Bordeaux 2015: Rocky Balboa
Yesterday morning saw a relaxed start. That doesn’t mean I had a lie-in, because my first tasting was at Château Calon-Ségur at 8am. Indeed, the rebbiting frogs and hooting owls outside my window did their best to prevent me having any sleep at all. Not to mention the axe-murderers who creep around the grounds at night, ready to pick off unsuspecting victims (or maybe that is my nocturnal imagination getting the better of me – less cheese for supper, perhaps?). It just means that, as I was sleeping up in the Bas-Médoc (does anybody actually use that term any more?), near Lesparre-Médoc, I only had a twenty-minute drive to get there. That’s quite a contrast with Monday morning, which began with a drive lasting 1 hour 35 minutes, including a slow creep onto the Rocade, the famous car park – sorry, I mean ring road – that encircles Bordeaux.
All the same, the day couldn’t go without a hitch. It simply couldn’t. You can’t fit twelve visits with tastings, one lunch, and one UGC tasting into a single day without something going badly wrong. All the same I set off with controlled determination in the face of adversity, like Rocky Balboa stepping into the ring. Only less muscular. And more intelligible (most of the time). And without boxing gloves (these never work well in the driving seat – I’ve had a go – although I did find that when I tried typing while wearing boxing gloves my tasting notes made more sense).
So after Calon-Ségur I sauntered down the road to Château Montrose, then it was on to Château Cos d’Estournel, followed by a very short drive down the hill to Château Lafite-Rothschild. Believe it or not (and you should perhaps take most things said about the primeurs with a pinch of salt) I was by this time ten minutes ahead of schedule. This is despite not only tasting, but grilling every manager, technical director or hapless work experience youth who happened to be there on the vintage, the weather and the wines. I then hot-footed it out to Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste where François-Xavier Borie was doing splendid Winedoctor PR for me, ensuring every visitor was fully informed regarding my presence. I might have to put him on the payroll. Then it was back to Château Pichon-Baron for a tasting, and lunch with Christian Seely (pictured below). This brought the unexpected benefit of being permitted, only in Christian’s company, to walk across the grass in front of the château. Please don’t try to imitate this if you visit though, as they have snipers positioned on the rooftop just waiting for you to step onto the green stuff.
A twelve-visit day needs thoughtful organisation, so unsurprisingly after lunch it was a quick stroll (don’t believe this – you know full well I took the car) across the road to Château Pichon-Lalande for a tasting with Nicolas Glumineau, and then a quick dash to Château Pontet-Canet, followed up by Château Mouton-Rothschild. Here I chatted with Philippe Dhalluin, another of Bordeaux’s most charming characters, about the vintage, and I also met again Philippe Sereys de Rothschild who is now very involved in the family business. Oh, I also tasted some wine of course. Mustn’t forget that. In case it isn’t clear, I did taste some wine during every visit. Always the 2015 as it happens. Funny that.
Except for Château Latour of course. One or two estates offered tastes of the 2014 as well, but only Château Latour brought out the older bottles, as of course these days their sales are solely through release of older vintages. After the three 2015 barrel samples, I got stuck into the 2010 Pauillac de Latour, the 2009 Les Forts de Latour and the 2000 Château Latour. One of those was ‘spat backwards’ as they say, no prizes for guessing which. Then with an hour to kill I headed out to Château Gruaud-Larose for the UGC trade tastings. I turned up without a badge and with no certainty I would get in, but my name was in the system (a rare case of ‘computer says yes’, although the line was delivered by a hostess slightly more easy on the eye than David Walliams in a skirt) and I spent a happy forty minutes tasting alphabetically, from Château Beychevelle to Château Talbot. To round things off, a visit to check out the wines at Château Ducru-Beaucaillou, before heading back to my base for my two days on the Médoc. I spent the evening supping on a delicious bottle of Château de Cérons 2007, proof that Bordeaux isn’t only for those willing to reduce their personal ‘kidney count’.
I said a twelve-visit day couldn’t go without a hitch. But it turns out I was wrong. And what a day it was.
Today, who knows what will happen. I am driving down to the UGC press tastings in the Malmut football stadium, followed by visits in Margaux, Haut-Médoc, possibly a Sauternes top-up (provided Château Rieussec, one of the significant wines I haven’t tasted, turns up to the appropriate tasting) and if I have time at the end of the day a rummage through some of the cru bourgeois wines, before I head over to the right bank for more luscious, Merloty, rocket-fuelled hedonism. Wish me luck. Or send me evil thoughts through the ether. Depending on how you feel about Bordeaux, obviously.