Strike or no strike, both my British Airways flights took off and landed successfully; Sunday evening was to Gatwick, and Monday morning was to Bordeaux. Landing shortly after 10am we swiftly picked up a hire car (it pays to be the first in the queue) and then went on to our first tasting. Everything had gone swimmingly, and I am glad to say this trend continued for the whole day.
Highlights of the day include a very fine set of wines at Margaux (where we were greeted not only by Paul Pontallier but also Corinne Mentzelopoulos – shown left – who poured the wines); the reds were elegant and pure, understated too, the only white – the 100% Sauvignon Blanc AC Bordeaux known as Pavillon Blanc de Margaux – was vibrant, racy and fresh, and perhaps showing a little more lively and direct than in other recent vintages. The alcohol is down, too, which helps I am sure.
Other notable wines include d’Issan, which although not a crowd pleaser has a very classically styled composition, less exotic and sweet than many other wines in this vintage, more meaty and earthy, but still streets away from the d’Issan of old. Also Ducru-Beaucaillou, a huge vin de garde which will need cellaring for 30 years. Anyone who tells you that this wine is for anyone other than your children – or maybe even your grandchildren – must have had their tasting blinkers on.
Before the Pessac tasting, featuring wines from Pape-Clément, Haut-Bailly, Smith-Haut-Lafitte and others, a quick trip to La Mission Haut-Brion was in order. This was for me perhaps the most disappointing visit of the day. Firstly I find, old thick-head that I am, the continuing program of name changes confusing; this year amongst the seven wines (all with Haut-Brion in the name) I tasted La Clarté Haut-Brion Blanc and La Mission Haut-Brion Blanc – the former Les Plantiers (the second wine to Haut-Brion/La Mission) and the latter the old Laville Haut Brion. Secondly I was a little underwhelmed by the red wines; they were very good, but I failed to be moved by Haut-Brion and La Mission in the manner which I expect. I know from the general chat, however, that I am in a very small minority, so lovers of these two estates should not despair. The whites, however, were fine – the Haut-Brion Blanc was, indeed, delicious. Top wine!