This is a story that I wrote for Decanter last week, and thought I would put up here with some photos. Off to Hong Kong tomorrow, so will post from Vinexpo next week.
The world’s largest Bordeaux wine store has opened in Lafayette Gourmet on Boulevard Haussmann, within the flagship Galeries Lafayette store that is the second most visited destination in Paris after the Eiffel Tower, with 25 million people per year.
The 250m2 Bordeauxthèque is a joint venture, housed in Galeries Lafayette but owned and run by Duclot, the Bordeaux merchant house owned by Jean Francois Moueix, owner of Pétrus, along with his son Jean. It contains over 12,000 bottles (covering 1,800 references) of red wine, with a small selection of sweet and dry whites. A further 50,000 bottles are stocked in a warehouse in Paris, and there is access to the 5 million bottles in Bordeaux. Prices range from €3.90 for an AC Bordeaux to €20,000 for a Chateau Mouton Rothschild 1945. Every bottle of wine is guaranteed to have come either directly from the chateau, or from Duclot’s cellars in Bordeaux.
‘We were approached by Galeries Lafayette around five years ago to develop this store,’ Jean Moueix, who is due to become president of the group on his father’s retirement in 2011, said. ‘We hope to cater for a range of tastes, as many visitors to this store will have no knowledge of Bordeaux wines. But we also have an unparalleled range of older vintages of the most prestigious chateaux – most of which were released to us by the chateaux themselves.’
These include all the second wines of the first growths – ten vintages of Fort de Latour, six of Carruades – plus a flight of Haut Brion Blanc going back to 1978, 12 vintages of Montrose, 24 vintages of Yquem from 1896 (at €7,500) to 2006. Each of the first growths has 30 vintages on offer, with 32 vintages of Pétrus. The legendary Cheval Blanc 1947 is available at €13,500.
There is also a wide range of large-format bottles, including Impériales, Jéroboams and Nabuchodonosors. A 15 litre Lynch-Bages 2000 is offered at €7,000.
The Duclot group own two other retail outlets in Bordeaux, plus several warehouse-style stores in Paris. ‘The fact that we are already retailers makes it less politically sensitive for the retail clients who buy from our Bordeaux negociant house. We are not trying to be in competition with them, and we would be careful before opening retail stores in their key markets,’ Moueix said, adding that they would consider opening Bordeauxthèques in the Berlin or Shanghai branches of Galeries Lafayette, or potentially in other luxury department stores worldwide.
Very interesting visit yesterday to Direct Wine's new cellars in Castillon-la-Bataille, a pretty town along the Dordogne river, not far from Tony Laithwaite's own property, Chateau Clarière-Laithwaite, in AC Castillon Cotes de Bordeaux. Reflecting its location, this is called Le Chai au Quai (the winery on the river), and is due to fully open in early June, when it will become a great wine tourist destination for the region (and a good addition to his nearby restaurant, Le Comptoir de Genes, which I wrote about a few weeks ago).
This is the French base of Direct Wines/Laithwaites Wine, that is now a huge international company specialising in all things mail-order, wine clubs, internet sites - in all, they deliver wine to over 750,000 customers in the United Kingdom, Europe, Australia, Asia and the US.
Until now, their French base (which is where is all began, when Tony was spending his summers as a student working in vineyards) has been in a small office at his estate, but they are now renovating and moving into a former negociant building in Castillon. It has not been used for 40 years, but was where Tony spent a few summers washing bottles apparently, and the same (retired!) owners have now agreed to a long lease on the building to Direct Wines.
The winery part has been up and running for four vintages now, and follows very much the old-style negociant practise where the negociant puts his own stamp on the wine - so this year, there are three AC Castillons in production that will have both the producer name, and the stamp of Le Chai au Quai on the bottle, for example. In total, around 95% of the wine made here will end up being sold through Laithwaites Wine, most commonly from their UK base. What makes it really fascinating for the area is that, because of their merchant status, they can make wine not only from Castillon, but from many appellation of Bordeaux - and also plenty of wine from elsewhere. There are around 30 differnt wines in production here, including bottles from the Languedoc, Limoux, Spain wine, and a number of other small plots from further afield.
Once the boutique, tasting room and receptions rooms are open, they hope to make it a destination for their clients, who are being given the chance to become Key Holders. For this, they undertake to receive four cases of wine per year (from anywhere on the list, not just Bordeaux), and will be able to come to visit the cellars at any point, and take part in various events that are planned. I imagine they are looking to start something similar to The Wine Society's base up in Montreuil, in the Pas de Calais - definitely something interesting to follow over on the Right Bank of Bordeaux.
7-9 Quai Camille Pelletan
Castillon La Bataille
I had a decaffeinated coffee (me) and a bottle of coke (him) this week with Guillaume Fourcade of Chateau Broustet. He’s part of the new generation of Sauternes who have inherited family properties (he works alongside his uncle Didier Laulan) and who is having to quickly come up with strategies to make this appellation appealing again to consumers.
This is an appellation that I love, and it was a Sauternes that first got me really excited about the possibilities of writing about wine, but it’s not exactly a well kept secret that the region has suffered for some years from a slide in notoriety. Sauternes (and Barsac) was considered famous and sought after enough in the 19th century to be the only other region of Bordeaux to be recognised in the 1855 classification, and at the time almost all reached the same prices, or more, than the Medoc chateaux. Yquem, famously, was the most expensive wine of all Bordeaux and given its own category of Superior First Growth. But tastes have inexorably swung away from sweet styles ever since, and today just 3% of Bordeaux’s overall output is sweet wine, and of that, around 75-80% is drunk in France.
At the same time, they are expensive, time-consuming wines to make, with low yields and an uncertain harvest. All of which makes it a bit of a daunting prospect for the younger generation to take on.
I have mentioned a few recent initiatives in Sauternes that I think might go some way to easing the situation. These are led by Sweet Bordeaux www.sweetbordeaux.com, that I have written about before, a marketing group that runs regular cocktail evenings in bars that are clearly aimed at younger drinkers (although so far only in Bordeaux, and one in Paris), and has mastered social media in terms of blogs, facebook, flickr and twitter.
The difficulty is that – as ever – there are serious disagreements over the best way to move the appellation forward. The classified growths don’t support initiatives such as Sweet Bordeaux, and a well-placed commentator told me the other day, ‘There is just as much competition between neighbours in Sauternes as in the Medoc. But the big difference is that in the Medoc, that competition seems to encourage everyone to do better, while in Sauternes, they pull each other down and in the end no one does well.’
I can’t claim to know enough about the local politics to state whether that is true or not, but I sincerely hope not, because they need to take on new ideas or they will never break out of the impasse (I’m resisting the overly trite temptation to draw a parallel with Cameron and Clegg!!). A brilliant quality year like 2009 will help, of course, but – as I said at the time – these are rich, luxurious and highly complex wines, and not necessarily the best at encouraging a new generation of drinkers. And the prices so far are also only going to speak to Sauternes stalwarts.
So they need some other ideas – and Guillaume seems to offer a good number of them.
Firstly, he is working with Sweet Bordeaux, but has also done plenty to develop his own marketing. He has launched Sweet Broustet, a non-vintage Sauternes in a glass tube, and offers it in a gift box with two other tubes, one of the main wine, and one of the dry white.
More and more Sauternes properties are doing dry whites of course (why not B de Broustet Guillaume?), but it’s a trend that they should all get on board I would think. Review of his is below... He has also done partnerships with Vogue magazine (during Paris Fashion Week) and with Mercedes Benz. And now plans to launch a highly concentrated special bottling of his wine from the 2009 vintage (300 grams per litre plus of residual sugar, in the style of L’Extravagance de Doisy Daene).
I gave the dry white a brief review the other day, but have tasted it again now, and here is a fuller review. This is just the second vintage that it has been made.
Blanc Sec de Chateau Broustet 2009
Full golden colour, probably because the grapes for this wine are picked when at full maturity, just tipping towards over-ripeness. Besides the colour, this comes across in the lovely full palate, and exotic fruits of apricot and mango, but with (just) enough acidity to keep the mouthfeel fresh rather than heavy. The blend is 50/50 Sauvignon Semillon, with the grapes undergoing a cold soak before fermentation, and then vinified half in barrel (100% new oak) and half in stainless steel. It’s has a slightly abrupt finish, but there is plenty of acidity along the way, and that lovely sour crispness that I often find in the dry whites of Sauternes, in an almost fino sherry way. 90.
I went to a very interesting wine tasting and lunch yesterday at Chateau Grand Corbin Despagne and Chateau Corbin, where all six of the Saint Emilion 'Corbin' chateaux presented their 2007 and 2009 wines for tasting. I would also like to thank them, particularly the lovely Annabelle Cruse-Bardinet at Chateau Corbin, for providing an impromptu creche for my two children, and two that were attached to my friend Suzanne Mustacich (AFP journalist).
The chateaux currently have a wine historian piecing together their separate histories, and seeing whether at one point they were one large estate (Helene Brun-Pujinier, who also worked on the Lurton history). It's a great initiative for them to work together (joint marketing rather than sales) - not something that is all that common in Bordeaux, where often neighbours are seen as rivals rather than friends.
Collectively, the Corbins have 70 hectares of vines between them, which is about equivalent to many Medoc estates, and gives them a sizeable amount of wine to put on the market. They are all located (as the name would suggest) on the Corbin plateau, on the Pomerol side of Saint Emilion, with vines that touch Pomerol. Interestingly, in the 1930s when the appellations were set, the estates were given the choice between the two AOCS (as Francois Despagne said yesterday, 'At the time, Saint Emilion was the obvious choice. Today, I'm not so sure...').
There are also some small touches on an estate level that brings them together - the roses at the end of the vines, for example, are all the same variety across the six estates (Manou Meilland variety, so I was told).
Over lunch we had some older vintages, plus the very enjoyable Mayne d'Olivet 2006 white wine from Corbin Michotte. Tasting notes of the 2007/2009 vintages as follows:
Chateau Corbin 2007
This suffers from the 2007 vintage effect, and the fruit is clearly a touch underripe. It is soft and approachable, but is already tasting very much ready to drink, and falls short in terms of length in the palate. 86+
Chateau Corbin Michotte 2007
This seems fairly evolved in colour even after two and a half years, and on the palate also there is some evident undergrowth and truffles suggesting a wine that is moving along quickly. Soft red fruits, there is liquorice here underneath, and it is attractive. But ready to drink! 87
Chateau Grand Corbin 2007
This has more depth of fruit and feels like a younger wine (as they all should do really, having only been bottled a year or so ago). There is fruit here, it feels open, but not disconcertingly so. I like this in fact. Soft autumnal fruits, this suits the wet weather outside, and is crying out for a good book and a fire. 89
Chateau Grand Corbin Despagne 2007
Again, this has more depth of fruit and power than the others have had so far, in fact takes it up a notch again - it has a tannic backbone along with the acidity, there is a weight of fruit that gives good balance, and you feel this has a good way to go before being ready to drink. Very attractive wine – 07 watchers, try this one! 92.
Chateau Grand Corbin Manuel 2007
A little one-dimensional and lacking in fruit. Needs more weight, and more tannins, to give an impact that is missing right now. Not unattractive, just underwhelming. 86.
Chateau Haut Corbin 2007
Again, this is lacking in fruit. It does have better smoky overtones, and some interesting mocha and coffee, but all of that hides briefly, but not for long, a back of basic fruits. It acquits itself, but only just. 88+. (I did enjoy their 01 the other day, at that stage of evolution you are happy for older, softer flavours)
2009s (looking back over my notes, I had only tasted one of these during the primeurs - not sure why, as five of the six are classified, so should have been the the GCC tasting. I gave Grand Corbin Despagne the same mark both times)
Chateau Corbin 2009
Much deeper in colour, immediately obvious. I like the fruit here, but it could do with a little more length. Still, plenty of weight and depth, and definte potential for development. Like the smoky nose. 91+.
Chateau Corbin Michotte 2009
Great nose here, really good swirling spice, very exotic cloves and coffee. Softer fruit on the palate than I expected – in fact really like the restraint that this shows under the powerhouse elements. A well-made, carefully placed wine, with good potential. 93.
Chateau Grand Corbin 2009
Good extraction, but perhaps heading a little too far along the extraction path. This has a shot of tannins, a hunchback rather than a smooth backbone. There are knotted muscles that need to be worked out (you get the rather laboured metaphor). But a lovely finish, your mouth is left with very attractive blackberries dusted with mocha chocolate. Interesting, needs plenty of time to bed in. 92.
Chateau Grand Corbin Despagne 2009
Again, this has a richly intense nose, and lovely deep purple-red colour. But more restraint shown here. This is gorgeous. So much fruit, real weight and texture that is velvety rather than silky. Beatuifully balanced, and great length. Gorgeous, really very successful., Touches of coffee on this finish, but all elegantly done. 95+ (I gave it 95 during en primeur)
Chateau Grand Corbin Manuel 09
A more violent violet colour, but the extraction is a touch brittle. It has weight, but the alcohol feels a touch hot, at least evident, which it hasn’t in the others. Good elements, not cohesive. 89-90.
Chateau Haut Corbin 2009
Very much like the rich nose on this wine, and it goes back to purple red rather than violet. This is good, plenty of rich coffee and mocha flavours, quite distinct, like you are sitting in a Parisian coffee shop in the early morning rush. It’s good, tight and coiled, just could do with a little more balance. 92+
This got a good response on Twitter this morning (and it is Earth Day after all! www.earthday.org ), so I thought I'd put a more in-depth account of the new initiative here.
Launched by the Saint Emilion tourist board, a new wine tourism circuit starts today that allows visitors to get to know more about Saint Emilion's bio-diveristy project, and to meet winemakers who are specifically working with organic or biodynamic agriculture.
Called 'Les Jeudis Bio / Organic Thursdays', these will be run once a month, from today, then again on 13 may, 17 june, 15 july, 12 aug and 16 september.
'2010 has been declared International Year of Biodiversity' from the United Nations,' according to Bertrand Milland, director of the tourist office, 'and as a UNESCO World Heritage site, we wanted to promote this.'
The 'nature' visit sounds really interesting - a walk (of around 30 minutes, starting at 11am, with a bilingual guide) to a wine estate practising organic or biodynamic winemaking, then a picnic lunch at the estate with their wines (and of course all organic produce, much of it locally produced...), where you can discuss the pros and cons of these styles of winemaking, and what they bring to the wine. Then a walk back to Saint Emilion (and the obligatory but enjoyable tour of its underground monuments!).
(incidentally, I was told last week that the tourism site at st emilion is enormously successful, and that 90% of their visits are booked online. Compared to the Bordeaux tourist website, where less than 10% of visits are booked on line - mainly because it takes less clicks to book via the st emilion slite...)
More brilliant research from Liv-ex (the Fine Wine Exchange). They have calculated which Bordeaux chateaux should be bought at ‘en primeur’ and which are normally best left until they are available in bottle.
Over to Liv-ex: 'Buying wine when en primeur (as a future, when it is still in barrel) is supposed to give purchasers access to the best possible prices. But is this always the case? And are some Bordeaux chateaux usually a better buy than others?
For each vintage from 2000–2007, Liv-ex compared the initial London release price of 81 major chateaux with the lowest merchant list price in December three years after vintage (i.e. six months after the wine became available in bottle). Each chateaux was then ranked by its average price movement. For the full methodology of this study, please see the notes.
The Liv-ex En Primeur Hall of Fame (top 20 performing chateaux)
1 Carruades de Lafite 133.3%
2 Ausone 70.7%
3 Latour 59.7%
4 Lafite Rothschild 54.9%
5 Forts de Latour 49.0%
6 Margaux 43.4%
7 Leoville Barton 38.6%
8 Duhart Milon 32.9%
9 Fleur Petrus 29.9%
10 Lynch Bages 23.7%
11 Kirwan 22.0%
12 Cantenac Brown 19.2%
13 Leoville Poyferre 19.2%
14 Pavillon Rouge 18.9%
15 Mouton Rothschild 17.9%
16 Haut Brion 17.7%
17 Malescot St Exupery 17.1%
18 Beychevelle 17.0%
19 Clos Fourtet 15.5%
20 Clerc Milon 15.4%
*Average percentage price move, vintages 2000-2007. The best and worst performing vintages are removed from the calculation.
