2003 was a drought vintage in Bordeaux, and despite many of these wines being dismissed as a consequence, the vintage continues to provide very enjoyable drinking 16 years later. So some are wrong. Certainly, I would be a buyer of 2003s for current drinking. The 2003 Cos Labory has brooding aromatics of earth and cedar. The palate has reminders of licorice and earth, with good length and balance on the finish. Ready to drink now, this wine is in its best drinking window. Rating: Very Good. Abv: 13.5%. Price: $70+. Website: http://www.cos-labory.com.
Last weekend, the annual Institute of Masters of Wine Bordeaux tasting in bottle of the 2014 vintage took place in Sydney. I expected this to be a much more popular event than the previous year’s tasting of the 2013s (you can read my reviews of that tasting here) which was a poor vintage. But in fact, I would say there were substantially fewer people at the 2014 tasting. It is hard to imagine that an equivalent event, with say most of the leading estates assembled of Burgundy or Piemonte, would be so quiet.
The good news is that I tasted through nearly all of the wines, and was able to do so at some leisure. My short notes and observations follow. In short, I would describe the 2014s as a classic Bordeaux vintage, with many very good wines. I have put an asterisks next to the best wine of each appellation, on this tasting.
Château Bouscat. Merlot dominant (55%). Iron earth, capsicum aromas. Herbal, oak. Good
Château de Fieuzal. 48% cabernet sauvignon and 45% merlot. Aromas of tomato stalk, red fruits. Firm tannins and acidity on the palate. Good to Very Good
Château Malartic-Lagraviere. 52% cabernet sauvignon and 40% merlot. Deep colour, attractive pencil lead aroma. Saturated fruit, good intensity and structured palate. Very Good
*Château Smith Haut Lafitte. 62% cabernet sauvignon, 30% merlot, 6% cabernet franc and 2% petit verdot. This was the highlight of the Pessac-Léognan group. Velvety, blackcurrant aroma, with pencil lead notes. Crisp acidity coupled with long length on the palate. Outstanding
Domaine de Chevalier. 65% cabernet sauvignon and 30% merlot. Somewhat muted aroma of pencil lead and blackcurrants. The palate has firm tannins, acid and structure. Good to Very Good
Château Belgrave. 66% cabernet sauvignon and 32% merlot. Aromas of capsicum and cardamum. The palate has very firm acidity and a greenness. Good
Château Cantemerle. 47% cabernet sauvignon and 38% merlot. Capsicum aromas. Palate has firm acidity and presents as very young. Good
*Château Boyd-Cantenac. 70% cabernet sauvignon and 21% merlot. Floral, blackcurrant, pencil lead and quite opulent aromas. Structured tannins and firm palate. Very Good to Outstanding
Château Brane-Cantenac. 77% cabernet sauvignon and 21% merlot. Floral, blackcurrant and brooding aroma. The palate has very high acid and somewhat angular tannins. Good to Very Good
Château d’Issan. 77% cabernet sauvignon and 23% merlot. Earthy, leathery aroma. Firm acidity and gentle balance on the palate. Good to Very Good
Château du Tertre. 58% cabernet sauvignon and 20% cabernet franc (possibly a typo). Pencil lead, refined blackcurrant aromas. High acidity on the palate, almost piquant. Good
Château Giscours. 70% cabernet sauvignon and 20% merlot. Herbal, capsicum aroma. Firm acidity, green palate. Good to Very Good
Château Kirwan. 58% cabernet sauvignon and 36% merlot. Pencil lead, chocolate aroma. The palate is firm, structured with some bitter tannins. Good to Very Good
Château Lascombes. 50% merlot and 45% cabernet sauvignon. Earthy, ripe fruit aromas. Ripe, structured fruit on the palate, with good length. Very Good
Château Pouget. 58% cabernet sauvignon and 31% merlot. Floral and quite aromatic. Firm acidity, good length. Good to Very Good
Château Rauzan-Gassies. 70% cabernet sauvignon and 26% merlot. Restrained, neutral aroma. Structured, classic palate with good length. Very Good
Château Rauzan-Ségla. 56% cabernet sauvignon and 42% merlot. Glossy, oak aroma. Intense palate. Very Good
