BORDEAUX 2009 Tasting notes in the raw
May 3, 2010
Tasting notes from the Bordeaux 2009 harvest
UPDATE! Saturday 24 April – No, I have not tasted any more 09s since en primeur week – but the notes are now a bit more organised, with all Cercle Rive Droite wines fully revealed – and further thought on the Sauternes and added notes on Vieux Château Certan and a vertical at La Conseillante. As wonderful as 2009 will likely prove to become, the hype machine is revving up. My scores are purposely on the conservative side, because I do not give 100 points (or even close to 100 points) to barrel samples. Sample variation is one reason. Experience and stylistic preferences on the part of the taster(s) are others. Definitive judgment can be found only in bottle.
On 2 April: Am drawing some conclusions here also based on a weekend tasting with some friends in the trade who for example also spoke highly of, and heard from others about, the Chateau Poujeaux in Moulis. That was one I scored highly blind. They also told me that Croizet Bages, a notorious underperformer in Pauillac, got good ratings. So that reassures my good impression blind. In any case, on Friday, I had more time to taste blind the classed growths of Pessac Leognan, both white and red, and came away surprisingly impressed with the whites (one would have thought that the heat of the vintage was not good for the whites, but many were fresh and had zing). The reds were not overall as impressive as they were en primeur in 2005, and I was a bit let down by one or two wines. Although some performed very well. Non blind, I tasted Haut Brion and La Mission Haut Brion, much preferring the latter… Yesterday, Saturday, I basically went to three Bordeaux retailers which sell futures with my list of wines leaving out the ones I will not be able to afford of course (Petrus, for one), as follows: Trotanoy, Grand Puy Lacoste, Leoville Las Cases, Calon Segur, Montrose, Margaux (wishful thinking pricewise), Lafite (more wishful thinking, pricewise), Mouton (even more wishful thinking), Pichon Comtesse and Pichon Baron. Some other wines I think would be easily obtainable in later tranches at similar prices including the aforementioned Poujeaux, La Tour de Mons, Sociando Mallet and some others. Read on…
UPDATE! Thursday 1 April- I do not want to be too cock sure about my notes or especially my initial first impression scores here. Samples vary. For example, during a blind tasting today of Pauillacs and St Juliens at Chateau Talbot, the first sample – wine #27 – of Pichon Comtesse tasted green and even off. I had it tasted by another writer and he said that it was a bit off. Sure enough, another bottle that was opened was far better, more like the wine I tasted at the chateau. One has to be careful not to judge too quickly and with too much certainty. Wine tastings can be too much like sporting contests as well, where – even without out knowing – we tend to pick the prettiest or the biggest. Still, with more experience one can appreciate nuance in wines. If you did not catch it, check out Decanter’s April 1 headline which actually fooled some people, including me when I first saw it. Anyway, on we go: Thursday began at 9 am with a tasting of Leoville Las Cases and ending virtually non stop with a 6 pm tasting at Grand Puy Lacoste. Both excellent. For these wines plus Lafite, Mouton, Ducru Beaucaillou, Gruaud, Beychevelle, Branaire, the two other Leovilles and many more…
UPDATE ! Wednesday 31 March in Bordeaux - Looks like a MEDOC VINTAGE so far… But you were expecting that, were you not? A hot summer with even some drought conditions that left some Merlot very ripe on the skin, highly alcoholic, but astringent on the pips because phenolic maturity was not always the case. Pichon Comtesse for example has 75 percent Cabernet. It reminds me of the 1996, and winemaking director Thomas Do Chi Nam agrees, although he said the Merlots were great… I am not so sure because many of those Merlots went into the Reserve de la Comtesse which was far more austere. And at Calon Segur, winemaking director (since 2006, before he was at Chateau Margaux) Vincent Millet said just that: the Merlots were not optimally ripe. Hence 90% Cabernet Sauvignon (as opposed to 60% in 2005). So you can perhaps set aside the talk about Cabernet Franc and Merlot on the right bank and focus on nicely maturing Cabernet Sauvignon on the Left. Some disagree with me, like the charismatic David Sokolin of New York’s wine shop of the same name, but I thought that the Margaux appellation was lovely and far more regular than St Emilion or certainly Lalande de Pomerol. Even more regular that Pomerol although I have not had quite enough Pomerols to judge. Still, I think that more harder tannins are to be found on the Right Bank (with many exceptions like Trotanoy, La Conseillante, Canon, Beausejour Duffau L and others).
The least welcoming chateau is Latour
One side note, speaking also of ferocious if not atrocious tannins, it was not just me but Chateau Latour has the most atrocious en primeur ‘welcomes’ of all. One merchant who was half an hour late was almost refused entry by a surly gatekeeper and that same gatekeeper kept me and Adam Lechmere of Decanter from entering because we were not on an official list. That may have been an error on internal communication on Decanter’s side, but when I told that gateperson that this is but once a year, that we are all serious about tasting the wines etc, and tried to apologize for any inconvenience with a ‘je m’excuse, monsieur’, he replied ‘I cannot excuse you because you are not on the list…’ Well we ended up tasting the 2009, and it was very foreboding and tannic, a beast in short which will be mature by the time I am dead, but the ‘welcome’ made things far less interesting… A wine for snobs is the impression with which I came away. Then I heard that other people were also treated in a similar manner just today. Anyway: Latest tastings: Chateau Margaux, Pichon Comtesse, Pichon Baron, Palmer, Latour, Calon Segur and a blind tasting of 28 southern Medocs – including many Margaux wines as well as some under the radar Listracs (Fonreaud is quite nice) and Poujeaux being an excellent Moulis…
Scenes from the tastings: Trotanoy has to be one of my very favorite right bank wines, the best of the Moueix stable barring Petrus but a far better price/quality ratio; Palmer 09 was lovely; Migeul and Izak hard at work with the premiers grands crus of St Emilion; Mark Golodetz and Jancis Robinson at a Palmer lunch where we enjoyed 1989 Palmer; and a great father and son team in Olivier and Jean-Claude Berrouet.
Notes from Tuesday: Could this be the year of Merlot for the Right Bank? Many vintners are using more Merlot – at Vieux Chateau Certan but also at Angelus and Cheval Blanc – than the Cabernet Franc. Hubert de Bouard of Angelus told me that the dryness before the mid September rains was not good for the Cabernet Franc and then when the rain fell, it was perhaps too much humidity in one go for the Cabernet Franc, hence 60% Merlot in Angelus. But also at Cheval Blanc. I was told that they feel they had a ‘fresher’ vintage than 2005 but your humble writer thinks bulldroppings! The 05 from memory had more lift certainly at Cheval Blanc – more minty freshness. Still, I liked the Cheval Blanc and the Angelus (although Angelus is still the more modern style, with a more extracted feel). Look out for my latest edition below of two excellent blind tastings of St Emilion and Pomerol at Larcis Ducasse and at Canon. Canon, by the way, has to be so far one of my top St Emilions of all this morning which were tasted… pictures coming soon, but please read on!
Also visited this past Saturday a private trade tasting with Laurent Ehrmann, managing director of Bordeaux negociant Barriere Freres and a group of tasters from JJ Buckley from Oakland California. The verdict: many liked the wines, but they were concerned about prices being too high in a still tricky economy. Video soon coming which shows a fun exchange between Ehrmann and CEO Shaun Bishop. Here the decanter.com article.
Just in Bordeaux last night, where I enjoyed a nice dinner with Steven Spurrier and Jeannie Cho Lee MW, a delightful wine expert based in Hong Kong at Chateau Brane Cantenac, an up and coming Margaux.
Not always the most concentrated (such as Rauzan Segla), but certainly among the most aromatically charming Margaux and deceptively long lasting as we found out with a very nicely done second wine Baron de Brane in 2000, which displayed a light leather nose and a hint of musk without any green pepper aspects this second wine sometimes shows when young (as in the 2008 and 2009). Basically, this one aged very well and is a pleasure to drink today. I also re-tasted a superb 1989 (much better than their 1990), with far smoother leather notes and milk chocolate, quite rich yet polished, as well as a spot-on delicious and substantial long term developer 2000 Brane Cantenac: much more polished than, say, the 1995 we also enjoyed, with a beautiful perfumed aromatic profile. The2009 is quite a success here as well, and I am now rather convinced that the promise of the harvest is being fulfilled if based on my first 2009 tasted from bottle so far (many more to come).
The Brane Cantenac 2009 displayed a complex yet deep nose of violets and blackberries, rather fresh countryside fruits but well polished and contained on the palate which has the depth of the 2005 but perhaps not as complex or as layered if I recall correctly. Still, this is a fabulous wine, perhaps the deepest and most structured Brane Cantenac I have ever had, period.
Over a delicious dinner – which included lamb sweet breads (with the Baron de Brane and Brane Cantenac 2000) and a free range roasted pigeon with morel mushrooms mushroom, black rice and a white carrot purree seasoned with coriander and many other spices (Brane Cantenac 1995 and 1989) – we also drank a 1961 Brane Cantenac, whose nose was slightly rustic (mushrooms and wet earth) but also had elements of perfumed truffle and coffee. Its palate was solid, but faded in glass over time. We ended things with one of the oldest wines I have ever had, the Brane Cantenac 1928, which had a better nose than the 1961, very potpourri with hints of dark chocolate and tea leaf, but the palate was thin and short. Just amazing to taste such older wines to kick off en primeur week.
Chateau La Tour de Mons AOC Margaux 2009: Soft, elegant, contoured and substantial – this is a truly fine cru bourgeois and worth seeking out. As the French say, grande annee, petit vin, and this is proof. 89-91
Chateau Malescot St Exupery 3rd Growth Margaux 2009: No doubt will be expensive and this represents clearly a modern style I do not always like. This one is undeniably rich and tasty and one could say it lacks a certain elegance (it does), but I can understand why so many people will like this one so much because it does draw you in like a gorgeous model. Very sexy wine indeed. I am sold, but would not buy if above $50 per bottle (and that it will certainly be).92-95
Chateau Sociando Mallet AOC Haut Medoc 2009: Once again this estate kicks ass. I really like the 2009, which has lovely aromatics and a brisk attack yet firm structure with tannins clamping down on the finish. Very promising long term claret. 92-94
Domaine de Chevalier Pessac Leognan (red) 2009: Excellent richness with fine structure, showing some appealing chocolate notes even this young and a fresh finish. 91-94
Chateau Puygueraud Cotes de Francs 2009: Lovely sap and freshness – another bargain to look out for in this vintage.89-90
Blind tasting of over 100 wines. Palate fatigue set in with the 88th. Or was it the 87th?
- Clean nose; rather clear color compared to say wine 5. Aromas are more red fruit than black with just a bit of stalk. Decent attack, but the palate is a bit ordinary. 85 (Chateau Thieuley)
- Here we have a more mineral nose, more expressive albeit with a hint of green. The palate conveys good black and red fruit, quite rich and deep but not over the top. Decent finish: a nice wine. 87 (Chateau de Malromé Cuvée Adèle de Toulouse Lautrec). What a name. That alone is worth a purchase perhaps – if the price is less than a Lautrec painting.
