April 22nd 2017
Day 3, final day and feeling refreshed after a superb supper last night at Le Noailles washed down with a sumptuous bottle of 01 Ch Grand Puy Lacoste.
The sun hasn’t stopped shining since we got here and that has been reflected in the fact that I have experienced some of my most enjoyable En Primeur tastings down in Bordeaux. Why is that so, you may be thinking? 2016 is a year of extremes that ends in perfect harmony. It is a purists’ vintage, there is a brilliant clarity of fruit and precision within many of the wines. The best have a fantastic purity, ‘une belle fraicheur’, soft melting tannins, there is nothing forced, coupled with the fact that there is a degree or so less of alcohol than 2015. The Cabernet is of an extremely high quality and the Merlot is out of this this world. The combination, in many wines situated on the best terroirs admittedly, is something that has generated an enormous amount of excitement. The plateau of Pomerol has produced some of the greatest wines I have ever tasted En Primeur and that is just the beginning…
As I write this it is now 8:49am and we have just arrived at Chateau Haut Brion. Sophisticated and intellectual are two words that describe Haut Brion perfectly, the wine is powerful yet has a real subtlety to it, whilst La Mission has an irresistible richness and complex flavour profile that I found mesmerising.
Chateau Ferran up next hosted by the charming Philippe Lacoste and we may have found our white Bordeaux to enjoy in the summer months (albeit a recent immediately available vintage) – the ’16 is utterly delicious and very hard to spit out. The rouge is a delight, always one of the best value wines of the vintage. This family run estate is close to my heart, children and dogs are close by, the atmosphere is warm and the wines always deliver. Big smile.
Now we are tasting at Domaine de Chevalier, the rouge is everything and I mean everything I want in a top flight Domaine de Chevalier. Lots of matiere, lots of fruit, compact and dense black currant fruit. Soft and silky texture on entry, the quality of the tannins is impressive, accentuated today due to the high pressure of the day, but still one can see the precision and harmony of the blend. I will be buying this wine and am to be frank, incredibly excited. The white has a loyal following and this is a must have for the cellar. Long and classy, the palate is seductive and creamy yet retains freshness and vibrancy. It is a knock out white, one of the best vintages for whites in recent years, I can still taste this delicious wine long after leaving the tasting room.
Ch Haut Bailly next and I am enamoured by the concentrated, heady perfume of red and black fruits. The palate is velvety, the tannins silky and a fine streak of acidity lifts the finish and ensures a wonderful freshness throughout the wine. It is quite a big wine this year, one for the cellar for a decade, but somehow due to the fantastic freshness (a trait of this vintage) it remains light on its feet and such fun to taste.
Lunch is close and the time to catch our flight back is looming, but before we do, our last tasting is with Ch Smith Haut Lafite. We tasted 2 whites and 2 reds, the 2nd wines of both Grand vin and of course SHL white and red itself. All 4 wines were showing brilliantly. The SHL White is wonderful, has a richness of pure fruit which glides across the palate due to crystalline acidity. Very moreish and a wine I would love to own and drink a lot of.
The red is beautiful, for me up there with the very best red SHL I have tasted En Primeur. Intense, dark, glossy black fruits. A lovely sweetness/ ripeness of fruit coupled with an interesting spiciness on the nose- the wine is pure and one can really notice the precision and fantastic balance. A very impressive wine.
Fabien and Ludovico of SHL very kindly hosted a delicious lunch for us at Rouge restaurant in the Smith Haut Lafite ‘village’, which was a smorgasbord of culinary delights – everything was going brilliantly until a mini, in fact not so mini, foie gras hamburger arrived and whilst that did finish me off, it also put the icing on one of the most pleasurable few days tasting Bordeaux En Primeur I can remember.