“The more you look, the more you discover” – so says the latest, and most expensive ever, Bordeaux wine promotion. A tautology for many things in life, and certainly all wine, you might think. For Bordeaux (always a marginal area and with so many variables: in soil; grapes; winemaking; weather and – most of all – time) is seems especially apt!
So –  6 members of the WING group went to Hart’s in Nottingham for a sampling of 8 Bordeaux wines followed by supper on November 20th.

The supper – it almost goes without saying – was excellent – a stunning and imaginative Root Vegetable terrine with Truffle Mayonnaise, paired with a very Sauvignon-weighted 2012 Tour des Gendres, Cuvée du Conti, Bergerac Blanc. Then Roast Pheasant with Bubble and Squeak, Game Chips and bread sauce washed down with a supple 2008 Chateau Coucheroy, Pessac Leognan and finally Prune and Armagnac Ice Cream &  Langue du Chat Biscuits. It was all fabulous, but the serious work was previous to that, when we tried 8 x 2005 Left Bank Clarets.

This was perhaps my 7th or 8th time at such event – and although they are always interesting and enjoyable, this was perhaps the most anticipated so far. I, like many, had bought some 2005 clarets on the grounds of the early vintage reports, and so far had found them under-developed. Now at 9 years old, here was a glorious opportunity to see how some of the wines were doing.

Here are my observations:

1 2005 Cantemerle, Haut Medoc
This was a classic claret colour. An immediate fruit nose – damsons – quickly subsides to give a vaguely medicinal note, that turns with time into fenugreek!? Palate is firmly structured with a spirit fruit line and lightish tannins overbalanced by solid acidity. Definitely too young, an impression still apparent some time later with food.

2 2005 Latour Carnet, Haut Medoc
Slightly darker colour. More persistent darker fruit nose, a sweet hint then sweet oak and some spice. Softer warm blackcurrant fruit, then some spice, earthy tannins just about balanced – high acidity cries out for food – just coming into balance… With food, and some time, the wine seems better – for food this may only need a year or two.

3 2005 Gloria St Julien
Similar colour to (1). Quiet nose, then some grainy, almost coffee notes. Palate is tough with warm but earthy tannins swamping the otherwise pleasant plum fruit. A grainy – almost bitter note on the finish. Seems very young, and even with food the toughness sticks out. Needs some time – but will the fruit last? My least favourite of the night.

4 2005 Sarget de Gruaud Larose, St Julien
This is the second wine of the prestigious and long-lived Chateau Gruaud Larose. A personal favourite of mine since some friends gave me a (fabulous) bottle of the 1986 when it was 23 years old! This wine needs no such longevity and is supple and approachable now. The lightest colour yet, the nose has nutty and vegetal tones – then plums and herbs. The tannins are more supple and already in balance with the fruit. The sweetness and forwardness of the fruit makes this very drinkable now. In fact, with the main course the wine is a little too light, if anything, to cope with the many sweet elements in the food.


5 2005 Pédesclaux, Pauillac
This is rather dark, and has cedar wood, medicinal – almost Germolene – heavy nose, with herbs and olives appearing too. Palate has a supple sharp fruit character but with firm but fine tannins a little unintegrated. Very promising and not to far off – again the food helped and it offset the sweet trimmings well.

6 2005 Baron de Brane, Margaux
Another second wine, and again a more forward resolution of flavours. Darker than the other second wine (4), but lighter than (5). Sweetish nose with floral hints, quite a balanced palate with fruit showing – raspberry and soft plum – with a lively acid line and a mere hint of spice towards the finish. Relatively simple, but enjoyable now and with enough body to cope with the food. The best of all right now!

7 2005 Vincent, Margaux
Similar colour, quiet nose with suggestions, no more, of plum skin and spirit. Quiet but elegant palate with sour plums and fine tannins, nearing balance and very promising but a little sharp and un-integrated now. More resolved a half hour later with the food.

8 2005 Phélan Ségur, St Estèphe
Similar colour, with a nutty, pungent, draino first nose – with a lily and meaty element underneath. Palate is shot through with strong, tannic line right through to the finish. The tannins are showing signs of softening and even now worked better with the food. A very promising wine, I think, but needing 5 years?!

A fabulously interesting tasting. With the second wines being much more forward, as you might expect – they are almost surely made that way. I found myself writing a lot about the quality and evolution of the tannins – a sure sign the wines are young. However the grand vins are all showing signs of coming onto song with varying intervals left to go, and only the Gloria looking unpromising. If I had to choose which wines I’d drink now or keep for 5 years the answers would have to be Baron de Brane and Phélan Ségur, respectively.

Thanks to Tim Hart and team for a memorable evening.