When we started planning this most recent trip back to Bordeaux, we never envisioned how enriching it would be. But by trip’s end, we had connected with old friends, made new ones, and left with a broadened perspective of Bordeaux. We visited during the 2015 futures campaign, which obviously permeated throughout the visit. It was clear that the winemakers and proprietors in Bordeaux are very pleased with the 2015 wines overall. We tasted many of these, and we can now see why.
First, the 2015 vintage itself…the general consensus is that the 2015 prices have been as expected, and fair. The average increase of 25% over the 2014 wines was expected due to the rise in quality in the wines. The wines we tasted were rich, structured, and with fresh, ripe fruit; this was across the board. Some of them certainly stood out among the others. But it’s safe to say that people are buying 2015 Bordeaux. Ludovic Fradin of Smith Haut Lafitte told us they sold out in two hours; but what’s most surprising is that the U.S. was their biggest buyer. Perhaps things are changing in Bordeaux…
We visited a number of great estates on both the left and right banks. A visit to Cos d’Estournel finished with a lovely lunch at the estate. We had a great visit and tasting with Bruno Rolland, the third generation Cellar Master at Léoville Las Cases, where we tasted wines from the entire Delon range, from Nenin to Clos du Marquis to Léoville Las Cases.
A visit with dynamic Technical Director Lucas Leclercq at Lafon Rochet was also quite educational and enriching. It was great to check out their beautiful new vat room, with concrete and steel vats that had been installed only eight days before the 2015 harvest. On the left bank, there were other great visits to Lagrange, Dauzac, Brane-Cantenac, d’Issan, and du Tertre. While in the Médoc, we stayed at Château du Tertre, which we would wholeheartedly recommend to anyone planning a visit to the Médoc. A private tour there was highlighted with a tasting their unique 2015 blanc, composed of Chardonnay, Gros Manseng, Viognier, and Sauvignon Blanc.
As busy as we were on the left bank, we were even busier on the right bank. Again we stayed at Logis de la Cadène, one of our favorite places to stay (and eat!) in and around Bordeaux. The dining in Saint-Émilion was superb, as always; you simply can’t go wrong with places like Le Tertre, Logis de la Cadène, and Les Belles Perdrix. One highlight was our morning spent with François Mitjavile at Tertre Rôteboeuf. His passion and philosophies about wine are inspiring. In his cellar, we tasted with 1989 Tertre Rôteboeuf, as well as the more recent 2014 and 2015 vintages.
After proprietor Jean-Bernard Grenié joined us for lunch at Les Belles Perdrix, he guided us on a private tour of Château Angélus. We also had a great visit with Comte Stéphan von Neipperg at Canon-la-Gaffelière, where we discussed organic sustainability.
On this trip, we had some very memorable dinners. One of our best gastronomic experiences was at Logis de la Cadène, with Ronan Laborde and Monique Bailly of Château Clinet. Among the wines of the night were the 1985 Château Le Gay and 1990 Château Gazin. Prior to the dinner, we toured the new and very impressive Ronan by Clinet facilities. And after touring the new facilities at Château Mauvesin Barton, we enjoyed a delightful dinner with the Barton family and some of their fantastic wines. And before departing Bordeaux, we had a final dinner with Fred Vicaire of Château Coufran, Basile Tesseron of Château Lafon Rochet, and Ferdinand Mähler-Besse of Sobovi.
There were a number of highlights on this particular trip, but the crescendo occurred following the Union des Grands Crus tasting. First, we attended a lovely dinner at the beautiful Château Branaire-Ducru in Saint-Julien. Proprietor Patrick Maroteaux is the vice-president of the UGCB, and certainly hosted a dinner to remember. Following a tour of the property with son François-Xavier, we were treated to an excellent French meal and even better wines. Smith Haut Lafitte, Canon, Rauzan-Ségla, and La Tour Blanche were all there to share some of their wines as well. But the highlight was the Imperial (6 liter) bottle of 1995 Branaire-Ducru.
