Monthly Archives: May 2016

Portes Ouvertes: visit to 9 châteaux in the Côtes de Bourg

Sometimes, you just want to scream!

Bordeaux is too expensive.
Bordeaux is boring and all tastes the same.
Today’s Bordeaux is over-extracted and over-oaked.
You have to wait too long for Bordeaux to age.
Bordeaux is old hat.
Bordeaux is bourgeois.
There are much more exciting wines elsewhere today….

No, no, and no!
Enough already!

A trip to the Côtes de Bourg disproves all of the above.
It’s true that there are countries where these wines are virtually unable to be found (only 15% of production is exported). This creates a vicious circle: they aren’t imported and distributed because they are not known. And they are not known because they aren’t imported and distributed…
The wine media? It seems somehow more sexy to crow about a Côtes de Lubéron or a Cour-Cheverny or a Jura than a Bordeaux – and that’s just the French wines!
Then there’s this feeling that Bordeaux is a known quantity with not much left to discover, with nothing new happening.
Oh, journalists do come to Bordeaux in droves alright during en primeur time. And what do they taste? The great growths. Period. Or just about… In their defense, it takes a least a full week of constant tasting to sample most of the famous wines. And then it’s time to go back home.
Far too few critics make the effort to poke around and discover the good affordable wines of Bordeaux.

Yes, it does take poking around, and a lot of trial and error. Admittedly, quality is uneven, but the rewards are well-worth the trouble! The Côtes wines of Bordeaux represent excellent value for money. No doubt about it.

The other Côtes de Bordeaux – Blaye, Cadillac, Castillon, and Francs – decided to join forces. They established an association, the Union des Côtes de Bordeaux, and succeeded in creating a new umbrella appellation in 2009. AOC Côtes de Blaye became “Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux”, Côtes de Castillon became “Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux”, and so on.
Bourg decided to go their own way, however, and did not join the others.





The town of Bourg, and center of the appellation, is 35 km. from Bordeaux. Its full name is Bourg-sur-Gironde but here’s a factoid for you: the estuary changed course over the years, and the town is actually on the Dordogne!
The narrow 10 km. corniche road (D660) from Bourg to Villeneuve running between the estuary and a cliff face dotted with troglodyte dwellings is not to be missed. This is lined with lovely houses whose owners pride themselves on their flower gardens – a riot of color this time of year!
Bourg is a charming little town, with its own small port, a citadel, and a great Maison du Vin where they just opened a beautiful modern extension with a lovely large tasting room overlooking the river. There is also an attractive boutique with a dizzying selection of wines. The prices are awfully seductive, and the knowledgeable staff are glad to make suggestions. This is just as well because even a hard-bitten Bordeaux fanatic such as me is pretty much at a loss to recognize most of the labels here.

With a near-Texan sense of exaggeration, this part of Bordeaux is called “la Suisse Girondine”. While hardly Alpine, the vine-covered countryside is indeed very hilly. The Côtes de Bourg have about 4,000 hectares of vineyards. Merlot reigns supreme, but as opposed to all other parts of Bordeaux, Malbec is widely planted, and its share is growing.
Students of Bordeaux all learn that the Cabernet on the Right Bank is Cab Franc. But not so in Bourg: it is far outweighed by Cabernet Sauvignon because of the later-ripening terroir, approximately two weeks after Saint-Emilion.




I decide to take advantage of the Portes Ouvertes to visit the Côtes de Bourg appellation and their renovated Maison du Vin on the 7th of May. A friend and I stopped in at 9 châteaux and here’s a not-so-brief rundown of our experience.



