Tag: Saint-Émilion

Institute of Masters of Wine Bordeaux 2014 in bottle Sydney tasting

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.

Pessac-Léognan

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

Haut-Médoc

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

Margaux

*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

Saint-Émilion

**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

Pomerol

*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

Saint-Estèphe

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

Saint-Julien

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

Pauillac

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

Sauternes

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

IMW Annual Bordeaux tasting – 2013 vintage

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.

Pessac-Léognan
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

Haut-Médoc

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

Margaux
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

First Growths
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

Saint-Émilion
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

Pomerol
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

Saint-Estèphe
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

Saint-Julien
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

Pauillac

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

Sauternes
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

Château Gaby 2008

This is a delicious wine from Château Gaby in Canon-Fronsac imported by Bordeaux and Beyond.  Canon-Fronsac is a very small appellation (about 250 hectares under vine) that sits just west of the township of Libourne close to the Gironde estuary.  It’s surrounded by the larger Fronsac appellation, with Saint-Émilion and Pomerol to the east.  In the glass, the 2008 vintage has alluring aromatics of chocolate and plums.  The finish on the palate is quite long, with a lovely balance and moreish fine grained tannins.  Buy.

Rating: Very Good
Abv: 14%
Price: please ask
Source: sample
Vendors and website: http://www.bordeauxandbeyond.com
Tasted: 2015

Chateau La Confession 2011

The 2011 Bordeaux vintage has been described variously as a good but not great one, following as it does, immediately after the great Bordeaux vintages of 2009 and 2010.  It saw drought conditions in the first half of the growing season, but then a very cold July, and ended up with a very early harvest.  The 2011 here from Chateau La Confession in St-Émilion is however a good one and I more or less enjoyed it as much as the 2010 vintage of this wine.  It has aromatics of Christmas cake, spice, plum, fennel and clove.  The palate has firm tannins, between medium and long length and licorice, pepper and fennel flavours.  Enjoyable now, the 2011 La Confession has years ahead of it to grow and loosen up.  Very Good

Abv: 14.5%, Price: ~$90, Vendors and website: http://www.jpjdomaines.com (warning: the website frustratingly opens a video), Tasted: 2015

Château La Dominique Grand Cru Classé Saint-Émilion 2010

Dark, deep and structured, this is a serious and powerful Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Classé from Château La Dominique.  Its aromatics remind of leather, cooked plum and licorice.   The palate is rich, full bodied and saturated with flavours of dark plums, licorice and cedar.  Despite its evident power, the flavours are nonetheless in harmony and the length is very long.  The style will not be unfamiliar to the Australian palate, and has reminders of more robust and structured Coonawarra styles.

Rating: Outstanding, Abv: 14.5%, Price: $80+, Vendors: http://www.wine-searcher.com/, Website: http://chateau-ladominique.com, Tasted: 2014

And then the Gods smiled: a first growth Bordeaux tasting of the 2008 vintage

Stratospheric pricing means that certain wines that helped to define previous generations of wine lovers and wine writers are out of the reach of many, if not most.  I write specifically with the Bordeaux first growths in mind, but the same may be said for the leading wines of Burgundy, which are frequently not only very expensive, but impossibly scarce.  That this is so is a function of markets, and markets mostly win, so there can be little complaint on my part.  That first growth Bordeaux is not cheap is perhaps not the type of market failure that would warrant a sympathetic ear from many quarters …  That said, this does not mean that not tasting these wines does not matter.  I think it does matter.  What is potentially lost is the opportunity to benchmark wines against the greatest wines that the world has to offer, and that is a potentially poor outcome for all concerned.

“And it all comes round, once in a lifetime like it always does …”

Opportunity knocked, and then knocked down the door, with an Institute of Masters of Wine tasting in Melbourne of no fewer than 81 wines from Bordeaux’s 2008 vintage, including all of the first growths, bar one.  2008 itself is what I would describe as one of the “normal” years in Bordeaux, neither a particularly good nor a particularly bad vintage, but frankly I’d already said “yes” before I’d got past the second digit in the year.