On the morning after the dinner, we were treated to a tasting at Branaire-Ducru that included the 2009 to 2015 vertical. It was quite enlightening to note the evolution and differences among the wines. It was also easy to see why M. Maroteaux prefers the 2010 vintage to all others. Following this, we were then treated to a lovely lunch at the estate. And to celebrate Allison’s upcoming birthday, they even opened a bottle of 1983 Branaire-Ducru and served a ‘cake’ of cannelés!
So it’s one more visit to Bordeaux in the books! This was a truly special trip, where there was never a dull moment. It was another reminder that while the region may be known for its wines, but it’s really the people who are the soul of Bordeaux. Look out for upcoming blog posts, where we will add a bit more detail to all of our adventures. We look forward to a return trip in the near future. but until then, we will continue to Drink Bordeaux!
3-4-16 Private residence in Miami, FL
Tasting a first growth wine is always a special experience, regardless of the vintage. Even in weaker vintages, you are tasting the height of winemaking and the best the terroir was capable of that year. So of course we were extremely excited to participate in a first growth tasting to compare many of these exceptional wines. When you are tasting many high-end wines simultaneously, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that they are all great wines that could all impress on their own. But when you taste these first growth wines together, you really learn to find subtle nuances that make some stand out more than others. At this tasting, there was also a ‘mini-vertical’ of Château Margaux, that included four of the strongest vintages from 1982 to 1996; the stylistic differences among the vintages was evident, but the variability in vintage also allowed us to see the continuum of wine maturation. But as is often said, “There are no great wines, only great bottles,” we found on this night that there were many great bottles indeed.
1982 Château Margaux: For much of the evening, it was difficult to decide whether or not this was better than the 1983. It seemed to have an intensity that built in the glass over time, gaining more aromatics and overall balance. There was beautiful black currant, violets, green pepper, and tobacco. Tannins are nicely integrated but are still present. A silky mouthfeel, with more elegance than power. A medium length finish that isn’t memorable but harmonizes well with the overall experience. There are still some years left here, and the fruit is robust.
1983 Château Margaux: Initially, this nose was much more perfumed and open than the 1982. With time, this shifted as the nose became a bit shy. More spiciness and earthiness than the 82. Both dark and red fruits, mushroom, green pepper, violets, and menthol round out the aromatics. A similar style to the 82, with more elegance than raw power. An appealing mouthfeel with good weight, some of which was lost with more time in the glass. Still fairly tannic, certainly more so than the 82. A medium length finish. Will be interesting to see if the the fruit fades before the tannins resolve. I would drink this fairly soon if you have it, though the fruit should last for the near future.
1986 Château Margaux: The consensus least favorite wine of the evening. The vintage really showed through, with harsh tannins and fading fruit. Interestingly, the color is still good, showing dark ruby. Perhaps the tannins were masking the fruit, which is the best-case scenario. A bit acidic on the finish. Disappointing on this night, certainly compared to its peers.
1996 Château Margaux: My #2 wine of the night. A really big wine with huge potential. A beautifully perfumed nose of black currant, blackberry, sous bois, violets, chocolate, leather, and tobacco. Full-bodied, with incredible complexity and concentration. Certainly well-structured, but the tannins are so soft and marry beautifully with the fruit. Very fresh acidity on the finish. Incredible length. Easily the best Margaux of the evening.
1990 Château Haut-Brion: My #1 wine of the night. With the first sniff, I predicted this would be wine of the night. As good as the 1996 Margaux was, this was easily better due to its advanced level of maturity. A sexy wine that is a true stunner. An intoxicating nose of cassis, matchstick, wet gravel, barnyard, sweet tobacco, tar, and leather. Just incredible complexity. The balance is all there, with the tannins creating an exquisite mouthfeel. Acidity is in its right place. An incredibly long finish. I don’t particularly love scoring wines, but do so for my own relative reference; this is as close to 100 points as you get, in my opinion.