- A deeper nose, with plum and fresh forest earth without any green. The palate is rich if just a bit superficial but it gives a pleasant finish and results in a very pleasant wine. 88+ (Chateau Ampélia)
- Not quite as black as wine 5, this wine gives off blackberry jam aromas with some new oak. The palate is rather jammy but not unpleasant, not too thick. Still, I feel this to be a bit too made up for its own good given a slightly drying finish. 87 (Clos Puy Arnaud)
- A candied fruit aroma and a palate that is rich and sappy. I like the feel on this, as it has a modern aspect but more nuanced than wine 4. Nice rich finish. 89 (Chateau Mont Pérat)
- Licorice aspects on a quite clean and clear nose. The palate is smooth and very pleasing if marred just perhaps by a bit of heat on the finish, but this is really splitting hairs. Otherwise very nice. 89 (Chateau de Francs “Les Cerisiers”)
- Marred by green aromatics – triple checked. I like the palate more, with brambly red fruit and a brisk aspect. Overall smooth texture with just some drying tannins on the finish, but overall nice. 86 (Chateau Hostens-Picant, Lucullus Cuvée d’Exception)
- Dark color. Deep. A tad too much oak but a sensual palate will make this a modernist paradise on this price scale no doubt. 86 for me, 89 for lovers of big textures and new oak. (Bel Air La Royère)
- Similar to the above but the palate seems a bit more nuanced and fresher. The palate shows very good concentration without hitting you on the head at all. 88+ (Chateau Tour de Mirambeau)
- A refreshing nose and a more streamlined palate compared to the two previous wines. Not as showy perhaps but modestly appealing. I like its chipper palate, but it has a somewhat short finish. 86+ (Chateau Brande-Bergere Cuvee O’Bryne)
- Lovely fresh fruit aromas followed through on the fresh and even brisk palate which invites drinking. This is perhaps my favorite wine so far. 90 (Chateau Pey La Tour “Reserve”)
- A peppermint nose mingled with dark fruit and new oak. The palate is quite rich but not over the top, perhaps a bit of heat on the finish detracts? 89+ (Chateau Sainte- Barbe)
- Nose is ok, there is something slightly commercial about this wine, but it is not bad mind you. There is fruit and tannin but it lacks nuance and is not very subtle. OK. 86 (Côte Montpezat)
- This is better. A giving, fresh nose, with pleasing dark chocolate, precedes a warm but not hot palate, smooth and marked by a fine finish. Not very complex – this is just Bordeaux remember – but if the price is right, could represent an excellent price/quality ratio. Marred just a bit by heat on the finish. 88+ (Carignan)
- The nose is a bit too oaky and the palate seems somewhat angular and drying. 84 (Reynon)
- Nose is milk chocolate like with some notes of new oak but well integrated. The palate is certainly comfortable, combining richness with good freshness. I find this wine to be very successful but just a bit marred by the wood that is too prominent on the palate. 88 (Marsau)
- Somewhat closed nose precedes a strawberry infused palate that is smoothly textured and fine and ends with freshness on the finish. Again, not the most complex wine, but well made and satisfying. 89/90 (Chateau Haut Bertinerie)
- The nose is fresh and even floral. Very chipper on the palate with somewhat angular tannins that I suspect will smoothen out in bottle because I like the aromatics of this wine as well as the freshness. 88-90 (Thieuley Cuvee Francis Courcelle)
- Oak is too prominent on the nose. The palate is good, with smoothness but hardly nuanced, and the finish is rather abrupt. 84-86 (Penin les Cailloux)
- Lovely nose of dark fruit precedes a fulsome palate, not complex but very pleasing – especially on the mid palate. It tails off somewhat on the finish but has good ripe tannins. Nice job! 88+ (Domaine de Courteillac)
- Nice dark fruit aromas precede a very fine palate. Could this be a wine to seek out, as it seems to punch above its class? I like its sap and its fruit, and it is not conveying over extraction or heaviness or excessive oak. Nice. 90+ (Chateau de Laussac)
- There is a pleasing mint aroma here somewhat marred by wood perhaps. The palate is also monolithic and a bit clamped on the finish. 84-85 (Carignan Prima)
- Somewhat stalk-like nose but the sample also seems a bit overly sulfured. Problematic bottle? Second bottle opened: much cleaner sample. The palate is a bit simple and lacking oomph but it is rather fine and shows good freshness and decent depth. A good Bordeaux in a very good vintage. 86-87 (Alix du Château Plaisance)
- A sweet nose that is not displeasing. The palate follows through in an admirable fashion, not too intense, not too light. Perhaps a bit light, but a decent finish. No objections here, but no grand applause either. 86-88 (Sainte-Marie Vieilles Vignes)
- Somewhat heated nose and palate. There is something almost cloying about this wine, a road tire aspect that annoys me – but happily not too strong. Still, it detracts. The palate is better, actually shows character, with a pointed finish. Not bad but not great either. 86-88? (Hostens-Picante)
- Lovely forest strawberry nose but the palate is almost pinched. Marred by somewhat drying tannins and a bit too much oak. 84 (Rolande La Garde)
- Here we have a battle between the wood and the fruit on the nose. That is too bad that it is so noticeable, but the palate is far better than wine 26. There is more freshness and fruit on the palate but I still get drying oaky tannins. Tant pis. 85-87? (Girolate)
- Dark fruit nose and a fulsome palate that is more fruit filled. Very nicely done. I like the tannic grain here. Again, not a complex wine, but a wine that gives pleasure – certainly more modern styled but without noticeable excess. The finish is rather ordinary. 86-88+ (Beaulieu Comtes de Tastes)
- Muted fruit salad nose precedes a moderately fresh palate which has good sap and a decent mid palate. This is a very nicely made wine. 88-90 (Chateau Peyfaures)
- Somewhat oaky nose hides the fruit which is present on the aromatics but muted. The palate is ordinary but inoffensive. Good for the appellation. Somewhat drying finish however. 85-87+ (Cap de Faugeres)
- Somewhat heated nose and even a bit off. The palate has road kill on it, but it is also fresh and fluid. Good job but I wonder about the sample. Judgment reserved. (Joanin Bécot) Must taste again!
- Lovely fruit. Fresh nose. The palate is also fresh and medium bodied. Although the tannins are just slightly hard on the finish, I like the texture of this wine which so far easily makes a top ten if not top five. 89-91 (Chateau Veyry)
- Shows good plum and even some cassis but also an asphalt character that diminishes the aromatics here. Good palate, solid and fresh. With time in bottle should be a winner. 88-90 (Chateau Clos Chaumont)
- Another good fruited nose with hints of fine tobacco leaf (not green!) and a sap-filled palate. There is freshness and substance and this is yet another very well made Bordeaux that will not break the bank. 89-91. (Chateau le Doyenné)
- Very dark color here. The nose is superficial and the palate reflects winemaking over vineyard methinks. Don’t get me wrong: this wine does have some dark fruit character and richness but lacks – oddly enough – depth and character. Wines 33 and 34 are far better. 85-87 (Chateau Fougas Maldoror)
- “Wow a noticeable step up in aromatic richness. Plum and damson on the palate with just a hint of horse but not so much to detract. Actually, I like it. Perhaps a tad too oaky? Otherwise, very good juice. 89-91+ (Chateau Moulin Pey Labrie)
- A more polished nose albeit somewhat ordinary. The palate shows fresh fruit salad aspects if a bit, well again, ordinary. 87-88+ (Chateau de la Dauphine) Wow! I usually love this wine – must re-taste from bottle…
- There is something contrived here about the nose but the palate is warm enough and pleasing. Actually, I can easily imagine myself going back and taking another sip here because the mid palate and especially the finish are marked by good fruit notes. Not very compelling intellectually but a fine Merlot based drink for sure. 88-90 (Chateau La Vieille Cure)
- Here we have perhaps a hint of (winter)green. The accent on the latter word. The palate is better, adequate richness, but nothing to write home about either. 85-87 (Chateau Villars)
- Nicely dark fruited nose with a warm if somewhat ordinary palate and a slightly clipped finish. Not bad mind you, but within the context of this very good vintage, a tad under-performing? 85-87 (Chateau Barrabaque)
- Very nice nose of milk chocolate and ripe plum precedes a less than extraordinary palate – this is the case of a nose promising more than the palate, which is a bit short on the finish. But still nicely made. 87-88? (Chateau Chadenne)
- Muted nose but here a better palate, with freshness and good fruit. Not very complex but a nice drink, if a bit tight at this stage. The ripeness suggests softening with bottle age. 87-88+ (Chateau de la Riviere)
- Bit of green here on the nose and a rather monolithic palate and slightly drying tannin on the finish. 84-87 (Chateau Les Trois Croix)
- Cedar-like and peppermint nose with a rather fresh palate that is the best so far of this flight, if not excellent. 88-89+ (Chateau Haut Laroque)
- Good deep nose of dark fruit that one can imagine as one sips the palate as well. I wish the tannins did not dry off and that the wine did not get hot on the finish – if just slightly – but otherwise it shows good sap and concentration. Overall, one of the nicest of the Fronsacs/Canon Fronsacs. 89-91 (Chateau Haut Carles)
- Very nice nose here showing mint and fruit with a rather juicy palate albeit a bit short on the finish. Still, one of the best of this series. 89-91 (Chateau Cassagne Haut Canon)
- Marked by nail polish. Not sure about this sample. The palate is better, showing some good chocolate richness and a smooth texture. Second sample was cleaner. This wine has some interesting nuance to it. It is playing it close to the vest – a bit closed, with present tannins (ripe however!) – but I like its potential. 87-90 (Chateau Dalem)
- The nose is green. The palate is somewhat hard and edgy but not bad – there is fruit – but overall disappointing in the context of the vintage. 84 (Chateau Fontenil)
- Candied fruit and somewhat fuzzy. Animal fur. The palate is a bit superficial but also with fruit and smoothly textured. Not bad but I get the feeling that this wine lacks depth and nuance. 85-86+ (Chateau du Gaby)
- Nice nose showing off fresh and ripe plum. The palate has sap and also again freshness with a decent finish. Sure the tannins are present, but they are ripe, so time in bottle should do this wine well. A nicely made wine here! 89-91 (Chateau Carlmagnus)
- Very minty nose precedes a fresh even gripping palate. I like this – a top three in this section. 90-91. (Chateau Haut Ballet)
- A minty nose. The palate is OK if a bit ho-hum. It is a smooth wine, no doubt, but I am not excited. Still, there is a certain understated finesse that appeals. 86-89 (Chateau Beau Soleil)
- Here we have a deeper nose with elements of pepper. The palate is somewhat tight and non expressive. Could it be that the climate has an impeding effect on this tasting? 87-89 (Chateau Fayat)
- Somewhat superficial nose and palate. Lacks the weight of the two preceding wines, especially wine 53. 85-88 (Chateau Le Bon Pasteur). My goodness, this is a surprise!
- A warm nose. There is plum and slight spice but not very complex – even somewhat ordinary. 85-88 (Chateau La Croix)
- Nuanced nose although a bit rubbery. The palate is smooth and clean, the fruit not incredibly expressive but pleasing. A soft finish. 87-89+ (Domaine de l’Eglise)
- A better, more pronounced nose with dark chocolate and plum. The palate is more pronounced and just as smooth – nicely done – with a good finish. 89-91+ (Chateau Vieux Maillet)
- Here we have greater intensity on the nose and on the palate. There is good sap, but I wonder just a bit about certain drying tannin on the finish! 87-90 (Chateau Rouget)
- Fresher fruit on the nose and a solid palate that fairly packs its flavor. Somewhat austere tannins however… 86-89 (Chateau Mazeyres)
- Here we have a warmer wine. The nose is warm and so is the palate. Warm in a good sense: it delivers a pleasing fruit experience that is not drying or hot, marked by blackberry and plum. Somewhat abrupt on the finish – but I wonder if bottle age will sort this out? 89-92 (Chateau La Fleur de Gay)
- Mint and even somewhat green nose. A certain austerity on the palate, but not displeasing – it does show a certain juiciness. But was the heat of the vintage a disservice to the sandier/hotter soils of Pomerol? One gets that impression… 85-86 (Chateau La Clemence)
- No 62 (Explanation – the wines actually were numbered from 1 to 135 plus 15 whites, but when I transferred my notes to this programme, the subheadings altered the numbering with fresh starts – hence the Pomerols beginning with #1, so this explains my reference to #62, which turned out to be Château Clinet, and which we did not try!)
