Sunday, 12 April 2015

Bordeaux Primeurs 2014: Haut Brion, Domaine de Chevalier, Yquem and Climens

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 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.

The weather chart at Chateau d'Yquem depicting the rainfall and the harvest. The green columns depict 'Y' the dry white wine (there will be 10,000 bottles) whilst the yellow columns show the grand vin pickings.

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.

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.


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).

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Bordeaux Primeurs 2014: Right Bank (Monday and Tuesday)

Monday 30th March
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!

The bleak view across Saint Emilion on Monday 30th March, aptly described by Victoria Moore @PlanetVictoria as 'Dreich'.

 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.
This is a great way to start the Primeur tastings as there are an enormous amount of wines on show from all around the Right Bank.....various appellations are covered such as Fronsac, Castillon, Lalande de Pomerol, Montagne Saint Emilion, Puisseguin Saint Emilion, Saint Georges Saint Emilion, Lussac Saint Emilion, Saint Emilion, Saint Emilion Grand Cru, Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classe. By tasting a variety of these wines it gives an overview of how the 2014 vintage unraveled in this area. There are too many wines to taste and be definitive, but I chose 55 wines to taste across the range.
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, 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 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% 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 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'.
The knowledgeable Dutch fellow who explained the 2014 Cheval Blanc and the amazing old vines at the Chateau.
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........