1995 Château Haut-Brion: It’s amazing how much younger this seems than the 1990. A shy nose that shut down in the glass. Still, there’s great fruit, chocolate, and developing tobacco and leather. Some floral notes as well. A bold wine on the palate, with firm tannins and lots of great structure. A very nice finish with high acidity. This is far from maturity, and I would give this wine at least three more years of aging.
1995 Château Mouton Rothschild: The chameleon wine of the evening. At first, there was an enchanting nose with loads of fruit and complexity. With time, this also shut down in the glass. Lighter on the palate than the 95 Haut-Brion, but with a nice silky mouthfeel. The tannins aren’t overbearing, but there is need of more integration. Excellent concentration. Good acidity on the finish. This wine appears to be in an awkward phase, and I would probably hold off for a few years. I still feel there is great potential for this to turn into an impressive wine. Perhaps it’s showing a bit of the character of the 1995 vintage.
1982 Château Cheval Blanc: From a magnum. My #3 wine of the night. This really didn’t impress much from the get-go, but really blossomed after time in the glass. The aromatics showed nice complexity, with black currant, cherry, spice, toast, tobacco, and mocha. Medium ruby color. I really enjoyed the weight of this wine; after a few hours, at times it seemed almost Burgundian. While there are tannins left to resolve, they are ultra-soft and well-balanced. An outstanding finish with great length. While this vintage has suffered a bit in the critical scores department, this is yet another great example that there are no great wines, only great bottles.
This incredible vertical tasting started with the famed 1961 Château Latour. Unfortunately, this did not appear to be a good representation of this wine, and it appeared a bit oxidized. Amber/brown color. Pruney fruits, dried raisins, leather, herbs, and damp forest floor. A nice mouthfeel, and still adequate structure. A bit flat on the finish. I won’t render much of an opinion here, and will defer until the next 1961. The 1962 Latour also had a bit of an oxidized note, but less so than the 1961. Less earthy and rustic than the 1961. Still had similar fruit profile with prunes and dried raisins. Also noted old library book, tobacco, mushroom, and green pepper — a much more vibrant nose. Really lively and elegant on the palate, and seemed to become more interesting with more time in the glass. Classy, with a beautiful richness. Still had nice structure with round, soft tannins. On this night, I preferred the 1962.
The 1970 Château Latour was the least impressive of the tasting. Still had a surprisingly ripe nose, with black currant, some cherry, and fig. Very soft mouthfeel, but a bit thin on the palate. Reserved on the attack and lacked punch on the mid-palate. Hint of bitterness on the finish. Overall, the 1970 did not impress tonight. But, oh did the 1982 Latour impress. This was clearly the wine of the night. The nose was simply amazing, complex and layered. Black currant, cedar, brown spices, licorice, and tobacco. Pure perfection on the palate, from the attack to the finish. A long finish that left a sense of currant and sweet tobacco. Easily one of the best wines I’ve ever tasted. This baby will sing for decades. After this was the 1989 Latour, which was quite reserved for the first two hours. There is certainly potential here. Nice garnet color. A shy nose of dark fruits, spice, and musk. Lacked the concentration of the 1982 and 1990, but it still had charm. This wine didn’t blow anyone away, but when bookended by the 1982 and 1990, it’s just not a fair fight. I would still consider holding onto this a bit longer before opening (perhaps a year or two), based on the tasting this evening.
The 1990 Château Latour was my #2 wine of the night. Gained weight the whole night and kept revealing its complex layers. Dark fruits, lots of cherry, barnyard, lots of cedar, fennel, and sweet tobacco. Full-bodied, with incredible balance. Clearly in its wheelhouse right now. Silky ripe tannins, with a solid structure. Very long finish, with lots of fresh acidity. The 1996 Latour was probably the #3 wine of the night. At times, seemed similar to the 1982 in aromatic profile, but still showing very young. Very dark ruby color. Black currant, cedar, mushroom, and licorice. Like the 1990, incredibly well balanced. Lots of ripe tannins. You can open this now, but if you wait for another 5 years, you will be rewarded. The 1999 Latour was the pleasant surprise of the night. I really enjoyed this, and found it be quite interesting. There was much more earthiness on the nose, with a pleasant barnyard scent. Also showed the characteristic dark fruits, cedar, and tobacco. When I closed my eyes, it was like smelling fruit that had been crushed in dirt. Soft tannins in the background. An elegant mouthfeel, but still had adequate power. A bit higher acidity noted on the finish. Compared to the 2000 Latour, this seemed much more evolved.