· Almost two thirds (384) of the wines in the study increased in price in the period between initial release and being available to buy in bottle.
· High-quality vintages prove a better buy than those from lesser years: the top performing vintage was 2005 (39.1% average increase).
· Left Bank wines are generally a better en primeur purchase than wines from the Right Bank. Of the 20 Right Banks wines in the study, just three appear in the top 20 best-performers, whereas nine appear in the bottom 20.
· From 2000-2004 Latour was the top performing First Growth, from 2005 onwards it has been Lafite Rothschild.
James Miles, Liv-ex Director, commented:
“For the First Growths and selected others (such as Carruades, Fleur Petrus, Duhart Milon, Leoville Barton and Lynch Bages) buying at en primeur almost always guarantees you are getting the best price. For the other chateaux in our study it is less certain: only wines from the best vintages (and those lauded by the critics) showed substantial price increases following their initial London release.”
“When you account for the cost of money (as well as the risks involved in en primeur purchases) anything that shows a price increase of less than 15% is arguably better bought when physical. If we use this criteria, then only 235 wines (36%) are classed as definite buys out of our sample of 645.”
I should have the last 2009 reviews up on the site today and tomorrow, but in the meantime, here are my picks of the vintage from the South China Morning Post last Thursday. There are a few others that I would also add (such as La Pointe and Pavie-Decesse, and a few great affordable options) to this, but discussions are part of the beauty of the en primeurs!
Picks of the bunch: new wines live up to the hype
Apr 15, 2010
The Bordeaux en primeur (wine futures) tasting week closed on April 2, with the hosts having opened more than 100,000 bottles of wine for 6,000 visitors, poured into 28,000 Reidel wine glasses, washed down by countless bottles of Abatilles and Badoit still and sparkling waters. Tastings were held in 60 locations around the region, and according to Jean-Marc Guiraud of the Union des Grand Crus de Bordeaux, "were the most successful since the en primeursopened to international buyers and journalists in 1996".
The buzz around the 2009 vintage had begun before the first glass has been picked up - and most wines lived up to the hype. "The best wines this year have an incredible delicacy and freshness aligned with power. The weather was so perfect that our job as winemakers was to simply let the wine speak for itself," says Chateau Mouton Rothschild director, Herve Berland.
I tasted more than 1,000 wines over two weeks in March and April, and have selected my pick of the best wines of the vintage (the best wines to lay down for investment will appear next week).
Vieux Chateau Certan, Pomerol
The 2009 vintage at this well-loved Pomerol estate saw the highest level of merlot since the late 1940s (84 per cent, with the remainder divided equally between cabernet sauvignon cabernet franc; last year, 25 per cent of the grapes were cabernet franc), so it is difficult to call this wine a classic Vieux Chateau Certan. But it has wonderful intensity and mid-palate weight, while maintaining freshness and elegance that owner Alexandre Thienpont seems incapable of not producing. 97-98.
Chateau Trotanoy, Pomerol
An incredible wine from the Christian Moueix stable. Pure fruit, immense structure, wonderfully carried by the tannins and the acidity, this is a beautiful wine. Alcohol levels head up towards 14 degrees, but the balance is perfect. Old vines of 90 per cent merlot, 10 per cent cabernet franc. 98-99.
Chateau la Conseillante, Pomerol
The alcohol is a little higher than in 2005 (14.2 degrees compared to 13.8 then). The blend has 81 per cent merlot, with the rest cabernet franc, aged entirely in new oak - and this translates into a lovely power, with incredibly mouth-filling black fruits, fleshy, well-integrated tannins, held up by an acidity that tells you this is a wine for the long term. 97-99.
Chateau Troplong Mondot, St Emilion (Premier Grand Cru Classe)
Open, brambly black fruits, intense tannins and a sweet fruit finish. Good length, all held together by an acidity that really kicks things up. Successful - a slick production from Christine Valette. It has 15.5 degrees proof of alcohol, which should put this out of contention, but it's so balanced that you can forgive the heat. 94-95
Chateau Pavie Macquin, St Emilion (Premier Grand Cru Classe)
Very different flavour profile, full of liquorice and chocolate, but with an earthiness that is highly appealing, and less "manufactured" than some (biodynamic winemaking is increasingly practised by director Nicolas Thienpont). Alcohol is high, extraction is full, saliva exits stage-left, but it has good length and an unexpectedly soft finish. 93-95.
La Chapelle de La Mission Haut Brion, Pessac Leognan
Second wines - made of grapes not deemed perfect enough for the chateaux grands vins - are seriously worth looking out for this year. They should be well priced, and the overall quality of the vintage means that many have wonderful fruit flavours and will be ready to drink sooner than their big (more expensive) brothers. This second wine of La Mission Haut Brion is a great example, with 44 per cent merlot, 46 per cent cabernet sauvignon and 10 per cent cabernet franc, all aged in 24 per cent new oak. Delicate ruby red fruits, very charming, deceptively frank, but plenty of complexity under the surface. 92
Chateau Malartic Lagraviere, Pessac Leognan (Grand Cru Classe de Graves)
This property, owned by the Belgian Bonnie family, delivers increasingly exciting and successful wines. There's nothing retiring about this - plenty of oak and tannins, enough to require a porter, but with exotic red fruits that make it supremely appealing. A long life ahead. Michel Rolland is consultant here. 93-94.
Chateau Haut Bailly, Pessac Leognan (Grand Cru Classe de Graves)
Plumper, richer and sweeter fruit than the 2008, which was the epitome of restraint - you can clearly tell the sunshine was more generous in 2009. This still has the precision of a classic Haut Bailly, but with a richness to the fruit that is gorgeous. Blend is 60 per cent cabernet sauvignon, 37 per cent merlot and 3 per cent cabernet franc, using 50 per cent new oak. Very classy and understated, especially when retasted against some more exuberant 2009s. Excellent. 95-96.
Chateau Rauzan Segla, Margaux (Second Growth 1855)
This has an intensity and pressing tannic structure that makes it stand out from other wines, but it is still utterly successful. The mix is 52 per cent cabernet sauvignon, with the rest merlot, using 55 per cent new oak. Plenty of liquorice and clear black cherry flavours, but also a great whoosh of freshness that allows the whole thing to float along your palate. Another great wine from director John Kolasa, with the precision that this chateau manages each year. 96-97
Chateau Leoville-Las Cases, St Julien (Second Growth 1855)
Rich, joyously glass-staining purple. Fantastic wine, deep layers of flavour, all perfectly integrated. Lovely weight. 76 per cent cabernet sauvignon, 15 per cent merlot, 9 per cent cabernet franc, aged in 65 per cent new oak. The tannins are keeping things tight, they have their hands firmly around the fruit, protecting it. Damson and vanilla custard inside - delicious. 97-100.
Les Pagodes de Cos, St Estephe
Another second wine worth investigating - this one is by Cos d'Estournel. Not a small wine, at 14.5 degrees alcohol, and it is certainly tight and tannic. Could easily be the first wine of a lesser estate. Fleshy layers of rich black fruits, from 69 per cent cabernet sauvignon, 30 per cent merlot and a small amount of petit verdot. Aged in 50 per cent new oak barrels. 92.
Chateau Leoville Barton, St Julien (Second Growth 1855)
The St Julien appellation was consistently successful in 2009 - just every chateau seemed to deliver brilliant wines. This property, owned by the ever-reliable Anthony Barton, has produced a big, ambitious wine, where the tannins use bellows to suck any available moisture out of your mouth, but then fill the vacuum with a lovely fresh acidity. This is a seriously impressive wine, with powerful damson fruit coupled with a savoury edge. 94-95.
Chateau Pichon-Longueville, Pauillac (Second Growth 1855)
Undoubtedly the most concentrated Pichon it has ever made. 13.8 degrees, and very high levels of tannins, but just so elegant. The balance is perfect - it is wonderfully soft, with beautifully pure fruit and power in the middle but enrobed in silky tannins and a wonderful long finish. Crunchy black fruit with plenty of liquorice. 95-96.