Château Tayac

Château Tayac


We first went to Château Tayac in Saint-Seurin-de-Bourg. Overlooking the confluence of the Dordogne and the Garonne at the Bec d’Ambès, this estate has a very long history and an impressive château to prove it. This was built on the site of previous ones in 1827. Tayac is also famous for a rare mutation of Merlot called à queue rouge (with a red stem). Vieux Château Certan in Pomerol has planted cuttings.  We tried two vintages of the red wine (43% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Merlot Noir, 25% Merlot à Queue Rouge, 5% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Malbec – planted on 26 hectares). The 2013 was fresh, easy-going, and intelligently made i.e. not over-extracted in that difficult vintage. The 2009 Cuvée Réserve had a lovely, perfumed, uplifting bouquet, but the palate was not quite up to this. Short, but interesting, it was a little rustic. However, there was plenty of grip and this wine may surprise us with age. We also tasted the 2014 white Tayac (60% Sauvignon Blanc, 25% Sémillon, and 15% Muscadelle on two hectares). In fact, we tasted several white Côtes de Bourg on our day out, but this may give a wrong impression. These wines account for just a minuscule share of production. Anyway, the 2014 Tayac was very pale with silvery highlights and a nose clearly marked not only by Sauvignon Blanc, but also the high proportion of Muscadelle. The wine was light and thrist-quenching. I left with a couple of bottles at 7.20 € apiece.





Our next stop was Château Falfas in Bayon-sur-Gironde (20 hectares of vines – 55% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Malbec). The 17th century château is a listed historic monument. We were welcomed by the owner, Madame Véronique Cochran. This charming, soft-spoken woman has an enormous and infectious faith in biodynamic winegrowing. We tasted red wines: the 2011 and 2012 regular cuvée as well as the 2008 and 2011 prestige cuvée, “Le Chevalier”. The former cost about 15 euros a bottle. The common thread here was pure black fruit aromatics and a significant oak influence. These are wines to age.


After Falfas, we went to Château Puy d’Amour in Tauriac with 12 hectares of vines. Puits means “a well” in English, and puits d’amour is the name of a local patisserie… But the name puy here means a small, flat-topped hill where the grapes grow. The wines were inexpensive, but really nothing special.

Next up was Château Caruel in Bourg with 18 hectares of vines (55% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Malbec, and 10% Cabernet Franc). We were welcomed by Thierry Auduteau, a salt-of-the earth kind of guy who served us his 2011 cuvée traditionelle and his prestige cuvée Ballade from the same vintage.  The former was everything one would hope for from an inexpensive Bordeaux (6.20 euros a bottle), with a simple but attractive raspberry nose and a good long finish.  I was very happy to taste this. The latter wine (8.70 euros a bottle) was soft with well-integrated oak. Tremendous value for money. A 2000 Caruel had dried out and was past it. But age-worthiness is not the be-all and end-all of wine quality. For inexpensive mid-range drinking, Caruel is clearly a winner.




We stopped for lunch at La Plaisance near the port in Bourg. This bistro-type restaurant claims they offer the widest choice of wines by the glass (3, 6, and 12 cl.) of any restaurant in France. They even serve, gasp, foreign wines: Tuscany, Argentina, California, etc.! The cuisine is basic and enjoyable. In fact, following the example of the local wines, there are no top-flight restaurants in the Bourg region, but there are certainly several good ones such as La Plaisance that won’t break the bank.



Château de la Grave

Château de la Grave


Our first visit after lunch was to Château de la Grave, also in Bourg. This largish estate has a beautiful 16th century castle restored in the Louis the 13th style in the 19th century. I have always liked their wines and was not disappointed with the ones I tasted. La Grave is the largest producer of white Bourg, with nearly 5 hectares of white wine varieties: 70% Sémillon and 30% Colombard. At 10.50 € a bottle, their 2014 white was not only rare, but good. It had a brilliant pale golden colour and a sweetish, gooseberry, spicy nose with some waxy overtones. The wine was once again spicy on the palate and very attractive. Selling at 8.50 € a bottle, the 2014 red Château de la Grave (37 hectares – 80% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon) featured a vibrant purplish color as well as a vinous and lead pencil bouquet. It was chewy on the palate with good acidity and was not too tannic. A good wine at an unbeatable price in light of its quality. We also tried the 2012 “Cuvée Caractère” which had a fairly bright medium deep colour with a purple rim. The After Eight nose led up to a delicious flavor typical of its appellation, with well-integrated oak (barrels used for 2 previous vintages). Once again, a bargain at 10.50 € a bottle. I ended up buying some top-notch Crémant de Bordeaux Rosé, for under 10 € a bottle.
Château de la Grave also do bed and breakfast. I don’t know the owners, so am not doing anyone a favor by saying that this château is in a dream location and would make a very nice place to stay. Rates are approximately 100 euros a night for a couple, breakfast included.