The 2000 Château Latour was simply fantastic, but is just so young right now. A shy nose that did open up nicely in the glass, really showing its pedigree. Black currant, damp earth, pencil shavings, and licorice. Such a classic Pauillac nose. Well-structured but silky smooth on the palate. A formidable wall of tannins on the finish. Also notable acidity. This is an awesome wine, but it really deserves 5-10 more years in the cellar. The 2005 Latour seemed like a baby on this night. Again, a shy nose, but layered and nicely perfumed. Black currant, lots of fennel, clove, and mocha. Can still detect some oak influence. Powerful and really hits you in all corners on the palate. Tannic, but not aggressively so. An incredibly long finish that never seemed to go away. Should be another ‘wow’ wine in 10-20 years. It wouldn’t be criminal to try it now though.
The night finished with a tasting of the 2001 Les Forts de Latour and 2011 Château d’Yquem. The 2001 Les Forts was a very impressive wine. A really nice nose of ripe cassis, blackberry, tobacco, and chocolate. Lots of finesse and elegance. Smooth on the palate. The Les Forts certainly held its own tonight among the great wines of Latour. The 2011 d’Yquem was the nightcap. It paired beautifully with the chocolate covered bacon. What more can you say? I’ll certainly pair more bacon with my Sauternes from now on. Such a classy wine, with such great balance at this young age.
Bottle variation is certainly an interesting thing. After enjoying a pretty stunning bottle of 1989 Château Lynch-Bages recently, I had the pleasure to open another. The nose of this one was a bit shy, but did open up a bit with air. There was also a bit less depth on the palate. Don’t get me wrong; this was still a great wine, and I can’t wait to try again…soon. – Oct 2015
1989 Château Lynch-Bages from Pauillac. Lived up to its reputation, in a big way. Followed its evolution over 5 hours, and it honestly just kept getting better. Very young in color and a very clean nose, with no initial funk. An amazing nose of cassis, leather, mint, exotic spiciness, and anise. Lots of fruit here. Very smooth on the palate, with well-balanced tannins. Acidity is also in perfect balance. The finish is memorable, and just kept lingering. The nose and finish propel this wine to ‘special’ status. This wine should drink well for several decades. 96pts – Aug 2015
11-4-2015 Margaux – Pauillac tasting at Wine Watch, Ft. Lauderdale
Continuing the theme of appellation tastings, Wine Watch in Fort Lauderdale hosted yet another great tasting. This time, the tasting highlighted the Pauillac and Margaux appellations. What made this tasting more special was that it truly showcased some of the best châteaux from these esteemed appellations. The Margaux appellation was represented by only Margaux and Palmer, while Pauillac wines included Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Lynch-Bages, and Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande. There was also a wide range in vintages tasted, from 1959 to 2000. The appellations were evenly matched, and there was no clear winner on this night
1959 Château Palmer (Margaux). The WOTN. A dark garnet hue with brown edges; the color was the oldest aspect of the wine. Nose was still very much alive. Cherry liqueur, raisin, tobacco, and a hint of barnyard. Complex and layered, this was one wine that seemed to gain momentum throughout the evening. While more concentrated than the GPL, it was still on the lighter side. Structure hanging on. A special wine. 97/100.
1959 Château Grand Puy Lacoste (Pauillac). Improved throughout the night, but more of an average aged Bordeaux. Similar aromatics, with cherry, fig, raisin, and tobacco. Lacked some weight on the mid-palate and fell a bit flat on the finish. Still an enjoyable wine if you find it. Clearly this round goes to the Palmer. 91/100.
