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Bordeaux 2010

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

Here are my notes from the annual Institute of Masters of Wine tasting, held in London on Wednesday 5 November – an utterly appropriate date to appreciate some vinous fireworks.

I’ve never tasted a vintage quite like it, not even 2005 and on this evidence of this tasting, the wines are every bit as good as their reputation, even if as it always bound to be the case, one or two fall short in one way or another.

The weather in 2010 was remarkably favourable, even allowing for a late budding and a difficult flowering. Indeed, the reduction in yields brought about by the latter only served to concentrate the remaining crop.

Rainfall was low, but a burst of heavy rain on 7 and 8 Sepetmber came to the rescue and enabled the grapes to achieve a remarkable level of ripeness. As Florence de la Filolie of Château Laniote (Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé) remarked, “The very high sugar levels did, however, give us cause for concern: very small, sugar-gorged berries, with very thick skins rich in polyphenols. Despite the high potential alcohol, we had to wait a while to secure the full phenolic ripeness of the skins and pips.” This duly came in early October after weeks of perfect conditions: warm days and cool night that mean that the 2010s are both more aromatic and have fresher acidity than the 2009s. Florence reported that, “the fermentations started without any further worries, despite the high sugars. The polyphenols in the skins were easy to extract.” She then adds, “Because of the high level of alcohol we had to manage the process of vinification with great care to ensure against any over-extraction of the tannins.” Other winemakers were less careful, especially in Saint Emilion and Pomerol, as my notes show.

That said, the dominant characteristics of 2010 are balance allied with power and often an extraordinary depth of fruit. The different appellations are clearly defined. Margaux is exceptionally good, with the perfume of many wines, for once, completely in line with the reputation of the appellation. One small surprise at this tasting is the relative softness of the acidity of some wins from Saint Estèphe in comparison to the Pauillacs.

I’m cautious with making comparisons with past vintages, but I can’t help being reminded of the similarities that the red wines have with the much-fabled 1961, though 2010 is a bigger crop, alcohols are much higher, and by and large, blessed of course, with much better winemaking. The sweet wines are also very good indeed.


Château de Fieuzal
Intense with lots of savoury black fruit and scented with a whiff of iodine.
Fresh acidity, firm, ripe tannins, balanced and quite long – very savoury.
Château Haut-Bailly
Very perfumed and complex – fine, classic, cedary aromas.
Fresh acidity, very silky but persistent tannins. Long with a savoury finish.
Château Haut-Brion
Rich and complex, but just a little closed.
Lots of concentrated, creamy black fruit. Fine balance of acidity and tannin. Great elegance, despite at least 15% abv. Very long.
Château La Mission Haut-Brion
Big, rich and scented, quite complex.
Fresh acidity balanced by rather firm tannins. Complex flavour of almost herby black fruit. Long.
Château Smith Haut Lafitte
Very fragrant.
Juicy acidity and ripe, silky tannins – lovely balance. Quite concentrated, but marked more by elegance and length.
Domaine de Chevalier
Quite a powerful aroma – very savoury.
Fruitier on the palate with a good balance of fresh acidity and silky tannins. Long, with new oak showing at the end.


Château Cantemerle
Rather green and stalky in the context of the vintage.
Sweeter and riper in the mouth than the nose suggests, with fresh acidity and slightly dry tannins, but quite elegant and also quite long.
Château La Lagune
Rather closed, but good concentration.
Balanced acidity and tannins. Attractive in a rather chunky way, but lacks complexity.


Château Boyd-Cantenac
Very perfumed, cedary and almost spicy.
Sweetly ripe with balanced acidity and tannins. Already open, not overly concentrated, but quite long.
Château Brane Cantenac
Beautifully perfumed, with concentrated, elegant black fruit.
Refreshing acidity balanced by firm but silky tannins. Sweetly ripe, long and very elegant. Lovely wine.
Château Cantenac Brown
Very deeply coloured. Concentrated perfumed black fruits.
Very fresh acidity and firm tannins. Lovely juicy black fruit. Long and elegant with new oak showing.
Château Durfort-Vivens
Relatively simple, fruity nose.
Balanced acidity and tannin. Relatively light, but quite long with a very savoury finish.
Château Giscours
Elegant, rather perfumed black fruit. Quite concentrated.
Fresh acidity and firm tannins – finely balanced with a creamy texture. Long oaky finish.
Château Lascombes
Very scented, even perfumed.
Balanced with fresh acidy and firm tannins. Quite long.
Château Margaux
Intensely aromatic matched by extraordinary complexity.
Fresh acidity balanced by wonderfully silky tannins. Very perfumed in the mouth; elegant, intense and very long – a stunningly good wine.
Château Palmer
Scented, very elegant, with cassis aromas.
Extremely elegant in the mouth, balanced, complex and long.
Château Rauzan-Gassies
Quite complex, perfumed, but a little raisiny.
Fresh acidity, but not quite as tannic as many and also relatively light. Reasonable complexity and length.
Château Rauzan-Ségla
Intensely perfumed and spicy.
Balanced with fresh acidity and firm tannins. Good concentration. Very elegant and long.

Saint Estèphe

Château Calon-Ségur
Big and powerful, though just a little stalky.
Balanced with juicy acidity and firm tannins. Quite long and concentrated.
Château Cos d’Estournel
Very deep-coloured. Powerful aromas of savoury black fruit.
Very rich, concentrated and complex. Marked more by its abundant tannins than by acidity. Very long.
Château Cos Labory
Complex, very perfumed fruit – brambles and mulberry with spice.
Very rich, intense and sweetly ripe, relatively soft acidity but firm, silky tannins. Very long. Impressive.
Château Lafon-Rochet
Black olive aromas seem almost reductive.
Very sweetly fruity. Tannin defines the structure more than acidity. Reasonable length but not too complex.
Château Montrose
Big, black and concentrated.
More tannic than acid. Very concentrated cassis and other black fruits. A bit chunky. Powerful. Quite long.

Saint Julien

Château Beychevelle
Sweetly-perfumed aromas of ripe cassis.
Fresh acidity and firm, strong tannins. Big and powerful with dark fruit and liquorice. Not, perhaps, the last word in elegance, but very long.
Château Branaire-Ducru
Quite scented, complex black fruits.
Fresh acidity, firm tannins. Black fruits and liquorice again. Powerful and long.
Château Lagrange
Classic, creamy, cedary and complex.
Balanced acidity and tannin. Sweet, quite rich, a little chunky. Long
Château Langoa-Barton
Fine, elegant and complex.
Very juicy acidity and firm tannins – big structure but well balanced, with lots of fruit. Very long.
Château Léoville-Barton
Very concentrated, intense, very ripe even raisiny.
Big and structured, with balanced acidity and tannin. Masses of sweetly-ripe fruit and very long.
At best, an excellent wine, but quite a lot of bottle variation.

The imposing gates of Chateau Leoville Las-Cases, one of Bordeuax's finest estates

Château Léoville-Las Cases
Lovely purity of intense cassis fruit.
The purity continues onto palate. Elegant balance, but rather dry finish.
Château Léoville-Poyferré
Deep, rich, earthy aromas.
More tannin than acidity. A creamy texture. Quite complex and long.
Château Saint-Pierre
Very scented black fruit. Complex.
Fresh acidy and firm tannin, but with a lightness of touch, great elegance and length.
Château Talbot
A first seemed a little reductive – tight, rich concentrated cassis.
Fresh acidity, firm, silky tannins, good depth of cassis flavours, quite complex and long.


Château Batailley
Pure, fine, concentrated cassis
A little more tannin than acidity. Creamy. Cassis flavours. Quite long but lacks a little complexity.
Château Duhart-Millon
Slightly stalky black fruit.
More tannin than acidity. Quite complex and long.
Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste
Perfumed with tobacco and cedar – classic claret aromas.
Fine balance of acidity and silky tannins. Good length.
Château Haut-Batailley
Intense, complex, creamy, black fruit perfume.
Very juicy, pure fruit flavours, silky tannins and fine length. Incredibly attractive wine.
Château Lafite-Rothschild
Very exciting, perfumed black fruit. Great complexity.
Fresh acid and even more, finely textured tannin. Very long. Outstanding.
Château Mouton Rothschild
Deep, complex, concentrated black fruit aromas, especially of cassis.
Fresh acidity and powerful tannins. Silky texture, sweet fruit, powerful and long.
Château Pichon-Longueville
Very complex, fine, spicy black fruits, well integrated oak.
Fresh acid, firm tannins – very well-balanced. Pure, intense and very long, with new oak at the finish.
Château Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande
A little closed, but elegant and perfumed.
Balanced acidity and tannin. Beautifully ripe, juicy but elegant fruit. Long.
Château Pontet Canet
Big, ripe and complex, cassis to the fore.
Lovely balance and great purity of fruit. Very good length.


