Author Archives: AlexR

Australians buy Médoc château

 

Château Cambon la Pelouse, a much-respected cru bourgeois in Macau has just been purchased by Treasury Wine Estaes (Penfolds), the 8th largest wine producer in the world. To give you an idea of their size, they have a two-billion euro turnover – more than the leading French merchant, Castel – two thirds of which is on export markets, and employ some 3,000 people.
In addition, TWE has concluded a distribution agreement with the Champagne-based Thienot group, owners of CVBG (Dourthe-Kressmann), and are also setting up their own export business of a range of French wines under the Maison de Grand Esprit brand.
The purchase of Cambon la Pelouse marks the first time a major Australian firm has invested in Bordeaux. The château has 65 hectares of vines in the Haut-Médoc appellation with an annual production of approximately 400,000 bottles under several different labels. The wines retail in French supermarkets for 15-17 euros a bottle.
The previous owner, Pierre Marie, is over 70 years old and his children were not interested in taking over the estate, so the sale was inevitable.
The château will be managed by Frenchman Sébastien Long, who has 10 years in the Australian wine industry under his belt.

2010 Ch. Lesparre: an interesting Graves de Vayres

Can there be any more esoteric Bordeaux appellation than Graves de Vayres? With 700 hectares of vines it is by no means the smallest (that would be Saint Georges Saint Emilion at 192 hectares), but it has, shall we say, a very low profile. The appellation produces dry white, red, and semi-sweet white wines.

Graves de Vayres is located on the left bank of the Dordogne in the communes of Vayres (famous for its château, a listed historical monument) and Arveyres in the northwestern part of the Entre-Deux-Mers region. There are 40 producers and the soil consists of alluvial terraces.

I don’t often drink the wines, but had a bottle of the 2010 Château Lesparre squirreled away in the cellar and figured that it should be showing well at age nine.

The color displayed a very deep, dark core and was just starting to brick on the rim.

The nose was not very profound, but featured attractive aromas of humus, candied cherry, and fennel, as well as a marked oak influence (vanilla, roast coffee beans).

The oak also came through on the palate. The flavor profile may have been somewhat angular and a little hollow, but redeemed itself on the aftertaste, even though this was a tad dry and grippy on the tail end. I came away with the feeling that this is perhaps an example of what happens when a wine of medium potential is somewhat overworked. Still, it is the sort of wine that shows much better at table and I am a sucker for off-beat bottles such as this. It is probably not far from its peak and if my tasting notes may have given the wrong impression, I enjoyed drinking it and furthering my knowledge of Bordeaux.

Château Lesparre belongs to the Gonet family, who also make wine in Champagne and own several estates in the Pessac-Léogan appellation (Haut Bacalan, Haut Brana, d’Eck, Saint Eugène, and Haut l’Evêque).

The Saint-Emilion classification runs into more trouble

I know the classification of the Médoc by heart and have pretty much memorized the ones in Sauternes and Pessac-Léognan too. But Saint-Emilion is another story.  There are more châteaux (81 versus 61 in the Médoc), some of the wines have only a tiny production and are hard to find and, most importantly, the classification changes – in theory every 10 years.

My English and American friends say that they pay little or no attention to the Saint-Emilion classification in their purchasing. Indeed, most consumers do not know there is a distinction between “grand cru” and “grand cru classé”, whereas there is a big price differential – and supposedly in quality too. This is made even murkier by the fact that the greatest classified wines have the same appellation contrôlée as a “grand cru” selling for 10 euros a bottle. It’s a very confusing system indeed. I once asked the winegrower’s association how many unclassified “grands crus” there were. No one could tell me. In fact, the definition is so elastic that lots from the cooperative cellar can be sold as grands crus.

Based on an innovative, modern, rational concept, the updating of the Saint-Emilion classification, first made in 1954, has instead led to a hopeless imbroglio. This started with legal challenges by châteaux stricken off the list in 2006.
Some of the parameters for inclusion seem rather arbitrary. The most controversial is the lesser importance given to tasting results for the first growths. Why should this be?

The story is long and involved, but the latest chapter is that Hubert de Boüard and Philippe Castéja, big cheeses in Bordeaux, who had been found innocent of “unlawful taking of interest” have just been called before the magistrate’s court by an investigating judge who overturned that verdict.
In a nutshell, de Boüard (part owner of Château Angélus and other Right Bank estates, as well as a former president of the Syndicat Viticole de Saint-Emilion and member of the INAO executive board) and Castéja (head of the powerful négociant firm of Borie Manoux, owner of Saint-Emilion first growth Château Trottevieille alongside prestigious vineyards in the Médoc, and former president of the CIVB Bordeaux Wine Council) stand accused of being “judge and jury” since they were involved in establishing the new classification – that included their own wines.

The elevation of Angélus and Pavie to “Premier Grand Cru A” status, on a par with Ausone and Cheval Blanc, in 2012 raised more than a few eyebrows. This was due not only to de Boüard’s troubling dual role, but also the fact that many Bordeaux lovers felt that the promotion was not deserved. Curiously, Gérard Perse of Pavie had his improved classification ranking engraved in huge letters on the pediment of his new wine cellar – a rather strange thing to do when one considers that this is not immutable!

In short, the Saint-Emilion classification is a mess. Having run into trouble in 2006, and again in 2012, I think the appellation probably has only one more chance before the entire thing is discredited. I sincerely hope the appellation puts their house in order in everyone’s best interest

 

 

 

Restaurant Quanjude – Chinese cuisine and Bordeaux wines

Even though I’m not very skilled at preparing it myself, I love Chinese food. My interest was therefore piqued in 2015, when a Chinese entrepreneur purchased Dubern, a Bordeaux restaurant and institution dating back to 1894.

Fifty-five-year-old James Zhou made a fortune by turning his small family firm into a powerhouse specialized in packaging, including the production of cans for Red Bull and Coca Cola in China. Francophile Mr. Zhou bought a wine estate in Tabanac (Château Renon in the Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux appellation – http://www.chateau-renon.fr/ ) in 2014, as well as the Auxerre football club in 2016.

In much the same spirit as he totally renovated Château Renon, Mr. Zhou successfully reinvented Dubern as Quanjude, which opened in November 2018. There are more than 50 Quanjude restaurants around the world, operated on a franchise basis. Some of them take up five floors and can seat up to 500 diners.

Three things make the one in Bordeaux unique.

For starters, it is the first to open in Europe, although several others are planned, starting with Paris.

The second reason is the restaurant’s hybrid Franco-Chinese style. Much effort was put into the decor, a very attractive blend of the Louis XIV style and Chinese chic, with tastefully-painted wall panels and beautiful furniture. The dining rooms are small and intimate. As might be expected, the porcelain is gorgeous. The staff are mostly French, including chef Olivier Peyronnet, and the cuisine is a delightful synthesis of French and Chinese influences.


I have a soft spot for restaurants such as Quanjude with a rather short menu. It shows that they have chosen to concentrate on what they do best. Normally speaking, I would have chosen the Peking duck, a dish on which Quanjude’s reputation was built, but this needs to be ordered by at least two people. Seeing as I was dining with my wife, who is allergic to gluten, this was not an option.

The series of dishes we sampled was visually enticing, delicious, and very refined. I will come back again for the Peking duck. To give you an idea of pricing, a seven course dinner revolving around this dish costs 100 euros. The regular evening menu is 60 euros. More information, of course, can be found on their web site: https://quanjude-bordeaux.com/

I came away totally enchanted with Quanjude. The setting is both luxurious and relaxed, and the food is exquisite. Just the day before, I had been invited to lunch at a Michelin-starred restaurant I will not name. It was pretty much of a disaster. So the class act at Quanjude was doubly appreciated. I would best describe a meal there as a gracious gastronomic experience light years away from the typical Chinese restaurant (egg rolls, sweet and sour pork, fried rice, etc.).

