Tag Archives: Graves

2016 Pessac-Léognan (13 wines)


Bouscaut (55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Merlot, and 7% Malbec)
N: Soft, simple, and direct. Understated and good.
P: Unexpectedly light and feminine. Not in keeping with the château profile. I can only deduce that this is not the best sample, because I feel the wine is only a shadow of what it should be. Very oaky aftertaste. To try again down the line.

Carbonnieux (50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Petit Verdot)
N: Slightly medicinal. Relatively closed and not showing much fruit at this time.
P: “Fluid”, easy-going, and not over-extracted. However, too light and disappointing when the improved performance of this château’s red wine in recent years is considered.

Carmes Haut Brion (41% Cabernet Franc, 39% Merlot, and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon)
N: A certain tankiness there but, once again, that cannot be held against a wine this young, and may well dissipate. The alcohol overwhelms the berry fruit somewhat at this stage.
P: Soft and lively. Good acidity and discreet fine-grained tannin. Considerable sweetness and Graves typicity on the finish. Agreeably old-fashioned in a way. Needs time for greater balance, but promising.

Domaine de Chevalier (65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, and 5% Petit Verdot)
N: Inky, serious, and enticing nose of ripe black fruit with a touch of mint.
P: Smooth and sophisticated with a vein of fresh acidity. Good fruit, resonant tannin, and a long aftertaste. Oak seems fairly strong at this stage. Very good indeed.

Fieuzal (70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Petit Verdot)
N: Rich soft-pedalled wildberry aromas.
G: Certainly refined, but on the light side and lacks stuffing. Relatively long, but not very vigorous finish.

Haut Brion: (56% Merlot, 6.5% Cabernet Franc, and 37.5% Cabernet Franc)
N: Restrained and aristocratic. My notes say: “soft, soft, and soft”.
P: This quality comes through on the palate as well, within a delicate tannic framework. Elegant to the end of its fingertips… Velvety texture and no rough edges even at this stage. Superb acidity. Will be a great beauty down the line.


Larrivet Haut Brion (62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, and 8% Cabernet Franc)
N: Slightly rustic but forthright with intense berry aromas and a bit of greenness. Honest. Not messed around with.
P: Quite natural on the palate as well. Vibrant acidity with an oak kick on the finish, but this is not over the top. Good middle-of-the-road wine reminding me somewhat of La Louvière, although different, of course.

Latour Martillac (55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 8% Petit Verdot, and 4% Cabernet Franc)
N: Elegant, including the oak. Restrained and aristocratic with black cherry aromas.
P: Gorgeous ripe fruit at first and then thins out some. Typical of its appellation. Sleek and on the light side. Good medium-long aftertaste.

La Louvière (65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, and 5% Petit Verdot)
N: Upfront with fine blueberry aromas. Not overoaked.
P: Plush soft berry fruit. Very Pessac-Léognan. Medium-light body. Clean mineral aftertaste with a mint/eucalyptus component. One for mid-term ageing.

 

Malartic Lagravière (53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Petit Verdot)
N: Ethereal and pretty cherry liqueur bouquet.
P: Round and feminine with lovely follow-through. Wonderful perky tannin with vivacious acidity. Not rich, but not light either. Despite a thirst-quenching quality, this is a serious wine with great aromatics. My notes say “vin de gastronomie” meaning it would shine especially at table with refined cuisine.
Mission Haut Brion: (57.5% Merlot and 42.5% Cabernet Sauvignon)
N: Monumental and Margaux-like with some tarry overtones. Lovely integrated oak. Incredible blackcurrant and essence of red fruits.
P: Full-bodied, even chunky, as well as quite mineral with excellent follow-through. Otherworldly aftertaste with tannin of enormous finesse. There is first class acidity to counterbalance the full body. Killer, never-ending finish…

Mission Haut Brion: (57.5% Merlot and 42.5% Cabernet Sauvignon)
N: Monumental and Margaux-like with some tarry overtones. Lovely integrated oak. Incredible blackcurrant and essence of red fruits.
P: Full-bodied, even chunky, as well as quite mineral with excellent follow-through. Otherworldly aftertaste with tannin of enormous finesse. There is first class acidity to counterbalance the full body. Killer, never-ending finish…

Olivier (50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot, and 5% Petit Verdot)
N: Penetrating nose with alcohol coming through more than fruit. Also a note I can only describe as acetone.
P: Chewy, a bit hollow, rough, and dry. This wine is not together and needs to be retasted to form a more accurate impression.

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Pape Clément (50% Cabernet Sauvignon and 50% Merlot)
N: Deep, brooding dark fruit aromas just emerging. Strong but unfocused. Rhônish.
P: Round inside a framework of fruit and oak tannin. Too much oak? Time will tell. Bit dry on the aftertaste, but also mineral. Uncertain prognosis at this time.

2016 Haut-Brion and La Mission Haut Brion

 

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I couldn’t believe it, it took me just 20 minutes to drive from the center of Bordeaux to Château Haut Brion on the 30th of March. The gods were smiling at me that day .
This was my first serious encounter with the 2016 vintage and a great way to begin!
My friends and I were welcomed by Turid Helo Alcaras, who took us down to Haut Brion’s small intimate tasting room to take a look at all the Domaine Dillon wines from the 2016 vintage.
Here are the wines in the order in which they were tasted:

RED WINES

Clarendelle: This is a négociant blend from Clarence Dillon Wines, a totally separate entity from Domaine Clarence Dillon. It is not usually served to avoid any possible confusion. Like Mouton Cadet, we are told that the third wine of Haut-Brion goes into the final blend.
I must say that this is a very creditable, well-made wine with a sweet simple nose and very good tannin for this level of Bordeaux. I was not expecting such a good wine.

Dragon de Quintus: (90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc): This is the second wine of Château Quintus in Saint-Emilion.
Nose: Soft with understated oak and lovely cherry-vanilla overtones and a trace of greenness.
Palate: Sleek, soft attack, then drops on the middle palate, which is slightly hollow. Plenty of oak on the finish.

