Tag Archives: Pomerol

2016 great growths: Pomerol and Saint-Emilion (40 wines)

Pomerol
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Beauregard (80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc)
N: Inky and sweet. Fresh, strong and serious. A little spirity and roasted with earthy aromas.
P: Feminine and soft. Melts in the mouth. Finishes rich but not overdone. Juicy and especially tart. A delicate sensual wine. Worth seeking out.

Le Bon Pasteur (80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc)
N: Dried fruit. Slightly dusty.
P: Medium-heavy mouth feel. Fills out nicely on the palate. Soft tannin and one has the impression of alcoholic strength, but not in a way that detracts. Rubbery (empyreumatic) notes and slightly dry aftertaste. Oak plays too major a role at the present time.
This estate was sold to a Chinese owner by Michel Rolland.

La Cabanne (94% Merlot and 6% Cabernet Franc)
N: Noticeable reductive notes, but this may not be a fair time to taste. Biscuity with hints of black fruit jelly.
P: Soft and unctuous. Seems traditional with little oak influence. A decent Pomerol, but not one of the best.

Clinet (90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon)
N: Bright, pure, and rich yet understated fruit. Roasted quality, but interestingly so (not outrageously toasty oak). Deep and good.
P: Shows more grip and structure than other wines tasted. A step up. Fresh, round, and has a great finish. The dryness should disappear with age. A very fine Pomerol.

La Croix de Gay (95% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc)
N: Rich and spicy (cinnamon) with grassy, blueberry, chocolate, and liquorice notes.
P: Heavy mouthfeel. Sweet and a little obvious. Big, round type of Pomerol, but lacks depth. The aftertaste seems rather dry and I hope that the oak integrates later on.

Gazin (87% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, and 8% Cabernet Sauvignon)
N: Spirity and spicy. Very ripe. A little heat.
P: Manages to be big and delicate at the same time. Very soft, but shows plenty of character going into a vivacious aftertaste. The oak finish hides some of the lovely ripe fruit at present, but further ageing should put things in balance.

Petit Village (77% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc, and 9% Cabernet Sauvignon)
N: Deep and slightly spirity bouquet showing great Pomerol typicity and wild berries. Both serious and charming.
P: Medium-heavy mouth feel. Satiny high-quality tannin from beginning to end with a cushioned texture. Juicy and tart. Long aftertaste. Refreshing and thirst-quenching. A very superior Pomerol.

La Pointe (83% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Franc)
N: Rich fruit along with meaty aromas and overtones of humus and musk. Fine bouquet of a vin de terroir.
P: Quite round on entry but does not quite maintain the momentum before reaching the classy aftertaste. The almond and vanilla aromatics come more from the soil than the oak. There is also a burnt rubber component. Light-weight for its appellation.

Saint Emilion
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Barde Haut (80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc)
N: Soft and fairly non-descript compared to its peers.
P: Chunky, a little confected. A crowd-pleasing sort of wine with marked acidity. A little hollow on the middle palate. Tangy aftertaste showing some minerality. A good commercial style.

Bellefont-Belcier (72% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Franc, and 11% Cabernet Sauvignon)
N: Toasty oak and accompanying roast coffee aromas predominate.
P: Full, rich sensual attack then drops and returns with a pleasant rather mineral aftertaste. Seductive, easy-going, and typical of its appellation. Will be enjoyable young.
This château was recently sold by a Chinese to a Maltese. Bordeaux is nothing if not international!

Cadet Bon (80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc)
N: Very closed. Rich, but simple.
P: Melts in the mouth almost like fruit juice (i.e. texture and “sweetness”). Good mineral aftertaste. The sort of wine you don’t have to think about, just enjoy. The dryness on the tail end will probably diminish with ageing when the oak integrates.

Canon La Gaffelière (55% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Franc, and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon)
N: Unusual medicinal nose of herbs and eucalyptus. Perhaps just a stage.
P: Much better on the palate. Velvety texture and rich berry fruit that does not let up until the end of the long aftertaste. The oak dries out the finish at this early stage, but if care is taken should not intrude later on. Excellent wine with good potential.

