April 12th 2018
After a mixed second day where the communes of St Julien, Margaux and Pauillac delivered strong glimpses of real quality, today we head over to the right bank to focus on the twin appellations of St Émilion and Pomerol.
First up, our traditional early morning visit to Jean-Pierre Moueix to taste a wide range of St Émilion and Pomerol 2017s. Clearly the element of this vintage is the presence of tannins, adding structure to the wines. 2017 is like a modern day 1988 – they all have their reserved subtleties; they will never be exuberant wines, however they are really sound and I have no doubt they will come together with time in the cellar. Hosanna, La Fleur Petrus, Trotanoy and Belair-Monange all stand out this morning, showing class and beautiful persistence.
The UGC at Château Gazin in Pomerol revealed some surprises. First up Château Beauregard, with a blend of 40% Cabernet Franc and 60% Merlot – this is clearly a good vintage for the Cabernet Franc, evident via Beauregard (of course it is all down to location, and it shows how sporadic the frost can hit individual plots). Château Clinet is very elegant, picking early has helped create a beautiful wine with lovely balance. Château Gazin has good structure and underlined power. You will have to drink this while waiting for the 2015 & 2016 to hit their stride!
Next up L’Evangile (100% Merlot) all of their Cabernet Franc vines were hit by frost and they lost over 50% of their crop in total to the frost. This always shows very well En Primeur, they have managed to get beautiful natural freshness with polished tannins. I love the degree of richness which isn’t always apparent in this vintage. It just keeps singing, you can still taste it minutes after.
The classically styled 2017 La Conseillante (85% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc) shows impressive freshness and elegance but still closer to 2016 in style and concentration than 2015 with crisper tannins and less alcohol. There are some wines on the right bank that are a bit creamy, but here the tannins are very silky. The wine is so perfectly weighted with incredible balance and will easily age for 20 years plus. Each vintage is like new child but this has the hallmarks of the brilliant 2001 vintage. La Conseillante continues its hot streak with a solid wine in 2017. This could easily be my wine of the vintage.
Now on to Vieux Château Certan (81% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon) with the enormously talented Alexandre Thienpont. 2017 brings VCC back to a classic and elegant vintage; Everyone loves a bbq…this is haute cuisine. The Merlot shows ripe fruit, freshness and silky texture. This is right up there with the best wines we have tasted today. I love the style of this vintage for Pomerol. VCC managed to avoid the frost in 2017. For info, Pomerol has a total of 800 hectares under vine; 300 hectares was frozen 100%, 300 hectares was frozen 50% and 200 hectares had no frost at all.
A journey later and we arrive at Petrus. we are delighted that we have been officially confirmed as one of the UK’s four importers and representatives of Petrus. I don’t think I need to mention why this wine is so brilliant. Petrus is one of the rarest and most exquisite wines in the world and yet again they have produced an intoxicating wine in 2017.
Next up the very special Cheval Blanc. This famous estate’s vineyard is situated at the juncture of Pomerol and the sandy, gravelly soils of St Emilion, facing the two noble estates of l’Evangile and La Conseillante. Unlike much of St Emilion’s limestone soil, Cheval Blanc has more in common with Pomerol’s soils due to its high clay content.
Lunch wines with Pierre Lurton and Pierre-Olivier Clouet: 2015 Le Petit Cheval Blanc, 2011 Quinault l’Enclos, 2009 Cheval Blanc (this is ethereal, it will be fascinating to follow the evolution of the 2009). Paired with the stunning 2006 Cheval Blanc (this is very Pauillac in style, I’m a big fan). Tough life!
The 2017 Cheval Blanc includes a solid 14% of Cabernet Sauvignon and just over double that of cab franc. Despite this atypical blend for the chateau, the style is unmistakably Cheval. It has the prettiness and elegance of Cheval Blanc. Some wines of this vintage feel hollow, this has a desireable mid palate density – a very left bank version of Cheval Blanc.
Just a short drive down the road from Cheval we hit Château Canon. Without a shadow of a doubt, Château Canon has been one of the hottest Bordeaux properties during the past three En Primeur campaigns. The 2017 will be a serious contender for the most in-demand wine of the vintage. It was a wonderful opportunity to taste Château Berliquet (purchased by Chanel last year), their vines sit adjacent to Château Canon’s and the 2017 is a true delight to drink (sorry, taste!).
Up the hill to Château Ausone. No Simard, Haut-Simard or Fonbel this year because of frost. Moulin Saint Georges has gorgeous notes of violet and well integrated tannins, lovely drop (I’ll be buying some of this for my cellar). Finally Ausone which is very structured and concentrated… this is a wine that oozes class.
Figeac has an unusually high proportion of gravel in its soils for St Émilion and Cabernet Sauvignon thrives here, making up 47% of the blend in 2017. Much of the crop was lost to frost. This is a vintage for conviction, decision and action. Château-Figeac was the work of true “haute-couture” – the team should be very proud for what they have created in 2017. This is a wine of great length, harmony and class. A classic in the making!
Next up we taste the stunning wines from the great Denis Durantou’s Pomerol based stable. Denis’ estate lies at the heart of the Pomerol plateau. La Chenade and Les Cruzelles are always a delight to taste but the ‘star buy’ for me has to be La Petit Eglise, this is one of the unbeatable bargains in Pomerol (should feature in everyone’s cellar). Finally we finished with the great L’Eglise Clinet – a wine of great pedigree. Always one of the most pleasurable visits on our annual buying trip.
Next up Tertre Roteboeuf with the ever enthusiastic Mark Savage. Francois Mitjavile’s small, low tech cellar perched on a hill above St Émilion feels a world away from mainstream Bordeaux. His graceful, powerful, thrilling wines always wow the critics, and this year is no exception – the 2017 is real class! It just goes on and on. It’s very rare you walk out of this place without a smile on your face!
To summarise there is plenty to be happy about on the right bank in 2017. The frost will obviously be the focal point of the vintage – all those not impacted by the frost have created excellent wines. Right bank is more variable than left it seems. It’s a vintage where you see the importance of terroir.