Wally’s Bordeaux Blog – Vintage 2013 Dispatches – The Conclusion

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Editors Note – The following entry was submitted by Wally’s Bordeaux buyer, Geoff Pattison

Thursday May 15, 2014

Today is thankfully a slightly later start. After an energizing breakfast I head out to Libourne to meet with Christian and Edouard Moueix at their offices. I love tasting here as they always leave you in a room to taste alone. At most appointments you have the winemaker watching you taste, eager to read your expression, so it’s sort of refreshing to get to taste and make notes in solitude. After a short meeting with Edouard we head to the home of Christian and Cherise Moueix. A beautiful spot on the banks of the Dordogne, we enjoy Champagne in the garden while I tell them about Wally’s upcoming store in Beverly Hills. Lunch is a supremely civilized affair and we spend much of the time discussing current events in Napa Valley, home of Christian’s Dominus. Wines for lunch include 1989 Chateau Magdelaine (a beautiful, elegant, mature St. Emilion drinking perfectly right now) and a pristine half bottle of 1950 La Fleur Petrus (Deep and still very much alive with notes of dried plums, black tea, iron and sandalwood). Very special indeed. After lunch I head back to Pessac-Leognan and meet up with Veronique Sanders at Chateau Haut Bailly. Then it’s on to Domaine de Chevalier, Chateau Pape Clement and Chateau Les Carmes Haut-Brion.

Highlights of the afternoons tastings include:

2013 Chateau Haut Bailly
-A very pretty nose with nice fruit, notes of blackcurrant pastille and fresh ground coffee. This is bright but everything is well integrated already. A very admirable effort for the vintage.

2013 Domaine de Chevalier Blanc
-A very fresh nose with a rich, focused, powerful current of acid running all the way through. This is impressively muscular and reminds me of Dagueneau’s Silex. There’s a very long life ahead of this one. What a vintage for Bordeaux Blanc!

2013 Les Carmes Haut Brion
-The new direction of this house is amazing and completely unique. Majority Cabernet Franc, stem inclusion, Rhone inspired winemaking techniques, bold stuff in Pessac-Leognan. This has a ripe, plush, silky, mouthfilling tannic structure with good volume. The nose is almost kinky with spicy strawberry and licorice. This is definitely an estate to watch with lots of buzz in Bordeaux at the moment. Buyers would be smart to get in on this early before the price rises.

Dinner tonight is at Chateau Haut Brion. Arriving at the chateau I have the opportunity to sample their 2013s. Chateau Quintus (St. Emilion) is the newest property in the Haut Brion stable having been acquired just a few years ago. This used to be Chateau Tertre Daugay, Haut Brion has put considerable effort into upgrading the vineyard and chateau to the highest level. The 2013 Quintus sports a plush nose of pure red fruit, juicy on the attack with bright, punchy flavors of raspberry coulis and turned earth. The 2013 La Mission Haut Brion is reticent, but with coaxing hints of leather and crushed stones waft forth. This is medium bodied with a bright, muscular personality.

The 2013 Haut Brion is the class of the reds. Rich, round, smoky, with a plush, velvety palate. Nice texture, excellent length. Very good concentration of the classic Haut Brion character, elegant and bright. A real winner in this vintage.

Now the Blancs. The 2013 La Clarte Haut Brion is a blend of lots deselected from Haut Brion Blanc and La Mission Haut Brion Blanc. At a fairly reasonable pricepoint you really get a sense of the Grand Vin Blancs, undoubtedly some of the finest white wines in the world. The La Clarte is creamy with a rich soft entry, flavors of lemon sorbet with a powerful acid spine. It lacks the length of its older siblings but this is definitely the best La Clarte yet. Stunning stuff.

The 2013 La Mission Haut Brion Blanc has a soft, herbal, flinty mineral character on the nose with pure mineral and gravel flavors. An essence of white raspberry builds on the palate and goes on and on with excellent persistence. There’s loads of acid structure here but it comes across as rather subtle and integrated.

The 2013 Haut Brion Blanc has a rich, ripe, soft nose that is pure class. I don’t think Sauvignon Blanc gets any better than this, the nose is perfect with an understated elegance about it. Delicious and extremely balanced on the palate, seamless. The acid is extremely well hidden, this almost whispers to you despite its obvious power. There’s a crystalline beauty to the subtle fruit and a pure soft clean texture like fine fabric. Absolutely jawdropping Bordeaux Blanc. We retire to the parlor for Champagne before sitting down to a fantastic dinner. Vicysssoise de Homard is paired with a heavyweight bout between 2010 Haut Brion Blanc vs. 2010 Laville Haut Brion. The Haut Brion Blanc comes out a nose ahead for me, but the comparison is almost moot. These are both legend candidates. Absolutely flawless young Bordeaux Blancs from a great vintage. The main course of Carre de Veau is paired with a couple of library selections, 1998 La Mission Haut Brion and 1988 Chateau Haut Brion.

