Helen’s blog

Thoughts and tastings from Helen Savage, wine writer.

Bordeaux 2001 – claret as it used to be.

I’m grateful to Triturus, a group of wine-tasters here in Newcastle, who invited me to guide them through a few bottles of fine wine yesterday. I chose five top wines, all second growths, from the 2001 vintage in Bordeaux, an underrated but elegant vintage, which, in the best wines, shows a very appealing freshness of fruit.

We began with two wines from Margaux.

Chateau Rauzan-Ségla showed a bit of age – quite a mature ruby, but had developed a superb, almost floral bouquet (truly a bouquet), with hints of sweet vanilla and ripe black fruit. Initially rather dry, it was balanced, medium weight, with both quite pronounced minerality and also an aromatic, floral aftertaste.

Chateau Brane-Cantenac, looked a little younger and though also quite scented, was more cedary than floral, with black fruits and even licorice. It was much more chewy, even chunky, with quite firm tannins, but quite a perfumed aftertaste.

We then turned to St Julien.

Chateau Léoville Poyferré was big, ripe and cedary with lots of spicy fruit and maybe a touch too much unintegrated spicy oak. Sweetly ripe in the mouth with quite crunchy fruit and firm tannins it had a spicy, but relatively short finish. It was, perhaps, the least exciting of the five – relatively straightforward and lacking a little elegance.

Chateau Gruaud Larose was creamily ripe, with brambly, savoury fruit, and a great deal of spice, especially cinnamon. Quite intense, rich, soft and with a good concentration of black fruit, it also hinted at coffee and again, licorice.

And then Pauillac.

Chateau Pichon- Lalande was lovely, elegant, ripe and spicy with cedary black fruit and considerable concentration. Big and still structured, with lovely freshness of fruit, it was not only the wine that showed the greatest elegance and complexity, but also the one that promised to develop most in the future.

Conclusions? Five wines aren’t enough to make sweeping generalisations, but these were all hugely enjoyable balanced clarets, perfumed and elegant and great partners for food. Are they, I wonder, a style that we shall not often meet in the future? All the wines were bought from Richard Granger Fine Wines – a splendid source of fine, mature claret at prices that make the en primeur rates for the over-hyped 2009s seem even more ridiculous.

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