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Bordeaux Chateaux biogs with tasting notes 2009

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					Bordeaux 2009 – chateaux biographies


St-Estèphe


Château Les Ormes de Pez
This is one of the most successful Cru Bourgeois in St-Estèphe. The estate is
located in the village of Pez, and an orme is French for an elm tree, of which
there used to be a number on the estate. It has been in the Cazes family of
Chateau Lynch-Bages for around 100 years, and benefits from their superb
winemaking team. The wine is typically made up of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon,
30% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc, and tends to be on the fuller side in
body with good rounded fruit. Best with at least 5 years of bottle age under
its belt, it doesn’t take forever to come round and tends to be a reliable Cru
Bourgeois.

The Sampler tasting note
Still quite inexpressive on the nose, but pure cassis on the palate with a
savoury finish. Fresh and balanced, oak not overdone. Medium length. This
will make good medium term drinking.


Château Beau-Site
Chateau Beau-Site is a classically styled St-Estèphe. It can be quite hard in its
youth, but given time can be a good call for those who enjoy traditionally firm
St-Estèphes. It is a Cru Bourgeois from the extreme northern end of the
commune, and tends to offer value for money and has good staying power
for this relatively modest Cru.

The Sampler tasting note
Dark fruit nose, cassis with some leafy fresh blackcurrant. Mirrored on the
palate with some savoury notes and coffee-grounds flavour giving complexity.
Good structure and length.


Château Le Boscq
Also a Cru Bourgeois, Château Le Boscq tends to be a little more plump and
fruit-forward than its neighbour Beau-Site, but nonetheless exhibits the
powerful character one can expect from a property so far north in the Médoc.
Since the early 2000s there has been much investment in this property and
the 2009 is testament to the all the hard work that has been taking place.

The Sampler tasting note
Intensely fruity nose. Succulent fruit overlaid with very fine but powerful
tannins that aren’t without a certain toughness, but not in a bad way. Medium
to long finish.
Château Phélan-Ségur
One of several Bordeaux chateaux with Irish heritage, Chateau Phélan-Ségur
is named after Bernard Phelan who arrived in Bordeaux at the start of the
nineteenth century. Its later history has not been without a few bumps, but
since the 90s, this Cru Bourgeois is now one of the best in St-Estèphe.
Stylistically it is a little less structured and softer in its youth. Thanks to its
succulent fruit it can often be approached a little earlier than its neighbouring
Crus Bourgeois.

The Sampler tasting note
Fresh fruit and cola on the nose. Full body with good freshness. Big, mouth-
coating tannins. Quite chunky, but good depth to the flavours. Medium
length. This should be good value if their pricing remains steady.


Château Lafon-Rochet
This 4th growth St-Estèphe property is owned by the Tesseron family who
now control and run Chateau Pontet-Canet in Pauillac with such success.
Some of their know-how also seems to be benefiting this 41 hectare property,
which has been seeing an excellent run of wines over the past decade. It is
situated in the south of the commune just opposite Chateau Lafite, and
shares some of its clay/gravel soils. It is often considered to be made in a
slightly more modern style than some other more traditional St-Estèphe
properties, and this is no bad thing, being expressed in a less powerfully
tannic, more supple style. Although perhaps not in the same league as its
immediate neighbour, this is a very good quality chateau making impressive
wines.

The Sampler tasting note
Attractive high-toned nose. Touch of sweetness to the fruit and toasty oak.
Well made modern Bordeaux.


Château Montrose
One of the leading properties in St-Estèphe, this 2nd growth produces big
powerful wines that need a good amount of time before they can be fully
enjoyed. But when they are ready they can be extraordinarily beautiful,
provided that their huge tannins eventually soften out. Montrose is one of the
longest-living wines of the Médoc. The wine tends to be almost Pauillac in
style compared to the other two big-hitters in St-Estèphe, Cos d’Estournel and
Calon-Ségur, with wonderful black fruit and beguiling complexity. It tends to
do particularly well in hotter years, the 89, 90, 2000, 03 and 05 all being
particularly good. Bodes well for the 08.

The Sampler tasting note
Powerfully fruity nose with real intensity. Full, very ripe tannins that coat the
mouth. Full bodied to say the least, pretty monumental. Yet retaining real
freshness and vibrancy. All in good balance, and extremely long. This is
stunningly good.


Château Cos d’Estournel
Visually the most striking and unusual of all the chateaux of this part of
France, Cos is fast becoming one of the most sought-after names in
Bordeaux, let alone St-Estèphe. Built on a deep gravel bank, this oriental-style
palace is situated on the border of Pauillac, just north of Lafite. Cos uses a
surprisingly high proportion of Merlot in the blend (typically around 40%, with
1% each of Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc, the rest made up with Cabernet
Sauvignon). But don’t conclude from this that the wines are lighter than its
neighbours; they are brooding and tannic when young, but when mature can
rival the first growths in their complexity, but with a unique exoticism. Cos is
officially a 2nd growth, but deserves its place as a Super Second.



Pauillac


Château Haut-Bages-Monpelou
This is a Cru Bourgeois property situated in the centre of the commune of
Pauillac. Once part of Chateau Duhart-Milon, this section of the estate was
carved off in 1948 and now continues to make very good claret but without
the price tag of Duhart. Typically made of one third each Cabernet Sauvignon,
Merlot and Cabernet Franc, the wine is vinified at nearby Chateau Batailley. A
very good softer, earlier-drinking Pauillac.