- Very nice nose of dark fruit with pleasing mint aspects precedes a strong palate – tannic but in a good way. This one is very promising – whatever tannic edge detected here (and there is) will probably integrate with bottle aging. 90-93 (Chateau Bonalgue) Ah, now this is a wine that I had served at the Chanticleer on Nantucket Island as a sommelier. Very nice barrel sample here, and a wine to seek out in 2009 because it will not be expensive.
- Somewhat superficial nose albeit with fresh notions… Just not very deep, showing some candied fruit on the palate which in this sample at least resembles a slightly thin layer of fabric, certainly well-made, but that can easily be removed. Perhaps with time, it will thicken? 86-88 (Chateau Bellegrave)
- A good nose and a solid palate all rather chocolate pudding-like. I like this wine, even though it is not very complex because it should develop into a Merlot crowd pleaser. 89-91 (Chateau Bourgneuf Vayron)
- Good but somewhat odd because of the sample. I am not sure about this one. Judgment reserved. (Chateau Feytit-Clinet)
- Licorice and chocolate on the nose precedes a good and rather rich palate. This one is very nice, cohesive and solid with no loose ends. There is a tightness but a healthy austerity given its baby age. I like some of the slightly spicy aspects that accentuate the fruit here. Nice job! 89-91 (Chateau Le Moulin) Another potential bargain in a vintage where there will be few bargains…
- Sweet mentholated cherry aromas precede a smooth palate which is not extraordinary but rather pleasing. A nice job – I find that this wine is not as ‘tricky’ as some of the others. It is smooth and solid, with a certain ‘typical’ Bordeaux Old World earthiness which I like. Nice. 89-91+ (Chateau Montviel)
- Once again a somewhat superficial nose; here we have a bit of chlorophyll. The palate is better though – I like its fruit and texture. A good drink. 88-89+ (Chateau Taillefer)
- A ‘smooth’ nose and palate! No rough edges here: this is Pomerol for certain. I like its constitution but this is not a 2005 vintage. It seems to lack the nuance and layered texture of the 2005, but it is very well made and warmly pleasing for certain. One of the best of the bunch here. 91-93 (Chateau Vray Croix de Gay)
- Another fine entry. Somewhat similar to the above if not quite as smoothly textured with a slight hint of heat on the finish and overall just a bit more ordinary. 88-89 (Clos du Clocher)
- Another fine wine, with smooth fruit and polish overall. Very nice. 90-91 (Clos l’Eglise)
- A noticeable step down here – not bad mind you – but with slightly austere tannins and a bit of hardness on the palate overall. 86-88 (Ambroisie de Chateau La Croix des Moines). Talk about a long name for a wine…
- Nice nose; overall very smooth. Palate is a bit tight. But with bottle age, should be fine. 87-89 (Chateau Grand Ormeau). Potential bargain wine!
- Good fruit, giving and warm, but not particularly extraordinary. 87-89 (Chateau La Sergue)
- Fuzzy nose, with chlorophyll. The palate is good, but a bit dry. OK. 86-87 (Chateau Siaurac)
- Ordinary wine, with some austerity lacking any significant concentration. (La Fleur de Bouard). Tried again at Château Angelus, and I found it a bit better but still with somewhat drying tannins. Judgment reserved.
- Beef blood aroma precedes a ‘raw’ palate. There is something nice about this wine, a freshness, that sets it apart from the preceding entries, but it ends with somewhat drying tannins. 86-88? (Chateau Tournefeuille)
- More austerity but not the worst here. The nose is actually rather sweet and the palate follows through admirably enough but somewhat drying tannins on the finish. Perhaps the best of the Lalande de Pomerol bunch? 88-90? (Chateau La Graviere)
- Smooth chocolate notes. The palate is also smooth- this may be worth looking into for a price/quality advantage? 89-90 (Chateau Jean de Gué)
- Nose is superficial, somewhat green? The palate is a bit hard. 85-86 (Chateau de Viaud)
- Once again a superficial quality, not deep or really present on the nose; the palate is better but not really so impressive… 85-87 (Chateau de Chambrun)
- Green aspects here but a better palate, with some juiciness. Slightly drying on the finish but overall not bad. Give it time in bottle. 86-87 (Chateau Perron La Fleur)
- Good nose, smooth palate with cinnamon aspects. I like this. 88-91 (Chateau Grand Barrail Lamarzelle Figeac)
- Slightly edgy. Not as expressive as the above – a bit tinny. 86-88 (Chateau Ferrand Lartigue)
- No 86
- Good dark fruit nose, but the palate is a bit drying. Overall impression is OK. 86-88 (Chateau Carteau Cotes Daugay)
- Lovely sweetness on the nose here. The palate is also fine, sweet and perhaps modern, but not slutty. I like this wine as a Right Bank welcome. 88-91+ (Chateau Barde Haut)
- Candied fruit on the nose with a palate this tries too hard to please? Lots of tannins here, but are they going to integrate? They seem to dry out a bit on the finish. 87-88 (Chateau Cote de Baleau)
- No 90
- OK, I will say it: a Coca Cola nose with a palate that is fulsome but lacking contours. Merely OK. 86-88 (Chateau de Pressac)
- Nice chocolate nose here with ripe plum but the palate is slightly hard. Give it time in bottle, should be OK. 88-90 (Chateau La Fleur)
- Very rich nose, shows complexity with coco and cinnamon. The palate is also rich and savory and should develop well in bottle. Nice! 90-92+ (Chateau Patris). Well, what a surprise. Will need to taste from bottle!
- Very chocolate like here and a dark chocolate palate that has good texture: smooth yet nuanced. This is fine – if just a tad drying on the finish? 89-91 (Chateau Rol Valentin)
- Good, solid although I wonder about the lack of subtlety? 88-90 (Clos la Madeleine)
- Deep dark fruit on the nose. The palate is rich as well, savory. I like this perhaps more than wine 93 because it is more clearly fruit driven. 90-93 (Sanctus du Chateau La Bienfaisance). Never heard of this one before, or just forgot about it. Great sample!
- A serious wine that is just slightly hard. I confess to some palate fatigue at this stage but would say that it is not as good as either wine 93 or the preceding wine. 89-90 (Chateau Lynsolence)
- Lovely nose precedes a good if not great palate. Full bodied perhaps, certainly pleasing, but where is the nuance? 88-90+ (Chateau Trianon)
- Oak driven aromas. The tannins are just a bit drying although the palate is meaty, tasty. Some palates may prefer this, but I am overall a classicist and find this one a bit over extracted. 87-90 (Chateau Rochebelle)
- Smooth chocolate nose. The palate is perhaps a tad alcoholic but overall I like its chutzpah. I am not a member of the so-called pleasure police, but I prefer nuance to porn. This wine is not pornographic but it also lacks nuance. OK. 88-90 (Chateau Quinault l’Enclos)
- More character here, dark chocolate and mint. Somewhat evident tannins however. Give it time in bottle… 88-90+ (Chateau Pas d’Ane)
- A more elegant nose mixed with saddle leather that is not over the top. I like it when the saddle leather is not over the top. Some oak influence but rather well integrated. There is smoothness and sex appeal. Nice! 90-93 (Chateau La Gomerie)
- Gingerbread sweetness with a sweet palate that hardly offends and rather pleases. Good fruit and good concentration. I am not blown away by excellence but rather pleased by warmth and good, even somewhat fresh, flavor. 88-90 (Chateau Jean Faure)
- No 104
- Good floral notes I would say. The palate is streamlined but not particularly impressive, either. Good. 87-88+ (Chateau Franc Grace Dieu)
- A deeper more modern nose. Does it succeed in impressing your humble critic? I do get a bit of overly evident oak… The palate follows through with the oak. Not sure. It certainly asserts itself more than wine 105 but I am not sure it is ‘better’. 86-88 (Chateau Faugeres)
- Smells a bit like good shoe polish. The palate is not that memorable: merely good. 86-87 (Chateau Cheval Noir Cuvee le Fer)
- A better nose here, rather freshly fruity. A bit austere on the palate but bottle age will resolve this – it is a good, somewhat tonic austerity. 88-90 (Chateau Boutisse)
- Superficial nose, again like Coca Cola. Palate is rather hard. I hope it gets better in bottle! 85-87? (Chateau Grand Corbin Manuel)
- Fresh, rather sweet nose. Better palate if not extraordinary. 88-90 (Chateau La Commanderie)
- The nose is somewhat closed. Some chocolate notes. Hard, palate-staining tannins here; what is going on? 86? (Chateau La Fleur d’Arthus)
- Very pleasing nose of sweet fruit with a foreboding palate but not hard. Nice job methinks. 88-90+ (Chateau La Grangere)
- A bit of road kill on the nose and palate staining tannins. Not as bad as wine 111, but close. 87? (Chateau Riou de Thaillas)
- Plum like nose. The palate is not so flattering, again a bit hard, but time in bottle will moderate the edginess here, which is not as pronounced as in 113 or 111. 87-88+ (Chateau Sansonnet)
- This is more moderate, with good ripe red (not black) fruit on the nose and on the palate. Nothing extraordinary however. 87-89 (Clos Dubreuil)
- Somewhat hard and acidic. I am overwhelmed by tannin here. ??? (Péby Faugeres)
- Chocolate notes and a good palate. A tad monolithic but certainly enjoyable. 88-90 (Chateau Bellefont Belcier)
- Dryer than the preceding wine. Not sure it has the sap to last as long but overall it is not so bad. 87-89 (Chateau La Marzelle)
- Another somewhat superficial nose with a palate that is a bit cloying. Not bad but not that great either. 86-88 (Chateau Saint-Georges Cote Pavie). This is a wine that is fairly available in French supermarkets.
- Good but not great either; it is juicier than the preceding wine for sure. It actually conveys more sap. I like this more and more… 88-90 (Clos des Jacobins)
- Slightly more acidic than the above wine but well made. I think it is also slightly hard – is this a case of just a bit of superficial ripeness? Was the vintage too hot for St Emilion? 87-88+ (Chateau Ripeau)
- Very polished, even creamy aroma. The palate is sweet although perhaps not as juicy as I would have expected from the nose. Still, a good finish, perhaps just a tad drying. 88-90+ (Chateau Fonroque). Not a chateau I usually look out for, but nice job here.
- Ordinary, a bit just ripe enough fruit, if you will. Just ripe enough plum. The palate is also reflective of the nose: nothing extraordinary. 85-87 (Chateau Fleur Cardinale). Must re-taste, because this was a bit surprising!
- Greater finesse on the nose, with riper fruit. The palate is a tad hard however. What is going on here? I was thinking that this was a grand vintage! 86-88 (Chateau Le Prieuré)
- Wow, here we have a very nice nose that is fruity and polished and the palate is slightly harder but not aggressive. A good job here. 88-91 (Chateau Fonplégade). Well, there is no doubting the terroir of this estate.