The spectacular 1998 La Mission is just hitting maturity, still very fresh and structured. This is somewhat of a secret vintage in Pessac, most people know about the quality of 1998 right banks, but you can see here just how much better Pessac fared than the Medoc. This is a 98 point Parker wine and it’s every bit that good. This has to be the wine of the vintage, on par with the best right bank 98s. The 1988 Haut Brion is a real pleasure. Beautifully mature and absolutely classic Haut Brion with lots of cigar box, truffles and scorched earth. It has a slight austerity in the character of the vintage that keeps this a buttoned up affair but it doesn’t detract, this is drinking really well tonight.

After saying our goodbyes I head back to my hotel and toast another fantastic trip to Bordeaux. Despite the challenging vintage, I found a lot of very good wines and the people were as wonderful as ever. I’ll always remember this trip fondly and look forward to the next time I return.

Friday May 16, 2014

Today is a travel day as I head up to Paris to meet up with Wally’s Burgundy Champagne Buyer Manuel Bronson. After checking out of my hotel I head to the train station to catch the TGV. As the French countryside whizzes by I have time to reflect on my tastings and offer a retrospective look at the best buys of the vintage.

What to buy in 2013:

The First Growths: Lafite-Rothschild, Margaux, Haut Brion &
Mouton-Rothschild

-In a vintage where terroir is of utmost importance, all of these storied properties produced very good wines in 2013. They are truly a cut above in terms of concentration and balance and while they are not blockbusters, they remain very true examples of these rarefied terroirs. Most important, pricing is back at accessible levels. At $465 for Lafite and $349 for Margaux, Haut Brion and Mouton Rothschild, this is likely to be the most affordable opportunity to acquire these wines for the foreseeable future. The First Growths are increasingly looking like they will be reserved solely for the $500+ market, I can’t really see them going any lower. For those who have been waiting for the firsts to return to the prices of yesteryear, this is the year. Don’t hesitate to put some quality first growths in your cellar at value-oriented prices. I think they’re likely a smart investment as well given strong performance of vintages like 2004 and 2008 in the market.

The Overachievers: Montrose, Vieux Chateau Certan, La Conseillante, Pavie Macquin

-These are the wines I believe to be the overachievers in this vintage. Most likely to be upgraded and perform at a level above their attractive price-points.

The 2013 Montrose is a stunning wine and by far the best wine in St Estephe. Situated in a rare sector of the Northern Medoc that did not suffer from many of the rains around harvest, this is a major sleeper and looks to be better than both the 2012 and 2011. This historic estate just keeps improving, I would not be surprised to see Montrose move up towards the pricing of Palmer, Ducru-Beaucaillou and Cos within a few years time. The quality is certainly there. Buy this for under $100 while you still can.

Vieux Chateau Certan’s 2013 is a gorgeous, delicate, stylish affair that embraces the character of the vintage. It’s perfect balance, depth and seamlessness are a testament to this gifted terroir. VCC fans will love this wine. Do not miss it.

The 2013 La Conseillante is similarly beautiful in a feminine style. It takes the soft, delicate character of the vintage and turns it into a strength. Highly perfumed with that classic violet character. A very pretty wine that should drink fantastically in the mid-term.

Pavie Macquin has been on a roll the past decade, often producing attractive wines in difficult vintages. They’ve clearly done it again in 2013 and despite all the accolades they’ve been collecting over the past decade, this remains very affordable. At $53, this is such a great value, better than many wines asking double the price.

Bordeaux Blanc: Smith-Haut-Lafitte Blanc, Domaine de Chevalier Blanc

I’m going to go on record saying that Smith Haut Lafitte has produced their best white ever in this vintage. It’s a truly stunning Bordeaux Blanc with a level of finesse and length that takes them to the next level. For under $100, this is a transcendent wine experience easily on par with many Grand Cru White Burgundies.

Over the past decade Domaine de Chevalier Blanc has established itself as the finest Bordeaux Blanc outside of the Haut Brion/LMHB family. The 2013 is no exception, this is a massively concentrated, powerful wine with a racy acid spine. At under $90, this really delivers and while I believe Smith has bettered them in this vintage, we’re still talking about one of the top four white wines in Bordeaux, rarefied air, not far off the quality of the $600+ Haut Brion Blanc.

Sauternes & Barsac: Doisy Daene, Guiraud

Year after year, Doisy Daene produces one of the finest values in all of Bordeaux. For under $50 this is an extremely well made, exemplary Barsac from a great vintage. Bursting with the pure essence of crème brulee, this is better than many Sauternes at twice the price, a true steal for anyone who enjoys sweet wines.

Chateau Guiraud has gone from strength to strength recently and their 2013 is a knockout. Decadent and spicy with excellent balance. This generally approaches the $100 range, but in 2013 the futures price is under $50. Grab this top vintage, pedigreed name at a discount price while you can.

– Geoff Pattison