Saturday, 11 April 2015

Bordeaux Primeurs 2014: Left Bank: St.Estephe, Pauillac and St.Julien

Wednesday 1st April
It is a delight to wake up during this busy and sociable week with a clear head. However my concern was more for my fellow tasters, knowing full well that some of them had been extremely well entertained by Martin Krajewski the charismatic, generous and charming owner of  Chateau de Sours in the Entre Deux Mers.
Also I was thinking what appropriate prank I could play on my team, being April 1st.
My phone starting ringing before 7am, to announce that three of the team would be delayed.....with the jovial excuse 'Sex takes longer in the morning!'
Whilst contemplating the different timing of copulation at different times of day, I set off up the Route de Chateaux in the Medoc. The next phone call just before 8am was from two other members of the team saying that they were running late as they had had a great night!! Where have all the professionals gone?
As I pulled in to Pauillac at 8.20am I was greeted by two giggling members of the tasting team tucking in to their croissants and coffee. They had had a great night, but thankfully being true pros they had persuaded the kind host to stop the festivities at 1am, as they needed to be up and on the road at 6.30am.
Anyway back to the wines.......
Our first stop of this bright Wednesday was at one of my favourite Chateaux. The family owned Chateau Grand Puy Lacoste has consistently made honest, decent wines at a fair price.
We were met by the delightful Emeline Borie.
We tasted:
Lacoste Borie honest decent wine with rich heart and medium term drinking.
Haut Batailley....lighter Pauillac style, more St.Julien character. Great cabernet elegance.
Grand Puy core of dark fruit, great acidity carrying the fruit and balacing very well with the assertive tannins. A good GPL, but nowhere near '05,'09 or '10, which were awesome wines. Will be very interesting to see how this wine develops.

Next stop Chateau Mouton Rothschild. The 2014 vintage for Mouton Rothschild may be shrouded in significant emotion, as Madame Philippine de Rothschild died a couple of weeks before harvest time on 22nd August 2014.  However Philippine's three children have actively taken on the mantle of running the Chateau. In fact Philippe de Sereys de Rothschild is the man in charge now.
We received a warm welcome in the tasting room at the Chateau and tasted:
Clerc Milon...(58% Cabernet Saucignon, 29% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot and 1% Carmenere).... This Chateau is on great form. And perhaps one of the better value wines in the Medoc. The Cabernet was elegant and gave the wine a great backbone. A subtle start on the nose, but a ripe sweet core of fruit was balanced by wonderful finesse. This wine had spice as well as the sought after 'tension'.
d'Armailhac...(50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot)....Good rich spicey character and great mouthfeel. This is a bold d'Armailhac with good spice and power.
Le Petit Mouton....(93% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot). This seems like a high % of Cab Sauv, but what an outstanding wine. This second wine would compare with many top estate wines. Pure deep style cabernet with a polished richness.
Chateau Mouton Rothschild 2014....(81% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot and 3% Cabernet Franc). WOW. This wine has an incredible velvet smooth nose and a characteristic cabernet class. The toasted oak is evident initially but this develops and evens out. This is the first multi layered wine that we have tasted this week.There was also a hint of savoury spice on the mid palate and then pure elegance after. A wine worthy of First Growth status.

Onward to our next visit at Chateau Montrose.

Here we were met by the suave Herve Berland, who presented his excellent wines.
We tasted:
Tronquoy Lalande...(56%Merlot, 37% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Petit Verdot, 1% Cabernet Franc). Very good grip and strength. This is a powerful wine and a very good example of how Saint Estephe should be. My rather bizarre tasting note said 'butch shoulders'.
La Dame de Montrose...(50% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot) 37% of production.
Elegant lighter style but with good deep spice. Mid term enjoyment.
Chateau Montrose....(61% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot)....a really brooding intense dark style of Montrose. Incredible depth and complex spice. A wine for long ageing.

