An inauspicious start for the team joining those already on the ground; delayed at a foggy Luton followed by a 5am fire alarm at our hotel after the night manager burnt a batch of croissants! Bleary eyed but in high spirits Goedhuis’ packed schedule on day two was now underway.
First appointment of the day is at the Margaux 3rd Cru d’Issan; elegant, rounded style medium weight. Soft and not as concentrated as 2015 and 2016. Violet high toned red fruits. Very balanced. A delicious wine that will be accessible and provide much pleasure early doors.
And so to our 1st Union des Grand Cru tasting hosted by Château Siran. A bit of a mixed bag from Margaux. Brane Cantenac, concentrated, fine high toned red fruits and intense – a perfect start. Giscours has lovely volume and balance. I enjoyed Malescot St Exupery and Kirwan too, both unforced and and showing lovely balance. However there are a few that are far too over extracted allowing an unripe astringency in the tannins to be present.
Château Palmer is next. Their 2nd wine Alter Ego: violet, morello cherry, unforced and supple. Tannins are so engrained. Really delicious. Château Palmer: really sophisticated and on a different level to anything else so far from Margaux. Softness, velvety, very pure and a wonderfully elegant and feminine expression of the commune that focuses heavily on its old vine Merlot grapes. A balanced masterpiece that’s very different to the more powerful ‘15 & ‘16 but very successful for the vintage.
And so to Château Margaux – a pivotal classic example of how great Margaux as an appellation can be when the wines are made in line with the style of the vintage. Thibault Pontallier as eloquent as his late father introduced us to their on site of cooperage (used to make one third of their barrels). It won’t come as too much of a surprise that Margaux has again knocked it out of the park – really spectacular. Such fine tannins, density of flavour and underlying power yet wonderfully velvety and exquisitely balanced. The Pavillon Rouge is a delightful junior version too.
Leading up to lunch, Château Rauzan-Ségla is absolutely stellar in 2017 and a must buy. I don’t say it lightly but this year, alongside Palmer, it is only a fraction off the pace of Château Margaux. Totally sublime, perfectly weighted and a total pleasure to taste.
Las Cases next, the range begins with Potensac and I’m surprised how appealing this is at the more entry level. It has definitely upped its game. Clos de Marquis was lovely. The big gun Las Cases continues to impress after its stunning 2016 showing marvellous depth of flavour, red fruit focus, precision, concentration and balance. Such elegance and freshness too. This will be one of the best that we taste all week.
The next UGC: Château Beychevelle. The St Juliens here all live up to their reputation for reliability and consistency. I can’t remember tasting a Talbot that’s so appealing in youth. Sensational. Also enjoyed Leoville Barton, Leoville Poyferre, Langoa Barton, Branaire Ducru and Lagrange. There’s an element of reassurance with in the uniformity of many of these wines, perhaps without that captivating excitement of a great vintage, but this really isn’t a negative thing. There’s plenty to love and enjoy here for lovers of St Julien. The wines are delicious and will provide much pleasure.
After having lunch at Château Lafon Rochet another UGC under the same roof. This time featuring some of Pauillac and St Estèphe’s big names. The obvious star turns of this little lot are Pichon Lalande (amazing), Lynch Bages (typically firmly structured, lots of potential), D’Armailhac, Clerc Milon, Batailley and Ormes de Pez. The overriding impression so far is that this vintage is red fruit driven with supple tannins and relatively forward bar a few exceptions. There’s plenty to like that will give delicious early appeal.
Next up a visit to possibly my favourite Château, the glamorous Ducru Beaucaillou. Torrential rain was not going to dampen our spirits as once again Bruno Borie has produced three exceptional wines. The Lalande Borie is stunning and offers delicious value for future drinking. La Croix is no longer a 2nd wine but a separate vineyard in its own right. Lovely concentration counterbalanced with gorgeous freshness. Finally the grand vin Ducru, perfectly weighted with exquisite depth, volume and suppleness and a wine that while accessible in youth will develop into a truly fantastic Ducru over the next 20 years.
Finally, the UGC for Sauternes at La Lagune. Highlights: Rieussec, Fargues, Guiraud and Coutet – all of these have a delightful zip of acidity to underpin the ripe sweet citrus fruits.
Impressions so far? This a vintage where selection and input from ourselves is highly advisable. There are some scintillating highs to be had from the familiar protagonists but some you will need to avoid.
Looking forward to seeing what the right bank has to offer tomorrow.