The weather can play an enormous role when tasting wines. When it is sunny and bright personal spirits are happier and ....brighter. When it is bleak, wet, damp, overcast and cold a similar frame of mind can interfere with the wines. The wines themselves can close up on dreary days and hide their charms.
So I set off to taste the 2014 in the rain!
I arrived early in Saint Emilion at 8am to start the week with eager anticipation.
The first tasting was at the beautiful Salle des Dominicains.
Wines which stood out were:
Mayne Viel, Fronsac.
Mazeris, Canon Fronsac
Cassagne Haut Canon La Truffiere, Fronsac
des Landes, Lussac Saint Emilion
La Paillette Villemaurine, Saint Emilion
Royal Saint Emilion
Bellisle Mondotte, Saint Emilion Grand Cru
Candale, Saint Emilion Grand Cru
Guillemin la Gaffeliere, Saint Emilion Grand Cru
La Chapelle Lescours, Saint Emilion Grand Cru
de Pressac, Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classe
Jean Faure, Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classe
Clos la Madeleine, Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classe
Couvent des Jacobins, Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classe
The over riding feeling and immediate conclusion from this initial tasting was that the wines with a higher percentage of Cabernet Franc or Cabernet Sauvignon had more charm, vitality and elegance. Chateau de Pressac has Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon. Malbec and Carmenere which adds more complexity. Chateau Jean Faure has 43% merlot, 50% cabernet franc and 7% cabernet sauvignon. Couvent des Jacobins has 83% merlot, 12% cabernet franc and (an unusual) 5% petit verdot.
For me the most charming (and probably very well priced) wine was Chateau Cassagne Haut Canon 'La Truffiere with a balanced 60% merlot, 20% cabernet franc and 20% cabernet sauvignon. A wine that has a deep dark spicey core, but also elegance and a vibrancy from the cabernets.
Once I gathered my international group of tasters (UK, US and Holland) we set off for our first appointment at Chateau La Conseillante in Pomerol.
This Chateau has been making some outstanding wines in previous years, so expectations were high.
The 2014 is a rich ripe style with a searing backbone of acidity, which reminded me of the 2006. A good wine, that I would like to try again in the coming months.
We then headed over to the small Mairie de Pomerol to taste a wide selection of Pomerol wines. This small tasting can usually show up some gems. Unfortunately this year it was disappointing. The merlot generally seemed quite awkward, rather than its plush silky smooth norm. There were a couple of the 30 wines that were decidedly weird. But La Fleur du Roy 2014 showed very well as did Feytit-Clinet and Clos du Clocher (70% merlot and 30% cab franc). There were some wines that lacked heart and seemed rather hollow.
We then headed back to Chateau La Gaffeliere to taste the wines made by the top consultant Stephane Derenoncourt. This is a large and varied tasting from all around the world, so we tried to focus on Bordeaux!
Wines that stood out from this tasting were:
La Gaffeliere, Saint Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classe......the 20% cabernt franc is all from young vines planted since 2001 and blends very well with the 80% merlot. Perhaps the young vines add the vitality?
Poujeaux, moulis.....it was striking to taste the first left bank wine amidst the Saint Emilions. Poujeaux really shone...a blend of 50% cabernet sauvignon, 40% merlot, 5% cabernet franc and 5% petit verdot
Clos Fourtet, Saint Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classe....85% merlot, 10% cabernet sauvignon and 5% cabernet franc.
We enjoyed lunch at L'Envers du Decor in Saint Emilion and then headed back to taste more wines.
A light afternoon of tasting and re tasting at different venues as we have a busy week ahead.
Tuesday 31st March
We started Tuesday at the fabulous Chateau Canon, Premier Grand Cru Classe Saint Emilion. The 2014 is a good wine, but nowhere near the depth and richness of the 2009 or 2010. There was a richness on the mid palate and a pleasing dark cherry character. The wine had a good lift and vibe. Out of curiosity we also tasted the 2013 barrel sample. This was fascinating to taste. It was very light in colour and almost seems to have faded. The wine was incredibly soft and juicy and certainly not a wine for long ageing. Interesting to see that the Chateau recommend 'Cellaring Potential of 20 years'. I would be surprised if the 2013 Canon lasted 10 years. But this puts the outstanding 2009 and 2010 Chateau Canon into context. We were lucky to taste, enjoy and buy these astonishing wines that will last 30 years plus.
Next stop the palace of Chateau Pavie, or as Jamie descibed....a nice 'New Build'. Gerard Perse has worked enormously hard to improve his wines and invested his life and soul into Saint Emilion. The magnificence of the reception hall and entry at Chateau Pavie are incredibly stately.
We tasted the following wines:
Angelique de Monbousquet (second wine)...very pretty and perfumed, elegant ripeness and violets, an easy style
Aromes de Pavie (second wine)....a meatier richer style but with very elegant spice and firm style.
Chateau Lusseau, Saint Emilion Grand Cru....ripe damsons and kirsch, a deep complex wine.
Chateau Monbousquet, Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classe...intense spice, but lifted floral tones too. Very good balance.
