Archives for category: Bordeaux

While I was away – tasting in action, in the Loire, nearly 3 weeks ago John and Ann presented the W1NG group with a tasting of six 2013 wines from Bordeaux – one each from 6 well-known appellations: Haut-Médoc; Pauillac; Margaux; Graves; Saint Emilion and Pomerol.

I have had the notes from John for a while but didn’t want to post them when they would be immediately over-taken by the the Balkan scene-setting post. So now there will be a window for 3 or 4 days – here they are:

The wine had been purchased from the Wine Society Bordeaux 2013 en primeur offer and one of the aims of the evening was to try and see how easy it might be to work out not only which were left bank/right bank but also to see if we could work out the appellation itself? This was always likely to be challenging especially as some of the wines were not necessarily typical. 2013 was also a difficult vintage with very problematic weather conditions and a particularly small harvest. Wine for early drinking rather than cellaring, the Wine Society suggested. The Wine Society had also commented that it was producers, rather than communes, that succeeded or failed to make good wine in this vintage and that the en primeur offer recommended those that stood out as the best within the class. A test of the Wine Society as well possibly?

The wines were served blind, the first two together and the last two together. A very basic “crib sheet” was provided which attempted to highlight the differing aromas and flavours that we might expect to find in wines from the different communes and the different grapes. Once each wine, or pair of wines was tasted, the group shared their thoughts and suggested which region the wines might be from. Only following that, was the bottle unveiled. Some of the tasting notes below come from notes made on the night (largely illegible), some from the producer’s notes and some from other available notes.

Clos Floridène, Graves – Cabernet  Sauvignon 65%, Merlot 35%. £15.00.
This was actually on limestone soil rather than gravel based soil as might have been expected. The estate is quite far south in Graves, close to the border with Sauternes. Some blackcurrant and strawberry aromas, mint, liquorice and smokiness. Quite chunky. Not bad for the price. The majority thought this had more characteristics of the right bank.

Château Beaumont, Haut-Medoc – Cabernet Sauvignon 55%, Merlot 43%, Petit Verdot 2%. £14.30
This was from the Haut-Medoc region in the area to the north of Margaux but south of Saint Julien in reasonably gravelly soils. Some cassis and damson fruit. A little thin on the palate with some bitterness and quite typical of a difficult vintage. Probably the group’s least favourite. The group was split as to whether this was left or right bank.

Château Grand Corbin-Despagne, Saint Emilion  – Merlot 75%, Cabernet Franc 24% Cabernet Sauvignon 1%. £21
This estate is actually very close to the border between Saint Emilion and Pomerol and is on a mix of clay and sandstone soils. Quite a fresh palate. Some cassis and liquorice and pencil lead. Quite firm but fine tannins. The group mainly thought this was left bank (Pauillac possibly) and only one person correctly identified this as the Saint Emilion. Well done Mike!

Château Gran-Puy-Lacoste, Lacoste Borie, Pauillac –   Cabernet Sauvignon 75%, Merlot 20%, Cabernet Franc 5%. £19.30.
This is probably the best known Chateau and is the only producer in the tasting that was included in the 1855 classification (as a 5th growth). We were drinking the estate’s second wine which comes from “a magnificent gravel terroir”. Aromas of red fruits which became more complex when left in the glass for 20 minutes. Quite elegant. Some spice and toastiness on the palate. Soft and round. Generally felt to be a step up on the previous wines. The group were torn between whether this was a Pomerol or a Pauillac but, after consultation of the “crib sheet”, Pauillac won through.

Château Angludet, Margaux – Cabernet Sauvignon 56%,  Merlot 32%, Petit Verdot 12%. £30.
This is from the heart of Margaux and is surrounded by Cru Classé properties. The soil is a mix of gravel and medium sized pebbles with some sand. This had some aromas of both black and red fruits with a little spice. Good structure and smooth tannins. Possibly being drunk a little young but seemed to be opening up and going up a level just as we finished it! The group drunk this together with the Pomerol and we pretty much unanimously agreed that it was the Pomerol.

Château Bourgneuf, Pomerol – Merlot 90%, Cabernet Franc 10%. £28.50.
This estate is situated on the slope of the Pomerol plateau. Upper slopes are pure clay, becoming more sandy moving down the slope, and becoming quite gravelly on the lower portions. Some toasted oak on the nose followed quickly by ripe fruit. Juicy with firm tannins and maybe some chocolate and nuts in there. As mentioned above, after much debate (and much wine) we tended towards this being a Margaux.