**Château Angélus. 50% merlot and 50% cabernet franc. This was the wine of the tasting. A seamless expression of blackcurrant and cedar. On the palate, lovely balance and phenomenal length. Outstanding
*Château Cheval Blanc. 55% merlot and 45% cabernet franc. Another outstanding wine, not surprisingly. More tobacco and red fruited aroma. Lovely balance and long length. Outstanding
Château Balestard La Tonnelle. 70% merlot and 25% cabernet franc. Tomato, red fruit aromas. Pleasant red fruit on the palate. Good
Château Bellevue. 100% merlot. Plums and soy aroma. Medium-firm tannins and plummy palate. Good to Very Good
Château Cap de Mourlin. 65% merlot and 25% cabernet franc. Red fruit and cedar aroma. Very firm tannins and red fruits on the palate. Very Good
Château Corbin. 90% merlot and 10% cabernet franc. Redcurrant, plum and spice aroma. Medium-firm tannins and red fruited palate. Good to Very Good
Château Grand Corbin. 70% merlot and 25% cabernet franc. Restrained aroma of earth and attractive red fruits. Firm acidity and good length on the palate. Very Good
Château La Tour Figeac. 75% merlot and 25% cabernet franc. Earthy, blackcurrant generous aroma. Soy, red fruit, medium-long length and medium-firm tannins. Very Good
Château Laroze. 66% merlot and 29% cabernet franc. Pencil lead, red fruit aroma. Plush palate with great length. Very Good
*Château Troplong Mondot. 91% merlot and 7% cabernet sauvignon. Spiced blackberry aroma. The palate has saturated fruit, full flavour, great intensity and structure, cedar and long length. Outstanding
Château Trottevieille. 58% cabernet franc and 40% merlot. Aroma of smoke and leaf. Firm structure, leafy, good length. Good to Very Good
*Château Clinet. 90% merlot and 9% cabernet sauvignon. Aroma of soy, plum. Deep colour. Medium-firm tannins and structured palate. Very Good to Outstanding
*Château Gazin. 95% merlot and 5% cabernet franc. Velvety aroma, tomato and red fruits too. Firm tannins, structured and good length. Very Good to Outstanding
*Château Nenin. 68% merlot and 32% cabernet franc. Plums, restrained yet rich aroma. The palate has pencil lead characters and is both opulent and regal, with good length on the finish. Very Good to Outstanding
Château Petit-Village. 72% merlot and 16% cabernet franc. Blackberry and spice aroma. Capsicum, structure and good length on the palate. Good to Very Good
Château Calon Ségur. 66% cabernet sauvignon and 13% cabernet franc. Ripe, blackcurrant, restrained aroma. High acid, structured palate with medium length. Good to Very Good
*Château Cos d’Estournel. 65% cabernet sauvignon and 33% merlot. Ripe, delicious aroma of blackcurrants and blackberry. Full tannins. Outstanding
*Château Montrose. 61% cabernet sauvignon and 30% merlot. Ripe, cedar and blackcurrant aroma. Structured palate, full tannins and long length. Built to last. Outstanding
Château Beychevelle. 51% merlot and 39% cabernet sauvignon. Lovely aroma, pencil lead, blackcurrant, classic. Firm tannins, good balance and good length on the palate. Very Good to Outstanding
Château Lagrange. 76% cabernet sauvignon and 18% merlot. Capsicum and black fruit aroma. High acid, capsicum character but classic. Good
Château Langoa Barton. 54% cabernet sauvignon and 34% merlot. Muted aroma and palate. Seemed out of condition. Not rated
Château Leoville Barton. 83% cabernet sauvignon and 15% merlot. Pencil lead, gorgeous blackcurrant aroma. Firm tannins, good length. Very Good
*Château Léoville Marquis de Las Cases. 79% cabernet sauvignon and 11% cabernet franc. Blackcurrant, classic aroma. Palate has ripe, saturated fruit and great length and balance. Outstanding
Château Leoville Poyferre. 60% cabernet sauvignon and 35% merlot. Capsicum, blackcurrant, austere aroma. Palate with firm, structured tannins. Very Good
Château Talbot. 62% cabernet sauvignon and 32% merlot. Blackcurrant and gloss aroma. Firm tannins, somewhat acidic but classic. Good to Very Good
Château Batailley. 82% cabernet sauvignon and 15% merlot. Earthy aroma, brettanomyces? Capsicum, blackcurrant and acidity on the palate. Good for now