Le Chatelet (80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc)
N: Soft blueberry aromas with some alcohol and chocolate notes.
P: Fine fluid juicy quality. Refreshing. Natural, with good follow-through and appetizing tannin on the finish.

Chauvin (75% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon)
N: Pure, although subdued fruit. Oak presently has the upper hand. Some herbaceousness.
P: Herbs on the palate too. Tight and fairly dry with a weak middle palate. Unbalanced at present. Simply too much oak. However, this could change by the time the wine has been bottled and aged. Needs to be re-evaluated.
This estate was bought by the Cazes family of Lynch Bages in 2014.

Clos Fourtet (90% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2% Cabernet Franc)
N: Pure, fresh, and classy. Needs only time to express itself fully.
P: Sinewy, compact, and penetrating. Heavy mouth feel. This is a big wine that spreads out on the palate. Shows some alcohol. Fine-grained grippy tannin. Slightly hot aftertaste, but this is nevertheless a winner that should age very well.

Clos des Jacobins (80% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Cabernet Sauvignon)
N: Very toasty oak and coffee aromas. Too much. You feel as though you are smelling a cup of espresso. Some herbaceousness comes out with aeration.
P: Much better on the palate so let us hope that the oak integrates later on. Big, mouthfilling wine with lovely fruit waiting to come out from the yoke of the oak (hey, I’m a poet and don’t even know it!). Dry aftertaste. Please save Private Ryan and reduce the oak here. Everyone will be happier.
This estate is owned by the Decoster family who came from the Limoges china industry.

Clos la Madeleine (75% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Franc)
N: Low-key fruit with the sensation of freshly-mown grass.
P: Starts out big and then drops precipitously. Hollow on the middle palate. There’s a nice fruity tanginess on the aftertaste but this capitulates to the oak at present.

Corbin (80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc)
N: Pure seemingly unoaked bouquet. Fresh and seems more floral than fruity.
P: Chunky, rich, and mouthfilling, but does not develop quite so well on the palate. Really big and round but also hollow. How will the oak integrate? At present it overwhelms what would have been a great aftertaste.

La Couspaude (75% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon)
N: Subtle, fresh, and concentrated berry liqueur notes with some grassy aromas.
P: Tasty and sweet but somewhat one-dimensional. The fine aftertaste brands it as a Saint Emilion. Quite juicy going into a tart mineral finish. Good but not stellar.
Couvent des Jacobins (85% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Franc, and 4% Petit Verdot)
N: Very primary fruit with a herbaceous quality.
P: Juicy and tasty. A little dry on the aftertaste, but there is lovely upfront joyous fruit. Let us hope that everything evens out in the end.

Couvent des Jacobins (85% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Franc, and 4% Petit Verdot)
N: Very primary fruit with a herbaceous quality.
P: Juicy and tasty. A little dry on the aftertaste, but there is lovely upfront joyous fruit. Let us hope that everything evens out in the end.

Dassault (73% Merlot, 22% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon)
N: Slightly reduced nose. Pronounced, but not complex, with plum nuances. Alcoholic smell of slightly overripe Merlot.
P: Rich, silky, and brawny going into an unexpectedly fresh and especially mineral aftertaste. A wine of strong character and a good Dassault.

Destieux (66% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Franc, and 17% Cabernet Sauvignon)
N: Soft, biscuity, and enticing, but not really expressive and focused yet.
P: Rich, melts in the mouth, big, round, fresh, and sensual. The oak is largely under control and there is a fine textured aftertaste. Lots of pleasure here. Only the muted nose keeps this from being a winner. Let us hope that this comes out over time.

La Dominique (80% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc, and 8% Cabernet Sauvignon)
N: Lots of toasty oak. A little hollow and alcoholic at this time.
P: Sinewy and velvety. Soft with a medium-heavy mouth feel and a flavour that dips before coming back into a long tannic and mineral aftertaste. A serious, sturdy, broad-shouldered wine that is, once again, a little dry on the finish at this time.