Château Angelus
Sweet, open and brambly. Quite complex.
Soft acidity, moderate levels of tannin. Sweet, attractive, brambly fruit. Reasonably complex and long. Good wine, but not quite up to the level of the longer established first growths.
Château Beauséjour-Bécot
Tobacco and spice – very complex.
Moderate acidity and quite firm tannins. Rasperry, bramble and other dark fruits. Quite elegant and long.
Château Bélair-Monange
Big, ripe, chocolatey aromas, with spicy fruit. Complex.
Quite structured; moderate acidity and rather dry tannins. Seems rather extracted. Quite good length, with new oak showing.
Château Berliquet
Fine, fresh, red fruit aromas, with ripe brambles. Good complexity.
Quite fresh acidity with balanced, but not pronounced tannins. Very elegant and quite long. Already approachable.
Château Canon
Fine, elegant, perfumed and complex.
Quite soft acidity and moderate tannins. Rich, ripe chocolatey. Quite complex. Long and already quite open.
Château Canon La Gaffelière
Big, open, raisiny fruit. Rather extracted, with alcohol showing too.
Soft acidity, moderate tannins, rich chocolatey flavours – rather more interesting than the nose. Quite long.
Château Cheval Blanc
Very perfumed, with grassy raspberry aromas. Very complex.
Quite soft acidity but rather firm tannic structure. Slightly herby. Intense. Very long, with new oak at the finish.
Château Corbin
Perfumed new oak, with rich, brambly fruit.
Soft acid, but quite firm tannins. Quite powerful, with good complexity and length. Alcohol shows at the finish.
Château Dassault
Perfumed, with medium intensity and complexity.
A little higher acidity than tannin. Rich, chewy and chocolatey. Quite complex and long.
Château La Dominique
Intense savoury and dark chocolate aromas.
Powerful, alcoholic and with a structure based rather more on tannin than acidity. Long.
Château Figeac
Big, but fine, ripe, complex aromas with new oak showing.
Quite structured, with rather dry tannins, sweet fruit and a long finish dominated by new oak.
Château Grand Corbin
Very ripe brambly fruit – perfumed and complex.
Soft acidity, moderate tannins, ripe. Quite concentrated and long.
Château Larcis-Ducasse
Elegant, complex, perfumed aroma of brambles and tobacco.
Sweetly ripe, neither very acidic nor tannic, but rich, easy and perfumed in the mouth, with brambly fruit and good length.
Château Pavie Macquin
Dark, creamy and concentrated, with chocolatey aromas and alcohol.
Quite firm tannins. Big, rather extracted flavours, but good length.
Château La Tour Figeac
Perfumed and quite intense.
Moderate levels of acidity and tannin. Lighter in the mouth than many, with red fruit flavours. Quite long.
Château Troplong-Mondot
Sweetly ripe aromas of chocolate, cherry and brambles. Perfumed, complex and concentrated.
Fresh acidity and moderate tannins. A lovely depth of fruit, with both concentration and length. Very fine.
Château Trottevieille
Big, raisiny, over-ripe aromas.
Acidity is quite high, but also seems a little volatile. Rather dry tannins. Lacks elegance, but quite long.
Judgement reserved.
Clos Fourtet
Perfumed – almost herby and complex with brambly fruit.
Medium acidity and a moderate level of tannins, finishing long, a little dry, but with an underlying elegance.


Château Beauregard
Rich, plummy chocolatey and quite complex.
Moderate acidity and quite firm tannins. Medium length and complexity. A little chunky.
Château Le Bon Pasteur
Very perfumed. Quite complex.
Balanced acidity and tannins. Surprisingly light-bodied with a long flavour of red fruits.
Château Clinet
Deep, ripe brambly aromas. Quite complex with new oak showing.
Soft acidity and miderate tannins. Very ripe, quite complex, but a little short.
Château La Conseillante
Oaky, perfumed intense and very complex with black fruit aromas.
Balanced acidity and tannin. Spicy and long.
Château La Fleur-Petrus
Deep, powerful, intense and chocolatey.
Sweetly ripe, but quite elegant, brambly fruit, with balanced acidity and tannins. Long.
Château Gazin
Aromatic and fine with complex, brambly fruit.
Medium acidity and tannin, with very ripe, but fine, brambly fruit and a long finish.
Château Nenin
Dark, complex, chocolately, black fruits.
Quite fresh acidity and quite firm tannins. Complex and long.
Château Petit Village
Very perfumed, spicy, brambly and extremely complex.
Balanced acidity and tannins, elegant and long.
Château Trotanoy
Fine, concentrated, rich and complex.
Quite soft acidity, medium tannins, rich, with bramble and mulberry flavours. Very long. Classy.
Clos René
Open, but complex, ripe red fruit aromas, especially raspberry.
Less complex in the mouth. Medium acidity and quite firm, chewy tannins. Quite long.
Domaine de L’Église
Rich, quite plummy mulberry aromas. Not overly complex.
Balanced acidity and tannins. Good concentration and length. Already quite open.


Château Climens
Intense but elegant peach and apricot aromas.
Soft acidity, very sweet, creamy and long. Oak showing.
Château Coutet
Fine, elegant aromas.
Rich, sweet, elegant and long.
Château Rieussec
Elegant, but the alcohol shows a little.
Fine with quite fresh acidity, a good concentration of peach and apricot fruit and good length.
Château Suduiraut
Complex, intense, botrytised fruit.
Sweet, intense orange and apricot fruit. Good freshness, creamy and long.
Château D’Yquem
Quite pale coloured. Very intense but elegant peachy aromas. Very complex and very beautiful.
Medium acidity, extraordinary elegance, balanced sweetness and great length. Outstanding.
Clos Haut-Peyraguey
Big, ripe, marmalade and apricot aromas.
Sweet, quite soft acidity. Good level of complexity and length, though with a slightly bitter finish.

Bordeaux 2009: An overview

Thursday, November 14th, 2013

Bordeaux 2009 produced some superb wine. It is not uniformly great, but the praise lavished on it, even before the harvest was complete, is justified on the evidence of the annual Bordeaux tasting held by the Institute of Masters of Wine on 7 November. It offered a marvellous opportunity to taste 106 of the best wines, a year or so after bottling.

After a successful flowering and fruit set, a warm, sunny summer produced high sugar levels and with good reserves of ground water, the vines were not stressed. The only real concern was that full phenolic ripeness proved a little stubborn. Fine weather into October rewarded the patient and acid levels did not drop as low as some growers feared.

Bordeaux grapes

This tasting confirmed earlier impressions that the best wines were made on the left bank, especially in the Médoc. 2009 was a glorious year for Cabernet Sauvignon. The right bank wines can be very good too, but with high alcohol, and a balance in which tannin levels are relatively high and acidity relatively low, the Merlot-based wines sometimes lack the finesse and elegance so evident in Pauillac and Saint Julien.

2009 is also proof that no vintage ‘makes itself’. Some winemakers managed to express the superb quality of the fruit with deft restraint, others seem to have been so dazzled by it that they tried too hard to extract every last drop of flavour from it. High pH also means many wines were open to spoilage by brettanomyces, but only rarely was I aware of this in the finished product.

More worryingly, perhaps, although we found few examples of TCA in the samples provided for the tasting, there was often quite a lot of bottle variation. One striking example was Cos d’Estournel. Why this should be so is rather a puzzle.

In keeping with the way Bordeaux these days, many of these wines are perfectly approachable now though they will undoubtedly mature well and reveal much more.

Here are my notes. They are, perhaps inevitably, a series of snapshots rather than a deeply considered assessment. I didn’t quite manage to taste every wine, but tried to cover as much ground as possible. I’ll follow the traditional order of the MW tasting, but have integrated the first growths into their respective appellations.


The wines are generally perfumed, though less than in Margaux. Most show elegance, balanced by a sturdy acidic and tannic structure.

Château Bouscaut

Perfumed, though just a little green. Fresh acidity and firm tannins, again just a little green and unripe, a little light, but otherwise elegant.

Château Carbonnieux

Ripe, perfumed black fruits. Fresh acidity and firm, but ripe tannins. Medium body and concentration. Just a little short.

Château de Fieuzal

Ripe, perfumed and complex. Medium acidity with rather more tannic, which is a little dry. A long, scented aftertaste.

Château Haut-Brion

Perfumed black fruits – already quite open. Fresh, elegant, sweet and long.

Château Marlartic-Lagravière

Again perfumed, elegant and complex – especially perfumed in the mouth with fresh acidity and ripe tannins.

Château La Mission Haut-Brion

As perfumed as any in the appellation and more elegant than most, but also spicy, complex and very long. Balanced acid and tannins, but neither stick out.

Château Olivier

Quite concentrated and ripe with black fruits. Long, but chunky and just a little over-extracted.

Château Smith Haut Lafitte

Even more black and concentrated, with obvious new oak. A powerful wine.

Domaine de Chevalier

Perfumed with more new oak, and a complexity in which Brett plays a part.

Very ripe with quite low acidity.


Château Cantemerle

Scented black fruits – a little closed. Fresh, juicy acidity, quite firm tannins, a long, perfumed finish.

Château La Lagune

Rather a savoury, meaty aroma. Hefty structure: ripe but chunky.


As with the Graves the word ‘perfume’ pops up in most of my notes. It is merited – these wines really do express the typicity of their terroir – as do also those of the other leading appellations of the Médoc. Quality, as so often in Margaux, is not quite a homogenously high as in St Julien or Pauillac. A few wines are a little too extracted, with dry tannins.

Château Giscours

Quite complex and perfumed, with fresh acids and rather dry tannins. It need time.

Château d’Issan

Sweetly ripe and perfumed, with rather chunky, chewy tannins.

Château Kirwan

Fresh and perfumed, with spicy new oak too. Medium acidity but rather dry tannins, then a nicely perfumed aftertaste.

Château Lascombes

Lighter than most, but perfumed. Open, sweet and quite soft.

Château Margaux

Very, very perfumed – almost to the point of volatility, but then a lovely balance – fresh, perfumed fruit – the very essence of Margaux – ripe but supremely elegant.

Château Marquis de Terme

Very perfumed and ripe, almost overripe. Quite tight tannins and fresh acidity. A bit short.

Château Palmer

A model of perfumed elegance married to real concentration. Sweetly ripe and complex with a fine structure and balance. Very long.

Château Prieuré-Lichone

Relatively lacking in complexity, but fresh and perfumed. Ripe tannins. A bit short.

Château Rauzan-Ségla

Another wine lacking complexity, but it’s sweetly ripe, with black fruit and a little short.

Château du Tertre

Fresh, but slightly stalky and not too complex. Sweetly ripe and a little short.

Saint Estèphe

True to type, the wines are big and structured.

Château Calon-Segur

Sweetly ripe and relatively simple, with ripe chunky tannis and a good length of ripe, black fruit.

Château Cos d’Estournel

The best bottle showed a real concentration of ripe black fruit with a slightly herby perfume. Sweetly ripe, with medium acidity, quite soft but persistent tannins and good length.

