Helen’s blog

Thoughts and tastings from Helen Savage, wine writer.

Archive for November, 2011

Muscat -for ever?

Monday, November 28th, 2011

Raymond Miquel makes the world’s finest Muscat at the Domaine de Barroubio at St Jean de Minervois. It has that magical combination of power and elegance that makes it, for me, the Muscat equivalent of Château Yquem. Until last week, I always though it was best drunk young, but then we were given a bottle of 2002. It is (was) amazingly good: still sweet and grapey, but now with a wonderfully minty complexity that reminds me a bit of top-quality aged Alsace Muscat. A revelation.

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.