Perfectly looking but not yet ripe (skins) Cabernet Sauvignon grapes at Seguin
VOYAGE DE PRESSE - GRAVES & PÉSSAC-LÉOGNAN
Monday, the 27th September 2010
Arrived at Château Seguin in Canejan (Pessac-Léognan appellation) in the evening, took a look at the vineyard and visited cellar, ultra-modern with all necessary facilities. The owner of this property, Denis Darriet, was making jewellery for famous people around the world before he arrived at Seguin.
Seguin is 31 ha and vineyard is planted with 50% Cabernet Sauvignon and 50% Merlot. Denis Darriet told me that he wants to make wine which reflects much of the terroir. This was obvious when I tasted 2009 vintage from different barrels with very fine aromatic Merlot, intense and with strong backbone, together with powerful and complex Cabernet Sauvignon. Looked like it will be a very fine wine indeed when in bottle.
I also tasted 2005 which expressed lots of blueberries and blackberries, fine aromas of perfectly ripe fruit, was well-structured and elegant. Fine wine for the vintage. Denis Darriet told me, that in his opinion, 2008 vintage was the first one to show true soil of Seguin. He expected to harvest later in the week and was very happy with the quality of grapes, which he thought were riper and more concentrated than in 2009!
At the end of the tasting, he presented to me a wine, he makes from a selection of best parcels of Seguin, Confidence(s) du Château Seguin. It was vintage 2004 and this wine was utterly impressive with incredibly aromatic black fruit (blueberries), tight, concentrated, very complex, well-structured and splendid long finish. It was an excellent treat!
It was my first visit to Seguin and I was impressed with what I tasted. It will be interesting to retaste 2009 and try 2010 next year during primeur week.
Tuesday, the 28th September 2010
The day started with cold morning (7 degrees Celsius), then warm afternoon (25 degrees Celsius), beautiful sunshine and wind-still weather. Busy schedule waited.
Château Roquetaillade La Grange
First visit of the day and quite an interesting one. Situated in Graves appellation, this property is run by three brothers, Dominique, Bruno and Pascal Guignard. They have also property in Sauternes, Lamothe Guignard. When I arrived the harvest was going on - harvesting was done by machine. Pascal Guignard, who received me, was extremely satisfied with already harvested white grapes and incoming red grapes.
Roquetaillade La Grange red is 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot and 13% Cabernet Franc planted on 30 ha big vineyard. Wine stays in oak for 14 months. I tasted 2008 which had a fine aroma of crushed berries (blackcurrant and raspberries), perfect ripeness, and was subtle and well-balanced. Fine effort. 2007 had barely the same ripeness of fruit and aromatic touch of 2008, while 2006 followed in tracks of 2008 with tighter and stronger structure. 2005 provided a perfect example of why this vintage is so successful in every corner of Bordeaux. Delicate, very aromatic, enchanting sweetness of fruit, coating palate and caressing finish. A real heartbreaker wine.
Roquetaillade La Grange white 60% Sémillon, 20% Sauvignon Blanc and 20% Muscadelle planted on 15 ha big vineyard. I tasted 2009 which was pretty nice wine with seductive aromas of apple and pear, sufficient acidity to keep the freshness intact and smooth finish. Enjoyable.
Château de Chantegrive
This property hosted a tasting of 2007 red (19 wines) and 2008 white (11 wines), both Graves appellation.
Among reds I was particulary impressed by Chantegrive, Lusseau, Magneau and Saint Robert Poncet Deville for their aromatic fruit, ripe and tasty, lot of charm and splendid balance. In the contex of difficult vintage as 2007, they were very well-made. Caillivet, du Haut-Maray, Haut-Reys Cuvée Vieiles Vignes, des Fougères "La Raison", Lasalle, Pessan, Rahoul and Thibaut Ducasse, were reasonable wines with good fruit, soft texture, good balance and short but smmoth finish.
Among whites, Chantegrive Cuvée Caroline was my cherry-pick with strong aromas of acacia flower, pineapple and pear, powerful and with great acidity, fine concentration and fine balance. Clos Floridene was a tad less intense and aromatic than Chantegrive C.C., but of same splendid quality. Roquetaillade La Grange showed nice intensity of fruit and good acidity, nice balance and structure. Gaubert, Magence, de Portets, Tentation du Chateau Le Bourdillot and Tour de Calens were pleasant, round and charming, light and uncomplicated. Already very drinkable.