And as much as I love typical dishes from Southwest France – and I’m sure that is what visitors to Bordeaux are mainly seeking – I would warmly recommend Quanjude to anyone staying a few days who is looking for a refreshing departure from the usual litany of oysters, duck breast, entrecote, etc.


Then, of course, the third reason Quanjude Bordeaux is unique is wine. Reflecting the food menu, the wine list is on the short side, but with some very interesting bottles of various origins. Mark-ups are usual for this sort of establishment. I was delighted to see they offered a rare Palo Cortado sherry from the house of Lustau, so my wife and I enjoyed a glass as an aperitif. This was a medium-deep amber color and had a beautiful nutty, caramel nose. It was full-bodied with a soft, mineral, lingering finish. What a treat! It showed how much Bordeaux has changed over the years. Finding a unicorn wine like this would have been impossible not so long ago…

Seeing as I had chosen pigeon and my wife monkfish, we opted for a white wine, a 2014 Château Brown from Pessac-Léognan. I had discussed the choice with sommelière Thao Vo and she said that this was the one she would have recommended had I not mentioned it… I have appreciated white Château Brown (no, not a contradiction in terms!) for years and, in fact, prefer it to the red. The 2014 was a pale golden-yellow color with a complex bouquet of gooseberry, lemon, lanolin, and vanilla. The wine was luscious on the palate – very typical of its appellation – with a marked, but not obtrusive oak influence.

Chef Olivier Peyronnet

There is much discussion in France about matching wine and food. Frankly, I find much of it affected and superfluous. The same goes for wine with Chinese cuisine. I asked several people at Quanjude about this, and they agreed that other than a few very basic “rules”, most wines go very well with Chinese dishes. It’s as simple as that. I tend to favor white wines as a rule, but I’m determined to give the reds a go soon. Obviously, very spicy dishes do not partner well with many wines, but sweet white Bordeaux accompanies them surprisingly well.


As you might expect, Quanjude takes tea seriously. After the meal, my wife had red tea which was served with the appropriate decorum.

A 2011 Bx. blanc, a 2010 Lalande de Pomerol, and a 2001 Pichon Baron

A friend from Philadelphia I met on the Camino de Santiago in June came to dinner at my house last week and this was, of course, an occasion for defending the honor of Bordeaux wines.

As is often the case in Bordeaux, we kicked off with Champagne. This was a 2005 Pierre Gimonnet – a fresh, restrained, easy-to-drink wine with good minerality.

The first course was a salade tiède of scallops. Consisting of hot food (for instance: bacon bits, duck gizzards, duck hearts, lentils, etc.) served on a bed of greens, “lukewarm salads” are typical of cuisine in Southwest France. One with scallops was especially appropriate here since the scallop shell has been the symbol of pilgrims for centuries. The greens were mâche (lamb’s lettuce) and the scallops were coated with a vanilla cream sauce.

The wine to accompany this was a 2011 Château Mont Pérat AOC Bordeaux blanc. I always try to showcase the dry white wines of Bordeaux when visitors come to my house because these wines are little known and suffer from a mixed reputation. And as much as I adore the great growths, I also like to show how good the less-exalted, and more affordable wines can be. In the event, this wine paired beautifully with the seafood salad. It had also benefited from bottle age, acquiring complexity and honeyed nuances, and was sufficiently rich to complement the food.
Mont Pérat is a huge estate (a hundred hectares) in Capian, in the Premières Côtes region. The white wine is made with 65% Sémillon, 12% Sauvignon Blanc, and 4% Muscadelle.

Continuing in the vein of regional cuisine, the main course was entrecôte steak cooked over vine cuttings. This was served the traditional way, with a sauce made of bone marrow, shallots, and parsley – a failproof choice for accompanying the 2010 Château de Chambrun, Lalande-de-Pomerol.
I have a soft spot for this appellation and have been inducted into their vinous brotherhood, Les Baillis.
When I first arrived in Bordeaux, Lalande-de-Pomerol was sold at a similar price to Bordeaux Supérieur. No longer. The wines have improved greatly and the huge demand for Pomerol has spilled over into Lalande.
Owned for years by the Janoueix family, then by Silvio Denz, 7-hectare Château de Chambrun now belongs to the owners of Château Moncets in the same appellation. The grape varieties are 95% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc.
Steak calls for a hearty wine and this Chambrun certainly fit the bill. In fact, it seemed like a fusion of the New and Old worlds. The color was very dark and the alcoholic degree was 15%! While the wine was chunky, almost meaty on the palate, and with plenty of heft, it nevertheless had the hallmarks of fine Bordeaux. In other words, while not for the fainthearted, it was a wine of elegance. At age 9 it was showing well, but will continue to improve.
Few people who tasted this wine blind would guess its origin. It most definitely had the hallmarks of Bordeaux, but far more those of Pomerol than of its less prestigious neighbor.Every good meal in France has a cheese course and there are always at least four at my house. When I went to the local cheese shop, I was amazed to discover one called Compostelle. This goat’s milk cheese has the impression of a scallop shell – a no-brainer for a meal bringing together pilgrims who had walked to Santiago!

The last red wine of the evening was a 2001 Château Pichon Baron. I love this château, a classic Pauillac, and am a fan of the 2001 vintage, somewhat overshadowed by the bigger, more upfront 2000. 2001 is what the Bordelais call an “Atlantic vintage”, meaning one that reflects the climate of a typical year with wet and cool periods, leading to wines with lower alcohol and fresh acidity. This was certainly the case with this Pichon Baron. It had a beguiling nose of humus, truffle, and telltale Pauillac graphite. The wine was eminently drinkable, i.e. a little on the light side, with a lovely aftertaste. A pure delight.

 

 

A 2005 Barsac and a 2009 Pomerol

Sorry for the hiatus in my posts. The main reason for this was a major undertaking in May and June: a pilgrimage. Leaving from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in the French Basque country, I walked with my friend Pétrus Desbois some 800 km to Santiago de Compostela on a route that has been travelled by other pilgrims (of varying motivations) for centuries. A description of this wonderful experience lasting five weeks is certainly worthy of a long post with photos, but perhaps not on a blog devoted to Bordeaux wine…
Therefore, it’s back to the fascinating world of Bordeaux for me and my readers!

After a month in Spain, and weighing a few pounds less, I was delighted to see may family again and rediscover the creature comforts of home including, of course, my wine cellar!

So my re-introduction to Bordeaux was a dinner with two wines.

The first was a Sauternes or, more exactly, a Barsac choosing to be sold under the Sauternes appellation. 2005 Château La Clotte Cazalis had a medium-deep golden-amber color. The bouquet displayed fresh candied fruit, honey, and raisined grape nuances than botyritized ones. As befits a Barsac, the wine was not weighty on the palate. Featuring barley sugar flavors, it was on the whole somewhat weak, leading me to think that one of the better wines from the other side of the Garonne (Loupiac, Sainte-Croix-du-Mont, Cadillac) might be just as good. This Barsac seemed younger than its age and more of a late-harvest wine than one made with noble rot.

The red wine to follow was 2009 Château Mazeyres from Pomerol. I remember tasting 2009 Right Bank wines en primeur and finding them rather big and alcoholic, and wondering how they would age. Recent experience has tended to show that they are on the early-maturing side. 2009 Mazeyres, made by the eccentric Alain Moueix, had a deep, dark core with marked bricking, looking perhaps older than its ten years. The nose, as expected, was redolent of ripe Merlot with some empyreumatic overtones. There were ethereal floral aromas as well, along with hints of resin and coffee, but the bouquet was nevertheless somewhat one-dimensional. This medium-weight wine was svelte and slightly minty on the palate, along with dark chocolate and licorice flavors. It was undoubtedly ready to drink and, in fact, just starting to dry out. This was a fine example of a good, affordable Pomerol that probably showed better at table than it would have in a tasting line-up.