La Chapelle de La Mission Haut-Brion: (36.5% Merlot, 21.5% Cabernet Franc, and 42% Cabernet Sauvignon)
Nose: Pure Cabernet aromas, a little brambly. Understated and classy with good potential. Blackcurrant nuances and an overall sweetness.
Palate: Chewy, even a little chunky at this stage. Lovely development on the palate ending with fine grip. Good, velvety tannin and attractively fresh. This is an excellent second wine and will be enjoyable young or old.

Clarence de Haut-Brion: (51.3% Merlot, 13.1% Cabernet Franc, 33% Cabernet Sauvingon, and 2.6% Petit Verdot)
Nose: Ethereal, perfumed, and feminine.
Palate: Almost piercing acidity showing that the wine will definitely age well. Fresh and penetrating. Authoritative finish. This seems a second wine of a first growth comparable to the way Les Forts de Latour relates to Latour, i.e. something special, in no way a pale copy. Roundness in a square tannic framework. Tangy finish. Classic. Reminded me of the grand vin in a middling year.

Château Quintus: (70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Franc)
Nose: Berry, talc, and especially wild berries on the nose. Quite plummy at this stage and a little spirity.
Palate: Develops well on the palate and is broad-shouldered. Very typical of its appellation, with good grip and an assertive aftertaste that is maybe a little hot. Granular texture to the tannin and a long tannic finish. Sensual, but perhaps more vinous than elegant. 2016 Quintus is over 15% alcohol, accounting for the sort of balance an old timer like me has to get used to.

La Mission Haut-Brion: (57.5% Merlot and 42.5% Cabernet Sauvignon)
Nose: Monumental and Margaux-like with some tarry overtones. Lovely integrated oak. Incredible blackcurrant and essence of red fruits.
Palate: Full-bodied, even chunky, as well as quite mineral with excellent follow-through. Otherworldly aftertaste with tannin of enormous finesse. There is first class acidity to counterbalance the full body. Killer, never-ending finish…

Haut-Brion: (56% Merlot, 6.5% Cabernet Franc, and 37.5% Cabernet Sauvignon)
Nose: Restrained and aristocratic. My notes say: “soft, soft, and soft”.
Palate: This quality comes through on the palate as well, within a delicate tannic framework. Elegant to the end of its fingertips… Velvety texture and no rough edges even at this stage. Superb acidity. Will be a great beauty down the line.

I might add that I have been fortunate enough to have had my fair share of meals at which Haut-Brion and La Mission from the same vintage are served side by side. The vineyards are just across the road from one another and are the perfect illustration of the importance of terroir in Bordeaux. Three times out of four, I find that Haut-Brion’s elegance trumps La Mission’s trademark style, somewhat more brooding and more masculine as compared with Haut-Brion’s femininity.
However, I have never tasted the two wines closer in style than in 2016. Oh, clearly different, but sharing what I can only call a feminine elegance.

Ch. La Mission Haut Brion

Ch. La Mission Haut Brion

WHITE WINES

Clarendelle: The counterpart to the red described above, but not as good. Well-made with pure, upfront Sauvignon Blanc fruit on the nose, but lacking body and length. Still, a wine that is perfectly honorable in its category.

La Clarté de Haut-Brion: (23.7% Sauvignon Blanc and 76.3% Sémillon)
Nose: Classic Graves nose. Lemon and oak along with ripe aromas of grape varieties grown in their terroir of predilection. Some lanoline notes.
Palate: Good focus. Rich but a teeny bit dilute. Fine mineral aftertaste. Very good, and you would have to look hard to find a flaw, but does not seem to be in the heavyweight category at this stage.
There is so little white wine at Domaine Dillon that La Clarté is a blend of whites from both Haut-Brion and La Mission.

La Mission Haut-Brion blanc: (62.7% Sauvignon Blanc and 37.3% Sémillon)
Nose: Discreet at this point. Sauvignon Blanc dominates, which is hardly surprising when you compare the percentage of this variety with La Clarté.
Palate: Much more body than La Clarté with a great balance between richness and acidity. Reveals its charms in a most enticing, seamless way. A certain waxiness there. Starts out fresh and fruity, but then there is a sort of double whammy when the aftertaste segues into tremendous minerality.

Haut Brion blanc: (70% Sauvignon Blanc and 29.5% Sémillon)
Nose: Lemon and lemongrass. The Sauvignon Blanc comes through more clearly than in La Misison. Obviously needs time to strut its stuff.
Palate: Very big and round, then fans out beautifully (makes me think of that French expression fait la queue de paon i.e. spreads like a peacock’s tail). The aftertaste is astonishingly long with the most extraordinary minerality.
I was in Burgundy in March and was able to taste some of the finest premier and grand crus from the Côte de Beaune. This wine is a match for any of them. It is very rare and expensive, but I was thoroughly impressed with its quality.

A dozen 2014 red Graves

 

In the same way as there is a basic misunderstanding of what the word “Bordeaux” means in English-speaking countries (where it is often equated with the expensive tip of the pyramid), the name “Graves” makes many people think only of the region’s great growths – all of which are located in a sub-appellation of the Graves, Pessac-Léognan, created in 1987. To confuse matters, these famous châteaux continue to be called crus classés de Graves rather than Pessac-Léognan…

This northern part of the region (1,500 hectares for Pessac-Léognan compared to 3,500 for the rest of the Graves) is also referred to as Les Graves de Bordeaux since it starts just outside the city. In fact, Bordeaux is actually IN the Graves, and until recently there were actually one or two wine producing estates within the city limits!

Many Anglo-Saxon consumers also think of white wine when they think of Graves. However, the 43 communes in the appellation produce 70% red wine…

 

I was invited to an awards ceremony, the Trophée des Grands Crus de Graves, on November 16th at Château de Portets. On this occasion there were about 40 red wines to taste and perhaps 30 white wines. The room was rather crowded and tasting conditions not ideal, but here are my notes for a dozen red wines.