Fleur Cardinale (75% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon)
N: Cherry-vanilla aromas accompanied by a strong blackberry component. Beautiful ripe bouquet. Still, needs to come together, which is hardly surprising.
P: Big mouthful of wine. Spreads out confidently on the palate. Round and sensual with a silky texture. Excellent.

La Fleur Morange (70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Franc)
N: Subtle black cherry aromas.
P: Medium body and silky texture. Well-balanced with oak in check and showing nice minerality. High quality tannin. Classic and satisfying. I was delighted to discover this fine cru classé I did not know.

Fonplégade (90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc)
N: Soft and not very expressive. Underlying black fruit waiting to be liberated. Some understated oak.
P: Sweet juicy fruit with a refreshing, thirst-quenching quality. Medium-heavy mouth feel. Oak dominates the aftertaste, but this could very well change over time. Very good.
The château has been certified organic since the 2013 vintage.

Fonroque (85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc)
N: Honest, forthright, subtle nose of black fruit.
P: Fills out nicely on the palate. Chunky with exuberant fruit. Good mineral aftertaste and not too dry. Surprisingly good and seems like an excellent value this year.

Franc Mayne (90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc)
N: Some reduction there. Not in very good form this day. Deep, slightly spirit blueberry and fresh leather.
P: A certain tartness and an average quality compared to other crus classés. Strong limestone-induced minerality on the aftertaste.

Grand Corbin (80% Merlot, 16% Cabernet Franc, and 4% Cabernet Sauvignon)
N: Beautiful fresh and largely floral nose (field of spring flowers) with fruit not far behind as well as some chocolate nuances.
P: This strange and unexpected floral quality carries over to the palate. Thickish body and a long earthy aftertaste with mineral and oaky overtones. Perhaps more interesting and unusual than good.

Grand Mayne (85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc)
N: Soft, natural, and seems virtually unoaked. Deep and mysterious with lovely Merlot fruit.
P: Big and round, but with a slightly dilute quality. Displays the trademark finish of wines from the Saint Emilion plateau: an unmistakable limestone minerality. Toned-down compared to some other vintages from this estate. Very good.

Grand Pontet (75% Merlot, 17.5% Cabernet Franc, and 7.5% Cabernet Sauvignon)
N: Cherry cough syrup
P: Big, full and sweet. Does not really follow through from the attack to the dry finish. Going on towards being a fruit bomb. Ends really very dry due to oak. A pity because there are some unquestionably good aspects to the wine.

Jean Faure (50% Cabernet Franc, 45% Merlot, and 5% Merlot)
N: Not much going on. Wait and see.
P: Big volume but hollow. Unattractive dry aftertaste. Clobbered by the oak.

Larmande (77% Merlot, 19% Cabernet Franc, and 4% Cabernet Sauvignon)
N: Discreet, fresh, and attractive black fruit with some toasty oak.
P: Sweet, round, and sensual Merlot melts in the mouth. Very good and will be quite enjoyable young.

Laroze (65% Merlot, 26% Cabernet Franc, and 9% Cabernet Sauvignon)
N: Blueberry aromas, but not very subtle.
P: Seems almost more floral than fruity on the palate, and goes from a chunky rich attack into a rather dry aftertaste. Not the most distinguished of the tasting.

Péby Faugères (100% Merlot)
N: Inky, dark, mysterious, and promising bouquet. I must have been carried away… My notes say “a beautiful Andalusian woman”!
P: Complex, and round, with a lovely texture. Impeccable. Wonderful soft tannin. Seductive, yet serious and the oak is within reason. Is Silvio Denz gunning for first growth status? If this bottle is anything to go by, he is well on his way. Between the special Lalique embossed bottle and the price tag, I was expecting to find something overdone. But no, this is really good.