Château Cos Labory

Tight and a bit closed. Fresh acidity, ripe but earthy tannins.

Château Lafon-Rochet

Again, sweetly ripe. Fresh acidity, firm tannins, medium length.

Château Montrose

Big, ripe and black. Powerful, structured and quite long.


Some gloriously fruity, balanced, elegant wines – overall very successful.

Château Beychevelle

Very perfumed, ripe fruit. Fresh, beautifully balanced, elegant and very long. Classic Saint-Julien.

Château Branaire-Ducru

Quite rich, ripe and perfumed. Fresh acid, rather chunky tannins, but good length.

Château Gruaud Larose

Distinct smell of coffee with spice and chocolate. A little austere, with dry tannins. A bit closed.

Château Lagrange

Bottle variation – the best was perfumed, concentrated, but a bit quite extracted, with dry tannins.

Château Langoa-Barton

Big, ripe and quite forward, with chunky tannins. Fresh, but lacks the style of Léoville Barton.

Château Léoville-Barton

Quite tight, with a lovely perfume, very fresh acidity, firm tannins. Long, elegant, promising, classic.

Château Léoville Las Cases

Generously fruity, elegant and perfumed. Perfect balance: fresh acidity and firm, ripe tannins. Immensely elegant, very long. A glorious wine – my favourite in the whole tasting.

Château Léoville-Poyferré

Big, ripe and concentrate. A bit closed. Balanced with fresh acidity, ripe tannins and an impressive depth of fruit.

Château Talbot

Lovely, ripe, sweet nose. Fresh acidity, ripe tannins. Very fruity. Not too long, but delicious.


A very impressive range of wines. The best show a superb balance between power and finesse.

Château d’Armailhac

Ripe and fruity. Balanced and fine, it is just a little short.

Château Batailley

Very perfumed and concentrated with black fruit. Ripe, with firm tannins, fresh acid and yet elegant. Long.

Château Clerc Milon

Ripely perfumed. Strong but ripe tannins and good length.

Château Croizet-Bages

A big, spicy aroma and black fruit. Initially soft tannins, which then become dry. Rather low acidity and a little over-extracted.

Château Duhart-Milon

Elegant, perfumed black fruits – very Cabernet. Big tannins, fresh acidity, chewy, long and needing time.

Château Grand-Puy Ducasse

A big, concentrated aroma of liquorice. Quite chunky tannins, slightly low acidity and just a bit one-dimensional.

Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste

Fresh, spicy and elegant with black fruit and also a touch of liquorice. Sweetly ripe with quite fresh acidity and firm tannins.

Château Haut-Bages Liberal

Ripe and perfumed. Less complex than some. Sweet, fresh and a little short.

Château Haut-Batailley

Ripe and elegant. A little closed though quite perfumed. Fresh, but with firm tannins.

Château Lafite-Rothschild

Perfumed and concentrated. Very complex, with new oak showing. On the palate, power, perfume and elegant complexity all combine and it has an exceptionally long, again perfumed finish: a superb wine.

Château Lynch-Bages

Fruity, with black fruits and elegant – quite perfumed. Juicy acidity and slightly dry tannins, but long and fine.

Château Lynch-Moussas

Very perfumed and spicy, though also a little stalky. Medium acidity and rather dry tannins.

Château Mouton-Rothschild

Big, ripe essence of Cabernet Sauvignon, though perhaps lacking a little in complexity. Sweetly ripe, with similarly ripe tannins. A surprisingly light mid-palate.

Château Pedesclaux

Ripe, sweet and quite elegant, with fresh acidity, firm tannin and good length. Just lacks a little finesse.

Château Pichon-Baron

More perfumed than its neighbour, Pichon-Lalande and very elegant. Fresh acidity and firm tannins. Real depth, complexity and length, but just a hint of Brett?

Château Pichon-Lalande

Elegant, perfumed blackcurranty fruits. Fresh acidity and tight, dry tannins: the Cabernet Sauvignon shines through strongly in a wine which normally has a high percentage of Merlot.

Château Pontet-Canet

The most opulent Médoc in the tasting – very rich and ripe, complex and yet a little closed. Good, but not  raised acidy, plenty of ripe acids – in fact a super balance and then tremendous length.


There are undoubtedly some very fine wines here, but quality is a little variable, with one or two noticeable disappointments. Excess alcohol and over-extraction are to blame.

Château Angelus

Big, ripe and chunky. Sweet fruit, strong dry tannins. A good wine, but overshadowed by the other first growths.

Château Beau-Séjour-Becot

Concentrated and perfumed with new oak. Fresh acids in the context of the appellation with sweet ripe tannins. Elegant and fine.

Château Bélair-Monage

Big, sweet and ripe. Moderate tannins and acidity. Quite concentrated, perhaps just a little over-extracted.

Château Bellevue

Big, sweet and ripe – caramel rich, with moderate acidity, silky ripe tannins and high alcohol.

Château Canon

Elagant and ripe, if a little pruney. Medium acidity and soft, very ripe tannins. A fine, long, elegant finish.

Château Canon La Gaffelière

Very ripe and concentrated, with plummy fruit, moderate acidity, very firm tannins. A rich, powerful wine spoilt slightly by rather a dry, over-extracted finish.

Château Cheval Blanc

Ripe, sweet and complex and pruney – a truly exciting nose. Sweet and balanced, with far better balanced acidity than most in the appellation to support the firm tannins. Very good indeed.

Château Corbin

Very sweet, ripe aromas of red fruits. Again moderate acidity and strong tannis. A little austere and iron-like at the end.

Château La Dominique

Complex and perfumed. A big, ripe wine that follows the pattern of moderate acidity and stronger tannins. Long and chewy.

Château Figeac

Ripe, elegant and perfumed. Quite fresh acidity and firm tannins. Long and fine.


A powerful bunch. The best manage to cling to elegance and seem to make the most of Cabernet Franc to add freshness. 

Château Beauregard

Big, ripe and sweet. Quite fresh acidity, supple tannins. Just a little short.

Château Le Bon Pasteur

Big, ripe, almost raisiny and concentrated. Good acidity but strong, rather extracted tannins.

Château Clinet

Big, powerful and ripe. Sweet and rich, with moderate acidity and very ripe tannins. A slightly earthy finish.

Château La Conseillante

Ripe, with pruney, raspberry fruit. Quite fresh acidity, strong, dry tannins. Plenty of red fruit favours and quite long.

Château L’Église Clinet

The fresh raspberry scent of Cabernet Franc is evident in quite a rich wine, with balanced tannins and acidity – neither excessive. Not too long.

Château La Fleur-Pétrus

Big, savoury, meaty aromas with chocolate. Moderate acidity, strong tannins. Rich, powerful and quite long.

Château Gazin

Perfumed, almost herby and minty – a bit a surprise, but lovely balance, it shows both freshness and elegance. Long too.

Château Nenin

Sweetly ripe and a little pruney. Ripe with a good balance between tannin and acidity. Quite concentrated and long.

Château Petit Village

A little lighter colour than I’d expected. A ripe, rather savoury nose. Balanced, with a slightly earthy finish.

Château La Pointe

Ripe and pruney with sweet fruit, and quite soft tannins. Medium length.

Clos René

Deep, slightly stalky and earthy. Big and rich, with quite chunky tannins.

Domaine de L’Église

Quite perfumed and fresh, with underlying pruney, very ripe fruit. Rich and very ripe. Moderate acids and tannins.

Sauternes and Barsac

Despite the fact that 2009 is reputed to be a year with high levels of botrytis, the wines, though sweet and opulent, show good freshness and often a rather more bitter, almost phenolic finish than I might have expected. They are very concentrated and powerful.

Château Climens

Very ripe, peachy and complex. Concentrated, powerful, almost spicy. A touch of bitterness.

Château Coutet

New oak shows, but also very ripe, sweet, peachy fruit. Quite fresh acidity. Again a touch of bitterness.

Château Doisy-Védrines

Ripe pineapple aromas and flavours. Quite fresh acidity; very sweet, with a soft finish.

Château Filhot

Lighter and more citrus – lemony. Sweet, but fresh. Another wine with a slightly bitter finish.

Château Guiraud

Ripe, with intense apricot and peach fruit, quite fresh acidity and an almost herby perfume in the mouth. Bitter finish.

Château de Myrat

Rather closed, with confit lemon aromas. Fresh acidity, a little less sweet than some, but alcohol also shows a little.

Château de Rayne Vigneau

Ripe, peachy and concentrated. Sweetness balanced by lemony acidity. It has quite a bitter finish.

Château Rieussec

Very concentrated but also very fine, with an intense marmalade quality of fruit. The sweetness is balanced by quite fresh acidity.

Château Sigalas Rabaud

Quite elegant and relatively light with peachy fruit, lemony citrus acidity and a little bitterness.

Château Suduiraut

Very concentrated, with intense apricot and orange marmalade fruit. Very sweet – fully botrytised, with a bitter twist.

Château La Tour Blanche

An intriguing nose of apricot with ripe green plums. Very sweet, a touch bitter.

Château Clos Haut Peyraguey

Rich, botrytised apricot fruit. Concentrated and sweet, with a little less acidity than many.




Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

On 21 November, as heavy rain gradually gave way to bright blue skies, we were met by Suduiraut’s technical director, Pierre Montégut. Suduiraut, a Premier Cru of Sauternes in the 1855 classification is in the commune of Preignac just below the vineyards of Château Yquem. It was bought by AXA Millésimes in 1992.

The Vineyard

The soil of Preignac is typically gravelly, with quite large pebbles. This, says Pierre, is a major factor in the style of wine from the commune, which is less rich and unctuous than in the more clay-rich soils of neighbouring Sauternes and with something of a hint of the green freshness of Barsac, where there is more limestone. Suduiraut’s 92 hectares of vineyards are mostly on gravel around the château, but there are also two blocks on richer soil near Yquem. According to seasonal conditions, Suduiraut’s style can switch. It was more Sauternes-like in 2003, 05 and 09, but fresher in 2002, 07 and 11.