These were all from the 2014 vintage.

The overall level was quite good and none of the wines were expensive. Furthermore, almost all of them were showing well just two years after the vintage and will be drinking well quite young.

IMPORTANT: Please consider the points within the following context. I am a tough grader. For me, acceptable wine is 10/20, 12/20 is OK, 14 is quite good, and 15 on up is special.
Also, obviously, we are also talking about wines that cost only a fraction of the grands crus.

 

2014 Château Saint Robert
Color: medium light and very purplish
Nose: fresh, natural, not messed-about-with, and showing uncomplicated red fruit aromas with some candied fruit
Palate: fluid to the point of being a little dilute with vanilla and caramel overtones from oak. Already drinking well. A good commercial style, but with a short finish.
14/20

2014 Château de Portets
Color: not very deep, but brilliant and attractive
Nose: black fruit, especially blackberry. Lacking in concentration. Pure and sweet but not confected.
Palate: Starts out round, mouthfilling, and sensual, but then drops before picking up again on the finish, which features round, slick tannin. Juicy, simple, and delicious for early drinking.
14/20

2014 Château de Castres
Color: youthful, not deep, and not perfectly limpid
Nose: off, acetic acid?
Palate: the round, simple, easy-going side damaged by searing acidity. Not rated. Not successful, but would be drinkable with food.

 

2014 Vieux Château Gaubert
Color: deeper than most of the wines, quite nice
Nose: good cherry aromas overlaid, but not overwhelmed by oak. Simple, but classy.
Palate: Big and chewy. Melts in the mouth. A wine that seems more well-made than a vin de terroir, but quite elegant. The only flaw is the short aftertaste.
14/20

2014 Château Chantegrive
Color: good, looking a little older than its age
Nose: strong toasty oak and blackberry fruit. Modern and vital.
Palate: Plenty of volume and quite round, but hollow on the middle-palate and fairly oaky. This oak influence is too great for the wine’s intrinsic structure.
13/20

2014 Grand Enclos du Château de Cérons
Color: medium deep and not very brilliant
Nose: some jammy fruit and brambly aromas. Subtle, but lacking in character.
Palate: Juicy, old-fashioned type of wine. Short and simple.
12/20

 

2014 Château Lassalle
Color: lovely and deep
Nose: delicate balance between fruit and oak.
Palate: suave, fluid, and typical of its appellation. Classic and understated. Maybe a little dry on the aftertaste, but very nice indeed. Suitable for fine cuisine.
14/20

2014 Château d’Uza
Color: deep and fine
Nose: bright upfront berry fruit and attractive oak that is not overdone
Palate: round, delicious, and strangely Pinot-like! Shortish finish and in a non-traditional style, but sexy.
14.5/20

2014 Château Lagrange
Color: medium-deep
Nose: smoky Graves aromas and fresh fruitiness, but not much substance
Palate: sharp, angular, and somewhat bitter. These qualities will not disappear with age. Tough (rather than rustic) tannin.
10/20

2014 Château Jouvente
Color: purplish-red
Nose: ethereal, but too understated.
Palate: very soft cushioned attack, then sinks into a hole, then rebounds with an aftertaste that a bit too hard compared with the wine’s overall feminine profile.
11/20

2014 Château de Landiras
Color: little cloudy and not very deep
Nose: seemed wimpish, but there’s some subtle blackberry fruit lurking there and a faint sweetness that might become more expressive with aeration (the bottles were uncorked and served).
Palate: foursquare but somewhat weak on the middle palate. OK, but lacks depth and length.
11/20

2014 Château de Lionne
Color: good, medium-dark
Nose: musty with camphor and minty notes making this more odd than attractive
Palate: some leather and black fruit, but in minor mode. Honest, but unremarkable and short.
11/20

2007 Haut Brion / 2007 La Mission Haut Brion

I am fortunate to have friends with close ties to both Haut Brion and La Mission Haut Brion and so have more than a passing acquaintance with these two great wines.

The difference between these two estates, just across the road from one another is amazing.

La Mission’s rise in the past two decades is remarkable. However, it would be more accurate to say that this rise is more in reputation than an actual improvement in quality, which has always been superlative. The price has moved up accordingly and, in many ways, La Mission Haut Brion is a first growth in everything but name.

On a number of occasions I have spent a leisurely meal comparing Haut Brion and La Mission Haut Brion side by side. I almost always prefer the former because of its finesse. A week ago, I was invited to dinner at which the 2007 vintage of both wines were served. I did not take notes, because I consider it rude at table. So here are my impressions from memory.

The two wines were different in color. Haut Brion was already starting to show mahogany tinges, while La Mission was deeper and more youthful.

Haut Brion had, as one would expect, a beautiful bouquet: elegant and subtle. Everything was understated, including the oak. We did not taste blind but, if we had, it would have been obvious that this was a wine of great class. It was fluid and slick on the palate, relatively light in body and with a medium-long aftertaste. 2007 was a difficult year, but such years often have the advantage of coming around earlier. Was this great wine ready to drink? It was certainly most of the way there, but ideally a few more years will do it good and it will undoubtedly stay on its plateau for a very long time.

 

La Mission had a somewhat deeper bouquet with roasted, brambly aromas and hints of leather and prune. It seemed more substantial on the palate, fuller in body, more vigorous and assertive with a decided mineral (dare I say gravelly quality). The aftertaste was longer than the Haut Brion.

So, on this evening, Haut Brion won by a nose. For now. However, for the first time I can remember, I preferred La Mission because of its potential. A rematch down the line would be wonderful

Ruminations after drinking a 2004 Bahans Haut Brion

I usually aim for 2-3 posts a month, and have been keeping fairly well to this schedule – even though I see that blogs are less popular than they once were: http://fermentationwineblog.com/2016/01/wine-blogs-die-without-funeral/
However, I still believe that they serve a useful purpose, especially for more specialized subjects. But then I would, wouldn’t I? :-).

