Bordeaux 2015: Lost in Barsac
I have an 8am appointment this morning (Tuesday), so this latest update from the road in Bordeaux had better be a quick one. Yesterday was my Pessac-Léognan and Sauternes day, which always looks rather light on paper but usually starts early, and finishes late, with some long drives in the middle.
I kicked off at Château Pape-Clément yesterday morning, as noted in yesterday’s blog post. It’s a good thing I wrote that, because otherwise they wouldn’t have known I was coming. This year I seem to be making a habit of turning up for tastings which either don’t exist. or where I am not expected until some other time or date, or perhaps not at all. Not to worry, it was all very flexible chez Magrez, who very sensibly runs an open ‘self pour’ tasting (I like to think of it as a buffet, but with wine) and I soon got stuck in.
Thereafter I called in on Château La Mission Haut-Brion, where upon my arrival the estate seemed deserted, save for a handful of other recently arrived visitors who were wandering around the car park, seemingly wondering what to do. Usually they have hosts (it is a better word than bouncers) waiting to direct you, but they seem to have disappeared. After my trials getting here last week I did wonder if perhaps they had gone on strike. I marched round and entered via one of the 28 back doors, and went up to the wood-panelled tasting room. The other visitors weren’t brave enough to enter the first growth château without a quill-written invitation though, and I never saw tham again. I presume they were herded off into another tasting room, or perhaps they just went to pray in the chapel (for good release prices maybe) for a while?
The tasting at La Mission was informative as always, and Jean-Philippe Delmas (I recall last year one British visitor who was tasting alongside me insisted on calling him Jean-Bernard, his father’s name, throughout the entire tasting, so I try not to make that mistake) was of course a mine of information on the vintage and harvest. So it was a good tasting. I tasted all the usual wines, and I even tasted Clarendelle, the Bordeaux blend they make. This is really good quality in 2015, and it is staggering to think that this quality is combined with a 1.2-million bottle production (yes you read that right).
Then it was on to Château Haut-Bailly, and I managed not to get lost finding my way out of Bordeaux’s suburbs despite not having my sat-nav. Here I tasted with Véronique Sanders and was delighted to meet Robert Wilmers for the first time. Another great tasting here, and afterwards it was over to Château Bouscaut for a few hours tasting other Pessac-Léognan domaines, before a slog down to Barsac to call in on Château Climens. I am not sure I should make any comment on whether or not I got lost here without my sat-nav, but suffice to say within ten minutes of coming off the autoroute I had a sudden case of desert syndrome, losing all sense of which way is north or south, east or west. Having metaphorically lost my camel there was, sadly, no Lawrence of Arabia (played in the movie of my life by négociant and Sauternes guru Bill Blatch) riding back into the wilderness to lead me out, and I had to figure out whether the Garonne was on my right, or my left. I think I may have driven right through Barsac without noticing it – maybe I blinked. Whatever, I was now just as lost as those visitors at La Mission. Maybe I should also have paid the chapel a visit, and prayed for good signage?
I arrived twenty minutes late, not up to my usual standard. The barrel tasting with Bérénice Lurton (pictured above) and Frédéric Nivelle (the technical director) was as informative as ever. I really like tasting with staff as well as proprietors, as they offer keen insights different to those the proprietor gives you. The barrel samples were very elegant and remarkably consistent from lot to lot. Although I could sense the richness varying with the pickings, the differences weren’t as profound as they were in other years as you can often see one picking obviously weighed down with botrytis intensity, whereas others may be lighter, fresher and more elegant. Then it was on to Château Raymond-Lafond for a flying tasting before the long drive to my bed for the night, carefully picking my way around the Rocade on the way.
Today, a full programme, but no long drives. Calon-Ségur, Montrose, Cos d’Estournel, Lafite, Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Léovile-Las-Cases, the two Pichons, Pontet-Canet, Mouton, Latour and Ducru-Beaucaillou. I aim to finish before midnight.