of the grapes could be affected. Many wineries were completely devastated by rot.

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是次在波爾多,聽到最多的,恐怕是一眾莊主/釀酒師對2013年份天氣的訴苦,不少將其比喻為數十年來最難年份,直接將其與1991等年份比較。不過數十年來,無論是釀造技術,或者是對葡萄種植的理解,波爾多都有了不少的進步。其實以2013年而言,絕大多數酒莊都避其鋒芒,揚長抑短,不約而同選擇釀造風格柔和比較易飲的紅酒。而早熟的Cabernet Franc的採用量,也為今年質量關鍵之一。當然亦見到有一小部份酒莊決定向天氣「挑機」,嘗試在釀造過程中提取更多單寧和濃縮度,不過一路所見,普遍缺乏足夠的果香與其均衡。

Indeed, much of what we heard during our visit were complaints of the difficulty of the 2013 vintage, with many comparing it to the disaster of 1991. But our skills of wine making and certainly, the understanding of grapes has dramatically increased. With the power of knowledge in hand, many wineries were able to make the best out of what is possible.  The clever use of “plot by plot” harvesting, fermentation and blending was pivotal – especially when wineries had good plots of Cabernet Franc (an earlier ripening varietal) to play with. Those that chose to over extract what is available were faced with wines that lacked balance, and complexity.

 

以左岸而言,Pauillac村其2013年一眾出品恰恰是上述風格分水嶺的典型例子,各個酒莊採取的風格頗為兩極。而Margaux村則表現出其一貫柔和風格,感覺該年表現良好的莊園比例較高。St. Julien村則表現中規中矩。而St. Estèphe村向來風格單寧均強烈,不過在這個葡萄熟成度普遍是問題的年份,明顯很難作出果味濃縮度可以和其單寧抗衡的出品。Pessac-Léognan村絕大多數酒莊表現出其一貫礦物味香氣特色,可惜濃縮度流於一般。值得一提的是,該區2013年的白葡萄酒今年表現十分出色,值得留意。

On the left bank, Pauillac producers really stood out as an example of how different directions in winemaking produced wildly varying results in a difficult vintage. Margaux wineries, on the other hand, was able to bring out their usual elegance in general. St. Julien wines were satisfactory while St. Estèphe wines seemed over extracted  as well with strong tannings but lacking fruit. Pessac-Léognan wines were able to bring forth the minerality of their terrior, but lacked concentration. Of note, the whites of Pessac were excellent, and worth a try.

 

_DSC51972013這個紅葡萄種植十分困難的年份,卻十分適合貴腐菌的生長。今年的Sauternes以及 Barsac,均展現了相當程度的複雜度以及濃縮度,令人回味。對於一眾貴腐酒愛好者而言,不妨準備好錢包。

With 2013 such a disaster for many reds, the favorable conditions for botrytis offered a great opportunity for producers at Sauternes and Barsac. We found great concentration and complex aromas across many producers. Ready your wallets when the 2013 vintages hit the shelves!

 

 

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右岸而言,許多酒莊在收獲期間都可謂是提心吊膽,因為在期望儘量收獲足夠成熟度的葡萄的同時,也擔心灰黴菌一夜襲來,令該年本已不多的產量雪上加霜。不過正所謂一分風險一分回報,不少有勇氣以及運氣等待葡萄(以Merlot為主)足夠成熟的酒莊,都作出了不錯的作品。當然,之後許多莊主都笑稱收獲的那幾日幾乎緊張到會得胃病。

On to the right bank, producers were in pretty much the same boat. We heard many stories of sleepless nights and stomachs full of butterflies during harvest time. Rot was on everyone’s minds! Some risk taking wineries were rewarded with ripe fruit that produced good wines, others were left with a field of moldy grapes. Château La Pointe was an example where the risks paid off.

 

向來以柔和香氣著稱的Pomerol, 在2013年反而表現不俗。由於該區莊園普遍不大,快速而有效率的成熟葡萄採摘令該年的基本質量得到保證,雖然不會是一個可以長時間窖存的年份,但許多酒莊出品都擁有迷人香氣風格。而Saint-Émilion區而言,也許是因為擁有足夠資源以保證葡萄採摘時質量的緣故,一眾Premiers Grands Crus Classés都算表現良好,而擁有較多Gravel以及limestone土壤的莊園(如Château Ausone及Château Cheval Blanc等),則在這個多雨的年份表現出格外的優勢。

The performance in Pomerol was surprisingly not bad. Littered with smaller wineries, they were able to react quickly and pick selectively during the critical periods – giving them wines with better fruity and body. This vintage is not meant for the cellar though. Finally, at St. Émilion, where the Primeres Grands Cru Classés have the resources to manage harvest and sacrifice volume, the wines were good. Plots with more gravel and limestone such as Château Ausone, and Château Cheval Blanc performed well in this wet year.

 

實際情況真的有那麼糟麼?或許換個角度品嚐,其實不然。雖然波爾多區與勃艮第區的釀造哲學截然不同,不過是次En Primeur周卻發現一個有趣的現象,不少酒莊都選擇將其2013年出品標榜為“富有勃艮第風格的一年”,細想之下,也不無道理,畢竟在明知無法做出單寧強勁而富濃縮度的經典波爾多風格的情況下,選擇製作側重香氣以及歡快酸度的作品路線,讓飲者可以不用花上許多時間等待,就可輕鬆開瓶享用,確實是正確的商業決定。

With such difficult conditions during the 2013 vintage, we were surprised to find many good wines during this years En Primeur. We also found that many wineries labeled their wines as having “the elegance of a good burgundian wine”.  Come to think of it, given the cooler and wetter conditions of 2013 Bordeaux, choosing elegance over power might be the right route to take. After all, it’s not often that we are able to enjoy Bordeaux wines at a young age, the 2013 vintage gives us a chance to do so.

