Richard Mark James' wine & travel blog
Buy my French wine e-magazine (click there - updated Sept 2016) on Amazon for £3.76/$4.99/€4.44/¥512/Ca$6.51/Au$6.62 (or £4 emailed as a PDF) including Languedoc, Cahors, Champagne, Chablis, Alsace. Other special supplements and guides: English wine guide £3.50, Cava guide £3, Slovenia & Croatia, Portugal, Argentina (follow links for more info and payment). Pay by card with PayPal: click here for more about card payments using PayPal, general 'terms & conditions', and your privacy.

30 September 2005

Bordeaux: Pessac-Léognan, Pomerol & Saint-Emilion Vintage 2005

Château Smith Haut Lafitte
smith-haut-lafitte.com

Bordeaux: Pessac-Léognan, Pomerol & Saint-Emilion Vintage 2005

Château Smith Haut Lafitte
smith-haut-lafitte.com
I was fortunate enough to be invited by Bordeaux wine company and vineyard owner Yvon Mau at the end of September 2005 to catch the action of the harvest in full swing. We visited an interesting cross-section of Châteaux, not just their properties, including world-famous names, up-and-coming estates and some that have recently changed hands, and a ground-breaking maverick. Namely, and not necessarily in that order: Smith Haut-Lafitte, Brown (the Mau family's latest purchase), Taillefer, Beauséjour, Haut-Bailly, Romer (Sauternes actually) and Val d'Or owned by Philippe Bardet, who's invented an extraordinary sorting machine (uh oh, geek alert...).
We also had the opportunity to chat and taste over dinner with the growers/winemakers/business people involved in this marketing initiative (click on the lead to read the story elsewhere on this blog):
A breath of fresh air in Bordeaux? "Eighteen bright ‘young guns’ have formed a new producers’ association and launched their promotional campaign for the UK, called Bordeaux Oxygène..."
This trip confirmed vintage 2005 is looking good, and it's certainly created a buzz of excitement among buyers and press around the world (egged on by producers keen to pump up their prices, it has to be said). Here are my notes on some of the wines we tried including comments on a few fermenting 2005s.

Château Taillefer - Pomerol
2005 Merlot parcel (3-4 grams per litre of sugar remaining) - lovely black/purple colour, nice structure v ripeness, fresh acid bite v plump cherry fruit. 12-15 days skin maceration to follow (28/9/05).
2003 Château Taillefer - quite forward showing attractive black cherry fruit and spicy oak, subtly firm structure with dry tannins yet approachable fruit; good depth v elegance, further nuances develop as it opens up with the oak becoming more background. Drinking from now onwards, should blossom in a couple of years and more. 89-91
2002 - maturing savoury black/red fruits lightly layered with coconut oak, quite full and concentrated for a 2002 with firm but not unattractive tannins; approachable now but should improve over the next few years. 88-90
2001 - more classic style with greater concentration, power and weight; cedary and inky blackcurrant and plum fruit v solid rounded tannins, classy length and poise; drinking now but should improve over 5-10 years. 92-94
1995 (excellent in Pomerol: regular rainfall then dry, early picking producing rich yet balanced wines) - delicate mature fruit with ripe cassis notes, elegant and concentrated, still youthful with lovely texture, well balanced fruit v tannins v oak, fine length. Yum, drink it now! 92-94

Château Val d'Or - St. Emilion Grand Cru
Both approx. 70-75% Merlot, 20%+ Cabernet Franc and max 5% Cabernet Sauvignon:
2000
 - developing brown-ish shades, delicious smoky complex nose showing ripe v minty fruit and a touch of chocolate oak; more liquorice tinged on the palate, good depth and firm bite with rounded texture, very ripe fruit with leather notes. 90-92
2001 - attractive fruit with floral leafy undertones, not as big as the 2000 but tighter and livelier, very gripping tannins yet has nice balance and elegant length. 92-94