Château Croizet-Bages. 61% cabernet sauvignon and 37% merlot. Blackcurrant and capsicum aroma. Firm tannins and classic palate. Good to Very Good
Château Lynch Bages. 69% cabernet sauvignon and 26% merlot. Deep colour, blackcurrant aroma. Saturated fruit and great length on the palate. Very Good to Outstanding
Château Lynch-Moussas. 79% cabernet sauvignon and 21% merlot. Blackcurrant, earth and smoke aroma. Medium tannins and pleasant finish. Good
Château Pichon Baron. 80% cabernet sauvignon and 20% merlot. Blackcurrant and refined fruit aroma. Great length, balance, plushness and firm tannins. A favourite, but slightly shaded by a couple of Pauillac wines this year. Very Good nonetheless
*Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande. 65% cabernet sauvignon and 22% merlot. Blackcurrant, refined aroma, pencil lead aroma. Long length and lovely balance on the palate. Outstanding
*Château Pontet-Canet. 65% cabernet sauvignon and 30% merlot. Blackcurrant, refined earthy aroma. Great length, structure, blackcurrant and tannins on the palate. Outstanding
Château Doisy Daëne. 85% sémillon and 14.5% sauvignon blanc. Spice, marmalade aroma. Not particularly viscous. Fresh. Good to Very Good
Château Suduiraut. 95% sémillon and 5% sauvignon blanc. Vanilla, marmalade aroma. Long length, full body but grace and balance on the palate. Very Good
*Château d’Yquem. Last, but not least. 80% sémillon and 20% sauvignon blanc. Marmalade, spice, complex aroma. Viscous, full length, full body and ultra unctuous palate. Outstanding
From the very good 2000 vintage in Bordeaux, La Demoiselle is the second wine of Sociando-Mallet. The wine is initially shy in bearing with aromas of coffee grinds and old cedar. A restrained expression of blackcurrants emerges with aeration. The palate is savoury and earthy, with resolved tannins and smoke and coffee characters prominent. These latter characters affect the balance of the wine and overwhelm the fruit, a slightly disappointing outcome given the good vintage. I would suggest this wine is ready to drink now, and has nudged past its best drinking window. Rating: Good. Abv: 12.5%. Price: +$50. Website: NA.
This is a lovely and classical expression of Médoc. Lightly coloured (for cabernet), it has aromatics that are restrained and savoury, and remind of red currants, cherry and cedar. The palate has firm tannins and an earthy, savoury finish. This is an enjoyable wine that can be approached now, but will also benefit from short cellaring. Rating: Good to Very Good. Abv: 13.5%. Price: $30. Website: www.medoc-chandelliere.com.
This is a good Château Citran from the 2006 vintage that has entered its window of best drinking. It has some tannic grip and mature black currant characters. The wine dries out a little with air but overall, its length, finish and balance make for pleasant and typical left bank Bordeaux drinking. The cork was in great condition. Rating: Good to Very Good. Abv: 13%. Price: $50+.
Good Bordeaux cru bourgeois lack the label prestige of the left bank cru classé, but on the evidence I have seen to date, they develop along similar lines in the cellar. They therefore represent a smart and economical choice. Here’s an example. This wine – a Château Beau-Site from Saint-Estèphe – is quite delicious drinking at 19 years of age. It has a classic left bank Bordeaux aroma of cigar box, blackcurrant and leather. The palate is medium bodied, with great length and still resolving tannins. Rating: Very Good. Abv: 12.5%. Price: $50+.
Now returning to across the seas. I’ve always felt that the 2001 left bank Bordeaux vintage was underrated, and this wine from Réserve de la Comtesse (the second wine of Comtesse de Lalande) I am happy to lead as evidence in point. In its prime drinking window, it is a master class in outstanding Pauillac, with cigar box and an at times ethereal impression of blackcurrants. Stunning drinking. Rating: Outstanding. Abv: Not recorded. Price: $100+.