- Actually, this one is called 125bis. Do not ask me why… The nose is more muted than the above with just ripe plum and the palate is just juicy enough but not hard at all. Good. 86-88+ (Chateau Grand Corbin d’Espagne)
- A correct nose and a palate with lift. Perhaps I like this especially after all the reds preceding, but I tried the subsequent whites before noting here: this is a fine white with good acidity and adequate richness. 86-88 (Chateau de Malromé)
- More minty on the nose. Tries to be more nuanced but I get its attempt more than its result. OK. 87-88 (Alix du Chateau Plaisance)
- This is the best so far, with green apple and grapefruit. I like the palate too: refreshing with substance. Nice job! 88-91 (Chateau Thieuley fût de chêne)
- Candied nose. Muted overall, even on the palate. Perhaps too polite? 86-88 (Chateau Hostens-Picant Cuvee des Demoiselles)
- A return to greater expression. Not that cat pee but certainly Sauvignon. Just a bit obvious but fun to drink, I guess. 85-87 (Chateau Côte Montpezat)
- Another evidently Sauvignon wine but perhaps with greater nuance. The palate is good, citrus-like et al, but nothing special either. 85-87+ (Chateau Thieuley)
- This is a more original nose with more vivid flavors, including lemon-infused herbal tea. The palate follows through nicely, with good acidity to match decent richness. 88-90+ (Chateau Tour de Mirambeau) This will be a bargain price.
- Smoky nose, but also a bit contrived. The palate is smooth however, but I wonder if new oak is masking a certain lack of fruit? Am I, as the French say, à côté de la plaque? Judgment reserved. (Chateau Haut Bertinerie)
- Pineapple – not canned but bordering. The palate is fun and games. Easy to quaff wine but nothing special either. 86-88 (Girolate)
- White pepper and the most mineral driven so far. Candied fruit. I like the palate – at this late stage of a marathon tasting mind you. Still, re-tasting for a third time, I like it. Give it time in bottle. 88-91 (Chateau Pénin) Another white to look for.
- A typical Sauvignon Blanc nose. Slightly cat pee with lime. The palate conjures images of oysters in the summer sprinkled with lemon juice. 87-88 (Madlys de Sainte-Marie)
- Another typical nose but somewhat thicker, somewhat monolithic. 85-87 (Chateau Sainte Marie)
- This shows more depth, perhaps a nicely integrated new oak aspect? The palate is more concentrated than both of the above (wines 11 and 12) but also has freshness. Nice job. 88-90 (Chateau Reynon)
- Sweeter nose, pineapple. The palate is somewhat cloying; this wines needs more acidity to balance the sweet aspect, in my humble opinion. 84-86 (Chateau Mont Pérat)
- A sweet nose but this time with pleasing mint and aromas that build a certain harmony. The palate is also marked – I wonder! – with perhaps a bit of residual sugar? In any case, I like this for current drinking with Chinese food. 87-90. Special note: I actually drank some of this before leaving, so any interested readers can note that I liked it… but keep in mind that it is a bit sweet to my mind. (Chateau Les Roques)
Puy Blanquet Saint Emilion: nose is a bit discrete, palate as well. tannins are somewhat metallic. not sure if this is really going to develop all that well; it seems just a bit stumped. 85
La Serre Saint Emilion: much better nose. the palate is more fluid, smoother. but I am not so overwhelmed by any particular layers of flavor here. a solid st emilion. 89-90
Magdelaine Saint Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé: very polished, elegant nose. the palate shows good sap and richness, rather subltle although one can tell that the wine comes from a warm vintage – and this is in a good sense. Shows more sap than the Belair-Monange but not as dense. 91+
Belair Monange Saint Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé: the nose is not as interesting as Magdelaine’s – it is actually rather closed. the palate shows good strength, solidity, but it is a just a tad hard at this stage and non expressive. 88-91? Tasted a second sample, a bit more open, but again, closed albeit with good solidity if also slightly austere.
Plince: very pretty nose, somewhat flora, with good fruit. the palate is just a bit austere but not to its disadvantage, as bottle age should soften the tannins. rather serious, rather tannic. 90
Lafleur Gazin: less expressive nose, good palate, has substance but is just a tad reticent now. Still I like the body on this if the texture not quite as much. 88-90
La Grave a Pomerol: lovely nose. a rather bracing palate, almost exciting even at this young stage – certainly the freshest so far and also with the deepest fruit. an excellent sample. 89-92 This will hopefully not be too expensive…
Bourgneuf: lovely fruit on the nose. a mix of blackberry and cherry jam with a fine palate, showing good spine and tannic edge for the future – may well clamp down for a few years. excellent structure. 90-92+
Certan Marzelle: very floral nose. as per usual, the palate is quite refined and fresh much more on the finesse than any of the above. 90-93
Latour a Pomerol: Good nose, somewhat reticent. Quite mouth filling on the palate, certainly very cohesive and even dense, if lacking perhaps that notch of concentration one would expect from 2009. I like the juiciness on the finish. 90-92+
La Fleur Petrus: Very elegant nose, somewhat floral with red and black fruit and even some black tea leaf. The palate is nuanced and a bit closed but there something good cooking. I would suspect this will open up very nicely in bottle. 92-94+
Hosanna: A very rich nose, as expected. Richness on the palate, even hedonist, but it also have excellent balance. A very different style from the above, but perhaps as good – although I get the feeling that the finish does not quite follow through on the initial expectation. 91-93+
Providence: an even richer nose. thickly laid out palate. I like its thickness here – a rich wine not quite opulent but certainly pleasureable. espresso coffee aspect. slight and very nice hint of dark chocolate bitterness on the finish. I prefer this to Hosanna. 92-95
Certain de May: quite complete, showing orange rind like freshness as well as milk chocolate, with a floral aspect that refreshes the palate. Fine bitterness on the finish. Perhaps just a bit shorter than expected? But I think it will arrange itself in bottle. Lovely job. 92-95+
Trotanoy: Very deep nose. Velvety and robust, complete. It has all the elements you require from a great Pomerol in a ripe year: ripe copious yet soft tannins, flavor packed palate (violets, darker fruit), good structure yet smooth texture, a memorable finish. Very fine! 95-97. Candidate for one of the very best of 2009.
Pétrus: Deep color but not black, Jean-Claude Berrouet said that alcohol levels were ‘high’ at 14.2 and was not sure about using any Cabernet Franc this year. He said that new oak was better kept at 50%. No pumping over to avoid too much extraction. The wine exudes dark berry and ripe plum aromas, with a creamy licorice aspect on the very rich and deep palate. Perhaps lacks just a bit of that layered nuance I recall from the 2005 barrel sample? Still, superb wine. But out of my price range for sure. 96-98+
Next stop was a tasting at Château Vieux Château Certan in Pomerol, an estate whose wines I adore. Alexandre Thienpont is a very nice host – he also has an open bottle of 2005 to taste – when I arrive with wine writers Mark Golodetz and John Gilman and wine author Elin McCoy. Now, I only tasted the VCC once but it just does not measure up to the fresh lift I experienced when tasting the 2005 in the Spring of 2006 from the barrel. The aromas were a mix of black and red fruit, all very ripe, and the palate was impressive in its texture and richness to be sure. It gets easily 92-94 points, if you like. But we were all reminded of how darn good the 2005 is when we sipped from the bottle. Perhaps the difference is explained in the lack of Cabernet in the 2009 – just 8% Cab Franc and 8% Cab Sauvignon. The 2005 had 25% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexandre explained. ‘For some reason, the old vine Cabernet Franc in clay did not do well enough to be included in the wine,’ he said. He even allowed: ‘the 2005 is more complex than the 2009.’
Next stop, a tasting lunch at Château La Conseillante plus a vertical of the wines from this superb Pomerol. To give you an idea that there may be no fixed rules when it comes to 2009, it is worthy of noting that the Cabernet Franc at La Conseillante was just fine in 2009, and the wine showed very good freshness. But before I tried the 2009 barrel sample, I tasted several other vintages in a vertical:
2006: Good, smooth and with excellent sap. Perhaps lacks the éclat of the 2005 but it is certainly a fine vintage at La Conseillante. 42 hectoliters per hectare
2005: Very nice freshness, concentration, albeit not quite as nuanced as the VCC 2005 tasted just earlier! Still, a fabulous wine. 38 hectoliters per hectare.
2001: This wine is drinking very well today; lovely notes of new leather, good freshness and a very pleasing palate texture. 47 hectoliters per hectare
1998: Very fine and nuanced with perhaps more body than the 2001, if perhaps not as charming. Certainly not as evolved and very likely the better vintage. In fact a second bottle opened showed better, with more power and more in focus black olive, truffle and chocolate flavors. Lovely!41 hectoliters per hectare.
1989: Ah, a wine made from an era with higher yields, and yet here you go: very nice! 54 hectoliters per hectare and – from magnum bottle – this wine is very truffled, showing a ‘Burgundian’ elegance, earthy but not leafy, with some hint of meat juices. Or was that the lamb I was smelling? No, seriously, it was a little meaty on the palate!
Now, for La Conseillante 2009 barrel sample: A floral nose, with more lift on the palate than the VCC, and finely grained tannins. Certainly a great success here! 93-95
Now, before you get too excited, I am not one who believes that Sauternes and Barsac have ‘their best year ever’ in 2009. It seems to be a very good to excellent vintage, certainly, but – as the editors of La Revue du Vin de France noted in their May 2010 issue – it is for lovers of a richer style of Sauternes. ‘Despite what the chateaux may say, the acidities are not as high as they would have you believe,’ they wrote. I am inclined to agree. I like precision as in vintages like 2007, and I found – from these barrel samples – that sometimes that precision was not as much in evidence as I would have liked in 2009!
Flights of five
1. Nice nose, orange aspect. some wintergreen freshness. Good attack on the palate, rather brisk, somewhat thickly laid. 89-91+ (Arche) Nice performance from an often underrated estate.
2. More closed nose. the palate is not as rich as the preceding wine, which I think I prefer. Ok, but perhaps just closed? 87-90? (Bastor Lamontagne)
3. Pineapple like, overly sweet, although the nose seems more appealing than the palate at this prenatal stage. A bit ho-hum. 86-89 (Broustet)
4.Cloudy aspect. Subtle nose. Rather closed. Not saying much, although I like a certain mineral quality. salty. Judgment reserved but I like it. (Caillou)
5. Mineral aspect on the nose, albeit with some sticky pineapple. A serious palate, thick yet contoured, nicest since wine #1, and perhaps better. 90-92+ (Doisy Daene) Very nice.
6. Good solid, not really cloying. Some fine spicy aspects. 87-90+ (Doisy Vedrines)
7. More of a medicinal nose here with canned fruit. The palate is better, a brighter fruit salad aspect. Somewhat hot. 86-88+ (Filhot)
8. Minty, mineraly and pepperminty, with some white pepper and nutmeg. I like this one. The palate is just a tad cloying, but there is some freshness and a follow through on the palate of the mineral aspects on the nose. 88-92+ (Lamothe) This one will not be too expensive.