Next stop Chateau Lafite Rothschild.
We were welcomed at Chateau Lafite Rothschild by the delightful Marina and then lead up to the tasting room. It seems that the bubble or spike in the Lafite pricing has now calmed down after the enormous interest from the Asian markets in this property over the last 7 years. Now we can focus on the wine, rather than the price!
The honest and hard working Charles Chevalier welcomed us to the tasting room and we tasted:
Carruades de Lafite...(58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 42% Merlot)... a delicious smooth style, great balance of weight of fruit with acidity.
Duhart Milon....(55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot)....the best wine tasted here! Dark, brooding deep spice with elegance. Good mid/long term cellaring.
Lafite Rothschild.....(87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc).....Oh dear. With positivity after tasting Mouton, I was majorly disappointed with Lafite. The wine seemed awakward and dis jointed....which can often happen when tasting barrel samples. I would very much like to re taste the 2014 barrel sample at some stage to see how it really is, as I think this sample was from a bad batch.

Onwards to the 'temple' up the hill from Lafite and just over the appellation border to Chateau Cos d'Estournel. It has now been two years since the colourful Jean Guillaume Prats left Cos( we all remember those socks Jean Guillaume). The wonderfully monickered 'new' manager Aymeric de Gironde has certainly found his feet with the 2014 vintage.
Goulee by Cos d'Estournel...this is the small vineyard bought 10 years ago in the northern Medoc....(78% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Cabernet Franc). This has been a muscular brute of the wine in the past, so it was a revalation to taste the soft, delicate style this year. The finish was slightly out of kilter with evident alcohol warmth, but nevertheless a good wine.
Les Pagodes de Cos....(55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 43% Merlot and 2% Petit Verdot)....Green leaf tea and tobacco hints on the nose, but intense dark spice on the mid palate with great balance from the tension in the acidity. Delicious, classic Saint Estephe and very different from previous styles from this Chateau.
Cos d'Estournel 2014...(65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Franc). WOW this is a subtle Cos. The wine builds and develops the more one tastes. There is a delicate touch with the dark spicey heart of the wine. Very smooth and fine. Bizarrely seems more St.Julien style than classic St.Estephe, but very very classy.

A hop over the gravel hills of Sainte Estephe to the much changed Chateau Calon Segur.
Here we were greeted by the elegant Sophie Marc, who always seems to be smiling. Some of our team clearly wanted to make a stronger and long lasting impression on this beautiful young lady! Clearly Calon Segur provokes passion.

Chateau Calon Segur has recently changed hands....sold by the Capbern Gasqueton family to the insurance company Suravenir in November 2012 for £140 million. The new management team are gradually implementing changes and are renovating the winery and all the facilities. Thank goodness the vineyard manager Vincent Millet has stayed at the Chateau (he was formerly at Chateau Margaux). Vincent is a charming chap and he lead us through the wines:
Capbern (they have dropped the Gasqueton since 2013).(78% Cabernets, 19% Merlot, 3%Petit Verdot)..opaque, dark style with rich heart.
Le Marquis de Calon Segur (64% Merlot, 36% Cabernet Sauvignon).....very deep violet (classic merlot) concentration and bold spicey palate. Good mid term drinking.
Chateau Calon Segur (66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Cabernet Franc, 19% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot)
Dark, opaque core, brooding quite closed nose not showing opulence. Lurking power and intensity. Tobacco and meaty depth. This is quite a monster style. Very intense pure Cabernets. Great long finish. A true Calon, that has big intensity and will last 30+ years.

This had been a busy morning so far, but we had an important tasting before lunch. We dropped back to Chateau Pontet Canet, next door to Mouton in order to meet Alfred Tesseron and his niece Melanie....the co owners of this Chateau that is making remarkable wines.
It was a pleasure to taste the 2014 Chateau Pontet Canet (65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot). This wine is in the process of ageing....50% in new oak, 15% in oak from one year and 35% in the cement amphora.
The wine is back on form after a lighter 2013, which I found most peculiar to taste en Primeur. This 2014 is inky dark intense, with spicey leafy tobacco and rich dark spicey fruits. The palate is surprisingly fresh with the intensity of fruit. There is a vibrancy and purity to the wine. This is classy Pauillac and will age for 30 years +.
Lunch was at Chateau Pontet Canet, where we enjoyed the vibrancy and richness of the 2008 Pontet Canet with some delicious duck and a cornucopia of cheese.

But we could not dilly dally, as we had an appointment to taste atanother First growth Chateau immediately after lunch.

