Monday, April 13th
8:15am…Christian and I head out from the center of Bordeaux up the D2 toward the storied chateaux of the Medoc. This morning we are in Pauillac and Saint Estephe with appointments at some of the most famous estates in the world: Grand Puy Lacoste, Lynch Bages, Pichon Lalande, Cos d’Estournel, Mouton Rothschild and Pontet Canet. Highlights of the morning’s tastings:
-A deep, classic Pauillac nose of gravel, fine leather and pure cassis fruit. Sleek and balanced in the mouth, satin textured with excellent freshness. Medium bodied. Lovely.
-A round, seductively spicy nose of earthy dark fruit. Good volume on the palate, this is big with a lot of dry extract. A great Saint Estephe. This chateau gets better every year and is really delivering well above its asking price.
-A classy, polished nose of ripe cassis. Suave on the palate, huge tannic structure as usual. This is generally one of the more backward wines to taste en Primeur, but it has really nice texture this year with unusually silky tannins. A classic vintage of Lynch Bages.
-65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, 6% Petit Verdot. Slightly reductive and muted on the nose. With some coaxing, some soft plum and cassis fruit with floral notes in the background. Silky and elegant in the mouth, medium bodied. This wine was often made in too light a style in the mid to late ‘00s, but they have really come back strong under the direction of new director Nicolas Glumineau. This has beautiful texture and excellent weight in the mid palate. A complete and effortlessly beautiful expression of Pichon Lalande, clearly their best since 2010.
-81% Cabernet Sauvignon. The nose is pure class with cassis, subtle spice and vanilla. The palate is seamless and silky with nice texture and volume in the mouth. There’s good weight here but still a sense of delicateness with excellent balance. Claret styled. Finishes long and complex with spice box notes.
-Gorgeous, striking, exuberant cassis, blackberry, Darjeeling tea and exotic spice leap from the glass. Wow, what a knockout nose. Dense on the palate with intense flavors. Middleweight but very fruit forward and dynamic in the mouth. Excellently judged acidity and good length. As usual this is an exotic style but there is incredible raw material here. Best since the 100-point 2010.
It’s early, but we can start to get a sense of the vintage. The spring of 2014 was extremely promising with warm, dry conditions leading to early flowering and the look of an early harvest. But then July and August brought unusually cool, overcast, humid weather. Around the end of August many exasperated vignerons thought this vintage could be even worse than 2013. Given the coolness of the summer, there seemed very little chance that the grapes would ever achieve full ripeness. But then, miraculously, the weather turned. September and October were exceptionally warm and dry. An “Indian Summer” that allowed the grapes to ripen late into the season and be harvested under absolutely ideal conditions.
Nowhere was this more evident than in the northern Medoc, Saint Estephe, Pauillac and Saint Julien. Cabernet Sauvignon was especially comfortable with the late ripening season and the vineyards on gravel relished in the late season warmth.
Lunch today is at Chateau Pontet Canet with our good friend Alfred Tesseron who has managed the ascent of this incredible terroir since the 1994 vintage. Alfred has pulled some amazing bottles from the cellar to share including 2010 Haut Brion Blanc (one hell of an aperitif, majestic and powerful but completely seamless, intensely packed with flavor but impeccably refined. In a perfect place for youthful drinking, clearly a 100 point wine), 2005 Pontet Canet (muscular, brooding and already showing some secondary character) and 1958 Pontet Canet (a real treat, fully mature but still completely alive and not fading at all, lovely mature Pauillac). It’s hard to pass up the offer of some Tesseron Cognac as a digestif, but we’ve got a whole afternoon of appointments lined up, so we unfortunately have to head out.
Bidding a fond farewell to Alfred we continue on to Ducru Beaucaillou, Leoville Las Cases, Branaire Ducru, Malescot St Exupery and Chateau Margaux. Highlights of the afternoon’s tastings:
2014 Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou
-A sweet, dark, dense nose leads into big, muscular, concentrated dark fruits that are tightly wound for the moment. This has good grip. Very well balanced, this benefits from the midweight character of the vintage. In some bigger vintages you could argue that Ducru can be almost overwhelming with its bombastic style, but this 2014 seems just right, everything in proportion. A platonic ideal of Ducru Beaucaillou?
-The nose on this is full of pencil lead and very red fruit driven, different from LLC’s usual jet black fruit profile. On the palate this is fairly soft, finessed, already approachable dare I say pleasurable. The tannins are ripe giving this a lot of charm. Beautiful midweight balance. An atypical Las Cases but very well made and should be approachable relatively early.
-Earthy, spicy red fruit on the primary nose. 65% Cabernet Sauvignon. Sweet and silky on the attack. Juicy, pretty, nice structure. This is a very pure Branaire with nice density. An excellent expression with almost zen-like balance.
-Very pretty white flowers on the nose, demure and understated. Fresh and clean with lots of acid pumping through on the long finish. Excellent.
-90% Cabernet Sauvignon. Gorgeous, understated, elegant nose of mineral driven red fruit. Pure, silky, complete and seamless on the palate. Extraordinary balance. An utterly beautiful, ethereal expression of Margaux. Pure class, this has to be one of the wines of the vintage.
Dinner tonight is at local hotspot L’Univerre which boasts one of the best wine lists in the city with a focus on Burgundy. A delicious country French menu is paired with Champagne Roses de Jeanne, 2002 Brenot Batard-Montrachet and 2001 Sylvain Cathiard Vosne Romanee Les Suchots . A fantastic meal that’s a brief break from a week of Bordeaux. Off to bed, tomorrow we hit the rest of the Medoc!
-Written by Geoff Pattison, Director of Imports
Read up on previous dispatches from Bordeaux:
Dispatches from Bordeaux – Part 1