 

 

 

2018 En Primeur Tasting Notes: Pauillac, Saint-Julien, and Saint-Estèphe

PAUILLAC

 

Aile d’Argent (Bordeaux AOC)
C: Medium pale
N: Just about screams Bordeaux Sauvignon Blanc, along with a smoky quality.
G: Some oak, but not too much, and decent fruit and acidity, but this does not bespeak a great terroir. Good.

Château d’Armailhac
N: Not pronounced. Some Pauillac graphite aromas, but not much more.
P: Pretty and light. Dryish, slightly short aftertaste. Black fruit and some olive flavors. Good.

Château Batailley
N: Attractive, but simple.
P: Full-bodied, tangy, and very approachable. Zingy tannin and fine acidity. Candied fruit flavors and good tannic texture. Worthwhile potential, just needs time for the aromatics to come through more clearly. Good to very good.

Château Bellegrave
N: Penetrating pure Cabernet and candied red fruit aromas, but lacking definition at this point. Coffee, vanilla, crandberry, and blueberry nuances.
P: Full, a touch austere and a bit hollow in light of its body. Fluid. A commercial style, even though the aftertaste is fairly uncompromising and thus may indicate greater ageing potential than it at first seems. Good.

Carruades de Château Lafite
N: Subtle and sweet with cedar overtones and Lafite fruit (how to describe such a bouquet with words?) in minor mode.
P: Rich, medium-heavy mouth feel with sheets of flavor. Goes into velvety fine-grained tannin exuding class rather than power. The finish shows ripe, more rubbery tannin. Very good.

Château Clerc Milon
N: Subdued black fruit. That which is showing is excellent and encouraging.
P: Bigger than sister château, d’Armailhac, with fine balance. Great structure, good fruit, and lots of oak, but not too much (will integrate). Slightly mineral aftertaste. Very good.

Château Duhart Milon
N: Blackcurrant jelly, but rather underdeveloped.
P: Seems maybe a little flabby at first, but that impression is corrected to a great degree by the aftertaste. Aromatics of violet, blackberry, and raspberry. Fine structure accompanied by delicious flavors. Very good.

Château Fonbadet
N: Rich and rather floral with sweet fruit and good, subtle toasty oak.
P: Very full-bodied and unabashedly vigorous. A virile wine (despite a female winemaker!). Natural textbook Pauillac with promising fine-grained tannins and a promising future. Much better than my previous encounters with this wine. Good.

Les Forts de Latour
N: Sweet Cabernet fruit with good oak. Violet overtones. Rather closed, but showing good potential.
P: Round and fresh, with fine-grained tannin. Lots of oak on the finish, but the wine’s intrinsic structure will undoubtedly be able to handle this with age. Long aftertaste. Very good.

Château Grand Puy Ducasse
N: Rich peppery bouquet with a little greenness.
P: Better on the palate Big, oaky, and tight, with teeth-coating tannin. Aged 100% in new oak, and this shows. Good.

Château Grand Puy Lacoste
N: Toasty oak background to lovely uplifting fruit, especially blackcurrant. Quite subtle.
P: A soft, feminine sort of Pauillac with great follow-through. Delicious black and red fruit flavors. Long, well-focused aftertaste. The epitome of elegance. Excellent.

Château Lafite Rothschild
N: The unmistakeable hallmarks are there (lead pencil, cassis, etc.), but the bouquet is keeping its cards close to the chest at present.
P: Cool, rich, and juicy. The very definition of “velvety” on the palate with tannin of incredible finesse. The never-ending aftertaste never lets go of the coolness. Superb.

Château Latour
N: Subtle aromas of incense and graphite.
P: Weighty on the palate, showing ripeness, concentration, and authority. The ultimate Cabernet Sauvignon wine, with Latour’s fabulous tannic texture and super-long aftertaste. Extremely well-structured. The fruit comes through beautifully on the finish. Superb.

Château Lynch Bages
N: Sweet and understated with tobacco and blackcurrant liqueur nuances.
P: Full-bodied, vigorous, and dynamic. Full of fruit (more red than black) with uncompromising tannins that account for the grip and long aftertaste. Little dry on the finish. Will age beautifully due to the strong, but high-quality tannin. Very good.

Château Lynch Moussas
N: Sweet, undoctored, and somewhat ethereal ripe Cabernet aromas, although timid.
P: Starts out rich and sensual, going on to reveal fine-grained tannin, followed by a long aftertaste with some minerality. While the bouquet is underdeveloped, the wine is very good on the palate.

Château Mouton Rothschild
N: Very Pauillac, “butch” with meaty and graphite aromas along with some cassis and truffles
P: Tightly-wound, compact, big, and long with exquisite class and classic Cabernet tannin. Superlative.

Château Pédesclaux
N: Interesting aromatics with some toasty oak, but not very developed at this time.
P: Lively, fruity, and straightforward. Delicious. Nice tannin on the aftertaste with oak in check. Great fruit, but by no means a fruit bomb. Tad dry on the finish, but that will change over time. Very good.

Château Pibran
N: Sweet black fruit and briar aromas, along with blackcurrant leaves.
P: Not complex, but very satisfying. Big mouth feel and melts in the mouth. Fine tannic texture. Not great, but irreproachable. Good to very good.

Château Pichon Baron
N: Spicy, funky, terroir-driven Cabernet nose. Very concentrated and sweet.
P: Great balance, length, and potential. Sensual. Fresh. Classic. Uncompromising great Pauillac that, once again, has made a great showing. Very good.

Château Pichon Comtesse
N: A little dusty, but fine, subtle bouquet, including a floral element.
P: Seems very forward, but that is deceptive because there is plenty of oak and grape skin tannin on the finish to show the wine’s backbone and ageing potential. Touch dry on the finish at this time, but the estate’s profile is obvious and quite attractive. Very good.

Château Pontet Canet
The château unfortunately lost two thirds of the crop in 2018 due to mildew.
N: Highly original and lovely bouquet that is already extremely captivating, subtle, and spicy one could just sniff forever.
P: Regal, poised, fresh, and precise. A very elegant wine with fantastic minerality. Excellent.

SAINT JULIEN

 

Château Beychevelle
N: Delightful, tiny bit reduced.
P: Beautiful fine-grained tannin with a sweet bite, i.e. tangy acidity encased in pillowy richness. Firm, yet gentle aftertaste. Very good.

Château Branaire Ducru
N: Sweet refined brambly cassis aromas. Ethereal and promising.
P: Refreshing and tasty, but somewhat weak on the middle palate, with a short finish. Middle of the road wine. Neither the fruit nor the tannin is outstanding. Good.

Château Ducru Beaucaillou
N: Dark, concentrated fruit that would immediately make one think of a great Pauillac or Saint Julien if tasted blind. Very suave.
P: Dense, strong, and concentrated, but carrying its 15° alcohol with grace. Long aftertaste once again not burdened by alcohol. Fresh and full of blackcurrant and berry fruit. Regal. Excellent.

Château du Glana
N: Slightly off (problem with barrels?) with prune aromas.
P: Rich, but lacks backbone. Easy-to-drink and round into a slightly harsh aftertaste. Seems unbalanced at this time with striking acidity on the finish. Needs to come together more and be retasted. OK.

Château Gloria
N: Ripe, but simple.
P: Full, with dark fruit flavors. Fruit forward with perhaps more tannin from oak than grapes. This tannin nevertheless gives character to a wine that would otherwise be just easy-going and crowd-pleasing. Oak and cedar on the finish. Good.

