Tasty Graves in 2008 and 2009 vintages

A lovely dusty tannined Magence red in 2008: hidden Graves gem

Many thanks to Marie-Stéphane Malbec of Lettres de Château for a press invitation to the Graves region in Bordeaux late last month. I tasted some well known wines in the northern part, known as Pessac Léognan (but also some unsung heros there), and some truly fine (and less expensive) wines from the southern part.

I will soon post a far more detailed account of my visit, plus my impression of the 2011 harvest, with photos, stay tuned…

In the meantime, let’s get down to the tasting notes, divided into Graves and Pessac-Léognan Red and Pessac-Léognan White.

Most reds were 2008s, most whites 2009s, unless otherwise noted.

Pessac Léognan – tasted on 28 September at Chateau Larrivet Haut Brion

Red Pessac-Léognan 2008 (wines in bold are very good, in red and bold even better, and when underlined divine)

  1. Agreeable nose, cassis and bourgeon de cassis, although some unripe aspects creeping through. A bit tight on the palate although nose is more promising. There is substance. 85 (Chateau Bardins)
  2. Darker fruit on the nose. Seems to have more body, perhaps more maturity, at least from the palate. Slight edginess, but overall a warmer drink and not disagreeable. Smooth. 88  (Le Bruilleau)
  3. Some oak derivation? A hint of green? Like above, medium intensity on the palate but there is a nice fruit-driven focus on the mid palate, with cohesive tannins. Somewhat tight on the finish, a bit austere. 87 (Cantelys)
  4. Noticeable step up, with more polish on the nose than the first three. Ripeness: red and black fruit. Some leaf but nice leaf. 91 (Couhins)
  5. Darker color. Some oak derivation but also dark cherry notes. Palate is ripe, a tad tight, but there is good tannin and fruit. But I think I prefer the lighter touch of the above.  90 (Couhins-Lurton)
  6. Chipper nose. Certain floral elements. Juicy, but edgy, more so than two previous two wines. Somewhat hard on a shorter finish, although there is ripe fruit…  89+ (de Cruzeau)
  7. Smooth nose. Fruit. Decent attack. Verve. A bit short on the finish, but there is fine mid palate presence not without freshness. Red fruit, some darker fruit, too, but not rich: more disciplined. 89+ (Ferran)
  8. Somewhat darker in color but the nose is slightly greener. Palate shows medium plus intensity, de la mache, but like the above trails off on the finish. OK. 88 (de France)
  9. Riper notes here, not quite jammy but ripe. The palate is a bit of marmalade. Not sure I like the style because it is too sweet for my palate. Still, score higher if you like this style, even though tannins are a tad drying on the finish… 88 (La Garde)
  10. Expressive nose of ripe fruit, more black then red but not jammy… Finesse on the nose. A solid attack and a tannic mid palate that is of medium plus intensity, the tannins never hard but present. A bit closed in, not quite tasting well now, but one senses potential… (Haut-Bergey) 90+
  11. Clement somewhat toasty nose with red fruit, the attack is brisk enough, with freshness and the mid palate cohesive and agreeable. I sense some earthy tobacco leaf notes, and a feeling for lamb and rosemary to go with this. Moderate intensity. Could perhaps use more freshness but this is 2008. A lovely wine for the vintage. (Larrivet Haut-Brion) 92+
  12. Inviting nose of cassis. The palate is more closed in….a certain tannic austerity that seems to overwhelm the fruit at this stage. To revisit! (La Louviere)
  13. A bit chien mouille on the initial nose, but then sweet fruit, too. The palate is of light intensity, a bit second wine like… agreeable and rather fresh if lacking some matiere. OK. (Léognan) 87
  14. Some decent fruit but also a hint of green on the nose. The palate is better, it has a light attack and then a medium intensity, agreeable on the palate. But we are not experiencing a very ripe vintage here… OK. (Le Pape) 88
  15. The most subtle of this flight. The nose is floral and the palate exudes a certain complexity that takes the best aspects of the vintage. Tannins are not soft, but not hard either, there is a light to medium aspect that invites drinking with no under-ripe aspects.  Fine tonicity on the finish. (Picque Caillou) 90+
  16. More expressive than La Louviere and softer. Medium intensity, light red fruit expression, soft in fact. Polite finesse. Tobacco on the finish. Fine.  90 (Rochemorin)
  17. Stolid on the nose. The palate is a bit closed in, not edgy but without much expression. To re-taste. (de Rouillac)
  18. Oak derived notes? Medium body on the mid palate, some beef blood. There is matiere to be sure, and the finish is authoritative although slightly gum staining – just slightly! Not bad. (Seguin) 89-90
  19. Nose is a tad closed but the palate is rich, fruit-packed. Medium to full intensity on the mid palate, with a certain tobacco earthiness that pleases. Fine job. (Bouscaut) 92+
  20. Tobacco elegance on the nose. The palate is a tad lighter than the above, but refined! Is it just a bit short on the finish? But flavorful throughout… Tannins need time to settle. (Carbonnieux) 90+
  21. Voluminous nose here. One senses blackcurrant. Almost Medocain! Attack is brisk and mid palate borders on thick, but nicely contained. A young Domaine de Chevalier red that will merit some years in the cellar because the tannins are ripe and not hard, but present now. An almost cool expression of ripe fruit. Much matiere. Needs to come together. 93, with higher potential in the future. (Domaine de Chevalier)
  22. Pleasingly open knit nose of tobacco with a Graves like fruit expression (I mean even slight notions of chocolate mixed with berries) introduces a fluid yet moderately concentrated palate. Fine definition, not quite tonic here, but certainly drink inducing. Lacks perhaps nuance but certainly delicious. Will it make old bones? At this stage, I am just happy to drink it, the tannins are ripe and the flavor pleases. 92+ (Latour-Martillac)
  23. Minty nose. The palate is thicker than the above. Not really stolid but with greater heft. Concentration to be sure, with black fruit, if noticeable tannin. Overall quite good, but not tasting so nicely today. Needs time. 90+ (Malartic Lagraviere)
  24. Leafy tobacco on the nose. The palate is rich yet also plump with fruit and earth. A pleasing mix to be sure. The tannins are present – as they well should be. Here we have concentration but also a certain drinkability even now. I like this wine, I would like to drink more. But it will age well, too. 93 (Smith Haut Lafitte)
  25. Lovely chipper aspect, exudes freshness. Perhaps lacks concentration and depth of some of the other crus towards the end, but nicely expressed fruit and freshness, bravo! 91+ (Olivier)

