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Insider Tips – Bordeaux’s 2007 Vintage Comes of Age

Decanter’s January issue has a piece on Bordeaux’s ugly duckling vintages; amongst them is the 2007. Ugly ducklings turn into swans and I have some top tips to help you cherry pick the beauties that were overlooked.

The 2007 vintage gains its wings
The 2007 vintage gains its wings

It pays to be patient with vintages. When scores are released on Bordeaux’s Grand Cru Classes they are only babies, freshly hatched as it were. Barely 6 months old, and still in the barrel, these fledgling wines are criticised and examined for their future potential. Some vintages are strong and full of prowess, others are a little more hesitant and need time to develop before they leave the nest. 2007 is one of these. Now, 7 years down the line the 2007 vintage is starting to flex its wings.

‘The ugly duckling, 2007, is becoming a swan.’

The 2007 vintage has gained deepening balance, polished tannins, harmony and structure
The 2007 vintage has gained deepening balance, polished tannins, harmony and structure

I’ve always been an advocate of the 2007 vintage as regular readers will know from my writing (see further reading below). I believe that the reason why the 2007 vintage was over shadowed is due to the fact that people confused wine investment with drinking. The 2007 vintage generally had a high pH level and as a consequence lacks the longevity that you see in the extraordinary vintages of 2009 and 2010 that followed it. This makes 2007 a very good year for drinking but not for laying down for investment. And good drinking it is, too! I’ve often told customers who know me well that if they are ever in a restaurant and spot a Bordeaux 2007 on the wine list that they should go for it. Their feedback has confirmed my advice.

pape clement label small size
Chateau Pape Clement 2007 Grand Cru Graves from Pessac Leognan. ‘One of the stars of the 2007 vintage’. Beautifully opulent
Chateau La Mission Haut Brion 2007 Grand Cru Graves.  From the same stable as Premier Cru Haut Brion in Pessac Leognan.  'The wine of the vintage'.  Stunning
Chateau La Mission Haut Brion 2007 Grand Cru Graves. From the same stable as Premier Cru Haut Brion in Pessac Leognan. ‘The wine of the vintage’. Stunning


Vintages in Bordeaux are tasted and assessed at En Primeur during April when the great and the good descend en masse to sample the wines in barrel, a good 18 months or so before it is bottled. The wine at this point in time is made from grapes harvested the previous September or October and is only 6 months old. Judgement is passed, the all important critics scores are allocated and prices set.

You might ask why the wines are tasted, appraised and purchased at such a young age and it would be a very good question. It makes more sense to taste the wine when it has developed rather than in its infant state. The answer is that En Primeur is a tradition from the bad old days when chateaux needed to make money fast to survive. Selling the wine young meant that the chateaux would have the funds in place ready for the next harvest and following vintage. This has evolved over the years and nowadays En Primeur has matured into the buying and selling of ‘wine futures’ (purchasing a wine in its early stages at its lowest price either as an investment or as a means of securing limited stock).

Chapelle d'Ausone 2007 Second Wine of Chateau Ausone, Premier Cru Classe A, Saint Emilion.  Supple and delicious; notably less expensive than its stellar parent, Ausone
Chapelle d’Ausone 2007 Second Wine of Chateau Ausone, Premier Cru Classe A, Saint Emilion. Supple and delicious; notably less expensive than its stellar parent, Ausone
Chateau Bellevue Mondotte 2007 – Grand Cru Saint Emilion.  A micro-cuvee with tiny production and cult following, from the same stable as Chateau Pavie, Premier Cru Classe A
Chateau Bellevue Mondotte 2007  Grand Cru Saint Emilion. A micro-cuvee with tiny production and cult following, from the same stable as Chateau Pavie, Premier Cru Classe A

Before wines at tasted at En Primeur Harvest Reports on the growing season are issued and interpreted by the wine industry. They are an early predictor of what you can expect the style and quality of the vintage to be. Harvest Reports tend to fall into those that bear glad tidings and those that are the harbingers of doom. We tend to get very excited in the wine industry if the harvest looks exceptional (there have been no less than 3 vintages heralded as the ‘vintage of the century’ in the last decade: 2005, 2009 and 2010). As for the harbingers of doom, well to be honest unless there is an extreme weather event resulting in disaster it’s pretty much impossible for the top chateaux to make a bad wine these days.

A good year for drinking
2007 has something for everyone and every pocket

‘Wine making technology is cutting edge if you can afford it and poor harvests can be saved in the blending room’.

