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03 January 2015

Bordeaux mini-focus: Château La Tulipe de la Garde & Château Guiraud

These two châteaux don't actually have anything in common, as far as I know, apart from being loosely "in Bordeaux" albeit about 70 km from each other; one to the north-east of the city near the Dordogne river and the other a good trek south-east along the Garonne...

Château de la Garde was bought by Ilja Gort in 1994, a rather ramshackle wine estate dating from the 13th century apparently; and it took him 10 years to restore and re-equip the property, which is located on 20 hectares of vineyards in a little place called Saint Romain La Virvée (on the way to Libourne). In 2010, Ilja decided to change its name to Château la Tulipe de la Garde, presumably to give it a Dutch twist. I'm told "the vineyards are divided into 30 blocks, which are vinified separately... and made up of 80% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc." Well-known consultant winemaker and Pomerol estate-owner Michel Rolland has been working with them since 2009, to refine the wine's style using less oak and bringing out the fruit, paraphrasing Ilja, who's obviously not publicity shy: in 2008, he had his nose insured by Lloyds of London for five million Euros!

Château La Tulipe de la Garde 2011 Bordeaux Supérieur (13.5%) - a touch more Cab Sauv and touch less Merlot than the 2012 below. Light cedar and herby red pepper notes vs darker cherry / damson fruit, quite powerful with a hint of grip and bitter chocolate tannins, black cherry, plum and blackcurrant flavours; nice freshness vs weight with a lush touch and some developing fruit vs dry structured bite on the finish. It was a little softer after being open for 24 hours with subtle ripe vs crunchy fruit finishing with dark chocolate bitter twist. Attractive modest modern claret, if you like, and fairly good value too.
Château La Tulipe de la Garde 2012 (13.5% abv) - 86% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Cabernet Franc; aged for 12 months in new French oak. Much softer wine and 'lighter' (although still similar 13.5% weight) with nice plummy fruit and light cedar edges, crunchy fruit too vs soft and sweet mouth-feel vs a hint of dry grip and subtle cedar/coconut texture, rounded and full finish with more immediate fruit and drinking-now style.
UK: Sainsbury's £10. More info: www.tulipe.co.uk


Château Guiraud probably needs less of an introduction, which is one of the oldest and largest wine estates in sublime sweet wine country, found in Sauternes itself, and is ranked as a Premier Grand Cru Classé in the (in)famous 1855 classification. And apparently the only one belonging to this royal elite that's certified organic. Winemaker and estate manager Xavier Planty embarked on a subtle style change from the 2000 vintage, to give "grip and structure but... cleaner, lighter and more elegant..." In any case, here are a few words on three very different vintages, plus one of Petit Guiraud, the "second wine", and 'Le G' which is their new-ish dry white.

2013 Le G de Château Guiraud - produced from certain 15 ha plots with 70% Sauvignon blanc and 30% Semillon (no noble rot), half of it fermented in barrels used to make Sauternes. Lively citrus and gooseberry aromas vs a more exotic, rounder and creamier side; nice intense lively palate with yeast lees notes then richer finish, lovely dry white.
2011 Petit Guiraud - described as "a modern Sauternes... refined sweetness given extra freshness by a high proportion of Sauvignon." Gorgeous exotic nose with dried apricot and spiced honey, lighter and fresher on the palate with attractive concentrated vs crisp finish.
2008 Château Guiraud - beginning to get enticing marmalade aromas tinged with orange peel, lush yet very crisp mouth-feel with a touch of coconut oak, good balance of sweet exotic botrytis fruit vs that fresher side too.
2001 Château Guiraud - almost restrained for its age with subtle butterscotch notes, rich lush and exotic with lovely 'bite' underneath, beautiful balance of concentrated and long finish with spicy and still lively tones. Classic.
1996 Château Guiraud - orangey brown colour with caramel and marmalade on the nose, lush and concentrated with attractive honey flavours; probably already peaked but a lovely wine anyway.

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