April 5th 2012
Dear Wine Lovers,
The second day here in Bordeaux to taste the rather surprising En Primeur 2011…. Surprising in many ways.
We started the day at Chateau Lagrange, which hosted the UGC this year (Union des Grands Crus) for the Left Bank.
The word that appeared the most in my tasting notes is definitely freshness! The fact that July and August were not hot, but even cold for some producers, gave the wines a lot of acidity giving them great finesse and length…. We tasted few “Classics”. Back to the wines, here are some of my favorites for the left bank:
Chateau Talbot, Saint Julien: Already really generous and quite full-bodied. Greatly balanced with a touch of spice at the end… this will be elegant and beautiful in a few years!
Chateau Gruaud Larose, Saint Julien: Tight and austere, lots of minerals at the moment with hints of spices such as nutmeg and leather. Big on tannins.
Chateau Branaire Ducru, Saint Julien: Elegant freshness and black fruits with a long finish. Great wine!
Chateau Batailley, Pauillac: Batailley is quite typical of Pauillac. Already really orientated on the black fruits and concentration, pencil lead and gunpowder can be smelt. We can foresee an opulent wine once it has rested in the bottle for…. Well a few years.
Chateau d’Armailhac, Pauillac: fruit bomb! Delicious, you can almost drink it now! The triangle between aromas, acidity and tannins is superbly balanced. This will be a gorgeous wine!
Chateau Lynch Bages, Pauillac: Well, typically Lynch…. A Massive Fruit Bomb! This is a huge wine. A mix a black and red fruits, flint and really well balanced. The wine will last forever. I had to rinse my mouth with water and wait a little before carrying on the tasting. I would not be surprised to see a big star next to this wine once the ratings comes out!
Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Pauillac: Another great wine that will give you lots of pleasure if you like the classic vintage in Bordeaux (2006-2004) freshness and black fruits are the main attraction as with most of the Pauillacs this year. The tannins are already well integrated giving the roundness and seduction you want to see at this early stage.
The Saint Estephe region was rather pleasant with the typical stony, pencil lead edge and power, however, the wines are quite harmonious.
Chateau Lafon-Rochet, Saint Estephe: Really detailed, polished wine with minerality, pencil and flint aromas. Harmonious would be my best description.
Chateau Ormes de Pez, Saint Estephe: Rustic! This is another great description for this wine. Stony and powerful!
Chateau Phelan Segur, Saint Estephe: Long finish, stony (as usual) but really well balanced. Phelan Segur could be a great potential for the St Estephe region.
We left Lagrange and arrived at Camensac just around the corner for the Medoc and Haut Medoc tasting….
Call me difficult, but nothing really had the “˜wow’ effect for me in the Medoc and Haut Medoc. Lots of wines had edges of green or were sometimes a little unbalanced except a couple of wines:
Chateau Cantemerle, Haut-Medoc: Simply brilliant! Harmonious and round, Cantemerle is once again a safe buy for 2011.
Chateau La Tour Carnet, Haut Medoc: Another safe bet. Round, luscious with a harmonious finish.
The third and last tasting session for the morning with over 100 wines already tasted….. Château Marquis de Terme in Margaux. Paul Pontallier from Chateau Margaux and Emmanuel Cruze from Chateau Issan and Chateau Palmer put it perfectly, “Margaux had a tough year with low yields, not enough water and 40áµ’C in June putting more stress on the vines. Again a cool/cold summer- a real “tour de force” for the winemakers and arguably the lowest yields produced in a long long time.
Chateau Brane-Cantenac, Margaux: Another delicious wine, silky but structured with red fruits and strength and a long finish. It goes without saying- the freshness is superb! My favorite “consumption” wine.
Chateau Cantenac-Brown, Margaux: I found Cantenac slightly more discreet than Brane, but the aromas of red fruits and its silkiness are still rather enjoyable.
Chateau Desmirail, Margaux: Really well made and once again a typical Margaux wine on a classic vintage but with a touch less acidity so perhaps a wine that could be drunk a little earlier than its sibling.
We had a quick lunch in Arcins in “Le Lion d’Or”, one of the best tables in the Left Bank next to Margaux (with really reasonable prices) and we opened the afternoon session with Chateau Issan with Emmanuel Cruze:
Blason d’Issan, Margaux: 2011 is not far away from 2009 and 2010, however, unlike the two previous years, this one did not come easy and tested the cunning vignerons to get the best out of the vineyard to create miracles…. And I think Emmanuel did. Blazon is made with the “young vines” of Issan from 5 to 20 years old. The result is utterly silky and polished with notes of licorice it is ripe and integrated. This is again a wine that is hard to spit.
Chateau Issan, Margaux: Velvety with a dominance of Cabernet Sauvignon. Notes of chocolate, tobacco, leather and slightly smoky. This is a rich and and generous Margaux.
Arriving at Chateau Palmer, we had great and bad news…. Always start with the great news…the wine is brilliant, delicious, amazing! The bad is there is only 20hl yield (smallest harvest since 1961 and probably a high commanded price).
Alter Ego de Palmer, Margaux: Big wine! Really big but really fresh too, a surprising balance knowing that the concentration of the wine is actually higher than 2010 itself!
Chateau Palmer, Margaux: Fresh, smoky, chocolate, huge concentration and tannins again which is quite usual for Margaux. This wine is remarkably balanced and as the 1961, it will require time and patience.
Last but not least Chateau Margaux…..
Paul Pontallier mentioned that Margaux in 2011 had the smallest crop recorded in the history of the chateau! (hence the price might not be the smallest)
Pavillon Rouge de Margaux, Margaux: Cherry, red fruits, gently extracted wine with silky tannins. Pavillon Rouge still remains big Margaux!
Chateau Margaux, Margaux: WOW! So much in this wine, black fruits, red fruits, pencil lead, a typical Margaux and yet so big. The concentration is so impressive. It goes without saying that it’s the best wine of the appellation!
And for the last wine of the day… Pavillon Blanc de Margaux: 2011 is one of the top recent vintages for white wines in Bordeaux (dry and sweet). The notes of tropical fruits are really pure, defined and intense! An acidity that makes the wine carry on forever in the mouth! What a wine to finish a hard day at work!