Château Haut Bailly - Pessac-Léognan, Grand Cru Classé de Graves
2003 - Subtle toasty chocolate oak combines with rich black cherry and lightly leafy undertones; fair depth and concentration, pretty firm texture yet elegant and tight finish; needs a few years to open up. 87-89
2002 - more rustic, smoke and tobacco aromas and less leafy; still quite taut and youthful set against nice blackcurrant fruit, more structured than the 03 in terms of acidity and austere tannins; less appealing now but time will tell... 85-87
2001 - sexier, more complex nose with cassis, light leafy notes and background oak; developing earthy tobacco characters lead to richer bright fruit, dry textured bite yet very attractive and supple tannins, fine and long. 92+

Château Smith Haut-Lafitte - Pessac-Léognan, Grand Cru Classé de Graves
2005 Sauvignon Blanc (from cask, nearly dry at 13.5) - attractive citrus fruit depth, zesty acidity and subtle yeasty intensity. Usually blended 90-10 with Sauvignon Gris (vat) - white grapefruit and spice, more exotic richer palate yet less intense and zesty.
1999 blanc - toasty background with mature oily aromas and texture on citrus fruit bodywork, rounded melted mouthfeel yet still alive and fresh. 90+
2001 rouge - delicious maturing smoky nose with ripe fruit v delicately leafy and chocolate oak, black fruits and leather; rounded v firm palate with nice depth and coating of fruit, inky v fine, subtle grip and length. 93-95
1995 - smokier still with muted red pepper notes, lighter mouthfeel with dry grip yet fine fruit underneath; drink now but no hurry. 89-90
1998 - quite rich and sexy, smoky maturity v minty intricacy; firmer palate yet has fine acid/tannin structure and length; again drinking now but will develop much further. 92-94

Château Brown - Pessac-Léognan
2001 rouge - ripe smoky black cherry and cassis with complex mint/herb nuances and very background oak; meaty tobacco notes on the palate, rounded fruit v cedar coating, firm grip and tight acidity create a quite austere finish. 90
2002 - earthy v leafy nose, not as forthcoming as the 01 with grippy austere finish; difficult, might round out. 85+
2003 - warmer liquorice and jam aromas with light cedar and leaf backdrop; richer black cherry fruit then hard firm length; not very appealing at the moment but has substance on the finish. 87+
2004 blanc (Sémillon & Sauvignon Blanc) - lovely pure citrus, pear and white peach with floral perfume and very light toasty yeast lees notes; rich and rounded with buttered toast backdrop, then fresh tight acid structure and stylish length. 90-92
2003 (70-30% as above) - fatter and creamier with more obvious oak, rich tropical fruit as well on a big palate, lower acidity yet still has some mineral bite. 87-89

Château Romer, 2003 Sauternes - multilayered apricot and fig fruit with musky spice and mushroom notes, very light subtle oak on lovely rich sweet texture; has good cut and freshness for 03 with 14% alcohol adding weight to impressive length. 90+

Bordeaux Oxygène launch 29th Sept 2005



Château Thieuley, 2004 Cuvée Francis Courselle blanc - elegant mixture of toasted cedar and citrus fruit, fat v crisp mouthfeel. 87
Château le Bon Pasteur, 2002 Pomerol - quite lush and smoky with raisin and plum fruit, finishing with tighter grip and length, elegantly textured too. 92
Château la Fleur de Bouard, 2001 Lalande-de-Pomerol - pretty rich and rustic, displaying complex development with firm texture v nice ripe dark fruit. 92+
Château Loudenne, 2004 Pink de Loudenne, Bordeaux rosé - lots of fresh aromatic juicy strawberry, redcurrant and raspberry fruit; good weight and structure v crisp length. 87+
Château Rouget, 1999 Pomerol - still quite firm and unrevealing but develops a more generous palate after opening up a little. 87+
Clos Dubreuil, 2002 St-Emilion Grand Cru - ripe and smoky flavours v solid, more austere finish; nevertheless, fine textured and becomes softer with aeration. 90+
Château Malartic-Lagravière, 2001 Graves Grand Cru Classé - delicious rich tobacco tinged fruit set on a firm framework, yet finely textured too. 94-96
Château Tour de Mirambeau, 2002 Bordeaux blanc Cuvée Passion - yeast lees and butter notes lead on to a pretty toasty palate, which gets fresher with underlying citrus and ripe peach; powerful and long, needs the right food! 89
Clos du Clocher, 1998 Pomerol - maturing complex aromas of light red pepper v rich ripe black cherry, full dry palate with rounded tannins. 95
Clos Fourtet, 1996 St-Emilion 1er Grand Cru Classé - soft and quite mature with elegance and intricate flavours. 92-94
Château Nairac, 1995 Sauternes Cru Classé - super sexy nose displaying rich oily honey notes with exotic spicy botrytis fruit; big mouthful of dried apricots and honey yet with a fine green fruit centre and fresh acidity, gorgeously drinkable too. 95-97