The blend in the vineyard is 90% Sémillon and 10% Sauvignon. There is no Muscadelle, which is better on clay. The main rootstock is 420A which is well adapted to soils with a high level of active calcium and is therefore ideal for Barsac, as is Fercal. 3309 is good for dry sites and 101-13 for fresher soils. The vines are trained on wires, but with up to four spurs on each plant. Pierre aims for 6 to 8 bunches on each vine and for small berries, which tend to produce more pure aromas and better flavours. The minimum potential sugar allowed by the rules of the appellation is 15%. Pierre likes to have at least 20%.

Over the past fifty years sugar levels have risen significantly. In the 1960s, a good level of potential sugar was deemed to be around 19 or 20%. In 2005 it was over 30%. The residual sugar in the great 1967 vintage was 90g/l, in 2005, 09, 10 and 11 it was consistently around 140-160g/l. There is now often more focus in very years like 2005 and 09 on keeping fresh acidity in the wine than in achieving roundness and sweetness, but botrytis always remains an essential element in the style of Suduiraut.

The grapes, he observes, are also riper now at the onset of botrytis. The picking team of 120-150 souls typically make three to five passes (tries) in the vineyard. The greatest number of tries was eight in 1988, but so many passes makes for a very expensive harvest. There is no sorting done separately in the winery. Quality depends on the pickers.

The cellar is, however, equipped for cryo-extraction, which makes it possible to block and exclude the less ripe berries if ripening is uneven. Pierre says that this is most effective if the potential alcohol is between 16 and 20%, but cryo-extraction inevitably brings a loss of yield. To produce one hectolitre of juice normally requires between 150 and 180 kg of botrytised berries; with cryo-extraction this rises to 220kg. But Pierre believes that it is a better alternative to chaptalisation: “I don’t change what nature gives, just block more.”

Vineyard practice at Suduiraut is on the cusp of organic and 25 hectares are managed fully organically, which in a difficult year like 2012 meant a significant crop loss of around 50%. Bearing in mind studies that have suggested that copper can diminish grape aromas, careful checks have been made on the level of copper in both dry and sweet wines at Suduiraut. Greater levels have been found consistently on those harvested earlier, without botrytis, for dry wines.

2012 has been difficult because although there was a good level of botrytis at the start of October, the sugars were diluted by rain and harvest had to begin before the botrytised turned to grey rot. The yield for the sweet wine was just 8 hl/ha.


Once in the winery the whole punches are loaded directly into a pneumatic press. The first pressing at 2 bars pressure releases 80 to 88% of the juice. The pommace is then loaded into a basket press which operates up to 9 bars and releases juice which is very sweet, very perfumed, with higher pH and glycerol, but a little les finesse. A pH of 4 or more is common with botrytised grapes, but 3.8 is the ideal if the wine is to age well.

The wine is then fermented in small oak casks, 50 to 60% of which are new for Château Suduiraut and less for the other two Sauternes made here: Castelnau and Lions. Light to medium toasts are the preferred choice. Yeast nutrients are often added to help finish the fermentation quickly. Pierre feels that a ten to twenty day fermentation is essential to maintain the purity of the fruit and to restrict the development of volatile acids.  Fermentation is then fully stopped, first by cooling the juice to kill the yeasts and then by the addition of sulphur dioxide – the higher the level of botrytis, the higher the level of sulphur. The aim at bottling is to have 50mg/l of free SO2. The sweet wine is usually racked after the mutage of sulphur dioxide. (Mutage is this instance does NOT mean adding alcohol as at least one other blogger seems to think!) Because the estate’s dry wine undergoes lees stirring in cask, it is not racked. After aging in cask for 18 to 24 months the Sauternes is fined with bentonite and sometimes also filtered before bottling. The other cuvées, Castelnau and Lions are aged for 12 to 15 months.

Commercial decisions

Pierre readily admits that making a profit in Sauternes and Barsac is difficult. The average yield for the first growths he estimates at 9 to 15 hl/ha and 15-25 hl/ha for the seconds.  To make money at Suduiraut he must achieve a yield of 15 hl/ha, but on four occasions over the last nine years this not been possible.

Production costs are high, including dry goods (bottle, cork, capsule and label), Pierre suggests the price of making Sauternes can vary from €9 to €26 depending on the vintage and the level of selection exercised in the vineyard and winery.

A major factor in achieving profitability is a successful en primeur campaign: 50% of Château Suduiraut is sold in this way and 25% of the other cuvees. Traditional sales on the French domestic market peak in the run up to Christmas, reinforced by the conviction that Sauternes is the perfect accompaniment to foie gras.

But Pierre is anxious to challenge some of the attitudes that pigeon hole Sauternes in an inappropriate way. “We need to show that Sauternes is not just sweet, but is wine with great complexity,” he argues. “We’re trying to combat ideas such as you can’t drink other wines after Sauternes; that you won’t get a headache if you drink it; that you don’t have to cellar it for twenty years: ideas that mean, don’t bother to open the bottle. It goes so well with cheese, especially blue cheese. Forget puddings with Sauternes it’s often not a good idea.” And as we discovered later that evening, with a selection of older vintages, it can be a fantastic partner for Sichuanese cuisine (my notes lack coherence – the evening at Bordeaux’s Au Bonheur du Palais  was rather splendid. Pierre believes that one of the best ways to get over the fusty old attitudes that dog Sauternes is to persuade more restaurants to offer it by the glass. Perhaps then those drinkers in France who consume just one glass of Sauternes a year (the national average, Pierre says), might be tempted to drink a second. Mind you, as half of Suduiraut’s sales are in France, that might not be such good news for the rest of us.

The Wines

Les Lions de Suduiraut 2010

The cuvée was first created in 2009 as a fresher, slightly lighter, more aperitif-style of Sauternes. The selection for both Lions and Castlenau is more often than not starts in the vineyard with specific parcels.

The wine is very fresh, with citrus and peach aroma and a clean, rich flavour (130g/l sugar) with a nice little twist of bitterness at the end.

Castelnau de Suduiraut 2010

Fatter and richer and more buttery, but less open and fragrant. A much richer, more exotic palate (135 g/l sugar)

Château Suduiraut 2010

Deeper colour, more obvious new oak and also botrytis with rich orange and apricot tones. Very powerful and complex with mouth-filling pineapple-like fruit and fine, balancing freshness (150 g/l sugar).

Les Lions de Suduiraut 2009

Much more evolved than the 10, and rather more peachy fruit. Quite a lot of botrytis and fatness, but just a little short.

Castelnau de Suduiraut 2009

Really quite closed, but ripe pineapple aromas emerging. A lot of botrytis, with quite a bitter finish.

Château Suduiraut 2009

A lovely wine: rich, powerful even a touch spirituous on the nose. A super-rich palate, bags of botrytis rounded off by class bitter marmalade notes

Château Suduiraut 1989

Fine old gold colour. The aromas is still wonderfully fresh – like ripe apricot with pain d’épices and real intensity. Drying just a little and very botrytised, but balanced by elegant acidity with a long honey, peach and apricot finish.


Monday, November 26th, 2012

I visited Pichon-Longueville on 20 November as part of a generous study scholarship awarded to Master of Wine students by AXA Millésimes. We toured the vineyards and winery with technical director, Jean-René Matignon who also conducted a vertical tasting, blind, of thirteen vintages from 1998 to 2010 before treating us to older vintages over dinner.

A bit of background

Château Pichon-Longueville was awarded second growth status in the 1855 classification of the Médoc. It is superbly situated in Pauillac overlooking Saint Julien to the south, and neighbours Châteaux Pichon-Lalande (from which it split in 1840) and Latour.

It has enjoyed a somewhat chequered history during the last hundred years. From 1935 until his death in 1962 Jean Bouteiller made many great wines. Jean-René talks with relish about any opportunity to re-cork them and considers the 1937 as perhaps the best old wine in the château’s (rather small) ‘library’ collection.

By the early 1980s, although some good wines were certainly made, the Bouteiller family had long since failed to maintain the high standards of the 1940s and 50s, to the point at which from 1982 to 1987 the grapes were harvested by machine: not a practice consonant with the level of rigorous selection needed to made great claret.

In 1987 the property was sold to AXA Millésimes who have since invested significantly in the vineyard and cellars as well as lovingly restoring the fine château itself, built in 1851.

The popular name for the property, Pichon-Baron, still persists.

In the vineyard

The vineyard is 75 hectares large and the average age of the vines is between forty and fifty years. The main balance of the vineyard is divided between Cabernet Sauvignon (65%) and Merlot (32%) planted on the distinctively Médocaine Guyot Poussard system with two short replacement canes and a two-bud spur below to supply the canes for the following year. This is well-adapted to Cabernet Sauvignon and helps restrict disease, especially eutypa dieback. There is also a small amount of both Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc. Cabernet Franc struggles with water stress here. Jean-René points out that it really needs soils with higher clay content, but some of the clonal stock in Bordeaux is poor and has been improved in recent years by clones from the Loire Valley. Petit Verdot is also sensitive to water stress.

Gravels here are up to 2m deep. The younger gravels nearer the river are considered to be the better soils because they have more clay content, those further inland are finer, poorer and sandier. In times past it was traditional to add clay: to ‘marner’ the soil and improve it.

Around 2% of the vineyard is replanted annually. In the oldest blocks, about 4% of the vines die anyway each year. Research has been carried out to identify clones resistant to fan leaf virus. The preferred rootstock is 101-14, with 3309 used where there is most risk of water stress and 420A on the limestone- rich soils planted with Merlot at Château Pibran in the northern sector of the appellation adjacent to Pontet-Canet. Riparia was tried in the past but it failed to ripen the fruit adequately.