As focused as I am on Bordeaux, I am interested in all the world’s wines. That having been said, I prefer not to talk about them here. For example, I just spent a week in Italy (in Milan, Parma, and Modena) enjoying some fantastic food and wine. And on Saturday I will be going to a tasting of 2008 Premier Cru wines from the Côte de Nuits. But that is not the subject of Bordeaux Wine Blog, is it?

Yesterday, I was all on my own on a cold, wet, winter’s evening. I thought to myself that this would be an ideal opportunity to slowly savor a good wine and write about it. So, I uncorked a bottle of 2004 Bahans Haut Brion and decanted it two hours before dinner.
I have a huge soft spot for the wines of Haut Brion or, more precisely Domaine Dillon. I know the estate professionally, good friends have worked there and, of course, there is also the American connection. Bahans Haut Brion was the second wine of Haut Brion for many years, and was replaced by Le Clarence de Haut Brion starting with the 2007 vintage.
So, drinking Bahans Haut Brion is like drinking a little bit of history – a wine that no longer exists – like Bélair (a Saint Emilion first growth that has since become Bélair-Morange), Tertre Daugay (a Saint Emilion classified growth acquired by Domaine Dillon and renamed Quintus), La Clusière (a Saint Emilion classified growth absorbed by Pavie), La Fleur Milon (a Pauillac bought by Philippe de Rothschild), etc., etc.


The color of 2004 Bahans Haut Brion was deep and surprisingly purplish. The rim was slightly thin with only a suggestion of bricking.

The understated nose showed subtle plummy aromas and ethereal black fruit, as well as some lead, a dusty quality, and a faintly resinous hint.

Palate: The wine was quite fluid and light on its feet, with obvious class. It was unquestionably smooth and slick, with a certain sweetness. However, there was not the volume, body, or length of a great wine, and the expression “un ordinaire de roi” leapt to mind. The wine did not develop authoritatively and dipped on the middle palate. There was also some bitterness on the finish. Still, this was a perfectly creditable showing for a second wine over ten years old and it was clearly within its drinking window. And it made a dreary evening something special.

Oh, and you may wonder. What dish did I have to accompany this fine Bordeaux? Well, it happened to be homemade lasagna. And it was delicious.

Extensive tasting of second wines

 

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I had never before attended a tasting of second wines as such, i.e. nothing but second wines, so I was very interested to do so on Saturday the 26th of September in Bordeaux.
This event was organized by Terre des Vins magazine, part of the Sud-Ouest media group and Cash Vin (http://www.cash-vin.com/), a wine merchant, in the newly renovated Marché des Douves next to the Capucins market.
Second wines are widely perceived to be a mixed bag and the sort of wine lover who thinks Bordeaux is limited to the great growths is likely to snub anything “less than the best”.
However, this reasoning only goes so far…
In fact, the history of second wines goes back a very long way. There are records of such wines in the 18th century, and their increased number in recent years has gone hand in hand with improved quality starting in the 1970s. In fact, most classified growths have a second wine nowadays.
The principle is quite simple: the grand vin, the estate’s flagship wine, can be improved by selecting only the best vats. The remaining wine is less good, but also less expensive and usually ready to drink earlier. For consumers, second wines are worthwhile to the extent that their quality does not lag too far behind that of the grand vin and that they cost significantly less.
They are also ideally suited to restaurant wine lists.
The selection process includes a variety of parameters. In difficult years, the proportion of second wine is generally much higher and, in extreme cases, can totally replace the grand vin. Also, vats from specific plots not quite up to the standard of the main label are put into the second wine, as are wines from young vines.

Then there is the issue of second wines that refuse to admit they are second wines… Examples that spring to mind are Forts de Latour and Clos du Marquis, but there are many others. Their owners claim that these come from a specific part of the vineyard and do not incorporate less good vats from the best part. They therefore must be seen as “estates within an estate”. I don’t find this explanation very convincing and despite the hype still consider them second wines. What else do you want to call them? Furthermore, Latour and Léoville Las Cases even produce third wines, respectively le Pauillac de Château Latour and Le Petit Lion. Château Palmer’s Alter Ego, is not presented as a second wine either, but this just boils down to semantic differences.
Created in 1930, Mouton Cadet was originally the second wine of Château Mouton Rothschild. Over the years, it has become a branded AOC Bordeaux négociant wine.
French for second wine is second vin rather than deuxième vin. The reason for this is that when there is a series of just two things, the word second is used. As soon as there are three or more things, deuxième replaces second.

Here are my impressions of the 21 wines – all red – I tasted.
C = color
N = nose
T = taste
Please note that the scores are out of 20 and that I am a tough grader.

The retail prices are in euros per bottle including sales tax (VAT).
The purchase of 6 or more bottles entailed a discount of approximately 10-15%.

Conclusion / bottom line: Like any tasting, this is a mixed bag, so generalizations are difficult. However, the best wines were well worth the money, and some were true bargains, for people who drink wine rather than money. Also, if you like the “grand vin”, there’s a very good liklihood you’ll like the second wine!