Next on the itinerary was Château Gravettes-Samonac in Samonac. They have 27 hectares of vines (75% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Malbec). We tasted three wines from the 2012 vintage: the Tradition (5.40 € a bottle), Elégance (6.00 € a bottle), and Prestige (8.00 € a bottle) blends. This is a respected and well-known estate. My notes refer to soft wines that vary little from one cuvée to the next other than the degree of toasty oak. The wines are dependable, if unexciting.

We had better luck at Château Mercier in Saint-Trojan, where we were welcomed by Philippe Chéty, a well-known figure in the appellation. There were 23 wines for tasting going back to 1989 – and that’s just the reds! – so I restricted myself to the 2011 and 2012 vintages. In both instances, I preferred the regular cuvée (respectively 6.90 and 6.70 euros) to the over-oaked prestige cuvée, and came away with a bottle of each. Mercier has 25 hectares of vines, 24 devoted to red wine (45% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Malbec) and 1 to white (60% Sauvignon Blanc, 20% Muscadelle, and 20% Sémillon). The 2014 white was easy-going, aromatic, and very user friendly. I bought a bottle for 6 € and a 3-liter bag-in-box of the 2015 vintage for 13.15 €. Such good value for money!


The next-to-last visit was to Château Haut-Guiraud in Saint-Ciers de Canesse, an estate with 16 hectares of vines (80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon). We were greeted by Christophe Bonnet and tasted through three wines. The 2011 Ch. Coufin du Périer is a 100% Merlot aged in 100% new oak. This tiny 1.5 hectare estate is owned by M. Bonnet’s wife. Although non-giving on the nose, it was better on the palate: a simple, fun, sensual wine with a certain amount of character. We then test drove the 2014 Haut-Guiraud (7.00 € a bottle). This had a very suave bouquet and was quite fine on the palate as well, with a good long aftertaste. What’s not to like? In fact, I preferred it to the prestige cuvée, Péché de Roy (or “The King’s Weakness”) at 9.70 € a bottle – which, like many prestige cuvées, is notable more for its increased oakiness than anything else. However, once again, the wine is young and there is a chance that this may become better integrated.

Our final stop was at Château Brulesécaille in Tauriac. This has always been one of the leading estates in Bourg going back centuries, so this was a fitting way to end the day. We sampled the 2014 white wine (100% Sauvignon Blanc – 2 hectares) which had a pale golden color and a rather neutral nose. It was more expressive on the palate, but rather austere, definitely one calling for food. This cost 9 € a bottle. We then compared two red wines (55% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Malbec – 28 hectares) from the 2012 vintage. The second wine, named Château La Gravière, costing 8 € a bottle, was a rather old-fashioned sort of Bordeaux, but pleasant enough. The Brulesécaille was more vibrant in every way, with well-integrated oak and a little gumminess/tarriness on the aftertaste. A very good wine at 11 €  a bottle.
For summer drinking, I came away with a few bottles of the pale, fresh, fruity Bordeaux rosé at 6.50 € a bottle. The Rodet-Recapet family of Brulesécaille also own a 2-hectare vineyard in Saint-Emilion, Château Yon Saint Christophe (85% Merlot and 15% Malbec) bordering on the Saint-Georges-Saint-Emilion appellation. I found their 2011 to be excellent and was not surprised to see that the 2013 vintage had won a gold medal at the Paris International Agricultural Show.