Nowadays a visit to Chateau Latour to taste the Primeur samples is akin to reaching out for Tantalus' apple. Whatever we think of the wine we can not buy it en Primeur as the Chateau has decided to break out of the Primeur system and only release wine at a later date, when they deem it ready to drink. This is a perfectly sensible policy, however it does mean that Chateau latour has to invest a large amount of money in storing the wines.
We tasted the 2014 wines at Latour as well as a selection of older wines that have just been released onto the market.
Pauillac 2014...very grippy, tannic style with hard stone fruit core.
Les Forts de Latour 2014...more refined and stylish with layered fruit.
Chateau Latour 2014.....very polished and creamy texture. This wine has great balance and a racy vibe. Sweet, ripe fruit on the mid palate and a very long finish. Proper Pauillac.

Virtually neigbouring Chateau Latour, but residing in a differnt appellation are the wondrous wines of Chateau Leoville Lascases. This was our next stop.
We tasted the full range from Domaine Delon various Chateaux:
Fugue de Nenin.....(95% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc).....soft easy style lacking vibrancy.
Nenin.....(68%Merlot, 32% Cabernet Franc)...deep spicey style with good hard concentration. Rich.
Chapelle de Potensac...(27% Cab Sauv, 70% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc)...light weight mid palate, austere, ugly.
Potensac...(39% Cab Sauv, 40% Merlot, 18% Cab Franc, 3% Petit Verdot)...Good hard fuit core and balance. Richness but uninspiring.
Le Petit Lion ...(38% Cab Sauv, 57% Merlot, 5% Cab Franc)....Sweet fruit initially on the nose, then a delicious sweet allure of delicate balanced fruit. Fresh and excellent.
Clos du Marquis...(74% Cab Sauv, 22% Merlot, 4% Cab Franc)....Cedar spice richness, good balanced weight of fruit. Will develop gracefully but hard core tannins at the moment.
Chateau Leoville Las Cases ...(79% Cab Sauv, 10% Merlot, 11% Cab Franc).....a very dense dark core. Meaty intensity. Smooth velvety texture but padded and delicate, will last many years as the structure is all there.

A swift jump to the other side of the village of Sint Julien to the next tasting at Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou.
Here we were met by the long standing cellar master Rene Lusseau.
We tasted:
Lalande Borie.....juicy, fleshy style with good structure.

La Croix de Beaucaillou....elegant rich style but lacking charm.
Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou.....power packed and very long finish.

This was turning into quite a marathon day of tasting, but we still needed to taste all the other Saint Juliens, Pauillacs and Sainte Estephe wines which were on show at the UGC tastings.
The pick of these wines for me were:
Saint Julien
Beychevelle....very elegant deep spice with dry tannins, but classy. extract and a big wine. Very bold fruit structure.
Leoville Barton....(83% Cab Sauv, 15% Merlot and 2% Cab Franc)....excellent freshness and very stylish.
Leoville Poyferre...(60% Cab Sauv, 35% Merlot, 3% Cab Franc, 2% Petit Verdot)....a powerful rich dark style with very intense core. Good balance. intense rich sample and will be a good value mid/long term ageing wine.
Batailley....excellent powerful style and good definition.
Lynch Bages.....Broad powerful style. Rich dark core of fruit and balanced acidity. Will age well.
Pichon Baron....(80% Cab Sauv, 20% Merlot)....Layered spicey rich fruit. Almost cinamon intense spice. An exuberant wine with great vitality.

Saint Estephe
Lafon Rochet.....very pure fruit style and finesse.

We then managed to gtet a very late appointment to taste at Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande.
Reserve de la Comtesse (59% Cabernet Sauvignon, 41% Merlot)....excellent elegant, feminine beautiful balanced wine.
Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande...(65% Cab Sauv, 22% Merlot, 7% Cab Franc, 6% Petit Verdot)....a very classy Pichon Comtesse. Memorable for the vitality and rich balanced fruit style.

A long day of tasting at 11 different Chateaux as well as two larger group tastings. The general conclusions for the 2014 vintage are now becoming clearer. The Left Bank is certainly looking good.
Onward for tomorrow and some elegance in Margaux and a couple of hundred Cru Bourgeois wines to work out.
Time for dinner with friends in Bordeaux and drinking some Rhone(Hermitage 2001, Clape) and Burgundy (Chambolle Musigny 2009).

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