La Serre (80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc)
N: Bit herbaceous and rustic. Some chocolate, cherry, and oak notes.
P: Big, but a bit flabby. Refreshing, but lacklustre. Minerality typical of Saint-Emilion’s limestone plateau on the aftertaste, but this is somewhat of an afterthought… Proper, just not special.

Soutard (63% Merlot, 34% Cabernet Franc, 2% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 1% Malbec)
N: Fresh, sweet, and pure aromas of brambly fruit with some chocolate nuances.
P: Big with a heavy mouth feel, but the impressive entry seems a little diluted thereafter, going on somewhat disjointedly into a puckery mineral finish. A different style from the sister château, Larmande, and needs more time to age.

La Tour Figeac (70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Franc)
N: Not a lot of personality. Sweet and simple.
P: Much better on the palate. Melts in the mouth and then asserts itself with considerable volume, marked berry flavors, and noticeably high alcohol. Good tannin, minerality, and long fruity finish. A sleeper.

Troplong Mondot (90% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2% Cabernet Franc)
N: Strong berry liqueur aromas. Alcohol. Not complex.
P: At 15° this reminds me a bit of Harlan from California in that I don’t want to like it, but end up being taken in. Close-minded, moi? A New World type of wine in many respects. Concentrated, big, and unrelenting, yet deeply soft. I liked it despite a hot, dry aspect to the finish. Go figure.

Villemaurine (80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc)
N: Floral, lead pencil, and earthy notes
P: Starts out big, round, and generous, then backs off and dips, going on to display a combination of rich fruit and minerality. Long berry aftertaste with an oak influence that needs some watching. Very good.

Vertical tasting of Château La Conseillante at Max Wine Gallery

 

What is Max Wine Wine Gallery and Cellar?

 

Housed in a splendid town house in the center of Bordeaux, a stone’s throw from the Grand Théâtre, (14 Cours de l’Intendance), Max Wine was opened in 2009 by a Norweigan wine merchant, Henning Thoresen.  It features several Enomatic dispensing machines with inert gas to preserve the freshness of the 48 wines available at any one time – up to and including 1st growths – in 2.5, 5, or 7.5 cl pours.

Customers buy a magnetic card credited with the amount of their choice and taste what they want, how much they want, and at their own pace.

Max Wine Gallery also has a boutique and offers tasting workshops. I went to one of these on the 8th of December focusing on Château La Conseillante.

There is no need to do a mini château profile here. That is easy enough to find on the Web. Let it suffice to say that La Conseillante has a proven track record and is unquestionably one of the top ten wines in a very small, prestigious – and expensive – appellation.

The estate and wines were presented by Elodie Emonet, in charge of communication and public relations.

 

We started off with two vintages of the second wine, Duo de La Conseillante.
The 2013 had a good color with a purplish rim. The nose was bright, simple, and plummy (damson) with cherry overtones. However, the overall bouquet was one-dimensional. The wine was round and slightly dilute on the palate – a lightish thirst-quenching sort of wine that is ready to drink as of now. There are the rubbery tell-tale Pomerol tannins there and a slight gamey touch, as well as a hint of greenness. Fortunately, the winemaker took vintage character into account and the oak is not overpowering. This reminded me of a sort of luxury version of Saumur-Champigny. A decent enough wine, but the question of value for money comes into play here. 13.5/20
The 2009 Duo was a different kettle of fish. The wine had a lovely color with a deep core, although it was not particularly brilliant. It is just starting to brick on the rim and looked a little older than its age. The nose was very beguiling with fine-tuned oak, as well as earthy, truffle aromas. A lovely feminine bouquet. The wine was rich and fairly round on the palate with a velvety texture and a taste of candied black fruit. Very seductive. Medium-long, sprightly, fresh aftertaste. Superb second wine. 15/20. I believe this retails for about 60 euros and at that price is definitely worth the money.

Next up were three vintages of the grand vin, Château La Conseillante.