The most significant new disease risk is provided by Flavesence Dorée, which spreads very quickly and is difficult to control. The effect is green wood and loss of the crop. The vectors, a form of leaf-hopper, can be eliminated by spraying with organophosphates or organic pyrethroids, but Jean-René is worried that the latter present a health risk for his vineyard workers. It is also now necessary when old vines are grubbed up to treat the soil with insecticides and then to wait three to five years before replanting, a costly delay. Cabernet Sauvignon can suffer from magnesium deficiency, which leads to dry, brittle stems. Magnesium may then be added every two or three years in spring along with compost at a rate of 100kg per hectare.

Jean-René has practised integrate pest management since 2000. He is experimenting with organic viticulture on 5 hectares at Château Pibran, but is reluctant to extend the experiment to Pichon-Baron. One major objection is the high level of copper in the soil, which also limits the life of bacteria in the soil. Organic compost is, however, used generously: around ten to fifteen tonnes per hectare, per year, at a cost of €70 per tonne. It improves the texture of the soil and enables it to retain water better. Where crops are planted between the rows (rye grass and vetch) it can help to limit the migration of chemicals and help to effect their degeneration more quickly.

Over the years labour costs have risen in the vineyard as more labour intensive strategies have been adopted such as leaf plucking on first one and then, sometimes, the other side of each row. Jean-René estimates that twenty years ago one vineyard worker could look after 2.5 hectares. This has now reduced to just 1.8 hectares.

In the winery

A fine new winery was built between 1990 and 1992, designed by the Panamanian-born architect Patrick Dillon, around 50% of which is underground.

It is equipped with a new optical sorting machine (which cost €120,000). It has a capacity of 8 tonnes per hour and has made a huge difference to the quality of the wine: “Anthocyanins,” says Jean-René, “are the key to understanding the quality of tannin.” Prior to processing in the optical sorter whole bunches are sorted by hand and then the berries de-stemmed. 10 kg of berries at the desired colour profile are ‘shown’ to the machine to prime it. The high-quality of the optical sorter is such that Jean-René does not feel it necessary to use a top of the range, expensive de-stemmer, which he argues would also be more difficult to clean.

The cellar also boasts a reverse-osmosis machine, but this may only be used on must and not on finished wine. It can be helpful if the grapes arrive wet, or as for example in 2011, when the percentage of sugar in the Cabernet Sauvignon was a little low.

After fermentation, pressing is done mostly in pneumatic presses on a gentle, ‘crémant’ setting. A new basket press is also available, but Jean-René has not yet noticed that it offers any significant advantage.

Selected, cultivated yeasts are used: RB2 for Merlot to emphasise its freshness and fruit, Actiflor 33 for Cabernet Sauvignon, especially to reduce the level of volatile acidity. F15 is also used for both Merlot and Cabernet, though not as often as it was in the past.

Délestage (rack and return) is used daily for the first three days of fermentation, then regular, daily pumping over for the next twenty five days. Jean-René is also experimenting with a pre-fermentation cold maceration at 5C.

The grand vin is aged in 80% new oak and the second wine, Les Tourelles, in 30% new oak.

Regular racking is a defence against Brettanomyces infection, which develops on the lees sediment. Jean-René commissions regular bi-monthly microbiological tests to ensure that it kept under control. Racking otherwise takes place every three to four months. A custom-built machine delivers alternatively a mixture of steam and a high pressure water jet cleaning to each barrel. Fining with albumen also helps to reduce Brett. Another defence, says, Jean-René, is to seed barrels with lactic bacteria to speed up the malo-lactic fermentation: the wine is especially at risk from Brett when it is not protected by S02 before the malo takes place. The wine is filtered before bottling. Jean-René argues, “If there was no Brett there’d be no reason to filter – but we need to!”

Pichon Longueville 1998 to 2010 and a few older wines.

It was an extraordinarily helpful exercise to be invited to taste the wines ‘blind’. It enabled us to evaluate the quality of each vintage without the baggage of expectations. The order in which they were served was 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2005 2007 and 2009, but for ease as well as convention, my notes here are in reverse chronological order, along with notes on the 1990, 1988, 1986 and 1959 vintages, drunk later over dinner at the château.

2010     Very deep. Exciting, powerful, rich, sweet and spicy nose, with fantastic fruit in the mouth and a very silky texture – long, rich and ripe, with melting tannins. A remarkable wine.

2009     Also very deep. Sweetly ripe nose. In the mouth big and sweet, showing quite a lot of oak at the moment and quite high acid. Lots of structure.

2008     Deep and young. Quite a lot of new oak, but perfumed – fragrant and cedary. Sweet, perfumed fruit in the mouth, with fresh acidity and firm tannins. Good length. Elegant.

2007     Deep and quite young, but first signs of aging. Fabulous, opulent nose, rich and ripe – chocolate and cassis. Big and  balanced with lots of power and length. A big surprise, but then I Iooked back at my note from the IMW claret tasting (see below 12 November 2011). I liked it then too.

2006     Still deep and young. A big wine, but a bit closed. Firm black fruit, firm tannins and quite juicy acid. A bit short and angular.

2005     Hard to assess: the first bottle seemed raw, un-knit and tannic, with high acid; a second was very much better, with a rich, ripe, creamy nose, then a dense, rich palate, still with a lot of perfumed oak and considerable elegance.

2004     Some aging apparent. Lovely perfume – complex, gentle and elegant. Sweet, balanced plate, elegant and long but already maturing.

[a lot of green harvesting was necessary and ripeness came quickly]

2003     Quite deep, but also garnet-hued. A very appealing aroma of sweet perfumed fruit, but the palate is much chunkier than the nose suggests: sweet, chocolaty fruit, big, firm tannins and rather short.

2002     Deepish, but garnet edge. Big, spicy, chocolate nose. Big in the mouth too, with a lot of dry extract and a fine tannic structure. A little short.

[A lot of millerandage. Hard to de-stem]

2001     Still quite deep and not a lot of aging. Rich, ripe chocolaty nose with spice. Soft, sweet, full, still chewy and very long.

2000     Deep and young-looking, right to the rim. Sweet, pure fruit and quite spicy and complex. Fully mature, but sweetly ripe cassis fruit, with ripe tannins and good acidity.

1999     Aging, a marked garnet rim. Very evolved and mature, with sweet/balsamic notes and quite high volatile acidity. Sweet fruit in the mouth, but a hard middle and tough tannins. Short.

1998     Aging – a garnet rim. Open, spicy, rather Bretty nose. Sweet, but rather hard tannins and a bit short.

1990     Very good deep colour; slightly stalky and savoury with a green edge, but lovely length.

1988     Still big rich and complex, with wonderful fruit: cranberry and cassis. Very ripe, long and fine.

1986     Still deep and youthful, with lively, spicy complex fruit. Balanced, savoury and mineral on the finish.

1959     Clearly older. Quite a rich, balsamic nose, but beautifully scented. Still very rich in the mouth and surprisingly fresh, though with rather lifted acidity. Truffles. Mature – but what a treat!

[Jean-René’s birth year]


Chateau Croque Michotte 2011 and 2010

Saturday, August 4th, 2012

Croque Michotte is a Saint Émilion Grand Cru. Pierre Carle is trying hard to restore it to Grand Cru Classé status, lost in 1996. He has converted the estate to organic viticulture, re-installed concrete fermentation vats, introduced an optical grape sorter and splashes out on up to 60% new oak each year. The terroir is sandy gravel – adjacent to Cheval Blanc, la Dominique and Gazin on the border with Pomerol. My experience with older vintages is that it is typically an elegantly perfumed wine, with the accent firmly on finesse rather than power. The blend, in the vineyard is 74% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc and 1% Cabernet Sauvignon. The average age of the vines is 52 years and the oldest are 92 years old. Three years ago Pierre increased the height of the canopy by 30cms, and claims that the wine now has more concentration – but alcohol levels remain reasonable.

The 2011 was picked a week or so after La Conseillante and Petrus. “I was a bit worried. I’m looking for freshness in the wine. Was I wrong to leave the grapes?” Pierre told me, but continued. “You should never look at others, but just taste your own grapes. Ripening here is a bit later.”

I tasted three barrel samples:

The first, pure Cabernet Franc, was richly perfumed, intense and spicy. The tannins were soft and the acids too seemed surprisingly soft.

The second, Merlot from a new medium toast Demptos barrel was much less perfumed, but was sweetly ripe with aromas of bramble, coffee and cocoa. It seemed richer and more powerful and the alcohol seemed higher. The finish was quite toasty. “The alcohol always seems higher when the wine has less extract”, said Pierre.

A third from a new Quintessence barrel, again Merlot, was more elegantly perfumed, but had more structure, even a hint of liquorice and a delightful freshness. The alcohol was less apparent – Pierre’s point seems well made.

In short, this unfancied vintage promises well – attractively fruity wine that seems likely to be enjoyable quite soon after bottling.

The 2010, recently bottled, is as one might expect, very good.

The colour isn’t, however, as deep as I expected – a bright, young ruby.The aromas are very fine, perfumed, spicy and savoury, with brambles, but also an underlying layer of darker fruit.The palate combines lovely freshness with elegant complexity. It is very well balanced and long, with just a hint, again, of liquorice. It is 14% abv – rather more than the 2011.

2010 Croque Michotte is not a blockbuster, but typifies the elegance of the estate.

Bordeaux 2011 – the Crus Bourgeois

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

The weather during the 2011 growing season was again marked by extremes: an exceptionally mild spring, an early harvest, grapes that were raisined in a June heat-spike, a spell of cool wet weather in July and the threat of rot as harvest approached and some hail damage just before harvest. And yet it seems that many of the wines have come up smiling, but careful selection was essential.