Château Gruaud Larose
N: Fascinating nose redolent of lead pencil, spice (cinnamon), coffee, and blackcurrant. Textbook Saint Julien. Monumental.
P: Thick, big, voluminous, and with a silky texture. Delicious cherry flavors. Serious wine with a great deal of class. Excellent.

Château Léoville Barton
N: Blackcurrant, tobacco, and that indefinable something special found only in the finest Médocs. Somewhat reserved at present, but all the signs are encouraging.
P: Starts out angular, then round with assertive, but superb quality tannin. Long textured aftertaste. Will age beautifully. Excellent.

Château Léoville Las Cases
N: Attractive, spicy, exotic bouquet.
P: Big, but restrained. One does not feel the 14.5° alcohol, the most ever recorded at the estate. Lovely silky texture going into fresh acidity and pure fruit. Cabernet Sauvignon as one dreams of finding. Superb.

Château Léoville Poyferré
N: Lovely, subtle, and classic nose with some roast coffee overtones.
P: Beautiful velvety tannic texture with a sweet bite on the finish. Loads of blackcurrant fruit and tealike tannin. Fresh, with a long aftertaste. Very good.

Petit Lion de Léoville Las Cases
You can’t help but like the cuddly lion cub peering out from underneath the famous arch… I mostly avoid reviewing second wines, but this is one of the few that deserved special mention.
N: Ripe, but ethereal berry fruit.
P: Medium-heavy mouth feel with considerable freshness and plenty of fruit. Good length and a lip-smacking deliciousness. Good to very good.

Château Saint-Pierre
N: Discreet with some meaty and Cabernet Sauvigon varietal black fruit aromas.
P: Sensual, full, and bright. Bit modern in style with plenty of oak. Mouth-puckering tannin on finish, due in no small part to the oak. Good.

Château Talbot
N: Bit reduced and not forthcoming at this time.
P: Better, with chunky tannin and a brawny flavor profile. Not the most elegant of Saint Juliens, showing some tobacco and oak along with quintessential Cabernet fruit. Needs to be retasted at a later date. Good.

SAINT-ESTÈPHE

Château Calon Ségur
N: Deep forest floor aromas.
P: Super rich and “sweet” with candied black (cassis) fruit flavors. Bit of a bruiser. Quite tannic finish, but this shows great texture and, especially, great ageing potential. Licorice and blueberry flavors. Very good.

Château Cos d’Estournel
N: Incense, toasty oak, and a powdery quality.
P: Mouthfilling and big, going on to show great development on the palate. Finishes a little had due to the oak. Richer and smoother than Les Pagodes, with a longer aftertaste, but the gap is not that huge. Tremendous blackcurrant flavours. If the oak integrates this will be a treat. Very good.

Château Cos Labory
N: Not very forthcoming at this stage. Inky, with some white pepper notes.
P: Starts out soft and attractive, then shows the hardness and austerity I usually associate with this wine. Uncompromising and sturdy. Good.

 

Château de la Haye
N: Very sweet, extroverted nose of ripe Cabernet Sauvignon with a little smokiness. Deep and seductive.
P: After such a bouquet, the wine is unsurprisingly round and voluptuous on the palate. Big volume then dips on the middle, but picks up again to show good acidity and tannic texture on the aftertaste. Good to very good.

Château Lafon Rochet
N: Largely withdrawn, but some encouraging underlying fruity and floral aromas.
P: Starts out quite rich with good tannic texture and concentration. Puckery mouth feel. Well-made and elegant for an appellation not always known for that quality. Long velvety aftertaste. Let us hope the aromatics come out further. Good to very good.

Château Haut Marbuzet
N: Deep, pure, serious black fruit bouquet.
P: Rich, with teeth-staining tannin. Brawny, touch dry. Plenty of oak, but also plenty of fruit. Faithful to the estate’s style. Good to very good.

Château Meyney
N: Brambly, with fine cassis fruit and coffee nuances.
P: Rich, big, meaty, and fruity. Good tannic texture. A touch dry at present. Grand cru quality as is often the case with Meyney. Very good.

Château Montrose
N: Refined, restrained bouquet with floral and cedar nuances.
P: Big, but seems curiously less massive than the second wine, La Dame de Montrose. Slightly dry finish. Everything is here to blossom in the coming decades. Great balance between dark fruit and tremendous structure. The tannin coats the entire mouth, but it is of the highest quality. Excellent.

Pagodes de Cos d’Estournel (white) – Bordeaux AOC
This wine comes from further up the Médoc peninsula i.e. is not from Saint Estèphe.
C: Pale chartreuse.
N: Pure Sauvignon Blanc aromas along with some vanilla and crème brûlée nuances.
P: Angular, mineral, and overoaked. Good, but nothing special.

Pagodes de Cos d’Estournel (red)
N: Very marked by incense and resin aromas.
P: Great tannic texture and marked acidity. Medium-heavy mouth feel. Tart and refreshing despite the alcoholic degree. Will age well. A serious second wine. Very good.

Château Phélan Ségur (sorry, no photo)
N: Showing pure aromas of spring flowers and graphite.
P: Soft tannin, good fruit (blackcurrant), and fine-grained tannin. Perhaps a little short on the aftertaste but this is probably the best Phélan Ségur I have ever tasted. Very good.

Château Tronquoy Lalande (sorry, no photo)
N: Fine, pure, and fresh bouquet with blueberry overtones.
P: Full, but a little overblown and weak on the middle palate. Still, a fruity wine with a decent finish showing this estate’s ongoing ascension. Good to very good.

 

2018 En Primeur tasting notes: Pessac-Léognan and Margaux

PESSAC-LÉOGNAN

There are so many events and châteaux to visite during en primeur week that I was not able to fit in my usual stop at the Union des Grands Crus tasting in Pessac-Léognan this year. Therefore, my coverage is limited this year.

Carbonnieux
N: A bouquet that is reduced and not well-defined. Will undoubtedly improve with age.
P: Smooth and melts on the mouth to begin with, but weak on the middle palate, ending with strong oak – a little too strong for me – on the aftertaste. Needs revisiting. OK.

La Chapelle de La Mission Haut Brion
N: Slightly syrupy aromas with some cedar. Sweet and enticing.
P: Well-defined fruit going into a tangy aftertaste. Very classy, lacking just a little oomph and length to be catapulted to the very tip of the pyramid. Fine tannin and acidity. Very good.

Le Clarence de Haut Brion
N: Fresh and more ethereal than the second wine of La Mission. Fresh and not over-oaked. In fact, the oak is barely discernible. Faint herbaceous note.
P: Chunky and chewy, with oak showing, along with hints of tobacco. Svelte with beautiful development on the palate and tea tannin on the finish. Long aftertaste. Very good.

Fieuzal
N: Old-fashioned with odd metallic and even oyster shell overtones.
P: Mercifully, much better on the palate with tight-knit tannin, but the oak obscures this, as well as the fruit. Dry finish. Should improve over time and needs retasting at a later date. OK.

Château Haut Brion (white).
N: Some earthy, fresh mushroom aromas, as well as vanilla and lanolin nuances.
P: Soft, then the terroir and elegance come through, especially those qualities conferred by the gravelly soil. Very long aftertaste. Although over half Sémillon, this wine seems like the apotheosis of Sauvignon Blanc. Ageing may well change that impression. The length and power on the finish set it apart from, let’s say, a first-class Sancerre, but I find this not up to the standard of the red. Nevertheless, very good.

Château Haut Brion (red).
N: Cedar and “old library” bouquet. Very precise. Deep, fresh, mysterious cherry and stone fruit aromas , with vinification odors in the background.
P: Sweet, understated fruit. Spreads out on the palate seamlessly, suavely, and subtly. Great tension. Delicate with a velvety texture and new oak on the finish. Superb.

