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Château Haut-Bergey 2005

Château Haut-Bergey 2005

As I wrote recently, I’ve recently completed a series of Sauternes updates. In truth, it is impossible to ‘complete’ an appellation, because there are always new vintages and new cuvées on the horizon, and estates as yet undiscovered. Nevertheless, with most of my reports and photographs used up, I think it’s time to move on, and I now have Pessac-Léognan lined up in my sights; I started last week with this Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte update.

One of the pleasures of focusing on a single appellation in this manner is it provides an excellent excuse to pull some bottles from the cellar for drinking; although I haven’t highlighted it in my weekly wine selections, I have been working my way through a fair number of examples of Sauternes recently, from familiar wines such as the 2001 Château Sigalas-Rabaud (that is one I did write up), to aged bottles from the cellar, from the likes of Château Climens and Château Suduiraut, to less familiar estates, in particular Château Partarrieu (which I must also get around to adding to my list of profiles….so I haven’t really finished at all). Tracking down and tasting – sorry, I mean drinking – wines from less commonly encountered châteaux is one of wine’s joys I think, and this week’s wine choice encompasses both of the above themes, being an unfamiliar estate from the Pessac-Léognan appellation.

Château Haut-Bergey 2005

Château Haut-Bergey is one of a number of châteaux that sit under the Vignobles Garcin umbrella, along with Château Barde-Haut, Clos L’Église and Château Branon. This was the first of the estates to have been purchased by Sylviane Garcin, in 1991, before going to purchase the other estates later that same decade. I must confess the style of some of the wines – especially those from the right bank châteaux – have not always appealed to me in the past, displaying a lack of freshness in the fruit definition, sometimes accompanied by meaty, balsamic-tinged overtones. Happily although the 2005 Château Haut-Bergey comes in a ripe style, it also maintains the freshness and communal character that we would expect from the appellation, reflecting the gravelly clay soils and perhaps also the restrained use of new oak, which accounts for just 50% of the barrels. Although I’m sure a lot of it is to do with harvest decisions more anything else. Today the estate is managed by Hélène Garcin-Lévêque, as indeed are all the Garcin-Cathiard châteaux.

The 2005 Château Haut-Bergey shows only a very light sediment at present, and the wine spent a couple of hours in the decanter (while I was out at my French class, not that it matters I suppose). A very dark hue in the glass, a matt, black-tinged claret, with a very opaque core. The nose offers up plenty of fruit at first, but on returning to the wine later the first aromas it offers up tend towards more gamey nuances. Even though these are persistent, however, they are fleeting, and when I look more closely I see more classic elements closer to gravel, tobacco and autumnal leaves, perhaps more typical of the commune. The palate soothes with a gentle flesh at first, although through the middle it is a little less fat than expected, pleasingly so, as there is still more than enough texture for me. This substance helps to hide the seam of appealingly ripe and sinewy tannins, making the wine seem more approachable than I would have expected at this stage. Indeed this is true throughout the palate, save for the finish where the structure shows through a little more, although the tannins are so ripe and well formed they never distract. An attractive wine, surprisingly approachable although still plenty of miles under the bonnet yet I think. 16.5/20 (12/11/12)

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