My time during primeurs week this month was limited so I concentrated on one or two tasting where I might get a broad overview of the harvest. In particular, I homed in on the Cru Bourgeois of the Médoc, which cover not only the Médoc and Haut Médoc appellations but also Listrac, Moulis, Margaux, Pauillac and Saint Estèphe. As these are the kind of wines most of are likely to be able to afford to drink it seems sensible to focus on them – there is more than adequate coverage of the big names elsewhere.  I also attempted to focus on the wines often seen on the UK market. I’ve already written a note about Lalande de Pomerol (13 April).  I can’t resist some big names, so I tasted Michel Rolland’s portfolio before finishing with a brief indulgence in the esoteric range of biodynamic wines under the Biodyvin banner. Altogether it was hardly a representative sample, but has the merits of covering a lot of different terroirs and winemaking styles.

At this early stage, the common factor that unites all these wines is an attractive fruitiness, good balance between acidity and ripe tannins, no great concentration, but no lack of depth. It seems likely that they will be ready for drinking quite early in their development, but like other fruity, balanced vintages, they may well show a tenacious capacity for development in the bottle. It is certainly no fault that they display more elegance than raw power, though 2011 hardly seems like a return to claret of old – winemaking has moved on and other growing season was quite like this.

Here are my notes on the Cru Bourgeois (blends were given for most, but not all châteaux):


Château La Branne 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 48% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot

Vivid aroma of ripe cassis and brambles. Forward, juicy fruit, with soft tannins.

Château La Cardonne 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc

Very deep and very perfumed – pure, rich and balanced. Good acid and length and great perfume in the mouth (I was so taken with this, that I came back to it right at the end of my tasting, and confirmed my notes. It was every bit as exciting as the first taste.)

Château David 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 5% Petit Verdot

Quite deep. Very ripe fruit – perfumed cassis. Chunky and rich with quite firm tannins.

Château Greysac 50% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot,

Not so deep. Deep, fresh cassis aromas. Quite chewy and chunky with market acidity.

Château Grivière 58% Merlot, 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Cabernet Franc

Quite deep. Big, fresh, plummy Merlot fruit to fore. Big, grippy tannins, but ripe fruit.

Château Livran 60% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon

Medium deep. Rather closed. Chunky and lean with rather sour acid (as if the malo was not complete).

Château Loudenne 52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 43% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc

Deepish. Creamy, ripe black cherry fruit. Firm and rich – a big mouthful with plenty of power, length and fine, ripe tannins.

Château Les Ormes Sorbet 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc

Hugely deep and dense. Big, riper concentrated, herby fruit, a little leaner in the mouth, cassis-flavoured and fine.

Château Patache d’Aux 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot

Deepish. Big, rich, black cherry and cassis fruit. Chunky, chewy texture with ripe tannins, length and a fine finish.

Château Plagnac 66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 43% Merlot

Quite deep. A rich concentration of ripe cassis – Cabernet fruit, matched by a big chunky Cabernet flavour a lot of power, and seemingly alcohol too, but surprisingly soft acidity.

Château La Roque de By 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 50% Merlot

Good depth. Sweet, creamy, concentrated fruit – quite delicious, with liquorice: rich, long and balanced with quite high alcohol?

Château Tour Saint-Bonnet 50% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot

Very deep indeed. Intense, but freshly perfumed. Powerful, with real depth of flavour – lovely crunchy cassis, with juicy acidity and a long liquorice finish.

Haut Médoc

Château d’Agassac 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot

Deep and dense. Herby and fresh, with a slightly green, herbaceous character. A little short.

Château d’Arcins

Deep coloured. Quite a spicy alcoholic aroma, then chunky, rich and spicy, with quite soft acidity.

Château Balac 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc

Deep coloured. Nose a little closed, but shows quite a good concentration of ripe fruit, which is chewy, chunky and balanced by crunchy acidity.

Château  Barreyres

Very deep. A lovely perfume of red and black fruits, then a big savoury palate, a creamy texture, and ripe, but quite marked tannins.

Château Bel Air 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot

Very bright colour. A big, stalky, green pepper-scented nose. Deep and quite chewy, though also a bit green and austere.

Château  Cambon la Pelouse 52% Merlot, 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Petit Verdot

Big and bright. A richly ripe aroma of perfumed black fruit. A chewy texture, ripe tannins and quite a savoury finish.

Château Cissac 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot

Deep coloured. A big, ripe, creamy, black cherry aroma, but then a little raw on the palate, with chunky tannins, but also good length – it shows the early promise of Cabernet.

Château Duthill 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot

Deep and purply. A lovely, herby perfume of red and black fruits – complex, but fresh. Big, black and chewy in the mouth with no lack of power.

Château Larose Trintaudon 55% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon

A little lighter than most, with a light, slightly stalky nose. Fresh in the mouth, but also again, a bit stalky.

Château  Liversan 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 5% Petit Verdot

Quite deep. A green, herby, stalky nose, then a stalky lean palate with rather hard tannins, but also quite perfumed in the mouth.

Château Puy Castéra 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot

Fairly deep. Perfumed, lightish red fruits with some herbaceousness. More rounded on the palate. Quite long and fresh and a good balance, but no great depth or complexity.

Château Ramage la Batisse 50.39% Cabernet Sauvignon, 43.37% Merlot, 3.43% Cabernet Franc, 2.81% Petit Verdot

Rather pale rim. .Ripe scented  fruit. Fresh, with quite lifted acidity, but a rather green finish.

Château Sénéjac 48% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Franc, 4% Petit Verdot

Medium deep. Attractive, rather light, red fruits bouquet. Richer in the mouth with liquorice and quite firm tannins.


Château Fonréaud

Medium deep, scented red fruits, quite elegant and creamy, then juicy and attractive with chunky tannins

Château Lestage

Good colour – bright and deep. A big, bright, elderberry bouquet, then a chunky falvour, with lifted acidity and slightly raw tannins. A bit short.

Château Reverdi

Deeper than many. Ripe, though a bit closed. Chewy, chunky fruit. A bit raw, but with depth and promise.


Château Caroline

Fairly deep and bright. Red fruits nose, though a bit closed. Perfumed in the mouth, with red fruit and plum flavours, juicy acid, rather dry tannins.

Château Duplessis

Fairly deep. Elderberry-like nose – slightly green and stalky, which follows in the mouth. Although the tannins are raw, a perfumed red fruits finish bodes well.

Château Dutruch Grand Pougeaux 54% Merlot, 42% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Petit Verdot

Light colour. A fresh raspberry nose, attractively perfumed, but light and a similarly light, juicy flavour.

Château Gressier Grand Pougeaux 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 50% Merlot

Medium deep. Ripe bramble and cassis aromas then juicy, slightly stalky fruit. By no means a heavy-weight, but quite attractive.

Château Moulin à Vent 65% Merlot, 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Cabernet Franc

Deep. A big elderberry nose leading to ripe, chewy, fruit with quite high acidity.


Château d’Arsac 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot

A fine deep colour. Elegance and concentration combine in a finely perfumed aroma. Fleshy ripe fruit with liquorice, quite soft tannins ; good length.

Château Mongravey 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc

Deep and concentrated. Powerful and concentrated though a little closed. Very Cabernet – lots of structure. Ripe but a wee bit short.

Château Paveil de Luze

Fairly deep, perfumed and fresh, brambly fruit. Sweet and rich and quite powerful with soft tannins.

Château La Tour de Bessan

Fairly deep. Again, perfumed black fruit. Quite juicy, but ripe with tannins.

Château La Tour de Mons 55% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot

Impressive colour, then ripe, creamy, bramble-scented fruit with depth and complexity. A very good structure, with ripe, fresh fruit and lingering chunky tannins.


Château Fonbadet 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot

Impressively deep. Concentrated, sweetly ripe blackcurrant fruit. Typically Cabernet – big, weighty, rich and long.

Château Haut Bages-Monpelou

Fairly deep. Fine, perfume of bright fruit. Balanced, but chunky, with a rather dry finish.

Château Plantey 55% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon

Deep. Big, ripe, fine cassis and bramble fruit. Juicy acidity – fresh and a little chunky.


Château Beau-Site

Deepish. Big, powerful elderberry nose. Strong, rich and slightly earthy with firm tannins.

Château Le Boscq 60% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit Verdot

Deepish. Ripe and rich – very brambly but on the nose in the mouth.

Château Clauzet 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc

Good deep colour. Perfumed cassis, with green hints. Clean, earthy and ripe with chewy tannins.

Château Le Crock 53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 9% Petit Verdot, 5% Cabernet Franc

Deep. Quite a powerful cassis aroma – concetrated and ripe. Ripe and fine, with ripe fruit. Plenty of power, St. Estèphe earthiness  and length.

Château Petit Bocq 50% Merlot, 49% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Cabernet Franc

Quite deep and bright. Rich cassis and bramble aromas. Freshg, clean fruit with quite marked acidity, chewy tannins and plenty of fruit.

Château Saint Pierre de Corbian 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 50% Merlot

Very deep. Big, creamy black cherry fruit, with cardamom – a little earthy. Big chunky wine with lots of ripe tannins and underlying richness of fruit.

Château Tour de Pez 60% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot

Big and deep. Very fine nose with real concentration and perfumed black fruit. Good and rich with a long, fine, perfumed aftertaste.


Lalande de Pomerol 2011

Friday, April 13th, 2012

As part of the en primeur showing of wines from the 2011 vintage in Bordeaux last week I went to the tasting of Lalande de Pomerol. As Aline Goldschmidt, vice-president of the growers’ syndicat and owner of Château Siaurac told me, “You had to be a good winemaker to make good wine in 2011. Careful selection was essential and each plot in the vineyard reacted differently,” [to the special circumstances of what turned out to be a tricky growing season].

The appellation has some superb properties, especially those on gravel and clay terraces around and just to the north of Néac, but, to the west, across the main Libourne to Périgueux road, the soil becomes gradually more sandy and has more limited potential for  fine wine.

That said, the wines I tasted were generally good and some were very good.

