Commanderie de Bontemps Dinner

April 1, 2010

Every year the Commanderie de Bontemps hosts a dinner to celebrate the official release of the new vintage – the “Ban de Millesime”. 

The Commanderie is an organization that has its roots in medieval church institutions and it assists in the marketing of Bordeaux wines around the world. In conjunction with the Grand Conseil de Bordeaux they help support the Commanderies de Bordeaux around the world.

This is a great dinner to attend if you like to drink mature wine – because there is a lot of it at this dinner.  Each place setting comes complete with 6 or 7 empty wine glasses and three is ample opportunity to fill them.  To start, the Commanderie usually provides 5 or 6 wines for every table.   This year they were: Ch. Vieux Chateau Gaubert 2005 (Blanc), Ch. La Tour Martillac 2006 (Blanc), Ch. Belgrave 2000, Ch. Lynch Bages 1998, Ch. Ducru Beaucalliou 1995, and Ch. de Myrat 2003 (Sauternes).  Beyond that, most of the negoce or Chateau owners who come to the dinner also bring a number of other wines to taste with their guests. Once the dinner starts (and sometimes before) the bartering and trading of the wines between tables also starts.  For example, at our table we had some Ch. Malescot St. Exupery 1998, and Ch. Prieure Lichine, and some other bottles that I did not see.  We tried to trade those bottles for a 1989 Ch. Mouton Rothschild – and were not successful – at first.  We finally got it when the bottle was almost empty.  It was worth it though – the wine was excellent.  The trading goes on all night – because once everyone at the table has tasted the new wine (and sometimes before) – it is traded again for another bottle.  The other wines that came through our table included: Ch. Cos D’Estournel 1995, Ch, Pichon Baron 1999, Ch. Loudenne 2005, and Ch. Carobnnieux 2007 (Blanc).

Here are some quick notes on the wines: The 1989 Ch. Mouton Rothschild was excellent – still with lots of fruit and good body -a touch above the 1989 Ch. Gruaud Larose that I had the night before – but still a wine that should not be left to cellar too much longer.  Of the whites, the 2007 Ch. Carobnnieux was the best – although it was not as refreshingly acidic as I remembered it from the 2007 en primeur campaign.  It is much creamier in style now.  The 1999 Ch. Pichon Baron had an intense barnyard nose that one party guest rejected outright as a fault – but it was still a pleasant wine.  Both of the 1995s (Ch. Ducru Beaucalliou and Ch. Cos D’Estournel) were closed and not offering as much as epxected.  I have noticed this with my own 1995s.  Maybe best to let them sit for a few years before trying them again.  The 2000 Ch. Belgrave had seen better days. Unfortunately, the 2003 Ch. de Myrat lacked acidity which made it syrupy and cloying and I don’t think any of the tables finished their bottle.


Gruaud Larose
Managing Director David Launay in the Cellar at Gruaud in August 2009

March 30, 2010

On Tuesday night I attended at reception at Ch. Gruaud Larose. 

As some of you know, older vintages of Gruaud Larose are my favourite Bordeaux wines.  As it ages, Ch. Gruaud Larose develops a very distinct and intense barnyard aroma.  You either love it or you hate it. I love it – so take this into account when you read my reflections on the wines provided below.

The reception started with a vertical tasting of the estates 2nd wine: Sarget de Gruaud.  The vintages offered were 1999 to 2007 (except for 2003) and 2009 (primeur).  The wines were actually quite good for a 2nd wine.  The younger wines were fresh and concentrated but not worth drinking yet because they lacked that distinct Gruaud character which only began to show itself in the 2004 vintage.  It was really apparent in the 2002.  It is interesting to note that it seems to take about 8 years for Sarget to develop its characteristic aromas – this is something I will consider every time I open a good Bordeaux before it has reached ten years of age. 

The best wines of the tasting were the three that followed:  2001, 2000 and 1999.  Each was characteristic of the Chateau’s style. The 2001 had the most structure and offered the most on the palate in terms of concentration, acidity and tannin.  The 2000 was supple and soft and well balanced with a touch more body.  The 1999 was probably drinking the best of them all.  The nose was very fragrant and very Gruaud Larose and it was really enjoyable on the palate. One final observation:  the 2005 was very closed – David Launay, the managing director of Gruaud later told us that the same is true of the Le Grand Vin.  They both closed down late last year and they are not showing well right now.

The cellar tasting finished with the 2009 (primeur) Ch. Gruaud Larose.  It is a big, dense and powerful wine.  I wonder, though, if it is not a departure from past vintages.

At the reception, the estate generously offered four older vintages out of magnums:  1999, 1997, 1989 and 1983.  The 1999 is just starting to develop and offered the most on the palate.  The 1997 is primarily fruit driven and lighter in body. The 1989 is a beautiful glowing orange-red colour with good body.  It is drinking well still but it was not spectacular.  The 1983 was the most enjoyable wine.  It had a super intense nose of cassis and barnyard.  It had a touch of greenness that only seemed to add to its charm. I may try to find some to import.