Pavillon Blanc, Bordeaux
The white wine of Chateau Margaux, this is made entirely of sauvignon blanc and is a very different style this year - less opulent, more subtle and mineral than in other years. They worked carefully to keep alcohol reasonable by taking off the most overripe berries from the bunches, and discarding the most high alcohol juice. 94.
Chateau Bouscaut, Pessac Leognan
Pale yellowy gold, delicate colour. Very powerful nose, plenty of fresh lemons and lovely pure fruit. On the palate this has fabulous minerality, really stands out for me. A deftness of touch, but plenty of flavour and a strong finish. 94+
Chateau d'Yquem, Sauternes
The nose is piercingly direct, with an incredibly svelte mouthfeel of orange, lime and lemon blossom. There is enormous richness to it and great length, but the freshness really cuts through it all and seems to further build in the mouth after the liquid has gone. This is close to a perfect Yquem, definitely on a par with the 2007, and maybe with the 2001 - just with an extra kick of exuberance. As usual, a vast majority of semillon, with a tiny touch of sauvignon blanc. 97-100.
Jane Anson is the Bordeaux correspondent for Decanter magazine, and author of the Bordeaux chapters of The Wine Opus (to be published in October, Dorling Kindersley)
Many congratulations to Wink Lorch, publisher of Wine Travel Guides ( www.winetravelguides.com ), that was today named Website of the Week in the Daily Mail, by journalist Fred Mawer.
He says: 'I reckon the guides are as authoritative and detailed as anything you're likely to find on the web.
I had a good browse of the guide to St Emilion in the Bordeaux region, and it's packed with brilliant information.
It picks out local producers that I could visit, giving contact details, cost of tastings, what their wine is like, and the general ambience of the chateaux.
And there's a wealth of other useful stuff too, including recommended places to stay and eat, tips (apparently the food in the restaurants on the main square in St Emilion is not great and overpriced), and a guide to the area's appellations and grape varieties.
You'd pay good money for all this in guide book form, but since last autumn, you've been able to browse the guides on www.winetravelguides.com for free'
I'm so pleased for Wink - she had a great idea to put this guide together back in 2005, and asked various journalists around France (and now parts of Spain and Italy) to write up the regions that they know best. I write Bordeaux, Tom Stevenson Champagne, Tom Perry Rioja, Jim Budd the Loire Valley... and Wink does Jura/Savoie.
So it seems like a good time to say that today I visited one of the properties that I have put into the recent update of the Saint Emilion section - Chateau Faugeres - and ate at one of the new restaurants, Le Comptoir de Genes www.comptoirdegenes.com
This place is really worth travelling for. It's a light, airy and friendly bistro-style restaurant with over 100 Castillon wines from around the appellation. I also bought an interesting wine that is one of their house whites - called Le Blanc de Genes, it's a 100% Cabernet Franc... as a dry white wine. So made in the pinot noir/champagne style, where there is no skin contact with the red grape, and just the juice used. In fact, in the glass the wine has the slightest hint of pink, a bit like a Roussanne grape would. To taste, it is a little sweet, but enjoyable when very cold, and definitely a talking point.
The new winery of Chateau Faugeres is also worth travelling for - strikingly modern, sunken into the hillside and built over three floors for full-on gravity winemaking, it's a little slice of Rioja in Bordeaux. And the views from the terrace are wonderful.
Here is my write-up on the website:
My website is finally working normally, and I have added two more sets of notes to it from the 2009s
The Saint Emilion wines http://newbordeaux.com/documents/saint_emilion.html
And the Pomerols http://newbordeaux.com/documents/pomerol_1.html
And anyone in Hong Kong, my first reports from the primeurs will be in Thursday's issue of the South China Morning Post.
I also thought I'd share a video made by the lovely Miguel Lacoana of www.citywinejournal.com who came for dinner last Friday (armed, rather kindly, with a 1995 Chateau L'Evangile). On our side - although I can only claim responsibility for slicing the stawberries - we provided foie gras, steak and truffle-infused Brie. The results are on video here:
A non-primeurs related piece of Bordeaux news, but very sad!
Bordeaux’s most famous Michelin-starred chef, Thierry Marx, is to leave Jean Michel Caze’s luxury Pauillac hotel, after 10 years working with the Cazes family of Chateau Lynch Bages.
Marx, who is also host of France’s version of Masterchef, known as Top Chef, is due to move to Paris in the next 12 months as restaurant director at a new Mandarin Oriental hotel scheduled to open in 2011 on rue Saint-Honoré.
Marx previously worked at Taillevent and Robuchon, and was awarded his first Michelin star in 1988 at Roc en Valin in Tours. He has worked at Châteaux Cordeillan Bages for 10 years, and now holds two Michelin stars.
Jean Michel Cazes commented, ‘I understand why he doesn’t want to wait forever for his third Michelin star in Pauillac. He has helped us to build this part of Pauillac into a gourmet centre, and now he is looking for a bigger stage.’
Jean Luc Rocha, executive chef at Cordeillan Bages for the last seven years, will be taking over Marx’s role.
Margaux and the southern Medoc
Website still a mystery to me, I have to sit down and concentrate on it, which is never easy! So more notes up on the blog, please bear with me... Anyway, this was a very impressive showing overall from Margaux this year. There were some guilty of over-extraction and high alcohol, but those were in the minority. Cru Bourgeois chateaux to be added soon.
Pavillon Rouge, (AC Margaux)
Paul Pontallier was as word perfect as ever: ‘The grapes given perfect conditions to ripen, and we were given perfect conditions to harvest them.’ This is particularly good. Some wonderful fresh fruit, and a beautiful balance of structure and lightness of touch. The thing about 2009 is that you don’t really how dense it is, because the tannins are so soft. Pontallier agrees: ‘What makes it so extraordinary is the highest density we have ever had, with the suppleness.’ They have been stricter on selection than usual, and made the lowest proportion of Pavillon Rouge ever, and probably one of the best ever produced. 36% into 1st wine. 41% into Pavillom Rouge. 23% into the third wine –13.5% alcohol. A great success. 93-94.
Chateau Margaux, (AC Margaux)
Just utterly gorgeous. Again, this mix of almost silky, unseen power, then a powerhouse of fruit. This is relatively open for a young Margaux; there is a real softness right from the start, but in fact this is the highest levels of tannins that they have ever had. It’s so fresh, and the tannins are so soft and well worked that you can almost not tell they are there. 87% cabernet sauvignon, and a very reasonable 13.3º alcohol. Pontallier rightly says, ‘I have never felt this combination of power with softness and immediate appeal.’ The cabernets for this wine came from the gravel around the chateau. Some cabernets on the property reached up to 15%, but those went into the second or third wine. This is effortlessly elegant. 98-100
Pavillon Blanc, (AC Bordeaux Blanc)
This for me is easily one of the best whites I have tasted during the primeur week – but several people said they preferred the old style, which was rounder and had more impact (it was previously higher in alcohol). Here they have consciously worked a new style, and I loved the tangy freshness, that comes from the cool nights. Had to make many careful decisions not to get the high alcohols that have been dominant in the past (it’s at 13.9%, last year was over 14.5%) because high alcohol can kill the delicate flavours. To do this, they took out the most over-ripe berries on some of the bunches. Eliminated almost the last third of the juice, because the first juice has all the acidity and freshness, the last juice has all the tannins, and far less acidity. It is less opulent perhaps, but much more subtle, more mineral. 100% sauvignon blanc. 94-95.
Alter Ego de Palmer (AC Margaux)
Beautiful density of fruit, technical maturity early September, but waited for phenolic ripeness, and for the vines not to suffer from too much water stress, there was a very necessary bit of rainfall in the middle of September. In the end the yield was low, at 34 hl/h, close to that in 2005, and they will make 7,000 cases of Alter Ego (45%), 9,000 for Palmer (55%). That is a beautiful wine. Wonderfully dense fruit, but real elegance. Utterly gorgeous. Alcohol is at 13.2 – very reasonable level compared to many. I got a very interesting explanation here for the soft tannins that were so marked in 2009 – apparently the cabernet sauvignon berries had very few pips this year – just two average per grape, less than the usual four, which meant that almost all tannins in the wine are from the skin of the fruit (and therefore less potential for astringency) 49% cabernet sauvignon, 51% merlot, 30% new oak. 95.
