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Château Meyney 2003

Recently, a bit of late night chat with an MW and a Bordeaux winemaker saw us broach the topic of underperforming Bordeaux châteaux, purportedly with the idea that the aforementioned winemaker, owner of a minor but delightful Bordeaux estate, might purchase said château and vineyard and successfully turn it around, to great acclaim from all corners, achieving a modicum of fame and success along the way. Fanciful talk of course, fuelled by several courses at dinner (including the obligatory foie gras with Sauternes, a feature of seemingly every dinner in Bordeaux), a couple of clarets, and one or two glasses of cognac. Our conversation touched on several classed growths, some undoubtedly going through a very sleepy phase (Rauzan-Gassies), and some with rather more vigour, but perhaps open to an injection of new enthusiasm (Cantemerle, perhaps, although I confess I quite like Cantemerle in the right vintages). Then, with perhaps a touch more realism, we moved onto a number of Cru Bourgeois estates. It wasn't long before someone threw Château Meyney into the fray.

Chateau MeyneyMeyney has, in the past, enjoyed a really very good reputation. The 1989 vintage, in particular, was one in which it punched way above its weight. Opinions on more recent vintages, however, are mixed, with some critics finding the wines during the decade that followed to be lacking and overly robust. Any failings in the wine at this time may well have reflected failings in the company that owned Meyney, Domaines Cordier. Heavily in debt, Cordier sold off its portfolio of prestigious assets around the turn of the century, and thus the onetime owner of Gruaud-Larose, Lafaurie-Peyraguey, Talbot and numerous other estates left the scene, to concentrate on its branded wines, brands such as Sensual Fruit and Collection Privée. No, I haven't heard of them either.

But what of the estate now? Is it still underperforming? Should my château-owning acquaintance dip into his pockets? I pulled a bottle of Château Meyney 2003 in order to take a look at a recent vintage, one in which the estate may well have benefited from its location, as the heavy moisture-retaining soils of St Estèphe giving these more northerly estates of the Médoc an advantage in this heat-stressed year. On pouring, it certainly has a deep, rich colour which is redolent of many other wines of this vintage that I have so far tasted. On the nose, there is no suggestion of anything approaching disappointment; this wine offers a fine array of perfume, with a melange of cassis, graphite, smoke and coffee, this is a very expressive and attractive bouquet. The palate follows through, with a remarkable well-knit backbone of tannins, rather than the huge and obtrusive wall experienced with many wines of 2003. They have a lovely ripe, velvety feel. The wine has a fine, plump, presence, with rather low acidity, but with good but with grip and backbone. This gives lots of pleasure now, but is not really for the long haul as it doesn't possess the structure normally associated with this vintage, or that which I would like to see in a wine destined for the cellar, but it is lovely now and should remain so over the next few years I think. This is atypical for the vintage, in that it appears to have a much gentler seam of tannins than other wines, but I find that a welcome relief. It clearly isn't in the vein of the great wines made under Cordier before the 1990s, but it is nevertheless most certainly a success. I think anyone planning to buy this property had better speak very nicely to their bank manager; an estate capable of turning out such an attractive wine, even if it is with the aid of a favourable vintage, won't be going for a song. 17/20 (15/1/07)

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