With the 2007 harvest temperatures were unseasonally low; there was a lack of sun and rain fell at the wrong time of year. However there is an old saying in Bordeaux: ‘Wait until the last grapes are in before making a judgement.’ Wise words. Sure enough the weather came good. Right at the end of the season the sun shone and grapes matured nicely under ripening blue skies. The style of the wine in 2007 was very different to the blockbusters of 2005, 2009 and 2010. The 2007 wines have lower alcohol content compared to their heady peers and when I tasted them at En Primeur 7 years ago I enjoyed their refreshing approachability. At the time I wrote that 2007 should appeal to younger drinkers who are used to drinking New World wines. In their infancy these wines were uncomplicated and were easy drinking – perfect for those who hadn’t tried a Grand Cru Classe Claret before as the 2007 is a good year for appreciating what Bordeaux can offer.

Mathilde de La Fleur Morange 2007 – Second Wine of Chateau La Fleur Morange, Grand Cru Saint Emilion.  Hedonistic and lusicious; notably less expensive than its ascendent parent.
Mathilde de La Fleur Morange 2007  Second Wine of Chateau La Fleur Morange, Grand Cru Saint Emilion. Hedonistic and lusicious; notably less expensive than its ascendent parent.
Chateau La Fleur Morange 2007  Grand Cru Saint Emilion.  A micro-cuvee with tiny production and a loyal cult following; made from 100 year old vines.  'The star of the Right Bank.'  ' Gorgeously full bodied 2007
Chateau La Fleur Morange 2007 Grand Cru Saint Emilion. A micro-cuvee with tiny production and a loyal cult following; made from 100 year old vines. ‘The star of the Right Bank.’ ‘ Gorgeously full bodied 2007

‘The 2007s hark back to the classical Bordeaux of 20 years ago which were very popular in the UK.’

Skip forward to the future and these wines have had time to put flesh on their bones. Light and subtle they may have been but the years in bottle have allowed them deepening balance, polished tannins, harmony and structure. The ugly duckling has turned into a swan.

Insider Tip

The 2007 vintage is not only very reasonably priced thanks to being eclipsed by its peers (you can pick up some real bargains here) but it is also a vintage that you can drink NOW. The greatest Bordeaux vintages are slow burners and are cellared for years, taking decades to reach their peak, with some wines having an anticipated maturity of 20 – 50 years. 2007 gives you the opportunity to taste these wines without the wait.

A vintage you can drink NOW
A vintage you can drink NOW

This vintage also has something for everyone and every pocket. The Bordeaux Superieurs and Petit Chateaux also produced some good wines, although you will have to work hard to spot these as they mature more quickly than the Grand Cru Classe and most have been drunk already. 2007 was a wonderful year for Bordeaux’s white wines. My top dry white Grand Crus are Chateau Pape Clement Blanc 2007, an incredible wine, followed by Chateau Laville Haut Brion 2007. The 2007 sweet whites are very good indeed and the top Premier Crus are superb: Chateau d’Yquem, Chateau Climens and Chateau Rieussec. The Bordeaux Superieurs and Petit Chateaux also produced some good wines, although you will have to work hard to spot these as they mature more quickly than the Grand Cru Classe and most have been drunk already.

Chateau Pavie Decesse 2007 – Grand Cru Saint Emilion from the same stable as Chateau Pavie, Premier Cru Classe A .  'The blockbuster of the 2007 vintage'
Chateau Pavie Decesse 2007  Grand Cru Saint Emilion from the same stable as Chateau Pavie, Premier Cru Classe A . ‘The blockbuster of the 2007 vintage’
.Chateau L'Eglise Clinet 2007  Grand Cru Pomerol.  Unquestionably 'the best Pomerol' in the 2007 vintage.  Astonishling flavours, sleek and smouldering
.Chateau L’Eglise Clinet 2007  Grand Cru Pomerol. Unquestionably ‘the best Pomerol’ in the 2007 vintage. Astonishling flavours, sleek and smouldering

These 2007s are available from Bordeaux-Undiscovered’s fine wine merchant branch, Interest In Wine. The wines have first class provenance; being stored in bond, direct from chateau.

