Bordeaux 2014 Primeurs: Rain on the Rocade
No visit to Bordeaux can be purely about the latest vintage, even if this is primeurs week, when samples of the 2014 are piled high waiting to be tasted. I’m in Bordeaux, so I think it would be silly not to take advantage of this, to visit domaines I haven’t been to before (even if they don’t have any interest in the primeurs) or, as I did before Saturday night’s L’Église-Clinet tasting, spending a few hours checking out vineyards, and taking some photographs. So yesterday (Monday) my final visit was in Sauternes, to a domaine I have never visited before. I tasted the latest releases, which included one vintage from when I was in second year at university (bear in mind my twenty-year reunion date was last year), and one from when I was still at primary school. A more compelling antithesis to the concept of tasting embryonic barrel samples would be impossible to find. But I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s start with the morning.
I left my accommodation at 6:30am, giving me 90 minutes (my appointment was at 8am) to complete a 60 minute journey, the extra half hour being to allow for rush hour traffic. It was raining, but progress was good, until I made it to within a few miles of the Rocade, Bordeaux’s notorious ring-road. It was gridlock, the reason being an accident somewhere ahead, the wet weather no doubt being a factor in this, and from then on I crawled along. I arrived at Château La Mission Haut-Brion 45 minutes late, not really my finest moment, as I am religious about turning up on time for château appointments. Fortunately nobody seemed to mind and as I travel and taste independently, rather than in a big group, it is probably easier to accommodate me for tasting if I am early (not likely!) or late.
I often find my 8am tasting at La Mission Haut-Brion (this is a regular feature on my schedule) a pretty quiet affair, as most people are still tucking into their croissants at this time. The advantage of being late was catching up with Jean-Philippe Delmas, who showed up at 9am. It’s an interesting vintage here and at Haut-Brion, with very high alcohol levels in some cuvées, and also the strident acidity which is a feature of the vintage. As the day progressed I managed to make up time. I was only 25 minutes late by the time I made it to Château Pape Clément, 20 minutes late at Château Haut-Bailly, and getting back to normality by the time I hit the press tasting of Graves at Château Rouillac. I arrived here two hours before the start time, having discussed this with the syndicat who gave my early kick-off the go-ahead, but unfortunately nobody told the staff at the château. Cue much frantic pulling of corks……
Later (much later, there are a lot of vines planted in Graves) it was down to Sauternes, first to Château Climens for the usual brilliant barrel tasting (do they ever make a bad wine at Climens these days?), then Château Raymond-Lafon, and then my final visit of the day, to meet Xavier Gonet-Medeville of Château Les Justices and Château Gilette in Preignac. After a tour of the estate we tasted some wine (surprise!), starting with 2014, but then looking at the current and forthcoming releases of Château Gilette. These include the 1990 Crème de Tête, bottled three years ago, after eighteen years in vat, and the 1979 Crème de Tête, bottled years and years ago but currently held back for release at forty years of age. So, just another four years to wait before we can all get our hands on this then. What a great visit this was, and what a contrast to the primeurs merry-go-round of barrel samples, and all the inherently intertwined commercial pressure that comes with it.
Today (Tuesday) it is northern left bank, so that means Calon-Ségur, Pontet-Canet, Mouton-Rothschild, Lafite-Rothschild, Latour, Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Montrose, Cos d’Estournel, Pichon-Baron and probably one or two others. Fingers crossed for less rain, and fewer accidents…..