I have visited Sociando-Mallet a number of times now, the first time being in December 2006 when I took this slightly blurry photograph of the 2006 vintage being transferred into barrel, shortly after tasting a tank sample (which, prior to malolactic, seemed almost to taste of the very steel itself). As each barrel is filled, a rag soaked in the wine is rubbed around its waist to indicate this. In the background there is another barrel, freshly filled, the wine trickling down its waist, ready for the same treatment. The combined aromas of freshly fermented Cabernet and Merlot, mixed with the sweet smell of new oak, was a heady combination.
Return visits to Sociando have largely been during the primeur tastings. Being neither a cru classé nor a cru bourgeois estate, proprietor Jean Gautreau does not have an obvious arena in which to show his wines. He isn’t a member of the UGC, and he has shunned the cru bourgeois lot (not a bad decision considering the classification debacle), and so he can’t exactly turn up at their organised tastings with the intention of pouring his wine for the eager critics and buyers. The solution? Simple – organise lunch; every day during the primeurs, hungry tasters descend on Sociando-Mallet to take advantage of cold meats followed by a delicious daube of beef with peas. It is a win-win situation – the tasters get fed, and move onto their next appointment. Gautreau gets an unparalleled exposure for his latest vintage. I was there in 2008, again in 2009, and who knows about 2010? I hope I will be there, eating his daube of beef once again. We shall see….
Incidentally, bearing in mind the recent issues Parker and his associates have had with disclosure and inappropriate socialising, I should point out that there are dozens of individuals at this particular trough every day. I doubt Gautreau would even recognise me, never mind suggest I should be giving his wine a favourable review. Lunch at Sociando-Mallet is self-service and very functional, for putting bums on seats (or more specifically wine into the mouths of tasters who otherwise might not visit), not a cosy tête-à-tête designed to produce warm and glowing reviews.
The following notes are for three wines tasted at Sociando-Mallet when I visited there earlier this year. After tasting the 2008, the note for which I have already published in my Bordeaux 2008 review, we went on to taste the 2007, the second wine from 2006, and over lunch the 2004. I have also added these new notes to my Sociando profile.
Chateau Sociando-Mallet (Haut-Médoc) 2007: A nice aroma, with gentle perfumed fruit. A moderate texture, still with a firm tannic structure which makes it a little austere. Quite a bit of substance here to match though. There is some appealing, violet-tinged fruit peeking through as well. 15-15.5+/20 (April 2009)
Chateau Sociando-Mallet (Haut-Médoc) 2004: Tasted over lunch, this already shows a delightfully maturing fruit character on the nose, with fresh red fruits intermingling with notes of tea leaves. Fresh, gentle, stylish, but with quite a lot of structure, this is showing fine composition and substance today. Very good indeed. 17/20 (April 2009)
La Demoiselle de Sociando-Mallet (Haut-Médoc) 2006: Not very expressive on the nose today, with just some perfumed and chalky red fruit. Nice acidity, slightly grippy. Textured, bright, showing a lot of structure and mineral notes on this tasting. Rather stony in the middle, but with a nice, lifted freshness. Good. 14.5+/20 (April 2009)