Chateau Palmer (AC Margaux)
Unusually, the proportion of Merlot is higher in their first wine than second (just), with 52%, rounded out by 41% cab sauvignon and 7% petit verdot, with 50% new oak. This is because the merlot grapes have been planted on a classic gravelly cabernet sauvignon terroir at this Margaux chateau since before World War II, which goes a long way to explaining the balance of elegance and delicacy with power and exotic sumptuousness. As with many wines this year, they have recorded the highest ever levels of tannins in the wine, but it is so velvety, and with wonderful length on the palate. IPT levels probably 87, more than in 2005, but so velvety. And great length, this is very close in quality to Chateau Margaux for me. 98-99.
Chateau Du Tetre 2009 (AC Margaux)
For me, a clear step up from the 2008, even though I enormously enjoyed last year’s. Fruit is plump and sweet and very approachable, especially for a primeur sample, but with great backbone and freshness that makes the overriding impression one of elegance and restraint. 55% cab sauvignon, 22% merlot, 15% cabernet franc and 8% petit verdot. 45% new oak. Picking from 28th September. 94+.
Chateau Giscours 2009 (AC Margaux)
This has been very well received in 2009, but if I had to pick, I'm a fan of the du Tetre this year. Having said that, the Giscours has a beautiful rich colour, deeply extracted, and far more exuberant than du Tetre, more consciously ‘modern’. Lovely sweet vanilla and full extraction, a crowd pleaser with plenty of charm, and lots of development potential ahead of it. 53% cabernet sauvignon, 40% merlot, 7% cabernet franc. 93+.
Ch Fourcas-Dumont (AC Listrac)
Owned by Borie family of Ducru Beaucaillou. From 08 vintage, now named Forcas-Borie. Dark fruits, maybe slightly overoaked (and not enough smoky oak). But good firm structure. 50% cab sauvignon, 40% merlot, 10% peitit verdot, 20% new oak. 88-89
Chateau Siran (AC Margaux)
Lovely depth of fruit, very good wine, slightly short, but I have just come from Palmer! On a retasting, this is very charming, a good value option. 92.
Chateau Rauzan Segla (AC Margaux)
Near equal in quality but very different flavour profile from Margaux and Palmer. This has more intensity, more pressing tannins, but still utterly successful. 52% cabernet sauvignon, 48% merlot, 11% press wine, 55% new oak. Harvest was from Sept 23. Plenty of liquorice and clear black cherry, but also a great whoosh of freshness that allows the whole thing to float along your palate. Another great wine from Kolasa, just gorgeous, with the precision that Segla manages each year. 96-97
Chateau Rauzan Gassies (AC Margaux)
The blend is 75% cabernet sauvignon, up from 55% in 2007, together with merlot 23% and petit verdot 2%. They harvested right up to October 14, one of the latest in the appellation, and have used 50% new oak, which gives an attractive smoky edge. Eric Boissenot has been consultant here since 2007, and this year they tried co-innoculation for the first time (one of his favourite techniques). Unquestionably Rauzan Gassies has been improving in quality over recent years, and this is a gentle wine, with real elegance and good black fruit. But there is still a but... personally I thought the 2008 over-delivered for the vintage, and this slips back down a touch. 93.
Chateau Prieure Lichine (AC Margaux)
Grape blend is 65% cabernet sauvignon, 30% merlot, 5% petit verdot. This is good, very approachable, a nice amount of flashiness, there is evident oak but nothing too over-powering. Really enjoyable. Michel Rolland is consultant. 94.
Chateau Marquis de Terme (AC Margaux)
Changes happening at this estate include a new director and increasing of planting density. The 2009 wine is deep, rich purple in colour, more evident polyphenols than many in Margaux. This is definitely on the powerful side of the 09 spectrum, but actually successfully so, with a burst of freshness on the finish. Not my favourite, but certainly stands up well. 93-94.
Ch Malescot St Exupery (AC Margaux)
This has caused a stir this year, with a very high James Suckling score right off the bat, and it is unquestionably seductive and exuberant. The blend is 57% cabernet sauvignon, 37% merlot, 8% cabernet franc, 4% petit verdot, and a whopping 70% new oak that is put to maximum effect by consultant Michel Rolland. Picking 29 September to 16 October, making it among the last to bring in the final grapes. It lacks some of the lift and softness of the best wines of the vintage for me. 93+
Chateau Lascombes (AC Margaux)
Another Michel Rolland wine, with a blend of 48% merlot, 48% cabernet sauvignon, 4% petit verdot. I seriously preferred the 2008 for this wine (which was in fact one of my wines of the vintage last year). This time they have seriously over-egged the beautiful raw materials that were given in 2009. There is fruit, but it is drowned out by the oak and tannin. Really a shame, because I was looking forward to tasting the Lascombes after last year’s success. Will retaste when it bottle and hope it has calmed down. 90-91.
Chateau Labegorce (AC Margaux)
Another chateau that has seen several changes over the past year – this is the first vintage since Labegorce and Labegorce Zede have been joined together into one wine. The tannins are fairly tight here and there are very well presented rich black fruits. I like it, but not my favourite here, could be a touch more expressive. 50% cabernet sauvignon, 38% merlot, 8% petit verdot, 4% cabernet franc. 91
Chateau Kirwan (AC Margaux)
A blend of 56% cabernet sauvignon, 17% merlot, 13,5% cabernet franc, 13.5% petit verdot (which they say did particularly well this year, and which gives a lovely dark colour and distinctively spicy edge to the wine). There is real power and personality here, and a wet stone minerality on the finish. Perhaps lacks a little elegance, but this is an impressive wine. 94.
Chateau Dufort Vivens (AC Margaux)
78% cabernet sauvignon, 5% cabernet franc, 20% merlot. Good elegance, I always like this wine and they have again produced a very enjoyable wine, with some good but not overworked extraction. 90-92
Chateau Desmirail (AC Margaux)
For me, one of the more over-extracted numbers here, although it does come into balance if you sit with it for long enough. This has 70% cabernet sauvignon, 30% merlot (there is now 2% of petit verdot in the vineyard, but it won’t come into play until next year) They have upped the cabernet sauvignon quite significantly, and harvested it slowly over two weeks. 39 hl/h, fairly similar to 2008. 49 hl/h in 2005. 91.
Chateau Dauzac (AC Margaux)
An Andre Lurton estate (run by his daughter) that has been getting better and better in recent years. 64% cabernet sauvignon, 36% merlot. 72% new oak. This year was a relatively easy vinification, because such good raw materials. Vinified at 28 degrees. A seriously classy wine, where the juice is left on the lees for four months after the malolactic fermentation. Eric Boissenot consultant. 94+
Chateau d’Angludet (AC Margaux)
A touch down for me this year compared to the usual wines from this property, but this is always a reliable Margaux that offers good value (and I’m sure for the price it will still be a good bet this year. Just up against stiff competition in this tasting). 90+.
Chateau Cantenac Brown (AC Margaux)
Simon Halabi’s property continues to assert itself. The blend is 65% cabernet sauvignon, 35% merlot, 50% new oak. They produced 42% of the first wine in 2009, and 58% went into the second wine BriO. This is very emphatic, big and exuberant, almost seductive, if slightly try-hard. The 2008 felt more of a leap in quality for me, but this is certainly keeping up its level. 93-94
Ch Brane Cantenac (AC Margaux)
Good soft tannins that build up in presence in the mouth. This is very attractive, continuing a few years of ever improving performance from this chateau, owned by Henri Lurton. The blend is 53% cabernet sauvignon, 40% merlot, 7% cabernet franc with 60% new oak. Lovely length, highly velvety and seductive. A very successful year for the property. 94.
Villa des Quatre Soeurs (AC Margaux)
Owned by Luc Thienpont, this tiny estate has just 1.4ha planted to 10,000 vines per hectare. The blend in 2009 is 40% cab sauvignon, 55% merlot, 5% petit verdot. Eric Boissenot as consultant, they use entirely one-year barrels, which does help it keep this very delicate feeling. Good fruit, very fresh and can feel that alcohol is moderate (just under 13.5%) – just feels very easy to drink. 91.