    With Emilie Gervoson at Chateau Larrivet Haut Brion: fine reds and whites


Pessac-Léognan 2009 whites (wines in bold are very good, in red and bold even better, and when underlined divine)

  1. Peppermint nose. Nice spice, with subtle fruit. A fine nuanced attack, no hot thickness discernable. The palate is of medium intensity and serves as an excellent diplomat for white Graves in 2009. Early picking? (Latour Martillac) 92.
  2. Slightly sweet notes here of peppermint candy. The palate is invitingly rich, not sweet but perhaps not quite as much verve as the preceding wine, although may have more volume on the mid palate. Slightly warm on the finish? (Malartic Lagraviere) 91
  3. Pineapple on the nose. Some grapefruit. Sauvignon driven at this stage. The palate is fluid yet pronounced with sprightly nature. Nice acidity. Tonic even. I like this. Get me some oysters. Now. (Olivier) 92
  4. More apple than citrus on the nose. Some floral elements. Lovely attack on the palate. Rich yet fine acidity. Balanced white that invites drinking, but also displays a certain concentration for the longer term. Very fine job indeed. (Smith Haut Lafitte) 93+
  5. Lime and melon at once on the nose. A revelation wine. There is such a fine freshness that is balanced by a concentration that is subtle – not evident. A primary minerality that is a prologue to something special. Once again, Domaine de Chevalier displays its breed, currently (somewhat) tightly wound up, but oh so much potential. Almost ready now but really a waste to open this bottle at this stage. I am not a technician and do not understand how they do it, but they do it. Rivals the Haut Brion stable for whites. Buy this now: a Rolls Royce but not as onerous.  95 (Domaine de Chevalier)
  6. Lime and lemon nose, some grapefruit. The palate is simple yet very pleasing. Almost tart. Could it have used a bit more richness? Will that come with aging. I say: YES. Based on experience… this is going to be a fine wine with time. (Couhins) 91.
  7. Smokier aspect on the nose, with the citrus. Oak? The palate is fresh and inviting. Nice job, I think more complex than the preceding wine, although somewhat gun flint like… (Couhins-Lurton) 91
  8. Lanolin and peach? The palate is peachy. Not cloying but a hint of inviting warmth. Inviting. It lacks a bit of verve but is… delicious. Buy this now for early drinking. (Larrivet Haut Brion) 91
  9. Bourgeon de cassis on the nose. Fine acidity on the attack that gives it backbone. Does not taste like a caricature of 2009. Grapefruit on the palate. Not incredibly complex but pleasing indeed. (La Louviere) 90+
  10. Here we have a more evident cat pee aspect, but let us not be impolite. A more evident Sauvignon Blanc character. Not quite New World variety but getting there. Take La Louviere. (de Rochemorin) 88
  11. Confit de grapefruit. Sweet peach. Palate reminds me of a Pinot Gris from Alsace. Can one imagine trying this with lobster? A bit too simple for my palate but has character. Nice job. (de France) 89
  12. Far more subtle nose. I had tried this earlier at the chateau for a visit… More polish on the nose and on the palate.  Peach. Yellow but not overripe. The palate exudes a certain thickness with a slight warmth but one would not immediately guess that it is … 14 degrees. Nice job, in the context of the vintage. 91+ (Haut-Bergey)
  13. A Sauvignon Blanc nose… with smoke. The palate is better, fresher. Invites drinking. It has verve and energy and I want to eat scallops with this. Grilled. Not bad at all. (La Garde) 91
  14. Apricot nose. The palate is medium plus intensity… rich yet fine acidity. Very nicely done. I am enjoying this, if a tad volume like. (Brown) 91
  15. Orange rind aspect. More nuanced than the above. This is a special wine, grapefruit and yet delectable mid palate. Drinkable. A tad choppy on the finish but a pleasure to drink. (Cantelys) 92
  16. Very Sauvignon Blanc. A bit one dimensional but not displeasing. More proof that 2009 is not 2003 for whites. This has freshness, if not complexity. (de Cruzeau) 89-90
  17. Nicely aromatic. Hint of pepper. Subtle and fresh. Slightly lactic? Iodine freshness like an oyster with some lactic aspects. Overall very nice. (de Rouillac) 90+
  18. Toasted nose. Palate is smooth. Citrus and gunflint. Smooth certainly. (Bouscaut) 91
  19. Sea shell nose. Oysters conjured. Freshness Fine focus. This is a revelation for whites… Perhaps not as complex as a few other classed growths but darn good. (Carbonnieux) 92+
  20. A wine to seek because it cannot be too pricey and yet… the nose is rather fresh Sauvignon and the palate is green apple and lime. Not a complex wine, but, again, to drink with seafood without hesitation. (Le Sartre) 91 Tasted again at dinner at the Bois Martin estate and confirmed: probably an excellent price/quality ratio.