On the way back home we stopped in the nearby city of Saint-André-de-Cubzac for a cool, non-alcoholic drink at the Café de la Gare
This is also a good place to eat and very wine-friendly.


I am a great fan of Portes Ouvertes in Bordeaux.

These “Open Days” occur when winegrowers in a given appellation welcome visitors to their château for a tour and tasting.

Open to the general public, these are wonderful occasions to discover all sorts of wines. They always take place over a weekend, and I have a strategy for making the most of them. First of all, I always go on the first day, Saturday, because there are far fewer people and it is much easier to talk with the winegrower. Second, while most people zero in on the famous estates with expensive wine, I go out of my way to visit the smaller, lesser-known ones to try to find the mouton à cinq pattes – an expression meaning “rare bird” – i.e. wonderful, under-appreciated, under-priced gems.
The 2016 Portes Ouvertes included 70 châteaux in Saint-Emilion and 11 in Lussac and Puisseguin-Saint-Emilion. That’s obviously more than you can shake a stick at, let alone visit in one day…
So, I contented myself with a modest 10.
I went visiting with young two American friends studying wine estate management in Bordeaux.

There are three English translations for grand cru: great growth, classified growth, or classed growth (in order of preferred usage). However, I do not translate these names in Saint-Emilion. Why? Because the classification in Saint-Emilion is a huge mess. For a start, only very clued-in people know that there is a difference between grand cru and grand cru classé, and most take them to mean the same thing… It seems as though every other château is a “grand cru” in Saint-Emilion, and the winegrower’s association is unable to say how many there actually are in the appellation! Furthermore, the last 3 official classifications have been shrouded in controversy. Lengthy court battles with numerous appeals and plenty of melodrama have cheapened the classification’s very raison d’être – as has the role of some of the appellation’s movers and shakers who were more or less judge and jury in their wine’s improved status… I’m thinking here in particular of Angélus and Pavie, which many Bordeaux lovers do not think deserve to have been bumped up.

The first visit of the day was Château Coutet, a 12.5 hectare estate (60% Merlot, 30% Cabernet France, and 7% Malbec, and 3% Cabernet Sauvignon) that obviously has nothing to do with the famous wine of Barsac. We were welcomed by M. Alain Beaulieu-David, whose family has owned the château for generations. I had never had the wine, so was very interested to try it. We sampled three vintages. The 2008 had noticeable bricking and a restrained, simple, cherry bouquet. The wine was thirst-quenching on the palate, but lacking in balance. The 2013 was better, with fresh rose petal and Pinot-like aromas. It proved to be a light pleasurable quaffer on the palate. The 2012 had an upfront, fruit-forward nose. It, too, was light in body and probably best enjoyed young. I saw it as the type of wine to appeal to the French market, as opposed to the full-bodied rich wines favored by English-speakers.
We then went to Château Roylland (80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc), a 5-hectare estate belonging to Martine and Jean-Bernard Chambard, who bought it from the Adams, an American family who own Ch. Fonplégade, a cru classé. Roylland is located a stone’s throw from Angélus. The small cellars are impeccably kept. We tried two wines. The 2011 had a nose of beeswax, oak, and ripe fruit. It was thinner than expected on the palate and modern, but not to excess – New World meets Old. Nice textured finish. The 2009 had an understated, briary nose. It was better on the palate with good minerality, but considerable dryness on the finish, leading me to think it was overoaked.
We then went on to Château Cantenac (80% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon), which is located on the main road from Libourne to Saint-Emilion. This 15 hectare estate features an attractive 19th century château and a small range of wines from Saint Emilion as well as a Lussac Saint Emilion and a Médoc. I have enjoyed Cantenac on past occasions and always considered the wine good value for money. The 2012 Cantenac we tasted was no exception. The perfumed, cherry nose was a little dusty. It was big, straightforward, and quite open on the palate with toasty oak. This will be fun to drink in just 3 years. A fair deal at 15.50 euros a bottle.