During lunch, I tasted excellent 2007 Chantegrive Cuvée Caroline white, which had better acidity, more intense flavours of acacia flower, apple and lemon, and longer finish than aforementioned wines. 2000 Chantegrive red was a real treat and a classic example of this vintage's immense quality. Powerful, very intense nose of perfectly ripe blackcurrants and raspberries, strong structure and excellent length 2007 Chantegrive Cuvée Henri Leveque had considerable oak taste well balanced with concentrated fruit, power and strong backbone. Fine effort.
Chantegrive red (40 ha) and Chantegrive Cuvée Henri Leveque red (3 ha) have same grape varieties in the blend, 50% Cabernet Sauvignon and 50% Merlot, but the latter is fermented in new oak and stays for 3 months longer. Chantegrive Cuvée Caroline white is planted with half of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon on 10 ha, vines are 30+ years on average and wine ages in barrels for 9 months.
This was the last visit of the day. Venus is situated in Preignac, has 6.2 ha of vines planted with 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon. I tasted 2008, 2007, 2006 and 2005 and found them a bit too commercial with marked dryness. I respect the way owner wants to make his wine but think he/she would benefit a great deal of harvesting week or two later and better selection.
Wednesday the 29th September 2010
In the morning I had a very interesting tour of André Lurton properties, La Louviere, Couhins, Rochemorin and Cruzeau, with PR manager Mme Véronique Bouffard providing very useful information, "checking" how the harvest was going. It was a quick tour but very informative.
Later, there was a tasting at Château La Garde of 2007 red (18 wines) and 2008 white (16 wines), both Péssac-Léognan appelation.
Later, there was a tasting at Château La Garde of 2007 red (18 wines) and 2008 white (15 wines), both Péssac-Léognan appelation.
Among AOC red wines, I was impressed by Couhins, La Garde Lafargue, Larrivet Haut Brion and Le Sartre, who all managed to produce charming and seductive wines with mature fruit, nicely balanced and with a smooth finish. Ferran and Domaine de La Solitude were simpler and lighter wines, but quite enjoyable.
Among Cru Classes, Domaine de Chevalier showed excellent aromas of ripe fruit, length, depth and persistent finish. Pape Clement was at the same level concerning quality as D.d.Chevalier, but the style here was modern (extracted flavours). De Fieuzal, Latour Martillac and Malartic La Graviere showed considerable concentration of ripe fruit, silky tannin and fine balance.
Among AOC whites wines I particularly liked Domaine de La Solitude, La Garde, Lafargue, Larrivet Haut Brion and Le Sartre, all having fresh attitude, seductive aromas of acacia flower and lemongrass, and personality.
Among Cru Classes, Domaine de Chevalier showed great subtlety, sophisticated touch, great structure and finish. Pape Clement was as awesome as D.d.Chevalier, while Couhins and Latour Martillac impressed by extensive aromas and fine acidity. De Fieuzal and Malartic Lagraviere did almost as well as Couhins and Latour Martillac, with less intensity and shorter finish.
Ferran produces both red and white wine. Red is 18 ha vines planted with 65% Merlot and 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20 years old and the wine is aged in 30% new oak. White is 50% Sémillon and 50% Sauvignon Blanc.
I tasted 2008 Ferran white which was missing at La Garde tasting and it was gentle and soft wine with aroma of pear, elegant and round. 2007 Ferran white appeared fresher than 2008 with better acidity, more opulence, deeper and longer on the palate. Very fine indeed.
Next followed an entertaining 2005 Ferran red with fine intensity of perfectly ripe black fruit, aromatic touch, splendid balance and palate coated with sweet cherries. Great joy to drink. 2003 Ferran red was typical of the vintage with warm fruit, liquorice taste and dry tannin. Ferran 2001 red was very supple, fruity and soft with soft texture. Fully mature now.
It was a very well-organized trip this Voyage de Presse and a great possibility to learn about less-known properties from Graves/Pessac-Léognan. Thanks!