Château Tournefeuille impressed, with rich fruit, freshness and a good, firm tannic structure. Château Belles-Graves seemed initially lighter, with red fruit, then developed plenty of power, but with rather soft acidity. Château Haut-Surget was big and rich, with juicy acidity, but also seemed a bit too extracted. Château Ame de Musset was a wee bit cooked – powerful but again, rather too extracted. Château de Viaud was rich and soft, with quite fine tannins. Château Jean de Gué was roasted and almost balsamic – perhaps a bit worrying in so young a wine – but rich and savoury. Château Haut-Chaigneau was fresh and had a nice purity of red fruit flavours and fine tannins, quite an approachable wine. I also enjoyed La Sergue, a special cuvee from the same estate, which was well balanced, soft, rich and brambly, but again, with freshness and not too extracted. Château de Chambrun showed rather less well: though well enough balanced, with good length and a fine tannic structure, the nose was slightly too oxidative.

Best of all was Château Siaurac, a fine rich wine despite a yield of 52.9hl/ha. It contains 5% Malbec for the first time, which Aline and Paul Goldschmidt argue adds a little more spice to the wine. Spiciness is one of the characteristics for me of Siaurac. The 2011 is rich and soft with brambly, black cherry fruit, balanced tannins and quite fresh acidity. In recent years the typical plend for Siaurac has been 85% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc. This is around 75% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc and 5% Malbec.

A week later (April 11) I had the pleasure of visiting Château Siaurac and was able to taste wines from the 2010 vintage alongside those from Châteaux Vray Croix de Gay (Pomerol) and Prieuré (Grand Cru Classé Saint Emilion) the other family properties. Siaurac was by no means dwarfed and the differences in terroir showed well:

Château Siaurac 2010 showed spicy, perfumed oak, spicy, brambly black cherry fruit, with a real degree of elegance to balance the fine tannins and considerable length.

Château Vray Croix de Gay 2010 was superb: immensely deep, perfumed black fruits with liquorice, a fabulously silky texture and soft, ripe, lingering tannins

Château Prieuré 2010 was, in comparison, more fragrant even slightly floral, but with plenty of tight black fruit, fresher acidity and distinct minerality (hardly surprising perhaps, given its position on the limestone plateau of saint-Emilion).

To introduce these we tasted the unoaked, pure Merlot, young vines, Plaisir de Siaurac 2010 an aptly named wine if ever there was one. It is deliciously open and brambly, rich, soft and slightly savoury, with melting tannins and a real depth of fruit. On sale at less than €10 it is an outstanding bargain.

Château Siaurac 2006, the first vintage made by Aline and Paul Goldschmidt showed pretty well, It is also quite perfumed and spicy, with fine, soft, rich black cherry and bramble fruit and is quite long; but in comparison with 2010 (and 2008) it is relatively short and the oak is less well integrated.

Château Siaurac 2008, tasted yesterday, is another impressive effort: still a lovely bright, pinky purple-tinged ruby, it is wonderfully scented, with again the distinctive hint of black cherry that Paul Goldschmidt says is characteristic of Siaurac, along with brambles and well-integrated oak. Lighter and with more juicy acidity than 2006 or 2010 it is nevertheless, fruity, elegant and beautifully balanced.

I’ve prepared a feature on Château Siaurac and its setting in Lalande de Pomerol for publication in The Journal. I hope it will see light of day on 27 April.

Bordeaux 2007 – an assessment

Saturday, November 12th, 2011

2007 posed all sorts of problems for the wine producers of Bordeaux. It began well, with a warm spring, but then nature turned fickle with a cool, damp summer which resulted in a huge outbreak of mildew. The harvest was saved by a warm dry September extending into October. ‘Hang time’ was exceptionally long. The wines have been described as appealing, fruity and rather low in acidity, able to be appreciated quite young.

87 classed growths were presented on 9 November at the Annual Bordeaux Tasting of the Institute of Masters of Wine. My notes on each wine follow – organised by appellation, with the best wines in each section first.

My conclusion? 2007 is a mixed bag. There are some delicious wines, but also some real disappointments. Not all are low in acidity – some of the Cabernet–based wines of Pauillac are even quite tart. A few are raisiny and lack freshness. In a few cases I suspected  that rot was not always as carefully removed as one might hope. A few wines are over-extracted. The best wines are medium-bodied, perfumed and elegant and almost all of them are ready to drink.

Contrary to some reports, the Merlot-based wines of Pomerol and Saint-Emilion showed more consistently successful than those of the Médoc. Margaux offered too many poor wines. St Julien was much better and there were some very good wines from Pessac-Léognan/Graves. The most exciting red wine was, I felt, Léoville Las-Cases with the elegant, perfumed Lafite the pick of the First Growths.

The wines of Sauternes/Barsac were impressive. Yquem is the outstanding pick of the bunch.


Château Cantemerle

Very perfumed, with a lovely concentration of ripe blackcurrant fruit – one of the most intense and appealing wines on the nose in the whole tasting. In the mouth, quite a big, ripe wine, it shows balanced acidity, quite soft tannins and reasonable length.

Château La Lagune

A big, rich wine on the nose, with quite elegant perfume and well-integrated oak. Sweetly ripe, balanced and easy – no rough edges.

Château La Tour Carnet

A juicy smell of raspberry and plum, but also a little green and stalky. Easy, balanced, quite light and fully ready.

Château Camensac

Quite a big raisiny aroma with no great complexity – nor in the mouth. Chunky and easy.

Château Belgrave

Quite a big, ripe aroma, but raisiny in the mouth, finishing slightly sour.


Château Margaux

Typically and delightfully perfumed – cedary, refine and elegant. Elegant in the mouth too, with gentle acids and ripe tannins, but not much concentration. Already very drinkable.

Château Palmer

Perfumed and complex, with a nice purity of fruit, which follows onto the palate, yet like Margaux it is balanced but quite soft, light and apparently already ready.

Château Rauzan-Ségla

Quite creamy fruit with spicy oak. Juicy, well-focussed fruit. Altogether very attractive.

Château Brane-Cantenac

Quite, rich, ripe and savoury – even a little salty in the mouth, with rich fruit and quite silky tannins.

Château Giscours

Fresh and perfumed, but with a savoury, marmite dimension. Quite light, fresh and perfumed in the mouth; easy and fully ready.

Château Dauzac

A good concentration of ripe chocolaty fruit – perfumed. Sweet, ripe and easy, but a bit short.

Château Rauzan-Gassies

The first bottle was oddly reductive and the fruity hard and ungenerous. A second bottle was sweeter and cleaner but the wine still failed to really impress. Seems ready.

Château Lascombes

Quite perfumed with spicy oak, then sweet, easy, ripe and ready. Not much depth but quite attractive.

Château Prieuré-Lichine

An open, sweet, perfumed aroma. Quite well balanced and perfumed fruit in the mouth, but nothing special.

Château Cantenac Brown

Nose sweet and a little cooked. Quite a rich, raisiny flavour, but short and quite ready.

Château Desmirail

Perfumed with cocoa and spicy oak. Quite juicy fruit, but a little raw.

Château Du Tertre

Open, ripe and raisiny aroma, but raisiny, a bit raw and short in the mouth.

Château Marquis de Terme

Open and ripe, but not very complex. Juicy acidity, a bit lacking in fruit and little tannin. Seems unlikely that it will improve much.

Château Marquis d’Alesme

A little bit hard, not much fruit and really rather dull.

Château Kirwan

Very raisiny fruit on the nose and in the mouth – rot too?

Château d’Issan

Oddly stalky and green – lacks ripeness.


Château Léoville Las-Cases

An exciting smell, with almost the rather exotic character of morello cherry with nicely perfumed oak. Big, ripe and balanced with unusually silky tannins for the vintage. Very good indeed.

Château Léoville Barton

Very good: juicy, ripe, blackcurranty fruit, with just enough supporting oak. Good concentration of quite chunky fruit; balanced and with a lingering coffee and iron finish.

Château Beychevelle

A fine nose, marrying perfumed fruit with chocolaty richness. Open and attractive, medium concentration and a savoury finish.

Château Talbot

Deep. Quite concentrated fresh fruit, with perfumed oak. Fruity, well-balanced, but a touch short.

Château Léoville-Poyferré

A big, ripe, perfumed bouquet, with some richness and nicely perfumed oak, but then a bit chunky and angular and not as generous as the nose suggests.

Château Lagrange

Nicely perfumed, ripe and quite complex with hints of coffee. Medium-weight, balanced, but just a little raisiny at the end.

Château Branaire-Ducru

Quite big and perfumed, but then let down by rather raw acidity. Although short, with its chunky fruit, it may well turn out rather better in three or four years.


Château Lafite-Rothschild

Lovely elegant bouquet: refined and complex, blackcurrant fruit and well-integrated blackcurrant fruit. Quite big, but very elegant, with refreshing, lifted acid and quite gentle tannins and a perfumed finish.

Château Pontet-Canet

A sublime, pure smell of ripe blackcurrant fruit with perfumed oak and even a hint of chocolate. The fruit is splendidly focussed. It is not the most concentrated wine, but is perfectly balanced and quite delicious.

Château Mouton-Rothschild

Deep and richly fruity – cassis – very pure, but complex – lovely. Quite tight, concentrated and abundantly fruity.

Château d’Armailhac

An expressive perfume of ripe, juicy blackcurrant fruit. Quite big and balanced with juicy acidity. Promising.

Château Pichon-Longueville

A gorgeous perfume – fine, elegant and complex, with hints of coffee and chocolate. Fine juicy acidity and quite firm tannins. Fruit a little masked, but the nose carries a promise of a bright future in the medium term.

Château Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande

Fine, ripe, complex nose – open and attractive. Lots of juicy acidity and quite soft tannin and good length. Promising.

Château Lynch-Moussas

Elegantly perfumed and quite creamy. Well balanced with black fruit, even liquorice.

