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Bordeaux 2022 Primeurs: Pessac-Léognan, Red

Bordeaux 2022 Primeurs: Pessac-Léognan, Red

It was still dark, the Sun seemingly reluctant to cast its heavenly light on another day of primeurs tastings, as I headed out to my first appointment.

I have a habit of arriving pathologically early for each day’s first tasting, although it depends on just how many miles (or kilometres, Twingo’s preferred unit of measurement) I have to travel. There was one primeurs trip, too many campaigns ago now to remember exactly what year, when I was staying high up on the Médoc, while my first appointment was at 08h00 at Château La Mission Haut-Brion. That’s an hour and a half behind the wheel at any time, but with heavy rain on rush hour traffic, an accident ahead soon brought the Rocade and seemingly the entirety of Bordeaux’s road network to a standstill. My journey time doubled; more than three hours after setting off I finally sat down to taste, late not only for that appointment, but already late for the next one too. It was not a relaxing start to a day of tasting.

So this is my solution. Get up early. Beat the traffic. Beat the rain (err, y’know, if it’s raining). Arrive on time.

Pessac-Léognan 2022

Of course the side effect is that I now often arrive far too early. So Twingo and I enjoyed a little nap outside the gates of Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion, as the Sun began to peek over the rooftops, illuminating and warming the vines of this property’s suburban vineyard.

Yes, a nap. I acknowledge this is somewhat different to my pre-Pomerol routine. Different appellation, you see.

Exactly forty winks later, I crossed the threshold of this ancient Carmelite landscape for my meeting with technical director Guillaume Pouthier.

I first met Guillaume Pouthier back in 2016, and I was impressed with what he was doing here. Having arrived from the Rhône Valley, where he had worked with Chapoutier, he was bringing new ideas and practices to Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion. He was trialling biodynamics and the use of horses in the vineyard, while inside newly constructed cellars he was introducing whole-bunch fermentation. Nothing unusual about that if you’re working with Pinot Noir or maybe Syrah, but it is a novelty when you’re working with Bordeaux varieties, in Bordeaux’s climate (but the climate is changing, of course). He was also experimenting with micro-vinifications in microscopic cuves, the size of a casserole dish (well, alright, perhaps a little bigger than a casserole dish – more of a chip pan, perhaps). And he was trialling 160-litre terracotta amphorae which sat in the cellar slowly seeping Cabernet Franc concentrate; I recall licking the sticky and savoury nectar from the surface (well, I don’t want to sound too weird, so let’s say I swiped it up with my index finger and licked that) and I was blown away by the salty intensity of the flavour.

It was clear Guillaume was going to do great things, and I wrote up Guillaume Pouthier’s work in a three-part report, concluding that Guillaume has achieved something special here. Not only has he lifted the quality of wines made on this estate, he has also produced something distinctive, something out of the ordinary. And in Bordeaux, that is very welcome.

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