Château La Louvière (red)
N: Sweet fruit with some lead and a strong floral component. Delicate for sure.
P: Rich, mouthfilling, and reflecting the aromatics on the nose. Proudly displays its Left Bank origins. Good acidity and a long aftertaste showing fine tannin. This estate is looking up after somewhat of an eclipse. Very good.

Château Malartic Lagravière
N: Not terribly expressive now, but showing overtones of mocha, black fruit, and flowers.
P: Starts off by melting in the mouth, then goes on to reveal a very perfumed, pretty, feminine quality I often find in this wine. The aftertaste is more “virile”, giving the wine good balance between fruit, velvety tannin, and acidity. Very good.

Château La Mission Haut Brion (white)
N: Varietal Sauvignon Blanc aromas with a hint asparagus. Some cherry and vanilla notes along with mineral nuances.
P: Vanilla, caramel, and meringue. Great acidity, with less class, but more power than the Haut Brion blanc. Tremendous minerality on the finish. Great balancing act between power and delicacy. Very good.

Château La Mission Haut Brion (red)
N: Coiled and showing sheer class with discreet new oak. Reminds me of a great Médoc. Some chalkiness and fancy floral notes.
P: Medium weight with a tangy, long, and almost relentless aftertaste with great tannic texture. One for the very long haul. Tarry and candied black fruit flavors. Excellent.

Château Pape Clément
N: Fresh notes of forest floor and tobacco.
P: A treat from beginning to end. The extraction and barrel ageing are under control and the aftertaste is long, resonant, and aristocratic. Far more traditional than in the past and very much to my taste. Textbook Graves. Oak is strong, but the wine has enough character to support it. Excellent.

Château Séguin
N: Deep very pure fruit (raspberry, and especially blackberry) where Cabernet seems to define the bouquet. Some coffee and dark chocolate nuances.
P: Elegant rather than powerful with zippy tartness. Both extraction and barrel ageing have been done with the golden mean in mind. Great balance between fruit and tannin. Somewhat under the radar, this estate is worth discovering. Very good.

MARGAUX

 

Château Brane Cantenac
N: Earthy and brambly with good fruit and good toasty oak.
P: Excellent on entry, then drops a bit, but comes into its own with very classic, sophisticated tannins that coat the teeth and auger well for long-term ageing. Great presence. Very good to excellent.

Château Cantenac Brown
N: Good berry fruit and sweet cedar aromas.
P: Lively, tart, and refreshing fruit. A welcome change from certain over-oaked and over-extracted wines. Delicious aftertaste in which tannin and good acidity vie for predominance. Traditional style. Very good.

Château Le Coteau
N: Understated sweet primary fruit with a beguiling incense quality and some graphite nuances.
P: Soft with medium body and good grip. It might appear light, but this is more indicative of the balance of wines from Margaux.W ell-made and restrained for people who prefer elegance to power. Can be enjoyed young. Nice discovery. Very good

Château Desmirail
N: A little off because slightly reduced at this early stage, but showing a solid base of black fruit. A subtle perfume emerges with aeration.
P: Massive on the palate with grippy tannin. A Margaux displaying more similarities with wines from further north in the Médoc, although the aftertaste has the quintessential Margaux elegance.

Château Ferrière
N: Really rather mute at this time. There are positive underlying aromas needing time to emerge.
P: Very full attack with a somewhat raisiny flavor and lots of assertive tannin. This seems as little too much at present, but time will tell. Good to very good.

Château La Fortune
N: Forthright and fresh, but simple.
P: Better on the palate. Striking acidity, but not over the top. Rather too much oak. There is potential here for sure, but nature should lead the way. The winemake should not try to force things. Good.

Château Giscours
N: Gentle, unobtrusive oak. Fresh and classic for the appellation.
P: Primary fresh red fruit with marked blackcurrant overtones. Starts out quite soft, going on to show considerable structure and freshness. Well-made with a long, tempered finish. Very good.

Château Kirwan
N: Upfront sweet blueberry nose.
P: Round, bright user-friendly friendly. Very open an attractive, but with enough good acidity and high-quality tannin for further ageing. A little dry on the finish, but this will most likely change over time. Very good.

Château Haut Breton Larigaudière
N: Rich chocolatey nose and some black fruit, but not very forthcoming at this time.
P: Chunky with marked oak influence. Seems rather strong. Some dryness on the finish, an impression that may be lessened if care is taken during barrel ageing. Good.

 

Château d’Issan
N: Discreet and fresh with Médoc forest floor nuances.
G: A serious wine on the palate with a fine structure and focus. Elegant, precise, and fashionably thin. A fine example of wine with great volume of flavor, but without weight. Much better on the palate than on the nose. The fruit is complemented by some graphite notes. Very good.

Château Lascombes
N: Toasty oak and dark fruit aromas along with smoky overtones.
P: Straightforward and satisfying with interesting cherry and licorice nuances. Marked acidity and strong tannin contribute to a long finish. Some aniseed overtones and plenty of oak. Good to very good.

Château Malescot Saint-Exupéry
N: Sweet berry fruit and aromas I tend to associate with Merlot. Subtle oak.
P: Starts out very pure and natural,, very Margaux-like, and then displays rather tough and uncompromising tannin. Influence of oak is best monitored. Good to very good.

Marojallia
N: Coffee and new oak (100%) pretty much completely masks the fruit.
P: Starts out quite soft, then bang, the oak hits you. Good if you like the style.

Château Marquis d’Alesme
N: Some chocolate and mint nuances, but subdued at this stage.
P: More aromatic on the palate. “Iron fist in a velvet glove” kind of wine. Marked acidity, somewhat uncompromising style, and made to last. Margaux flavors just emerging. Long, tangy finish, but oak must not get the upper hand. Good.

Château Marquis de Terme
N: Understated at this time, but promising. Floral and forest fruit aromas.
P: More expressive on palate. Round, full, well-balanced, and refreshing. Medium-weight with a delicious long aftertaste. Will show well young. Very good.

Château La Tour de Bessan
N: Classic, but subdued. Sweet, but rather indeterminate at this early stage.
P: More expressive on the palate. Good texture and fresh acidity. Promising, For mid-term drinking to take advantage of the fruit. More structure than in other vintages. Good.

Château Margaux
N: A nose not unlike the Pavillon Rouge, but with more depth and aromas of black fruit liqueur.
G: Satiny, creamy texture. Feminine and sexy. Super fine-grained tannin with lilting acidity. Fantastic balance. Great potential. Excellent.

Château Marsac Segineau
N: Muted red fruit (cranberry) but not much there.
G: Better on palate with good, fresh acidity. Medium body. Quite tannic (too tannic?) on the penetrating aftertaste in which the alcohol can be felt. Good.

Château Palmer
The estate produced just 11 hectoliters per hectare in 2018, so there is no second wine this year.
N: Sweet, seductive candied red and black fruit.
G: If Margaux is feminine, this is a buxom young lass. Full-bodied and sensual. The texture reflects silky tannin backed up by good oak. This wine is fairly big and will unquestionably age well. Long aftertaste. Superb.

Pavillon Blanc de Château Margaux (AOC Bordeaux)
C: Pale gold with green tinges.
N: Very Sauvignon Blanc, but one must wait for tertiary aromas.
G: Did not strike me as much as the 2017. Oak is mercifully under control. A fine wine, but does not seem special. Only the aftertaste shows its breeding. Good to very good.

Pavillon Rouge de Château Margaux
N: Monumental, with nuances of cedar, spring flowers. red berries, and cherries.
G: Tart with exquisite tannin. Svelte, with a fresh, long finish. Should be fine for medium-term drinking. Does not seem at all like 14.5° alcohol. Very good.