Château Lynch-Bages

Full and fruity, with cassis and ripe plums. Chunky fruit in the mouth too, but just a little short.

Château Grand-Puy Ducasse

Very ripe, with juicy black fruit and some elegance. Quite lifted acidity and firm tannins. Nice fruit below.

Château Grand-Puy Lacoste

Elegant, fine and focussed with a cedary perfume. Similar juicy style in the mouth to Ducasse, but a little shorter.

Château Haut-Batailley

Perfumed, though the oak is a bit dominant. Quite evolved in the mouth, open, easy and a bit raisiny.

Château Duhart-Milon

Perfumed, quite rich and a little raisiny. Juicy, with light tannins but perhaps a bit lacking in complexity.

Château Clerc Milon

Quite tight and perfumed fruit, but a bit chunky in the mouth and rather high acidity.

Château Batailley

Perfumed but quite raisiny, and again, easy raisiny fruit in the mouth, but with a perfumed end.

Château Croizet-Bages

Open and perfumed – cedary. Tannic and a bit raw, though still quite light.

Château Pedesclaux

Rather simple and one-dimensional, with an aroma of roasted coffee, but a thin, stalky flavour.


Château Cos d’Estournel

Deep, elegant and concentrated aroma of cassis, then balanced fruit, with ripe acids and tannin, soft enough to be approachable already.

Château Montrose

Elegant and perfumed, though the oak shows through a bit. A big wine in the mouth, with a firm structure and an iron-rich, power.

Château Lafon-Rochet

Rich and ripe, with black fruits and coffee on the nose. Quite soft acidity, balanced, chunky fruit, but maybe lacks a little complexity.

Château Cos Labory

Deep, though oddly perfumed, then shows slightly sour acidity and stalky fruit.


Château Pape-Clément

Tight, fine bouquet of sweet fruit with perfumed oak. Very sweetly ripe in the mouth – perfumed cassis fruit and considerable elegance. Delicious.

Château Malartic-Lagravière

Nicely perfumed with good sweet fruit. Good depth and focus and a fine balance. Not very concentrated, but a lovely perfumed aftertaste.

Château Smith Haut Lafitte

Deep coloured and then perfumed, concentrated, ripe and chocolaty. Juicy acidity and fresh focussed fruit.

Château Haut-Brion

Deep, creamy and quite perfumed aroma, but a bit closed. Rather chunky acidity and firm tannins and rather ungracious. Is it going through a dumb stage?

Château La Mission Haut-Brion

Richly perfumed, with black fruit and liquorice. Sweetly ripe fruit and concentrated. Fine enough, but lacks elegance.

Château De Fieuzal

Perfumed and ripe with sweet fruit. Very well balanced, forward and delicious.

Château Bouscaut

Really lovely sweet perfumed fruit. Elegant and yet sweet in the mouth, with just enough acidity and soft tannins.

Domaine de Chevalier

Big perfume of tight, spicy fruit, but also a bit stalky. Balanced and elegant, but also quite a lot of oak showing through at the moment.

Château Haut-Bailly

Juicy, chunky, earthy and a little hard. Disappointing.


Château La Tour Figeac

Perfumed, elegant and complex with real freshness of fruit – bramble and plum, deliciously fresh, fine and elegant, though with a slightly earthy finish.

Château Canon

Concentrated fine and ripe with beautifully perfumed oak, then rich but balanced in the mouth, with lovely freshness, elegance and good length – even a hint of liquorice.


Château Magdelaine

Very perfumed with raspberry fruit – lighter and more elegant than expected, with both juicy acidity and quite firm tannins. Long.

Château Corbin

Big, rich, sweet and concentrated with black cherry and bramble fruit, lovely freshness, good structure and a hint of minerality.

Château Figeac

Very perfumed and tight with juicy Cabernet fruit. Medium weight and elegant.

Château Haut Corbin

Fine, rich and concentrated, with sweet fruit and pretty good balance, with fresh juicy acidity and soft tannins, rounded off by spicy oak.

Château La Couspaude

Perfumed with spicy, brambly fruit. Easy and ripe, with soft acidity and some elegance.

Château Beauséjour-Bécot

Big, perfumed wine. Juicy and fresh – everything in place, but not particularly complex.

Château Petit Faurie de Soutard

Quite light, with spicy strawberry aromas, but elegant and nicely balanced.

Château Balestard La Tonelle

Attractively ripe. With plums and even a hint of ripe figs and perfumed oak. Soft, but juicy with quite an oaky finish.

Château Cap de Mourlin

Nice raspberry perfume. Quite light; easy but a little stalky.

Château Grand Mayne

Rich and a little raisiny. Rather stalky tannins.

Château Canon La Gaffelière

Rather strange – very raisiny indeed, though sweet and ripe. Quite ready and probably won’t improve.

Château Trottevieille

Ripe and slightly jammy and even a little dusty. Seems marred by Volatile Acidity. Rot? Judgement reserved.


Château Gazin

Very deep, with seductively ripe, brambly fruit with great depth. Rich, silky-texture palate with power, but freshness in balance and firm ripe tannins. Lots of life – promises well.

Château Nénin

Another seductively ripe, richly perfumed nose with bramble and damson fruit, then a rich chocolaty favour and lots of power, if a little lacking in elegance.

Château Clinet

Very fragrant and elegant with finely integrate oak. Riper and more powerful in the mouth, with a long spicy finish.

Château Le Bon Pasteur

Fresh and fragrant, with a good depth of perfumed fruit. Juicy acidity in the mouth balances ripe fruit and no little elegance.

Château Trotanoy

Sweetly perfumed, both concentrated and elegant. Ripe and balanced but a little lacking in complexity.

Château Beauregard

Quite concentrated, but a little raisiny. Soft, rich, raisiny in the mouth too. Quite ready.

Sauternes and Barsac

Château Yquem

Wonderfully fresh and perfumed with quince and lemon and a hint of ripe pineapple. Perfectly balanced and very elegant with botrytised fruit – peach and pineapple with again, beautiful freshness and great length.

Château Dosiy-Védrines

Elegant, fresh pineapple nose with scented oak, then a lovely tangy flavour in which the juicy acidity perfectly balances the (considerable) sweetness of the wine.

Château Suduiraut

Elegant, refined nose with lemony fruit. Very fine in the mouth too – a slight suggestion of burnt sugar, but still very fresh and good.

Château Climens

Big, rich wine with hints of orange blossom – a lovely perfume. Big and botrytised – a touch of burnt pineapple jam.

Château Guiraud

A deliciously enticing smell of peach, apricot and pineapple; then a little drier than expected and quite oaky too at the moment, but a fine, lingering aftertaste.

Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey

Peach and apricot fruit, but a touch spirituous. Fresh lemony/pineapple fruit in the mouth, but lacking a little in elegance.

Château Lamothe-Guignard

Concentrated smell of peach and apricot. Buttery sweet, but lacking a little in acidity.






Bordeaux 2010

Friday, September 24th, 2010

Bordeaux 2010 looks pretty promising. When I was in the region last week harvest was about to start. Some of the sugar levels for Merlot are very high,  one plot at Haut Brion is reported to have already shown a potential alcohol of 16 by the end of August. The Cabernet is generally less ripe, though it looks very healthy. The main problems are millerandage in some places (small and large berries on the same bunch), but also whole bunches at different stages of ripeness. More particularly, after a  summer of very low rainfall (no more than 15mm in August in many places)  berries are small, with rather thick skins. Care will be needed to avoid over-extraction. Tannin levels may be high and  acids look like being fairly low (especially malic acid). Another worry is that the dry weather has caused premature leaf drop, especially in Pomerol. Some growers there may be forced to pick a little earlier than they may have ideally wished. Other crops received just enough light rain at the start of September to ensure that the leaves stayed green and healthy.

If the if the weather holds, generally speaking, we might be able to look forward to a smallish crop of concentrated, powerful red wines. Sémillon also looks good, but as yet shows little sign of botyrtis. Give it time.

It looks like a trickier vintage to manage than 2009, but some growers are not afraid to talk about it in the same breath – including Mélanie Tesseron of Ponet Canet.

Bourg and Blaye – top quality at bargain prices

Saturday, August 28th, 2010

I was lucky enough to spend some time last week on the north bank of the Gironde, the lovely rolling hills of Bourg and Blaye. There was only time to taste a few wines, but I was struck, one again, just how good the better wines are and what superb value for money they represent. If you enjoy red Bordeaux  and can’t justify the silly prices so often asked for the top wines, this is surely the place to look.

At lunch at le Plaisance in Bourg (a terrific bistro in a delightful setting), which specialises in the wines of the area and refuses to impose a mad mark up, the recommendation of the day was the 2006 Cuvée Prestige from Chateau Gravettes-Samonac, an estate new to me. It was great stuff (aged in a mix of new and one-year oak). It had a lovely integration of spicy oak and ripe plummy fruit with a touch of licorice, balanced, with firm but silky tannins. We decided to investigate further, went to the property, were warmly welcomed  and found that their wines are consistently good. The perfumed 2007 is, perhaps, even more successful than the more robust 06 and the Cuvée Elégance, which uses older casks, was delightfully fruity in both vintages. At the chateau door the Prestige costs €7.10 and Elégance just €5.10. What value!

Anne Mallet and her brother Hugues craft splendid wines at Chateau Haut-Maco.  The unfashionable 2007 and 2008 showed beautifully, especially their top cuvée, Jean Bernard – an even better, more concentrated wine than the Gravette-Samonac Prestige. The 2007 is a superb effort and also sells for little more than €7.

One or two vignerons have raised their prices a little. Amongst them, Bruno Martin, who is a committed advocate of biodynamic viticulture, has every reason to ask more. His 2005 Sainte Luce-Bellevue, 99% Merlot, is a superb wine. I opened a bottle the next evening and wish I’d bought more than the half a dozen which I came away with when I visited him last year.