Left Bank Tasting at Chateau Belgrave

Chateau Belgrave is owned by one of the large negociant company’s in Bordeaux.  They organized a private tasting this year where the wines could be tasted while seated at a table and without the press of the UGC tastings.  It was quite a nice way to taste the wines.  I was able to taste my way through quite a few of the wines while at Chateau Belgrave.  The tasting notes are below.

Bordeaux Sup. and the Cotes: Again, some of these wines were surprisingly good.  Ch. Thieuley – Cuvee Francis Courselle was stunning.  This is a special cuvee made from the best grapes that sees more oak than the basic Thieuley.  This  year is is dark and opaque with delicious fruit, a soft and elegant structure in the mouth, and a medium to long finish.

Haut-Medoc:  Most of these wines were from the Cru Bourgeois level and they often offer real value in good vintages like this one.  They did not disappoint.   They were far more concentrated than normal and had a lot more structure.  Some of the best wines in this category will age well for 10 or more years.  The wines that I really liked were Ch. Lanessan (which is made in the classic Bordeaux style) which was a little lighter and had more structure than the other wines; Ch. Senejac which was a dark, concentrated and big wine; Ch. Malescasse which was characterized by ripe fruit; Ch. Bellevue which was showing nice secondary aromas; and Ch. Cambon La Pelouse which was quite full in the mouth and more in the red fruit spectrum both due to its high percentage of Merlot.   Unfortunately, one of my perennial favorites – Ch. Beaumont – was too acidic and the tannins were far too soft – leaving it out of balance.   The Grand Cru Classes from the Haut-Medoc were not significantly better than the Cru Bourgeois wines and each of them had at least one characteristic that was holding them back: Ch. Sociando Mallet was the best of the bunch but was dominated by overripe fruit and the finish was a bit short; Ch. Cantermerle while very soft and elegant was lacking a bit of tannin to keep it in balance;  and Ch. Belgrave was the opposite with overbearing tannin.

Margaux:  In contrast to last year, these wines were very homogeneous and there was not much separating them.  All of these wines had very ripe fruit combined with sexy elegant mouth feel.  Most of them were a touch closed. The wine of the tasting was again Ch. Rauzan Segla. This year the wine was made in a softer style – if it is possible to say that about Rauzan-Segla.  Rauzan-Segla is a very tannic wine that is built for long aging.  The wine-making team’s toughest task each year is to tame the tannins and keep them soft and silky.  In this vintage, with the huge natural tannic structure of the grapes – it is stunning how soft and elegant this wine is.  Hats off to the wine making team.   Ch. Malescot St. Exupery was just as good as Rauzan-Segla, but in a different style.  It had ripe luscious fruit combined with amazing balance and a long sweet finish.   I feel that this chateau recovered from a below par showing last year. The next group of wines included Ch. Ferriere which always has nice ripe fruit; Ch. Cantenac-Brown and Ch. Lascombes both of which were surprisingly excellent this year; and Ch. Giscours which was a great wine if a tad overripe.  The next group of wines were a step below but still very good (in order of preference): Ch. Rauzan-Gassies, Ch. Durfort-Vivens, Ch. Du Tertre, Ch. d’Issan, Ch. Marquis D’Anselme, and Ch. Prieure-Lichine.  The only wines that I felt did not live up to their status or expectations in this vintage were: Ch. La Gurgue which for me was much thinner and more acidic than the other wines and out of balance;  Ch. Desmirail which I find always has odd secondary aromas on it that detract from the fruit; and Ch. Brane-Cantenac which was not even close to being in the same class as the other wines.

St. Julien:  These wines were much more aromatic than the Margaux wines and had a touch more elegance.  Especially the Ch. Leoville Barton.  This is a stunning wine.  The aromas were just exploding from the glass.  In the mouth the ripe fruit was combined with a perfect balance of acid and tannin and the finish was extremely long.  This was the best wine I had tasted up until this point. Ch. Lagrange and Ch, Beychevelle are also very good this year.  Both had aromatic noses.  The Lagrange was a touch candied in the fruit but still very pleasant and the Beychevelle had a surprisingly long finish.  Ch. Gloria also showed surprisingly well.  I felt that the Ch. Saint-Pierre and the Ch. Talbot were a touch disappointing.

St. Estephe: As usual, these wines had much darker fruit and more secondary aromas on them than the Margaux wines.  Ch. Meyney and Ch. Phelan Segur were very good.  This felt, however, that this was a disappointing year for Ch. Lafon-Rochet. On the nose it had a classic Lafon-Rochet combination of dark fruit combined with savory animal aromas – but on the palette the wine had very soft tannins and a short finish. It is a shame because this is usually one of my favorite wines.

Pessac-Leognan and the Graves:  Wow.  Ch. Haut-Bailly is incredible again this year.  This is a super concentrated wine with luscious fruit that explodes out of the glass with a silky mouth feel and a finish that last 20-30 seconds or more.  This is incredible.  The two heavily oaked wines from Pessac also showed very well this year: Ch. Smith-Haut Lafite and Domaine de Chevalier.  I preferred the Domaine de Chevalier because I felt the acidic structure was more in balance. Ch. Malarctic Lagraviere was also very good again this year.  I felt it was was more balanced and well made than the other more prestigious wines of the appellation. For the price it should be a good value.

Overall these wines were of excellent quality and far more in balance and elegant than the right  bank wines.  The Cabernet Sauvignon of the Left Bank clearly outperformed the Merlot of the Right Bank in this hot vintage.