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Curiously, we started out with the oldest. I can understand the reasoning, that younger wines might overwhelm a subtle aged vintage. However, I am very conservative here and prefer the opposite order. Be that as it may, we started off with the 1996. At twenty years old this was looking its age, and then some with graduated mahogany overtones. The indescribable (but one tries to describe anyway…) nose featured deep cherry aromas along with leather, forest floor, cherry, and empyreumatic* overtones. It was lovely, understated and sweet, but too indeterminate and not fresh enough. This impression of tiredness carried over to the palate, where the wine was curiously light, but balanced and clearly displayed plenty of class. There was marked acidity here. The tannin will undoubtedly outlive the fruit, which has already started to go. Slightly disappointing for this great wine from a good vintage. 16/20
*empyreumatic: This long, fairly pretentious word is nevertheless very useful to describe certain smells, especially in aged Merlot-based wine. The dictionary defines it as “being or having an odor of burnt organic matter as a result of decomposition at high temperatures <creosote and other empyreumatic oils>” and the word does exist in English. I use it when describing “burnt rubber” aromas, and it is not meant to be negative. If anyone has a better “Anglo-Saxon” word for this, I’d be very grateful to know!

 

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The 2006 was very different, and probably reflects a more modern approach to winemaking as well as its relative youth. The color was a little lackluster with a very deep core and just starting to show some age on the rim. There was definite black truffle on the nose along with subtle floral aromas and sweet fruit. The understated vanilla/almond nuances were very attractive. However, the overall impression is underdeveloped at this stage. The wine was powerful and mouth-coating on the palate, but stops a little short on the aftertaste. The tea-type tannin was velvety – great texture! Fruit paste nuances add a nice touch. Elodie from La Conseillante said this wine is to drink now or to age. I disagree. I think it needs much more time to strut its stuff. 16/20 now, probably more later. I have a bottle in the cellar and will give it another 7 years or so.

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Last up was the 2010. The color was a little dull, but very dark purplish-red and the wine left thick legs on the glass. There was some reduction on the nose with biscuity aromas, a soupçon of mint, and lots of vigorous primary fruit. There were also complex floral and cosmetic hints. Very elegant, but obviously too young. The wine coats the palate on entry and there was some exotic spiciness there, but also a marked alcoholic presence. However, this alcohol is encased in a soft shell. I had the feeling that the wine was not in such a very good place now, but it shows tremendous potential. There was a lovely creamy sensation and a sexy follow-through with enticing blueberry flavors. Superb tannin, with a rubbery quality (once again, this is not meant to be a criticism). There’s definite magic there. 17/20

 

Classic French wines, including a 2001 Ch. La Conseillante

1996 Charles Heidsieck

 

Many wine dinners start out with a glass or two of Champagne, but people rarely give this more than passing mention when remembering the line-up of wines they have tasted. I think this is a pity, so I’ll break the mold and give special praise to a 1996 vintage Champagne from Charles Heidsieck.
I have a soft spot for Charles Heidseick (owned by the Descours family, along with Piper Heidsieck, since 2011) because I did a six month internship there in Reims when I was a college student.
I honestly think that this is one of the best grandes marques available today, from the Brut Réserve on up.
1996 is widely considered a fine vintage, and Mr. Parker rates it 97/100, considering it “slow to mature”.
The wine we had was in excellent shape, neither too young nor too old. The color was medium-gold and the bouquet was wonderfully subtle: slightly biscuity, understated, sophisticated, and sexy. The wine followed through in much the same way on the palate, with not a hair out of place, and a long, cool aftertaste. Wonderful.

Our guests that evening were Jakai Zhang (Ch. Le Bon Pasteur in Pomerol), Nerissa Chen (Ch. Kirwan), and Denis Darriet, owner of Ch. Seguin in Canéjan (appellation Pessac-Léognan). Feedback was very positive about the upcoming 2015 vintage which started today, August 24th, in Bordeaux for grapes destined to make Crémant.

