Seven tasting notes here, a rag-tag selection of wines from different sources all tasted during the 2010 primeurs tastings.
First up, a handful from 2009. These red 2009s (not the white 2009 Brown, now in bottle) were barrel samples, in each case (Pichon-Baron & Sociando-Mallet) tasted at the property after tasting the 2010s.
Next up, some wines from Brown and Clos Dubreuil. For the purpose of transparency, I receive some hospitality from Jean-Christophe Mau of Chateau Brown during the primeurs. This doesn’t mean I am feted at fine dinners, knocking back first growths, but it does mean I get a meal in the evening, usually at Chateau Brown on at least one occasion, or in a restaurant such as (this year) Au Bonheur du Palais, without a doubt one of my favourite restaurants in Bordeaux – and that’s after just one visit! Winedoctor earns such little income I find this support invaluable, although in truth it is the organisation (arranging visits and appointments at the likes of Latour, Petrus, etc) that is most valuable to me.
Over dinner Jean-Christophe usually serves wines from Brown, hence the notes below, although he often invites other winemakers to show their wines, and hence the wine of Benoit Trocard of Chateau Clos Dubreuil. He certainly has an interesting methodology, sure to raise a few eyebrows, especially considering the ‘natural wine’ vibe currently on the internet. Natural wines, following their showing at Borough Market in London earlier this week, are flavour of the month at the moment. I would urge anybody who believes that this is the ultimate overview of natural wine to make the trek down to Mark Angeli’s & Nicolas Joly’s Renaissance tasting in Angers though, which gives an unbridled view of the scene and all its styles. Most UK journos don’t bother though – I suspect because there is none of the hospitality there that I benefit from in Bordeaux. It is a wine fair I am almost unique (Jim Budd and Sarah Ahmed are the only other regulars) in reporting from; there was a small UK press contingent in 2009….on an Interloire-funded Sopexa press trip, if I recall correctly.
Anyway, back to Bordeaux. Readers deserve this information so that the notes on the Brown wines below can be viewed in this context, disregarded if the reader feels this is suitable, or at least viewed with a critical eye. I note, however, that on adding my notes to the Brown profile on Winedoctor that I scored the 2005 the same as previously, and the 2009 at the bottom end of my previously published range, so it doesn’t look as though I was carried away with the moment. As an important aside, my annual disclosure statement, such as this one for 2010, gives all the detail on received ‘benefits’ to facilitate this healthy scepticism.
Finally, one from Chateau Climens. This was also poured at Brown; it showed rather awkwardly I thought, rather top-heavy in style (very different to my assessment when it was freshly in bottle I see), so I have hedged my score rather, refusing to provide any conclusive judgement on it.
Chateau Pichon-Baron (Pauillac) 2009: An assessment of this wine after a further year in barrel. Tasted at the chateau. This has a good colour concentration. The nose is heavily marked by a rich, minty dark-chocolate character which surely relates to its time in oak. There is a lovely dark-fruit quality to it though, with some appealingly exotic elements already visible, include nuances of black olives, black tea and star anise. This same exotic richness comes though on the palate, which is beautifully seductive, with the dark flavours mirroring what was found on the nose accompanied by a firm, youthful blackcurrant fruit. A very polished composition, overall really stylish. Very long too. There is stunning quality here. Note though, this is not yet bottled. 18-19/20
Chateau Sociando-Mallet (Haut-Médoc) 2009: An assessment of this wine after a further year in barrel. Tasted at the chateau. The grand vin has a beautiful, black cherry nose, with a very pure fruit definition. I find the same quality on the palate, which is creamy yet perfumed and lifted, with notes of crunchy fruit skins alongside the plush fruit. In this youthful phase this still comes across as fleshy but harmonious nevertheless, with a flattering, polished finish and lingering tannins. Surprisingly, it is rather more grippy and tight than I expected. Although there is a lovely perfume to it though. A touch chalky. Very impressive and relaxed. 17-18/20
Les Demoiselles de Sociando (Haut-Médoc) 2009: An assessment of this wine after a further year in barrel. Tasted at the chateau. There is some very fine plummy fruit on the nose here, along with some brighter and fresher notes of red cherry. The palate seems surprisingly withdrawn though, and with a rather meaty layer of tannin wrapped around the red fruits. It has a lighter and chalky edge. and is only lightly perfumed. A decent second wine. 14-15/20
Chateau Brown Blanc (Pessac-Léognan) 2009: Tasted at Au Bonheur du Palais. This has plenty of creamy-pithy fruit on the nose, showing a little ripe citrus sweetness but always with a firm, pithy-zesty element coming in behind it. A good substance in the mouth, showing a solid grip, bold and firm, but livened up by lovely zesty quality to the fruit and very appealing acidity. A lovely effort. 17/20
Chateau Brown (Pessac-Léognan) 2005: Tasted at Au Bonheur du Palais. This still has a very youthful hue, although with some dark and claretty-red tones to it. Aromatically there is a touch of charcoal behind the fruit, although on the palate the latter of these elements shows through strongest. Underneath it all a fine grip, and there is a lovely richness to its substance. Very fine and, in keeping with the high quality of the vintage, still in need of much cellar time. 17/20
Chateau Clos Dubreuil (St Emilion) 2008: Tasted over dinner at Chateau Brown. This is a wine made by Benoit Trocard, and the method is certainly individual. The vineyard is on the St Emilion plateau, with a thin top layer of soil over the bedrock, the vines 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. The fruit was harvested on October 5th, and spends ten days soaking at 0ºC, this very low temperature maintained by the regular addition of dry ice. Then there is a temperature-regulated fermentation in barrel, and once completed the wine remains in the barrel for the élevage, during which it is rolled six times every day. The wine’s appearance is dark and glossy. with lots of oak apparent on the nose. Rather brawny super-ripe fruit, with a creamy polish to the texture in the mouth, and an intense plum character. Good grip and acid underneath it all, and what is best described as a long and powerful, tannic finish. The alcohol is 14.5%. A wine with an unusual story to tell, but judging by what is in the glass it is a good story. 17/20
Chateau Climens (Barsac) 2005: Tasted over dinner at Chateau Brown. Served blind. This has an intense and golden hue, loaded with botrytis, with rich, concentrated, honey and beeswax elements on the nose. The palate is just amazing; it has a huge richness of character, all super-concentrated, with a huge grip underpinning it all. It comes across as very bold and solid, and underneath all this exuberant richness I find the acidity struggles, in fact it hardly shows its face at all. I was amazed to see this was a Barsac, never mind Climens itself. Clearly a great effort but rather awkward at the moment, and I hope time in bottle brings a better, fresher balance out of it. A rather hedged and tentative score with that in mind. 16-17?/20