Further Reading:

If you are interested in learning more about the 2007 vintage and its wines checkout my blogs listed below:

The Bordeaux 2007 Harvest – Good or Bad? Make Your Choice

Bordeaux Wine – 2007 Tasting – The Star of the Right Bank

Bordeaux 2007 Tasting – The Red Wines

Bordeaux 2007 Tasting – Wonderful Whites and Cautionary Word to the Chateaux

Chateau La Tour du Pin 2007 – Rare Grand Cru Saint Emilion.  From the same stable as Chateau Cheval Blanc Premier Cru Classe A.  Only a few vintages made.  Tremendous value
Chateau La Tour du Pin 2007  Rare Grand Cru Saint Emilion. From the same stable as Chateau Cheval Blanc Premier Cru Classe A. Only a few vintages made. Tremendous value
Chateau Troplong Mondot 2007 -  Premier Cru Classe B, Saint Emilion.  'A brilliant 2007' from a high flyer.  Superb purity and elegance
Chateau Troplong Mondot 2007  Premier Cru Classe B, Saint Emilion. ‘A brilliant 2007’ from a high flyer. Superb purity and elegance

En Primeur 2007 Prices and Scores

Summary of My Week of Bordeaux 2007 Tastings

Bordeaux – Every Cloud Gas A Silver Lining

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Bordeaux En Primeur 2013 – Conclusion and Summary

Tasting glasses at Chateau Latour
Tasting glasses at Chateau Latour

I am now back in the UK and have had time to reflect on last weeks tastings. Numbers were noticeably down at the tastings and to summarise I think this is a unique vintage producing, in the main, pretty mediocre wines with a few exceptions (which I will list below). It is ‘unique’ in the sense that invariably you can find a past vintage which has similar traits but 2013 has no such comparison. It can not be termed a ‘classic’ vintage which is normally the adjective often used to describe a vintage if people can’t think of anything else to say. If this vintage had taken place 20 years ago when todays technology and knowhow were not around very little wine would have been made and there wouldn’t be a vintage. Some have tried to compare 2013 to 1984 as there was a Merlot crisis back then. The only comparison I can make is that the 2013 Left Bank wines seem to be more Burgundy in style and the Right Bank wines are similar to the style of the Rhone. As I said, there are a few exceptions, but if people are interested in buying Bordeaux wines at this time I think they would be best advised to look at past vintages where the quality is far superior and is attracting some very reasonable prices.

WHITE WINES

The 2013 Bordeaux dry white wines and sweet wines from Sauternes and Barsac however are exceptional.

Sauternes and Barsac

To be fair I could hardly fault any wines from Sauternes and Barsac – the majority contained all the characteristics of the terroir and the grapes with all the fruit and honeyed sweetness of true sweet wines.

These AOCs are also producing some very good dry whites as well as the more traditional sweet wines and S de Suduiraut (from Sauternes Chateau Suduiraut) is a good example.

Dry Whites

The dry whites produced from the following estates are excellent:

Domaine de Chevalier
Chateau Pape Clement
Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte
Chateau Haut Brion

tasting room 2013 smallRED WINES

For those insist in buying or those who would like to buy the 2013 reds the following wines from various AOCs would be a reasonable bet and are probably the best wines from this poor vintage in my opinion. The reason I say the vintage is poor and the wines mediocre is down to the fact that there were common traits in the wines; they were lacking in colour and did not possess the usual opulence and complexity that Bordeaux lovers like to see present in these wines.

New Chai at Chateau Pichon Lalande
New Chai at Chateau Pichon Lalande

First Growths

Chateau Haut Brion

Saint Estephe

Chateau Calon Segur
Chateau Le Croix (A Cru Borgeois made by Leoville Poyferre)

Pauillac

Chateau Lynch Bages
Chateau Grand Puy Lacoste

Saint Julien

Chateau Leoville Poyferre, their Second Wine Pavillon de Poyferre and Chateau Moulin Riche
Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou, their Second Wine Croix de Beaucaillou and Chateau Lalande Borie
Chateau Branaire Ducru
Chateau Talbot

Margaux

Chateau Palmer
Chateau Lascombes
Chateau Monbrison

Horse working in the vines at Chateau L'Evangile
Horse working in the vines at Chateau L’Evangile

Pomerol

Chateau Clinet
Chateau Gazin
Chateau Beauregard
Vieux Chateau Certan

Saint Emilion

Chateau Troplong Mondot
Chateau Soutard
Chateau La Laurence
Chateau Sansonnet
Chateau la Fleur Cardinale
Chateau de Pressac

Pessac Leognan and Graves

Chateau Les Carmes Haut Brion
Chateau Haut Bailly
Chateau Olivier
Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte
Domaine de Chevalier
Chateau Pape Clement

Haut Medoc, Moulis and Listrac

Chateau Chasse Spleen
Chateau Cantermerle
Chateau Beaumont

The biggest problem that I feel will affect the 2013 vintage will be the price tag the chateaux put on their wine.