The next stop was at a château I had never even heard of before: La Grâce Fonrazade. This 5-hectare estate was very much in the background for years, but that is in the process of changing. The new owners have seriously renovated the place and built a beautiful new tasting-function room. We sampled three wines. The 2011 Perverso (the estate’s 2nd wine) with an Italian-style label is so-named because the owners felt that you had to be pretty perverse and more than a little masochistic to embark on such an undertaking as they did! The wine initially made a very good impression on me, but on re-tasting there was simply too much oak on the palate. That is a pity because the taste profile featured many other attractive aspects. The 2011 grand vin had deep, subtle fruit on the nose. I was expecting an onslaught of oak, but this was not the case, except for some roast coffee aromas. However, sadly, oak did dominate the palate that otherwise had a silky texture and many good points.
The final wine was an oddball: a 2013 barrel-aged pure Sauvignon Gris. This was not only a rarity, but also happened to taste very good. Blind, I might have taken it for an Alsace. I bought three bottles. There is also a bit too much oak here too as well, but I think that will tone down over time. Also, many poor red wine vintages are good ones for dry white wines. This was the case in 2013.

Lunch was at a great bistro-type restaurant, Le Comptoir de Genès   This is in Saint-Genès-de-Castillon, quite close to Saint-Emilion. The restaurant belongs to Tony Lathwaithe, the Englishman who started an extremely successful wine firm that has turnover of 350 million pounds annually, just in the UK.
The restaurant serves hearty, simple food and you will probably find the world’s greatest collection of Côtes de Castillon wines there (they don’t sell any other kind), which you can buy either retail or have with your meal for a modest mark-up.


Next stop was ten-hectare Château Valandraud (70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet France, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Carménère, 2% Malbec, and 1% unidentified…), , one of Saint-Emilion’s great success stories. Of course, whenever you succeed, there are always people ready to criticize you… Jean-Luc Thunevin has had his fair share of jealousy and criticism, which prompted him to release a generic Saint-Emilion called “Bad Boy” – which regularly sells out! Valandraud, universally considered a “garage wine”, is a sort of rags-to-riches story, leapfrogging the classification hierarchy to go directly from nothing to the Premier Grand Cru Classé (B) category.
We started off with the 2014 white (yes) Virginie de Valandraud (60% Sauvignon Blanc, 30% Sémillion, and 10% Sauvignon Gris), on sale for 29 euros a bottle. This was very pale with a fresh waxy, grassy nose. It had good acidity, well-integrated oak, and was better than expected. Then it was on to the red wines. We tried 2012 Esprit de Valandraud, 2011 Virginie de Valandraud (35 euros at the cellar door), and 2011 Valandraud (190 euros). All of these wines were strongly marked by barrel-ageing, especially the grand vin. This has a very fine lovely dark color and an ethereal cherry brandy nose with only a subtle touch of oak. The oak was, however, much more pronounced on the palate, where the wine showed chewy, velvety, and quite tannic. It definitely needs time to come together. Worth 190 euros? Not to this consumer.

Close by, also in Saint-Etienne-de-Lisse, is Château de Pressac with 36 hectares of vines (72% Merlot, 14% Cabernet France, and 12% Cabernet Sauvignon), one of the lucky wines to be promoted a grand cru classé. Pressac is your mind’s-eye wine château, perched atop a bluff overlooking a sea of vines. The treaty ending the Hundred Years’ War was signed here and parts of the structure date from the 13th century. The alternative name for Malbec – Pressac – also comes from this estate. We tasted the 2007 and 2009 vintages. We were disappointed with the former, but more indulgent with the latter. This had a good upfront black cherry bouquet and a little muskiness. It was fresh, round, and gummy/tarry on the palate, as well as a little hot on the finish. However, as much as I liked the aftertaste, the lead-up was wanting.