The Sampler tasting note
Quite precocious, already showing classic pencil lead and cassis aromas. Good
quality, for earlier drinking.


Château Pedesclaux
This 5th growth Pauillac property is situated just in front of Chateau Mouton-
Rothschild and Chateau Pontet-Canet, but remains one of the least well-
known Pauillac classed growths. It is 28 hectares in size, mostly clay and
limestone gravels, and relatively close to the river compared to most
properties in this commune. It is planted with 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45%
Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc.

The Sampler tasting note
Delicious nose, floral yet savoury at the same time. Fresh. Good balance.
Good length. Pedesclaux have come up with the goods in this vintage.
Château Batailley
A solid, reliable performer, Batailley make classically-styled Pauillac year in,
year out. Weather will always be an issue in Bordeaux, but even in lesser
years such as 2002, Batailley turned out a good effort. A fifth growth,
Batailley keeps its pricing relatively consistent and offers good value. It tends
to have slightly broader plummier fruit than some of its neighbours but
retaining that cedar and blackcurrant flavour that makes a Pauillac so
recognisable. Ready after 7 to 8 years, it frequently has the structure in better
years to go on for at least 20.

The Sampler tasting note
Intense leafy blackcurrant. Full body. Tannins fine and smooth but full. Touch
foursquare. Toasty finish, but the oak is in check. Good freshness. Medium
plus length. This could be a very good Batailley indeed.


Château Haut-Batailley
Chateau Haut-Batailley was once part of the Batailley estate, but was split off
from it in 1942. It was once the southern section of this large estate, but now
makes wine under its own name, although it doesn’t have a chateau building
like its sibling. It is arguably however the better performer. In style it is a little
firmer and fuller than Batailley, and usually takes longer to come into its
drinking window.

The Sampler tasting note
Just as you would expect – similar to Batailley but slightly richer and perhaps
slightly less elegant. Very tasty wine, which needs a bit of time – quite a lot
of tannin.


Château Pichon Longueville, Comtesse de Lalande
Chateau Pichon-Lalande, as it tends to be referred to, is one of Pauillac’s most
elegant wines. It is a second growth, and deserves its rank. A large estate at
86 hectares, its grace and charm are partly thanks to a higher than average
amount of Merlot in the blend (35%; with 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12%
Cabernet Franc and 8% Petit Verdot). This elegance is mirrored in the
chateau itself, surely one of the most beautiful in Bordeaux. It was really in
the late 1970s that this estate came into its own under the indefatigable
direction of Mai-Eliane de Lencquesaing, but has since been acquired by
Champagne Louis Roederer. What it lacks in tannin and power it makes up for
in fragrance and finesse. But this is still a great Pauillac, and needs a good
decade before its ready to enjoy.

The Sampler tasting note
Very attractive perfumed nose. Silky soft but grippy tannins. Balanced. Very
good length. Beautiful wine, and long.



Château Lynch-Bages
Nominally a fifth growth, Chateau Lynch-Bages may hold the lowliest Cru, but
these days can make wines to rival those much further up the scale. The
vineyard is based to the west of Pauillac on a deep gravel plateau next to the
village of Bages. The Lynch family were originally from Galway in Ireland, but
emigrated to Bordeaux in the mid 18th century. The link to the UK might be
one of the reasons that it has always been so popular over here; equally
perhaps because in good vintages the wines can be wonderful (particularly
with 10 – 20 years of age) yet not nearly as expensive as the first growths or
even many of the seconds.

The Sampler tasting note
Good depth of black fruit, sweet blackberry and blackcurrant. Very ripe with
some power. Ripe tannins. Toasty oak. Medium weight, modern, very good.


Château Pontet-Canet
The vineyards of Chateau Pontet-Canet lie right next door to Chateau Mouton
Rothschild. But like Chateau Lynch-Bages, it is classed just a fifth growth. And
for most of its life may well have deserved this rank. But since the chateau
was bought by the Tesseron cognac family in the 1970s, Pontet-Canet now
reliably makes some of the best wines in Pauillac. Improvements were made
to the chai, the proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon was reduced, and the
introduction of biodynamic practices in the vineyard have all come together to
make this property highly sought after, especially since the excellent 1994
vintage, one of the best 94s from this commune. Full, balanced, classic
Pauillac.

The Sampler tasting note
Black fruit, quite savoury. Damsons on the nose, some medicinal hints. Good
attack, intense core of blackberry and blackcurrant fruit. Mouthcoating
tannins. All in good balance, good acidity and very long. Serious, powerful,
and altogether extremely good. Surely one of the wines of the vintage?


Château Mouton-Rothschild
Mouton has been making wines of stunning quality since the 18th century
except, rather unfortunately, for a drop in quality during the 1840s. The 1855
classification of various growths that is still quoted to this day was made on
the prevailing prices that each chateau could command for their wines; and
so it was that Mouton was placed as a second growth, and not the first
growth that it did perhaps deserve. It was in 1973 that Baron Philippe de
Rothschild finally got Mouton upgraded from second to first – the only ever
change in the ranks. Whatever the ranking, it is undeniable that Mouton can
be one of the finest, and indeed in certain vintages the very best of all. What
distinguishes it is a kind of wildness or flamboyance in the wine that is added
to the signature pencil shavings, cigar box, cedar and cassis of the finest
Pauillacs. Mouton is fast becoming one of the wines of choice in the Far East.
Prices are likely to go on rising from this vintage.