Many of the mentioned properties have their own website, so if someone needs more detailed information, try Google or ask both Syndicats.
IMPRESSIONS FROM HARVEST 2010 AND TASTINGS AT OTHER PROPERTIES
Thursday the 30th September 2010
Domaine de Chevalier
Arrived in mid-morning and the weather was again sunny after some rain fell during the night. This property I've followed with great admiration since my first visit here in March 1984.
Before tasting 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2009 D.d.Chevalier in red and white, I was offered first juice of 2010 from Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon. Both expressed wonderful and intense flavours of acacia flower, apple and lemongrass, excellent acidity and potentially 13.5% alcohol. Olivier Bernard is expecting this vintage to be a real, real stunner, maybe one of the best ones he's ever made! Merlots were expected to be harvested next week, while Cabernet Sauvignon had to wait two weeks with approximately end of the harvest around the 20th October. "Vendange tardive" anyone ;)
Tasting started with 2007 red D.d.Chevalier, a wine with the aroma of ripe Cabernet Sauvignon, good bite, nice structure and nice length on the palate. Finishes smoothly. To be enjoyed while big vintages take their time to mature. 2008 was well-balanced wine with fine concentration of ripe berries and ripe tannin, splendid acidity, great depth and length. Big success for the vintage. 2005 showed great intensity of fruit, perfectly ripe tannin, richness, elegance and finesse. Sublime effort. 2009 was packed with energy and youthfulness. Very aromatic, subtle, concentrated and long finish. Great wine. At lunch I tasted 2002 red which was very seductive, aromatic, elegant and tasty with a fine finish. Very enjoyable to taste now. 2003 red showed charm but also very ripe fruit with a touch of heat/baked flavour (liquorice) and some dryness on the palate. Atypical for the property imho. 2004 red impressed a lot with a fabulous aroma of black fruit on the nose, splendid structure and impeccable balance. Fabulous wine with style and grace.
Among whites, I began with 2009, which had acacia, apple and lemon flavours, richness, splendid acidity, excellent balance and smooth aftertaste. Great elegance and style. 2008 was a better wine for me than 2009, with mineral touch, deeper, more length and longer finish. Sublime and sophisticated wine. 2005 presented multi-dimensional and fabulously structured wine wit exquisite aromatic expression, excellent balance and persistent aftertaste. Incredible wine. 2007 was even better than 2005 with very mineral "look" and more of everything. Fantastic effort. 2000 tasted during lunch offered immediate appeal, roundness and charm. Very enjoyable now.
Haut Brion/La Mission Haut Brion
After Domaine de Chevalier I went to Haut Brion/La Mission Haut Brion together with Robert Cottin, president of Dubos Fréres, a big Bordeaux negociant. He was a great company.
I've also admired greatly both estates since my first visit here in March 1984.
The always smiling Turid Alcaras, PR manager at both estates, welcomed us. We tasted 2008 and 2009 from both estates in red and white. When in Bordeaux you always taste red wine before white, because if you do the opposite, the acidity in white wine will make tannin in red wine taste more acid and sharper.
2008 La Chapelle de La Mission Haut Brion expressed very aromatic blackberries, ripe tannins, fine structure, concentration and lengthy finish. Splendid second wine from La Mission. 2008 Le Clarence de Haut Brion, the second wine of Haut Brion, was more powerful, more concentrated and more tannic than 2008 La Chapelle. Splendid effort. 2008 La Mission Haut Brion looked like a beautiful cloth creation of haute couture - sublime, elegant, finesse, silky and smooth. 2008 Haut Brion was, on the other hand, a strong wine, classy, very long, mineral, velvety and with astonishing balance. Fabulous potential here.
2008 Laville Haut Brion (last vintage with that name) displayed very aromatic fruit of acacia flower, peach and lemon supported by great acidity and balance. Excellent wine. 2008 Haut Brion white showed more class and style than Laville, more intensity, finesse and sophisticated touch. Fantastic effort.