Chateau Tayac Plaisance (AC Margaux)
Another Luc Thienpont estate, this has 65% cab sauvignon, 30% merlot, 5% petit verdot. 50% new oak, 50% one year. 3.5has, Jacques and Eric Boissenot again. This has much more power than the Villa, richer riper fruits, but really does finish on a big lift, lots of freshness. Really like this one – their biggest production. 92.
Clos des Quatres Vents
The last of Thienpont’s Margaux triumvirate, and a sweeter, more seductive experience, with 55% cabernet sauvignon, 40% merlot, 5% petit verdot. 7500 bottles a year, so just 625 cases. There is a beautifully sweet edge to the fruit than comes from the 100% new oak barrels, but still with a soft tannins and sweep of acidity that puts among the most interesting of the appellation in 2009. Very impressive. 94-95.
Cercle de Rive Droite
For some reason my website isn't letting me upload anything (breathe... breathe...). So until it does, I will do a rather long and unwieldy posting of my first set of en primeur notes here.
Cercle de Rive Droite: This was one of the first tastings of the week, on the Sunday afternoon at Chateau de Carles in Fronsac. It was also one of the most instructive, because it quickly became apparent that the 2009 wines were not quite as straightforward as imagined. Personally, I was surprised by the quality of the Bordeaux/Bordeaux Superieur wines, and it was only as you headed up the scale that things became more varied. It seemed that as chateaux got better quality raw materials, the temptation to push them too far became tougher to resist. Stephen Spurrier, Decanter’s esteemed consultant editor, commented that the lesser wines in this tasting were ‘really fun to drink’, and I would definitely agree. I didn’t taste these blind by the way – there were over 130 wines, and would have found it tough to be fair to quite so many wines in one three hour afternoon session. I tasted around 90 of them in total.
Chateau Penin, , Bordeaux Superieur
This is a great start to the tasting. Really a delicious wine, really full of rich purple fruits, good flesh, nice acidity, well balanced. A seriously good wine from owner Patrick Carteyron, one of the best I have tasted from this already very good estate. Tastes more expensive than it will inevitably be when on the market. 100% Merlot. 91+.
Chateau Pey la Tour Reserve, Bordeaux Superieur
This is good stuff from a very reliable property, owned by Dourthe negociant house. A little less exuberant than the some on display here, but still very accomplished. 90% Merlot, 5% Cab Sauvignon, 3% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc. 90.
Chateau Sainte Barbe, Bordeaux Superieur
Again, very impressive from this Bordeaux Superieur property owned by Antoine Touton. Lovely weight of fruit, and nice fresh finish. Ever ever so slightly drying tannins at the very end, but enough fruit that this should soften nicely, and an attractive touch of liquorice root. 80% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc. 91.
Chateau Sainte Marie, Entre deux Mers (but this red wine AOC Bordeaux Superieur)
More gooseberry, less successful because the fruit is slightly more withdrawn, more of a typical Bordeaux Sup really, but again, a nice fruity finish. 86% Merlot, 27% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot. 88-89.
Lucullus, Saint Foy Bordeaux
The top cuvee of Chateau Hostens-Picant, owned by Yves Hostens-Picant. This is the first one where the extraction is a little over the top, but having said that, there is a lovely wall of fruit supporting it, and a nice lift at the end. In fact, very good, once it has had time to settle. 91. (The main chateau wine, the Hosten-Picant itself, is not as good, a little hollow in the mid palate and generally less impressive. 87.).
Chateau Clos Chaumont, Cadillac Cotes de Bordeaux
Interesting wine, with very much with its own personality. Owned by Pieter Verbeek, this has a lovely charm, and good redcurrant fruits (60% merlot, 22% cabernet franc, 18% cabernet sauvignon), with a nice tingle of freshness. It doesn’t have enormous complexity, but you would be very happy with this in your glass. Hubert de Bouard is consultant here. 91.
Chateau Le Doyenne, Cadillac Cotes de Bordeaux
Slightly less interesting against the (stiff) competition on display here. A little too extracted, which has dried things out. The fruit is fresh but not overwhelmingly seductive. 70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. 88.
Chateau Mont Perat, Cadillac Cotes de Bordeaux
A big wine from the Despagne family, an injection of fruit and tannins, but a good precise finish, everything comes together on a well defined point. Perhaps a little too hot in alcohol, which throws things a little out of balance. 70% Merlot, 10% Cab Franc, 20% cab Sauvignon. 90+.
Alix de Chateau Plaisance, Cadillac Cotes de Bordeaux
I like this wine, from Philippe Magrez (son of Bernard Magrez. He also does the PR for his father’s wine in the Asian market) Again, it is fairly intense, fairly extracted, but here this is all held together by a very nice burst of freshness. 70% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc. As an aside, Robert Joseph recently asked Bernard if his son would take over the family business. To which Magrez replied ‘s’il a des tripes– If he has the guts’. 90
Chateau Reynon, Cadillac Cotes de Bordeaux
Surprising how good all these wines are. This is very good value, and lovely dense fruit, easily one of the best wines I have ever tasted from this estate (owned by Denis and Florence Dubourdieu), without a doubt. 92.
Chateau Haut Bertinerie, Blaye Cotes de Bordeaux
A reliable Blaye estate owned by the Bantegnies family. More subdued on the fruit than many in this tasting, but that gives it an elegance and a touch of softness that is very appealing. It really sits with you for a while, and is very charming. 90+.
Chateau Cotes Montpezat, Castillon Cotes de Bordeaux
From the Castillon region, this is too high in alcohol for me, without the balance of many, and has overworked the vintage. 70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. 87-88.
Chateau Cap de Faugeres, Castillon Cotes de bordeaux
Another Castillon wine that for me just has too much extraction. A shame, because I often like the wines from this estate (owned by Silvio Denz, and the site of a beautiful new winery). The fruit is dense, but the oak is too insistent. May just need some time, but up against this highly impressive tasting, it falls down. 89+.
Chateau Joanin Becot, Castillon Cotes de Bordeaux
A good 12 hectare estate owned by Juliette Becot. This is really a lovely wine, showing that not everyone in Castillon pushed things too far. Silky, rich red fruits, it really slips down terribly easily, but has an elegant fresh finish. 75% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc. 92.
Chateau de Laussac, Castillon Cotes de Bordeaux
Different flavour palate, more gooseberries and loganberries than cherries and damsons. But this has a strangely hollow mid-palate, and the tannins are less well integrated. 75% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc. 87-88.
Clos Puy Arnaud, Castillon Cotes de Bordeaux
Wonderfully rich colour, very joyful. And this has a delicacy and a purity that is really remarkable. 65% Merlot, 30% cabernet Franc, 3% Cab Sauvignon, 2% Carmanere. Biodynamic. 93.
Chateau de Franc, Les Cerisiers, Francs Cotes de Bordeaux
Leading estate of this tiny appellation, owned by Hubert de Bouard and Dominique Hebrard. Coffee, mocha, good fruit, all in all very pleasurable. 80% Merlot, 10% cab Franc, 10% Cab Sauvignon. 91-92.
Chateau Dalem, Fronsac
Very extracted, heading towards over extracted, and this is big in alcohol. But all in all, this holds things together, and has good layers of coffee and rich dark chocolate. A big wine, making full use of its 90% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc. 90-91.
Chateau Marsau, Francs Cotes de Bordeaux
Owned by Jean Marie Chadronnier, this is 100% Merlot, but it has been quite heavily worked, and deliver impact without enough freshness for me. It’s good, but not my favourite here. 89.
Chateau de la Dauphine, Fronsac
Lovely nose, crisp and fairly restrained. Good length, and very suave. Not perhaps as good as the 2005 from this estate, but still enormously impressive value for money. 80% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc. 91+.
Chateau Fontenil, Fronsac
A Michel Rolland wine, a fact that is clearly marked all over the label. Good start to the wine, but somehow the finish falls too short, and the extraction gets the better of the fruit. 90% Merlot, 10% Cab Sauvignon. 88+.
Chateau Haut Ballet, Fronsac
A good wine from the increasingly high profile Olivier Decelle. This is also 100% Merlot, and is very soft, you kind of melt into it. It doesn’t quite stand up to some of the others on display, but there is a lot of charm, and this will offer easy-drinking pleasure. 89.