Chateau Angelus new building works
Chateau Angelus new building works

To some degree I can understand why their prices are high in good years but I can not understand this thinking in poor years. As 2013 is a poor and at best a mediocre vintage it should attract representative prices. However chateaux will argue that their production is down and that their costs have increased due to the technical demands of the vintage, therefore there will be less profit. In my observations travelling around Bordeaux the opulence that is lacking in this vintage is very evident in the larger chateaux themselves thanks to their investment programmes which they have been pouring into rebuilding their chais. Figures in excess of 80 million euros have been mentioned. Do the chateaux have an ulterior motive for these expensive refurbishments? For this reason I believe they will maintain their prices as close to those of the 2012 vintage as possible, as is evident with the wines already released. That said the wines in my opinion are not worthy of a price tag that high.

Building at Chateau Margaux
Building at Chateau Margaux

This is definitely not a speculators vintage

This is definitely the vintage for Francophiles who like to drink Bordeaux wines. The wines are thinner, brighter and less complex than normal and will definitely drink a lot younger.

Having tasted numerous wines at the Cru Bourgeois tasting (which presented over 240 wines) there were wines there which are better than those made by some of the Grand Cru Classé.

I believe true value will be from the lesser known estates at Cru Bourgeois level

In my travels I was introduced to a small winemaker who has estates in Saint Emilion and Lalande de Pomerol. I tasted his wines (which he makes in back yard) and I honestly could not believe the level of fruit he had managed to maintain in a wine that would cost about 7 euros. Without being coy I am not going to name him but I will be endeavouring to purchase some.

Small winemaker
Small winemaker

This has shown me that if the winemaker has empathy with their terroir and its conditions they can still make good wines without the investment in technology. This winemaker has certainly done that.

Conclusion

In conclusion the 2013 vintage is a very good year for Dry Whites and sweet Sauternes and Barsac and a pretty mediocre year for the Reds with some exceptions; which is why – if you want to buy – you will really have to trust your wine merchant to be honest with you. For the true Bordeaux drinker I would advise you to look at the lesser known estates for real value or back vintages which are going to be far superior in quality at a similar price.

I hope you have enjoyed reading my thoughts on the En Primeur campaign this year.  Should you like to discuss any of my writings please do not hesitate to contact me.

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Bordeaux En Primeur 2013 – Day 4 – Domaine de Chevalier, Chateaux Smith Haut Lafitte, Pape Clement, Olivier and Haut Bailly

Pessac Leognan and Graves MapIt rained all night and all day here in Bordeaux. Today I visited Chateau Malartic Lagraviere to taste the wines of the Pessac Leognan and Graves AOCs. Several wines were on show and having tasted all of them I am now convinced that 2013 will be a very good vintage for sweet Sauternes and the dry whites.

I retasted Chateau Les Carmes Haut Brion and reconfirmed my initial thoughts on how well it presented earlier in the week. Wines that deserve special mention as being the highlights of the tasting are:

Chateau Olivier

Chateau Olivier 58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% merlot, 2% Petit Verdot presented a nice colour and a good nose with plenty of expressive fruit. Well balanced in the mouth with a good structure of fruit, tannins and length.

Chateaux Pape Clement, Smith Haut Lafitte and Domaine de Chevalier Reds

Chateau Pape Clement (40% Merlot, 54.5% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5.5% Cabernet Franc) came over as a very nicely structured and balanced wine as did Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte (60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot and Domaine de Chevalier (80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot and 5% Petit Verdot).

However their whites were the stars of the show.Domaine de Chavelier Blanc Label

Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc

A blend of 90% Sauvignon Blanc, 5% Semillon and 5% Sauvignon Gris this was fresh and clean on the palate with very good length. A lovely example.

Domaine de Chevalier Blanc

I thought the DomDomaine de Chevalier Tastingaine de Chevalier Blanc was excellent. It is a blend of 80% Sauvignon Blanc and 20% Semillon with a good crisp floral nose. In the mouth it expressed fresh white fruit and had a very well balanced level of acidity. A wine that I am sure will go down well on a sunny summer’s afternoon – it’s delicious.

