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Bordeaux 2013: On the Right Bank

My primeurs week continues, and I’m now on the right bank. Thursday was a day of Pomerol in the morning, and a mix of Pomerol and St Emilion in the afternoon. The weather was absolutely miserable, with grey skies and rain all day, sometimes light but sometimes very heavy. Dashing from car to tasting room in order not to get soaked to the skin was the order of the day.

The morning was fascinating, as I toured sme of the top names of the Pomerol appellation, starting at the Moueix offices on the Libourne quayside. This tasting usually includes a full line-up of their Pomerols, plus a handful of St Emilions, but there were a few wines missing this year, and these absentees served as an indicator of the difficulty of the vintage. First, in St Emilion, no Château Puy-Blanquet this year, as the vineyard was hit by hail and they took the decision to sell off the enture crop in bulk. Secondly, coming back to Pomerol, due to millerandage there is no wine from Château Hosanna nor from Providence. So it was a somewhat contracted line-up here.

Thereafter it was on to Vieux Château Certan where Guillaume Thienpont (pictured below) was pouring the 2013. The story told here was in contrast to that I heard elsewhere, in that most reported problems with Merlot more than any other variety. Here Alexandre and Guillaume Thienpont found the Merlot to be of good quality, and were less convinced by the Cabernets this year. As a consequence, the wine here has more Merlot and less Cabernet than it has had for many decades. After that, it was a dash to Château Église-Clinet, to taste with Denis Durantou, Château Lafleur to taste with Baptiste Guinaudeau, Petrus and then Château Le Gay. To say there were some good wines in amongst this little lot would be an understatement. This really has been a primeurs worth coming for – it is a vintage where you can sift through all that is on offer and find some real successes. And isn’t that what wine critics are for – to guide willing drinkers towards wines worth buying? I’m in danger of repeating myself here though, of getting back on the you-can’t-judge-without-tasting track, and so I’ll move on now.

Guillaume Thienpont

The afternoon kicked off with the UGC Pomerol tasting, and then a quick stop at Château L’Évangile before heading next-door to Château Cheval Blanc to taste with the very knowledgable technical director Pierre-Olivier Clouet. Here I also picked up a taste of Château d’Yquem, before heading next-door again (you see, there is some planning in my timetable!) to Château La Dominique for the UGC St Emilion tasting. I have never been to this château before, but sadly as it was still bucketing down I wasn’t going to hang around to take any photographs, although I would have very much liked to have done so.

There were some surprisingly convincing wines at this tasting; you might think with the tendency at some estates in St Emilion to over-extract that the wines would end up terribly over-worked. But there are in fact some really notable successes here, wines brimming with fruit, as there are in Pomerol. They are wines of genuine structure, and the fruit is really fresh yet ripe and dark; some are very convincing wines, remarkable efforts when you time the time to consider once again the trials of the growing season.

Although it was now late afternoon I had two more tastings to go. First I headed into St Emilion, parking up at the top of town and then braving the rain (the evening before I flew out last weekend I had been hunting for an umbrella but couldn’t find one – just my luck) to walk through the cobbled streets to Jean-Luc Thunevin’s tasting. As usual (as there were in 2012), there were some pretty smart wines here. And then for a final hurrah, I headed out to the wilds of Vignonet, on the plain below St Emilion, for a tasting of the wines of Jonathan Maltus. That was a pretty good way to round up a long day of tasting. It was, to say the least, a late finish.

Friday is my final day of primeur tasting. Some more big-name St Emilions today, including Château Pavie, Château Angélus, the Neipperg wines, Château Tertre-Roteboeuf and then back into Pomerol to mop up there. My timetable is a little lighter – I have even allowed myself a lunch break today. Perhaps I will be able to use it to catch up on some sleep!

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