March 29, 2010
This tasting of wines from the Right Bank was held at the Grand Barrail Hotel in St.-Émilion. This is one of my favourite tastings of the week because the vast majority of the wines are not the usual suspects (the Grand Cru Classé wines) and it includes wines from many of the smaller appellations where good value wines can be found, including: the Cotes, Lalande de Pomerol, and the St.-Émilion satellite appellations.
Overall, the wines were very good. It is hard to describe the character of a vintage after a single tasting, but I would say that this vintage is characterized by pure fruit, seemingly sufficient acidity, soft or silky tannins, and higher than normal alcohol levels. All in all – these are very good wines – but, I am concerned about two things with this vintage. First, some of the tannins may be too soft. Few of the wines had the characteristic tannic attack that comes with tasting en primeur wines, and most of the wines taste good now, which means that this vintage may age faster than expected. In all fairness – this tasting did not have representation from many of the top Chateaux, and, it may be that the structure I am looking for shows up at the Grand Cru Classé tastings later in the week. Second, I am concerned about the creeping levels of alcohol in Bordeaux. As many of you know, I am a huge fan of mature Bordeaux in the 12.5% range, and I wonder, as the alcohol levels rise every year, whether Bordeaux is playing a dangerous game with its distinctiveness. In 2009, wine makers did not have much of a choice, because it was so hot that they had a lot of sugar in the fruit. But, when given the opportunity to taste a number of wines from the same appellation, as we did at this tasting, I am always surprised with how similar they are. . .
I will post full tasting notes on all the wines after my return from Bordeaux. But, here are my highlights and favourite wines from each of the appellations that I tasted:
St.-Émilion: These wines are elegant and beautiful with ripe concentrated fruit and good acidity. The two exceptions to this description are the Peby-Faugeres and Faugeres which, true to their character, were much darker, concentrated, and bigger than their counterparts. The Ch. Rol Valentin in particular was very elegant. Favourite wines: Peby-Faugeres, Ch. Faugeres, Ch. Rol Valentin, Ch. Fleur Cardinale, Ch. Fonplégade and Ch. Barde Haut. Unfortunately, the Ch. Quinault L’Enclos, which is usually one of my favourites, was just a touch below where I expected it to be in comparison with the other wines.
Pomerol: These wines were bigger, darker and more concentrated than the St.-Émilion’s and showed very well. More power over elegance here. The La Fleur de Gay especially showed some very interesting secondary aromas and flavours that should evolve over time. Favourites: Ch. La Fleur de Gay, Ch. La Clemence, Ch. Feytit Clinet, and Ch. Le Bon Pasteur.
Lalande de Pomerol: This appellation showed the best of the satellite appellations. On the whole, the wines had lots of colour, body and concentration. Favourites: Ch. Peron Lafleur, Ch. de Viaud, Ch. Tournefeuille, and Ch. La Sergue.
St.-Émilion Satellite Appellations: These wines really surprised with their quality, but as a whole they were definitely a notch below the Lalande de Pomerol’s. In good vintages, like this one however, they can be excellent value. Favourites: I am always impressed by Ch. La Rose Perriere in good vintages and it showed well again. Other favourites: Ch. De Courlat, Ch. Des Laurents, and Ch Guibot.
Bordeaux Supérieur: Some, but not all, of these wines had ripe fruit and solid enough structure to last for a few years. The Ch. Tour de Mirambeau was excellent. The Ch. Thieuley (Rouge) was also good.
Later in the day, I went to the Planete Bordeaux – Bordeaux Supérieur tasting which was held in the storage vault at Millesimes. Some other Bordeaux Supérieur wines that showed well at that tasting were my perennial favourite Ch. Tayet –Cuveé Prestige, together with Lacombe Cadiot, Ch. Prieure La Fayotte, and Liberty de Ch. Soussac.