The Sampler tasting note
Lifted fruit, quite exotic on the nose; dry tea and tobacco. Slight plum/prune
and dark chocolate in the background. Full body, fine grained smooth tannins,
very opulent in the mouth. Good balancing acidity giving length. Long, but not
hugely so. Little touch of astringency on the powerfully tannic finish. Serious
but playful, and very good indeed.


Château Latour
Whereas Mouton is the more capricious, flamboyant character, Latour is
stately, grand, and compelling. It seems to be able to create brilliant wines
even in vintages that prove unworkable for other lesser chateaux. It is more
consistently brilliant than any other of the first growths. It is situated quite far
south, on the border of St-Julien, but retains a minerality, complexity and
serious nature that marks it out as a Pauillac. It is a famously long-lived wine,
and can go on for decades even in average vintages. In the best vintages, a
century of life would not be impossible.


Château Lafite
There is evidence of an estate at the site of Chateau Lafite dating back to the
14th century. The chateau is based on a sloping hill of gravel on the northern
edge of Pauillac. What it lacks in consistency it certainly makes up for in
fame, surely the best known of all the first growths. This has led to huge
global demand, and even poorer back vintages now command astronomical
prices. But when it performs to the best of its powers, Lafite has a perfume
and finesse to match its power and complexity that is rarely seen in the other
first growths. All the more frequently it is being named the ‘wine of the
vintage’ as it was in 2000 and 2003. It tends to be considered more ‘feminine’
in style than the other firsts, but can still happily see its 50th birthday without
flagging in good vintages. But is it worth the money? Yes. Yes it is.


St-Julien

Château Gruaud-Larose
This St Julien is one of the commune’s most full-bodied wines. The chateau is
situated at the southern end of the commune in one large 82 hectare estate
on a deep gravel bank. It changed hands twice in the 1990s, but has
remained in the safe hands of winemaker Georges Pauli throughout, who has
looked after the estate since 1970. The vineyard is planted with 60%
Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 5.5% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot and
a little patch of 1.5% Malbec. This wine is an ungainly handful in its youth,
but with maturity comes round to a complexity and harmony deserving of its
second growth status.

The Sampler tasting note
Still quite closed on the nose. In the mouth, lively fruit with a herbal touch.
High toned. Soft, lithe tannins and good bright acidity. Very attractive and
quite together already. Toasty medium length finish. Impressive.


Château Léoville-Barton
Chateau Léoville-Barton was once part of the great Léoville estate that was
bought in the early 18th century by an English family by the name of Barton,
and it remains in the family to this day. This 48 hectare second growth St-
Julien has always been popular with the British, and not just because of the
links to England. It is traditionally-styled claret with good structure and all the
typical perfumed blackcurrant and cedar aromas you would expect. Reliable in
lesser vintages as well as excelling in the better ones, Léoville-Barton is
always a safe bet. Particularly since this chateau never followed its neighbours
in hiking up its prices during the 80s and 90s. It is often austere and tannic in
its youth and needs time before opening up – 10 to 15 years typically – but
your wait will be rewarded.

The Sampler tasting note
Creamy oak and intense black berry fruit; real depth to the gorgeous fruit.
Full bodied, with ripe and supple, powerful tannins. Classic Léoville-Barton,
very serious and for the long run. This will be good.


Château Langoa-Barton
Langoa-Barton has been owned by the Barton family since 1821, and consists
of a 17 hectare estate in St Julien. It is a third growth, and is similar to
Léoville-Barton in some respects, but tends to be a little lighter in structure,
and a richer, jammier more exuberant style. Like it’s sibling, it too is well-
priced, and tends to offer good value.

The Sampler tasting note
Enticing cola and cassis nose. Exotic spiciness. Smooth, velour tannins and
good acidity. Medium length but wonderfully vibrant. Joyful.


Château Talbot
This is one of the biggest estates in the Medoc at 102 hectares, yet somehow
manages to also be one of the most consistent. Another favourite of the
British (partly perhaps because it’s easier to pronounce than Chateau
Lafaurie-Peyraguey…), this St-Julien estate is found bang in the centre of the
appellation in one swathe of land and is somewhat meanly designated a
fourth growth but it punches well above its weight. Typically very aromatic,
with full black fruits and muscular yet integrated tannins, it has a little more
Merlot in the blend than some of its neighbours, normally a blend of 66%
Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Merlot 5% Petit Verdot and 3% Cabernet Franc.

The Sampler tasting note
Wonderfully ebullient and complex wild fruit nose. Full bodied, rich ripe cassis
fruit. Powerful but supple tannins and very long. Very satisfying. This is
excellent.


