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.
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+.
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
It has been a quiet tasting week. Nonetheless, a couple of mid priced Bordeaux from the 2012 vintage and a new release Orange merlot caught my interest. Notes follow.
Château Sénéjac, Haut-Médoc 2012
The spell checker would have me call this Chateau Senegal, which I shall seek to avoid typing. Oh, wait. For its modest price, this is a reliable cru bourgeois that slightly over delivers. Pencil lead, smoke and blackcurrant aromas. The palate is medium bodied and has some roundness and spice from its merlot contribution. Classic left bank style to drink now, or hold onto for 5 years. Good
Château Lilian Ladouys, Saint-Estèphe 2012
There aren’t too many Saint Estèphes on Australian retail shelves around the $30 mark. Or Bordeaux either for that matter. The 2012 Lilian Ladouys is deeply coloured with blackcurrant, earth and animal aromas. The palate continues the theme. Pleasant and ready to drink now. Good
Gartelmann Joey Orange Merlot 2014
This is a chewy, savoury merlot from Gartelman in Orange. Plum, soy, dusty earth, tar and black fruit compote aromatics. The palate is rustic and full bodied with licorice, caramel and tar overtones, and fresh acidity. Acceptable
Back at the (wine) desk after a few days off, I’ve been looking at a few new release Bordeaux. But before I write those up, here is a delicious Château Montrose from the 2001 vintage. As a left bank Bordeaux vintage, the 2001s were in the shadow of the 2000s, but time is proving this to be a very good vintage on my tastings. The 2001 Montrose is an exercise in classic St Estèphe and it comfortably wears its status as a pinnacle of the St Estèphe appellation. Its aromatics are textbook blackcurrant and cedar. The palate has wonderful length, and a tannic structure and balance suggesting that this Montrose, while starting to enter its drinking prime, will cellar well for another decade. More St Estèphe please.
Price: Best not to ask
Read more: http://www.chateau-montrose.com/en/
Cos Labory is a cru classé from Saint-Estèphe in Bordeaux that is seen infrequently on these shores. This particular bottle from the outstanding 2000 vintage, provides further evidence of my practical theory that there is merit in buying almost any left bank Bordeaux (cru bourgeois and above that is) in the stellar vintages. The aromatics of this Cos Labory almost burst out of the glass, offering blackcurrant fruit of quite some intensity. The blackcurrant characters continue on the palate, supplemented with some iodine notes. The length is long. In its drinking prime, this wine leaves a resounding impression that would comfortably clothe a wine of a far higher station in life.
Reflecting on the 1970 Montrose, life’s not so bad sometimes. The label was in great condition, as was the cork. The wine completed the trilogy. It has ethereal aromatics of tobacco, dried herbs, old cedar and blackcurrant. The length is long and the palate the essence of old blackcurrant and cedar. Frankly, it has few peers. Sometimes it seems more appropriate to drink and reflect on a wine than write a lot about it.
The fill level was good. The bottle appeared in good shape, a bit of gunk under the capsule, but not too bad. Would the cork survive opening or break? No, it opened cleanly – the French always seem to have those extra long corks that hold up to age … The moment of truth. A quick sniff of the cork, and then the bottle. Joy or anger? Relief. And then joy – no cork taint. Earth, blackcurrants, cigar box and anise aromatics with time in the glass. Long length, more cigar box and blackcurrants, smoke and earth on the palate. For reasons I struggle to understand, the wine grows and grows in the glass, seemingly putting on weight and structure as the glass depletes. The 1982 is a fabled vintage, Chateau Montrose is a fabled producer, and this a monumental wine. Happiness. Outstanding
Price: don’t ask
Sample: I wish
Vendors: Check http://www.wine-searcher.com/
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Every now and then a blind tasting just knocks your socks off, and teaches you something too. In this case, it was helpful to learn that a “super premium” label that I have recently had doubts about gave rise to the same doubts when tasted blind, and two prestigious labels that I am very partial to, met with my unbridled adulation with labels hidden. What were the wines? The first was Mount Mary’s Quintet 2000 from the Yarra Valley. The latter two were the Cos d’Estournel 2000 from St Estephe and the Chateau Pichon Longueville Baron 2001 from Pauillac. My thoughts follow.