9. Nice pear and orange aspects. Good solid palate, with decent concentration. Just a bit of heat on the finish, but this is splitting hairs. Overall, fine. 89-92+ (Lamothe-Guignard)
10. Another cloudy sample. Very cohesive overall, rather saline with white fruit and verveine. I like this one quite a bit as it has freshness albeit just a tad sharp for now. 89-92 (de Malle)
11. Bubblegum minerality. I like the palate which has richness and nuance as well as concentration and spice. Nice job. 90-93 (de Myrat)
12. Honeyed peach aromas with fine spice aromatics. The palate is somewhat sticky but not cloying really, rather appealing. 90-93 (Nairac)
13. Cloudy sample. Somewhat soft nose of white fruit, pear and peach: white caramel/nougat on the palate. Sweet, yes, but not cloying. 90-93 (Romer du Hayot) This one really surprised me!
14. More white pepper than fruit driven here. Perhaps a tad monolithic? 88-90 (Suau)
15. Rich but somewhat medicinal and monolithic. 87-89 (de Fargues). This one also … surprised me. Must re-taste of course.
16. nice orange rind and spice on the nose and the palate. I get some lovely tobacco notes on the palate which is more streamlined yet also conveys richness. lovely. 91-95 (Coutet) Superb here!
17. mineral like, fine, refined rather. white pepper yet rich: a drinkable Sauternes as it also has good acidity. 90-94 (Guiraud) Another excellent wine.
18. ginger aspects with white pear, quite rich again but not overbearing. 90-92 (Clos Haut Peyraguey)
19. very mango even somewhat coconut. the palate is opulent and fun with better crystaline clarity on the palate than the above. 91-95+ (Lafaurie Peyraguey). One of the top Sauternes tasted here. Bravo!
20. apricot nose, cinnamon spice albeit a bit pineapple like… a fulsome palate. fine. 90-92 (La Tour Blanche)
21. Saline nose, with peppermint. I like this. A cohesive palate, more mineral driven – nicely done. 90-94 (Rabaud Promis) No doubt a bargain here!
22. Slightly furry nose, richness on the nose and on the palate – good but not great. Slightly cloying albeit with some nice botrytis spice. 88-90 (Rayne Vigneau)
23. The nose stood out – I made a remark to Sarah Kemp of Decanter. She called it ‘exotic’ and I tend to agree: exotic nose of coconut, with a palate that is quite rich – but really I cannot be too critical, as this should please many a palate. I tend to prefer more minerality in my Sauternes. 90-92+ (Rieussec) Usually, Rieussec stands out in these blind tastings – which always exclude Climens and Raymond Lafon and of course Yquem. It did here, too, but I was not as impressed as expected!
24. Bordering on litchi but not really, this wine does show off mango and exotic fruit. perhaps too rich – but better balance than the final wine! 90-92 (Sigalas Rabaud)
25. here again a wine that is a bit too rich for my taste, too thickly laid (more so than the two preceding wines). 89-91? (Suduiraut). Tasted again at the chateau and while I do like this wine, I – once again – prefer vintages like 2007 and 2001 to be sure.
12. Dark fruit nose. A bit of road tar. The attack is rather smooth, and the texture somewhat grainy, with perhaps a hint of drying tannin on the finish. Still, this has good weight. 90-92+ (CONSEILLANTE)
13. A somewhat fresher nose. Somewhat weightier on the palate, more fruit driven, not so much tar. I like its juiciness, perhaps just a bit of heat on the finish? 90-93 (GAZIN)
14. Darker color, oaky extraction notes. The palate is not as extracted as the nose suggests, actually showing some good juiciness. Still, the nose shows too much wood at this prenatal stage. I do like the mid palate but I feel that the finish is somewhat drying. 89-91 (LA CROIX DE GAY)
15. Quite a contrast, as this shows more candied fruits and a far more friendly, fresher palate with I would say more balance. Perhaps not the most concentrated wine here, but certainly successful. 90-93 (PETIT VILLAGE)
16. This is velvety and smooth, with a nice melange of fruit and early oak integration, some nutmeg and spice, as well as dark berry fruit. I like the texture as well. It has a medium to full bodied palate and an enveloping finish marked by a pleasingly slight bitterness. 91-93 (CLINET)
17. A somewhat sweet nose here of graham cracker. The palate is somewhat superficial – for some reason I feel that it is not quite that ripe for this vintage and there is some dilution on the palate. 84-86 (LA CABANNE)
18. After a short pause to take a photo, I note the presence of voluminous tannins. This is a tannic year… Some indices show more tannin than in 2005! But I digress. Here now the note for wine 18… Harmonious nose. Rather chocolate like. The palate follows through nicely, with a balanced expression of sweetness and freshness, marked by ripe grapes. The finish is very pleasing, with a lingering sweetness on the palate not for a moment hiding the good tannic edge on the finish. Nicely done! 91-93 (LA POINTE)
19. An herbal nose, bordering on medicinal? Blows off to reveal some good cherry notes. There is nice sap on the palate with freshness, although just slightly angular on the finish… 87-90? (BEAUREGARD)
37. Very pretty nose, rather floral. The attack is almost soft but affirmed and it follows through with an almost silky mid palate smacking of fine dark chocolate and blackberry and plum – ending on a nice note of bitterness. 91-94 (COUSPAUDE)
38. This wine shows dark ripe plum and mint but also some wood. The palate is cheerfully solid albeit just a bit drying on the finish. 89-92 (DASSAULT)
39. The nose here is not very expressive. Rather licorice – lightly so – with a palate that is just slightly dilute if fruity and easy. OK. 87-90 (BERLIQUET)
46. Cinnamon and damson though a bit thinly expressed. Still, a polished nose, smooth texture and a pleasingly plump aspect that contains fine structure too – not to mention a lingering dark chocolate finish. 90-93 (FRANC MAYNE)
47. Not as pleasing as the above, but shows frank solidity. There is perhaps just a bit of heaviness, but so ever slight. Perhaps it is just a bit closed. The tannins are more present here, more foreboding. Judgment reserved, as it shows promise intrinsically but perhaps not showing so well today! Judgment reserved. (LARCIS DUCASSE)
48. Gingerbread like nose. The palate is sappy and pleasant with plenty of plum and dark cherry. I like this wine, as it shows good juiciness yet discipline on the tannic/structured finish. Nicely done! 91-94+ (CAP DE MOURLIN)
55. Another fine wine here. Shows good red and black fruit on the nose, although the palate is marked by tannins that dry just a little. The gums are rather attacked but there is much fruit, too. Something special may be brewing. 89-93 (BALESTARD LE TONNELLE)
56. A bit superficial candied fruit on the nose, which is also marked by tar. The palate is just a bit dilute. Were yields here too high? In any case, the mid palate and finish are just OK compared to the others. 86-88 (LA DOMINIQUE)
57. Some dark fruit yet also oak on the nose albeit with pleasing mint. The palate is good if also a bit overly extracted, with drying tannin on the finish – similar to wine 55, and perhaps worse in that sense. 87-89 (PAVIE MACQUIN)
64. Lovely mint freshness on the nose. The palate is fluid, endearingly seductive. There is good grip but actually one is more enchanted by the smoothness of the mid palate – marked by somewhat jammy but never cloying red fruit plus chocolate – that encourages drink. Nicely done! 93-95 (CANON)
65. Not as fun as the above. There is more austerity here and I fear a bit of the oaky, extracted style. Still, one cannot deny a good sap on the mid palate as well as some healthy ripe and present tannins that lend structure. Give this time in barrel… For now, not so convinced. 89-92 (CANON LA GAFFELIERE)
66. Somewhat oak derived here. The palate is better though, with the sappy fruit overlapping the (rather gum staining) tannins, even oak derived. And yet – and yet – there is a bit of dryness on the finish. 89-91 (TROPLONG MONDOT)
73. An interesting aniseed nose, somewhat muted. The palate is good, shows fine volume and tannic structure that is ripe and tasty, and marked by an almost minty freshness, although perhaps not as exciting as some of the other wines here but certainly better than wine 65. 90-92 (CLOS FOURTET)
74. A lovely fruit forward nose precedes a juicy palate that – in the same vein as wine 64 – pleases with its smoothness, although not as brightly or sweetly. Perhaps makes up for this in tannic structure, but overall, a similar style but not as pleasing, if you will. 90-92 (LA GAFFELIERE)
75. A fresh nose, rather floral, and that follows through on the palate which is expressive. I like the tannic structure as well, and suspect that with time in barrel, this will open up into something special. For now, just a bit closed down. 90-93 (BEAUSEJOUR BECOT)
81. Vivid floral notes albeit with oak derivation. A good palate, nuanced thickness if you will, with good tannic structure that is the skeleton to the richness. Nicely done. 90-93+ (LARMANDE)
82. Nice mint aspect but I do detect just a bit of underripe fruit. The palate is better though, showing smoothness and even elegance. 88-89+ (LA TOUR FIGEAC)
83. A better nose here. Fresh juiciness, good tannic edge on the palate which here again nevertheless surpasses the aromatic impression. Just slightly hard on the finish – but barrel aging will improve that. 90-92 (GRAND MAYNE)
84. Somewhat austere on the nose, and the palate is steely, although there is fruit and fluidity. Thoroughly closed here… Judgment reserved. (FIGEAC)
Same day, tasting at Chateau Canon / the Groupement of PGCC – just 10 crus without Angelus, Belair-Monange, Cheval Blanc and Magdelaine…
All of these show much tannin
1. Nose on the discrete side, slightly mineral/earthy but also fine floral elements. The palate is good, and gets more supple with time in glass – not edgy. The tannins are not the smoothest but I suspect that barrel age will sort things out and give this a good score. 90-92 (TROTTEVIEILLE)
2. More supple nose and a more cohesive, rounded palate, although the nose suggests some green/red pepper (of course). I like the fluidity on the palate and the supple quality. Fine. 90-93 (FIGEAC)
3. Evidently darker color. Nose is coffee like with some smoky elements mixed with some plum fruit. The palate is a tad hard, and tad hot – at first, but then it smoothens out in glass. 89-91 (CLOS FOURTET)
4. Another dark color, but more evidently fruit driven methinks. Nose is quite chocolately and the palate is good, if lacking perhaps just a bit of freshness? Certainly improves in glass. 90-92 (BEAUSEJOUR BECOT)
5. Here we have a wine that is more balanced. There is fruit and tannin and the heat factor is not important. I think this so far to be the most supple. 91-94 (BEAUSEJOUR DUFFAU L) Tasted earlier this morning non blind, and confirms my positive impression blind!
6. Blackberry and dark plum nose. Rich. The palate is tannic – I get quite a bit of tannin in fact from these wines – but also nicely opulent with a velvet aspect. 90-93 (CANON)
7. Rather oak derived nose. The palate shows its extraction but there is also good sap – which does make up for things here. Perhaps slightly drying on the finish. Reach for the water. Fellow hack Hugo called it as Pavie. I would not disagree – but could it be Pavie Macquin? 88-91 (TROPLONG MONDOT)
8. Floral freshness on the nose. Once again a palate that is quite tannic. Is it the time of day? The howling wind? Just after lunch? The palate is actually rather hard and drying in the context of the vintage. 89-92 (PAVIE)
9. Somewhat floral although also medicinal nose… Good freshness on the palate but lacks some intensity. Good sap overall, however, if just a bit too polite? 88-91 (LA GAFFELIERE)
10. Wintergreen nose… with some oak. Good palate, quite substantial. I like its richness. Here we have a good level of quality albeit just a bit drying on the finish. 90-92 (PAVIE MACQUIN)
Wednesday 31 March the marathon continues with the Medoc – and Cabernet seems to rule over Merlot. Yes folks it seems to me to be more a Left Bank vintage this 2009, although the tannins can be ferocious in some, as in Latour.