 

 

2012 Les Voiles de Clos Floridène, Graves rouge
Belonging to Denis (the famous professor, consultant, and Dean of the Bordeaux Faculty of Enology) and Florence Dubourdieu, Clos Floridène is located in Pujols, quite close to Sauternes, and is better-known for its white wine, produced in more significant quantity.
C: lightish
N: vibrant strawberry and petits fruits rouges, some confectionery notes
T: fresh, thirst quenching, soft, enjoyable young, well-made, and with a short aftertaste
Score: 12.5
Price: 10.95 euros

2010 Les Hauts du Tertre, Margaux
This is the second wine of Château du Tertre, a fifth growth in Margaux that is much appreciated by Bordeaux lovers who are seeking quality without paying a fortune.
C: purplish, with medium intensity
N: nice berry fruit, fresh blueberry
T: fluid, light, easy-going tannin, a great luncheon claret! The finish is a little gummy. Needs time, but not much.
Score: 13.5
Price: 21 euros

2011 Esprit de Labrède, Graves rouge
Château de Labrède, a genuine castle and major tourist attraction, once belonged to Montesquieu, and stayed in his family until quite recently http://www.chateaulabrede.com/
The vineyard (4 hectares of red and 2 of white wine varieties) had gone out of existence, but was revived on a tenancy basis by Dominique Haverlan, owner of Vieux Château Gaubert, also in the Graves. This is his first vintage, and a very successful one at that.
C: good, medium deep
N: sweet fruit and oak in a minor key, hints of tobacco and a pleasant greenness
T: round, easy-to-drink, modern, with a puckery, lip-smacking finish. Wine of substance and an unexpected pleasure.
Score: 14
Price: 15 euros

2012 Moulin de Couhins, Pessac-Léognan rouge
Château Couhins is owned and managed by INRA (Institut National de la Recherche Agricole). It has long been under the radar and is a good value for that reason.
C: OK, a little hazy
N: brambly and reflecting its origins, along with discreet oak, and a cosmetic quality
T: sweet, simple, cherry fruit, and light tannin. qaMore grip than most. Should be ideal in 3 years. Some greenness.
Score: 13
Price: 13.50 euros

2012 La Réserve d’Angludet, Margaux
Angludet has long had a strong following, and is especially well-known on English-speaking markets due, in no small part, to the owners, the English Sichel family.
C: medium, a little dull
N: upfront, direct, seems relatively commonplace, but pretty with some nice notes of black fruit jelly, with a touch of greenness
T: suave, light, and pure. Nice juicy aftertaste with good tannin but in a minor key. Attractive, to drink young.
Score: 14
Price: 19 euros

2012 Jacques Boyd, Margaux
Third growth Boyd Cantenac has long had a low profile, but it is a stalwart classic as far as I’m concerned.
C: a little weak
N: old-fashioned, classic Médoc typical of the Margaux appellation. Light, engaging, with some vanilla oak overtones
T: starts off chewy, becoming light on the palate with a pleasing mineral element on the tail end
Score: 13
Price: 24 euros
Lucien Guillemet was also showing the 2002 Jacques Boyd, but this was very tertiary and past its best.
2010 Diane de Belgrave, Haut-Médoc
This classified growth and exclusivity of CVBG (Dourthe-Kressmann) deserves more of a reputation than it has. My notes show a wine that is good rather than very good, but at 13 euros a bottle, this was tremendous value for money.
C: good, medium deep with purplish overtones
N: sweet, pure candied fruit with some class. Rather feminine.
T: sweet once again. Charming and seductive, even if quite simple. A real crowd pleaser. The tannin on the finish, however, is perhaps too rough compared to the wine’s intrinsic body.
Score: 12.5
Price: 13 euros

2006 Sirène de Giscours, Margaux
After going through a variety of phases, Giscours has seemed back on track in recent vintages. This 9 year old second wine, however, was not the best reflection of what the château can do.
C: looking older than its years
N: old, indeterminate, past it
T: ditto
Score: no score given
Price: 26 euros

2010 L’Arpège de Haut-Nouchet, Pessac-Léognan
I am not familiar with this estate in Martillac.
C: medium-light with darker core
N: simple and closed with berry fruit. Lacks depth.
T: better than the bouquet. Sweet, but hollow and rather one-dimensional. Tart, bitter finish.
Score: 10.5
Price: 13.5 euros

2012 Blason d’Issan, Margaux
Issan is unquestionably one of the best third growths (there are ten of them…) in the Margaux appellation. It is now 50% owned by Jacky Lorenzetti, who also owns Pédesclaux and Liliane-Ladouys.
C: good, youthful
N: straightforward, with lovely, subtle Margaux berry fruit
T: good body and melts in the mouth. Bigger than expected. Magical. Good balance. Nice to drink as of now.
Score: 14
Price: 21 euros

2011 Hostens-Picant, Sainte-Foy-Bordeaux
This estate is located in the tiny and not well-known Sainte-Foy-Bordeaux appellation. I had only previously heard of their white wine.
C: average
N: some ash, quite one-dimensional
T: sweet, but not in a good sense. Barely drinkable. Dry, nasty finish.
Score: no score given
Price: 20 euros

2012 Amiral de Beychevelle, Saint Julien
Fourth growth Beychevelle is clearly on the up-and-up. This was one of the best wines of the tasting.
C: medium-deep
N: solid, well-focused brambly fruit with good definition
T: fleshy and big. Maybe not a long aftertaste, but lovely cherry flavors and good tannin. Potential for ageing there. Archetype of a good 2nd wine. Not second rate by any means
Score: 14.5
Price: 38 euros

2011 Tourelles de Longueville, Pauillac
This has long been considered one of the best second wines in the Médoc. Only now, Pichon Baron will be producing another second wine – like Clos du Marquis and les Forts de Latour – that claims it isn’t really a second wine… This is called Les Griffons de Pichon Baron, and was first made in the 2012 vintage.
C: medium-deep with a lightish rim
N: deep and enticing, but closed. Some chocolate overtones.
T: silky, satiny texture. Sweetness on palate with high-quality tannin that melts in the mouth with just a hint of greenness. A round, friendly Pauillac that will nevertheless improve.
Score: 14
Price: 39 euros

2012 Fleur de Pédesclaux, Pauillac
This fifth growth was nothing short of obscure until Jacky Lorenzetti (an Italian speaker from Switzerland who made his fortune with the Foncia real estate chain) bought it and turned it around.
Pédesclaux is rare in that it is a Pauillac made from 100% Merlot!
C: medium thin with purplish rim
N: sweet, pure bouquet with coffee-vanilla nuances
T: round as one might expect, but also rich, sweet, gummy, and lip smacking good
Score: 13.5
Price: 21 euros

 