2009 La Chapelle de La Mission Haut Brion was stronger and slightly riper and deeper than 2008. Delightful wine. It was the same story with 2009 Le Clarence de Haut Brion. 2009 La Mission Haut Brion did improve its appearance since April this year with extremely aromatic, deep, sophisticated and long attitude. Extremely sublime and enchanting wine. Wow! 2009 Haut Brion was like a granite rock you had to split into pieces with a hammer to get the goodies out. Enormous potential here.
2009 La Clarte de Haut Brion (combination of second wine from La Mission white and Haut Brion white) was a pleasant wine with good intensity, acidity and structure. Both 2009 La Mission white and Haut Brion white expressed more intensity, minerality and acidity than their 2008 counterparts.
Friday the 1st October 2010
Arrived by train in the morning to one of my favourite properties in Sauternes & Barsac and said hello to very kind and hospitable Hetter-Tari family. I always visit Nairac while I'm in Bordeaux.
I had a great opportunity to retaste 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 vintages prepared by Nicolas Heeter-Tari, winemaker at Nairac. This property has been on the excellent run since 2001 vintage and it's getting better and better.
2005 had wonderfully scented nose of peach and acacia, an excellent pairing of sweetness and acidity, finesse and sophisticated touch. Fabulous stuff. 2006 was less fine than 2005 but impressed with fine botrytised flavours of peach, apricot and honey melon on the palate. Splendid balance and lot of finesse. 2007 had a deep intensity of botrytised flavours on the nose and was very concentrated on the palate. Long and refined with persistent finish. For me, 2007 is close to 2005, but coming years will show which one of those two vintages will prevail. 2008 was a bit more restrained than 2006, same style, with fine acidity and smooth finish. 2009 showed a fabulous range of botrytised aromas, great complexity, great "understanding" between sweetness and acidity, great intensity and long, caressing finish. Sublime stuff!
Among the busy period of harvest, Julie Gonet Medeville had time to prepare a little tasting of 2009s for me and one 2008 at her office in Preignac. I've visited Gilette since 1987 and remember well the extremely hospitable reception by Julie's parents.
Julie & Xavier added in 2009 during summer two estates on the Left Bank to their portfolio of properties - Cru Monplaisir (Bordeaux Superieur, situated close to Gironde, just outside Margaux appellation) and Eyrins in Margaux commune. First vintage of both wines showed careful and subtle winemaking, resulting in aromatic, perfumed and well-balanced wines with fine depth, structure and smooth finish. Great start and hopefully it will continue in coming vintages.
Respide Medeville red was a great value for the money with plenty of ripe berries and ripe tannin, strong backbone and long finish. Respide Medeville white was a delightful experience with a very aromatic approach, fine acidity to balance fruit and caressing aftertaste.
2008 Les Justices showed nice botrytised flavours, nice sweetness and acidity, elegance and roundness, while it's one year younger sister impressed with thrilling sweetness and supporting acidity, and having better intensity of botrytised flavours.
This property I always visit when I'm Bordeaux and it's one of my favourite sweet wines. Raymond Lafon is an incredibly great value for the money and for a long time among top wines in Sauternes & Barsac. Some plots were harvested the day I visited this property but Jean-Pierre Meslier told me, that they waited for an adequate amount of rain to kick-start botrytis, as they didn't get anything between 29th and 30th September. I tasted 2002, 2005 and 2009 vintages.
2002 displayed very nice intensity of botrytised flavours and corresponding acidity. This wine gives you a lot of satisfaction with nice creamy texture, elegance and finesse. To drink while waiting for big vintages. 2005 has since its "birth" been some kind of darling wine for me. Sensual wine with very intense botrytised flavours, purity, richness, great balance and sophisticated touch. Stunning potential here! 2009 turned out to be a great favourite of wine-critics all over the world and considering the low primeur price, it's a steal for the money among sweet Bordeaux wines. Revelation in April this year during primeurs and having tasted it 6 months later, I've to admit, that this is a heavenly stuff and maybe the best effort in the last 20 years.
Seeing 2010 grapes looking stunningly beautiful, I wonder, if we can expect even better things than in 2009?! I tasted first press of juice and it promised a lot.
SCNF (French Rail) allowed me kindly to come safely back to Bordeaux, by not suspending train traffic as they, unfortunately, did in April this year.