 

2002 Corton Charlemagne

The first course was accompanied by a 2002 Corton Charlemagne from Domaine Bruno Clair. This also had sentimental value to me since it was a gift from the winemaker, Philippe Brun, whom my wife and I met when we lived in the Napa Valley years ago.
Mercifully, the wine did not suffer from the Burgundian blight of premature oxidation (I had two back-up bottles of chilled white wine just in case). The color was pale gold and the nose ultra-classic and exquisite. Not even an inkling of oxidation. Rather than hazelnut overtones I often find in white Burgundy, there were fine almond nuances. The wine surprised me by being not very rich on the palate, but it lived up to its grand cru status by the way it so gracefully evolved into a super long aftertaste, with controlled power. This wine is delicious now, but has the stuffing to age much longer.
Enough to restore one’s faith in white Burgundy.

2007 Château d'Ampuis

I am a great fan of Côte Rôtie, and have attended the Marché aux Vins in Ampuis (http://www.marche-aux-vins-ampuis-cote-rotie.com/) on three occasions. I very much recommend this 4-day event, with the proviso that you go on Friday and/or Saturday morning. Seeing as it is open to the public, there are simply too many people thereafter. Among a host of other wines, I bought two bottles of 2007 Château d’Ampuis 4 years ago at the Guigal stand. This was one of the most impressive wines I tasted all day.
Seeing as I had two bottles, I thought I would try one on the young side to see how it was doing.
The color was very deep and vibrant and the nose had the tell-tale aromas of fine Côte Rôtie: violet, black pepper, and even a smell of blood and raw meat (not as gruesome as it sounds). Despite what one may read in wine books, I tend to think of Côte Rôtie as a feminine wine. However, this one was fairly butch and had plenty of energy, vigor, and ageing potential. Yes, I will wait a long time before opening the second bottle.

2001 Château La Conseillante

 

The wine with the cheese course was 2001 Châteu La Conseillante. This was served blind, and most people thought it from a more recent vintage. The color certainly looked younger than its age and the nose had the trademark humus and truffle aromas of the finest Pomerol. The wine was luscious on the palate and very rich, but not overpowering or alcoholic – the balancing act of the finest Bordeaux. The texture was funky, velvety and even what I call “furry”. The aftertaste was assertive and featured deep black fruit nuances. As good as this was, the wine will improve further. It also confirms the good opinion I have of the 2001 vintage – and Château La Conseillante.
 

 

 

1982 Ch. La Lagune and 1953 Pétrus

Birth year wines are very special. A friend of mine, who lives in Bath, was born the same year as me: 1953. He and his wife have been inviting me for the longest time to come and share a bottle of 1953 Pétrus they have been saving. Well, that moment finally arrived on a trip to England this summer.
As an aside, Bath is one of the most beautiful cities in the UK and, indeed, in Europe.

My friends prepared a delicious meal and served 3 wines to accompany them.

The first was a 1989 Trimbach “Cuvée Emile” vendanges tardives, which was served blind. I thought it was a Pinot Gris from Alsace. The wine was golden yellow, but looked younger than its 26 years (had I tried to guess the vintage). The nose was ripe and complex, but the wine was medium-sweet rather than sweet on the palate. It had evidently “eaten some of its sugar” as the French say. The varietal characteristics didn’t come through screamingly, but this was a very enjoyable aperitif.

 

The main course consisted of expertly cooked lamb shanks.
The first red wine was 1982 Château La Lagune. The last time I had this wine was at Restaurant Laurent in Paris, perhaps 7 or 8 years ago. Unsurprisingly, the bottle consumed in July 2015 was more evolved and gave the impression of being much more fluid and easy-to-drink. It had a classical nose with hints of pencil shavings I associate with Pauillac, but not the same body. This wine epitomizes the difference between subtle wines you love to drink with fine food as opposed to point-winning monstrosities.