The lunch which Olivier Bernard put on was extremely good and there were several wines on display to try with your meal. I allowed myself a small glass of Chateau Mouton Rothschild 1984.

Chateau Haut Bailly

Having tasted Chateau Haut Bailly at Malartic Lagraviere I was also invited to taste it at the chateau. I’m pleased I did because there were two wines on offer, La Parde de Haut Bailly and the Grand Vin itself. Whilst talking at the chateau they told me that during the harvest on the day that they had decided to pick the grapes (Oct 1st) the temperature rose quite dramatically but luckily they managed to double the harvesting team within two hours.

Chateau Haut Bailly is a blend of 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Franc and is a clean clear crimson colour. It’s very expressive on the nose with good layers of fruit and hints of spices. In the mouth the layers of fruit reaHaut Bailly Barrelslly come alive offering good balanced structure and good length with hints of complexity.

Complexity has been sadly lacking in a lot of other wines in this vintage but Haut Bailly put in a lot of attention to detail, time and hard work to ensure that the juice was gently extracted from the grapes so perhaps this played a hand.

La Parde de Haut Bailly

La Parde de Haut Bailly (52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 46% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc) is a bright fresh crimson in the glass and in the mouth the fruit really expressed well with good balance and a good length.

I also tasted the Chateau Haut Bailly 2012 which is coming along very , very nicely and will be a beautiful wine when its ready to drink.

Le Parde de Haut Bailly New LabelIt was a relatively short day’s tasting for me today as I had three further meetings in the afternoon. The atmosphere over here is quite tense surrounding this vintage, knowing as we do the release price of a couple of chateaux. As I have said before this is in general a mediocre vintage and should be treated as such in the market re pricing but I have my doubts. I will summarise my thoughts and they will be available to read on Monday.

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Bordeaux En Primeur 2013 – Day 3 – Chateau Lynch Bages, Branaire Ducru, Montbrison, Lascombes, Chasse Spleen, Doisy Daene, Guiraud and Crus Bourgeois

bordeaux townYou’ll be happy to know that the weather currently in Bordeaux is what we normally experience in the UK, it’s persisting with rain and I am sat in my hotel room this evening looking out on a wet and soggy Bordeaux. Today I visited the length and breadth of the Left Bank, starting at Chateau Lafon Rochet which was hosting the Paulliac and Saint Estephe AOC tastings. I bumped into Basile Tesseron who runs Lafon Rochet for his family. He is a very warm and charming character and, as seems to be the fashion for the younger men nowadays, he has grown a full beard. Basile showed me a video that he has recently made which is extremely informative and he promised to send me a copy which I’ll ultimately put on my website, so watch this space.

pvThe Petit Verdot grape in the 2013 blends is making all the difference this year. Those wines that do contain it seem to be the better for it and I have noticed that the chateaux who have used this grape have produced wines that I have generally preferred. Petit Verdot ripens late and is grown in smaller quantities than the major varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and to some extent Cabernet Franc. It adds colour, tannin and structure to the blend. In previous vintages you normally see between 1 – 3% used in the blend but it has been used in higher quantities for 2013. It seems to have added a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ to the vintage, adding richness and roundness to the wines.

Pauillac and Saint Estephe

The wines on show from Pauillac and Saint Estephe showed reasonably well given the trying year that the winemakers had endured. I retasted Chateau d’Armailhac and Clerc Milon and my disappointment remained the same as when first tasted. The wines presented from Saint Estephe all showed similar characteristics and had good colour and balance – they will be good drinking wines.

Chateau Lynch Bages

The wine from Pauillac that I thought worthy of note was Lynch Bages. It’s a blend of 72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot. This had a nice deep crimson colour, was very well balanced in the mouth with rich fruit. It was lacking a bit of depth compared to previous vintages but will be a very nice drinking wine when ready.

Saint Julien

I visited Chateau Lagrange which was holding the tastings for the Saint Julien AOC. I must admit Lagrange really is a beautiful chateau with its small lake in front of the chateau home to a family of swans at the moment. Here, I also had the opportunity to retaste Chateau Leoville Poyferre and this reaffirmed my earlier opinion that it will make a good wine.