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2009 Réserve de la Comtesse, Pauillac
One expects a great deal from a “super-second” that is universally appreciated, especially in a vintage like this. I was not disappointed.
C: OK, medium-deep, not entirely clear
N: a little simple, but reminiscent of the grand vin. Sweet with graphite overtones.
T: round and sensual with lovely soft tannin. Great finish and showing very well at present (can be enjoyed as of now), but will be fine for the next 5 years. Good acidity.
Score: 14.5
Price: 42 euros

On to the Right Bank…

 

2012 La Fleur Laroze, Saint Emilion
I am not very familiar with this 27-hectare grand cru classé.
C: light and bright
N: a little green and rustic but with deep fruit even so
T: big with good minerality
Score: 12.5
Price: 13.50 euros

2012 Clos La Gaffelière, Saint Emilion
I am not alone in having some severe disappointments in the premier grand cru classé Ch. La Gaffelière. But the owners have called in consultant Stéphane Derenoncourt and things have changed for the better.
C: medium light
N: lovely, pure, perfumed
T: very soft and upfront, melts in the mouth. Drink sooner rather than later. More voluptuous and big breasted than serious, but lots of pleasure there…
Score: “objectively” 13, but this is a joy to drink
Price: 19 euros – tremendous value for money.

2012 Dauphin de Grand Pontet, Saint Emilion
I’ve not often tasted wine from the 14-hectare grand cru classé Grand Pontet.
C: satisfyingly dark with purple highlights
N: a little weedy along with ripe and candied fruit overtones. Sweet and fairly simple with good, understated oak
T: round, big, and a little hot on the palate. Honest and foursquare, like a rich peasant.
Score: 12
Price: 13 euros

2009 Filia de Grand Mayne, Saint-Emilion
This 18-hectare classified growth has a strong following.
C: very deep
N: coffee, blackberry jelly, and a little rustic
T: big mouthful of wine but a little hollow (weak on the middle palate). Modern with some heat on the finish. Hearty, but lacks finesse. One wonders why the second wine has to be this concentrated. Perhaps a feature of the vintage…
Score: 12
Price: 16 euros

2010 Haut-Faugères, Saint-Emilion (sorry, not shown)
Faugères was promoted to grand cru classé status, and enjoys a good reputation, like the other Silvio Denz wines.
C: very dark and good
N: slightly oxidized
T: better on palate, but top-heavy and still off
Score: not scored
Price: 16 euros

2009 Croix de Beauséjour, Saint-Emilion
This second wine of Château Beauséjour (Duffau-Lagarosse) was a great discovery.
C: fine, with a deep core and slightly browning rim
N: lovely understated cherry-vanilla bouquet, that only lacks some depth
T: nice mouthfeel. Lush and rich, but backed up by fine minerality. Classic. Very good indeed. Drink now until 2022.
Score: 14.5
Price: 39 euros

2011 Marquis de Bellefont, Saint-Emilion
One of the newly-promoted grand crus classes, Bellefont-Belcier is 14-hectare estate recently acquired by a Chinese firm.
C: bit cloudy
N: oak, and more toasty oak, with coffee overtones, that overrides the fruit
T: overdone, intrinsic softness marked by bitterness. Another look needs to be taken at barrel ageing.
Score: 10
Price: 15.50 euros

 

 

After the tasting, my friend Pierre and I had lunch at the Cochon Volant, a nearby restaurant. This is a wonderful, earthy place featuring the best of cusine from Southwest France. Warning: portions are enormous!
We enjoyed a 2009 Ch. Moulin-à-Vent (Moulis) with lunch.

2010 Clos Floridène (Graves blanc) and 2004 Ch. Durfort Vivens (Margaux)

 

I enjoyed two Bordeaux wines on Sunday, starting off with 2010 Clos Floridène, a white Graves from Denis Dubourdieu, Dean of the Institut des Science de la Vigne et du Vin, well-known consultant, owner of several estates in Bordeaux (including the great growth Doisy-Daënes in Barsac), and acknowledged authority on the making of white wines.

ClosFloridene_2010

 

So, it was a fairly safe bet that this would not be a dud! In fact, I’ve known Clos Floridène for years, and it is widely considered a model of what white Bordeaux should be.
Clos Floridène has 17 hectares of red vines and 23 of white. It is located in Pujols, a stone’s throw from the Sauternes appellation. The white wine is made from 55% Sauvignon Blanc, 44% Sémillion and 1% Muscadelle.
The color of the 2010 was pale gold with green tinges and the nose was fresh, tart, lemony and showing subtle overtones of honey. The wine was really all that it should be on the palate, with citrus overtones and a dry mineral finish – more akin to a Pessac-Léognan than a Graves blanc, but fortunately with the latter’s price tag, making this very good value for money.  This is by no means a great wine, but it is a poster child for disbelievers of what Bordeaux can do with dry white wines!
It is fine to drink now, but will hold for years.
One odd thing. I’m used to encountering citrus overtones in wine, but this is the first time I can remember smelling lime nuances!

 

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The red wine of the day was 2004 Durfort Vivens. I had great hopes here because when I tasted it en primeur alongside other great growths in the Margaux appelation, it seemed one of the top wines. A few other tasters agreed with me. Unfortunately, this promise was not borne out ten years later. The wine’s color was encouraging: a very dark core with only medium bricking, looking younger than its years. The nose was satisfactory as well, with hints of plum, although not very forthcoming. However, the wine fell down on the palate which showed far too much of an acid edge. On the whole, this 2004 Durfort came off as thin and mean, with ungracious tannin on the finish. A big disappointment. I have 2 other bottles, and I’m hoping that this one is not typical.
By the way, the label has changed with the 2007 vintage, if none of you has seen it:
http://www.durfort-vivens.fr/blog/index.php?post/2010/02/06/Bienvenue-sur-Dotclear%C2%A0!

Graves, more Graves and… Pessac-Léognan – DAY TWO

DAY TWO

Day two was spent exclusively in the Pessac-Léognan appellation.