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The star of the meal was obviously the 1953 Pétrus. This English-bottled wine (Avery’s of Bristol, a well-reputed firm) was still very much alive, although past its best. If served blind, I’m sure most people would have thought it a decade or two younger. The nose was sweet and enigmatic, with lovely nuances: empyreumatic, aniseed, vanilla, almond, etc. The taste was remarkably delicate and silky, a wine to meditate on with a very soft, long aftertaste.
My host opened the Pétrus, decanted it, and served it immediately. In retrospect, it would have been better to let the wine breathe longer because it was not particularly fragile and the aromatics blossomed over time. This was a tremendous experience that I am very lucky to have enjoyed.
Anecdote: please note the misspelling of the word “château” on the label!

An unforgettable tour of top-flight châteaux: day two

This day was enjoyed at a more relaxed pace.

We started out at Château La Conseillante in Pomerol. And, yes, they had redone the cellar there too. The facilities are rather spiffy for such a small estate, and the vat room is not only functional, but round and very attractive.
La Conseillante’s trademark purple color is everywhere.
Estate manager Jean-Michel Laporte began the tour with a long explanation in the vineyard, which was highly useful in order to situate the vineyard and to talk about geological influences.
We tasted the 2006 vintage. The nose was sleek, but closed, and the wine was very suave and elegant on the palate with an almost Margaux-like elegance and no impression of alcohol.
M. Laporte is leaving La Conseillante because as he frankly admits, he had “strategic divergences” with the owners. But I have little doubt that he will resurface in short order at another top-flight estate. He had done great things at La Conseillante and came across as a gifted professional.

We went from there to Château Corbin, where we were taken around by owner Anabelle Cruse-Bardinet, member of a famous Bordeaux wine family. Anabelle also began the tour in the vineyard and is a very hands-on manager. She explained how she had to fight to keep the estate and has thrown herself wholeheartedly into running Corbin, where she looks after far more than paperwork and public relations. Corbin has maintained its grand cru classé ranking through the various classifications, as opposed to some of her neighbors.
We tasted three wines. The 2014 was pure, fresh, and classy, if somewhat short. The 2012 was very interesting and worthwhile, and the 2010 stole the show. Anabelle says this is the best wine she has ever made.
Corbin is attractively priced and is going from strength to strength. We were very grateful to have visited and to have heard Anabelle’s explanations in excellent English.

We did not visit Château La Dominique, but had lunch at the restaurant there, La Terrasse Rouge. This is run by the team from La Brasserie Bordelaiss, a popular restaurant in Bordeaux. There is something of the New World here, with long communal wooden tables and plate glass windows offering a great view, including of the new cellar at Cheval Blanc, just a stone’s throw away.
The bistro-style food is simple, good, and not too expensive. I recommend La Terrace Rouge when in Saint-Emilion. It is also open on Sunday.

After lunch, we went to Château Figeac. There is change in the air here. The former manager, Éric d’Aramon, left in 2013 and was jointly replaced by the previous Technical Director, Frédéric Faye, and Jean-Valmy Nicolas of La Conseillante. It is rumored that this came about because Figeac was not promoted to Premier Grand Cru Classé “A” status in the 2012 classification. Be that as it may, Figeac has always enjoyed a loyal following and I have the highest regard for the wine, which features a highly unusual blend of grape varieties: 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Cabernet Franc, and just 30% Merlot. The high percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon is due to the part of the vineyard with gravelly soil, more reminiscent of the Médoc than Saint Emilion.

We tasted the 2011 vintage. My notes read as follows:
Color: beautiful and brilliant
Nose: subtle oak and dark fruit
Palate: good acidity and tangy tannin. Nevertheless round, going into mineral. Very well-balanced. Light on its feet. An intellectual wine.