In the main the wines from Saint Julien showed well. Petit Verdot was used in the blends of those that I enjoyed most, for example Chateau Beychevelle had 9% Petit Verdot , Gloria 5%, Lagrange and Talbot both had 4%. In particular I must highlight Chateau Branaire Ducru:

Chateau Branaire Ducru

Branaire Ducru is a blend of 5% Petit Verdot, 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Merlot and 1% Cabernet Franc and is a rich crimson in the glass. It has good fruit on the nose and a well balanced structure in the mouth with good length.

siranMargaux

At Chateau Marquis de Terme I tasted the wines from the Margaux AOC and I thought these were good presentations. Once again I preferred those where Petit Verdot had a hand in the blend: Chateau du Tertre had 5% Petit Verdot, Rauzan Segla 2% and Siran 10%.

Chateau Prieure Lichine (5% Petit Verdot) and Chateau Kirwan (10% Petit Verdot) came across very well. They picked the grapes 10 days earlier than anticipated at Kirwan and the entire village joined in – as they have done for the last 50 years. Although they have produced a good wine under the circumstances production is down 35%.

Two wines that stood out for me were Chateau Montbrison and Chateau Lascombes.

montbrison labelChateau Montbrison

With a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot Montbrison was reasonably deep in colour with good, elegant fruit on the nose and a nice balance between fruit, tannins and acidity in the mouth with good length.

Chateau Lascombes

Lascombes with a blend of 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 50% Merlot and 5% Petit Verdot was definitely a few degrees above the rest. A nice crimson in the glass it had a good layer of fruit on the nose and good balance of cassis and blackcurrant fruit in the mouth with a touch of violets and spice.

Over lunch I met the Director at Lascombes, Dominic Befve, and had a long chat with him about his wine and how he had coped with the difficult vintage. Dominic said that he had enjoyed it because it had proved to be a challenge: ‘it’s easy to make good wine in a good year but the challenge is making it in a demanding year’.

Medoc, Haut Medoc, Moulis and Listrac

I visited Chateau Clarke to taste the wines from the Haut Medoc, Moulis and Listrac AOCs. I wasn’t looking forward to the tasting as in the past these wines have not suited my palate and I used to find the tannins harsh. I was genuinely surprised to find that this was not the case with the 2013 vintage. It proved to be a pleasant tasting with the wines presenting very well, although one or two wines were over extracted. Two wines to highlight are Chateau Chasse Spleen and Chateau Cantermerle.

Chateau Chasse Spleen

Made with a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot and 7% Petit Verdot this was slightly lighter in colour than usual but had a clean, fresh nose with nice freshness of fruit in the mouth. There wcantermerleere hints of tannins but it was well balanced and I think this could be a very nice easy drinking wine when the time is right.

Chateau Cantermerle

Chateau Cantermerle (55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot) was a good crimson in the glass with good fresh red fruit on the nose. Nicely rounded and well balanced in the mouth with rich blackberry fruit and good length.

sauternes and barsac mapSauternes and Barsac Dry and Sweet Whites

At Chateau La Lagune I tasted the wines of Sauternes and Barsac. 2013 is definitely a vintage that will be remembered for its beautiful dry and sweet whites from these AOCs. All the wines I tasted presented very well indeed. The more I taste the sweet wines the more aware I become of their great versatility with food. They make fantastic pairings with strong and salty Roquefort cheese, enhance dishes in rich tangy sauces such as Duck al’Orange and are superb with spicy Indian cuisine – try them with your favourite curry, Balti or Madras, whatever your preference. Two wines that struck a real note with me were Chateau Doisy Daene and Chateau Guiraud.

Chateau Doisy Daene

Chateau Doisy Daene is made with a blend of 90% Semillon and 10% Sauvignon Blanc and is a rich gold colour with fresh white summer fruits on the nose. Well rounded in the mouth it offers opulent peach and good acidity. A lovely wine.

Chateau Guiraud

A blend of 65% Semillon and 35% Sauvignon Blanc Chateau Guiraud was honey hued in the glass with good soft white fruits on the nose. Good acidity, nice and fresh with hints of nectarine and honeysuckle. Nicely rounded. Another lovely wine.

cbCrus Bourgeois

I completed the day with a visit to the Crus Bourgeois tastings at Chateau d’Arsac. I am a great believer that it is here that you will find the true reflection of any vintage as these are usually Petit Chateaux who don’t necessarily have the finance to take them into the high tech realms that the big chateaux can afford. These are real artisan chateaux with great history and with around 240 wines on display I had a very good selection to go at. I hasten to add that I didn’t taste all 240 but chose a selection from each AOC.

