Bordeaux 2014 Primeurs: Prologue
I arrived in Bordeaux early Saturday morning. It wasn’t too much of a trial getting here. I flew from Edinburgh to Gatwick Friday evening, and apart from waiting half an hour for a bus to take us from the plane to the terminal, it was fine. Then an early flight out Saturday morning meant that I was in my hire car heading for the right bank before lunch. Sadly, the weather was grey, drizzly and wet, and it has remained that way all weekend. I’m not a great believer in the concept that tasters are sensitive to low atmospheric pressure though, regardless of how many wine experts say that bad weather is disadvantageous for wine tasting (the science just doesn’t really stack up in support of this, but I don’t want to digress so I will leave it at that), and so I have been happy tasting for at least half the weekend, come rain or shine (mostly rain).
Saturday was pretty light. I had a few hours to spare before checking in at my hotel well outside Bordeaux, in Bergerac, and I spent it looking at vineyards in Pomerol, Lalande-de-Pomerol, St Emilion and Castillon. It is remarkable that two of these appellations command such high prices, while the other two do not, and yet their terroir is so similar. This is particularly true of St Emilion and Castillon, the latter benefiting from the same limestone terroir as the former, but without the same reputation and the classification system prices remain low. Speaking to Denis Durantou on Saturday evening, he lamented the fact that so many in Bordeaux choose to invest in second projects in Argentina or California when so much wonderful terroir on their doorstep goes unexploited. Denis, of course, has invested heavily in Château Montlandrie in Castillon, to which I paid a flying visit during the course of Saturday afternoon (you see, it’s not all about the first growths and similar on Winedoctor).
I was chatting to Denis because I headed out to Château Thénac in Bergerac on Saturday evening for a tasting, first of the Thénac wines, then of Château L’Église-Clinet. If you are wondering what the connection is, Denis consults at Thénac, and has done since the 2012 vintage. It was a bit of a trip down memory lane for me, because although a fair distance from Bordeaux I know the region quite well, having spent a holiday here a few years ago. I enjoyed the cheap accommodation available in Bergerac, but would drive up to Pomerol, or across to Sauternes, to visit the likes of Jacques Guinaudeau at Château Lafleur or Aline Baly at Château Coutet.
Anyway, I digress. I tasted a number of recent vintages from Thénac, a beautiful estate (no shortage of investment here, obviously, the owner having made his money in oil), which in the case of the older vintages showed the potential of the vineyard, and in more recent times showed a step up in finesse and quality in the post-Durantou vintages. Then it was onto L’Église-Clinet, featuring wines (some pictured above) from 1995 through to 2005, in several cases from magnum as well as bottle to allow comparison. Suffice to say this was a truly great tasting, which demonstrated how things have improved here during this ten-year period. My favourite vintages were, perhaps somewhat predictably, the 1998, 2000 and also the 2005, this latter vintage showing much better than the bottle I tasted recently in my Bordeaux 2005 at Ten Years assessment.
Today, after not enough sleep, curtailed by the clocks going forward, I kicked off in St Emilion with the Cercle Rive Droite tasting, followed by visits to see Jonathan Maltus and also Château Lassegue, an estate which we should be aware of, and like the Castillon region it illustrates the value of the terroir east of the ‘classic’ St Emilion centre. I hope to be able to taste more of the Lassegue wines soon. Then it was on to the Vintex tasting for a slice of left bank action, with various interesting wines including the most exotic and exuberant vintage of Le Retout Blanc I have ever tasted, followed by a huge slew of Sauternes, just about every cuvée you could imagines. There were just one or two absentee wines (Rieussec, for example) so I hope to pick these up later in the week.
Finally, after some hastily scoffed slices of cheese and baguette to help wipe away the sugar, a short drive north saw me arrive at Château Cambon la Pelouse for the Biturica tasting. This was well worth going to; there were just five châteaux in attendance (there are only five members of the group), but there were some lovely wines, not just Cambon la Pelouse but also the wines of Belle-Vue, Gironville and Clos du Jaugueyron were particularly appealing, and even at this level (left bank Cru Bourgeois) they could wipe the floor with many of the right bank wines I had tasted earlier in the day.
Well, that was the weekend. On Monday I hear Haut-Brion, Pape-Clément, Haut-Bailly, Raymond-Lafon and Climens calling, as well as one or two other visits for up and coming profiles.