Château Fleur Cardinale, with 24 hectares of vines (70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, and 10% Cabernet Sauvigon), is located just down the hill from Pressac and in the same commune. There is a very good feel about the place. The vines all grow around the cellars in a single block and the cellars are very modern and tasteful. This estate was taken over by a family that made a fortune in Limoges porcelain. Dominique and Florence Decoster are young and clearly motivated. We tasted just one of their wines, the 2012. This had a lovely bright color as well as sour cherry, vanilla, and oak (but not too much) overtones on the nose. This is surprising considering that the wine is aged entirely in new barrels. The bouquet could have been more expressive, but the wine is still young. There is a lovely tang of terroir on the palate and the wine melts in the mouth. It shows good backbone and though very long is slightly dry on the finish, which features floral as well as fruity notes. Despite a few reservations, this was lovely and probably stands out as the best wine we tasted all day. It was on sale at 35 euros at the cellar door and I wish now I had picked up a bottle…



We next went to 2.2-hectare Clos de la Madeline (Merlot 76%, Cabernet-Franc 24%), the second smallest cru classé in Saint Emilion. This is not easy to find, and is close to Bélair-Monange, La Gaffelière, and Canon. I’ve very much liked the wine the few times I’ve had it. We were served the 2013, which had a good deep color and a nice ethereal/spirity nose with some roasted and toasty notes. The wine was round and soft on the palate, but showed good backbone and structure. Maybe a little austere, but definitely interesting and unquestionably a very successful 2013.

Then it was onto Grand Corbin (70% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon), a 29-hectare estate belonging to an insurance firm for public works companies who also own Ch. Cantemerle in the Médoc. I had never been to Grand Corbin before and rarely had their wine. The 2010 left a very good impression. The color was medium-deep with a thinnish rim. The nose revealed various nuances of mint, leather, plummy ripe Merlot fruit, and black fruit jelly. Rather old-fashioned in style, the wine was chewy and chunky on the palate with some tarry overtones. It was not tremendously long, but proved to be a fine vin de terroir with good acidity. Too young, but very promising. A nice discovery.

We proceeded to Ch. La Rose Côtes Rol with 10 hectares of vines (65% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon). We tasted through the 2012 and 2009 vintages, plus the 2009 prestige cuvee called Ultime Atome. My notes are very critical, so the less said the better. However, the owners had invited friends from Burgundy, Sancerre, and Cognac and I fell prey to their wares. How to resist excellent red and white Sancerre from Domaine Pierre Martin, both at 10 euros a bottle? There was a wonderful atmosphere at the château, with singing and accordion playing, and it would have been nice to stay on, but we had to get back to Bordeaux for dinner, and there is always the issue of drinking and driving…

The end of the road was La Tour du Pin Figeac, an estate with 11 hectares of vines (75% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Franc). There used to be two châteaux with the exact same name. The Moueix family sold theirs to Cheval Blanc, who renamed it just “La Tour du Pin” for several years. After much testing years, part of this will be incorporated into Cheval Blanc, but the rest will be used to make, wait for it, white wine. Yup, there will be the Blanc de Cheval Blanc. Who’d have thunk?
Anyway back to the remaining La Tour du Pin Figeac, this has been owned for generations by the Giraud-Belivier family. We tried their 2012 and the 2004. The former had a dark, purplish color. The nose was very typical of Saint Emilion with plum and prune aromas. It seemed old-fashioned and there was a slight whiff of oxidation. The terroir came through on the palate with a chewy, grippy mouth feel and some tough tannin. The wine did not seem quite up to cru classé level unless it improves with age, but I’m sceptical. The 2004 had a fuzzy rim and looked quit old. It had a funky (bretty?), leathery nose. The wine was musky and mineral on the fairly dry palate.

