High alcohol levels in Bordeaux: report from Germany

Just finished tasting a series of wines at two dinners in Germany. Leoville Poyferre, Clos Fourtet, Poujeaux, Le Crock. We also tasted 2010 barrel samples. Clos Fourtet clocked in at 15% alcohol! Just as it had done in 2009. But at least the acidity is a bit higher in 2010. Co-owner Matthieu Cuvelier thinks the 2010 may age better than the 2009 because of a better acidity-alcohol level. But 15%? Wow! I have always had my doubts about such high levels. The sample was a tad drying, but there is a very high level of tannin, too. The Leoville Poyferre clocked in at 14% alcohol, as in 2009, but also with more acidity: 3.5 vs 3.35 grams per liter in 2009. It was certainly a smoother sample. On the train on the way to Berlin from Frankfurt, Leoville Poyferre owner Didier Cuvelier (no family relation to Matthieu) made a comment about how to battle higher alcohol levels. Less leaf clearing perhaps? One suggestion at least means cutting back on what was huge fashion just a few short years ago… As Bordeaux faces drier and hotter years, Didier said, alcohol levels are getting too high.

Wines tasted at the dinners:

Highlights included a stupendous performance from Leoville Poyferre 1996, balanced and fresh, very smooth and clean. The 2000 was also good but I wonder if the 1996 is better! In Frankfurt, most guests – and I – liked the 2000 best. But in Berlin the next evening (25 March 2011), the 1996 outshined the 2000.

Clos Fourtet 2001 is a sexy and smooth wine, and has aged rather gracefully and slowly since I last enjoyed it some five years ago on Nantucket Island. There is a mineral freshness with some modern richness, but both in moderation. A rather understated yet delicious wine. The 1998 is stronger, packs more punch, but is perhaps not quite as elegant as the 2001. The 1998 performed better in Berlin, it seemed fresher and more complex.

Nice showing from Le Crock 2003, which did very well as a St Estephe should, showing seductive dark chocolate notes. And Poujeaux 2004 is quite rich today, a fun yet solid wine from Moulis.

Special thanks to Harry H Hochheimer for opening a 1976 Poujeaux, which was darn good – and proves that this estate can age well. 1976 was a dry and hot vintage and the tannins were probably ferocious in 1981 or so… But by 2011, the wine is very drinkable. Perhaps a tad rustic, because of the vintage, but certainly enjoyable.

And many thanks to Maingau Restaurant in Frankfurt for opening a Leoville Poyferre 1995: delicious wine, a bit edgier than the 1996 but with much substance.

2 Responses to “High alcohol levels in Bordeaux: report from Germany” (Leave a Comment)

  1. Ondine Marquer says:

    Looking forward to pictures about the dinner in Frankfurt with Annette. A nice timely article considering I was saying the same about Spanish wine’s last week. Sacre bleu. Il n’y a pas un problème avec 14% si on reste calmement chez soi à la maison avec de bons amis avec beaucoup de foie:)!

  2. pkakaviatos says:

    Cheers Ondine, it was nice meeting you in Washington. I will post some notes but first need to focus on Bordeaux 2010 barrel samples. Yours, Panos

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