This wine is a very good Bordeaux Supérieur, with the vineyard sitting just outside of Margaux. From the excellent 2015 vintage, it’s a merlot dominant blend of 75% merlot, 20% cabernet sauvignon and 5% cabernet franc. Generous in style, the wine opens to aromas of plums and red fruits. The palate is medium bodied, fleshy and has approachable tannins and good length. This is a very tasty fruit forward wine that will please. Rating: Good to Very Good. Abv: 14.5%. Price: $42. Source: Sample. Rating: Good to Very Good. Abv: 14.5%. Price: $42. Source: Sample.
Fronsac is near Saint-Émilion in Bordeaux. This wine is a blend of 65/35 merlot and cabernet franc. The vines are 35 years old on average, and the wine sees 50% new oak. From the outstanding 2010 vintage, it has savoury aromas of currant, blackberry and cedar. The palate is full bodied and the length long. This is a powerful and serious merlot with considerable intensity of fruit and expression. Rating: Very Good. Abv: 15%. Price: $68. Source: Sample. Read more: bordeauxandbeyond.com.
Held in Sydney by the Institute of Masters of Wine on the weekend, this was a first close local look at the 2013 vintage of Bordeaux. The 2013 vintage in Bordeaux was, of course, rather dire. It saw a dismal spring, an early summer and catastrophic flowering. The vintage culminated with tropical weather at the end of September, with heavy rain and high day and night time temperatures combining to produce an outbreak of rot. Phrases along the lines of “the worst vintage in recent memory” abound in the media.
In short, then, expectations were low. I can’t recall an Australian en primeur campaign at all. It did not surprise then to see lower numbers at this tasting. However, it did provide an opportunity to look quite carefully and methodically at what is a very large bracket of wines. And my takeaways were rather surprising. There are a number of good wines made in this vintage, the best being medium bodied with resolute tannins and quite long length. Perhaps a few may even be affordable on these shores. Some felt that the Saint-Juliens showed best. My view was a little different. I felt that in fact the better producers produced the better wines in most cases. Short notes follow.
Château de Fieuzal. 13% abv. 65% CS, 30% M, 5% CF. Not a really deep colour. Cassis and leaf aromas. Firm, dusty tannins, fresh acidity and medium-full bodied. G-VG
Château Smith Haut Lafitte. 13.5% abv. 55% CS, 35% M, 10% CF. Always a favourite. 2013 has tomato bush and stemmy/leafy, herbal character. High tannins and medium-full body on the palate with good length and some cassis. VG
Château Belgrave. 12.5% abv. 70% CS, 30% M. Earth, ferric aroma, cassis. A bit Coonawarra like. Palate with medium bodied, cassis, slightly hollowed out and mid range tannins. G
Château Boyd-Cantenac. 13% abv. 66% CS, 29% M, 2% CF, 3% PV. Medium intensity of colour. Lots of chunky oak on the nose, fruit hidden. Medium-full body, medium-firm tannin and mid range length. Palate much better. VG
Château Brane-Cantenac. 13.5% abv. 84% CS, 14% M, 2% CF. Medium intensity of colour. Stemmy, oak and blackcurrant nose. High acid and firm dusty tannins. Ferric and earthy. G-VG
Château Cantenac-Brown. Not shown. Apparently pre-assessed as cork tainted, bretty or both so didn’t taste. NR
Château d’Issan. 13% abv. 60% CS, 40% M. Lovely oak, lovely ripe blackcurrant fruit and plenty of wood smoke. Dry medium-full tannins, medium-long length and medium body. G-VG
Château Lascombes. 12.5% abv. 55% CS, 40% M, 5% PV. Lots of refined Frenck oak. Mid range tannins that are quite grippy and dusty. Great length. VG
Château Rauzan-Ségla. 13.5% abv. 58% CS, 39% M, 2% PV, 1% CF. Medium colour. Refined blackcurrant. Fine oak. High acid, dusty tannins, really good length. G-VG