It is not immediately obvious what we can draw out of this tasting other than it is far easier guessing the provenance of a bottle when one isn’t doing it blind! The fact that it was far from a great vintage certainly did not help. Different producers within a commune can of course produce very different wines, so trying to guess a region from what may have been atypical producers, was never going to prove to be easy, and so it turned out! We tended to feel that we would have been comfortable picking the wines as Bordeaux, but picking left bank against right bank was more difficult than we had imagined it might be, and getting any further than that, on the wines tasted at least, was pretty much impossible.

Hopefully an interesting tasting nonetheless!

Corkmaster adds: “I’m sure this tasting was more revealing than John (modestly) claims. I’m not that surprised that the “Corbin” seemed firmer than expected (the same can be said of other famous Corbyns – perhaps?); or the D’Angludet seemed young (they invariably take time); or the Puy-Lacoste showed well… Though I’m not sure I would have slotted any into the correct appellations, it’s a pity I couldn’t be there…”

 

À Bientôt

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As it was near her Birthday holiday week, Kim and I took ourselves off to a wine weekend (29th June – 2nd July) in Bordeaux organised by 3D wines [for more information on 3D wines see below].

The attractions of a wine tour are obvious: appointments already made; no driving; food and accommodation organised… However those advantages only apply if the itinerary is well organised, the food and accommodation good; the planning done by knowledgeable wine-enthusiasts; and – above all – the wine any good!

The 3D tour (you can see the Programme by clicking<) was definitely all those things, and our general impression of the whole tour was of having a great time.

Andrew Bennett gave a witty and informative commentary to the trips, enlightening us on the geography and geology; the classification systems; the architecture; the influence of critics (esp Parker); consultant wine makers, garagistes … in an entertaining well paced fashion. Another advantage is – from the vantage point of an air-conditioned coach (essential since it was mid 30s outside) it was much easier to get an idea of the geography and geology of the areas than ever possible when driving.

The whole schedule worked flawlessly thanks to the organisation of Debbie Bates, and – as normal with wine lovers – the group (about 30) was convivial and friendly. The accommodation was excellent and the meals very good, showing many of the copious amounts of wine to good effect.

In fact for someone who likes to keep track of the wines (at least for a while) and write notes, I confess I was swept up in the pleasure of the meals a little too much to do that properly. (*Note to 3D, a tasting sheet, or just a little list – even approximate – of the wines to be tasted at each visit or meal ––  as an aide memoire, would be a great help). As it was I think (roughly) we tasted (drank, usually) something like 23 wines plus some repeats (at the winery and then at a meal later, sometimes with different vintages). I only have written notes of a few, some general impressions of most and only a hazy recollection of the rest.

Here’s my – rather uneven – account of the weekend:

The trip started with an early evening visit to Château Monconseil-Gazin. This Blaye estate is run by  run by Jean-Michel  and Françoise Baudet and is situated well: the limestone escarpment of Blaye on the hill above the village of Plassac

Clay-limestone soils and stony subsoil give excellent drainage and allow the vines to develop deep root systems, protecting against dry summers and encouraging complexity. The estate,which is TERRA VITIS certified has 35 hectares planted with Merlot (60%), Cabernet Sauvignon (25%), Malbec (10%) and Cabernet Franc (5%) and 2 hectares of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon.
Welcome to Monconseil Gazin
After a short viewing of the vines we looked through the winery and had an aperitif tasting of the Estate’s Classic Sauvignon Blanc [fresh, not so in your face as NZ examples but with mellower fruit (apricot?) smoothing out the SB acidity – rather good] and dry Rosé.

We then repaired to a hall for dinner: a Lobster mousse with the estate’s Prestige Blanc. A SB / Semillon (80/ 20) blend, raised in oak (a third new) for 6 months. The wine and food interplay was brilliant and the increased depth of the wine showed some complexity, spice and exotic notes but integrated into the breadth of the palate.

