Buying cru bourgeois in 2009… and a surprise showing from English sparkling wine (video)
March 8, 2012
Before I get ready to visit Burgundy in a couple of weeks, I would like to share some tasting notes on Bordeaux 2009 from bottle. Late last year. I participated in two Decanter Magazine blind tastings of Cru Bourgeois and Pomerol. More recently, I got 12 bottles of various Cru Bourgeois wines – from the Alliance des Crus Bourgeois – that cost no more than $20 per bottle (some for almost half that amount) to test the French adage grande annee, petit vin…
The Decanter tasting, results of which were published in the February 2012 issue, featured some 200 wines. Only one – Chateau La Haye St Estephe – obtained a 5-star Decanter award. The four-star category counted 29 wines. With over 130 in the three star “recommended” category. I thought most of the wines were at least good. Some were overripe modern jams, others were green. But most were decent. For those who do not recall, there was a short lived classification of cru bourgeois (the 2003 classification) that made more sense than today’s moniker. The 2003 classification had three levels of quality. The current system is just meant to assure a level of quality. They are all Cru Bourgeois. Well, they ain’t all the same… Among the wines at that tasting that impressed me as an individual judge was the aforementioned La Haye, to which I gave my highest score of 18.5… But also some estates I had never heard of before, among them: Château la Garricq Moulis, Chateau Fleur la Mothe Medoc, Château Ramafort Medoc and Château Segue Longue Monnier Medoc. All of these I gave at least 16 points out of 20. Then some wines I have encountered before, including Chateau Maison Blanche Medoc, Château Patache d’Aux Medoc, Château Arnauld Haut Medoc, Château Cissac Haut Medoc, and a darn good Château Pontac Lynch Margaux and Château Le Boscq St Estephe.
Anyway, I did a far more informal tasting with friends in Strasbourg last week – for non “experts” but genuine wine lovers. And the Alliance des Cru Bourgeois generously sent me 12 bottles that are generally available in the US, for an article I am having published in France Today. Below a fun video from the tasting, which includes an amazing performance from an English sparkling wine that beat a very popular French Champagne… And my tasting notes. All bottles had been opened five hours before the tasting (not decanted, just opened).
Château Greysac Medoc. I recall tasting this from barrel as one of the best ever Greysacs I have ever tried (from barrel). It did not really disappoint from bottle, exhibiting decent cassis notes and a smoothly textured feel on the medium bodied palate. Rather short finish. 85
Château Argenteyre Medoc. Some animal notes already? Aromas of earth and spice. The attack was more striking here, more interesting. Somewhat astringent on the finish however. But this pleased more palates among the eight tasters in Strasbourg. Certainly more character than Greysac, if “riskier”. 86
Château Larose Trintaudon Haut Medoc. A cooler nose with blueberry, fresher, cleaner aromas. Polished medium bodied mid palate trails off on a somewhat dilute finish. 85+
Château Caronne St Gemme Haut Medoc. Black cherry aromas with a bit of mineral. The palate is more focused and very mineral like. The most interesting wine so far, in fact. This is a wine I would heartily recommend. 88+
Château Magnol Haut Medoc. I once did a “wine internship” here. Basically, three days of wining and dining. In fact, it was to understand how a château works. Long time ago. Anyway, the nose here is very Bordeaux like with leather and cigar, agreeable! The palate does not quite follow through, in that it lacks tension. But so far, it is the second best of the lineup… 86+
Château Fonreaud Listrac Medoc. Well, this has bumped into second place. This is also leather like but with pepper spice and an earthy nose, followed through on the palate: plum and touches of rustic vibrance and tannic bite. A solidly ripe drink. 87
Château Malmaison Moulis. Liqueur nose. With expresso. Almost like Kahlua, someone remarked. The palate was somewhat hard and monotone however… 84
Château Biston Brillette Moulis. Opened two bottles because the first seemed faulty. Showed some licorice and warm alcohol on the nose, with a somewhat tepid palate… Not rated.
Château Paveil de Luze Margaux. A vibrant nose with spicy aromas and some oak derivation that revealed itself as drying on the palate, on the finish. Some heft however on the middle palate that reminded some of a Rhone wine… Certainly lacks Margaux elegance. Not sure about this one…
Château Haut Bages Monpelou Pauillac. Slightly closed nose, even after being opened for some time. But then it did reveal subtle notes of graphite, which were revealed with retro-olfaction. Indeed, this wine expressed a subtle power and intensity that far overshadowed all the previous wines. A winner. Most picked this as their favorite… Mine, too. 90
Château La Fleur Peyrabon Pauillac. This was a monster by comparison. Alcohol and acidity not in synch. With a bitter finish. Pass.
Château Le Crock St Estephe. The most votes for second place, and a few for first… Predictable because it is a very well made St Estephe by Didier Cuvelier, the owner of the famous Château Léoville Poyferre. Nose of spice and ripe blackberry. The palate was full bodied, but perhaps lacking the nuance of the Haut Bages Monpelou. Still, a very nice wine. 89
And more recently, on March 5, I caught up with the UGCB bandwagon and was able to try some cru classé rated Bordeaux from bottle. The superstar of the entire tasting – although many wines I had tasted from barrel were missing – proved to be Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande. The aromas soared out of the glass, with a perfumed freshness echoed on the palate, which is not merely full bodied. It is deceptively full bodied, because the nuanced depth really impresses the taster. There is a majesty to this wine that made me pull the trigger for a six pack. I am half insane. Notes and videos here: