Bassin de Cap-Ferret - excellent September weather for people and grapes! Sunday, the 21st of September, 2014
I visited Bordeaux between 21st September and 27th September 2014. Days from 22nd to 24th September were devoted to Voyage de Presse 2014 – Graves & Pessac-Léognan. In September 2010, September 2012, and September 2013, when I attended these Voyage de Presse events, some properties were chosen for me to visit this time weren't ones I heard so much before.
I like this kind of event where you are entirely down to earth and refresh/widen your wine horizon. This was the opposite of what I usually do during primeur time, running from one high-esteemed property to another. I've had a great time yet again, and the organization of this fourth Voyage de Presse was excellent.
During my stay in Bordeaux, only 2014 white grapes were picked. The potential of these was expected to be excellent in fruit intensity and acidity, despite terrible conditions in spring and early summer. In some places, they started harvesting Merlot but not grapes for sweet whites. It'll be interesting to see what Bordeaux will be capable of now. Because of fantastic September in terms of sunshine, hot temperatures, and little wind, grapes speeded up on everything, and it looks like this month saved the 2014 vintage. At the time of writing (mid-October), Merlot has been safely brought in most places. Now it's Cabernet Sauvignon's and Petit Verdot's turn to ripe perfectly and make 2014 even better. Only two months ago, Bordeaux winemakers were depressed and disappointed with the development of the vintage; now (September 2014), there is great hope. And it's been fulfilled as Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot came unscathed through rain and enjoyed perfect weather the last ten days. Many properties finished harvest during the week of 20th-26th October.
Here are my impressions:
VOYAGE DE PRESSE 2014 - GRAVES & PÉSSAC-LÉOGNAN
Monday, the 22nd September 2014
Seguin's owner, Dennis Darriet, told me that Merlot grapes looked terrific, but they still waited with harvest at Seguin as grapes have yet to approach the full phenolic ripeness. The harvest of Merlot was expected to start the following Monday (29th September). He sets his standards high and believes his wine is as great as that of many classified growths.
I tasted 5 vintages of Seguin and two of Seguin's "crème de tete", Confidence(s) du Chateau Seguin.
2012 was elegant, fruity, tasty, well-balanced, round, and with soft cherries. This vintage showed a lighter style of Seguin. 91p.
2011 offered a splendid nose of ripe cherries and very good depth and intensity on the palate. Silky on the palate with strong structure, fine length, and smooth aftertaste. Splendid effort for the vintage. 92p.
2010 (50% Cabernet Sauvignon + 50% Merlot) puzzled me. Like in March 2014, this wine shed its "baby fat" away and became quite tannic and closed. Underneath, it has a lot to offer, but doors are closed. Unquestionably, this wine has great potential, but we have to wait with patience. 95+p?
2009 was another story than 2010. Open arms! Very ripe grapes, a lot of sweetness, great complexity, and depth. Lovely wine. 94p.
2008 was less striking than 2009, but there was nothing to complain about. This wine was very mineral, multifaceted, well constructed and structured, big on the palate, and with a sophisticated touch. Splendid effort for the vintage.
Confidence(s) du Chateau Seguin:
2009 - this luxury cuvee made from old vines was more concentrated, deeper, and had a longer finish than normal cuvee. Very impressive and stunning wine. 95p.
2006 - dusty flavors, a bit earthy, ripe grapes, nice intensity and length, lacking precision. 91p.
Tuesday, the 23rd of September, 2013
Arnaud Lesgourgues, manager of Haut Selve
Very interesting visit. Lesguorgues family, who originates from South France, owns the top-rated Chateau de Laubade in Bas Armagnac. At the beginning of the '90s, they decided to invest in Bordeaux. In 1993 Chateau Haut Selve was created without any mansion, only by building cellars, vines were planted red and white. As owners like art, several wine-related sculptures are placed around the property (see pictures above).
Haut Selve is situated in the commune of Saint-Selve and covers 11 ha white vines, Sauvignon Blanc 50%, Semillon 40% and Sauvignon Gris 10%, and 32 ha red ones, Merlot 50% and Cabernet Sauvignon 50%. Red wine is aged in 33% new oak for one year, while white wine is fermented, stirred, and aged in oak barrels for six months. The harvest of red grapes is 30% manual and 70% by machine for regular cuvee (100% by hand for "Reserve"), while the harvest of white grapes is 100% by hand.
2012 red Haut Selve had a lovely balance, good bite, and good structure, while the "Reserve" version of this wine, coming from 2 ha planted with 55% Cabernet Sauvignon and 45% Merlot, malolactic fermentation in 100% new oak and aging in same barrels, had more structure, more stuffing, more depth and more complexity than regular cuvee. 2010 red Haut Selve Reserve showed ripe grapes, a strong backbone, splendid intensity, and a long finish. 2013 Haut Selve white (50% Sauvignon Blanc, 10% Sauvignon Gris without wood treatment, and 40% Semillon) was full of freshness, aromatic with acacia flower and lemongrass, and tasty.
Wines from Haut Selve are, imho worth looking for, especially the "Reserve" version of red wine. Website - http://www.vignobles-lesgourgues.com
Tasting of 2011 red Graves and 2013 white Graves at Chateau Ferrande
At Ferrande tasting, the best wine of all, imho was Chantegrive, which distanced all other wines by a good margin. Fine intensity and concentration, fine level of fruit ripeness, very nice structure and depth. 89p. Magence was aromatic, fleshy, well-defined wine with nice fruit and a bite. 87-88p. Callivet, Clos Floridene, Crabitey, Doms Cuvée Amelie, Ferrande, Haut Reys, Haut Selve, Lasalle, Lusseau, Pont de Brion, de Portets, Rahoul, Roquetaillade La Grange and Saint Robert were all nicely made wine with ripe fruit, very nice balance, good structure, and fruity aftertaste. All wines rated 87p. De Lionne, Lutece, and Villa Bel-Air were nice, round, and fruity but lightly structured. 86p.
Among 2013 whites, Chantegrive Cuvee Caroline stood out above other wines with splendid intensity, acidity, complexity, structure, and length. Well-deserved 91p. Crabitey, Clos Floridene, Ferrande, Lusseau and Rahoul showed compelling freshness, good acidity and depth, and fruity aftertaste. 89p. Other wines which caught my attention were Grand Abord, Haut-Selve, Lasalle, and Roquetaillade La Grange, All deserving 87-88p. There were also some very good 2012 whites presented, and I liked Ferrande, de Lionne, Pont de Brion, and Saint Roberts a lot, with freshness and acidity. 87p.
This property was bought in 2011 by a French actor from Paris, Frédéric Vaysse, and renamed Lutéce. It's situated in Illats commune, with 4 ha of red vines (75% Merlot + 25% Cabernet Sauvignon). White is 85% Semillon, 12% Sauvignon Blanc and 3% Muscadelle. 2014 is the first vintage of dry white Graves; before that, it was made as Ceron's (semi-dry white wine). Red wine is vinified in 50% one-year-old barrels and 50% stainless steel vats for six months.
2011 Lutéce red was round, charming, easygoing, fruity, attractive, and tasty. 2012 had more fruit, intensity, and concentration and was velvety on the palate. Very seductive wine. 2013 Lutéce Ceron's was a pleasant dry wine with some Sauternes sweetness. The second vintage of this wine.
Curiously, Lutéce is bottled in 1/2 liter bottles instead of 0.75 liter. Wines here are for enjoying young (3-5 years), not to keep for many years.
Frédéric Vaysee hasn't abandoned his actor profession, and from time to time, when free of his winegrower duties, he goes back to Paris to perform. Website - www.chateaulutece.fr
My visit took place at Chateau Cantegril in Sauternes as Clos Floridene was still undergoing extensive renovation. Both properties are owned by Denis and Florence Dubordieu, who also have Chateau Reynon and Chateau Doisy Daëne in the family business. Denis Dubordieu is a famous oenologist and consultant for many properties in Bordeaux, especially concerning white wine, f.i. Domaine de Chevalier.
When I arrived at Cantegril, Jean-Jacques Dubordieu, Denis Dubordieu's son, received me. It was a short visit as Jean-Jacques had several teams out to harvest and was very busy. I managed to taste 2012 white and red Clos Cloridene and red 2012 Haura.
2012 Clos Floridene white (52% Sauvignon Blanc, 47% Semillon and 1% Muscadelle, the soil consists of gravel and limestones) was very aromatic with flavors of green apple and acacia flower, splendid acidity and complexity, and a long finish. Superb effort in this challenging vintage. Clos Floridene is one of the best buys for money in white Bordeaux.
2012 Clos Floridene red (50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc, and 45% Merlot, soil consisting of gravel and limestones) had very appealing fruity flavors (blackcurrants and raspberries) with splendid structure, depth, strong backbone, delicate balance, and long fruity finish. Very well-made! As white wine, Clos Floridene red is worth all the money.
2012 Haura (60% Cabernet Sauvignon + 40% Merlot, on so-called "fermage" to the Dubordieu family) surprised me with fruity and potent style, smoky fruit, strong bite on the palate, splendid structure, and firm aftertaste. Close to 2012 Clos Floridene.
www.denisdubordieu.fr provides a lot of information about the properties mentioned above.
This exciting day ended on a very high note in intimate surroundings at high-esteemed Chateau Pape Clement with an extremely well-prepared dinner. We were only 9 participants; our hostess included, so the conversation was lively. I only took a few notes on the wines tasted, and I remember quite a friendly Pape Clement red 2007.
First dish of the dinner - "Hache menu de homard, crème de petits pois et fleur de pensée"
Wednesday the 24th September 2014
This property is situated in the Pessac-Léognan district, and its closest neighbor is Chateau de Fieuzal, less than 100 meters from de France. There are 35 ha for red wine planted with 55% Cabernet Sauvignon and 45% Merlot, and 4 ha for white wine planted with 80% Sauvignon Blanc and 20% Semillon. Red wine is aged in 50% new oak + 50% one-year-old barrels for 12-14 months, while white undergoes alcoholic fermentation in barrel and is aged app. nine months in 30% new barrels + 70% one-year-old barrels. Thomassin family owns De France.
In July 2011, de France experienced a major fire caused by an explosion of a tractor, which destroyed cellars and vinification equipment. Because of that, de France was forced to make their wines in other places. 2011 white was made at Chateau Haut Bailly, while red 2011-2012-2013 were made at Chateau de Fieuzal. Happily, a new cellar was ready for use for the 2014 harvest. Arnaud Thomassin, who received me at de France, took me to the parcel where Merlot harvest was ongoing; we also stopped at the family's other property Chateau Coquillas with interesting terroir (shellfish) and which makes second wine to de France.
I know wines from de France as these participate in Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux primeur tastings yearly. Wines here are well made, undoubtedly worth the money, and especially white wine has been making significant progress recently.
Merlot harvest at de France
Tasting of 2011 red Pessac-Leognan (classified and not classified properties) at Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte
Of the 35 wines presented, many were splendid to excellent, aromatic, complex, and well-structured. Splendidly balanced and tasty.
Best wines - Carbonnieux, Domaine de Chevalier, and Smith Haut Lafitte, all rated 93p. Haut Bailly, Larrivet Haut Brion, and Malartic Lagraviere well-deserved 92-93p. Bouscaut, Couhins, de Fieuzal, Latour Martillac, Malartic Lagraviere and Olivier, all rated 92p. Les Carmes Haut Brion, Haut Bergey and Seguin were rated 91-92p. Cruzeau, d'Eck, Ferran, de France, La Garde, Rouillac, and Le Sartre deserved 90-91p, while Bardins, Cantelys, Haut Bacalan, Lespault Martillac, La Louviere and Rochemorin were rated 90p.
Larrivet Haut Brion
I know this property is situated in Leognan very well, as its wines appear yearly in UGCB tastings during primeur week and also appear when negociant firm Beyerman visits Copenhagen every year at the beginning of September. There are 72.5 ha planted with vines - 61 ha red (55% Merlot, 40% C.Sauvignon and 5% C.Franc, the average age of vines is 25 years) and 11 ha white (60% Sauvignon Blanc and 40% Semillon, the average age of vines is 20 years). Gervoson family bought this property in 1987. In 2007, they hired Bruno Lemoine (who worked at Montrose and Lascombes as manager/winemaker before joining Larrivet Haut Brion) to improve the quality of wines. He runs Larrivet Haut Brion with Emilie Gervoson, an energetic young woman with a great sense of humor and a very amiable personality.