I confess the rest of the evening is increasingly hazy as different reds of the estate’s and the 3D 2014 blend arrived at the table with the stuffed chicken and cheese courses. As was to become a feature of the weekend it seemed that one could easily consume a bottle at the table… I do remember thinking that the Estates own basic 2015 went brilliantly with the chicken and I since looked up it technical details [Merlot (60%), Cabernet Sauvignon (30%), Malbec (10%) on clay/limestone soils and stony subsoil; 12 months in French oak barrels (25% new)]. However the 2014 (3D blend) maybe due to age, helped with the creaminess and acidity in the cheese…

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The Second day began with the short Ferry ride from Blaye on the Right Bank, to Lamarque on the Left Bank. Then a coach tour starting North through the famous Communes of the Medoc, St Julien and Pauillac and into St Estephe before circling back through Moulis to Margaux. Several things struck me, including how relatively flat and featureless the terrain is, compared to the Right Bank. In addition the size of the Estates is clearly large. In fact Andrew informed us that the average Estate size in this part of the world is around 70 hectares, roughly ten times the average on the Right Bank or in Burgundy! Finally how near all the famous names are to the Gironde. Château Leoville Las Cases is an example…

Glimpse of the Gironde over the vines of Leoville Las Cases

Our original sweep North took us past many famous Châteaux (Beycheville; the Ducrus; the Leovilles, Baron and Comtesse Pichon-Longueville; Latour; the Bages’ Chateaux; Mouton and Lafite and turning round near Cos…) we circled back passing Poujeaux to the Margaux Commune for a tasting at the 3D partner producer Château Mongravey, and then lunch with their wines. As the Mongravey tasting was in the morning I was able to make some (semi?) coherent notes, those are below…

After some time mellowing… we returned, taking in Château Margaux to complete a pretty full set of impressive-Châteaux-which-we-can’t-get-in – here are some pictured (Petrus was actually the following day).

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Château Mongravey
We were greeted at the winery by the owner Karin Bernaleau, who showed us round the vat room – where each parcel of grapes are vinified in stainless steel with exact temperature control.  Then into the cellar where they have 450 barriques from 10 different coopers and led us to the tasting room.

The Estate have holdings in 3 places:

13ha in the Margaux appellation, on gravel soil from which they they make 2 wines: the Cru Bourgeois Château Mongravey wine which is blended and aged in oak (60% new) for about 16 months; and a Cuvée Spéciale –  the best selections raised in 10 new oak barrels, 1 from each cooper, for 2 years.

7ha in the Haut Médoc also on gravel soil where they make 2 wines: Château de Braude which is blended and aged in oak (45% new) for about 18 months and a cuvée spéciale, “Fellonneau” –  made from the best parcels raised in new oak for 2 years.

1 hectare in the Moulis appellation, on gravel soil with some clay. Château Galland has more Merlot planted and raises the wine for 16 months in barriques – 45% new.

We tried 5 wines – the 2015 vintage of each

Château de Braude, Haut Medoc (75% CS, 25% M) had a floral nose but slightly dried fruit, the palate is rather tight atm, with a lot of acidity and a slightly rustic quality. Very young seeming

Château Galland, Moulis. Similar blend as the previous wine but Merlot seems more upfront on the slightly lighter nose, with a much softer palate with fruit more prominent, the tannins also show more against this background, by way of contrast.

Château Mongravey, Margaux Cru Bourgeois (65% CS, 23%M, 2% CF) had a floral delicate nose with subtle fruit – cherry and damson. Palate is round with a spirit lift, good structure and long – very promising for 5-8 years time!

Château Braude Fellonneau (70% CS, 30% M – all new oak) Darker both in colour and fruit, heavier nose and flavour, palate is closed and the oak is showing – needs time

Mongravey Cuvée Spéciale (65% CS, 23%M, 2% CF) This is also quite closed atm sharper darker fruit hints. Palate also has high acidity with a brooding structure of power and body waiting to unfold. Right now – not as “Margaux” as the Cru Bourgeois but one for the future – 10 years?

We came away having bought the Cru Borgeois 2015, to approach in a few years time…

We then repaired for a lunch with Karin on a (hot) terrace of a nearby Country club, where we were served another 4 or 5 wines, a white that escapes me but went very well with Gravalax and older vintages (2011 I think) of the first 3 wines to accompany a brilliant lamb dish, which did indeed show off the wines very well. In particular the grip in the older Braude showed very well I thought…

This lunch was so indulgent I remember much less of the evening meal, a vague recollection of a white wine going well with a cod dish… and a refreshing thunderstorm about the time of dessert!

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On Sunday we set out to St Emilion and a Tasting at Château Franc Mayne, a Saint Emillion Grand Cru Classé. Where we were given an interesting and polished tour of the whole facility.