Chateau Prieuré Lichine
N: Candied black fruit and chocolate. Almost Pinot-like. Very aromatic and attractive.
P: Starts off beautifully, drops a bit, and then comes back with delicious Margaux fruit. Seems a tad over-oaked at this early stage, but altogether natural. Not especially long, but quite fine. Very good.

Chateau Rauzan Gassies
N: Somewhat weak and lacking in definition, with some roast coffee nuances.
P: Much better on the palate with a great texture. A bit old-fashioned in style with fine-grained tannin. Interesting aftertaste. The antithesis of an oaky, over-extracted wine. Perhaps a little light, but ageing may work wonders here. Good to very good.

Chateau du Tertre
N: Closed at present with some vinification odors simply due to its youth.
P: Moreish, elegant, and rich for a Médoc. Soft. Caresses the palate. Medium body and good development on the palate. Sensual. Good, fine, relatively long finish. Very good.

Château Tour de Mons
N: Good fruit to oak ratio. Black fruit jelly notes on the interesting bouquet.
P: Full and chunky. Elegant commercial style. Long flavorsome aftertaste. Good to very good.

2018 En Primeur tasting notes: Pomerol

Château Beauregard
N: Subdued black fruit and some toastiness with floral overtones. In a relatively dumb phase.
P: Mouthfilling and saved from flabbiness and banality by good fresh acidity. Big, friendly, Saint Bernard of a wine. Good.

Château Bellegrave
N: Deep, dark, lovely Merlot fruit. Soft, with black cherry nuances. Really attractive.
P: Structure to accompany the plush roundness. Big with a huge follow-through. Majestic, with a long red fruit aftertaste. Sensual. Very good.

Château le Bon Pasteur
N: Intriguing fragrant understated nose with an ethereal floral aspect.
P: Those floral aromatics carry over onto the palate. Excellent Pomerol with good ageing potential. Good acidity and maceration that was carried out enough for good longevity, but not too much. Perfumed aftertaste. Very good.

Château Bourgneuf
N: Attractive ripe floral and fruity (blueberry) aromas, as well as a little caramel.
P: Meaty, broad-shouldered, and sensual. Melts in the mouth, then shows great texture. Fine acidity and tight, velvety tannin. Shows intrinsic pedigree with power and authority. Good to very good.

Château Clinet
N: Aromas of iron, licorice, and cotton candy. Something earthy here too.
P: Rubbery high-quality tannin that is more remarkable than the fruit. Leathery, blueberry, and stewed fruit nuances. Maybe a little heavy-handed, but good to very good.

Clos du Clocher
N: Fresh blackberry and floral aromas. Not deep, but not troubled by oak.
P: Attractive tactile sensation and exuberant fruit. Great acidity and “rubbery” Pomerol tannin on the finish. Sensual. Excellent.

Château La Conseillante
N: Pure sophisticated fruit and a decided floral component (iris), as well as spice.
P: Incredibly velvety and sensual tannin. Violet nuances. Wonderful. Long. A dream. Excellent, one of the very top wines of the vintage.

Château La Création
N: Rich, but not complex berry fruit.
P: Quite rich on the palate too, but with good acidity. Satisfying and vinous but lacks a spark. Oak on the finish complements the sleek Pomerol tannin, but is still somewhat overbearing i.e. may make the finish too dry in the long run. Time will tell. Good.

Château L’Ecuyer
N: Meaty, brambly, and blackberry liqueur aromas with an iron nuance. Makes you expect to taste a big plush wine on the palate.
P: Heavy mouth feel followed by really powerful tannin with a coarse texture. Earthy, typical of its appellation and quite concentrated. A big wine, but with typical Bordeaux elegance. Very good.

Château L’Eglise Clinet (sorry, no photo)
N: Just starting to come out.
P: Superb tannin that melts in the mouth. The rich fruity flavors are followed by new oak which will take time to marry with this Pomerol’s sublime roundness. Good to very good.

Château L’Evangile
N: A little dusty, but showing tremendous potential. Overtones of blueberry, as well as black fruit jelly.
P: Satiny texture accompanied by beautiful acidity and length. Both ripe and subtle with exotic aromatics, including violet. Superbly elegant tannin. Excellent.

Château Feytit Clinet
N: Fine and ethereal, with toasty oak bringing up the rear.
P: Chewy and big. Plenty of oak there to complement the exuberant fruit. Round, satisfying finish, although somewhat dry. Natural well-made wine, just watch out for the oak during the rest of ageing. Good to very good.

Château la Fleur de Gay
N: Classic aromatics. Ripe forward black fruit. Not profound, but very pleasant.
P: Well-made with a great interplay between fruit, tannin, and acidity. However, the oak is too strong and leaves a dry aftertaste. This needs to be re-tasted at a later date. Good.

Château Le Gay
N: Inky, wild, floral and rich with loads of personality.
P: Chunky and mouth-filling with superlative velvety tannin. Big wine, but with plenty of elegance and will age well. Wonderful aftertaste with considerable, but not insurmountable oak. Excellent.

Château Gazin
N: Dark berry aromas and good oak.
P: Lots of volume here. Seems to start out light, but then spreads out beautifully on the palate. Melts in the mouth to reveal delicious red fruit flavors. Elegant with good acidity. Will age beautifully. Fine-grained tannins add a great deal to the finish. Very good.

Château Le Moulin
N: Subtle, sophisticated, and slightly cosmetic (perfumed talc) nose.
P: Delicious and well-balanced with a delightful puckery aftertaste that will make this shine at table. Very classy and poised. Long aftertaste. Excellent.

Château La Patache
N: Pure, faithful to its Pomerol origins, understated, undoctored, ripe, and very engaging.
P: Big and full with velvety tannin and marked acidity. Not your fat kind of Pomerol. Very good.

Château Petit Village
N: Dried fruit and spring flowers.
P: Chewy and fruity with smooth, velvety tannin. Seems simple before moving on to a strong tannic aftertaste. A little empyreumatic. Quite enjoyable, but still top of the second tier rather than belonging to the top one. Very good.

Château Pierham
N: Suave black fruit. Ripe and sweet, but not complex. Hint of cranberry jelly.
P: Starts out quite rich, and then the tannin and acidity coat the palate and teeth. I have the impression of someone trying very hard to make a great wine, but less interventionist winemaking and less oak would be a better path to follow. Good.

Le Pin
Unfortunately, I did not take a photo of the label. I tasted the wine at Jacques Thienpont’s house in Pomerol rather than at the cellar.
N: New oak, truffle, and red fruit. Obviously young, but many fine aromas clearly around the corner.
G: Magnificent texture to the tannin. Luxurious, but very much under control. All the finesse of a legendary Pomerol. Not disappointed. Excellent.

Château La Pointe
N: Vaguely fruity with some toasty notes.
P: A narrow register of flavors, but concentrated within it. Earthy funky flavors and rubbery tannin. Not light as I have known this wine to be in the past. Not showing especially well and needs to be retasted at a later date. Good.

Château Rouget
N: Ripe stewed fruit aromas some nice blackcurrant, but rather one-dimensional at this stage.
P: Sensual and big with good follow-through, but seems more of a technically flawless wine than a vin de terroir. A bit empyreumatic. Crowd-pleasing. Good.

Château Sacré Cœur
This means “sacred heart” in French. The label is tremendously kitsch, but let’s get past that…
N: Pure and showing potential, but not expressive at this time.
P: Rather big and certainly velvety. To nitpick, the finish is a little weak, but this is a quintessential Pomerol that is worth getting to know. Very good to excellent.

Vieux Château Certan
N: Flawless, subtle, polished, and showing great potential.
P: Juicy and incredibly poised. Unbelievably fine tannin. As Alexandre Thienpont says: “cashmere”. Far more elegant than big despite its 14.4° alcohol. Excellent.