Reserve de la Comtesse: Solid nose, frank on the palate albeit a certain austerity coming from Merlots that were perhaps not optimally ripe phenolically? 86-88
Pichon Comtesse de Lalande: More Cabernet than usual, very seductive nose. Like the 1996 indeed, although some drew comparisons to the 1982. Perhaps. Thomas Do Chi Nam said that the wine does indeed resemble the 1996 but with more silky tannins at this stage. He said that it has more density than the 2005 and I would agree: here is a case of a wine that did better in 2009! Super job. 94-96
Haut Beausejour St Estephe: Despite 30% malo in barrel this wine is rather austere and not as soft and sumptuous as the Bernadotte. Give it time in barrel but this is not really anything too special… 85-86
Chateau Bernadotte Haut Medoc: Like the Pibran – perhaps less power – this wine is just delicious and seductive. No malo in barrel here, no need. A smooth delivery and a very supple mid palate and delicious, tasty finish. This is the best Bernadotte I have ever tasted en primeur and I would look out for this wine. 90-93
Chateau de Pez St Estephe: Very nice nose of cassis and cedar but not quite followed through on the palate which is somewhat edgy – needs time in barrel of course. Better than the Haut Beausejour. 86-88+
Chateau Latour: Some fawned over Engerer like this was God coming down to save their oenological souls, but I think this is just a superb wine appropriate to the vintage: a towering tannic presence that should not be opened for about 30 years: it is that tannic. This is not supple and is not going to be ready soon – like, say, Calon Segur. This is a wine that will easily close down for a while. It is so imposing and not really a pleasure to drink now but the potential greatness is there. As in 2005, it reminded me of the Petrus, in its racy nobility. Here I think that the 2005 Latour was more graceful, less monstrous. Does that mean anything for future development? Perhaps the 2005 will remain the more suave wine, but the 2009 will easily last just as long as the 2005. I still give the freshness edge/classic edge to the 2005 in this case. 95-98, but for masochists in the first 20 years. Will likely score higher when it opens up in bottle down the (long) road.
Les Forts de Latour: Here we have a second wine worthy of a top tier classed growth. There is power and substance and it is more of course approachable than Latour, as it has rounded texture that makes it more immediately pleasing. But this also has tannic power and concentration. Perhaps the best second wine I have had, and that includes Alter Ego Palmer and Pavillion Rouge of Margaux, although they are also superb. 92-95
Pauillac of Latour: A softer Pauillac expression but not without substance. Smooth and almost like velvet, this wine is very pleasing. If it is not too expensive may be worth buying. 88-90
Alter Ego of Chateau Palmer: Very rich in fruit. Some Merlots were 15, so fresh as in other vintages but showing perhaps more inviting richness as well as density. 45% of the harvest went into this wine. Lovely! 89-91+
Chateau Palmer: 55% of the harvest here (in 2007, 40% and in 2008, 50% but almost 70% in 2005!). Good tannic richness, very violet aroma and excellent juiciness on the palate, as well as good tannic structure. Later I get fresh white flower. This may be more fresh than the 2005 in that it has less alcohol (the 2005 was 14.1 or 14.2, while the 2009 is 13.5), and I liked it a lot. I remember enjoying the 2005 en primeur immensely and enjoyed its freshness as well. A larger scaled wine perhaps that Chateau Margaux but I think I give the edge for now just slightly to Margaux. 95-97+
Chateau Pibran: Very smooth and elegant wine. Comparable to Pauillac de Latour but more vivid and racy. Also showing bright red fruit freshness that compliments evident palate juiciness. Overall feeling of cherry liqueur. Jean Rene Matignon compares 2009 to 1990 but he says that the 2009 brings more freshness than 1990, which was ‘more black fruit’ while the 2009 ‘also has red fruit.’ 90-92
Pichon Longueville Baron: First time they had more alcohol in the first wine (13.8) than in the second, which tends to have more because of the Merlot. But here the Cabernets were so ripe, said Jean Rene Matignon, that the Baron has more alcohol. An index of 88 tannin – quite high. The wine is dense, it also has good fruit and an excellent tannic finish which reminds me of Les Forts de Latour. Jean Rene said that the Merlots were rather austere this year and that it is the Cabernet which brings the richness. Blend: 67% Cab, 33% Merlot and 80% new oak barrels. In the ‘battle of the Pichons’ I like both, can I say that? I may just give a slight edge this year to the Comtesse for its extra dimension of grace. 93-96
Calon Segur: More new oak and greater Cabernet Sauvignon, said Vincent Millet, who is managing wine making since 2006. He comes from Chateau Margaux. He wants to use more Cabernet Sauvignon and like others (at Pichon Comtesse among them) he said that 2009 was ‘a year for Cabernet Sauvignon.’ Here we have 13.5% alcohol and 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, but my goodness is the wine suave and seductive without ever being flabby or light or lacking substance. This delivers the goods so smoothly but does not fall into what I would call the ‘Cos d’Estournel trap’ of tasting extracted or over oaked. This wine also packs lots of (very ripe) tannin. Calon Segur is one of the most seamless examples of this wine en primeur according to people who have tasted it before (this was my first visit, and I loved it for its smooth aspect that invited drinking). Despite the 100% new oak, such excellent integration! One of my favorite wines of the vintage, and far more accessible than Latour… (and far less expensive and snooty to boot) 95-97
Pavilion Rouge: Frank nose, good red fruit. Very vivid nose of red fruit, red cherry and some cassis. Lovely chipper quality. 67 Cab and 29 Merlot. We have much more Merlot in the third wine, said Paul Pontallier. The best they have ever made, he said. I certainly liked this quite a lot. Coming from a stricter selection for the Pavillon Rouge. Only 41 percent. The palate is very refined. Taut yet supple. More supple than in previous vintages which I found perhaps just a bit more edgy. Cherry and ripe cassis aspect. The nose is almost sappy. Pontallier thinks it could taste ‘almost as good’ as some previous vintages of Chateau Margaux – at this young state, he said. Alcohol and pH. Cabernet is less rich in sugars. They reached 13 degrees the Cabernet this year. Rarely seen here. But not much more. First wine has 13.2, almost pure Cab. pH 3.79. Acidity 3.3, which is average in the last 20 years. Second wine, this one, 13.5 or 13.6. Only in 2005 did he achieve such high levels of alcohol natural for the Cabernet. ‘We did not harvest too late, we did not try to push maturity as late as possible so there is maturity and vividness,’ he said. Yields slightly lower than usual (they aim for 45 hectoliters per hectar and in 2009 it was closer to 39). Will include a video her as well…. later. 90-92+
Chateau Margaux – A very nice nose. Rich and deep. Great density and softness. In 2009 you have a little more density than in 2005 but at the same time it reminds of the 1990, which was far from being that dense but you have that sweetness and polish. Unlike the tannic beast of Latour, this wine will be more approachable earlier – it is already silky yet very tannic. Certainly the iron fist in a velvet glove, and there is much velvet. 2005 is almost totally closed, very difficult to drink. I do not expext 2009 to behave like this, said Pontallier. Because of those extremely ripe and silky tannins. Vintages like 1982 and 1990 have never been closed. 87 percent Cabernet. A fine finish. Has a real freshness to it and very complex. Lovely job! 95-98+
Pavilion Blanc – Apricot, and floral lift. Much more in depth this year, we have gone through many changes with the white. 2007, 15.5 2006, 15.1. ‘This was scary to us,’ Pontallier said. Wewent through many changes … Only 32 percent of the crop. Last year it was closer to 60% of the crop. Mineral, steeliness. 13.9 percent. Also ageability will be more predictable than previous vintages. No Semillon in that. We do not need Semillon, because Sauvignon is ripe enough. 36 percent first wine. A crisper version of the Pavillon Blanc with good minerality and lemon like freshness. Nice job in the context of a rather tough vintage for whites. 88-91
Blind tasting at Chateau Maucaillou
- Somewhat austere nose. Time in glass lends a cedary elegance to this nose. The palate is dense yet also juicy. Very good ripeness of albeit strong tannins. A bit hardening on the finish detracts. 89-90+ (CLARKE)
- Fruitier nose with some fresh mint aspect. Juicy as well. I prefer the more supple nature here and perhaps more fruit appearing to balance as well the notable tannins. Nicely done. 89-91+ (FONREAUD)
- Toasty nose with floral elements but not so expessive. The palate shows good structure but is not all that juicy/sappy or warm. In fact it is somewhat austere if not drying. I get the feeling that it may be one of the harder Margaux but barrel aging should smoothen it out. 86-88+ (FOURCAS DUPRE)
- Deep nose, showing dark rather plum-like fruit. The palate is just a bit steely but there is good juice and decent structure. 87-90+ (FOURCAS HOSTEN)
- Good fruit nose and a far more fluid palate – with sap and very ripe tannins that invite you to try more… the tannins are there however, a rich palate but also good tannic edge. 89-91 (CHASSE SPLEEN)
- More supple here. Nice supple drink with a similarly inviting palate profile. Not the most finely grained tannins but a pleasing smoothness and a tonic finish. 90-92 (MAUCAILLOU)
- Floral nose refined. Lovely. The palate is of a larger dimension, scale with a harmonious feel on the palate. I go back to wine #2 and this wine is better – it is silkier and more refined. Excellent! 92-94+ (POUJEAUX)
- Spicy aspects here. Du Tertre? There is a pleasing glycerin, too but not reaching the heights of the previous wine, as this has somewhat larger grained tannins and a bit too much oak derivation for my taste. 88-90 (GREYSAC)
- An elegant wooden box on a ship. Yes, there is oak but also fruit on the nose. The palate shows fruit – good body – but there is also some tightness and dryness… not sure if that is going to pan out in the long run. 88-90? (LA TOUR DE BY)
- Gardens and dew on the nose. There is a sappy nose here, pleasing. Very finesse oriented on the palate. Give it time in barrel and it will obtain more concentration but this is a wine for lovers of elegance, like me! 90-93 (BRANE CANTENAC)
- Peppermint nose. The palate shows good contour and a tannic bite with a decent finish. OK. 89-91 (CANTENAC BROWN)
- A cru bourgeois Margaux? Finesse on the palate – these are rather silky wines with good ripeness. A bit of drying tannin on the finish however. 87-89 (d’ANGLUDET)
- Toasty nose on the opening with good sap on the palate – these are all rather digestible compared to many of the right bankers. Kind of a floral/garden and green grass aspect. Very nice here! 90-92 (DAUZAC)
- A meatier almost roasted nose than the rest and yet also showing off some fine floral elements. The palate is supple, good grip on the palate yet suave. Fluid and juicy, albeit tannic grain is not the finest. 88-90. (DESMIRAIL)
- A more subtle nose and yet also fresher. The palate is also larger scaled but well contained. There is discipline here and one feels the tannic grip but, again, not heavy. Good freshness. 90-92+ (DU TERTRE)
- Toasty nose. At first somewhat closed but then good cassis. The palate shows good sap, and is rather rich. Not as much evident grip as the above wine, but perhaps a bit more velour. Nicely done. Over 90-92+ (DURFORT VIVENS)
- Nice garden aromas, floral. The palate is delicate with subtle concentration! I like the chipper freshness with healthy lift and a lasting finish, accentuated by ripe red fruit. 91-93+ (FERRIERE)
- Here again similar plant aspect but with licorice and nice corpulence. I like this wine’s mid palate, its juiciness. Needs time in barrel to arrange itself but there is the matiere that is needed. Nice. 91-93 (GISCOURS)
- Misleadingly austere as this nose shows polish. Tannins are not aggressive but quite present here, perhaps as compared to other wines. Still, good concentration and palate presence. 89-91+ (KIRWAN)
- Fruity and floral. Actually more like some roses. The palate is rich yet elegant. Very nicely done wine with good sap/juice and a lingering finish. 91-93 (LABEGORCE)
- Wow this nose is also excellent, there is perhaps even greater depth to the nose. The palate is large scaled, thickly laid out, perhaps just a bit less elegant than it could/should be? But this is a crowd pleaser for certain, albeit with ever so slightly dryness on the finish. Did I mention ever so slightly? 90-92 – score higher if you like big wines. (LASCOMBES)
- Very inviting with dark fruit aromas and a very smooth palate – with no hard edges and no edges at all, actually. Masterfully made, this wine is supple yet substantial, seamless. 92-95 (MALESCOT ST EXUPERY)
- I detect more oak derivation on the nose, but with plum like fruit and cassis. Substantial palate with good juice, and the tannins do not dry out as the aroma may suggest. This could turn out interesting but perhaps not reaching the floral elegance I like in a Margaux 90-92+ (MARQUIS DE TERME)
- This shows some under-ripe fruit but the palate is good, with fresh juiciness and even some fine floral elements that linger on the finish. Perhaps I am just not appreciating this after the preceding ‘big’ wines? 89-92+ (MONBRISON)
- Sweet fruit here. Ripe forest strawberry. The palate shows good grip and fine fruit with excellent juiciness, although the tannins are also present. Nicely done – with barrel age this will develop very well I suspect. 90-92 (PRIEURE LICHINE)
- Fine floral elements precede a solid if somewhat austere palate which nevertheless shows promise even though it dries out just a bit. 89-91 (RAUZAN GASSIES)
- A sweeter nose here, more accessible fruit with a palate that is engaging, with bracing tannins and substantial potential. 90-93 (RAUZAN SEGLA)
- Cassis and cherry and plum. The palate is thicker certainly than wines #25 and 27, but not as refreshing as either one. It is good, perhaps touched by some heat, but shows breadth and substance although not as interesting as wine #24. 88-90 (SIRAN)
At Leoville Las Cases
The Potensac is fine but nothing extraordinary – look more for Pibran or Bernadotte in terms of comparatively priced wines. Or La Tour du Mons. 87-88
Chateau Nenin was a good Pomerol, nicely structured, but yet not as giving as some of the better Pomerols. Still will of course soften with barrel age and should prove very fine. 89-91
The Petit Lion comes from young vines from the grand terroir and is good but I was not so impressed either.
