Editors Note – The following entry was submitted by Wally’s Bordeaux buyer, Geoff Pattison
Wednesday May 14, 2014
This in many ways is the most daunting morning of the trip. I have a 9am appointment with a Bordeaux negociant to taste through barrel samples from nearly 100 different chateaux. Though I try to make an effort to visit as many properties as possible, ultimately it’s necessary to have at least one of these sorts of laundry list tastings to get a complete picture of the vintage. It’s an exercise that tests the limits of your palate and system. Though I won’t be drinking a drop, the presence of all that alcohol on your palate over a course of a few hours does work its way in and then there’s about a dozen Sauternes to put a sugar rush on top of it all. Brace yourselves folks, this is intense professional wine tasting at its finest.
Arriving at the negociant’s warehouse I am given a smock and list of wines to be tasted. Then a parade of half bottle samples begin to arrive at the table, all sent from their respective chateaux within the last 24 hours. Spending about 30 seconds on each wine, I spend the morning tasting, spitting and taking notes. The overall impression I get is that in a challenging vintage the top terroirs really won out. This is the most heterogeneous vintage I have tasted in my career and the difference between the top crus classes and lesser appellations is stark. But there are some undeniable winners, especially in Blanc and Sauternes.
The standout wines of the tasting are:
2013 Chateau Fleur Cardinale – This has nice ripeness in a more modern style. Round and fruit driven, the acid is nicely integrated and there’s some good structure here. A real success for the vintage and a good value at $37.
2013 Chateau La Croix St Georges – Situated directly adjacent to Le Pin, this is has a classic Pomerol nose with some nice spice and complexity. There is subtle fruit and good balance to the palate with a seamless feel. This estate can often be inconsistent, but they clearly overachieved in 2013. A brilliant effort and a relative bargain at $46.
2013 Chateau Le Gay – Some real depth to the nose with a cool, refined floral element and crushed red plum fruit. The quality of the terroir shines through here with a solid midpalate and fine silky tannins. Pure class.
2013 Chateau Latour Martillac Blanc – On the rise the past few years this may be their best effort to date. Exuberant grapefruit and white flowers meld with a distinct flinty gunpowder note. The 55% Semillon lends some nice flesh to the vintage’s characteristic acid backbone. Very good and at $33 a real value.
2013 Chateau Doisy Daene – The refined nose is pure crème brulee with spicy botrytis. Very concentrated with good volume and excellent acid balance, this is a knockout Sauternes and clearly the best value among the sweet wines this year. Bravo!
2013 Chateau Guiraud – This has a decadent honeyed nose with subtle ginger and pain d’epices. Spicy on the palate this has a rich, plush texture but with enough acid to keep things lively. Highly recommended.
With my fingers and tongue stained deep purple I make sure to brush my teeth before heading out to St Emilion for lunch at Chateau Pavie Macquin with Managers Nicolas & Cyrille Thienpont and their team from the chateau. Nicolas is also the man behind Larcis Ducasse and Beausejour Duffau-Lagarrosse which have been some of the most exciting wines in St Emilion over the past decade. His 2013s are uniformly excellent for the vintage, capturing fine ripeness, beautiful aromatics and a really distinct sense of each terroir. Larcis is aromatic and perfumed, Pavie Macquin is beguilingly satin textured with a deep mocha character. And Beausejour Duffau towers above them all with great structure and broad shoulders as usual.
Sitting in their newly constructed reception building overlooking the vineyard, lunch is fantastic, highlighted by some ridiculously good Poulet in a rich cream sauce with Fresh Morels. Cyrille asks me whether I would prefer to drink the 2000 or 2001 Pavie Macquin. While I think the 2001s are lovely wines, I decide to opt for the landmark 2000 vintage. “Ah…you are Americain” quips Cyrille. The 2000 is excellent, still very youthful with a massive, plush palate with deep, rich tones of plums, mocha and earth that go on and on. When the cheese course arrives they decide to pull the cork on the bottle of 2001 Pavie Macquin as well. Where the 2000 is barely an adolescent, the 2001 is fully mature exploding with complex secondary notes of truffle, tobacco and animale. It has good concentration, supple texture and excellent balance. I must admit, today, the 2001 is hands down the better wine. It will be fun to revisit the 2000 down the road as it matures.
After lunch it’s a full afternoon of visits in the right bank: Chateau Canon La Gaffeliere, Chateau Ausone, Chateau Figeac (with a complete vertical tasting back to 2007), Chateau La Conseillante, Chateau Cheval Blanc and Vieux Chateau Certan.
The standouts of the afternoon:
2013 Chateau Figeac – Cabernet Franc driven as usual with spicy herbal chocolate and berry fruit on the nose. There’s a luxuriousness to the silky polished palate, acid and tannin are in fine balance. Fine dark chocolate on the long finish.
2010 Chateau Figeac – An extremely deep, dark nose of cocoa, licorice and blueberries. The palate is like a skyscraper, broad with excellent fruit and huge concentration. I am in awe of the scale and power of this wine. A towering achievement, this is bound to be a legend.
2009 Chateau Figeac – The nose is beautifully ripe and opulent with lots of exuberant mixed berry fruit and espresso. But there’s lots of structure here too, nearly as big and muscular as the 2010. Complex flavors of chocolate, cigar box, ripe berries and earth. A massive, muscular 2009 that will run neck and neck with the 2010 for years.
2013 Chateau La Conseillante – Unmistakably La Conseillante with the classic violets, lots of perfume to this. There’s good volume and depth, nice freshness with very well integrated acidity. The fruit shines all the way through from start to finish. They really did well with the subtle, demure style of the vintage. A very pretty wine that whispers to you.
2013 Vieux Chateau Certan – Floral and classically delicate. Wild strawberries on the palate, this is so soft and silky in the mouth. Like cashmere. Demure. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised as this is all classic VCC, but no other estate captures such a profound sense of grace and delicateness and it’s on full display in the character of the vintage. Still this is serious old vine stuff and there is a fine mid palate, with density and plenty of ripe fruit. One of my favorite wines of the vintage.
Tonight’s dinner is with a historic negociant at one of the hottest new restaurants in Bordeaux called L’Univerre. Strangely enough L’Univerre is actually focused on the wines of Burgundy and the Rhone, but it’s a welcome change of pace in the middle of a week of only Bordeaux. Everyone I have talked to says it has one of the savviest wine lists in town and indeed, the selection of wines from small, sought after boutique producers is fantastic. Over the course of a few hours we enjoy Vouette & Sorbee Champagne Blanc d’Argile (Rich and mineral with a decadent toasty, leesy character), 2006 Domaine Fourrier Les Cherbaudes (stunningly pure with beautiful fruit and an extremely complex nose of cherry, raspberry, floral perfume, musk and sous bois) and 2007 Thierry Allemand Cornas Reynard (rich and opulent with concentrated blackberry, smoke, earth and espresso tones). After a fun dinner it’s a short walk back to my hotel through Bordeaux’s bustling city center. Time to get some sleep, tomorrow is my last day of tastings. This is the home stretch!
To be continued…
– Geoff Pattison