Monday, the 4th October 2010
It rained from mid-day and traffic jam from Bordeaux to Libourne delayed my visit at Jean-Luc Thunevin's wine shop 45 minutes. At the time of my visit, the harvest wasn't yet started at his properties and Jean-Luc Thunevin told me that it was beneficial to wait, because grapes were in excellent shape and still trying to obtain full phenolic ripeness. I was presented for wines from Jean-Luc Thunevin in vintages 2008 and 2009.
Tasting started with 2008 Bad Boy, an enjoyable wine, pleasant, round and soft. Good start. Then followed five wines in two vintages, tasted in pairs. 2008 Domaine des Sabines from Lalande-de-Pomerol was a delightful wine with a very seductive nose of black cherries, soft, round, elegant and with a smooth aftertaste. Very enjoyable. 2009 vintage of the same wine was seductive as well and displayed more depth, concentration and richness. Fine winemaking here! 2008 Le Clos du Beau-Pere from Pomerol followed well in tracks of Domaine des Sabines from neighboring district with cherry aromas as well, more complexity and longer finish. 2009 vintage of the same wine was more concentrated. Delightful wines. 2008 Virginie de Valandraud displayed elegance and grace, subtlety, splendid balance and smooth aftertaste while 2009 vintage had a stronger backbone, more depth and displayed more oak. For a second wine, both were glorious efforts. 2008 Clos Badon offered a fine aroma of cherries and chocolate, strong backbone and chewy texture. Stupendous effort. 2009 version of the same wine had more concentration and more oaky palate, but both wines deserved applause.
To be honest, 2008 and 2009 Bellevue de Tayac weren't the cherry-picks for me during the tasting. Both seemed closed, rustic, earthy and difficult to assess. Definitely there's potential in both but they need time to soften.
2008 Valandraud was even better than I tasted it one year ago with a stunning nose of black cherries (cérise noir) and blackberries, strong backbone, fabulous structure, great concentration and length, while 2009 was more massive, more concentrated and deeper. Fantastic stuff!
I knew what to expect from 2009 vintage but 2008s impressed me immensely.
At the end of my visit, I was treated with two whites from Jean-Luc Thunevin. Both in vintage 2008. The first one I tasted was Valandraud white (JLT nr.2), which displayed freshness, nice acidity well supported by tasty fruit, charm and seductive approach. Very enjoyable. Valandraud white nr.1 offered freshness, great aromas of acacia flower, apple and lemon, splendid interplay between fruit and stunning acidity, and sophisticated touch. Great effort.
Francois Mitjavile expected to start harvest next week (around 11th October) and like the owners/winemakers at the other properties I visited, he expected 2010 to be a great vintage, maybe like 1990. I tasted his both properties, Tertre Roteboeuf and Roc de Cambes in vintages 2007, 2008 and 2009.
Both 2007s had nice aromas of black cherries and blackcurrants, nice structure and was pretty well-balanced. Charming and seductive wines. 2008 Tertre Roteboeuf seemed to suffer from the recent bottling and was slightly disjointed. Will retaste it at first given occasion. 2008 Roc de Cambes showed strong backbone, was full-bodied, very intense and long on the palate. Splendid effort. 2009 Tertre Roteboeuf displayed excellent things like richness, extremely well-knitted structure, great complexity and caressingly long aftertaste. Stunning wine. 2009 Roc de Cambes was just as impressive with power, splendid intensity on the nose with black fruit, harmony and firm aftertaste.
Le Gay/La Violette
Arrived at a very rainy and cold day and was welcomed by the owner, Catherine Pere-Verge. Harvest hadn't really started on her properties yet. Jean-Christophe Meyrou, manager of all these four estates, had great hopes for 2010 vintage if the weather was warm and sunny through October.
La Graviere 2009 had a sweet and attractive nose of black cherries, freshness, fine balance and long aftertaste. Very impressive wine for the district (Lalande-de Pomerol). Montviel 2009 - presented itself even better than in April this year with catchy aroma of blackberries, adequate amount of tannin, balance and quite long finish. Le Gay 2009 - powerful, plenty of black cherries and violets, strong structure with great depth, structure and length, incredibly strong backbone and with extremely long aftertaste. Very classy wine with charisma and great style. La Violette 2009 - very much violet aroma on the nose and there was a taste of violet on the palate, clear aroma of truffles, deep and very long on the palate with a persistent aftertaste. Great treat.
