Sunday, 12 April 2015

Bordeaux Primeurs 2014: Margaux, Cru Bourgeois, Pessac Leognan and Sauternes.

Thursday 2nd April
After a lovely dinner at L'Univerre restaurant in Bordeaux the night before with good friends, it was up early to get in the vineyards again.
Our first stop was to be at Chateau d'Issan in Margaux. This beautiful Chateau (with a moat) is part owned by Emmanuel Cruse, who is from one of the oldest Chateau owning families in the one time his family owned Giscours, d'Issan, Rauzan Segla and Pontet Canet.
Emmanuel has had significant investment recently from Jacky Lorenzetti, who made a small fortune in property and estate agency and is now enjoying spending his well earned money on fine wine and rugby (he owns Racing Metro). Jacky Lorenzetti has bought two interesting Chateaux in Saint Estephe and Pauillac.....Lilian Ladouys and Pedesclaux. Both properties are long term projects with enormous potential. In particular Pedesclaux has some significant vineyards in between Lafite Rothschild and Mouton Rothschild, so the terroir should be fine!
Anyway back to the wines. We tasted within the magnificent Chateau d'Issan.
Interesting stairwell at Chateau d'Issan. I think the swords are reserved for wine critics.

Blason d'Issan  (53% Merlot, 47% Cabernet Sauvignon)....very good broad structures and lovely ripe rich balance.
d'Issan (23% Merlot, 77% Cab Sauvignon)...this is in fact the higheste percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon ever in the d'Issan blend. The wine is charming and very elegant. There is a lifted vibrancy. For Emmanuel Cruse this wine reminds him of 1996 (which was excellent in Margaux!)
Fleur de Pedesclaux (89% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc) A delicate ripe plum style. Very smooth after.
Pedesclaux (53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 47% Merlot) A beautiful rich extracted wine with strong intense blackcurrants, with a cool balanced core. Excellent freshness after.
Lilian Ladouys (56% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot) Lovely bright colour on this wine, soft, subtle merlot charcater forward and then builds well after.
With serious investment behind and an expert sales and marketing guy in Augustin Lacaille, these are certainly Chateaux to keep an eye on over the coming years. In fact Chateau Pedesclaux has undergone such a dramatic refurbishment that some of our team made a quick detour up to Pauillac to have a look at the state of the art new cellars. This is a winery that I will definitely work more with Bella Wine Tours.

Next stop Chateau Palmer.
2014 is an important symbolic year for Chateau Palmer as the General Charles Palmer bought the wine estate 200 years previously in 1814 and gave hid name to the Chateau.
Palmer is now fully biodynamic in the vineyard. Christopher Meyers explained that there is also significant work in order to reduce the sulphur content in the wines. In fact 2014 was the first year that no SO2 was added to the grapes pre fermentation. This is good and pure, but it is also difficult to manage in the winery and oxidation is a risk.
Alter Ego (52% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Petit Verdot)...40% of the production (7000 cases)..20% new oak...a fresh vibrant rich style, but seems to block slightly on the mid palate also green taste after!
Chateau Palmer (45% Merlot, 49% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Petit Verdot)...60% of production (9000 cases)..60% new oak.....initially quite tight, but a wine that builds in class and finesse. Very silky smooth with great balanced acidity carrying the fruit further.
Yield was 33 hl/ha, which is still quite low for what can be achieved in the appellation, but more than Palmer has been achieving in previous difficult years.

Next stop Chateau Margaux.
It is always a treat to visit Chateau Margaux and hear the views of Paul Pontallier. Monsieur Pontallier is a great orator and wonderful ambassador for the Chateau. He also has great clarity when describing the vintage.
This year we were greeted by the owner Madame Corinne Mentzelopolous and her beautiful beagle dog, Souvlaki. Slightly odd to name your dog after skewered meat, but then again she can afford to do whatever she wants. Souvlaki was certainly taking his reception duties extremely seriously by rolling over and exposing his assets to all and sundry. It was a relaxing and family atmosphere at Margaux this year.
We tasted in the beautiful Orangerie again, as the Chateau is gradually having a renovation which should be opening in June this year.
Pavillon Rouge ...(77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, 1% Petit Verdot)...24% of total production......13.5% alc.....60% new oak...beautiful attack and elegant delicate style. Not opaque, but very fine.
Chateau Margaux 2014...90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot)...36% of total production (40% will go into the 3rd and 4th wines). Amazing bright cherry colour and nowhere near as intense as the wines from Pauillac. A beautiful balanced wine, with a delicate approach and then a rich very silky smooth balance of acidity and tannins. The high % of cabernet sauvignon gives the wine a purity and finesse. Slight cedar and tobacco notes over the blackcurrant heart. Long smooth finish. An excellent wine that Monsieur Pontallier described as a good vintage Margaux, but not quite as good as 2005, 2009 or 2010. Interesting talking to Paul Pontallier about the heart of Margaux. They have traced the vineyard plots back to 1680, when the wine estate was 75 hectares (it is now 80 hectares). The best grapes have always come from these vineyards. They know at harvest time what will happen for different grapes and the taste is purely a confirmation of the quality.
Pavillon Blanc....100% Sauvignon Blanc.......13.9% 3.18 (the highest acidity for Pavillon Blanc). This wine really sings with its zesty fresh nose and stone fruit greengage and tropical pineapple freshness. Great balance on the palate and an incredible long finish......1000 cases produced (so hold on for the price!) as Paul Pontallier reckons this is the best Pavillon Blanc they have ever produced.