Château Ducru-Beaucaillou
Take no heed of the hideous orange label; Ducru is brilliant property and
rarely makes a wrong move (packaging decisions excepted). This leading
Super Second is one of Jamie’s favourite Bordeaux estates, and it’s easy to
see why. Typically slightly lighter in body than a number of wines of this
calibre, it has tremendous elegance and poise. Considered by many to be the
quintessential St Julien, this estate’s vines run right down to the river, and
they are planted on deep gravel and large pebbles (cailloux in French) which
give the estate its name.

Margaux

Château Pontac-Lynch
When we were told during a tasting that this property lies between Chateaux
d’Issan, Palmer and Margaux, we took it with a bit of a pinch of salt… but
driving through Margaux that is exactly where it is – more illustrious direct
neighbours it would be hard to find. It was created in 1720 by a member of
the famous Pontac family of Bordeaux, and at the time was considered one of
the great properties of this commune. Now it is less well known, it is a lowly
Cru Bourgeois, but the wines have recently been going from strength to
strength. If you are looking for a Margaux for early to mid-term drinking that
won’t break the bank, Pontac-Lynch is the perfect choice.

The Sampler tasting note
Perfumed cassis nose. Ripe sweet black fruit on the palate. Good structure
and length. This property is one to keep an eye on.


Château Brane-Cantenac
A solid performer in Margaux, Chateau Brane-Cantenac is owned by the
famous Lurton family of Bordeaux. The property is relatively high up on a
deep gravel bank that gives the vines excellent drainage, such an important
quality factor in this part of the world. The vineyard contains a relatively high
proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon (65%, with 30% Merlot and 5% Cabernet
Franc) but is not as firm or tannic as you might conclude from this; on the
contrary, the wines tends to have a softness and fragrance that is typically
Margaux. It is classified as a second growth.

The Sampler tasting note
Black cherry and blackcurrant nose. Touch floral. Medium to full body with
quite chunky tannins.


Château Giscours
Chateau Giscours is located on the southern edge of Marguaux near the
village of Labarde. This 83 hectare property is spread over four separate
gravel outcrops. The records of the property date back to 1330, but the last
ten years have been particularly important – the property’s wine growing
business was acquired by Eric Albada Jelgersma in 1995, and has since seen
serious investment and a concerted and successful effort to improve quality.
It now performs better than some of its second growth neighbours. It is
known for its beautifully aromatic Cabernet Sauvignon based wines.

The Sampler tasting note
Highly perfumed nose, black and red fruits and a hint of liquorice. Very silky
full tannins. Bright acidity, and a long finish showing some coffee hints. Very
good.


Château Lascombes
Chateau Lascombes is a fascinating property for a number of reasons. When
given its second growth status in 1855 it was a mere 15 hectares based in the
north of Margaux. It is now twice as big as this, made up of a large number
of parcels spread around the commune. Much of the land bought since the
classification is not of second growth quality, but much of the fruit from these
parcels finds its way into their second wine. Owned by an American company,
Colony Capital, since it was bought from Bass in 2001, there has been much
investment, and Lascombes is these days producing a fragrant, polished,
Margaux of a high quality.

The Sampler tasting note
Brooding nose, some complexity and attractive perfume. Soft, ripe, plush fruit
and fine-grained medium tannins. Very smooth texture and rich fruit. Good
length, well-made modern Bordeaux.


Château Malescot-St-Exupéry
Hard to say but easy to love, Chateau Malescot-St-Exupéry is one of the finest
estates in Margaux. Smaller than many, this 23.5 hectare estate is made up of
five parcels scattered around the commune of Margaux, with the cellars based
in the town. It is a full, rich and powerful Margaux, typically made up of 50%
Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot.

The Sampler tasting note
Brooding, complex, sweet vanilla and toast on the nose. Very impressive
palate – full bodied, powerful fruit and tannin, but all in balance. Very, very
long. Tiny bit of heat on the finish, but hard to fault. One of the best Margaux
this year.


Château Rausan-Ségla
Once part of the larger ‘Rozan’ estate that was split into Rausan-Ségla and
Rausan-Gassies, this top Margaux second growth is the better of the two,
indeed one of the very best estates in Margaux. It seems somewhat fitting
that it was Chanel that bought the estate in 1994 (they bought Chateau
Canon in St Emilion as well – they clearly have good taste). The 52 hectare
estate is planted with 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot
and 1% Cabernet Franc. Rarely a blockbuster, the style is concentrated but
lush and elegant.

The Sampler tasting note
Fresh, quite high-toned nose. Medium to full-bodied, with a tannic finish, but
fruit and acidity to match. No blockbuster, very classy and classic.


Château Palmer
This is surely one of the most sensuous and rich of all the wines of the
Médoc, and although rated a third growth, it has long been considered one of
the Super Seconds. The wonderfully perfumed fruitiness of Palmer is partly
down to the higher percentage of Merlot – it is planted with just 55%
Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc with 40% of Merlot. When it
performs to its highest level, it can make some of the best (occasionally the
best) wine in Bordeaux, let alone Margaux.