Château Angélus. 13.5% abv. 62% M, 38% CF. Is there much point rating this bracket? All are outstanding. Richer than the Cheval Blanc, the Angélus has aromas of red fruits and lightly smokey oak. Full body, firm but not dusty tannins, long length, terrific balance. O
Château Cheval Blanc. 13% abv. 49% M, 3% CS, 48% CF. Refined integrated red fruit nose. High tannins, long length, amazing balance. O
Château d’Yquem. 13.5% abv. 30% SB, 70% S. Botrytis marmalade aromas. The palate is full bodied with glorious refreshing acidity, long length and a viscous body. Outstanding wine. O
Château Dassault. 13% abv. 75% M, 20% CF, 5% CS. Sweet fruit, lovely French oak, medium intensity colour. Fuller body with medium tannins, medium-full length and medium-high acid. Subtle. VG
Château La Fleur. 13% abv. 92% M, 8% CF. Sweet red fruit, medium intensity of colour, restrained savoury oak. Medium-full body, medium-high tannins and a balanced mid range length and savoury fruit profile. G-VG
Château Pavie-Macquin. 13.5% abv. 85% M, 13% CF, 2% CS. Evident tears, mid range depth of colour. Restrained cedar oak aroma, spice, graphite, smokey oak. Palate is fuller bodied, more viscous, medium tannins, red fruit and long length. VG
Château Trotte Vieille. 13% abv. 54% M, 2% CS, 44% CF. I almost never “get” this wine. Wood, stemmy aroma. Medium-full body, medium-high tannin, really a lot of tannins actually, quite good length. G-VG
Château Valandraud. 14% abv. 65% M, 25% CF, 5% CS, 4% M, 1% C. Rich, baked fruit, with cedar/pencil oak and lots of new French oak. Full body, medium-high tannins, medium acidity, long length, wood character evident. VG
Château La Conseillante. 13% abv. 80% M, 20% CF. Herbal, leaf, clove, tomato bush aroma. Medium-full body, medium tannin and length. Very balanced. VG
Château Petit Village. 13.5% abv. 70% M, 20% CF, 10% CS. Cedar, spicy and red fruits. Palate has medium-high tannin, medium-full body and more structure and long length. VG
Château Calon-Ségur. 13% abv. 85% CS, 7% CF, 6% M, 2% PV. Mid range colour. Blackcurrant, high tannins, medium body and good length. VG
Château Cos d’Estournel. 13% abv. 78% CS, 20% M, 2% CF. Cassis, earth, ferric character. Drying high tannins, but great length. VG-O
Château Montrose. 13% abv. 68% CS, 29% M, 3% PV. Cassis, blackcurrant and fruity aroma. Medium/medium-full body, dry high tannins and good length. VG-O
Château Langoa Barton. 13% abv. 65% CS, 30% M, 5% CF. Mid range intensity of colour. Tomato bush aroma. Palate of medium-high tannins, high acid, but balanced. G-VG
Château Leoville Barton. 13% abv. 85% CS, 15% M. Mid range colour. High acid, dusty tannins. Iron filings and leaf. VG
Château Leoville-Las-Cases. 13% abv. 74% CS, 12% M, 14% CF. A wow aroma. Refined oak, blackcurrant. So evocative. Balanced palate, long length, refined, high tannin but fine indeed. VG-O
Château Batailley. 13% abv. 4% M, 94% CS, 2% PV. Meaty, farm and earth aroma. Medium tannins and length. G
Château Lynch-Bages. 13% abv. 72% CS, 20% M, 6% CF, 2% PV. Tomato bush, steam, leaf and cassis. Medium-full body, high dusty tannins and blackcurrants. VG
Château Pichon Baron. 13% abv. 82% CS, 18% M. Iron earth, cassis, blackcurrant, earthy aroma. High dusty tannins, long length. VG-O
Château Pontet-Canet. 13% abv. 30% M, 65% CS, 4% CF and 1% PV. Earth, blackcurrant, really vivid fruit. Fullish bodied, high tannins, tea leaf and red fruit edge gives unusualness. Good length. G-VG
Château Suduiraut. 13.5% abv. 93% S, 7% SB. Caramel, brown sugar aroma. Full bodied, viscous, medium-long length, fresh acidity. VG
Clos Haut Peyraguey. 13.5% abv. 95% S, 5% SB. Lemon, spice, and seemingly not that much botrytis. Medium-full bodied and mid range length. G