I was invited to lunch at LHB last year as a part of the Voyage de Presse program and had great company with Emilie Gervoson and Bruno Lemoin. The woman who prepared a meal for lunch is a very talented chef who made a delicious carpaccio of young cépes. This September, an invitation to lunch was repeated. In addition to Emilie Gervoson and Bruno Lemoin, the line-up for lunch included Alice, Bruno Lemoin's daughter, and Alex Rychlewski, who runs a translation company in Bordeaux and who was among the 20 journalists/bloggers assigned for Voyage de Presse 2014. We discussed many things, and my part was asking Bruno how he made one of the ultimate Bordeaux legends, 1990 Montrose. "Green harvest" and yield of 35 hl/ha was the secret, he answered. Bruno's daughter, Alice, has run LHB's boutique since July this year, and when I met her again at the gala diner at Fieuzal, she told me proudly that she sold several cases of red and white wine to a large group of visitors the same day she joined for lunch.
Red wine is aged in 50% new barrels for 16-18 months and white in new oak barrels for 12 months. I find red and white wine coming closer and closer to the top wines in the district, but there is a little way to go. Especially red has been in excellent form since the 2010 vintage, and white has been in splendid form since 2008. And both wines are still improving. 2010 white Larrivet Haut Brion tasted excellent during lunch with creamy fruit, great acidity and complexity, and a long fruity finish. 2006 red Larrivet Haut Brion showed smoky fruit, elegance, and a firm finish.
Chateau Haut Brion
Our journalist group was presented with the property's history and winemaking information. We tasted 2012 Haut Brion and 2012 La Mission Haut Brion at the end of the visit. Both wines were well-made, fruity, and well-defined, but I felt they tasted lighter this evening than I remembered from my primeur visit to Haut Brion in March 2013. I rated both 93p.
Tasting of 2013 white Pessac-Leognan (classified and not classified properties) at Chateau de France
Surprisingly, 2013 wines showed very well, despite weather problems. The wines below are well-made, tasty, fresh and will provide great pleasure in the coming years.
Best wines for me in alphabetical order - Bouscaut 92p, Carbonnieux 92p, Fieuzal 92p, Larrivet Haut Brion 92p, Latour Martillac, Malartic Lagraviere and Olivier 92p. Couhins Lurton, de Cruzeau, de France 91-92p and La Louviere 91-92p. Bardins and Ferran, both 91p. La Garde, Luchey Halde, Rochemorin and Rouillac, 90p. Couhins 88p.
Some properties didn't present their 2013 vintage and provided 2012 vintage instead. My cherry picks were: Smith Haut Lafitte (91-92p) and Fieuzal (91-92p). Haut Bergey and Le Sartre did well and deserved 90p, while Cantelys, Lespault Martillac, and Domaine de La Solitude were the correct wines for early consumption. 87p.
After tasting whites, our group went to neighboring de Fieuzal, where a gala dinner for the press and owners took place. Good food, good wines, and excellent company rounded off the well-organized Voyage de Presse 2014.
IMPRESSIONS/TASTING NOTES FROM VISITS AT OTHER PROPERTIES IN SEPTEMBER 2014 (in chronological order)
Visits that took place before Voyage de Presse described above
Monday the 22nd September 2014
Before coming to my place to stay for Voyage de Presse 2014 (Chateau Seguin in Canejan), I managed to visit Chateau Haut Brion, Chateau Nairac, and Chateau Raymond Lafon.
Haut Brion/La Mission Haut Brion
On the day of my visit, the Merlot harvest at Haut Brion has been going on for several days. Merlot grapes looked great! Tradition-wise, I tasted the last bottled vintage here in red and white, which meant the 2011 one this time.
Le Clarence de Haut Brion, the second wine of Haut Brion, was fruity, round, a bit vegetal, finished a bit dry, and finished with a smooth fruity finish. 87p. La Chapelle de La Mission Haut Brion, the second wine of La Mission Haut Brion, had better intensity and depth with a longer finish. 88p. La Mission Haut Brion had La Clarte de Haut Brion (white wine) had a very aromatic nose of acacia, lemongrass, and apple and the same flavors on the palate, fine acidity, balance, and fruity aftertaste. 88p. La Mission Haut Brion tasted a bit closed with tannin upfront; however, it will come back with more to offer. 93-94p. Haut Brion had more of everything and was better wine than La Mission. 94p.
La Carte de Haut Brion was fresh with lemongrass and acacia flavors, a grapefruit touch, and nice acidity and intensity. 90p. La Mission Haut Brion white displayed splendid intensity of acacia flower and green apple, splendid balance, complexity and acidity, fine elegance and sophisticated touch. Beautiful wine. 95-96p. Haut Brion white had more intensity and concentration than LMHB. Great acidity. It oozed class. Less elegant and had less finesse here than in LMHB, but it had more richness and depth. 97p.