Clos du Marquis Here we have a rather polished, sappy and fine wine with clean fruit. Perhaps not the most intense, but seamless. 90-92
Leoville Las Cases. Dense and full but smooth and suave. 13.7 alcohol but you do not feel it at all. The Cabernets were superb. The Merlots were picked quickly by 28 September, after 6 days. They never had such a high level of alcohol at Las Cases, but balanced by acidity and tannin. Finely grained tannin. Has the velour of the Calon Segur (perhaps not quite as silky) but also more power. You see, if Malescot were to cost $100 and this were to cost $100, it would be a no brainer: LLC all the way. 95-98
At Duhart Milon because Lafite was undergoing construction. Charles Chevalier, winemaking director, said that in this type of vintage, ‘we know that Merlot is reactive to the conditions like this, so we have to act fast, given the potential for more sugar and alcohol, and leather flavors [which he does not seek in Lafite]‘… He said that there was no hydric stress, but not much water. 38 hect/hectar. July-August . About 13.4 alcohol in Lafite. ‘Great terroirs do not yield high alcohol for Cabernet,’ he said.
Carruades: Pretty nose. Somewhat austere on the palate. 13.55 here. But the difference in 2003 was bigger in terms of alcohol.
Duhart: Cedary nose, elegant. Good mid-bodied wine, initial sumptuousness then just a bit of austerity on the finish. Good length. 90-91
Lafite Rothschild: Polished and satiny. The tannins are just as present as they were in Las Cases but with a silkier texture. An extremely polished wine that is like the best wines of this vintage ‘seamless’ – you do not notice the winemaking at all… you do notice the excellence of the wine and the vintage. Bravo! 96-98+
At Mouton Rothschild Petit Mouton: Nice nose, warm. Rich cedary fruit. Palate is actually soft and smoothly textured if not that substantial. Good fruit presence. Perhaps just a tad short on the finish, a hint of 2009 Merlot? 90-92
d’Armailhac Quite nice and smooth, rich fruit. Tasty. Just a bit of heat, but also rich smoothness. 89-91
Clerc Milon: The palate is smooth as well, more similarities than differences with Armaillac. Rather robust and perhaps a bit more serious and dense… 90-92
Mouton Rothschild: Violet and cassis. Dense. There is also polish here. I would almost say flashy. This was a two-day sample on purpose because it was so imposing, said Philippe Dhalluin, that it needed to breath. It was also served from a carafe! There is a real tannic power. Somewhat austere, a bit like Latour but not as ferocious. Seems to strike a middle ground between Latour and Lafite. 94-97
Aile de Argent: Very smooth and fresh. I like this a lot because it comes from a hot vintage but is crisp and tasty. About 72% Sauvignon Blanc with a bit of Sauvignon Gris, 27 % Semillon and 1% Muscadelle. 13.5 alcohol, and the harvest lasted from 12 to 22 September. Parcels picked in tris. Nice body and very fresh. 90-92+
At Chateau Talbot blind tasting – this showed some surprising results and should be taken with perhaps a grain of salt: I was running late and rather flew through these samples in less than one hour. Still, honest reflections here without knowing the labels.
10. Somewhat sweet licorice infused cedar nose. Palate is smooth, has good tannin, rather brisk finish. (BEYCHEVELLE) Confirmed my tasting at Barriere Freres. Nice job. 91-93+
11. A mineral nose with a robust palate, even powerful (BRANAIRE DUCRU) I like this, it needs time to settle down in barrels. 90-92+
12. Cedar chocolate. Good freshness and body. I like the grain of the tannin here. (GRUAUD LAROSE) Really nice job from Gruaud. 92-94+
13. Sweet nose. A certain distinguished austerity on the palate. (LAGRANGE) Good supple on the palate. 89-92
14. Cedar like nose, with a peppermint patty mint freshness I like. Hard to taste now, a bit dry but not drying… Not sure, give it time to soften the edges in barrel. (LANGOA BARTON) 88-91
15. Not a giving nose, but deep. The palate is a armored. I like its power, but not silky as Las Cases… more the vernacular of Latour, more traditional. Leoville Barton? (LEOVILLE BARTON) 92-95
16. Sweet cassis. Quite plush, but underlying tannin that makes itself felt on the finish. Good sap. This is serious stuff. Poyferre? Some gum staining tannin on the finish. More approachable. (LEOVILLE POYFERRE) 91-94+
17. Mahogany nose. The palate is sappy with some just integrated oak, finely grained tannins. (SAINT PIERRE) Very nice, actually I like the supple nature of this wine – another in the seamless category. 91-94 Truly, a revelation here.
18. Do I detect a hint of green on the nose? There is cedar elegance though on the palate, with good tannins. Time in barrel should do this wine nicely. (TALBOT) 88-90
19. Rather sweet nose marked by a mint freshness. The palate is more austere than the nose may suggest, but it has brightness as well as brawn. Nicely done! (BATAILLEY) 90-93
20. Mentholated nose, with black fruit. The palate is rather austere, like the above. There is a rounded richness however… better performance than at Barriere Freres and at Mouton earlier this morning. (CLERC MILON) 90-92+
21. Tannic edge on the nose, with not much fruit showing through… The palate is juicy and rather ripe, with perhaps a hint of green on the finish, actually, but there is a foreboding nature. I like this as a Pauillac. (CROIZET BAGES) Wow… 89-92
22. Another nicely built wine but more supple here. Still, there is a steely aspect to the palate with a hint of alcohol peering through. (d’ARMAILHAC) 89-91
23. More fruit driven nose. Blackberry and cassis, actually licorice. The palate is rich, yet also armored. I like this a lot. (GRAND PUY DUCASSE) Excellent job! 91-93
24. Warm and dark fruits on the nose which is inviting. The palate shows good sap, albeit perhaps with a hint of drying tannin? I reached for the water. (HAUT BAGES LIBERAL) 88-90
25. Like 21, but drier. I like it less because it seems too dry and too austere for its own good. It really feels a bit too extracted, too much new oak. Not that bad, but neither really smooth or foreboding – somewhere entre deux chaises. But this was only one sample, and I heard other tasters with better experiences so … (LYNCH BAGES) Judgment reserved
26. Rather floral here. A fruit salad like freshness. Lovely nose. The palate is fluid, perhaps too soft, I wonder ‘are there tannins here?’ … they must be hidden, yes? (LYNCH MOUSSAS). One of the best Moussas wines I have ever had en primeur. 90-92
27. Somewhat superficial nose in this sample at least. A bit green. The palate is OK. One of the lesser wines here. (PICHON COMTESSE!) Indeed, it was the sample. A new bottle was far better, resembling the tasting I enjoyed at the chateau. 92-94
Chateau Lafon Rochet: Chocolate nose. Good smooth palate. Richness and pleasurable. Better than de Pez.I think the Lafon Rochet has more velvet to it… Both have nice aromas. Potential for complexity. There is a tannic edge here that I like and which demands barrel aging. 90-93
Chateau Ormes de Pez. Oaky nose. The palate shows a bit of over extraction. 86-88
Phelan Segur: Similar to Lafon Rochet perhaps more milk chocolate like, is it perhaps too smooth for now? Is that hogwash? Perhaps. This is a seductive wine… how will it taste in bottle. There is a hint of superficiality when compared to the ‘more serious’ Lafon Rochet. 89-91+
At Chateau Grand Puy Lacoste
Lacoste Borie: Very good red fruit, fresh. Decent structure – it reminds me of Pibran – but also quite fluid and enjoyable if a tad short.