My first stop was at Château Le Sartre in Léognan. This estate originally belonged to the Perrin family of Château Carbonnieux and since 2004 has been managed by Marie-José Perrin-Leriche and her husband, René Leriche, assisted by the Burgundian Jules Guyot. The 36 hectares are mostly planted with red wine varieties (12 ha. Cabernet Sauvignon, 12.7 ha. Merlot, and 1.1 ha Cabernet Franc), but there are also 10.2 hectares of white wine grapes (8.2 Sauvignon Blanc and 2 ha Sémillon). The vines are an average age of 20 years old.
The main 26-hectare plot is located in a single block south of Fieuzal and east of Domaine de Chevalier. The terroir here is ideal for Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Unfortunately, it is also prone to frost damage, and Le Sartre produced only a quarter of a normal crop in 2011… That is why you see wind machines here, like in California.

A second 7.6 km plot, one km. away, between Fieuzal and Malartic-Lagravière, as well as a small 1.7 hectare plot near Carbonnieux, have more early-maturing terroirs and are less subject to frost damage.
Things are stirring at Le Sartre. The cellar has state-of-the-art winemaking equipment and the château building is being entirely renovated. Furthermore, the wine is finally gaining the reputation it deserves and is definitely one to watch out for! The French wine critic Jean-Marc Quarin includes Le Sartre in a group he calls “the Outsiders” – wines currently undervalued and well worth following. I couldn’t agree more with his analysis…

I went from Le Sartre to Ch. Smith Haut Lafitte, where a major tasting of red Pessac-Léognan wines had been organized. M. and Mme Cathiard could only greet us at the end because an Air France strike had prevented them from arriving any earlier.

Smith Haut Lafitte is geared up to receive visitors in an almost New World way, with knowledgeable staff and facilities suited to tours. The château’s improvement over the past 20 years is one of Bordeaux’s great success stories.

Here are my notes from the tasting, once again leaving out references to color, which was invariably good for these young wines:

RED PESSAC-LEOGNAN WINES

2011 Ch. de Léognan
Nose: soft, simple, straightforward
Palate: shows candied fruit, but does not develop a great deal on the palate. Marked acidity, but still shows good balance.

2011 Lespault-Martillac
Nose: subtle and fairly earthy, with penetrating black cherry aromas and an ethereal spirity side
Palate: chewy with nicely-grained tannin and lively acidity. Shortish aftertaste with liquorice overtones. Good to drink young.

2011 Gazin Rocquencourt
Nose: understated sweet cherry and cranberry sauce aromas
Palate: lovely balance and lip-smackingly good. Great acidity and cherry-vanilla flavors. Not a show stopper, but a wine lover’s sort of wine, with a long aftertaste and just the right amount of oak.

2011 Carmes Haut Brion
Nose: classic, discreet oak, with the fruit just starting to come through
Palate: rich, a little weak on the middle palate and with a certain dryness on the aftertaste due to barrel ageing. However, I would like to give this wine the benefit of the doubt, and hope that everything comes together well in a few years’ time.

2011 La Louvière
Nose: lovely soft cherry-vanilla aromas. Irreproachable.
Palate: lively acidity and good tannic texture. Digestible sort of wine. The oak should even out, but it contributes to a dry finish at present. One of the better wines at the tasting.

2011 de France
Nose: great, typical Graves with a vivacious, rich, fruity bouquet but too much oak comes through at this stage.
Palate: Round, big, full-bodied, with a velvety texture and a nice lift. Question mark about the oak.

2011 Luchey Halde
Nose: pretty, deep, and brambly, with dark fruit
Palate: round, juicy, up-front attack with good acidity to follow. Well-made wine with a great tang on the finish. Although it lacks richness and voluptuousness, it is still very good with a lovely cherry lozenge finish. Thank goodness the oak is low-profile. One of the best wines in the tasting.

2011 Rouillac
Nose: straightforward, “petits fruits rouges” and primary fruit
Palate: light and fluid, uncomplicated, with an aftertaste that adds seriousness to the wine.

2011 d’Eyran
Nose: fine fresh forest fruit bouquet, beguiling, lovely. Mercifully not too much oak, but some roast coffee aromas.
Palate: plush and melts in the mouth, but underpinned by good acidity. Some (but not too much) oak on the long, textured finish. Traditional, however not one for the long haul. Nice discovery and one of the best wines.

2011 Haut Bergey
Nose: attractive and classy. Sweet plum and berry fruit.
Palate: mouth-filling, but falls down somewhat on the middle palate. Too much oak on the aftertaste. One has the impression of prime fruit that has seen too high a percentage of new oak barrels.

2011 Olivier
Nose: fine bouquet. Deep, inky, with somewhat unexpected honey nuances!
Palate: starts out round, and plush, but proves to be weak on the middle palate. The oak ageing is over-ambitious.

2011 Bouscaut
Nose: sweet cedar and slightly confected fruit. Very good and concentrated.
Palate: Starts out nice, rich, and supple going on to show good acidity . Fine tannic texture. Great to see Bouscaut on the upswing and this was one of the best wines of the tasting.

2011 La Tour Martillac
Nose: a little spirity and closed in at the moment
Palate: soft, a little dilute to start off, but segues into a wine of character with a fine aftertaste. Elegant tannin and oak under control.

2011 Couhins
Nose: sweet with good oak
Palate: melts in the mouth, then proceeds to follow through well with authority and good acidity.  Nice oak background and a good finish. Thirst-quenching wine of distinction. Recommended.

2011 Couhins Lurton
Nose: ripe, fresh, and pure, with a subtle perfume
Palate: serious wine. Great balance. Very representative of its appellation. Velvety texture. One of the best wines. Only a certain diluteness and weakness leading up to the aftertaste keep it out of the very finest category, but nevertheless a wine to reckon with.