Château Margaux
There is only one estate that can outperform Palmer in Margaux, and that’s
Chateau Margaux itself. It unquestionably deserves its position as one of the
five first growths of the Médoc. The chateau was bought in the late 1970s by
André Mentzelopoulos, a Greek by birth who had long lived in France and
made his fortune in supermarkets. Since then it has been performing at the
top of its game, regularly producing excellent wines even in lesser vintages.
Much of this is often put down to the talents of winemaker Paul Pontallier
who joined Margaux in 1983. The wines, like the chateaux itself, are never
less then supremely elegant, well proportioned and beautiful. Although not
the most powerful of all the wines of the Médoc, it is far from a light wine,
although where it excels is complexity, elegance and its unmistakable
perfumed aroma.
The Sampler tasting note
Very perfumed, a lot of subtle aromas but hard to tease apart at this point.
Full-bodied and concentrated, delicious already. Lots of silky, coating tannins.
Incredible elegance and class and very, very long. Just extraordinary.
Perfection.




Pavillon Rouge de Château Margaux
This is the second wine of Chateau Margaux. Second wine it may be, but it
can still put many of the neighbouring grand vins in the shade. By no means a
stellar performer in all vintages, although can be extremely good.
Reassuringly they also make a third wine, but this is sold off in bulk to be sold
under other labels by Bordeaux merchants.

The Sampler tasting note
Subtle yet intense perfumed nose. Medium to full-bodied with full soft
tannins. Lovely fruity acidity running through it. Very long, extremely
attractive wine.


Haut-Médoc

Château Cissac
Cissac is a town in the Haut-Médoc just to the west of Pauillac. It is without
doubt one of the best of all the Cru Bourgeois, producing a consistently good,
traditional-style claret with real concentration of fruit and firm, full tannins. It
is made with age in mind, and needs a good 8 years before it settles down
and starts to show its best. But once in its stride, this Cabernet-heavy wine
can run for a long time – a bottle of the 83 drunk last year was wonderful.

The Sampler tasting note
Classic CIssac – a bit austere and upright at the minute but give it a few years
and this will be great. The core of fruit is there and quality of tannin very
good. Long and balanced. A banker.


Château Sociando-Mallet
This 57 hectare estate lies in the Haut-Médoc to the north of St-Estèphe in
the commune of Saint-Seurin-de-Cadourne. Not a classed growth, but
refusing to enter their wines into the Cru Bourgeois system, this property
chooses to stand apart from the official Bordeaux ranks. If any wines not
currently included on the ranking system merited a place, this would surely be
one of them. And at least halfway up the scale of crus. Jean Gautreau bought
this property, then a 5 hectare estate, in 1969. He has since built it up to
where it stands today. It is planted with 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40%
Merlot, and the remaining 5% made up of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. It
is a concentrated and rich wine, displaying the staying power of a St-Estèphe
with the finesse of a Pauillac.

The Sampler tasting note
Full but not forceful fruit with enough acidity to match. Tannins big, ripe;
touch drying on the finish. High alcohol level but not unbalanced. Solid but
charming at the same time.



Pessac-Léognan


Château Brown
Another Bordeaux estate with English ancestry, Chateau Brown is based in
the Northern end of Pessac, near Chateau Olivier. It is a 25 hectare estate
grown across two gravel ridges making classically-styled Graves. It was
bought in 2004 by the Mau family (once of the Yvon Mau firm of negociants in
Bordeaux), who immediately brought in the top viticultural consultant
Stéphane Derenoncourt. Since then, this estate has been making good
quality, good value wines that are getting better and better.

The Sampler tasting note
Leafy black fruit on the nose and some hot slate. Fine tannin structure and
good balancing acidity. Medium length, classic Graves.


Château Malartic-Lagravière
This Cru Classé de Graves is based in the southern part of the Pessac-
Léognan appellation. Forty-one hectares are dedicated to red grapes, planted
on a long gravel ridge, made up of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot and
25% Cabernet Franc. Owned until 1997 by Champagne house Laurent Perrier,
the investment that the estate saw under their management has continued
with their new Belgian owners the Bonnie family, and the wines are now very
good. Austere in their youth, they do take a number of years to soften up, but
retain a distinctive mineral edge that is the signature of good quality red
Graves.

The Sampler tasting note
Pretty nose, lean fruit with a coffee note. Medium body, alcohol quite high but
not problematically so. Good length.


Château de Fieuzal
Château de Fieuzal is one of the better properties in Pessac-Léognan, situated
quite far to the south of Pessac near Domaine de Chevalier. It is designated a
Cru Classé de Graves and has a good reputation for both its reds and its
whites. The reds are rich and opulent examples and drink well from a young
age. The vineyards comprise 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 4.5%
Cabernet Franc and 2.5% Petit Verdot.

The Sampler tasting note
Blackberry with a hint of tomato stalk and green bell pepper. Quite full bodied
with big tannins and good acidity. Long, distinctly dry with a minerally, toasty
finish.


Château de Fieuzal Blanc
The white of Chateau de Fieuzal is equally as good as its red, typically a blend
of half Sauvignon Blanc and half Semillon. Delicious in its youth and
wonderful with some bottle age.

The Sampler tasting note
Pure orchard fruits on the nose, not exotic like some others this year.
Focussed palate, long and steely. Medium plus length.


Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte
Located in the southern part of Pessac not far from Chateau Carbonnieux, this
extraordinary-looking chateau has an almost medieval feel about it. It was
bought in 1990 by Olympic skiing champion Daniel Cathiard, who employed a
number of top oenologists including Michel Rolland to help him bring this
ailing property back to its former glory. He has been successful in this aim.
The 56 hectares of red vineyards are planted with 59% Cabernet Sauvignon,
30% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot. The finished wines
are not fined or filtered, and are rich and succulent examples of good red
Graves.

