Not having read too much into the 2013 vintage before arriving in Bordeaux I started with a completely open mind. My conclusions at the end of the day are that it is not a vintage to get excited about. It’s a pleasant vintage producing very drinkable wines that will be drunk early but there is nothing inspiring, so far. Out of the wines I tasted today there are no super stars and thanks to very difficult growing conditions most of the wines lack depth and colour. It was a watery year and this shows. However this is also a vintage where experience, training and terroir are playing a large part, helping to make the best out of what the chateaux have produced. The advances in winemaking technology have bolstered the process enormously and for those who have been able to invest in them, it has paid off.
It’s obvious talking to the winemakers and chateaux owners on the Left Bank that the Merlot has been the problem child. To sum up the essence of the vintage concerning the red wines today: on the good side it is pleasant and on the bad, it’s bland. There is nothing to dislike but there is no wow factor. The whites are quite different. From the 3 that I have tasted so far it could be a very good year indeed for both dry and sweet whites. I am looking forward to tasting more before I can draw a definite conclusion.
Having tasted the 4 First Growths from the Left Bank: Chateaux Lafite Rothschild, Latour, Margaux and Mouton Rothschild, I came away with some disappointment. They lacked depth and opulence that you would associate with chateaux of this rank. This is characteristic of many of the wines that I tasted.
Chateau Margaux contains no Merlot whatsoever, relying on 94% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot. The Merlot that was harvested will mainly be going into the Third and Fourth wines. The Pavillon Rouge de Chateau Margaux did contain 10% Merlot and as a Second Wine it was pleasant. The wine I did enjoy tasting was the dry white Pavillon Blanc de Chateau Margaux. It was fresh and floral on the nose, crisp and well balanced – but only 1000 cases will be produced.
Chateau Latour was respectable but the highlight for me were the past vintages that they offered at the tasting: Chateau Latour 2004, Les Forts de Latour 2006 and Pauillac 2008. Out of the three I thoroughly enjoyed the Forts de Latour 2006. With a blend of 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Merlot, I thought it was delightful in every department: good structure, a good nose, good concentration of fruit. It’s drinking beautifully.
Chateau Mouton was a bit of a let down and Chateau Lafite was acceptable. For fear of repeating myself I felt that they lacked something.
Chateaux Pichon Baron and Pichon Comtesse de Lalande
At both chateaux yet again I thought that depth was lacking. Chateau Pichon Baron will only be making 10,000 cases whereas in the 1970s they were making 30,000.
At Pichon Baron I had the chance to taste 2 white wines – a dry and a sweet. Both were very good. S de Suduiraut is a dry white with a blend of 60% Sauvignon Blanc and 40% Semillon. It is a pale lemon yellow in colour with summer fruits on the nose – a very floral fragrance. On the palate it has good levels of acidity, nice layers of fruits and its a lively, fresh wine.
Chateau Suduiraut is a sweet Sauternes with a blend of 92% Sauvignon and 8% Semillon. A golden hued wine, it is fresh on the nose with hints of honey and apricot. Well rounded on the palate with flowers accentuated in the mouth.
Chateau Cos d’Estournel and Leoville Las Cases
I thought that Leoville Las Cases wine was pleasant, as was Cos d’Estournel, but it’s not typical of what you’d normally expect from Cos d’Estournel. For me, Cos lacked the signature characteristics it usually has.
Chateau Pontet Canet
As most Bordeaux enthusiasts are aware, Chateau Pontet Canet released early before the tastings at 60 euros. Having tasted it today I personally don’t think it is as good as the 2012 and as far as my palate is concerned I found the 2013 too jammy.
Having experienced a few lows I had better point out a few highs. I felt that Chateaux Palmer, Montrose, Calon Segur, Grand Puy Lacoste, Ducru Beaucaillou and Leoville Poyferre all had something that the others weren’t offering.
The Second Wine, Alter Ego de Palmer ,definitely offered something different and the first thing I noticed was that it had real depth of colour – it was a good dark crimson. With a blend of 46% Merlot, 46% Cabernet Sauvignon and 8% Petit Verdot, the wine had good fruit on the nose and hints of opulence on the palate; as did the Grand Vin, Chateau Palmer, which was a blend of 49% Merlot and 41% Cabernet Sauvignon. Under difficult growing conditions Chateau Palmer has made a wine that stands out when compared to its peers.
Both Chateau Montrose and Calon Segur also offered more than others.
La Dame de Montrose, the Second Wine of Chateau Montrose, is a blend of 69% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Sauvignon and 13% Cabernet Franc. As a Second Wine I thought it showed better than the average and Chateau Montrose (68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot and 3% Petit Verdot) showed very well.
Chateau Calon Segur
I tasted Chateau Calon Segur in their new tasting room (which would have had Madame Capburn Gasquetron turning in her grave if she knew how much had been spent on it. It’s beautifully done though!) Both wines at Calon Segur presented well.
The Second Wine, Marquis de Calon (60% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon) had a reasonable nose which wasn’t overpowering with hints of juicy soft fruit. A nice structure, good tannins and fruits on the palate.
Chateau Calon Segur is a blend of 92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Merlot and 2% Petit Verdot. The wine was a nice deep, rich colour with an elegant hint of fruit on the nose. On the palate there was a good level of fruit, good structure and good length.
I tasted 3 wines at Chateau Grand Puy Lacoste. Chateau Haut Batailley was fair, however the Second Wine of Chateau Grand Puy Lacoste, Lacoste Borie, offered a nice depth of fruit and was well rounded. It is a blend o 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc.
The Chateau Grand Puy Lacoste was very elegant and very feminine with a good nose and nice structure in the mouth. To me, it was a typical Grand Puy Lacoste.
Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou
At Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou I tasted 3 wines: Chateaux Lalande Borie, Croix de Beaucaillou and Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou. All 3 were very pleasant.
The Lalande Borie is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Merlot and 4% Cabernet Franc. It has a good concentration of colour, a touch of good soft fruit on the nose with nice rounded tannins in the mouth, good structure and hints of spice.
The Croix de Beaucaillou is – in Mr. Borie’s words – the colour of ‘Bishop Red’ (whatever that may well be) but it is a good colour with a nice floral and fruity bouquet, good structure and tannins and a slight hint of jamminess.
Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou is a blend of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot and of the 3 wines this gave the best dense red colour. It is elegant on the nose with hints of violets and red berries. In the mouth it is soft and polished with rich red fruits and a hint of spice. A nice wine.
Chateau Leoville Poyferre
The last chateau I visited was Chateau Leoville Poyferre where I tasted 4 wines. With all 4 Mr. Cuvelier and his team have done a very good job in difficult conditions.
Chateau Le Croix, the Second Wine of Chateau Le Crock is a blend of 53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot and 7% Petit Verdot. It has good colour, a good nose and good layers of fruit in the mouth with nice raspberry flavours. It has good length and some depth.
Chateau Moulin Riche (55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot and 17% Petit Verdot) has a good density of colour, a good nose with nice layers of fruit and a good depth of fruit on the palate with hints of spice and elegance. A nice example from the estate.
I had had the opportunity of tasting the Second Wine of Chateau Leoville Poyferre, Pavillon de Poyferre, which has a blend of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot and 15% Petit Verdot. To me this was slightly a notch above the Moulin Riche but it has similar structure and elegance and is a good crimson colour.
Chateau Leoville Poyferre (55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot and 3% Cabernet Franc) was a nice deep crimson with rounded tannins, good balance and a nice nose of raspberry and red fruits. It was a very nice wine to end my first day on.