Mount Mary Quintet 2000
My first experience with Mount Mary’s Quintet was a good one. I tasted the 1997 vintage of the Quintet alongside the 1997 vintage from Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, and both wines were largely outstanding. Strangely enough, the wines were also uncannily similar on the palate – I had not expected that, since a tennis ball might take some time to retrieve from the other’s backyard. Given that the Comtesse is usually a very expensive wine, I thought this a rather good outcome notwithstanding the Quintet’s pricing will warm the hearts of few bargain hunters.
Since then though, my tastings here and there of more recent vintages of Mount Mary’s Quintet have been uniformly less satisfactory. I suspect this is not a permissible thought based on local commendations, but I do wonder a little whether the estate is producing cabernet blends that are not really much better in quality terms than a host of cabernets available from the Yarra Valley for around the $30 mark rather than $100+. In this context, therefore, it was interesting to taste the 2000 vintage of Mount Mary blind (a very good Yarra Valley cabernet vintage), thereby neatly rendering it free from the shackles of my rising doubts.
Unfortunately, the 2000 Quintet did not flower at this tasting. Perhaps the shadow cast by the latter two wines impaired it so doing. Sometimes that happens. However, I think, in this case its quality level leads to the same conclusion. In the glass, the 2000 Quintet was a medium intensity garnet in colour, with yellowing around the rim. On the nose, it had a medium intensity expression of blackcurrants, cedar, sour plums, soy, anise, tea leaves, tomato leaf and some sweet cassis, marking it as quite different aromatically to the wines that followed. On the palate, the tannins were still unresolved, but a bit dried out, with the wine tasting of soy, and being perhaps even a little skeletal. Overall, there was some complexity with the aromatics, but the tomato leaf characters and dried out palate are to my mind undesirable characters for a wine of this price and esteem. Acceptable to Good
Vendors: check http://www.wine-searcher.com
Tasted: September 2012
Cos d’Estournel St Estephe 2000
I’ve always liked, rather than perhaps raved about Cos d’Estournel. This appears to have been something of an error of judgement, since I hadn’t quite realised that this estate’s wines could be this good. The year 2000 is of course a stellar vintage for left bank Bordeaux, so perhaps this finding was inevitable. Still bright, the wine had a medium(+) intensity of ruby colour. Its aroma was an alluring combination of blackcurrant, soft cedar, a sprinkle of herbaceousness and some buttery lactic characters. Perhaps there was a smidgen of brett, but it won’t trouble most, I think. On the palate, blackcurrants and cedar flavours came together to reveal a seamless palate with stunningly long length and depth of flavours. The 2000 vintage of Cos d’Estournel is an outstanding wine with few peers, and certainly the best Cos I’ve tried to date. The biggest problem with this wine seemed to be that a couple of the bottles, other than the one I tasted from, were corked. Ouch. Outstanding
Chateau Pichon Longueville Baron Pauillac 2001
If I had limitless cash, the Baron would feature heavily in my wine buying. It’s one of those wines that makes me ask the question as to why I bother drinking anything else. The 2001 vintage in Bordeaux seems to have been rated more highly in France than in the United States, thus giving buying opportunities. Which is handy because the Baron has been unerringly good in most vintages – lesser ones included – I’ve had the fortune of trying. The 2001 Baron had a medium(+) intensity ruby colour, and opened to aromas of oak, blackcurrant, plums, smoke, black cherries and undergrowth. The black cherry character threw a few off the mark in the blind tasting, but the palate was reassuringly all about blackcurrants, cedar, long length and ripe tannins. A near outstanding wine worthy of your attention. Very Good to Outstanding
Abv: not recorded
Vendors: check http://www.wine-searcher.com
Tasted: September 2012