Bordeaux 2015: Bumping
Friday morning, and it is the last day of primeurs, for me at least. There won’t be any tastings ongoing over the weekend, so the Bordelais can breath a sigh of relief. They can put their feet up for a couple of days, safe in the knowledge that the idiotic invasion of journalists has finished for another year. All they have to do first, for one more day, is pour me some wine. Sorry, I mean barrel samples – we all know these are unfinished wines which need to be viewed in that light.
I began Thursday at 9 am en forme, with a bare half-hour at Château Ausone to taste seven wines, get some chat about the vintage, quiz Pauline Vauthier on the location of the Fonbel vines (which has been puzzling me for some time) and then get to my next appointment in Pomerol at 9:30 am. Needless to say I was a little late, especially as I had cause to linger over the grand vin. Indeed, it turned out to be a tight schedule today. Next up was Château L’Église-Clinet, where Denis Durantou was on top form, and happily he didn’t notice I was ten minutes late. He was being helped out by one of his three daughters, Constance, an aspiring young journalist who I imagine will go far. It was a fine tasting, and it was great to bump into David Bolomey here, of Bolomey Wijnimport Amsterdam, a leading fine wine merchant in the Netherlands. Indeed, today was a day for ‘bumping’ into people.
I did continue to run a little behind schedule for the rest of the morning. Leaving Denis I hotfooted it over to Château Cheval Blanc, where as everybody knows they declassified the second wine into the grand vin this year, or something like that. I tasted with Nicolas Corporandy, the chef de culture (he looks after the vines); as you can imagine he was a goldmine of information on how the different parcels behaved during 2015 (generalising, the vines were all good litte boys and girls, and they all behaved very well). After a slurp of 2015 Château d’Yquem in the company of the ever-informative and ever-voguish Sandrine Garbay, I then raced to Château Figeac, succeeding in driving past the first entrance on to the estate (which is huge), so I figured I would carry on and take the next, which I also rocketed past, so I slowed down a little for the third. Made it.
After Figeac (bumped into Tim Atkin, Charles Metcalfe, Christy Canterbury here) it was over to Château Angélus, which was heaving with visitors, all eager to taste the grand vin as well as all the wines for which Hubert de Boüard de Laforest consults, which must be 50 or 60 domaines (I have a list somewhere). In the car park I was directed to a space so tiny I immediately took it as a challenge to my parking prowess, indeed my masculinity was suddenly at stake. I made full use of the mirrors, and took great care to get it lined up straight; I then proceeded to edge my car in, reversing naturally, until I was safely inserted into the gap. I had succeeded; it was a day for bumping into people, but not for bumping into other cars, much to my relief. Had there been any spectators I am sure I would have received a round of applause. The clapping would no doubt have intensified when I realised the space was so tight I couldn’t open either door more than two inches. I briefly considered climbing out through the tailgate and across the petunias, but decided against it. I drove out and selected another space that was marginally wider, all under the withering gaze of the parking attendant. Although I suspect he was rather content with the outcome, as he could now direct the next unsuspecting visitor to his special micro-space.
Afterwards came the UGC St Emilion Grand Cru Classé tasting at Château La Couspaude; most of the barrel samples shown here I had tasted before, elsewhere, but it was good to take a second look. Usually these tastings also provide a bite to eat, but when I enquired “pas aujourd’hui” was the response, so I left hungry for an afternoon of flying visits in Pomerol, to Château Lafleur, then Petrus, Vieux Château Certan (bumped into Finn Petteri Harjula of Tasting Company and his colleagues here), Château La Conseillante and finally Château l’Évangile. That is an afternoon only the most hard-hearted of wine lovers could resist. Particularly enjoyable was La Conseillante, because after tasting the 2015 blended samples winemaker Marielle Cazeaux, newly appointed in July 2015, took me through a tasting of different Merlots and Cabernet Francs from barrel (as pictured above), looking at the different quality levels as they related to the grand vin and deuxième vin. Fascinating stuff. And wow, that Cabernet Franc!
I finished up with the UGC Pomerol tasting at Château Beauregard. What struck me most here, and at the earlier St Emilion tasting, was how well many of the wines were showing compared to samples of the same wine previously encountered at négociant tastings. I have said before I believe it is important for me to taste from different samples, at different venues, but it might be more important simply to pick and choose where I taste. Focused appellation tastings, with a better number of visitors and smaller number of wines, which turnover quickly, may well be better than the négociant tastings where hundreds of wines sit open for hours on end, while a mere handful of zombie-tasters wander around from bottle to bottle, wondering why eveything tastes a little flat, loose and oaky.
Today, Friday, another blend of Pomerol and St Emilion, beginning with the Moueix wines, ending with the glories of François Mitjavile.