Chateau Haut Carles, Fronsac
A property that has seen serious investment in recent years – this is the top cuvee of Chateau Carles, where the tasting is taking place. The wine has power, and is full of tight tannins (consultant is Jean Luc Thunevin). Needs a long time to soften, and clearly aimed at ageing and a long life, but it does have the elements to stack up. Liquorice and coffee abound. But for me it lacks some charm. 90% Merlot, 5% Cab Franc, 5% Malbec. 90-91.
Chateau de La Riviere, Fronsac
Owned by James Gregoire, who now also owns Vintex wine merchants. 82% Merlot, 13% Cab Sauvignon, 4% Cab Franc, 1% Malbec. Nice length, and very good build up in the mouth. I like this. Doesn’t have as much lift on the finish as some (despite the wonderful limestone terroir that Gregoire, has, so that’s a shame). Having said that, this is accomplished, with very silky and well worked red fruits. Good length, no harsh edges, and very enjoyable. 91.
Chateau du Gaby, Fronsac
Pretty, charming, you’d be very happy to be drinking this, but it has less depth than some others on offer in this tasting. 85% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc. 89-90.
Chateau La Vieille Cure, Fronsac
Good powerful fruits, nice lift on the finish, slightly over-intrusive tannins but it keeps everything together, and you can feel this will develop nicely over the coming year. Good. 90-91.
Chateau de Chambrun, Lalande de Pomerol
Very different from the Fronsacs. This is deeper, more solid, slightly brooding. Less of a fun experience, but this is certainly impressive in scope, with good layers of black fruits, at good ripeness. Again a Silvio Denz property. 94% Melot, 6% Cab Franc. 90.
Chateau La Fleur de Bouard, Lalande de Pomerol
85% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 5% Cab Sauvignon. Lovely, lovely fruit, that gently insists, in the manner of a Jackie Collin’s hero in Lace. Really a nice wine, very very enjoyable. I tasted this again at Angelus, and found it just as enjoyable. 93.
Chateau Jean de Gue, Lalande de Pomerol
Charming crisp fruit and very strong roasted coffee beans, you could be spooning a butterscotch angel delight into your mouth here. Lovely wine, from the Aubert family of Ch La Couspaude in Saint Emilion – and no doubt far more keenly priced. 75% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. 91.
Ch Perron la fleur, Lalande de Pomerol
This is more structured, more held together than others in the tasting. Owner Bertrand Massonie has planted 80% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 10% Cab Sauvignon over his small 5 hectare vineyard. As with many of these wines, you are looking for the faults. The alcohol and tannin level is high, that is sure, but it’s well balanced. 90.
Chateau La Sergue, Lalande de Pomerol
85% Merlot, 5% Malbec, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc, owned by Pascal Chatonnet. This is a very intense wine, the fruit is like pure, very intense, like the filling of a hot blueberry pie. It may whack everything else out a little – you have fruit, alcohol, oh and fruit and alcohol. But it’s got ambition. 90.
Chateau Siaurac, Lalande de Pomerol
I like the fruit expression on this, which flirts with you a little before fully revealing itself. There is a nice play of red fruits, redcurrants and cherries, with a crisper gooseberry underneath. Good length Full disclosure here, my husband is third cousins with owner Paul Goldsmidt, but they only discovered that fact 12 months ago and I was giving this wine good points way before! Good value – this is not one of the most expensive Lalande de Pomerols. 91-92.
Chateau Tournefeuille, Lalande de Pomerol
70% Merlot, 30% Cab Franc. This veers into slightly candy territory, a bit overmade. Sorry Emeric Petit, I think it will have definite admirers, and it’s a popular style, but it’s a little sweet for me. 70% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc. 88.
Chateau de Viaud, Lalande de Pomerol
Philippe Raoux’s property (owner of Chateau d’Arsac over in the Medoc), with 67% Merlot, 27% Cabernet Franc, 6% Cabernet Sauvignon. The classic crushed violet nose is there if you look closely, but this somehow manages to be more clunky, less interesting than the others on display here. I have tasted better vintages from this estate. 87.
Chateau Beau Soleil, Pomerol
Owner Thierry Rustman work 3.5 hectares of vines, and makes this 100% Merlot. It’s got very ripe fruit (the sunshine in the name clearly is referring to a microclimate), but in fact is a bit flat overall, needs more of a lift on the finish to avoid the feeling of over-extraction. Shame. 89.
Chateau Bellegrave, Pomerol
This has more body, and more lift on the finish. Incredibly dense fruit, black cherries, damsons, good grip and a lovely minty lift of the finish. Gorgeous effort from owner Jean-Marie Bouldy. 75% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc. 93-94.
Chateau Bonalgue, Pomerol
This is good, nice weight of fruit, it builds nicely and is quite understated, unlike some years where this is a very flamboyant wine. But this is very good, with great potential. Owned by Pierre and Jean-Baptiste Bourotte, with 95% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc. 92+.
Chateau le Bon Pasteur, Pomerol
So ripe as to be very hot, high in alcohol and lacking balance. This is not a good calling card for Rolland this year, and I preferred to 2008 at this estate. Yes there is fruit there, and there is certainly extraction and power, but where is the elegance? 80% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc. 89.
Chateau Bourgneuf Vayron, Pomerol
Lovely. Lots of layers, plenty of complexity, some gently toasted almonds and coffee beans. Slightly too sweet on the finish for me, I prefer a bit of a minty lift, but this is good stuff. 90% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc. 91.
Chateau La Clemence, Pomerol
I love the nose, there is a definite tang of juicy fruit and cherry blossom. A touch over-worked on the palate though, with some over-intrusive oak that needs to settle down over the next year. Good, but no cigar. 85% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc. 90-91.
Chateau Clos de Clocher, Pomerol
Another Pomerol estate from Pierre and Jean Baptiste Bourotte. This is fleshy and voluptuous, more of a style that I find in Bonalgue normally. But really very successful. Delicately floral nose from the cabernet franc, no harsh tannins, good length, very seductive. 70% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc. 93.
Chateau La Croix, Pomerol
Redcurrant and gooseberry on the nose, a flavour that I have found on a number of good Pomerols this year. Love that flavour. This is gorgeous. A Janoueix wine – increasingly a name to look out for on the Right Bank, at all price levels. 60% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon – this gives it more gravitas, but a little less flirtatious fun. Only drawback for me is that this is evidently high in alcohol. 93-94.
Clos de l’Eglise, Pomerol
Chewy, concentrated tannins. This has lovely backbone, very good freshness, and a lot of power. Good coffee beans and dark, bitter chocolate. This is awesomely good, easily one of the best in the tasting. Owned by Sylviane Garcin-Cathiard and Helene Garcin-Leveuque (owners also of Haut Bergey in Pessac Leognan, with Alain Raynaud as consultant here). 80% Melrot, 20% Cabernet Franc. 95+.
Domaine de l’Eglise, Pomerol
Again very good, nice coffee aromas, but not the punch of the Clos L’Eglise. Owned by Philippe Casteja, this has 95% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc. 92.
Chateau Fayat, Pomerol
Clement Fayat, owner of La Dominique in Saint Emilion also. That is extracted to within an inch of its life. It does finally soften out with the fruit, but the extraction is distracting. 60% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Franc. 91.
Chateau Feytit Clinet, Pomerol
Owned by Jeremy Chasseuil. Not a well known Pomerol wine, but charming, and I really like it. Good coffee, nice freshness, interesting complexity. 91.
Chateau La Fleur de Gay, Pomerol
Lovely nose, toasted oak, roasted coffee beans, percolating coffee, yum. Really nice, very exciting wine, plenty of balance, it head towards over alcohol, but pulls itself back. A very big wine, but full of swagger. 100% Merlot from Alain Reynaud and his wife Chantal Lebreton. 94-95.
Chateau Mazeyres, Pomerol
A reliable, unflashy wine from Alain Moueix. It’s not quite as enjoyable as I’d hoped from this estate – there is good weight of fruit, nice freshness, but doesn’t quite deliver the sexiness that the best Pomerols seem to have this year. 91.
