Bordeaux 2015: Haut Bailly, Issan, Palmer, Margaux, Ducru & Las Cases

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Yesterday evening was out of this world and what a start to the Bordeaux trip. Tasting and an outstanding dinner at Ch Haut Bailly.

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The 2015 is very good indeed. Sweet fruits, fabulous elegance and quite clearly a success this year. At dinner we drank the 1995, 1985, 1975 and culminating in the 2005. My favourite was the 1995 which is drinking beautifully right now.

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The main UGC (Union des Grands Crus) tastings kick off tomorrow but we have headed over to Bordeaux a day early to taste with some of the châteaux who do not participate in those tastings. Today’s line up is a bit of a Who’s Who of the great Left Bank appellations: Margaux, St Julien, Pauillac and St Estephe.

9am, at Ch d’Issan. The Blason d’Issan, their second wine has wonderful sweet fruit and intensity. Lovely freshness. Very ripe. This is the best Blason I have tasted. 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot. A little more Merlot than usual. The grand vin is concentrated, fresh, silky and perfectly balanced. Finesse personified. We have heard that the appellation of Margaux has excelled and I am sure this is going to evolve into a very successful wine, for the medium term. Emmanuel says he is very pleased with the purity of the fruit. Everyone knows I love this Chateau. Very happy with this start.

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At Ch Palmer, almost perfect conditions during picking and perfect phenolic;, a trait of this appellation it seems. 100% biodynamic from the ’14 vintage onwards. The Alter Ego is 52% Merlot, 42% Cabernet Sauvignon and 6% Petit Verdot. Crunchy darker fruit, this wine is all about freshness. 50% of the blend always comes from the same Alter Ego plots and the second 50% from selected Ch Palmer vines.

The grand vin, again a higher % of Merlot, planted on warmer soils. Such incredible intensity, very perfumed on the nose. The wine has a lower acidity than normal, beautiful freshness, very polished and some very fine tannins. Very long. This wine oozes class and is an utter pleasure to taste. 12,000 cases of the Palmer produced at 37 hl/ha. (Their aim is for 40/42 hl/ha).

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Now at Ch Margaux, who are expecting 2000 people through their doors this week. I wonder how many barrels of the Grand Vin they get through….!

More Cabernet Sauvignon in this Pavillon Rouge at 74%, 21% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot and 1% Cabernet Franc. The tannins are soft and perfectly integrated. The fruit is sweet with the tiny percent of Petit Verdot giving some spicy aromas to the blend. A very seductive cuvée. In one word: outstanding.

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Only 35% of the harvest went into the 1st wine. 87% Cabernet Sauvignon dominated. Ch Margaux has a heady sweet perfume of ripe red fruits. Very silky and rounded. Not a blockbuster, quite a discreet wine at the beginning, then it accelerates in the mouth, showing supple tannins. 100% new oak, but you would never know it. It is very, very long. The Cabernet Sauvignon here has an unusual strength and vigour for the vintage.

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Entering the chai at Ducru in St Julien is like entering another world, there is a opulence at every turn. Interesting to note that the vineyards for Lalande Borie are in the centre of the appellation, those for La Croix de Beaucaillou further east close to Léoville Barton and those for the Grand Vin around the Château and onwards to the river. They each have their own plots of land; they are wines in their own right and not the 2nd/3rd wines etc of the Grand Vin.

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95% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% of Merlot in the Grand Vin. A wonderful dark cherry core. Glossy I would say. A very precise and finesse driven wine with a savoury characteristic on the palate. What I really like is the beautiful creamy texture on the palate. David Roberts MW says ‘it is a seriously good Ducru with huge length.’

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Next up, we are at Ch Léoville Las Cases, who have just finished their utterly beautiful gardens and on this beautiful day my mood really couldn’t be any better!

The Clos du Marquis has more weight, substance and structure than I have seen over the past few years and a perfect tee up to the Château’s flagship wine Léoville Las Cases. 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Cabernet Franc and 6% Merlot. The tannins here, and everywhere so far, are very accessible, which makes tasting even more of a pleasure. I do like the intensity of dark cassis/ black currant fruit. Polished on the palate with excellent weight. My morning is becoming brighter by the minute!

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