Next on the itinerary was Château Canon, a peer of Figeac (Premier Grand Cru Classé “B”). This turned out to be a delicate exercise because Saint-Emilion has often been described as a gruyère, i.e. a Swiss cheese, due to the numerous underground galleries dug out of solid rock. In fact, there are no fewer than seven levels of these galleries! What this means is that it is forbidden for a bus to go along certain roads because there is danger of their collapsing! We nevertheless drove close enough to Canon to arrive more or less on time… Canon is yet another estate undergoing large scale renovation and the château looks like a major building site. We were taken around the underground cellars, which go on for miles, and also saw a cross-section of the soil. This was very instructive. There is much talk of clay-limestone soil, but it speaks volumes to actually see the solid rock with veins of clay, and the vine roots that push through the latter – a wonderful illustration of terroir.
We tasted 2006 Canon, which looked a little older than its 9 years. The nose was very tertiary with deep cherry aromas. The wine was more expressive on the palate, but seemed austere and not overly user-friendly.

We played tourist in the lovely medieval village Saint-Emilion for an hour, inevitably visiting wine shops (Bordeaux Classique and http://www.vignobleschateaux.com/eng/accueil) and doing some further tasting, including a very fine 2010 Château de Cambes, an expensive but very good Côtes de Bourg from François Mitjaville, owner of Tertre Roteboeuf in Saint Emilion.

Ferrand - menu

Then it was time for dinner at Château de Ferrand, newly promoted to grand cru classé status in 2012. The château belongs to the family of Baron de Bich, whose fortune was made with Bic pens, lighters, etc.
We were taken around by an 18 year-old apprentice sommelier who acquitted himself very well in English. The château is quite impressive and the cellars are lovely. Ferrand also has an unusual sales policy, keeping back old vintages and not selling them for any more than the release price. For instance, they were just finishing off sales of the 1998 at a very reasonable price (twenty some-odd euros).
Bordeaux is well and truly waking up to wine tourism, and Château de Ferrand has embraced this trend. The meal we were served was catered by the Michelin-starred restaurant La Cape in nearby Cenon. We were served a series of vintages and asked to which wine which went best with each course, although I did not take part in the competition.
Having tasted several vintages, I unfortunately cannot say that Ch. de Ferrand is one of my favorite Saint Emilions, but I nevertheless appreciated my evening there and the warm welcome we received.

Château Chevrol Bel Air, Lalande-de-Pomerol

 

Is Château Chevrol Bel Air the best value wine in Bordeaux? Of course, that’s impossible to prove, but it would nevertheless be one of my top candidates! As someone who is not only a lover, but also a student of wine, I rarely purchase by the case in order to taste a greater variety. But Chevrol Bel Air is an exception because is so reasonably-priced and so good.
I went to see the owner, Vincent Pradier, last week. He provided me with some background information and a tasting of four vintages.
Let me start off by saying I have a soft spot for Lalande-de-Pomerol and am a member of the local vinous brotherhood, Les Baillis – http://www.lalande-pomerol.com/baillis.php.
When I first arrived in Bordeaux, Lalande-de-Pomerol sold for the same price as Bordeaux Supérieur. But no more! While no one pretends they are on a par with their more famous neighbor, the wines can be delicious, early-maturing, and a great deal less expensive…
Chevrol Bel Air has been in the Pradier family for three generations. The 20 hectares of vines have an atypical breakdown: 45% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Franc, and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. This is far more Cabernet at than neighboring estates. The vineyard is in a single block on clay, sand, and silt soil on the Chevrol plateau.  The subsoil also contains some of the crasse de fer (ironpan) found in Pomerol.
The vines are an average of 50 years old.

 


Part of the wine’s charm is due to the fact that it is not oak-aged. Vincent’s father nevertheless devised a patented system (see photo) whereby wine in each stainless steel vat is pumped through one barrel to provide controlled oxidation via a regular flow.
Vincent is proud of his 2012, which is quite successful for the vintage. The 2011 is even better with a briary, ethereal, understated nose and a fluid, rich, thirst-quenching sort of flavour. The 2010 is a more serious wine with greater ageing potential than the two previous years. Chevrol Bel Air’s trademark smoothness has to contend with some tannin here. And then there’s my favorite, the 2009, that is a full-bodied sensual wine that it almost Burgundian in its silkiness – until the aftertaste, when Bordeaux tannins assert themselves and give structure to the wine. I would put this wine up against any other in its price category from anywhere in the world!