Château Vieux Taillefer
N: Smells like cough medicine (black fruit syrup). A little overdone.
P: Thick, rich berry fruit, almost New World in style, but then good acidity kicks in and lightens the wine up. Almost a caricature of Pomerol, the epitome of a big, rich Merlot. Still, quite enjoyable. Good to very good.

2018 En Primeur tasting notes: Saint-Emilion

Château Angélus
N: Soft, with some spice.
P: Chunky, but silky. It appears at first to be medium rather than heavy-bodied, and then strong oak kicks in on the aftertaste. I mark the wine down for excessive oakiness but, in all fairness, would need to retaste it 10 years from now to see if I have been too severe or not. Good.

Château Ausone
N: Deep, dark, and mysterious.
P: I could invent something here to rise to the occasion and gush about this first growth. However, I will be neither critical nor full of praise. I will state that that 2018 Ausone is playing hide and seek at present and is only a shadow of what it will be one day and is difficult to taste today. It shows great acidity, power, elegance, and restraint. And the texture is wonderful. But this wine is presently hiding its light under a bushel. I will rate its potential as excellent, but in a line-up it I’m sure its reticence would not make it stand out as it should – or as it undoubtedly will in a few years’ time.

Château Beauséjour Bécot
N: Very closed at this time.
P: Much better on the palate. Rich and tight, with good structure and texture. Not overly broad, alcoholic, or overdone. Wonderful long, but slightly dry (at this time) aftertaste. Very good if aromatics develop as they should.

Château Bellevue
N: Pure, slightly spirity, and discreet.
P: Great balance and texture. Moreish. Classic. Good oak. Manages to be both stylish and traditional. Tasted alongside Angélus, I far preferred this. Excellent.

Château Canon La Gaffelière
N: Deep, satisfying, ethereal bouquet with notes of dried cranberry.
P: Seems rich, but paradoxically dilute at first before the fruit is unmasked. Priority has obviously been given to careful winemaking according priority to freshness. The Cabernets (together making about 50% of the blend) come through on the delicate attack and then again with the unbridled fruit. Fine, very long aftertaste. Excellent.

Château Le Châtelet
N: Nice, but rather neutral at this stage. Some coffee/toasted notes, but these are not overly strong.
P: Rich, spicy, and saturates the palate. Very concentrated, yet elegant. A big mouthful with loads of fruit. The aftertaste is strongly marked by oak at present, but indications are that if will integrate. A nice discovery. Excellent.

Château Chauvin
N: A little smoky with good fruit. Deep and interesting.
P: Good volume and mouth feel. Lovely Merlot fruit going into angular minerality on the aftertaste. Finishes a tad dry due to the oak, whose influence should be watched carefully. Good.

Château Cheval Blanc
N: Earthy as much as fruity, but clearly in the very early stages.
P: Gorgeous texture and tremendous fruit. Medium-weight on the palate with a commanding aftertaste worthy of a first growth. Excellent. One of the best wines of the vintage.

Château Corbin
N: Some stewed fruit, cedar, and incense aromas, but rather closed-in at present.
P: More expressive on the palate. Full and rich with a fairly weighty mouth feel, but nevertheless balanced. Big, muscular and sweet. Dark fruit flavors. Terroir-driven and fairly traditional. A fine wine for medium-term ageing. Very good.

Château La Couspaude
N: Toasty oak and a little on the spirity side (blackberry liqueur). One can nevertheless not help but be drawn in to it.
P: Soft on entry, almost to the point of being flabby. Pomerol-like except for the finish, in which the limestone minerality is attenuated. Really soft. Not terribly balanced and the aftertaste is a bit harsh, but it the lingering red fruit is quite attractive. Good to very good.

Château Destieux
N: Smoky with dark fruit, but not very expressive. Have to look for the bouquet at present. Give it time.
P: Definitely brambly with strong (slightly over-extracted?) tannin. Too hard and grippy. Will undoubtedly soften, but enough? Good.

Le Dôme
N: Slight reduction at this stage, but there are elegant truffle and raspberry aromas.
P: Mouthfilling, with a wonderful tannic texture and deep flavors. Very good.

Château la Dominique
N: Inky and ethereal, but not very complex bouquet.
P: Big, with a richness that comes in waves before the finish with hard tannin that does not preclude elegance. Soft framework ending in a certain relentlessness. Unbalanced at this stage, but certainly an ageworthy wine that deserves to be retasted later. Good.

Château Faugères
N: Odd, withdrawn, lurking.
P: Crowd-pleasing up-front fruit followed by slightly artificial tasting oak influence and strong acidity. Out of balance now, but may come together over time. Good.

Château de Ferrand
N: Subtle with notes of incense, white pepper, and underlying fruit.
P: Starts out big and swaggers, only to skip the middle palate to go into an oak-dominated aftertaste that is really dry because of this. Care needs to be taken during the rest of barrel ageing. Good.

Château Figeac
N: Pure, but rather closed.
P: Concentrated and develops beautifully on the palate with good acidity and soft tannin. Great long finish with a desirable sort of firmness that gives the wine ageing potential. The 14° alcohol does not show through. Minerality at the end gives tremendous balance. Very good to excellent.

Château La Fleur Cardinale
N: Subtle cherry-vanilla aromatics I associate with this estate. Enticing, with just the right touch of oak.
P: Big volume and seamless development on the palate with superb tannin. Elegant rather than powerful. The château is going from strength to strength. Long aftertaste with great tannic texture. Excellent.

Château La Fleur Morange
N: Bit reduced and not showing particularly well. Graham cracker overtones.
P: Out of balance and mean at this time. Harsh, rather dry tannin. Too much oak. Needs to be retasted at a later date.

Château Fonroque
N: Old-fashioned in a good way. Unmessed with expression of the terroir. Pure black fruit with some coffee overtones.
P: Plush, oh-so-soft and then the tannin makes itself felt with circumspection and restraint. Big. Some vanilla flavor. Lovely balance and typicity. Very good.

Clos Fourtet
N: Toasty oak along with red and black fruit. Some spice. Understated and subtle.
P: Starts out delicious and sophisticated, neither too big nor too rich, going into a long drawn-out aftertaste with excellent tannin. Not your hulking Saint- Émilion, but certainly not a wishy-washy one! Antithesis of a Parkerized wine. Very good.

Château Franc Mayne
N: Fresh, concentrated, and penetrating, but in a subtle sort of way. Fruity and floral notes emerge with aeration.
P: Fresh and pure, but there is the curious sensation of dilution on entry. However, the wine develops from then on and the aftertaste comes back with a vengeance to show tremendous minerality typical of the limestone plateau. Good to very good.

Château La Gaffelière
N: Fresh chocolate mint aromas as well as good red fruit (strawberry) and slight camphor overtones.
P: Great tannic template that does a sort of somersault from plush cushioned richness into a high-quality fine-grained aftertaste. Will age beautifully. A beautiful performance. Excellent.

Château Grand Mayne
N: Really exuberant blueberry notes, very aromatic.
P: Seems somewhat spirity with strong tannin from both oak and grape skins. Your archetypal big Saint Emilion rather than your refined one. Still, forthright and fruity. Good to very good.

Château Haut Sarpe
N: Little dusty, with pure sweet ethereal red fruit.
P: Very full and compact, but the rich, smooth attack goes immediately into hard tannin without transition. Watch out for the oak influence during further ageing! Potential is there for something very nice. Good to very good.

Clos des Jacobins
N: Lively raspberry aromas and a refined, engaging spirity side.
P: Tight, rich, and – surprisingly – slightly herbaceous with dark fruit. Tannin on the aftertaste may be too much in light of the wine’s intrinsic structure, and seems to come more from oak than skins. Starts out straightforward, but the tannin on the finish is disproportionately harsh. Good.

