Bordeaux Tasting Trip 2- Day Four

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April 21st 2011

Monsieur et Madame Bernard are as generous hosts as you will come across anywhere. Dinner at Domaine de Chevalier, officiated by Olivier filling us with six vintages all ending in ’01, served blind, was a privilege. 1981 and 2001 Blanc: the former, lively and crisp, we initially plumped for Alsace; the 2001 was more recognizable. We then had 1971, 1961 and 1981 red in that order- our MW nailing them effortlessly with a little help from his hirsute new best buddy, Peter, an English wine tour guide living in California who was accompanied by a group of seriously great individuals. Whisky drinking Shirley, accompanied by son and granddaughter, was delightful and engaging company.

The wines: 1961 was dark, truffle scented and lovely; 1971 was elegant, fine and classy; the 1981 was fresh. It was then a glass of 2001 Guiraud with grapefruit in a crème brulée sauce.

Time then, for us to return to the hotel at the end of a very full day.

Thursday morning- to La Mission Haut Brion to taste this exalted stable – it is a stunning property with cloisters, an abundance of wood panelling and brimming with religious artefacts. One is very moved by it.

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The reds:

La Chapelle de La Mission was pure, graphite, fresh and lovely. Clarence was fine and mineral with lively acidity. La Mission had amazing texture and concentration; it was plush and wearing its 15.1 per cent alcohol effortlessly. Haut Brion was a thoroughbred- gorgeous, rich fruit on the nose with so much structure- pure, pure, pure- a wonderful distinctive wine – bien fait!

The whites:

Clarte was brimming with mandarin orange and peach; it had lovely weight and grapefruit freshness. La Mission was inadvertently swallowed (it would be rude not to at 9:40am!) and it was lovely. The 81 per cent Sémillon showed gorgeous texture- just delightful. Finally, Haut Brion Blanc: another rare beast here, the blend is almost 50 per cent Sauvignon Blanc so it had a lifted, lively, electrifying nose with extraordinary levels of complexity and just keeps on revealing hidden facets – a privilege! Merci Prince Robert and Equipe.

Next, was a négociant business thoughtfully run by Bruno and François – an honest discussion relating to huge expectations of China and prices was anticipated. They are happy to give allocations away rather than overpay. The highlight wine tasted here was Cypres de Climens 2007- it was just glorious, oozing quality botrytis and orange marmalade with lovely texture. Bouscaut Blanc 2010 was deeeelicious too.

We went to meet Veronique at Ch. Haut Bailly- just off a plane from Dubai looking fantastically fresh and showing us some excellent wines:

La Parde was a really easy pleasure; fresh, lively and leaping from the glass. Haut Bailly 2010 was very buvable with sweet fruit, lovely minerality, charm, supplesse and a thoroughly enjoyable glass. We tasted the 2009 next, which had impressive concentration and was a great wine, although markedly different to the 2010.

We had a “quick” lunch, which was nevertheless as good as we have had all week: tuna with 2007 Haut Bailly, (which was really very good indeed and an easy, early pleasure), then melt-in-mouth beef and foie gras with 2000, (which was a pleasure and reinforced the very “drinkable” style that carries through these absorbing wines). What a hostess Veronique is- beautiful, thoughtful, generous and a total treat to meet.

A rapid trip to the airport was then had, only to be met by surly sleazy jet staff saying, “ah non, vous êtes trop tard.” Fortunately, they were overruled and we squeaked on- very relieved.

Happy Easter to you all. Drink well!