Yesterday I wrote mainly about Alfred Tesseron, in particular the early release of his wine, his reasoning and how the négociants responded. As a consequence I glossed over to a large extent the hectic activity of the day as I flew up and down the D2. The morning – all Pauillac – went very smoothly. It was in the afternoon that things started to fall apart. First, I hadn’t realised that the UGC tasting of St Julien, Pauillac and St Estèphe was split into two tastings this year, St Julien now going it alone (there is a story behind this – isn’t there always?). And thus, having finished the Pauillac-St Estèphe tasting, at Château Lafon-Rochet, I needed to find time to go to the St Julien tasting. This meant driving back down to Château Lagrange, which was hosting it. I had two choices; go for it, and risk turning up late at my next appointment, at Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste, or turn up early at Grand-Puy-Lacoste and then see if I can free up time afterwards. I opted for the former.
Happily this worked out alright, and when I turned up only two minutes late at Grand-Puy-Lacoste I was feeling pretty pleased with myself; you know what they say about pride and falls though. Then it was off to Château Calon-Ségur and Château Cos d’Estournel, followed by Château Montrose. It was at this point that my timings started to go awry, and by the time I arrived at my final appointment at Château Montrose the place was entirely deserted. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement; I had been hearing good things about Château Montrose on the rumour mill, and I wanted to see for myself what it was like. And there was no guarantee I would be able to return the next day. Naturally I fired off an email of apology for missing the appointment, not something I have had to do before, and just crossed my fingers that I would be able to get in on Wednesday.
Wednesday morning started with Château Margaux, followed by a blast northwards through Margaux and St Julien, with Château Palmer, Château d’Issan, Château Ducru-Beaucaillou and Château Léoville-Las-Cases. With each appointment I shaved a few minutes off my schedule, freeing up time for a dash northwards to St Estèphe. A quick phone call at midday to Montrose confirmed that I could visit again (thanks Marianne), any time after 4pm. That gave me time to head over to Château Clarke for the UGC Médoc, Moulis/Listrac and Haut-Médoc tasting, followed by Château Marquis de Terme for the UGC Margaux tasting. By this time I had so much time on my hands I headed north to Château Sociando-Mallet, on the last hurrah of the Médoc’s great gravel beds, before than coming back to Château Montrose. Was it worth the dashing about? Absolutely. Not only is the new cellar, upon which I cast my eyes for the first time, cathedral-like in its proportions, the wine is just as good as the rumour mill suggested. And it is not alone in this, there are some good wines in 2013. Of these, many are good but still for relatively early drinking, but quite a few are good, full stop, and that means capable of seeing out some time in the cellar. And with the acidity these wines have, Thomas Duroux of Château Palmer believes they may age better than people expect. With respect to a small subset of wines only – the likes of Palmer, Montrose, Cos d’Estournel, Pichon-Baron – I am inclined to agree with him. For all the other wines, buyer beware. You can find leanness and greenness in this vintage. And I encountered the unmistakeable scent of grey rot today, not only in a cru classé Sauternes but in a red wine too. These are rare wines though. Most wines are clean, with ripe but very fresh fruit, are acid-rich, but just a little too lean.
After Montrose, it was back through the Médoc, stopping off at Château du Retout to taste three vintages of their white wine, the best Bordeaux white you never heard of. The blend is illustrated above (it is Vin de France), and it would wipe the floor with most white Bordeaux. Looking at the back label reminds me of another interesting conversation I had with a gérant yesterday about appellation, white wines, and his interest in planting Chardonnay in Bordeaux, but perhaps that’s a story for another time. After Retout it was on to Château La Lagune, in order to taste the wine, which this year is not being presented at the UGC tastings as they have not blended. Instead, they are presenting four major components of the blend, à la the barrel tasting at Château Climens. This was fascinating, and as you might imagine there was a huge variation acrosst the four samples, with the old-vines Cabernet Sauvignon being my favourite by a country mile. Incidentally, I tasted with Maylis de Laborderie, the new maitre de chai, a dynamic youg woman who came to work at Château La Lagune in September 2013. Having graduated from Bordeaux University in 2011, she has since worked in Oregon, New Zealand, Chile’s Maipo Valley and Côte-Rôtie, which seems like an impressive curriculum vitae by any standards. I finished the day by mopping up in Sauternes, making sure I had tasted everything and retasting a handful.
That done, I headed over to the right bank, where I will put down roots for two days. Thursday morning I kick off at the Moueix offices to taste their wines. Then it’s Vieux Château Certan, Château Église-Clinet, Château Lafleur, Petrus and Château Le Gay – and that’s all before lunch. More Pomerol and some St Emilion in the afternoon. It’s going to be a long day.