Tasting notes 2015 primeurs: St. Emilion and Pomerol




Balestard La Tonnelle
70% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc, and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon
N: deeper than the sister estate of Cap de Mourlin with blackberry liqueur aromas
P: spherical with more weight and length as well. Lively and mouth-filling. On the simple side but serious and good. Also one for early drinking.

Beauséjour Duffau-Lagarrosse
Merlot%, % Cabernet Franc, and % Cabernet Franc
N: fine dark fruit
P: better on palate. Sweet, round, and silky with fine tension reflecting its terroir. Long, dry, uncompromising finish. Beautiful minerality. Serious. This estate is making a serious comeback.

Cadet Bon
80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc
N: simple and forthright – nothing special
P: better on the palate. Full and rich, but not overdone. Fresh, with high-quality tannin. Enjoyable.


Canon La Gaffelière

55% Merlot, 38% Cabernet France, and 7% Cabernet Sauvignon
N: very fruity and expressive with chocolate overtones
P: even better on the palate. Big and oaky, but with good fruit. Unfocused at this time, but promising.

Cap de Moulin
65% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon
N: dusty and plummy, with blackberry jam overtones
P: very supple, almost too much at this early stage. Virtually oily texture. Short aftertaste. Not for long-term ageing.

Clos Fourtet
88% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Cabernet Franc
N: deep, inky, and slightly cosmetic. Already showing some secondary and tertiary complexity.
P: silky, melt-in-the-mouth texture, but with good acidity. Built to laste. Very good indeed.


La Couspaude

75% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon
N: spirity and ethereal, with tertiary aromas of candied fruit, but not exaggeratedly so
P: hint of greenness, but mostly rich and satisfying, despite a certain hotness on the aftertaste and a slightly top-heavy structure.

75% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon
N: attractive, concentrated, sweet berry fruit (blueberry and blackberry)
P: fresh, fruit-juice-like flavor. Fine attack backed up by the structure of Cabernet. Rich, young, seductive, and reminiscent of a Pomerol in this vintage.

La Dominique
85% Merlot, 13% Cabernet France, and 2% Cabernet Sauvignon
N: soft, but closed. Few aromas, and these are rather one-dimensional.
P: much better on the palate. A little weak on the middle, but a nice transition from the softness of Merlot to the backbone of Cabernet. Medium weight and length.  Everything in place. This estate is getting better.


Le Dôme

(exact percentage of grape varieties not indicated)
N: subdued and a little spirit
P:  round, sensual, and with good bite. On a par with Valandraud, but perhaps with a touch more elegance and a better tannic texture. A great success. Reminiscent of a fine Pomerol.

95% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc
N: fresh with attractive plum, cherry, and briar nuances
P: very full and rich with good bite. Good minerality, attractive texture, and good finish. Altogether classic.

La Gaffelière
70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Franc
N: mostly closed, but with some encouraging subtle aromas
P: big, and develops well on the palate, which shows fine-grained tannin. Seems a little flabby at first, and then goes into a fine finish. Good, well-integrated oak and a very long aftertaste.  Shows this estate’s return to quality.



Grand Mayne
75% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon
N: pure, simple, and sweet with toasty oak
P: round Merlot attack then shifts to good structure with textured tannin. Definite alcoholic hotness, but not as massive as some other vintages.

80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc
N: dark understated fruit, with some alcoholic heat
P: somewhat limp but, even so, better than past vintages. Hollow on the middle palate. Harsh bitterness on the aftertaste. Unbalanced.

75% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon
N: cranberry, candied fruit, and a faint whiff of oxidation
P: soft, round, and sensual. Something Pomerol-like here. Tangy and mouth-puckering (in a good way). Enjoyable young.