Very few people seem to visit the Crus Bourgeois tastings compared to the bigger tasting events. The local wine enthusiasts do and this tells me something. I think that the Crus Bourgeois are where the true value is going to come from this year – and maybe in the future. These wines are made by passionate traditional winemakers who make quality wines that many overlook.

The wines reflected what the larger chateaux had provided in terms of quality in a difficult year. One or two were over extracted but you can’t blame them if yields are down. I retasted Chateau La Croix from Leoville Poyferre (Saint Estephe) and reaffirmed my findings on Day 1 – it will make a very nice wine. Wines to note are:

Chateau Plantey (Paulliac) is a blend of 45% Cabernet Sauvignon and 55% Merlot. I thought this was charming.

Chateau d’Arsac (Margaux) is a blend of 67% Cabernet Sauvignon and 33% Merlot.

Chateau Cissac (Haut Medoc) is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Merlot and 8% Petit Verdot. This will be a very good drinking wine when the time is right.

Chateau Lamothe Cissac (Medoc) is a blend of 58% Cabernet sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot.

Chateau Le Monteil d’Arsac (Haut Medoc) is a blend of 48% Cabernet sauvignon and 52% Merlot.

peyrabon labelChateau Peyrabon (Haut Medoc) is a blend of 59% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot.

Chateau Senejac (Haut Medoc) is a blend of 48% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Franc and 4% Petit Verdot. Followers of Senejac will not be disappointed.

Tomorrow I will be visiting the Graves and Pessac Leognan tastings at Chateau Malartic Lagraviere. I will also be tasting Chateau Haut Bailly and am looking forward to having lunch at Domaine de Chevalier. Olivier Bernard always treats us to a jolly good spread and some wonderful wines. I will post my findings on Friday and sum up the vintage on Monday.

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Bordeaux En Primeur 2013 – Day 2 – Chateau Haut Brion, Angelus, Cheval Blanc, Troplong Mondot, La Fleur Morange, Vieux Chateau Certan

HB signDay 2 started at the First Growth Chateau Haut Brion (Pessac Leognan) where we were offered 6 reds and 3 white wines from the estate. All the reds were around 13% abv and yet again showed the 2013 vintage’s characteristic lack of concentration in colour. However overall they presented quite elegantly compared to the wines I tasted yesterday.

Chateau Haut Brion, La Mission and Quintus

Chateau Haut Brion (50% Merlot, 4.5% Cabernet Franc and 45.5% Cabernet Sauvignon) has a subtle and elegant nose with hints of soft fruits. In the mouth the elegance really came through – there was nothing harsh, nothing austere and it was nicely rounded and balanced. So, a very good start to the day! Haut Brion is my favourite out of the First Growths I have tasted but it certainly doesn’t have the ‘wow factor,’ albeit a very pleasant offering.

Chateau La Mission Haut Brion (45% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc and 32% Cabernet Sauvignon) came through similarly. Of the lesser wines from the estate I thought Chateau Quintus (80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc) – Haut Brion’s Saint Emilion estate – was most interesting.

The 3 whites showed well and this suggests to me that my previous thoughts were right. It looks like 2013 is a vintage that favours the Bordeaux white wines. All 3 were floral on the nose with fresh white fruits and had good acidity.

Saint EmilionSt Emilion and Pomerol map

I ventured on to Saint Emilion on the Right Bank where Chateau Angelus were hosting a tasting in their recently refurbished chateau. The revamp must have cost an absolute fortune and it was very, very well done – especially the oak lined roof in the tasting room. Tasting several wines at the chateau it quickly became evident that the Merlot has performed much better on the Right Bank this year than the Left, giving a nice depth of colour.

Saint Emilion First Growths

Chateau Angelus

The Second Wine of Chateau Angelus, Carillon d’Angelus, presented a nice deep crimson colour, as did Chateau Angelus, but I didn’t get the density and depth from the wine that I have had in previous years tastings.

The owner of Angelus, Hubert Bouard, is a consultant oenologist at several estates and I came across one of his wines that I have not tasted before: Chateau La Laurence. It is 100% Merlot and is from a plot near Saint Sulpice et Cameyrac with about 7 hectares of vines. The wine was deep garnet in colour and the Merlot was rich – a nice little wine.