The Sampler tasting note
Blackcurrant and tomato stalk on the nose. Fresh, lovely soft quality to the
tannins. Relatively high acidity, with good length. Very good Pessac.


Domaine de Chevalier Rouge
Although perhaps more famous for its whites, Domaine de Chevalier makes
considerably more red. This 38 hectare rectangular patch of vineyard is cut
off from any neighbours by surrounding pine trees and the red wine vineyards
are planted with 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot and 5% Cabernet
Franc. Although they have a softness that means you can approach them
after 6 to 7 years, in better vintages they have a long life, happily going on
for 15 to 20 years. The cedar, cigar box and blackcurrant aromas it gives are
classic Graves. We were impressed after tasting the component parts of the
2009 in February; if the blend equals more than the sum of its parts, this
vintage looks like a great one for Domaine de Chevalier.

The Sampler tasting note
Real intensity and depth of fruit, with a pleasant slightly medicinal undertone.
Very smooth and full-bodied. Long and concentrated, already remarkably
together. All in balance. This is really excellent, one of the best wines in
Pessac this year.


Domaine de Chevalier Blanc
Dozens of separate plots are vinified separately in 100% new oak after a
number of passes through the vineyards to ensure only the perfectly ripe
berries are picked. The blend is typically 70% Sauvignon Blanc and 30%
Semillon. The marked fruitiness of its youth gradually gives way to a more
honeyed, nutty richness, and the wines can age for well over a decade, even
two in the best vintages. The white wine of Domaine de Chevalier is one of
the finest of Graves, if not the whole of Bordeaux.

The Sampler tasting note
Wonderful nose of peach and vanilla. Full bodied but fresh. Real intensity and
concentration. Broad on the palate and vibrant. A brilliant wine.


Le Clarence de Haut-Brion
The second wine of Haut-Brion was until recently known as Bahans Haut-
Brion, but changed its name with the 07 vintage in honour of Clarence Dillon,
the American financier who bought Haut Brion in 1935 in a state of disrepair
and restored it to its former glory.

The Sampler tasting note
Soft almost cooked fruit with a savoury note. Herbal, touch of spearmint.
Extremely smooth tannins, medium body. Excellent balance, with an intense
core of fruit leading to a medium to long finish. Extraordinarily good for a
second wine.


Château Haut-Brion
This wine has been enjoyed in England for centuries, no doubt even before
Samuel Pepys mentioned it in his diaries in 1663. The only chateaux from
outside the Médoc to be classed as a first growth in the 1855 classification of
Bordeaux, Chateau Haut-Brion is the pre-eminent chateau of the Graves.
Although the chateau itself is modest and the vineyards surrounded by
suburban housing, the wine itself has a stateliness and elegance that you look
for in Bordeaux but all too rarely find. The aromas and flavours are classic
Graves; spice box, hot bricks, blackberries, earth and unsmoked cigars. It
doesn’t have power of a first growth from the Medoc, and neither would you
expect it to coming from the Graves, but it more than makes up for it in
complexity, length and sheer class. The vineyard is planted with 40%
Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot and 18% Cabernet Franc, with the rest
being made up of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon for their rare white wine,
Haut-Brion Blanc.

The Sampler tasting note
Extreme purity of fruit, both red and black fruits, with a certain herbal note.
Full bodied. Huge amount of extremely fine tannins. Real substance and
texture. Quite hard to gauge at the moment as the wine is not really together
yet, but all the elements are there for this to be fabulous.




Château Haut-Brion Blanc
The planting of white varieties at Haut-Brion is 63% Semillon, 37% Sauvignon
Blanc, and production is tiny at around 800 cases a year. It is concentrated,
mineral and extremely long. It is frequently the white wine of the vintage, and
tends to be considered the greatest of all white Bordeaux.

The Sampler tasting note
Fruit very Sauvignon Blanc in character, really concentrated. Reminds you of
what this grape is capable of in the right hands. Balanced and fresh.
Extremely long, with total purity. Unforgettable, surely the white wine of the
vintage - again.


Château La Mission Haut-Brion
La Mission Haut-Brion is situated just over the road from its better known
sibling. Better known, but not necessarily better; in some vintages La Mission
surpasses Haut-Brion itself. Pricing tends to be the same these days. It is
smaller than Haut-Brion at just 21 hectares. Compared with Haut Brion, the
wines tend to be richer and more powerful, sometimes with more prominent
oak, and take longer to come round – 10 years at the very least. An
extraordinarily beautiful wine, comparable to the other first growths in quality.

The Sampler tasting note
Very complex nose of coffee, blackberry, damson, camphor and pot-pourri.
Exotic and high-toned. Full bodied, with very fine tannins, and lots of them.
Flamboyant. All in good balance, intense grip and concentration of fruit on the
finish. Wonderful.