Château Jean Faure
N: Marked wildberry aromas. Really fresh and powerful. Sensual and strangely reminiscent of Côte Rôtie!
P: Bright natural fruit flavors with great acidity and good tannin too. Medium-heavy mouth feel. Fine linear development on the palate. Teeth-coating, but refined tannin. Strong minerality on finish. A revelation. Excellent.

Château Larcis Ducasse
N: Modern style with sleek new oak and bright fruit in the background along with a powdery (talc) cosmetic component. Clean and impeccable.
P: Melts in the mouth and then fresh acidity checks in even more than the tannin. The assertive oak is a little obtrusive at this time, but let’s give this wine the benefit of the doubt. Excellent.

Château Larmande
N: Upfront, complex, and understated bouquet of black cherry, vanilla, beet juice, and floral elements.
P: Quite soft with flawless follow-through, but lacks depth. Limestone minerality on the long finish for this wine that is more delicate than sister château Soutard. Very good.

Château Laroque
N: Distinguished, classic bouquet. Tremendous sublimated fruit notes with some coffee aromas.
P: Not entirely clean. A gout de terroir whose aromatics are not found on the nose. Massive body, but lacks grace. Tannins in the same mold. Plenty of blackcurrant on the aftertaste. Good to very good (when helped by further ageing).

Château Laroze
N: Layered bouquet of cherry, vanilla, and berry fruit. Suave and not too oaky.
P: The smoothness and seduction on the nose carries over to the palate. Spreads out beautifully with fine-grained tannin. Sensual mouthfeel with structure and length to match. Touch dry on the finish at this stage. Very good.

Lynsolence
N: A medley of various aromas: incense, oak, stewed black fruit, and… soy sauce.
P: Meaty and mouthfilling with a strong tannic profile to go along with the considerable body. Assertive aftertaste with tannin that needs to age for a long time to be resolved. Beefy and a touch dry on the finish, but a pleasurable hearty wine. Good to very good.

Magrez Fombrauge
N: Attractive raspberry aromas. Concentrated, but suave and classy. Not overly oaky as I had feared.
P: Rich, with high-quality resonant tannin. Stops short of showing too much oak on the palate too although this is hardly shy. Obviously a carefully crafted wine. Good tension. Big, yet restrained. A nice surprise. Very good.

Château Montalbert
N: Berry fruit with mocha, strawberry, and forest floor nuances.
P: Good tannic tension from the get-go. Lovely fruit accompanies the development on the palate. Great texture to the tannin and fine ageing potential. Very good.

Château Moulin du Cadet
N: Very ripe with some mint and crushed blackcurrant leaf nuances.
P: Big and strong. I expected it to be a little hollow but, no, it fills out nicely and goes into a fine, fresh aftertaste with good tannin. Concentrated and has a weighty mouth feel. Verging on XXL in style, but avoids overkill. Good to very good.

Château Pavie
N: Rich, concentrated, and resonant, with some violet and emyreumatic overtones.
P: Rich and big, as expected, but not as in-your-face as in previous vintages. Long aftertaste. Let’s be fair here. Good to very good.

Château Pavie Macquin
N: Deep, quite classy, and very attractive bouquet with some prune and polished wood/old library aromas.
P: Great volume and fine velvety texture that does not obviate a certain hardness. In fact, the wine is ultimately soft on the whole, with high-quality tannin bringing up the rear. Despite the slight dip on the middle palate, there is a long, textured, black fruit aftertaste. Very good.

Château Péby Faugères
N: High-class fruit to oak ratio. Obviously well-made.
P: Normally, I don’t like to talk about fruit that “explodes on the palate”, but that pretty much describes this wine. It also features great acidity. Vigorous and assertive, but not top-heavy or aggressive. Quite concentrated. Much better than Faugères. Good to very good.

Château de Pressac
N: Fine, understated bouquet, but needs time to evolve recognizably.
P: Curiously a bit green at first, then shows somewhat aggressive tannin and overwhelming oak. Chunky with a dry finish. Really too early to taste this wine, as is not rare in March after the vintage… Good.

Château Le Prieuré
N: Pure candied black fruit aromas with considerable freshness.
P: Soft and rich going into a tangy aftertaste. Big volume and zippy acidity on the finish. The oak is as it should be. Lovely red fruit flavors. Very good.

Château Ripeau
N: Some reduction so not ideal at this time.
P: Rich chocolate here, but dips on the middle palate. Subsequent flavors then come back with authority, accompanied by tannin which shows the wine will age well. Broad-shouldered and concentrated. Good to very good.

Château Rochebelle
N: Enticing subdued candied black cherry aromas that are sweet, but not obvious.
P: Big mouthfeel. Full-bodied with lovely follow-through going into decided minerality. Very long aftertaste with lovely texture and altogether typical of the best Saint Emilion. Thrist-quenching and well-made. Very good to excellent.

Château Rol Valentin
N: Almost Pinot-like with clove, Viandox, and new leather nuances.
P: Starts out with sheets of flavor and a satiny texture, going into tannin that is a little unyielding. This quality may well last throughout the wine’s life. Good.

Château Saint Georges Côte Pavie
N: Soft, wafting, simple, and rather muted blueberry bouquet.
P: Blueberry flavors on the palate too. Very fluid, fresh, and relatively short, but fine, very mineral aftertaste. Quite representative of its appellation, but lacks punch. Good.

Clos Saint Martin
N: Good Merlot nose. Pure, somewhat peppery, and redolent of Saint-Emilion.
P: Gorgeous mouth feel and texture in keeping with the region’s finest wines. Great minerality on the extremely long aftertaste ultra-representative of the limestone plateau. Medium body and acidity. Very good.

Château Sansonnet
N: Strong, spirity, and a little jammy with some cosmetic overtones. The alcohol is obvious here.
P: Extremely rich, concentrated, and seemingly literally sweet. Big, fat, and strong. Would tire one out if more than a couple of glasses were consumed. The oak is mercifully not too strong. Good.

Château La Serre
N: Pure primary fruit that seems strangely dominated by Cabernet (only 20% of the blend…). Oak complements the fruit beautifully.
P: Big, with a welcome bite to follow the sweet fruit. Strong , with toasty oak and fruit galore. Medium-heavy mouth feel. Somewhat New World in style, but not overwhelming. Great berry finish. Very good.

Château Soutard
N: Nice enough, but rather non-descript.
P: Shorter, seemingly more early-maturing, and altogether less good than sister château, Larmande. Open and easy to drink. Serviceable. Good to very good.

Château La Tour Figeac
N: Soft, but not very expressive. Berry fruit with a floral component.
P: Beautifully smooth, and caresses the palate. Seems to be lacking a little in personality, but then blossoms to reveal enticing flavors and polished tannins. Although a little weak on the aftertaste, this is a very charming wine hard to resist. Very good.

Château Valandraud
N: Sweet uplifting and well-focused red fruit. Precise and natural.
P: No reason to fear too much oak or extraction as in the past. Subtle and fruity above all. A fine wine, not a modern monster. Very soft, going into infinitely long tannic aftertaste. Oak influence is there, but under control. I overcome my prejudices and rate this wine excellent.

Château Villemaurine (label not shown)
N: There’s understated and understated. What is showing at present is faint hints of black fruit jelly.
P: More personality than the nose would lead one to expect. Hearty, but high-quality tannin. Needs to come together. Good.

Château Yon Figeac
N: Full and open with aromas of freshly-pressed grapes, blossoms, and spice.
P: Not quite as positive as the nose. Bit rustic, but honest and very vinous. Long textured aftertaste, with tannins that are not very polished. Good.