What follows are my thoughts on the “first growth” bracket.  Rest assured that every single one of the wines in this bracket were unquestionably outstanding in quality.  There are no “acceptables”, “goods” or even “very goods” here.  As befits young Bordeaux and their stature, all of the wines would have benefited from at least another ten years in bottle.  They will otherwise last I expect for as long as you can keep your hands off them.  I should also give special mention to the Smith Haut Lafitte 2008 from Pessac-Leognan which was bright, structured and full of blackcurrant promise, and was far from humbled in esteemed company.

Chateau Haut-Brion 2008, Pessac-Leognan
Licorice, blackcurrant, tobacco and a purity of aroma come to mind.   Tobacco, fine grained tannins, impossibly long length, blackcurrant and licorice meld together to make this a stunning wine.  This is the sort of wine that makes you ponder the unquestionable merits of this ultimate expression of Pessac-Leognan/Graves region terroir.

Chateau Lafite Rothschild 2008, Pauillac
Blackcurrant, graphite, cigar box and some leafy notes make up the aroma of the Lafite.  A bit of green capsicum, tobacco leaf, peppercorn, blackcurrant, young firm tannins, smoke and long layered length fill out the palate.  Very pure fruited, the charm and intensity of the Lafite grows in the glass.  Regal in its cabernet sauvignon dominant bearing, it will prove irresistible with age.

Chateau Margaux 2008, Margaux
The Chateau Margaux has some real charm, beguiling its victim by presenting itself as easier to understand, but proving to be anything but.  Plums, blackcurrants, leather, graphite and earth make up its aroma.  The palate has extremely long length, and lingering flavours of plums, blackcurrants and a smidgen of leather.

Chateau Mouton Rothschild 2008, Pauillac
The Mouton Rothschild vied for my favourite of the set, bringing together some of the best aspects of all of the other first growths, with its purity of fruit and layered length in particular standing out.  It has aromatics of tobacco and blackcurrants, with an exciting purity of expression.  Its palate has long and structured length, with blackcurrant flavours predominant.

Chateau Cheval Blanc 2008, St Emilion
The Cheval Blanc has a soft intensity of blackcurrants and plums in terms of aroma, and vied with the Mouton for the number one billing.  The palate has long, almost ridiculous length, reminding of plums, graphite, cigar box and spice, and has fine grained but medium tannins and is a complex wine, showing its cabernet franc characters.

Chateau d’Yquem 2008, Sauternes
The Chateau d’Yquem proves itself to be almost a definition of the “complete wine”.  Aromatics of marmalade, flowers, apricot, honey and caramelised sugar, give way to endless length on the palate, and nuances of apricots, honey and marmalade.  Every aroma, every flavour is pitch perfect, its balance extraordinary.

I am not sure what happened to the Chateau Latour 2008.  Suffice to say, I don’t feel hard done by in its absence.

Chateau Lagarde Saint-Emilion 2009

The 2009 vintage of Chateau Lagarde is a lovely Saint-Emilion wine that is particularly good value.  It is a blend of 73% merlot, 25% cabernet franc, and 2% malbec, the classic right-bank Bordeaux blend that few Australian producers have managed as yet to do well.  The grapes are harvested by hand.

Ruby in colour, the wine has a medium intensity aroma of bright red plums, spices, tobacco and herbs, and a youthful jube fruit like note.  On the palate, the wine rises above its price point, revealing medium length, medium-high acidity, spices, medium tannins, brightly flavoured red currants, and a touch of Christmas cake that I often taste in Saint-Emilion wines.  In short, this is a keenly priced and lovely wine that is drinking well now, and I see no reason why it will not continue to do so over the next 5 years or so.  87-88 points

Abv: 13%
Price: $29.90
Source: sample
Website: http://www.discovervin.com.au/ (importer)
Tasted: January 2012