Wednesday April 15th 2015
Another early morning today as Christian, Michael and I head out to the Right Bank for the first time in this vintage. The reports around Bordeaux are that this vintage is stronger in the Left Bank than the right. More substantial rainfall in Pomerol and Saint Emilion coupled with the fact that Merlot did not benefit from as much of the Indian summer mean that things are supposedly less uniform on this side of the Gironde. Today we will see for ourselves if these wines can match the stunning 2014s we’ve tasted thus far in the Medoc.
Our first appointment is 9:15 am at one of our favorite properties in the world: Vieux Chateau Certan. This is a magical terroir is located directly adjacent to Chateau Petrus and one could make a case that they have surpassed their neighbor in several recent vintages. We are welcomed warmly by our old friend Alexandre Thienpont who has shepherded VCC since he took over for his father in 1986. There is only one wine to taste:
2014 Vieux Chateau Certan
-Pure, deep, soft red fruit on the nose. There is a lovely purity to the red fruit and fine mineral driven flavors here. Good weight on the palate with a powerful, structured, building finish. A muscular VCC with amazing depth and great precision, this has to be one of the top wines of the vintage.
Leaving VCC we head to the offices of JP Moueix in nearby Libourne. This legendary negociant firm is headed by Christian Moueix, proprietor of Chateau Petrus. Today we will be meeting with Christian’s son Edouard who is in the process of taking over the reins of the family business. Edouard leads us into their drawing room where their illustrious stable of wines are laid out for us to taste at our own pace. Leaving us to taste in private we now get to try the 2014s from some of the greatest terroirs in the right bank. The highlights include:
2014 Chateau Plince
-Lovely, harmonious nose of berry fruit with complex herbal tones. There’s a current of sweet tobacco running through the silkly, elegant palate that displays nice volume and texture. A very good Plince, best since 2009.
2014 Chateau Bourgneuf
-A fairly ripe, deep nose of red fruit with mocha tones. Muscular and tannic with nice length and good persistence of the mocha-driven flavor profile which follows through on the palate. Recommended.
2014 Chateau Gazin
-Dark Chocolate and blackberry fruit on the nose. This has a sweet balanced palate with a vein of minerality running through. Nice power.
2014 Chateau Latour A Pomerol
-A complex, resonant, spicy nose leads into a balanced ripe berry fruit driven palate with hints of truffle and spice in the background. Great texture and a long, nicely integrated finish. Harmonious and seamless. Not a big wine but totally complete and well-balanced.
2014 Chateau Lafleur
-Complex, powerful, class nose. Deep. Sweet silky flavors of pure red berries with nice weight and texture. Elegant and feminine but keeps pumping through on the finish with serious muscle and length. Textbook Lafleur. Excellent.
2014 Chateau La Fleur Petrus
-Wow, this has a gorgeous polished nose of high toned plum and raspberry. Merlot driven. Great texture, medium bodied, good structure. Harmonious and long.
2014 Chateau Trotanoy
-Smoky and spicy with lovely plum fruit and truffles on the nose. Long, powerful and buttoned up. There’s something aristocratic about this Trotanoy’s personality. The palate is seamless and supple with great purity and depth. Excellent.
2014 Chateau Belair-Monange
-Expressive, powerful nose that leaps out of the glass with ripe herbal toned dark fruit. Slightly more modern than the Pomerol stable tasted before. Nice structure, good balance and freshness. Finishes long with pepper and dark chocolate tones. We are just starting to see what this property can do with the addition of the former Magdelaine vineyards. A fascinating estate to watch that could one day be one of the top estates in Saint Emilion.
After concluding the tasting, we head to Saint Emilion with Edouard to tour the vineyards of Chateau Belair-Monange. Since the Moueix family took over this historic estate in 2008 they have vastly upgraded the chateau and vineyards. There is currently a massive effort underway to replant several large parcels and we are struck by how many hectares are fallow at the moment. For Edouard this is a lifelong project, it will be decades before we really see what this well situated terroir is truly capable of.
Edouard leads us down into the limestone quarry beneath the vineyard. This labyrinth of caves, carved out over hundreds of years, just completed a retrofit to strengthen and stabilize the limestone. It’s a reminder of the history of the place (much of the limestone harvested was used to build the town’s buildings, streets and walls) as well as the truly ideal soil composition here in Saint Emilion.