Château La Mission Haut-Brion Blanc
Another recent name change at Haut-Brion – what was once named Laville
Haut-Brion has in the spirit of clarity been renamed La Mission Haut-Brion
Blanc. Another white Graves of the very highest quality, this tends to be the
only white Bordeaux that can equal – and sometimes surpass – the quality of
Haut-Brion Blanc. Again, quantities are miniscule at around 1000 cases per
year from their tiny 3.7 hectare vineyard of white varieties (70% Semillon,
30% Sauvignon Blanc). Although concentrated and long like Haut Brion Blanc,
the emphasis here is on exoticism and voluptuous fruit rather than keen
minerality.

The Sampler tasting note
Elegant, restrained nose. Quite fat and rich on the palate, high toned and
voluptuous. Very long indeed. Easily as high quality as the Haut-Brion Blanc,
but very different in style.




Sauternes/Barsac


Château Cantegril
Being owned by white winemaker and consultant extraordinaire Denis
Dubourdieu, it is hardly surprising that the wines of Chateau Cantegril are
getting better and better. Planted with 88% Semillon and 12% Sauvignon
Blanc on a limestone plateau, the wines are vinified using one quarter new
oak. Typically fresh and fruity, with bright floral undertones. This may not
have made it into the 1855 classification of Sauternes, but perhaps that’s one
reason why it is such good value.

The Sampler tasting note
Floral yet honeyed nose, not too much botrytis, more emphasis on fruit. Very
sweet and full bodied, but with balanced acidity.


Château Doisy-Daëne
A second growth Sauternes, Doisy-Daëne is also owned by Denis Dubourdieu
but is altogether a more serious sweet wine. The 16 hectare vineyard is
planted with 4/5th Semillon and 1/5th Sauvignon Blanc. The wine is fermented
in oak (1/3rd new) then aged in barrel for 18 months. The wine is a fresh,
vibrantly fruity wine in its youth, but for capacity for longer-term ageing.

The Sampler tasting note
Honeyed fruits on the nose. Good concentration, very full bodied and sweet.
Luxurious and long.
Château Guiraud
Compared to Chateau Doisy-Daëne, Chateau Guiraud is a more concentrated,
richer and fuller style of Sauternes. It is one of the largest estates in
Sauternes at 85 hectares, but somehow manages to retain its very high level
of quality. It is situated at the heart of the commune and planted with 65%
Semillon and 35% Sauvignon Blanc. The wine is aged in oak barrels, 50%
new, for 2 years. A first growth Sauternes, and one of the best.

The Sampler tasting note
Powerfully oaky nose at the moment. Wonderful Semillon fruit underneath,
very sweet. Underlying power, real potential here.


Château d’Yquem
Is Chateau d’Yquem the greatest sweet wine on Earth? Some would argue the
greatest wine of all. It has a rating in the 1855 above that of even the
Premiers Crus – it is a Premier Cru Superieur – the only estate to carry this
rating. The 110 hectare vineyard sits on the highest hill in Sauternes and is
planted with 80% Semillon, 20% Sauvignon Blanc. Only grapes affected by
Noble Rot are picked, which involves numerous passes through the vineyard
by the 150 strong picking team that remain on call from September. Since
this beneficial fungus dries out the grapes, the yields are low enough to mean
that only the equivalent one glass of wine per vine is produced. And that’s if
they make any at all – if the crop is not good enough or the Noble Rot fails to
set in like in 1974 and 1992, no wine will be made at all. When it is, it is
fermented in 100% new oak, then matured in barriques for 36 months. The
extraordinary purity of fruit in its youth becomes increasingly honeyed and
exotically lush with age. Good vintages last decades. The best sail on for a
century.


St-Emilion


Château Fonplégade Cru Classé
Chateau Fonplégade is a medium-sized (for St Emilion) 18 hectare property
located on the south side of the St-Emilion plateau. The vines have an
average age of 30 years and are made up of 91% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc,
2% Cabernet Franc, and will be biodynamic from the 2009 vintage. This is
likely to see even further plaudits for this up-and-coming chateau. While still
making its name in St-Emilion, this Grand Cru Classé offers good value for
money.

The Sampler tasting note
- not yet tasted -
Château La Tour Figeac Cru Classé
Once part of the great Figeac estate, Chateau La Tour Figeac is one of the
three smaller estates that was split from it in 1879. It is the biggest of these
three at 14.6 hectares, planted with 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet Franc and
farmed according to biodynamic principles. Since 1997, this estate has been
making very good wine, thanks in part to the help of consultant Stéphane
Derenoncourt. The wines are typically fuller-bodied St-Emilions with rich
succulent fruit. It is a Grand Cru Classé.

The Sampler tasting note
High-toned red fruit and vanilla nose. Medium bodied, quite fresh with alcohol
in check.


Château Canon-La-Gaffelière Cru Classé B
This quite small Grand Cru Classé estate is based just south of the town of St-
Emilion itself, and although the soil is more sandy than clay, produces some
really excellent wines. Since being taken over by the dapper Count Stephan
von Neipperg in 1983 the wines have gone from strength to strength,
producing a rich but scented wine from its planting of 55% Merlot, 45%
Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. An established star of St-
Emilion.

The Sampler tasting note
Ripe lifted red and black fruits on the nose, and vibrantly fruity on the palate.
Very smooth tannins and perky acidity. Not over done. Very successful.