1961 Château Lynch-Bages (Pauillac). Drinking extremely well for a ’61. Still with excellent concentration and deep color. Cassis, black cherry, leather, Asian spices, and cedar. Opened up over two hours and improved significantly in the glass. Still has a solid tannic structure. Only knock would be a bit high acid on the (lengthy) finish. 94/100.
1966 Château Palmer (Margaux). Not a favorite in the room, but I personally considered this the #2 of the night. Dark fruit, smoke, earth, and some beautiful barnyard scent. Exceptional balance. Everything seems in its right place. Extremely smooth on the palate. Long finish. The Palmer edges out the Lynch-Bages in this round. 95/100.
1983 Château Margaux (Margaux). Has that perfume one would expect. Dark and red fruits, spice, and floral notes. Solid mid-palate. Still with prominent tannins. Long finish. Again, a wine with exceptional balance. Its strengths are its complexity and concentration, but not really a stunner. 95/100.
1983 Château Lynch-Bages (Pauillac). The most unique wine of the night. Cassis, licorice, old dusty library book, and urban funk (distinct from a barnyard funk). This strange nose was initially off-putting, but became quite charming. More elegance than power. Still has a bit of grip. No detectable heat on the medium length finish. Acidity a bit out of balance. Definitely better than the 81 point wine scored by RP. This round goes to the Margaux, but for the value, this Lynch-Bages is something to look at if you don’t mind funkiness. 91/100.
1995 Château Margaux (Margaux). Perhaps the disappointment of the night, considering its pedigree. Shy on the nose, but had a nice mix of dark fruits, spice, and floral. Full-bodied and mouth-filling on the palate. Structured as can be. Very long finish. So why a disappointment? It’s very far from showing its true colors, so it was hard to be too excited about it tonight. 93/100.
1995 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande (Pauillac). More powerful than the Margaux, with a more open nose. Black currant, cedar, and mint. Lacks the earthiness of typical Pichon Lalandes. Sampled the ’96 Pichon Lalande last night, and the ’96 is definitely the superior vintage with far more complexity. Better on the nose than palate right now. A little tart on the finish. Still, tonight the Lalande beats the Margaux (though that will change in 10 years). 94/100.
2000 Château Palmer (Margaux). Similar to last bottle enjoyed a few months ago. This is a great Palmer, but like the ’95 Margaux, so far from its potential. Blackberry, raspberry, lots of violets, and mocha. Concentrated and tannic. My first note I wrote was, ‘tons of potential.’ Cellar this baby, and drink your ’83 and ’89 Palmers. 93/100.
2000 Château Lynch-Bages (Pauillac). Simply a great wine. Lots of layers, with cherry, tobacco, pencil shavings, and cigar box. Nice balance of power and elegance. Has serious grip. A fantastic finish. No bitterness and acidity is where it should be. This round goes to the Lynch-Bages. 95/100.
10-10-2015 A horizontal tasting of 1970 Bordeaux at Wine By the Bay, Miami1970 has been considered by many to be the best vintage of the ‘70s. However, this is a dubious distinction, as the decade was marred by poor quality vintages. Despite that, there were some great successes in 1970, with many in Pomerol (Pétrus, Trotanoy, and La Conseillante, for example). As of 2015, the vast majority of wines have reached maturity, or have already faded. Still, it is always nice to check in on a classic Bordeaux vintage to see how everything is drinking. This tasting included only wines from the Médoc and Pessac-Léognan, but there were some impressive representatives. I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that wines this old can vary considerably due to storage conditions. Certainly, in this tasting there were variances in fill levels (all noted in the tasting notes) that seemed to have quite an impact on the tasting experiences. How else can you explain the Prieuré-Lichine outperforming the Léoville Las Cases?
