Tag Archives: gold

Château Angélus gold label: a terrible disappointment (in a good way)

Chateau Angelus gold label

A while ago I received an invitation from Château Angélus, the famous estate from Bordeaux’s Saint-Emillion. The invitation specified that, should I accept, I would witness with my own extremely lucky eyes “the launch of … a remarkable bottle for a remarkable vintage”, the vintage in question being not the much-hyped 2009 or the possibly-even-more-hyped 2010, but the 2012, a year that inspired relatively few superlatives. The mind boggled, it spent a while boggling, and then it conjured the image of the Penfold’s Ampoule, the £120,000-a-pop hand-blown lesson in unintentional ludicrousness that had sullied the name of a once-proud Australian winery (while bringing quite a lot of bonus publicity, it had to be said). This new bottle would surely be a) idiotically expensive, and b) idiotic, and c) full of properly delicious liquid. I accepted immediately.

The day before the event, news leaked online that the bottle would feature a label made of genuine gold. The mind boggled, spent a while boggling, and then conjured the images of some other alcohol-related gold labels, very much a mixed bag but certainly less exalted company than that which Château Angélus is used to keeping:

Gold Label

Wolf Blass Gold Label

Johnnie Walker Gold Label

It seemed obvious to me, inevitable even, that the bottle was going to be expensive, tasteless and gaudy, and would give me a lot of entertaining blog-fuel. I could scarcely conceal a grin throughout the previous day. I was going to be given lunch, wine and the opportunity for unlimited savage mickey-taking, all of it compressed into a couple of wondrous hours on a Friday afternoon.

Things took a turn for the worse when I found myself sitting next to Stephanie de Bouard-Rivoal, the frustratingly charming young deputy managing director of Château Angélus, and seventh generation of the Bouard de Laforest family to work at the estate since they took it over in 1909. The new bottle, still hidden underneath a golden cloth at that stage, had been her brainchild, intended to mark the château’s promotion to Premier Grand Cru Classé A status, the completion of building work on the château itself, and the birth of her sister’s baby, signifying the coming of an eighth generation. The poor infant has no idea that its destiny is already mapped out, a destiny that will involve a lot of travel, smart clothes, nice hotels and delicious wine.

Chateau Angelus 2012, the gold labelAnd then the cloth was removed with a fanfare – literally, while an actual fanfare was played, a genuine moment of ludicrousness that prompted guffaws from the assembled winos. For the first time we saw the bottle, and – curses – it was not hideous. Indeed, it was really quite elegant, as understated as a bottle can be when it’s encrusted with 21.7-carat gold, the metallic lustre contrasting with the dark bottle in a really quite appealingly dramatic way, the craftsmanship truly impressive. I took a sample bottle, sadly empty, and scratched at it with my thumbnail, hoping to see the gold flake away and give me something to complain about, but there was no shifting the stuff.

We also drunk some of the wine – not the 2012, which hasn’t been bottled yet, but the 2011, 2007 and 2006. The most interesting comparison was between the 2007, which was overwhelmingly fragrant and delicious, and the 2006, which was tighter and broodier. In time, the 2006 will unfurl and relax and become every bit as (figuratively) intoxicating as it’s younger sibling, perhaps more so. Everyone around me agreed that because it didn’t currently taste anywhere near as good as the 2007, the 2006 was certainly the better wine. Wine appreciation can be a counterintuitive business sometimes.

There is only so much gold buried in our planet, and to stick some on a bottle that sooner or later will find itself at a recycling plant or buried in a landfill site, its precious cargo lost forever, is a bit sad. But having said that, it’s not very much gold in the scheme of things, it looks good, and what’s inside will almost certainly taste excellent. For all the event’s rich promise, I found nothing to laugh about here. Except, perhaps, the price, but if you’ve got a spare £1200 or so to spend on six bottles of wine, you go right ahead. They’ll look great.


Centum Vitis: the perfect Christmas present for the wine-lover who has everything (except taste)

The bottle Cono Sur use for their 20 Barrels pinot noir reminded me of one wine I tried while I was in Rioja. The world of wine is all about indulgence and frequently creeps over into excess, but here was the most indulgent, excessive thing I have ever encountered.

The wine is created by Bodegas Valdelana, using fruit from a pre-phylloxera vineyard. The vines are proper old, and produce so incredibly amazing they decided that the only way to treat them with due deference would be to vinify them and package them in the most incredibly amazing way they could think of. If they could only have aged it in barrels made from the tree of knowledge, bottled it in vessels hand-blown by genuine leprechauns and labelled it with signage individually crafted by angels, before finally distributing it to their grateful consumers on unicorn-drawn chariots, they surely would have done. Instead they bought the heaviest bottle known to man – 3kg when empty, our guide proudly told us – designed a metal label, packaged it with a pot of genuine gold leaf (you’re supposed to sprinkle it in your wine for extra health-giving anti-oxidants) and slapped on a $250-a-bottle price tag.

The resulting wine, apparently best drunk within two years, is sold in luxury establishments such as the Burj Al Arab hotel in Dubai, and in exclusive American retailers at $250 a pop. The wine is OK, and would represent decent value if sold gold-free at 10% of that price. As it stands, it’s the perfect gift for the man who has everything (except taste), or Olympic weightlifters in search of a fresh challenge.

Valdelana’s little old bodega is a funny old place to visit, by the way, complete as it is with lots of fake grass and a subterranean mirrored “vineyard”. The best thing about it is the view from the door down the road to Marqués de Riscal, the brilliant Frank Gehry-designed hotel-on-top-of-a-winery, about which more, another time.