Clos Lunelles, Castillon-Cotes de Bordeaux...smokey flinty character and unusual intense nose. Very good mouthfeel and structure. Powerful all the way.
Chateau Pavie Decesse, Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classe....plummy dark intensity, big bold extracted style. A dense wine for the long term.
Chateau Bellevue Mondotte, Saint Emilion Grand Cru...rich full on power and glycerol glass, intense dark fruit, more austere than Pavie Decesse. Will be interesting to see how these two wines evolve.
Chateau Pavie, Premier Grand Cru Classe 'Class A'....bold as usual, but very fine as well with dark cherry notes. This was truly the first multi layered wine that I had tasted so far. The blend is 60% merlot, 22% cabernet franc and 18% cabernet sauvignon. Perhaps that healthy weight of cabernet sauvignon is giving the wine a tremendous lift and elegance. This is undoubtedly a broad shouldered Chateau Pavie, but also not too overt the top. This is quite clearly a wine for long term cellaring.
Chateau Monbousquet, Bordeaux Blanc (60% sauvignon blanc, 30% sauvignon gris, 5%semillon and 5% muscadelle.....an astonishing and unusual taste of candied lemon slices with searing racy acidity. The intensity was almost like pear drops. The palate felt medium sweet with the richness of flavour. This was a good wine, but really not my style and too 'in your face'.
Now we entered the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux tasting at Clos Fourtet. Here we could taste most of the Grand Cru Classe and Premier Grand Cru Classe wines.
Wines that stood out at this tasting were:
Chateau La Cosupaude.....medium richness but elegant
Chateau La Dominique.....broad structure and classy
Clos Fourtet......very polished style, good vibrancy, deep spice.
La Gaffeliere.....as previous a charming wine.
Troplong Mondot.....powerful (13.8%alc) and a very deep dark style, but effective.
Then we headed on to our next appointment at the most famous Chateau in Saint Emilion.....Chateau Cheval Blanc, Premier Grand Cru Classe 'Class A'.
Chateau Cheval Blanc 2014 is an excellent wine. There are 75000 bottles produced for the Grand Vin and 25000 bottles for the second wine (Petit Cheval). The blend is 55% merlot and 45% cabernet franc. The wine has excellent spice, depth and polish, but it develops gradually without being a blockbuster. The spicey richness carries through the palate and the wine has an astonishing length held together with perfect balance. The comparison here was clearly the 2001 Cheval Blanc. The only issue with Cheval Blanc is that the recent pricing has elevated the wine beyond any sense of reality. However this is an incredible wine.
We then popped in to the UGC Pomerol tasting at Chateau Petit Village and immediately slid across the Glastonbury style car park.
A brief tasting of the Pomerol wines showed that Chateau Clinet is making tremendous wines. The blend of 90% merlot, 9% cabernet sauvignon and the all important 1% cabernet franc has a rich elegance. I will definitely try and get an appointment at Chateau Clinet to re taste this wine in the coming weeks.
After a brief lunch it was time to continue Chateau hopping starting with Chateau L'Evangile, the Rothschild owned property next door to Petrus. I found this wine to be very good with an almost baked richness.
Then on to one of my favourite visits at Vieux Chateau Certan. Here Alexandre Thienpoint greeted us in his normal shy, slightly reserved manner. The confidence comes from his beautiful wines. The VCC 2014 has a dark rich core of cabernet franc (19%) and merlot 80% and cabernet sauvignon (1%). The cabernet franc here certainly was of excellent quality. This will be a long aged wine. A charming vigneron and a charming wine.
Next stop at Chateau Figeac, where we were treated to another cabernet franc expression. The 2014 Figeac has a classy stamp which will last for ever.
Then an eagerly anticpated visit to the master vigneron Denis Durantou at Chateau L'Eglise Clinet in Pomerol. We tasted across Denis' range of Saint Emilion, Castillon and Lalande de Pomerol. I adored 'La Chenade' from Lalande de Pomerol. A very good 'house wine'. Also 'Les Cruzelles' was a very sophisticated wine with tension.
Chateau L'Eglise Clinet is a dark plummy rich wine, which has great length, but I honestly prefered the lesser wines in the Durantou stable.
Our final visit was to another remarkable temple to excess at Chateau Angelus. This recently promoted Chateau has decided to stick an enormous Bell Tower on top of a building in the middle of the Saint Emilion countryside. There was a broad and quality selection of wines on show, which Hubert de Bouard de Laforest consults on the winemaking. Many of these wines also appear at other tastings.
Chateau Angelus 2014 is a blend of 50% merlot and 50% cabernt franc. The wine has deep dark spicey fruit and a bright freshness from the cabernet. It was an incredible silky smooth and almost exotic fruit style. Perhaps not my style and too exuberant.
Quite a day of tasting and that wrapped up the Right Bank. Onward to deliver a customer to his room at Chateau de Sours in the Entre deux Mers and a cleansing beer, before heading home to Bordeaux.
Looking forward to tasting on the Left Bank and hopefully no April 1st surprises........