Château Prieuré-Lichine, the surprise wine of the night, as expectations weren’t terribly high. Base neck fill. Brick red color. Nose of cassis, raisin, fig, leather, and mint. Smooth mouthfeel. High acidity, fresh finish. Finish a bit short. Nearing end of life but still kicking. This bottle was obviously well-stored and was enjoyable. Absolutely drink now if you have this in your cellar. – 90pts
Château Pichon Lalande, top shoulder fill. Medium ruby color, lightened edges. Still nicely concentrated. Nose of red and dark fruits, barnyard, leather, and a hint of cheesiness and truffle. Lively on the palate and surprisingly tannic. Impressive long finish (the strength here). Overall very good. – 92pts
Château Lafite-Rothschild, very high shoulder. Really light color, almost Burgundian. An elegant delicate nose of red cherry, floral (fresh violets), asparagus, and brown spices. Very strangely, there was an unmistakable muscadine grape scent, which provided some sweetness to the nose. Soft mouthfeel, nicely balanced. Tannins essentially resolved. Medium-plus acid. Freshness on the finish. An incredibly unique Bordeaux wine. Would like to try this again, as it was hard to make sense of this. What I can say is that this was enjoyable, and one of the better wines of the evening. – 93pts
Château Haut-Brion, dark color, surprising for a 1970. An interesting nose. A little funk that blew off. Dried fig, prune, smoky earth, licorice, and eucalyptus. Big on the palate. Tannins still a bit firm. Acidity nicely balanced. Powerful. Young. Can probably hold for a bit longer, but the fruit is certainly fading. – 92pts
Château Léoville Las Cases, high shoulder fill. Medium ruby. Very earthy nose, a bit tired. Walks the line between dried and cooked fruits…fig, prune, bacon, old library book. Better on the palate. Somewhat powerful. Seems a little clunky. Acidic on the finish. Drink up. A disappointment. – 88 pts
For those traveling to the wine region of Bordeaux, Chateau Pontet-Canet should warrant some consideration for a visit. Located in Pauillac, this chateau has experienced one of the steepest trajectories of all classed growths in the Medoc. Their wines have been consistently heralded by critics, and their approach has perhaps been more ‘forward thinking’ than many other chateaux. Accompanied by our tour guide Hamish Wilkes-Miller of Bella Wine Tours, our visit to Pontet-Canet was nothing short of fantastic. While not grandiose, the chateau itself is quite impressive. But even more enchanting are the grounds themselves; the vineyards are set in a beautiful backdrop. Further enhancing the idyllic scene is the presence of horses working in the fields. The tour of Pontet-Canet focuses much on their biodynamic farming, which was begun in 2004. They are obviously very proud of this, as they should be. As with other chateaux, the tour included a visit through the winemaking facilities, including the impressive modern vat room and an extremely old wine cellar. But one of the highlights is the upstairs tasting area, which includes a gorgeous view of the expansive vineyards. The view is so beautiful, we felt compelled to use this photo as the cover of our blog. At the conclusion of the tour, we tasted the 2007 Pontet-Canet grand vin. While obviously young, it was nice to taste a wine, while finally understanding the great lengths that Chateau Pontet-Canet took to create consistent excellence.
Ruby red with some slight bricking at the edges. The nose is a treat, which continued to evolve over the 3 hour decant. Bold dark fruits, leather, cigarbox, and hints of barnyard, bell pepper, and soy sauce. This was just bursting with fruit. Silky mouthfeel and full-bodied. Soft, round tannins and a nice acidic backbone. Medium finish. This wine seems like it is just entering its prime drinking window, and would guess 10-15 years left. Compared to the ’96 Pontet-Canet and Pichon Baron, this wine seems to have more longevity and structure.
About Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste:
Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste is one of the oldest properties in the Medoc region of Bordeaux. The grounds of the chateau are known for their beautiful gardens and lake, complete with swans. in 1855, it was classified as a Fifth Growth chateau.
Three Interesting Facts:
- ‘Puy’ is a geological French term meaning ‘volcanic hill.’
- In 1978, Jean-Eugene Borie of Ducru-Beaucaillou acquired half of the shareholdings of Grand-Puy-Lacoste, as the owner Raymond Dupin had no one to inherit the property. When Dupin died in 1980, Borie then became the sole owner.
- This is one of the more popular non-first growth chateaux in China, known as the ‘alligator wine,’ referring to the Lacoste clothing brand.
Blend: 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot
Aging Potential: 2030