Friday 3rd April
Our week will end on a high note with some exceptional quality visits.
First up is the tasting of Prince Robert of Luxembourg's wines at Chateau La Mission Haut Brion.
We met the delightful German lady, Barbara at the Chateau and she presented the tasting. We had a slight hiccup when she described the climatic conditions in Saint Emilion as being very difficult in the vineyards in 2014 due to the preponderance of snakes eating all the leaves!! My goodness was this a late April 1st prank? Then we all realised that our German/French/English translations were not perfect as she really meant snails instead of snakes. For a moment we had weird images of carnivorous reptiles overwhelming the village of Saint Emilion. Snails are difficult to manage, and can cause problems with foliage, but the French have a simple solution involving a knife and fork.
Here we tasted:
Le Dragon de Quintus...77% Merlot, 23% Cabernet Franc....1900 cases produced...big broad plummy stucture and hard edges.
La Chapelle de la Mission Haut-Brion...45% Merlot, 31% Cabernet Franc and 24% Cabernet Sauvignon....4000 cases produced....very pure clean approach, lifted cherry and damsons and good definition and backbone.
Le Clarence de Haut-Brion....80% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc and 16% Cab Sauv....an unusually high percentage of merlot, but this wine has a great freshness and balance. Elegant and dry tannins.
Quintus....69% Merlot and 31% Cabernet Franc...1500 cases produced....this is now the 29 hectare estate that comprises the old Chateau Tertre Daugay as well as Chateau L'Arrossee (purchased in 2013)....23% goes to the grand vin, 25% to the second wine and the rest (52%) is sold off in bulk. This is still a work in progress, but the quality is improving each year.
Deep rich core and balanced damson and plum character. The freshness of the Cabernet carries the wine well. Finesse.
Chateau La Mission Haut Brion...54% Merlot, 1% Cabernet Franc and 45% Cabernet Sauvignon....6300 cases produced....Near opaque colour in the glass. Beautiful damson cheese ripeness. Velvet smooth texture on the palate but delicate with fantastic balance and acidity.
Chateau Haut Brion .....50% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Franc and 39% Cabernet Sauvignon....10,800 cases produced....near opaque. Slight toasty nose. Pure dark intense fruits. Richness develops and great high toned mouthfeel. Fresh linear after and uplifting. A great wine.
and the whites....
La Clarte de Haut-Brion....66% Sauvignon and 34% Semillon......1100 cases produced....light medium gold hues. Fresh custard fruits yellow, but with balanced evident acidity. Easy softness after.
Chateau La Mission Haut Brion Blanc....28% Sauvignon and 72% Semillon...560 cases produced...immediate elegance and vibrancy, stone fruits with fruit blossom. Delicate approach and finesse with not overpowering acidity. Incredible mouthfeel and balanced length.
Chateau Haut Brion Blanc...32% Sauvignon Blanc and 68% Semillon...620 cases produced...a truly beautiful balanced wine. Riper rounder fruit style than LMHB, but stone citrus fruits with minerality and texture. Very fine restrained style but dances around the palate. Delicate and delicious.
Our next visit was an impromptu drop in to see Remi Edange at Domaine de Chevalier. Remi is Olivier Bernard's right hand man at this lovely estate and Remi always has a great passion for wine, rugby, hunting and life. He is a very good commentator on the growing conditions and the vintage as a whole.
We tasted wines here that I had already tried two or three times during the week, but once again it showed how variable barrel samples can be. The Domaine de Chevalier white and red 2014 here were markedly better quality than the wines that I had tasted at Chateau Guiraud 5 days previously. We also re tasted the Clos des Lunes range....Lune Blanche, Lune d'Argent and Lune d'Or. These are fascinating dry white wines from vineyards in the Sauternes appellation. These are good characterful wines, which work particularly well in the 2014 vintage. The wines have great balance from the acidity and stone fruit and good finesse.
We also tastes Chateau Lespault Martillac white and red and Domaine de la Solitude white and red and Domaine de Chevalier white and red. A comprehensive and top quality tasting. These are wines that you could happily enjoy and drink over the next few years. These are not investment or speculation wines; just good quality.
Chateau Lespault Martillac white showed very well. This is produced from one hectare of vines. The Bernard family consult at Chateau Lespault Martillac and make the wine and commercialise it for the owners.
Onward further south to Chateau d'Yquem......
The new wall of wine in the tasting room at Chateau d'Yquem. The visual actually represents the colour of each vintage of Yquem produced looking from the capsule downwards. The lighter (more recent) vintages are at the bottom, whilst the older darker vintages are higher up.
We had already tasted the 2014 Chateau d'Yquem with Pierre Lurton(big boss) and Sandrine Garbay (winemaker) when we had visited Chateau Cheval Blanc on Tuesday morning.
The good news is that there will be 80,000bottles of Chateau d'Yquem in 2014. There were three main waves of picking due to perfect botrytis conditions. Most of the crop came from the first two pickings which means that the wine has a higher acidity(pH 3.60) and freshness balancing the beautiful honeyed character of the wine. The 2014 Yquem has 134grams per litre residual sugar and 13.4% alcohol.
Pierre Lurton compared 2014 to 2011, 2007 and 2001, which are all exceptional vintages of Chateau d'Yquem. He, in fact thinks that 2014 could be better. We shall wait and see what price we can sell this wine for, when it is finally released onto the market. Undoubtedly a very fine wine.
We then had a pleasant end of week lunch at Auberge des Vignes in the village of Sauternes, where we enjoyed G de Guiraud 2013 and Chateau Saint Robert 2008, Graves.
Our final visit of the week was to the delightful Berenice Lurton at Chateau Climens in Barsac.
Berenice has now fully converted to biodynamic viticulture and she was proud to show off her 'tissanerie' with all the dried herbs and grasses that will be used to treat the vines and strengthen them.
We tasted from several different barrels in the cellar from different 'lots'. 80% of the Climens harvest was picked during the 2nd picking between 20th and 23rd October. We tasted some excellent vibrant wines with varying degrees of richness, but they all had the distinct ornage rind freshness that Climens seems to show off so well. Berenice seemed on exceptionally good form and was very relaxed as it was Friday afternoon....and we had all had a long week. we then tasted a small vertical of Chateau Cliemns 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010 and 2009.
The 2011 is a stunning wine that has great balance and elegance. The 2009 is a bolder slightly fatter style, whilst the 2010 was a little closed up.
We bade our farewells to our international tasting group and departed for airports, train stations or .....bars.
Now we await the commercial side to the 2014 Bordeaux Primeur campaign.