We then headed off to taste the other Margaux wines at the UGC tasting at Chateau Dauzac.
The wines that stood out were:
Brane Cantenac......very fine elegant pure fresh fruit, multi layered.
Lascombes......a bolder rounder style and very opulent but still elegant.
Malescot St.Exupery.....58% Cab Sauv, 39% Merlot, 3% Petit excellent wine with fresh summer ripe summer fruits and deep spice. Very clean rich style.
Rauzan Segla....56% Cab Sauv, 42% Merlot, 1% Petit Verdot and 1% Cabernet Franc .....excellent fresh nose and even smooth multi layered style. Elegant balance on the palate and classy.

We enjoyed an excellent lunch at Chateau Dauzac and a glass of 2004 Chateau Malescot St Exupery.

Then onward to taste 250 Cru Bourgeois wines!
This tasting was hosted at Chateau d'Arsac just behind the main vineyards of Margaux. There were too many wines to comprehensively take notes and details, so we scanned the room for favourites and well known trading names that we have traded previously. Or wines that we have good allocations.
Wines that showed well:
Beaumont....54% Cab Sauv, 42% Merlot, 4% Petit easy rich style.
Clement Pichon...33% Cab Sauv, 62% Merlot, 5% Cab Franc
Lestruelle....15% Cab Sauv, 85% Merlot....a bold style of rich fruit that works well.
Malescasse..48% Merlot, 42% Cab Sauv,6% Cab Franc, 4% Petit Verdot...Very elegant.
Senejac......48% Cab Sauv, 37% Merlot, 11% Cab Franc, 4% Petit Verdot....Excellent weight and balance.

We then dropped in to taste the Sauternes wines at the UGC tasting at Chateau La Lagune.
Again I did not take extensive tasting notes, but I just wanted to get a feel for the vintage. It is so difficult to show a representaive sample for Sauternes at the Primeurs, but my overview was very positive.
Wines that really stood out:
Doisy Daene
La Tour Blanche

The acidity(that built up from the cool August) that is prevalent on the red wines and marked on the dry whites has also significantly helped the sweet wines of Sauternes. There is a delicious depth of honeyed and tropical fruit with great finesse. Unfortunately these wines are still commercially in the doldrums for trading en Primeur. However I am determined to introduce more and more people to them via food matching and tasting. Every person who tastes these incredible wines is converted. In fact some of the best value wines are produced in Sauternes, if one considers the amount of work and detail and precision that goes into creating these unique wines.

We also managed to have a taste of Chateau La Lagune 2014, which is very delicate and showing great finesse. Caroline Frey is gradually changing this large estate and it is a wine that has always been slightly overlooked or under the radar.

We had to move quickly as our next stop was the other side of Bordeaux at Chateau Haut Bailly in the Pessac Leognan appellation.
We were greeted warmly by the elegant and jovial managing director Veronique Sanders and we tasted with the ever efficient business relationship manager Daina Paulin.
Le Pape....75% Merlot, 25% Cab Sauv....elegant lighter style for mid term enjoyment.
La Parde d'Haut Bailly...56% Merlot, 30% Cab Sauv, 14% Cab Franc.....good medium weight and finesse.
Chateau Haut Bailly 2014...66% Cabernet Sauvignon and 34% Merlot.....very fine silky texture and very fresh from the acidity and tension. The mid palate has a sweet ripeness from the cabernet with hints of tobacco leaf and deep blackcurrant. Powerful richness builds in the wine and an elegant finish.
This is definitekly a wine that I would like to re taste in the coming weeks, as we tasted at 3.30pm when our taste buds are at their weakest!

But our day was not over as we still needed to taste all the other Pessac Leognan and Graves wines at the UGC tasting at Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte.
Here are some wines that really shone:
Carbonnieux Blanc....great dry white, with fresh grass elegance and spring flavours.
Domaine de Chevalier Blanc....pear and apple spice with hints of cinamon. Great tension.
La Louviere Blanc...fresh zesty and crisp.
Malarctic Lagraviere Blanc.....hard acidity and almost too zesty.
Pape Clement Blanc.....Very lime and zesty. Great finish.
Picque Caillou......Wonderful restrained balance. Zesty clean style with apricot freshness and stone fruit. Not as showy as others but very drinkable.
Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc....90% Sauv Blanc, 5% Sauv Gris, 5% Semillon...WOW what an intense and incredible pure style of fresh limes, smokey, mineral charm and zingy acidity. This is a real show stopper, that will be fascinating to see how it develops. This wine will gain high scorers/ratings.....I am not sure whether I like it, as it was too obvious.
Domaine de Chevalier Rouge.....very classy medium brooding red, that has a delicate heart.
Pape Clement Rouge....a very prune rich style and heavy.
Picque Caillou Rouge...45% Merlot, 55% Cab Sauv....delicate and delicious balanced red which will offer excellent mid term enjoyment.
Smith Haut Lafitte Rouge...62% Cab Sauv, 30% Merlot, 6% Cab Franc, 2% Petit Verdot...excellent fresh pure sweet summer fruits on the nose. A very piure clean heart and good balancing acidity.

Another long day of tasting, but we are nearly finished for the week. Just one more day tasting at Haut Brion, Domaine de Chevalier, Yquem and Climens.


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