Monthly Archives: August 2023

2019 Le Grand Verdus Cabernet Franc

Chateau Le Grand Verdus

Château le Grand Verdus is a well-reputed centuries-old estate located in Sadirac, equidistant from Bordeaux and Libourne. This large vineyard (120 hectares) produces wines sold under the Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur appellations. The château makes a range of wines including an unsulfured red, an orange-type Sémillon, and a small quantity (for Bordeaux, i.e. 6,000 bottles) of a varietal Cabernet Franc.

The latter caught my eye because it is fairly rare to see a Bordeaux made from this grape variety alone

The salesperson in a shop where I bought the wine explained that it was easy-going and to drink young (he said, c’est très glou-glou).  Seeing as we are in the middle of a heat wave (40° C yesterday), I thought that suited me just fine. In view of the grape variety, I was expecting a wine similar to a quaffable light red Loire made from the same grape.

But this was not the case. The wine had a very dark color, which was the first difference compared to a Chinon or Saumur Champigny. The nose showed some attractive cherry and even kirsch notes, but was not very pronounced. However, the comparison with the Loire really fell apart on the palate because this was unmistakably Bordeaux, full-bodied with tons more tannin and considerable grip – definitely a wine to enjoy with food rather than casual sipping. There was also a ferrous quality. Served cool, the 14° alcohol was nevertheless obvious.
The brother of a red Loire this was not. More like a first cousin once removed.

Would I have guessed this was a Cabernet Franc if served blind? Probably not because I did not find the grassy quality and light body I associate with that variety. Still, it was a fun experience at a reasonable price.

A tasting of 2020 wine from Pauillac and Saint Julien

The Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux organizes a Weekend des Grands Crus every year in the city of Bordeaux as well as in the wine country. This is open to the general public and is a great way not only to taste 2 vintages of world-famous wines (one shared by all producers and another of their choice), but also to meet the château owners or their representatives.

I tasted the following wines in June 2023 :

N: Toasty oak with cherry/vanilla overtones.
P: Altogether more expressive on the palate. This is a big, strong, assertive, and virile Pauillac, but elegance and balance are there as well. Confirms the estate’s recent improvement. Fresh, with great fruit, a long aftertaste dominated by blackcurrant, and black olive overtones on the tail end. Already very attractive and will make for fine mid-term drinking.
Good to very good.

N: Discrete subtle bouquet with blackberry and throat lozenge aromas. Elegant.
P: Seems a bit thin at first, but this is a mistaken impression. Great quintessentially Médoc cassis flavors. Lively and buoyant. Not a big wine, but one with a fine backbone, as well as a refreshing and classic aftertaste.
Very good.

Branaire Ducru
N: Dark chocolate and blackstrap molasses. Subtle wildberry nose, but without much depth at this stage.
P: Starts out round and rich, but then shows surprising acidity for an unusual balance. Brambly. Good textured aftertaste with some leather nuances.
Good to very good.

Grand Puy Ducasse
N: Roast coffee in spades! This overshadows the fruit. The nose is also a little green.
P: A big mouthful of wine. Chunky then acidic. Relatively unbalanced. Dry finish with some bitterness. I keep hoping this château will do better.

Gruaud Larose
N: Surprisingly little oak. Fine berry fuit, fresh and, above all, understated. Needs time to open.
P: Far more expressive on the palate. Fresh, assertive Médoc fruit. Bright, with good length, albeit a bit dry and oaky at present. In the classic mold. A great reflection of its terroir.
Good to very good.

Haut Batailley
N: Soft, but reveals disappointingly little at this time.
P: Better on the palate. Rich, with a licorice flavor. Although not very impressive on the attack, the wine unfolds into a textbook Pauillac with a very good long brambly finish.

N: A little confected, with candied red fruit aromas. Not much there really, and one-dimensional.
P: Comes off better on the palate, but this is not one of the best Saint Juliens tasted. A little harsh and acidic. This acidity will help it to age, of course, but the wine ought to be smoother and richer. There’s nothing wrong here, just nothing special.

Langoa Barton
N: Very natural and unadulterated with far less oak than others. Understated. Not very forthcoming as yet, but with some notes of black cherry liqueur.
P: Thirst quenching. Pure, satisfying, and well-made, but curiously short. Well-made, just not outstanding in the context..

Léoville Barton
N: Very low profile. Bit dumb, but what’s there is promising. Ethereal and intriguing. Touch of mint and camphor.
P: Tight, resonant, pure, and with a long velvety aftertaste. Not rich, but will age beautifully. The fruit has been magnificently locked-in.
Very good, and one of the stars of this tasting.

Léoville Poyferré
N: Fruit forward, fresh, very Cabernet nose. Some coffee/vanilla notes, but not overoaked. More black than red fruit.
P: Good acidity and raspberry flavor. Long tangy finish. Neither rich, alcoholic, nor top-heavy. Bit old-fashioned. Classic. The oak comes through more on the finish.
Very good.

Lynch Bages
N: In accordance with the château profile. Soft, pure, blackcurrant and black cherry aromas. Clean and precise.
P: Not a big wine, and the element of purity on the nose comes through on the palate. Good acidity reminiscent of a less-than-stellar year. Unusually, cedar more than oak flavors on the finish. Quintessence of cassis. Good grip, but a little short on the aftertaste. A feminine Lynch Bages?
Good to very good.

Pichon Baron
N: Sweet and concentrated, but not at all in a New World sort of way. Typical Pauillac bouquet featuring some cedar/cigar box aromas.
P: Lovely full-bodied mouthful of wine. Big, with a great velvety aftertaste showing just a little heat. Really tremendously long and fresh, with heaps of blackcurrant and a mineral finish.
Very good plus, perhaps my favorite wine of the tasting.