At the time of my visit (22nd September), harvest still needed to start; there was the cleaning of bad grapes in bunches at vines and waiting time for botrytis to show up in the vineyard. It'll be late harvest in 2014.
I tasted vintages on 2012-11-10-09-05-96
2012 showed the aromatic scent of grapefruit and acacia honey, with nice intensity and acidity, and complexity. Lighter than usual. 90p.
2011 had petrol on the nose big range of botrytised flavors like grapefruit, lemon peel, pineapple, and pear. It was distinguished, rich, and long on the palate with great sweetness, acidity, and graceful aftertaste. Silky texture. Very impressive wine. 94+p.
2010 seemed to be slightly less intense and less rich than 2009. It seemed a tad closed at the moment (September 2014). Stunning wine, anyway. 95+p
2009 had a very impressive nose of sweet pineapple, peach, and apricot, with stunning richness, acidity, balance, and length. Very long honeyed aftertaste which went on and on. More open now than closed in 2010. Exceptional wine. 96p.
2005 was very closed, but underneath, there was everything you wanted. Patience required. 95p.
1996 had a toffee aroma and smell of shoe polish, brown sugar, and candied apricots. Well-aged wine with fine structure and nice complexity. 92p.
When my visit (22nd September), harvest still needed to be started. Jean-Pierre Meslier told me that 2014 grapes looked extremely promising.
I tasted vintages from 2011-2010-2009-2007.
2011 - aromatic with acacia honey, sophisticated, long, great intensity of aromas (mango, honey melon) and great acidity. Very long honeyed aftertaste. Excellent effort for the vintage. 95+p.
2010 - showed considerably more of everything than 2009: fabulous acidity, excellent balance, and finish. Excellent stuff. 96p.
2009 - petrol, elegance, refinement, great intensity of botrytised flavors, excellent balance and sweetness, fabulous complexity, balance, and length. Exceptional wine. 96+p.
2007 - the sophisticated, long, great intensity of aromas (mango, peach, honey melon) and striking acidity. Very long honeyed aftertaste. Great effort for the vintage. 95p.
Visits that took place after Voyage de Presse described above
Thursday the 25th September 2014
I met Emmanuel Boidron at the Brasserie (on top of La Dominique's cellar) and tasted the 2013 and 2011 vintages of Boidron wines. He told me there was no news about an ongoing court case concerning the degradation of Corbin Michotte from the Grand Cru Classe group.
2013 Calon (St. Georges Saint-Emilion) showed tasty soft fruit, light texture, smoothness, and good balance. 87p. 2013 Calon (Montagne St-Emilion) was similar to St.Georges, with slightly more intense and sappiness. 87p as well. 2013 Corbin Michotte had a fine aroma of grated dark chocolate, splendid ripe dark fruit, remarkable acidity and minerality, fine balance, and a persistent finish. Splendid effort for the vintage. 91p. 2013 Cantelauze had the same fine qualities as Corbin Michotte, the same aroma of chocolate and sensual touch. 91p. 2011 Calon St. Georges was slightly better than its 2013 counterpart, 87-88p. 2011 Corbin Michotte reminded me much of the 2013 version with slightly better ripeness. 91p. 2011 Cantelauze was surprisingly lighter than the 2013 version. Seemed quite closed. 90p.
No harvest activity here on the day of my visit (25th September) - harvest was at least two weeks away. Quick visit - I only tasted wines from the 2013 vintage and Tertre Roteboeuf from the 2010 vintage.
2013 Domaine de Cambes was soft-textured, fruity, and attractive with good balance. Chocolate aroma. Good effort for the vintage. 87p. 2013 Roc de Cambes had well-integrated ripe fruit with soft tannin and mellow structure. Lighter structure than usual this time. 89p. 2013 Tertre Roteboeuf was gracious, aromatic, sublime, dense, ripe fruit, and fresh. Impeccable winemaking. 94p. 2010 Tertre Roteboeuf wanted to keep everything private - it was closed.
The owner, Henri Bruno de Coincy, welcomed me and told me he expected quite a fine 2014 vintage. Harvest here was more than a week away. Tasting grapes revealed that skins still needed to obtain full phenolic ripeness. They were healthy and in huge quantities, as the picture below shows.
Merlot's pipes are red to light red at Belle Brise - an obvious sign of excellent maturity.