April 1st 2008
Sunday PM found Gatwick North Terminal brimming with thirsty UK wine traders, fully trained up for the intensive week of tasting which is the Union des Grands Crus, an annual gathering of the world’s wine trade who descend on the region to taste and assess the latest vintage which is only just in barrel, so is a tannic challenge, but a very important opportunity to meet, talk and taste with the chateau owners and negociants.
The Goedhuis gang consisted of Robin Kick “super palate”, JC “St Julien”, James Low “Jim Lad”, Matthew Jukes “Jukesy” and Amelia Pinsent “lovely Pins” – so a strong energetic team intent on really getting under the skin of the vintage.
We arrived in a damp and blustery Pauillac on Sunday evening at the Hotel France Angleterre where we were billeted for 2 days – dinner at the brightly lit Le Salamandre, great pizzas, limited wine list but an endless flow of “pressions” We hooked up with Neil Martin, Parkers man, and Johann a photographer who was snapping pictures of Neil at work.
9am Monday morning found us in the tasting room at Mouton having been ferried there in golf buggies with some Germans. Armaillac our first taste of the 2007 vintage was rather nice, plenty of cassis, fresh and charming. We finished with Mouton itself, which had plenty of polish and was impressive but for me there were better First Growths to come. Montrose and then on to Cos, where the BBC were filming, so after some hair adjustment we got stuck in – Cos was fabulous, creamy spicy rich with good concentration, one of my favourites of the week.
Then to see Basile Tesseron at Lafon Rochet, what a magnificent individual, making great wine in this difficult vintage. Had no fewer than 4 green harvests so yields are lower than usual, but the wine was good and similar to 1999. He has just had a son, Timor, so there was much excitement! Calon Segur was next on the agenda which was very good indeed, and the most beautiful chateau. Then to Leoville Lascases – here the wine was structured with good grip and will need a little time, but the Lion of St Julien was definitely snarling.
At Leoville Barton we had the pleasure of tasting a large range of wines including some older vintages. Both Langoa and Leoville 2007 were very good. A reliable chateaux but for me Langoa showed marginally better on the day. The 2001 Langoa was a real pleasure too.
A quick lunch then to Ducru, Leoville Poyferre, Pichon Lalande, Pichon Baron – very good indeed and an honour to meet Christian Seely who is the very capable boss. Grand Puy Lacoste and Haut Batailley tasted excellent. Jim lad left the tasting room with a 2004 Haut Batailley label stuck to his coat which remained in place for a trip round the supermarket, Xavier Borie was very happy with this high quality mobile hoarding.
Dinner at Pontet Canet with Alfred and Isobel Tesseron was a real treat, we drank a collection of Pontet Canet wines back to 1990, prefixed by the 2007 which was very impressive and from the lowest yields we saw on the Left Bank at a miserly 28hl/ha. Cognac Tesseron ensured a blissful nights sleep.