We then tasted some wines in the Tasting room, a current vintage of the their Medoc holding, a Haut Medoc Cru Bourgeois, Château Paloumey; and their second wine made from younger vines – Les Cedres de Franc Mayne. Finally we tasted the Grand Vin, (hand picked, vinified mostly in oak, raised in new barriques) in the 2007 version. Now I’ve tasted in this Château before, in 2000 or 2002 I think. On a little jaunt trying the 1998 (a fabulous year) along the plateau where the various Grace Dieu wineries, Laniote and Laroze are also located. I found Franc Mayne a little tight (not too bad a thing with the opulence of St Emilion) and a bit woody (less to my taste), and we ended up buying the Grace Dieu Les Minuts, and Laniote… Now the 2007 (90% M 10% CF) showed better balance with age, still some plum fruit and wood, a grainy tannin and liquorice hints but still had a slightly narrow impression, IMO… So as you’ll see later we picked a slightly bigger, less oak influenced year…

After time dodging the blistering sun in St Emilion, helpfully achieved by visiting the catacombs, we returned to the hotel to cool off before…

… A fabulous concluding dinner at the hotel. Showcasing the wines of the 3D Côtes de Bourg partner Château Rousselle. Before we got to that we reprised the very first pair of wines of the weekend – the Monconseil-Gazin white and Rosé. The latter wonderfully accompanying the pastry wrapped vegetable starter. Then a wonderful slow-cooked beef dish with the Rousselle wines… I think there were 3, but I found the basic wine a wonderful accompaniment with the beef. There were other vintages, other cuvées, wines in Magnum, wines with more – and more still – Malbec in the blend, some – I think – from Monconseil-Gazin again… and I remember finding one particular that went with the cheeses course, but – of course – not what it was!

Conclusion

A fabulous weekend when on several occasions the pleasures of wine and food, and general bonhomie overtook analytical interrogation of the wines – a very good thing. When my analytical faculties were still engaged, the wines showed very well – I can’t recall anything I disliked and several I thought very desirable – at all price points. The other factor was increased estimation of 3D. They are, in effect, in a curatorial role with these producers, and the wines they choose to offer. The examples we had showed a lovely balance between typicity and character, and Andrew’s taste seemed very trustworthy to me. Over 8 years of tasting the wines on offer I think I might be half a notch (on, say, a 20 point scale) more inclined to leaner, more delicate wines but that’s a tiny amount in the grand range of wines. I found the approach, very heartening and the weekend superbly enjoyable. I would recommend it to anyone

Post Script –  While at Franc-Mayne Kim decided to buy a mature bottle to celebrate her upcoming Birthday. I remembered we had once conducted a 2000s Vertical Tasting of Château Moulin-Saint-Georges, a GC but definitely of GCC quality (it had in fact been excluded from promotion entirely on the grounds that they didn’t use their own equipment for making the wines – which are in fact made by Ch. Ausone as the same people own both Châteaux). That tasting had picked out the 2006 from the 6 we tried – so we made off with that…


A few days later the Birthday arrived and we opened the bottle with a leg-steak of lamb. Much more opulent than the 2007, the wine showed a spirity damson nose, with a slightly undergrowth element so typical of Right Bank Claret. There were mushroom/truffle hints too. The wine seemed soft on its own with a restrained grainy soft tannin and acidity entirely in the fruit, which reappeared at the finish with more loganberry hints. With the food though the wine took on more dimensions: the sweetness of the lamb showing both more acidity and more grip in the wine, as if the structure had been hiding under the opulence! We followed with a cheese course with the rest of the bottle and the reverse happened, the acidity in the cheese brought out the chocolate finish in the wine. Fantastic, and a wonderful rounding off of the Bordeaux experience.

3D Wines
3D Wines is basically a wine buying Club. It is run by Andrew Bennett from a base in Lincolnshire and covers wines from 30 producers: right across France with 3 in Tuscany and 2 in New Zealand.
When I joined in 2011 the idea was you notionally hired a row of vines for a year from one producer, this granted you the right to buy wines from that producer at as good or better than cellar door, often with a Members’-only Cuvée 3D.
Now the wine-makers are grouped, usually 3 together, in regional sets. One can buy wines to collect from the winery, at Calais (at a little more) or directly Imported. In addition if one selects one regional group one year and another the next one can still be offered the wine from the previous year’s area as well.
I have stayed a member since I joined, finding the wines of good quality and value (even when factoring the annual subscription), and visiting 3D-selected Vignerons an almost universally convivial and informative experience. For more info click here.
I recommend them with increased confidence following this trip.
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