Ch Cheval BlancChateau Cheval Blanc

The Second Wine, Le Petit Cheval, is a blend of 79% Merlot and 21% Cabernet Franc. It lacked density and concentration of colour, has an acceptable nose and some soft blackberry and raspberry fruits in the mouth.

Chateau Cheval Blanc (53% Cabernet Franc and 47% Merlot) is a reasonable colour, has good fruit on the nose and in the mouth has a nice balance and a good finish with quite a lot of fruit.

Chateau Troplong Mondot

Chateau Troplong Mondot presented delightfully with a blend of 90% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Cabernet Franc. It was very expressive on the nose with deep rich berries, really dense in colour and in the mouth it offered good layers of dark fruits: cassis and blackberry. Yields are slightly down at the chateau. In 2012 they produced 37 litres per hectare, they produced 34 this year. Interestingly the chateau believes that the younger vines had greater resistence to the adverse weather conditions and I think the spirit of Christine Valette will live on with this vintage.

Chateau La Gaffeliere and Clos Fourtet

I visited the La Grappe tasting organised by the consultant oenologist Stephane Derenoncourt hosted by Chateau La Gaffeliere. I liked the elegance of Chateau La Gaffeliere, there was no harshness or austerity in the mouth and I appreciated the way it presented.

Amongst the wines Chateau Les Carmes Haut Brion (Pessac Leognan) is worthy of note with a blend of 20% Merlot, 60% Cabernet Franc and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. I thought it was a charming presentation and the wine had a pleasant bouquet with some subtle fruits, Nice in the mouth with decent balance and structure with good tannins and fruit.

I also thought Chateau Clos Fourtet showed well.

ch soutardSaint Emilion Grand Cru Classés

I tasted the Grand Cru Classés of Saint Emilion and overall they were pretty good but there were one or two which were lacking a bit – not by much, but a little. Sansonnet along with Laroze, La Fleur Cardinale and de Pressac were good examples from the AOC.

Whilst talking with the owners about the problems the year had thrown at them one producer said that if this vintage had happened 20 years ago they would not have been able to produce any wine at all. This just goes to show how much technology has moved on and how it has helped advance methods of winemaking.

Chateau La Dominique showed well as did Chateau Soutard. What I found interesting with Soutard is the blend used to make the wine: 62% Merlot, 28% Cabernet Franc, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Malbec. The Malbec did its job in offering that extra concentration of cassis and blackcurrant fruit and it presented well.

LFM barrels chaiChateau La Fleur Morange

I also tasted Chateau La Fleur Morange with the owner, Jean Francois Julien, and he explained what a difficult year it had been. His yields were very down; last year he made 22 barrels of his Second Wine, Mathilde, and this year he could only make 9. It was the same story with the Grand Vin, La Fleur Morange. This year it contains an unprecedented blend of 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. The wine was a little down on its usual richness and colour with a nose that was slightly closed but the fruit in the mouth was elegant. It’s not as opulent as in previous years but it is a good wine and I am sure it will develop.

Pomerol

I found that the further I went into the Right Bank the more the colour became evident; a nice deep crimson colour rather than the subtle, lighter colour that presented yesterday on the Left Bank. The one AOC that was homogenous was Pomerol. Most of the wines here presented well; the majority of which are Merlot, in some cases as much as 98%. Gazin, of course, was 100% Merlot. As with Saint Emilion, Pomerol faced a difficulties regarding the quality of the Merlot but the hard work of the winemakers has paid off.

A couple of wines which I thought showed better than the rest were Chateaux Beauregard, Clinet and Gazin. They had good layers of fruit, a nice level of opulence and are wines that I think will make good drinking.

VCC labelVieux Chateau Certan

As usual I had a very interesting chat with Alexandre Thienpont, the owner of Vieux Chateau Certan, who is always charming. He is sad to announce that they have only been able to produce 20% of their usual output which equates to about 1000 cases. They usually produce 4000.

The wine itself is very attractive and talking to him I described it as an ‘elegant lady’. It presented very well with a lovely crimson colour, an elegant and expressive nose and was charming in the mouth.

He explained that his Cabernet Franc was planted in 1958 and his Merlots were planted in 1932, 1942, 1959 and 1972 and believes that the complexity in the wine comes from vines of 25 years of age or more. He confirmed that it had been a difficult year but that the winemaker had done wonders and hoped that he wouldn’t have to face another vintage like this one again soon.

Tomorrow I will be visiting the Left Bank starting with Saint Estephe and working my way down.