-The WING Group met at the ICC on Thursday 8th January to taste 6 Right Bank Clarets.

The selection of wines, as usual for the ICC tastings, focused on the £13-£17 range and in this case the 2007-2010 vintages. The group of wines were put together not by me, but by the Wine Society. That more or less guarantees well-made, pleasurable and good value examples, in my experience. However at this price level is concentrated on lesser appellations of the Right Bank: Côtes des Castillon and Côtes des Francs, the “Satellites” (Lalande-de-Pomerol, Lussac-St. Emilion, Montagne-St. Emilion) and Fronsac. However modern advances in these areas in depth of flavour, ripeness, warmth and extraction can easily go over into fruit-driven international styles that – in my opinion – don’t express the essence of the area’s wines. Before the tasting I thought these wines might straddle that stylistic edge… and so it proved.

Here are my notes:

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CHÂTEAU DE LA COMMANDERIE 2010 Lalande-de-Pomerol – 14% (Wine Society – £13)
This is a wine from the Moueix stable, and cheapish for anything with the word Pomerol on the label. The nose is all soft fruit – and the opening palate has sweet fruit, then a big hit of acidity and tannins in the middle palate before a return of sweet fruit with a slightly spicy twist at the (quite early) finish. Not altogether integrated and rather one dimensional. A definite “fruit-driven” style.
Quality: 13/20   Value: 14/20

CHÂTEAU PUYGERAUD 2008 Bordeaux Côtes de Francs – 13½% (Wine Society – £13.50)
Slightly vegetal or forest-floor notes, sweet fruit and a hint of oak. Palate has a warm herby element, plum fruit and a continuous line of soft tannins, liquorice (from the 5% dash of Malbec in the blend?) and darker fruit hints appear later. Better integrated and more satisfying than the previous wine.
Quality: 15/20   Value: 16/20

VIEUX CHÂTEAU SAINT ANDRÉ 2010 Montagne-Saint-Emilion – 14½% (Wine Society – £14)
A nose of soft, quite dark, fruit framed with herby and woody tones. The palate has big fruit elements but a middle palate of supple tannins which is spread wider than the first wine. Another Moueix wine, which seems like a better integrated and harmonious version of the first wine, but still shows a similar big fruit then tannin profile.
Quality: 14/20 Value: 14/20

MADAME CHÂTEAU DE PITRAY 2009 Côtes de Castillon – 14½% (Wine Society – £15)
This has a black fruit, a soapy note and then floral and non fruit hints. The palate is supple with herby (maybe from C. Franc, which is 30% of the blend, vinified separately) notes and supple tannins. But no flavour is over-emphasised and the whole is smooth, multi-faceted, integrated a enjoyable….
Quality: 16/20 Value: 16/20

CH. DU COURLAT CUVÉE JEAN-BAPTISTE 2009 Lussac-Saint-Emilion – 14½% (Wine Society – £15)
This has some wood giving a smoky note too – then big, but not overwhelming, prune notes. The palate has prunes too and similar light counterpoints of wood and smoke, but the fruit is the main event leading to a slightly meaty finish. Very fruit driven, one might mistake this 100% Merlot for a – good – New World example. It has some other factors and more going on to offset the even bigger fruit, but still “international”, the best of that style in my view.
Quality: 15/20 Value: 15/20

CHÂTEAU DE LA DAUPHINE 2007 Fronsac – 13% (Wine Society – £17
This has a promising pedigree: Fronsac, for a start; fermentation in concrete (especially good for Cabernet Franc in my experience); vineyard expanded onto higher slopes; modernised cellar and made within an 11 year interregnum between (the frying pan of) Mouiex ownership until 2000 and (the fire of) Michel Rolland consultancy since 2011.
This has prune fruit too, but also herby notes and an “ascending” floral note that resolves into violet, giving more complexity than we’ve seen so far. The palate is driven by supple persistent acidity underlying the warm fruit, grainy tannins and final chocolate note… hints of herbs too. Very good, interesting, balanced and showing welcome complexity whether they come from age, the Franc element or careful vinification, Good – and the most persuasive.
Quality: 17/20 Value: 16/20

So – the tasting panned out just as forecast with a hazy line between styles that we might label “fruit-driven” or international and those that are more “classic” and broader. These were good examples of both – you’ll be able to detect my preferences – but each to their own!

Until next time…

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