2011 Carbonnieux
Nose: discreet but promising
Palate: mouthfilling with good acidity, as well as nice texture and length. A tad dry, though.

2011 Malartic Lagravière
Nose: subtle, fresh, and brambly with understated oak
Palate: rich and melts in the mouth, but provides a fresh fruit tang on the aftertaste. Sensual. One of the best of the tasting.

2011 Haut Bailly
Nose: brilliant, nuanced, and classy with well-integrated oak
Palate: tightly-knit, superb balance, with deep dark fruit flavors. Wonderful, and my finest score.

2011 Smith Haut Lafitte
Nose: pert, perfumed, uplifting, and not too oaky, with fine berry aromas
Palate: mouthfilling and delicious, neither over-extracted nor over-oaked. Touch dry on the finish, but this is indeed a fine wine.

2011 Domaine de Chevalier
Nose: sweet and subtle with floral and berry overtones
Palate: light on its feet and refreshing due to lively acidity. Superb, a sort of sublime luncheon claret. Fine, textbook Graves.

 

After the tasting, I was invited to a lunch at Château Larrivet Haut Brion hosted by Emilie Gervoson, Bruno Lemoine, and his daughter, Alice, who runs the boutique.

Larrivet Haut-Brion has a fantastic terroir very close to Haut Bailly, and the estate is truly lovely, including an imposing château, landscaped grounds, and a pond with swans and a fountain…
Emilie Gervoson is the new face of Bordeaux: young, bouncy, given to wearing jaunty hats, and diametrically-opposed to the prim, proper, and slightly boring variety of Bordelaise (she’s actually Parisienne)…

The Gervosons made a fortune in jams and fruit-based desserts and still own the family firm (Andros). Bruno Lemoine was formerly manager at Ch. Montrose, and responsible for making the legendary 1990. He has been in charge of Larrivet Haut Brion since 2008. Michel Rolland is the consulting enologist.

Bruno has changed things considerably and is totally open to new methods, including “concrete eggs”.
Our dinner conversation was free-wheeling and far-ranging, including such controversial subjects as Isabelle Saporta’s book, Vino Business. The wines (2010 white and 2006 red) showed very well and dynamic changes taking place at present bode well for this superbly-located estate.

The next stop was Château de France, where we were welcomed by the owner, Arnaud Thomassin. However, there was not to be a tour of his château. Instead, we tasted through a line-up of white Pessac Léognan. Here are my notes for the 12 wines I tasted:

2013 WHITE PESSAC-LEOGNAN WINES

It was also explained to me that Pessac-Léognan is only twice the size of Pomerol, one of the smallest appellations in Bordeaux – and that only 15% of the wine is white. Furthermore, at several prestigious estates, it is worth noting that the white costs more or considerably more than the red…

2013 Grandmaison
Nose: very varietal Sauvignon Blanc characteristics, but not much else there
Palate: better, lemony, tart, fresh, and good

2013 Luchey Halde
Nose: attractive and expressive with peach and floral overtones
Palate: clean, sprightly, tart, surely even better with food

2013 Couhins
Nose: grassy and not saying much at this time
Palate: sharp and not very fruity

2013 Couhins Lurton
Nose: very varietal Sauvignon Blanc, but not in an exaggerated way
Palate: fuller and richer than expected after the nose, and showing good balance. Ripe, fresh, and clearly one of the better wines at the tasting.

2013 Smith Haut Lafite
Nose: understated
Palate: silky and “sweet”, with good oak. What the French call “un vin de gastronomie”. Persistent aromatics. Not overdone in any way, tremendously well-balanced and refined. Tied for first place in my notes, and far from some of the overdone versions of SHL I’ve encountered in the past. Congratulations!

2013 Fieuzal
Nose: tropical fruit
Palate: round and more of a pronounced mouth feel than most of the other wines. Svelte and dry, with citrus overtones. Quite fine.

2013 Malartic Lagravière
Nose: characterful with discreet tropical fruit, and like nothing so much as a dry Sauternes
Palate: mouthfilling with resinous nuances sliding into a beautiful mineral finish. Seriously good, and tied with the Smith Haut Lafitte for wine of the tasting.

2013 Bouscaut
Nose: classic, with beeswax and lemon nuances
Palate: lanoline, vanilla, and clove going into an unexpectedly pronounced mineral finish coming into its own after a little flabbiness on the middle palate. This should not imply this was not a very good wine, because it was. Between this white and the red I tasted the day before, I applaud the renaissance at Bouscaut!

2013 Lespault Martillac
Nose: seemed a bit chemical and technical. The bouquet is fresh and there’s some lemon there, but it lacks definition.
Palate: good, soft attack but empty on the middle palate. Penetrating vibrant acidity.

2013 La Louvière
Nose: fresh, but closed in at this stage.
Palate: fairly mineral with an acid edge. Good, but needs to age.

2013 La Garde
Nose: very varietal Sauvignon Blanc, and somewhat in your face
Palate: round, commercial style. Little obvious and with a salty finish.

2013 Rouillac
Nose: soft and enticing
Palate: softness here as well for this elegant wine that segues into a mineral aftertaste showing the intelligent use of new oak. A really nice discovery for me.

 

The day ended with a gala dinner at Château de Fieuzal for a group of about 100 or 120 people. This was all of a 10 minute walk from Ch. de France and it was a joy to go there on foot and admire the ripe grapes on the way.

I enjoyed a memorable evening with Véronique Bonnie-Laplane of Malartic Lagravière, Fabien Teitgen of Smith Haut Lafitte, Francis Boutemy of Haut Lagrange, Rémi Edange of Domaine de Chevalier, Emmanuelle Jeannerot of the Pessac-Léognan Syndicat, Philippe Miecaze of Ch. de Léognan, and an English Master of Wine student. Conversation was lively and the wines were wonderful, including Smith Haut Lafitte, Malartic Lagravière and Haut Bailly, all from the 2000 vintage – and nowhere near as backward as one might expect.

And so my two days in the Graves drew to a close…