Péby Faugères

(exact percentage of grape varieties not indicated)
N: big, sweet, with beeswax nuances
P: sensual mouthfeel. Melts in the mouth and goes into a lasting aftertaste. Modern in the best sense of the word. Tremendous fruit, but good balance as well. The medium-long aftertaste is a little dry. Watch out for that oak…

Rol Valentin
90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc
N: not very expressive and slightly cosmetic
P: ripe, rich, and chewy with good structure. More acidity than most. A hybrid: half modern, half classic. Sweet crowd-pleasing sort of wine.

As for grape varieties, the definitive final blend had not been decided upon.
N: very good fresh, pure blackberry aromas. Lovely ripe fruit.
P: big, rich, and juicy on the palate, but lacks depth and power. Not over-oaked.


La Tour Figeac

75% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Franc
N: discreet berry fruit and smoky notes. Understatedly attractive.
P: vivacious and luscious, tangy and refreshing. Will be very pleasurable for (relatively) early drinking.

Troplong Mondot
90% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2% Cabernet Franc
N: rich and a little Portlike
P: tremendously rich on the palate. Bordeaux on steroids. Not to my taste. 15.5% alc./vol.

(exact percentage of grape varieties not indicated)
N: inky, with some camphor notes
G: great balance with fine structure and a long aftertaste. Worthy of its new classification. Very attractive red fruit (raspberry) finish.


DSC02420 1024


80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc
N: nice, with some vinification aromas that will disappear with age
P: very nice overall impression, the best I’ve ever had from this estate. Lovely balance, tasty, tangy, and develops seamlessly. Elegant, satisfying, and with a long aftertaste. Good tannic texture. An excellent Saint Emilion.




Before sharing my notes, I would just like to say that this appellation was one of the great successes of the 2015 vintage in my opinion.
Also, I was very pleasantly surprised by the clear progress  made by estates formerly considered “second tier”.


75% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc
N: interesting blend of blackberry, almond, and vanilla, along with a minor weedy component
P: My notes read: “slutty”. That outrageous shorthand indicates a wine that just overwhelms with its overt sensuality. This wine is all one would hope for in a Pomerol, and the epitome of successful Merlot. This is definitely a château worth watching (recently taken over by the Cathiards of Smith Haut Lafitte and the Moulin family of Galeries Lafayette).

Le Bon Pasteur
(exact percentage of grape varieties not indicated)
N: deep and a little dusty with fine violet nuances
P: rich, chewy, but with acidity to counterbalance the roundness. Big and juicy with finely textured tannin. Watch out for effect of oak though!

75% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc
N: inviting, slightly smoky, and sexy
P: concentrated textbook Pomerol with rubbery tannin. Big, but elegant.

La Création
64% Merlot, 34% Cabernet Franc and 2% Cabernet Sauvignon
N: oaky and herbaceous. Off.
P: thick, rich, chocolaty with a sharp atftertaste. Short and just too oaky.
Note: I had never previously heard of this 4.5 hectare estate.

La Croix de Gay – PHOTO NOT SHOWN
97% Merlot and 3% Cabernet Franc
N: dusty with reticent fruit
P: big, but out of balance and somewhat hot. Ripe, round fruitiness. Will time even this out?

Fleur de Gay
N: biscuity, and both floral and fruity
P: really attractive. Soft, rich, sensual. Very typical of its appellation. A garden of earthly delights. Heavy mouth feel. The ultimate in Pomerol. Sensory overload. Long textured aftertaste.



95% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc
N: more floral (iris) than fruity with some grassy overtones
P: huge and compact, resonating into a beautiful soft, textured aftertaste with delightful minerality. A winner. Gazin is shining these days.

Petit Village
71% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc and 9% Cabernet Sauvignon
N: vaporous and not very expressive at this stage
P: both svelte and rich. Luxurious with a killer aftertaste. Gummy finish with good minerality on the tail end. Excellent.

La Pointe
84% Merlot and 16% Cabernet Franc
N: concentrated blend of floral and fruit aromas
P: big, mouthfilling, and sensual, but also elegant. Rubbery empyreumatic quality typical of Pomerol. Rich and satisfying.