Leaving Saint Emilion we head to Pomerol and Chateau La Fleur Petrus where we enjoy a wonderful lunch paired with the beautifully mature 1989 La Fleur Petrus and an absolutely delicious magnum of 2000 Trotanoy (just entering maturity, full bodied, plush and deep). Saying our goodbyes, it’s a long journey back across the Gironde to some afternoon appointments in Pessac-Leognan.
Highlights of the afternoon visits include:
2012 Domaine de Chevalier Rouge
-Deep, dark fruit on the nose with a lactic element. The palate is midweight and beautifully silky. Soft, plush and very accessible early.
2014 Domaine de Chevalier Rouge
-Reticent nose, wow this is very tannic and muscular. Slightly austere but with amazing structure, one for the cellar.
2014 Domaine de Chevalier Blanc
-A gorgeous nose of citrus, pure mineral and melon. Very expressive aromatically. Rich on the palate but with plenty of racy acidity, finishes very long.
2014 Chateau Le Thil
-Primary red fruit and floral notes, very sweet on the attack, port-like. Pure Merlot. Finishes smoky and decadent.
2014 Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte Rouge
-Dark fruit and the essence of stones. A touch of blackberry leaf. This is tannic, but midweight with excellent volume, rock solid midpalate. Finishes with nice freshness that balances the considerable fruit here. An excellent Smith Haut Lafitte that will likely be one of the best values of the vintage.
2014 Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc
-Reticent nose, soft on the entry but the acid pumps through on the end, very good for the vintage, but not at the level of the stunning 2013. A very nice, midweight vintage of SHL Blanc.
2014 Le Dragon de Quintus
-Ripe, well defined red fruit on the nose. Punchy, intense flavors, primary, slightly jammy and exotic but with nice tension. A very attractive second wine, well done.
2014 Chateau Quintus
-Lovely nose of plum compote, sexy and liqueur-like on the palate but balanced and with good tension. Very well made, can’t wait to see where this property goes over the next 5-10 years under Haut Brion’s ownership.
2014 Le Clarence de Haut Brion
-Very pretty blackcurrant pastille with hints of scorched earth. Black fruit and incense. This is substantial but expertly balanced. A great second wine with lots of Haut Brion character, this should be more accessibly priced this year and is recommended.
2014 Chateau La Mission Haut Brion
-Slightly closed nose with graphite and herbaceous notes. Sweet and silky on the attack with blackcurrant and licorice, finishing with persistent flavor and lots of freshness.
2014 Chateau Haut Brion
-Deep and opaque with dark fruit, tobacco and spice. Palate is pretty with a strong notion of scorched earth. Midweight with good acid and a strong tannic backbone.
2014 Chateau Haut Brion Blanc
-Gorgeous white flowers, lanolin and pure grassy, citrusy Sauvignon Blanc fruit. Incredibly focused with laser sharp acid on the attack, midweight and seamless. Very fine.
Dinner tonight is at Chateau Haut Brion with Director Jean-Philippe Delmas. After a long day of tasting we relax over Champagne in the chateau’s beautifully appointed drawing room while talking of the campaign, the recent rise in popularity of La Mission Haut Brion and Wally’s plans for growth. Dinner is elegant and beautifully paired with 2011 La Mission Haut Brion Blanc (Astonishingly precise with beautiful minerality, salinity and laser like acidity), 2003 La Mission Haut Brion (very youthful for an 03, definitely showing the decadence of the vintage but with plenty of room to age) and 1999 Chateau Haut Brion (In a great place for drinking, substantial but with resolved tannins, this is a pure Haut Brion with lots of incense, licorice and truffle). Being presented with a humidor full of Habanos is tempting after dinner but we decide we’ll have to pass if we are going to make it through tomorrow morning’s comprehensive tasting of nearly 100 wines! Heading back to the hotel we marvel at the incredible day we have just had…from lunch with a Moueix to dinner at a First Growth. Just one more day to go!
-Written by Geoff Pattison, Director of Imports
Read up on previous dispatches from Bordeaux:
Dispatches from Bordeaux – Part 3