Day two of the trip saw the Goedhuis team broaching the different appellations of Margaux, St Emilion and Pomerol. After the highlights of the previous day culminating in a very enjoyable dinner at Chateau Brane Cantenac, conversation at breakfast was a mix of anticipation and expectation: Would the wines of these appellations touch the heights so evident in Pauillac, St Estephe and St Julien?
It was a beautiful, if chilly, clear morning that greeted us as we set out to our first appointment at Chateau d’Issan, a firm Goedhuis favourite, and we were not to be disappointed. The grand vin is a charming wine, dark berry fruits on the palate are supported by fine, ripe tannins and fresh acidity (a description that would feature more than once in our notes today). An excellent tonic to start the day.
With palates whetted we moved onto Chateau Margaux. It is always a pleasure to taste the new vintage of wines from this estate and in 2016 Chateau Margaux has produced one of the wines of the vintage. It is a stunning wine, penetratingly pure dark fruit is seamlessly integrated with the ultra-fine, ripe tannins. The mid palate is expansive and complex and finish goes on and on. A hauntingly beautiful wine, destined for greatness.
It was a tough act to follow but Chateau Palmer has produced a remarkable wine. Having suffered various travails in the vineyard, 2016 Palmer is testament to the deft touch of the wine making team. One of the latest harvests ever at the chateau (picking finished mid-October) has resulted in a wine of plump, forest fruits, balanced with fine tannins and refreshing acidity.
Next on the schedule was a trip across the Gironde to the right bank but before we set out we took the opportunity to taste a number of Cru Bourgeois and Petit Chateau. In a testing vintage such as 2016 one would be forgiven for thinking the quality would be the preserve of the Cru Classe chateaux but nothing could be further from the truth. There are some real gems to be found if one is prepared to explore a little, properties such as Chateau du Glana, Gloria, Beaumont and Fourcas Hosten have all produced fine wines, exhibiting the freshness and charm of the vintage and are well worth seeking out.
The afternoon began at Chateau Clos Fourtet, who have produced a charming wine, svelte tannins, spicy dark fruit and the vintage’s telltale freshness all elegantly combined. A short distance away at Chateau Canon, the 2016 rises to the challenge laid down by its elder sibling, the 2015, widely consider to be one of the wines of the vintage. The 2016 Canon is all velvety soft dark fruit with hints of spice and grip provided by the Cabernet Franc, the finish is long, complex and satisfying. It is another triumph from this wonderful estate. The final St Emilion visit was to Figeac and what a wine they have on their hands: ‘Wow’ – not my words but that of the cellar master, who has overseen the estate since 1983, upon tasting the final blend. Perhaps one the best Figeac’s ever? Don’t bet against it.
A circuit around the plateau of Pomerol afforded us the opportunity to try neighbours L’Evangile and La Conseillante. The former has produced a captivating wine, exotic, powerful and concentrated whilst the latter a wine of beguiling charm, the palate of sweet black cherry takes a little coaxing but unfurls itself to reveal a panoply of blackberry, mulberry and dark chocolate. This is a wine that quietened the room but quickened the pulse. Superb.
We finished the day with a trio that any other day one would be delighted to taste individually: Petrus, Vieux Chateau Certan and Le Pin. As one might expect Petrus has produced a magnificent wine, the palate is compact with beautifully ripe, sweet tannins that belie the wines power, there is a coolness to the finish that suggests there was little stress in the vines, despite the challenges of the vintage. It is an effortless and compelling Petrus and real privilege to taste.
Alexandre Thienpont greeted us at VCC with a wry smile, we soon discovered why. The 2016 VCC is a captivating wine, the palate is all dark sweet fruit and the tannins are ripe and fresh. Alexandre mused that he did not think 2015 could be improved upon, but his 2016 has dismissed that notion. A wonderful wine. The final visit of the day was to Le Pin and what a way to finish the day. Descending the small spiral staircase in the unassuming Chai one comes across a two neat rows of barrels – the entire harvest from this tiny estate. The wine is an exotic blend of dark chocolate, dark black fruits with a hint of coconut and spice. The palate is voluptuous, fleshy and broad but there is nothing out of place. The signature fine tannins and zesty acidity keep everything in perfect balance. It is a spectacular wine and a marvellous end to another enlightening day in Bordeaux.