26 September 2005

Roussillon: Château Planères, St-Jean-Lasseille

This 60 hectare estate (150 acres) is located just outside the village of Saint-Jean-Lasseille, off the N9 road between Perpignan and Le Boulou, stalked by the Albères mountains which mark the Franco-Spanish border. Their top reds are now classified Côtes du Roussillon Les Aspres. Tasted 26/9/05:
 
2004 Côtes du Roussillon Prestige blanc (Macabeu, Grenache Blanc, Malvoisie & Vermentino) - shows complex yeast-lees notes, much tighter and more concentrated palate than their basic white; good fresh intensity and finish. 85+
2003 La Romanie blanc (mostly Malvoisie) - butter and coconut dominate (10 months in cask with lees stirring) yet it's fresh too, offering nice weight of fruit v toasty character; different, needs food. 87+
2004 Côtes du Roussillon Prestige rosé (Syrah, Cinsault & Grenache) - lots of rose petal and ripe red fruits, particularly straw/raspberry; lovely concentration and depth with a light touch of tannin even. 87+
2003 Côtes du Roussillon Prestige (Mourvèdre, Syrah & Grenache) - nice smoky 'sweet' fruit with background oak, ripe and supple then structured finish with dry grip v appealing fruit. €6 88+
2003 La Coume d'Ars (a lieu dit or specific plot, 50% 100 year old Carignan, 30% 45 yo Grenache & Syrah) - earthier bigger and chunkier with attractive dark fruit background and firm tannins. 88+
2003 La Romanie les Aspres (Syrah, Mourvèdre & Grenache) - spicy coconut overtones lead to a tight palate of peppery black fruits, pretty firm yet elegant and long; needs time to develop. 90

Rivesaltes Grenat - quite oxidised style but has plenty of sweet Grenache fruit v dry tannins, nice finish too. 85+
2004 Muscat de Rivesaltes Excellence (16%) - very floral, grape and orange peel aromas lead on to lots of fresh sweet fruit (65 grams per litre residual sugar) finishing with crisp bite of acidity and alcohol; lovely style. 90

15 September 2005

Destination Champagne by Philippe Boucheron

Frustrated by publishers who couldn't handle the concept of a cross-genre book, Philippe set up his own company 'Wine Destination Publications' to get this recommended Champagne travel guide on the shelves. I agree with his comment that "wine tourism publications (is) a market sector that has... been largely ignored." I guess narrow-minded wine specialist or travel guide publishers thought book retailers wouldn't know where to put it in the shop - under wine, travel or restaurant guides? Anyway, who cares: this is rather useful if you're going on a trip to Champagne. Enthusiasm for and years of experience of the region's wines, historical insights, travelling tips and maps, where to eat and stay; it contains plenty of information without being too long and is good read too. Perhaps a little pricey at £18.99 but at least Philippe will be the main beneficiary (after the bank no doubt), rather than a huge indifferent publishing company. He also has plans to release Destination Bordeaux and others in this series. Available "from all good bookshops," as the flyer says: further info from www.destinationchampagne.com