 

現時絕大部分酒莊已經宣布其2013年En Primeur價格,平均比2012年稍微下降或者持平,當然,對消費者而言,畢竟市場上依然有不少之前年份,現時購買並沒有明顯便宜的2013 En Primeur,似乎並沒有太多誘因。畢竟市場最終會將酒的價格調整至其應有水平。會不會發生在2013年份身上?我們拭目以待。

Today, many wineries have released the 2013 En Primeur pricing. Averaging similar or slightly lower than the 2012 vintage, it is not a very compelling proposition. With so much wine still on the market, it would be interesting to see how the market will eventually price the 2013s.

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by 4 Jun, 2014
波爾多En Primeur簡介

波爾多En Primeur簡介

Wine

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波爾多En Primeur周於上個月剛剛落幕,這個一年一度的酒屆盛事,將一眾酒商,酒評家,以及傳媒等業界人士聚集一堂,品嚐波爾多各個名莊於上一年採摘釀造,約莫要一年多後才會未裝瓶的作品。而各個酒莊也會趁著這個機會,將價格公佈,各大酒商(négociant),也會按照其每年於各個酒莊獲得的配額,決定購買事宜。如果以大家熟知的買樓花來比喻,可能會比較合適。當然,與其和買樓花時,各大地產商佈滿視像錯覺的示範單位,以及令你完全不覺得所賣樓盤屬於香港任何一個角落的宣傳片,卻又見不到任何實物相比,En Primeur,或者我們所說的酒花,卻是可以直接品嚐到的,當然,於En Primeur活動中所展現的,並不是作品最終的狀態,而在裝瓶前這一段時間裡,酒的變化會是如何,這就需要專業酒業人士的分析判斷了。

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雖說En Primeur不算是波爾多獨有,法國Burgundy,Rhône Valley,義大利的Piedmont和Tuscany區,西班牙的Douro區砵酒以及Rioja區,還有德國以及美國加州等,都會有同類活動,不過無論是從規模或者矚目性上而言,均不及波爾多。

 

En Primeur的傳統,可以追溯到數各世紀前。商人在波爾多的歷史上向來扮演了重要的角色,最初,便是由商人(主要是荷蘭商人)將Médoc的沼澤抽乾,變成我們今天所熟知的葡萄田,而也是由商人(特別是英國商人)將波爾多酒帶至世界各個角落。

 

En Primeur系統大約於十七世紀時成型。而最初的運作模式與今天也有所不同。當時,葡萄依然在葡萄藤上的時候,酒商就可以向酒莊購買。而今天許多由酒莊負責的部分程序,如裝瓶,貼標等,也是由酒商負責。那時候,酒莊的名氣依然不顯,酒商對酒有著很大的控制性。基本上,如果在你要求一瓶 Château Haut-Brion 和 Château Latour的「特殊混釀」,這是可以發生的。

 

當然,今天的遊戲規則已經不一樣了,直接購買未釀造的酒或者“特殊混釀”這種事情也基本不會再有。而酒商的角色,也變得更注重與葡萄酒離開酒莊之後的運作。而En Primeur系統,則經歷了歷史的考驗,保留了下來。畢竟這個系統對每一方都有許多好處。首先,酒莊方面不必煩惱出品積壓倉儲的問題,而在酒上市前一年就可以得到現金意味著更寬鬆的現金流,讓他們可以在運營上有更靈活。而對酒商而言,可以確保得到穩定可以預期的配額。 利用傳統的慣性,避免其他競爭者輕易進入,也是相當的好處。在理想的狀態下,這個系統還有著價格定向的作用,每年En Primeur周的時候,酒莊會根據酒品家以及酒商的評價,擬定酒的價格。

 

IMG_2270不過近年來,業界對於En Primeur制度,也有著不同聲音。有一部分批評者認為,如今的系統中酒莊太過強勢,令得酒商在價格上的話語權大大削弱。酒莊的強勢,往往會令得酒的價格,特別是在一般年份上,在定位上無法反映市場需求。而歷史上也有過En Primuer定價比後來市場價格更高的例子,例如2007年。這種定價錯位,會令酒商的銷售變得困難,而另一方面,酒商對著不理想年份的葡萄酒,也要“硬食”,以保證其在好年份時的配額。這對消費者而言,不夠便宜的一般年份酒當然不是什麼好事,當然,市場往往是會自動調節的,像2007年的酒,隨著價格的向下調節,就成為了現在飲用性價比最高的年份之一。

 

自二十世紀末,消費者經過酒商夠買En Primeur用於飲用或投資,也漸漸成為了一種風氣。確實過去十幾年,也有不少買家,在波爾多En Primeur的投資上獲利。不過自2000年代後期,酒莊的En Primeur價格一直高企,令投資者欲望大跌。依靠買酒花而大量獲利的年代,似乎一去不返。而波爾多近年來酒價的波幅,以及匯率上的潛在風險,也令投資者卻步。事實上,2011,2012年的En Primeu,就因為年份一般,而價格又相對處於高位,導致銷量一般。

 

當然,一到了偉大年份,波爾多愛好者以及投資者,還是會用盡一切辦法以確保可以入手心愛的佳釀,而En Primeur,依然是最快速的方法,不是麼?

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by 3 Jun, 2014