    Tasting Graves at Haut Selve


Graves tasting at Château Haut Selves on 27 September: reds 2008 and whites 2009

Reds 2008

Chantegrive. Chipper and flavorful, good spice, oak derivation but integrated. Medium fruit. Some leafiness but pleasant, lends earthy freshness.

Venus. Transparent and looks older. A bit of cardboard. Mid palate is OK but tails off on the finish.

Le Bonnat. Another light and somewhat cardboard like flavor. Thin palate, lacking flavor intensity. Ho hum wine.

Haut-Selve. Lovely nose, there is fine fruit, good attack, with sap on the mid palate, concentration that makes me wonder if it is almost trying too hard. At least it asserts itself, although a touch of heat.

Ferrande. This is sometimes an under-performing estate but here a fine toasty nose, with a smooth palate entry, medium intensity, fine concentration (stuffing even), and a finish that is moderate but pleasing.

Lusseau. Not a bad nose, but a hint of green. Mid palate is better than the attack, offering up a decent drink.

Cabannieux. Fine fruit, chipper freshness, albeit with oak derivation and a tad warm, but pleasingly  dusty tannins.

Roquetailladela Grange. Here another recommendation, with fine floral nose and a medium intensity palate just integrating oak-derived notes into red fruit flavor.

Haura. Made by Denis Dubourdieu. Aromatic. Attack that emphasizes stuffing, but smooth entry and mid palate feel. Just a touch of heat on the finish.

Clos Floridene. Dubordieu’s flagship. Finesse on the nose. Red fruit on the medium plus intensity palate that is marked by very pleasing, almost crackling, cranberry. Mark of the vintage? Tannins are a bit edgy however… Give it some time.

Haut Maray. Somewhat stolid nose that precedes a somewhat thick attack and entry. There is flavor and fruit but a tad … thick. And slightly hard tannin. Not sure.

Magence. One of the very best reds of this tasting. It seems to have taken in the limits of the vintage and expressed the best possible wine: plum and cassis fruit, medium intensity, a smooth attack and mid palate, some cherry flavors on the finish, supple tannin. One to buy. Today.

Whites 2009 and 2010

Clos Floridene 2009. Fine apple and grapefruit on the nose. Good freshness. Acidity is there, too. Not bad at all. Is the finish just a bit short?

Magence 2009. Creamier on the nose and palate. Do I feel just a bit the alcohol? But there is a pleasing peach aspect, Semillon seems to dominate. Like this but some vague heat detracts – it is after all 2009…

Ferrande 2010. A somewhat closed nose. Although the palate exudes stuffing, presence, I feel that it lacks brightness for the vintage. A disappointment.

Roquetaillade la Grange 2010. This has … 20% Muscadelle and 60% Semillon. Very clear color, matching its youth. Somewhat floral aromas. Light yet flavorful on the palate. But I get the feeling that the finish is almost fleeting… Too polite?

Chantegrive Cuvee Caroline 2009. I was expecting a lot and came away with heaviness and oak. 2009 was too sunny for this estate? Too warm? Alas, a deception.

Cabannieux 2009. Better, less oak. Still, a certain thick aspect that informs you that this was too hot a vintage for Graves.

A very fine white Graves in 2009

Fougers Clos Montesquieu 2009. Here we have a fresher 2009, not thick, with citrus fruit and a bit of zip on the mid palate, and yet a touch of heat on the finish…

Grand-Abord 2010. There is something a tad ho hum about this wine. I had visited the chateau just before this tasting and was impressed with the dynamism of the owners, but the 2010 lacks intensity and focus, although it is not bad.

Magneau 2009. Tasted again at the estate the following day and I must say this is one of the best white 2009 Graves I have had. I did not take notes for some stupid reason…. The 2010 is even better.

9 Responses to “Tasty Graves in 2008 and 2009 vintages” (Leave a Comment)

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