Haut Batailley: It has been said that this wine is more like a St Julien than a Pauillac but this year it shows more structure and tastes more like a Pauillac. Good fruit and fine texture on the palate. I like it quite a lot but much prefer the GPL – see below. 89-91
Grand Puy Lacoste: Excellent nose of cassis. A Pauillac wine that shows lovely structure. Not the mini Latour I got last year, more suave, but strong, too. A second bottle which had been open longer was more cedary with the cassis, again showing fine structure. This is a highly recommended buy. Francois Xavier Borie explained that the Merlots were too high in alcohol and that he had never had as much Cabernet in this wine since 1978. 80% Cabernet, 18% Merlot and 2% Cab Franc. 93-95
Chateau Montrose: Nice nose with a rather impenetrable palate, a bit like Latour. The tannins show a fine grain, but this reminds me a bit like Leoville Barton if somewhat less austere, showing fine polish on the finish. Still, Calon Segur is to Lafite what Montrose is to Latour, although the tannins are not nearly as ferocious. I would rather buy Montrose over Latour even if Latour may last longer, I think Montrose is far more polished. Certainly a buy recommendation if the price is right. 93-96+
More coming from Thursday…
Chateau Haut Bergey blind tasting 2 April Pessac Leognan – starting with reds
Here I arrived extra early and had more time with these wines. It was unfortunate that I had to fairly rush through many of the classed growths from Pauillac and St Julien on Thursday, although I went back and tasted them as practically as I could have and, although for that reason, scores are to be taken with greater caution for those appellations, I still think that my impressions are honest first impressions blind tasted…
Flights of four
1. A citric nose. The palate has tart energy. This has a refreshing aspect I like. [LATOUR MARTILLAC] 89-91
2. Mahogany nose. There is greater warmth on the palate, which displays dark plum liqueur. The palate is fine, a touch of warmth, hint of alcohol on the finish? Perhaps but I like the tannins and the fruit. [DE FRANCE] 88-90
3. Somewhat extracted nose. Oak derived. The palate is perhaps showing a bit too much oak derived sheen and may lack some contour. There is some warmth overall, with dark fruit, but not really too extracted on the palate, whose supple mid section I do like. Ends however just slightly drying. [FERRANDE] 87-89
4. Dark fruit nose. Thicker appearance, certainly appears to have the biggest legs. Here we have a more extracted palate, but also positively dense on the palate, broad, and the tannins are not too ferocious, just a tad gum staining but this will sort itself out methinks with barrel aging.[MALARTIC LAGRAVIERE] 90-92+
5. Dark color. Licorice nose. The palate is smooth yet not very contoured. It seems to be just slightly superficial, and yet there is some bright fruit. OK. [LA LOUVIERE] 88-89+
6. Bright fruit on the nose. Shows good sap, a nice tonic aspect and quite refreshing. [SMITH HAUT LAFITTE]. Nicely done! One of my preferred reds this tasting. 91-93+
7. Warm plum and some tar, and do I get the feeling that it is hiding perhaps some just ripe enough tannin? The palate shows sap but on a more alcohol-based level, and it has more noticeable tannins however supple. Going back to 6, it seems to eclipse it, but actually 6 has greater freshness and brightness, which is making it the better wine. [CHANTEGRIVE] 89-90
8. Noticeably deeper color and richer wine. Powerful, extraction however (too) evident. Is this Pape Clement? [HAUT BERGEY]. Here we do have some extraction but it is not too drying at least. 87-89
9. Cranberry freshness and damson on the nose. The palate shows density but not extraction. Good mouthfeel, somewhat modern in its sweet volume but also shows some decent freshness and tonicity on the finish. [DE FIEUZAL] 90-92
10. Nutmeg nose. Something a bit oddly cardboard like about the nose. The palate is candied. I am not so sure of the sample. A second sample was far less sweet, shows how samples can vary. The palate is fairly taut, not giving off as much. Judgment reserved. [RAHOUL]
11. Here we have a slightly blackberry jam like nose, with licorice. The palate is extracted but not a l’outrance. OK [LES CARMES HAUT BRION]. Rather fine overall – indeed, it does have a smooth finish with no extraction or dryness. Impressive. 91-93
12. More licorice on the nose, sweet black licorice. The palate is warm yet strict. Not very giving, some tightening tannins on the finish. [LARRIVET HAUT BRION] 90-92
13. Seems to have the lightest legs of this next foursome. Very elegant nose, cassis and soft fruit expression. Freshness on the nose. Perhaps a tad light on the mid palate, but there are hidden tannins – subtly expressed here. A smooth wine overall with light contour. [DOMAINE DE CHEVALIER] This may be my favorite red in the cranberry freshness category: nicely done. It does show a nice fresh, even close to tart finish. But give it barrel age… good sign. 91-93+
14. A somewhat greenish nose followed by a rather extracted feel on the palate. Rather hard actually. [OLIVIER]. Yup, that it is, albeit with a finish that somewhat softens. Somewhat. 86-88
15. Soft plum and cherry notes. Also shows some extraction but not as hard as wine #14, with more fruit and a better mid palate. [BOUSCAUT] 88-91
16. Oaky nose. The palate is chocolate like, and one can feel some extraction, but there is substance here. [PAPE CLEMENT] Compared to 19, much more extracted… 89-92 (score higher if you have a modern palate
17. Elegant nose. The palate is chipper yet full bodied and smooth. A very fine expression here of Pessac Leognan with some nicely pronounced tobacco elements. [PICQUE CAILLOU] 90-92
18. The nose is not really expressive. Palate is a tad obvious. One can sense an extraction, one can sense the elements but not the cohesion. Somewhat drying on the finish. Not as extracted as wine #19… when I went back to this one, it was rather mild. [CARBONNIEUX] (88-90)
19. A wine that is more on extraction than on finesse. [HAUT BAILLY] Tasted after the whites… it was fine. Rather finesse oriented actually, but based on this blind tasting, I do not think this is a particularly great vintage for this otherwise superb estate. Another taster agreed with me here, but then too many other tasters I know told me that it was quite fine, so I would like to try again later and certainly see after bottling. Judgment reserved.
1. Frank lemon tart aroma and palate. Good Sauvignon aspect. Successful for its freshness but nothing very special either. [LATOUR MARTILLAC] (88-91)
2. Nose is more muffled here, a bit of pineapple. The palate is also a bit less bright. Somewhat sweeter tasting as well. OK. [DE FRANCE] (86-88+)
3. A bit of cat pee… the palate is nicely textured with a good mid palate and decent body without being thickly laid out but somewhat under-ripe. [FERRANDE] (85-87)
4. Orange aspect, finesse. Orange blossom like. There is a good presence on the palate as well which is fine for the vintage. Nice job. [MALARTIC LAGRAVIERE]. Indeed quite excellent. (91-94)
5. Nice smoothness, the nose is like mint mouthwash. Perhaps a bit too fluid, but has decent tonic aspects and actually fills out on the mid palate with a rather brisk finish. [LA LOUVIERE] (89-90)
6. Here we have a palate that is also fluid but seems to lack energy and can be characerized as inoffensive. It is flavored, yes, but slightly out of focus, even somewhat dilute compared to wine #5. [SMITH HAUT LAFITTE]. Certainly not a 2007! (88-90)
7. Somewhat cloudy aspect. Good, fresh grapefruit nose and palate. Shows nice verve on the palate for the vintage which nuanced body and texture. Even a touch of minerality. [CHANTEGRIVE] (89-92)
8. This also has energy if perhaps less body? It shows however a real fresh zest that perhaps the oak aging will soften to be just right. What I like is that for a warm vintage this has very good acidity, almost too much? [HAUT BERGEY]. No, going back to this, it is perhaps just right – with some softening barrel aging, probably just what the doctor ordered. Perhaps not among the top tier. (89-92)
9. Yet another wine with good acidity. They must have picked early here, and that is good. Real freshness and brightness if not quite all that precise and impressive – let’s face it, it was not a white wine vintage necessarily. [DE FIEUZAL] (89-91)
10. Cloudy aspect. Here is a wine that is again less bright, a bit diffuse. While not heavy or pasty, it is not exactly singing either. What is nice is a reassuring freshness on the mid palate through to the finish. But, again, this is not a great vintage. [RAHOUL] (87-89)
12. Peppermint complexity on the nose. Some nice orange rind notes as well and the palate shows good acidity, freshness and substance. Wow! Is this Pape Clement? Domaine de Chevalier? Probably not the latter because it does not always show so well en primeur and tends to be more linear and more acidic, with deceptive power. [LARRIVET HAUT BRION] (91-94)
13. Nutmeg and spice on the nose. Some tropical fruit. Papaya? The palate is thicker here, but it also has substance. No dilution, certainly showing density, even a bit imposing… [DOMAINE DE CHEVALIER]. Actually a very good underlying acidity… Has a lot of verve. Very nicely done. (91-94)
14. Cloudy aspect. Good freshness on the palate. Not quite tonic, mind you, but good. [OLIVIER] (89-91+)
15. Another cloudy aspect. Nut brittle nose, sweet but not sickly. The palate has a nice attack but the mid palate and finish tail off just a tad. [BOUSCAUT] (88-91)
16. Here we have another rather vibrant nose and palate. I am getting rather surprised here by the general success of these whites in this vintage… 2000 it is not. Certainly not 2003. The nose is a tad licorice like, mineral and a bit, just a bit, sweet. But the palate is better. Not quite brisk but balanced. OK! [PAPE CLEMENT] Will not be worth its price but nice job! (91-93+)
17. Here we have a palate that is also punchy in the face of the vintage if just a bit ordinary, expressing Sauvignon Blanc like a fine Entre-Deux-Meres perhaps, rather than as a classified growth. Still, I can easily drink this with oyster on a half shell without any problems. Good. [PICQUE CAILLOU] I recognize the 2007 which I had at the chateau! (89-90)
18. Lemon/lime nose. A bit of iodine. Very similar to #17, actually. Perhaps just a tad more linear. Both of these last wines must have been made with the thought of avoiding too much alcohol and too much heat… [CARBONNIEUX] (89-91)
Tasting at Haut Brion at 3 pm.
La Chapelle de la Mission Haut Brion: Rather fruity – strawberry and plum – on the nose, with a good follow up on the palate, a hint of its 14.2 alcohol peering out however, but overall a pleasing palate with a thick if somewhat drying finish. 44% Merlot, 46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc. 89-91+
Le Clarence de Haut Brion: A cooler nose and the palate is also smoother, with greater finesse and a finer tannic grain than the previous wine. Of course this used to be called Bahans Haut Brion… Odd name change here since 2007. 46% Merlot, 39% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot. ‘Just’ 14% alcohol. 90-92
Chateau La Mission Haut Brion: A whopping 14.7 alcohol and … I can feel it here. As much as Cos with its 14.5 is showy and flamboyant, you do not feel the alcohol nearly as much as you do with this wine. The explanation was that they waited to get phenolic maturity and that such maturity will balance the high degrees or something like this. I am not that convinced. You get extracted drying tannins here. Sure, there is stuffing and substance, but it dries out on the finish. I am really not liking this too much – and I could be wrong, folks. Who knows? It could be another Cheval Blanc 1947, right? But for me, based on this blind tasting: 89-91
Chateau Haut Brion: Now you’re talking. This also has rather high alcohol at 14.3 but it just comes across as so much more juicy and precise. Here you DO have a good balance of all the elements: phenolic maturity, alcohol, acidity, fruit… Tobacco leaf on the nose, a far finer palate, finely extracted feel and a good tannic grain and palate texture. I can see why Jean Marc Qaurin seems so excited about this wine but – with 46% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon and 14% Cabernet Franc – I do not think it is as silky smooth as Calon Segur, certainly not as spherical as Leoville Las Cases, let alone Lafite or Margaux if you want to compare with other first growths. Still, a great success for the chateau. 94-96
La Clarte de Haut Brion: this is the second white made from wine that was not put into either the Chateau Haut Brion Blanc or what was until recently called Laville Haut Brion (now La Mission Haut Brion Blanc)… 84% Semillon and 16% Sauvignon Blanc and 13.6 alcohol. Nice nose of apricot and lime like freshness, with a smooth palate that is bright ending on a lime flavored finish. Very nice. 89-92
Chateau La Mission Haut Brion Blanc (formerly Laville Haut Brion): 13.9 alcohol. Same proportions of Semillon and Sauvignon as the above. A more subtle nose and a very nuanced palate, tension from the richness and the brightness. Quite exuberant on the finish, ending with notable acidity with a lovely floral aspect. Bravo! 92-94
Chateau Haut Brion Blanc. 38% Semillon and 62% Sauvignon Blanc and 14.2 alcohol. More immediately tart on the attack with a palate marked by grapefruit and other citrus notes. I like this wine’s energy and texture but I think that it is simply not as subtle or as nuanced as the above wine… Still, another strong white from a vintage that seemed a priori to not favor whites. 91-93+