Clos Fourtet Cru Classé B
This Premier Grand Cru Classé B estate is situated just outside the town of St-
Emilion and borders the vineyards of Chateau Canon. Its history goes back to
the middle ages when it was a fortified camp, but the chateau dates back to
1790. It currently has 19 hectares under vine, made up of 85% Merlot, 10%
Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc. The style is elegant, refined and
balance rather than powerful and rich. A top flight, traditional St-Emilion.

The Sampler tasting note
Intriguing bright Victoria plum nose. Full bodied, wonderfully fine tannins. A
refreshing lighter style of St-Emilion and very high quality.


Château Figeac Cru Classé B
In the northwest of the appellation, adjoining the vineyards of Chateau Cheval
Blanc, is the hugely characterful Chateau Figeac. This large 40 hectare
Premier Grand Cru Classé B estate is often described as being the closest to
the Médoc in style due to the large proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon grown
here. The plantings are made up of 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Cabernet
Franc and 30% Merlot. The Cabernet Sauvignon lends it acidity in hotter
vintages, and staying power. The wine is matured in 100% new oak for 18 –
22 months, and takes at least 10 years before it is ready to drink. When it is,
it is a powerful, complex wine of character and distinction.

The Sampler tasting note
Darker fruit on this one, very cassis on the nose. Lots of tannin, touch grainy.
Good balance, medium to long length. Good potential.


Château Troplong-Mondot Cru Classé B
Although rated a Grand Cru Classé, this estate is now regularly producing
wines that suggest it deserves a place in the ranking above. It is a relatively
large estate for the Libournais at 30 hectares, and planted with a large
proportion of Merlot – 80% - the rest being made up of equal parts of both
the Cabernets. Now producing intense, dark brooding plummy clarets,
Troplong-Mondot must be one of the most stylish estates in the right bank,
both inside and out, and increasingly in the bottle.

The Sampler tasting note
High toned kirsch fruit on the nose and lots of oak. Full bodied and high
alcohol but balanced. Plush velour tannins. Modern and powerful, will take a
while to settle down, but should be fascinating when ready.


Château Trottevieille Cru Classé B
There are only 13 Premiers Grands Crus Classés in St Emilion, and
Trottevieille sits amongst this esteemed company (it is a ‘B’, not an ‘A’ on the
scale, but there are only two ‘A’s – Cheval Blanc and Ausone). This 10 hectare
vineyard is grown on a small isolated plateau just to the east of the village
and comprises 50% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Franc and 10% Cabernet
Sauvignon. Legend has it the name comes from an old lady that used to live
at the property who used to trot around the village looking for gossip. Here’s
one titbit – this wine used to be a bit of an underperformer. Until the 2000
vintage that is; now the wines are superb.

The Sampler tasting note
Powerful blackberry and cassis nose. Massive structure and concentration to
match. Long. This will be good.


Pomerol


Château L'Enclos
Unusually for Pomerol, this 24 hectare estate does actually contain a large
property. After 10 generations in the same family, the property was bought
by an American couple in the 1990s. The 24 hectare vineyard is planted to
79% Merlot, 19% Cabernet Franc and 2% Malbec and grown on terraces of
sandy gravel and layers of clay. The wine spends 12 – 18 months in oak, 50%
new.

The Sampler tasting note
Bright and fresh on the nose. Soft medium tannins, quite high alcohol but
should settle. Good length.


Domaine de l'Eglise
This tiny 6 hectare estate is possibly the oldest in Pomerol, appearing in local
documents since 1589. Improving greatly since being taken over by the
Moueix family (of Chateau Petrus) in the 60s and now in the hands of the
Casteja family, the vineyard is made up of 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet
Franc grown on gravel and clay over an iron casse subsoil. It is a fabulously
rich, hedonistic wine and undeniably one of the best wines of Pomerol; but
somehow without the price tag.

The Sampler tasting note
Plump plummy Merlot nose. Very full mid-palate, good freshness. Long and
rich, very good.


Château Gazin
Chateau Gazin’s terroir is hard to deny. With Chateau Petrus on one side and
Chateau L’Evangile on another, a good part of Gazin’s 24 hectare estate sits
on the famous Pomerol clay plateau which is the key quality factor of so many
wines in this area. The vineyards are made up of 80% Merlot, 15% Cabernet
Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon and are now run by Nicolas de
Baillaiencourt dit Courcol, one of the oldest families in France. Delicious
young, but can be capable of lasting 30 years in the best vintages.

The Sampler tasting note
Quite oaky nose but with good fruit underneath. Powerful fruit and tannins
mask the freshness at the moment but should be very good in the mid to
long-term.


Château La Conseillante
This is one of the very finest estates in Pomerol. With Cheval Blanc on one
side and Pétrus on the other this is hardly surprising. The price of a case,
however, is somewhat different from its illustrious neighbours. Its 12 hectares
are made up of 80% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc and planted on a clay and
gravel soil on the highest part of the Pomerol plateau. The wine is aged in
100% new oak in better vintages. The wine strikes a balance between
elegance and power. It often performs well in poorer vintages, and
exceptionally well in good ones.

The Sampler tasting note
Lush, rich, plummy nose with some strawberry. Full tannins and a lot of them,
but ripe and appetising. Balanced acidity. Surprisingly together already, this is
long and characterful. Very good indeed.

				
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