Tuesday the 5th October 2010
Exceptionally looking grapes at Palmer - Cabernet Sauvignon
Happily, French trade unions didn't choose my travel day to strike so I came unscathed by train from Bordeaux to Margaux train station well ahead of my scheduled visit at Palmer. After 15 minutes walk, I was standing in the vineyard of Palmer looking at this beautiful grapes, small and thick-skinned. After taking several pictures in the vineyard, I entered Palmer and met my host for the day, Claire Casimir, Palmer's PR- manager. She prepared a tasting for me of four vintages of both Alter Ego and Palmer, 2009, 2008, 2007 and 2006, but I didn't taste these wines in that order.
On my request we started with 2007 vintage. 2007 Alter Ego was quite aromatic with nice bite, round and smooth finish. Already drinking well. 2007 Palmer offered an unmistakable aroma of dark cherries, softness and delicacy. Maybe the lightest of all Palmer's in this decade, but class and style still remain there! 2006 Alter Ego showed more ripeness, more depth, better structure and longer finish than 2007. Fun to taste. 2006 Palmer was refined, classy and sophisticated wine with beautiful balance. Aristocratic wine! 2008 Alter Ego expressed itself better compared to 2006. Joyful and seductive wine. 2008 Palmer turned out to be even better than 2006 with beautifully scented flavours of dark berries, excellent structure, length, silky tannins and persistent finish. Wonderful stuff. Both 2009 Alter Ego and Palmer were tougher, heavier, more aromatic and intense than their respective 2008s, but elegance and finesse were intact. Exquisite tasting!
After tasting we were just to leave for a tour to the different parts of Palmer's vineyard, when Thomas Duroux (Palmer's technical director) arrived at the office and was extremely happy with the quality of harvested grapes, saying that they seemed to be even better than in 2009 concerning intensity, acidity and tannin. At the end of touring in the vineyard, we stopped at a parcel of Merlot, where boys and girls from 3 classes of Danish primary school from Holstebro (Jutland island) harvested intensely. Palmer has since 1998 always had Danish pickers from the same school to help with harvest. Harvest at Palmer started on the 22nd September with Merlot.
It was very enjoyable visit thanks to my very patient and charming host Claire Casimir. And the weather was sunny and charming too!
Thomas Duroux, general manager at Palmer is an extremely happy man!
One of Danish pickers - pretty young girl
I arrived directly from nearby Palmer, among a very busy time of harvest and was welcomed by Delphine Dariol Kolasa, public relation manager. We did a tour of both properties and tasted 2009 vintage.
Labegorce was bought by Hubert Perrodo in 1989 and neighbouring property of Labegorce Zédé in 2005, which resulted in reuniting the original Labegorce property. However, the wines of Labegorce and Labegorce Zédé were made separately until 2009 vintage which is the first vintage made from entire property. Labegorce is now around 55 ha planted with 30+ years old vines on average.
The winemaker at Labegorce has been "inherited" from Labegorce Zédé. 2009 Labegorce is 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Merlot, 8% Petit Verdot and 4% Cabernet Franc, yield per ha 44 hl and ageing in 50% new oak. This 2009 is immense success for the property, very true Margaux wine with grace and style. Labegorce is a wine to watch, believe me!
Same Hubert Perrodo bought neighbouring Marquis d'Alesme in 2006 but died tragically in December 2006, so his daughter has been responsible for Marquis d'Alesme and Labegorce since then.
Marquis d'Alesme is classified as 3rd growth, covers 15 ha with 40 years old vines on average. 2009 is 61% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Cabernet Franc, 15% Merlot and 7% Petit Verdot, the yield of 44 hl/ha and ageing in 60% new barrels. This vintage is for sure the best one I've ever tasted from this property and it promises a lot for coming vintages. Michel Rolland is now consulting Marquis d'Alesme and according to Delphine Dariol Kolasa, they appointed him to get more from the grapes and improve vinification.
She was very confident that 2010 vintage will be even a greater break-trough for both properties. I've no reason to doubt it.
Sorting table at Marquis d'Alesme