Chateau Montviel, Pomerol
Big, concentrated, very good wine from Catherine Pere Verge and consultant Michel Rolland. These are wines that you have to pay attention to. I like this, but don’t love it - all the component parts to be a solid performer is here, but it isn’t yet taking off. However, I just tasted a number of older vintages of Montviel, and it certain seems to reach greatness more often than not, so I am definitely prepared to give it time. 80% Merlot, 20% Cab Franc. 91.
Chateau le Moulin, Pomerol
Good, sweet oak, lots of plump fruits, very modern in style, very crowd pleasing, could have a little more elegance and a little more terroir. But still, this is flashy and exuberant and very good quality. 80% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc from owner Michel Querre. Very nice finish, it sits in the mouth for a while, and builds to a rousing finish. Good. 93.
Chateau Rouget, Pomerol
Owned by Jean Pierre Labrueyere and his son Edouard, a Burgundy family who have vineyards both in Burgundy and Bordeaux (and follow a Burgundian philosophy to a large extent, with everything very small scale, natural and precise – often the malo hasn’t even finished by the primeurs, although this year it seems to have done). The grapes mix is 85% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc. Good crisp fruit, it still needs some time to soften up, but this is really very successful. Bright purple fruits, very tight, very held together, enormously pleasurable, and far from being ready to approach. 94.
Chateau Taillefer, Pomerol
Owned by Catherine Moueix. 75% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc. Smoky oak, slightly sweet blackcurrant fruits. This is less cohesive for me than some of the samples of display. It’s good, but there is stiff competition. 75% Melrot, 25% Cabernet Franc. 90.
Chateau Vieux Mallet, Pomerol
90% Merlot, 10% Cab Franc from Herve Laviale of Franc Mayne in Saint Emilion, and right now investing seriously in this estate. It’s a bit over-oaked (but no surprise there, this is often a signature of this family of wines), and a touch over-pedalled on the extraction. But there is good stuff underneath, enough plump fruits, to carry it through, and an excellent lift on the finish. 91+.
Chateau Vray Croix de Gay, Pomerol
75% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc. This is a lovely from the Goldscmidt family (and incidentally one of the wines that will be affected by the Pomerol ruling that says all estates must vinify in the appellation by 2018). There is a l.o.t of alcohol, but good balance, incredibly well toasted coffee beans, and really very charming. Very nice finish, a good lift on the finish. 93.
Chateau de Pressac, Saint Emilion Grand Cru
Good quality, lots of understated elegance at first, but actually quite a showy wine once it starts to assert itself. Quiet confidence from Jean Francois Quenin, like it – will need some time to fully reveal itself. 72% Merlot, 13% Cab Franc, 12% Cab Sasuvignon, 1% Pressac, 2% Carmanere. 92.
Chateau Quinault, Saint Emilion Grand Cru
Very slick, very well made, full of smooth, rich coffee. New owners Alberet Frere and Bernard Arnault showing their intentions here. This is impressive, but it is ever so slightly a+b=c, not as interesting as it could have been, and the 05 was better for me. 91.
Chateau Jean Faure, Saint Emilion Grand Cru
Tastebuds losing the will to live by this stage of the tasting, but this lovely wine from Olivier Decelle has picked them back up again. This is good, full of flavour, very rich, good extraction, nice solid finish, with a touch of lift. 50% Cabernet Franc, 45% Merlot, 5% Malbec. 92
Chateau Peby Faugeres
Silvio Denz here works a 100% Merlot. Richly coffee and chocolate, very modern, and I imagine will please a number of critics. It’s good, but fiercely rich and high in alcohol. Needs to soften. 91.
Chateau La Couronne, Montagne st emilion
100% Merlot, Thomas Thiou (president of the satellites I think, correct me if I’m wrong!). This is full on alcohol, very rich in fruit and tannins, it does manage to have some balance, but your tongue is left with alcohol, so for me it falls short a little. 89-90.
Chateau de Lussac, Lussac st emilion
I really like this. Plenty of extraction and rich fruit (this is a Herve Laviale estate), but this one has elegance also, and a really lovely core of fruit. Great value for money. 91+.
Chatea Patris, St Emilion Grand Cru
The vineyards here touché the southern tip of Angelus. This is great value for money from owner Michel Querre (of Le Moulin in Pomerol). Like this a lot, a bit high on alcohol, but nice fruits and some good tannic backbone. 91+.
Chateau Girolate, Bordeaux
This Despagne family star, from 6 hectares of 100% low yielding Merlot vines, is really gorgeous this year. Very smooth, very classy, rich well worked black fruits. Would I mistake it for a classified growth? Probably not (okay, maybe for Lascombes which I love but is similarly flashy), but unquestionably it is a very good wine, very accomplished, and I know that in 10 years it will be delightful. 94.
This is 50/50 sauvignon semillon This is very grassy, but at the same time very sweet and round, and lacks some acidity. Nowhere near as successful as the red. 89-90.
Tour de Mirambeau white, Bordeaux Blanc
Much better, also from the Despagne family. This has a lovely freshness to the glass, and great mix of pineapple, apricot and some fresh green apple. 70% sauvignon blanc, 30% Semillon. 91.
Chateau Haut Bertinerie, Blaye Cotes de Bordeaux
Good freshness, some lovely rich mouthfeel but it stays delicate. 91-92.
Cuvee Madlys, Chateau Sainte-Marie, Entre deux Mers
For me, a little too low in acidity. Has very rich apricot and mangoes, and really very good mouthfeel, Should be very successful, just not with me. 90.
Chateau Sainte Marie, Vielle Vignes
Apricot, lemons, full of richness, again this is not my kind of white wines, not anywhere near enough acidity for my clearly boringly European palate. But I can’t deny that it is seductive, and will have fans. 90.
Chateau Reynon, Cotes de Bordeaux
Thank god for Dubourdieu. He manages to get acidity out of even the hottest years. This is lovely, very delicate, great balance and lovely juicy fruit. 88% Sauvignon, 12% Semillon. 92.
A quick update on a Decanter story I wrote a few months ago, about The Sampler wine shop in Islington (London) having Bordeaux 2009 samples out for public tasting.
This has now been confirmed, with 25 wines on the machines, starting on Saturday 24th for up to 2 weeks (if the bottles last that long – it's the first year they have done it, so of course not sure how popular it will be). Confirmed wines so far include:
Haut Bages Monpelou
Domaine de l'Eglise
Domaine de Chevalier
Smith Haut Lafitte
Still a few more wines to go next week, including Latour and Pontet Canet, but over 1,000 wines tasted over the past 14 days, and I think you could fairly say I have got a feeling for the 2009 vintage!
It's been a great en primeur season this year, not least because so many people have been here, so the atmosphere has been fun. Over 220 journalists (and many from mainstream press such as the Guardian, the Wall St Journal and others, which is always the sign of a big vintage). Plus 6,000 tasters in total, the vast majority wine buyers from around the world - plenty of interesting dinners and opposing points of view (Cos d'Estournel anyone??).
My notes on the vintage are going to be published in the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong this year - run over two weeks, one on best wines of the vintage, and the other on best investment wines. My full notes (because those two will only be a fraction of what I have tasted) will of course be on www.newbordeaux.com in the next few days, and will also be published on http://www.bordoverview.com/
This Dutch site, owned by David Bolomy, is one of the best sources of information on Bordeaux wines (Bolomy is also a wine merchant), and he collates the scores (and the prices) of the major wines for both Right and Left banks of Bordeaux back to 2004.
He also wrote a very kind blog post recently about why he had chosen to feature my scores on this site:
I'll include here one of the things that he has pointed out - a review I wrote for the 2008 vintage that gives you some good clues about the wines that I will like for the 2009 vintage!
Château Bellevue-Mondotte 2008, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru. This is a blockbuster style wine from Pavie's Gérard Perse. Robert Parker is in heaven − "a compelling wine of great depth, richness, and aging potential" − but Anson sings a different tune: "You need a hacksaw to get through this, an ice pick to begin to claw your way up its sides. It has been cropped to 18 hl/h and you can tell! Probably a wine that Perse is very proud of, and it certainly packs a punch, but it is fierce and not for me, I’m afraid. 86/100"