Pichon Comtesse
N: Meaty, with hints of maraschino cherry, and underdeveloped at this stage.
P: This vintage is strongly marked by Cabernet Sauvignon. Fine structure and a long velvety uncompromising aftertaste. Made to age for many years.
Very good.

Saint Pierre
N: Candied red fruit nose along with lovely evanescent black cherry. Seductive.
P: Open, upfront, and uncomplicated, in a popular commercial sort of ways. Bit hollow and halfway towards a modern style. Good value for money.

N: Very toasty oak! Wildberry and forest fruit nose. Needs time and oxygenation to come out, which is why young wines in newly-opened bottles can sometimes give a misleading impression.
P: Big, chunky, and typical of its appellation. Long, slightly harsh aftertaste. Uncompromising. Fresh, but lacks softness and richness. Little weak on the middle palate. A strong, characterful Saint Julien. The long aftertaste redeems a relatively lacklustre wine. This is long with some black olive nuances.

2022 En Primeur tasting: Pomerol

N: Muted at this time, but what there is is very encouraging.
P: Big mouthful. Sleek and unctuous. Very Pomerol, but lacks a little oomph. Rubbery tannin.
Good plus.

N: Sweet, plummy, bordering on confected.
P: Very unctuous, upfront, a Dolly Parton of a wine. Rather flabby and top-heavy. An anomaly in the appellation. So strong and rich that it will call for strongly flavoured food.

N: Rather unexpressive at this time, but showing blueberry jam aromas.
P: Blueberry aromatics on the palate as well. Paradox between freshness and some alcoholic heat. Big mouthful of wine almost New World in style. Really rich.

Le Caillou
N: Plummy and somewhat spirit, but a little dumb at this time.
P: Chunky mouth feel with fine archetypal Pomerol tannin going into some hardness, followed by a surprising about-face to become soft again.

Certan de May
N: Licorice and berry aromas.
P: Very soft and caressing mouth feel leading into velvety tannin. Lacking a little acidity, but the quality of the tannin is what’s important here. Some chocolate overtones. Already melts in the mouth. Seems too oaky now, but give it time.
Good plus.

Le Chemin
N: Berry blossoms and ripe black fruit.
P: Very representative of its appellation. Starts out rich, then dips, then returns with good quality tannin as well as licorice and floral components on the tail end.

La Clémence
N: Sweet, but not very forthcoming.
P: Starts out quite round, but then goes into strong acidity. Does not seem balanced at this stage, but can obviously be transformed with age in barrel and in bottle. Only 600 cases are produced a year. Owned by the Dauriac family of cru classé Destieux in Saint-Emilion.

N: Tasted alongside L’Ecuyer, this seemed even more typical of fine Pomerol. Empyreumatic Merlot overtones with a hint of menthol and some very refined and welcome spirity aromas.
P: Compact with great acidity. Blueberry flavors spread out beautifully on the palate. Sensual, but classy tannin. Less modern in style than some previous vintages and quite delicious.
Very good.

La Commanderie
N: Closed at this time, but there are some intriguing dark chocolate nuances.
P: More akin to a Lalande than a Pomerol and definitely light for this vintage. Marked acidity, but this buttresses the long textured aftertaste which features rubbery notes that redeems the wine as a whole.

Certan de May
N: Wonderful nose of licorice and forest fruit.
P: Very soft mouthfeel leading to velvety tannin. Seems at first to lack acidity, but tannin steps in to give definition and structure. Dark chocolate nuances and the wine melts in the mouth at this early stage.
Very good.

La Conseillante
N: Creamy, both from the oak and the terroir, with some raspberry aromas.
P: This creaminess comes through on the palate as well. Soft and caressing, with super round tannin. The flavour progresses seamlessly step by step into a saline and mineral aftertaste.
Very good.

N: Subtle and inky with a touch of menthol.
P: Fresh and vibrant with fine velvety tannic texture. Violet and chalky nuances, along with an impression of tar and incense. A little dry and oaky, but give it time.
This estate had just been acquired by Ronan Laborde of Château Clinet.
Good plus.

Eglise Clinet
N: Very empyreumatic with good fruit to match.
P: Toasty oak with a good tight structure. Tight and resonant, with tertiary notes just emerging. Slightly spirity. Velvety tannin. Uncompromisingly Pomerol that needs plenty of time. Some black olive nuances on the aftertaste.
Very good.

N : Shy, but promising.
G: Chunky and tightly wound, with goods structure and soft tannin. A wine of character that will undoubtedly show even better as time goes on.
Good plus.

Feytit Clinet
N: Toasty oak, but rather too much of it. However there are perfumed red and black fruit notes in the background.
P: Very round, but also a little dilute and hollow. Needs retasting at a later date. Prior experiences with this wine lead me to believe it will show much better later on.

La Fleur
N: Closed and reduced at tasting.
P: Some gas in a wine that was clearly not in an ideal place to be appraised. This wine, one of the finest in Bordeaux, illustrates how difficult and risky barrel tastings can be. Normally exquisite, it was simply not showing well. But I’m willing to bet it will be sublime down the road if its track record is anything to go by.
Not rated.

La Fleur Pétrus
N: Very delicate with elegant truffle notes so sought-after in the best wines of Pomerol.
P: Big and spreads out wonderfully on the palate. Seems slightly dilute at first, but the aftertaste gives an added dimension to the wine. There’s a sensual texture to the tannin here and it coats the palate deliciously.
Good plus.

N: Pure and upfront with rich berry and brambly aromas.
P: Dense and concentrated. Quite soft with lots of finesse, but also a great deal of character. Broader and slightly more hollow than La Fleur Pétrus. A virile wine.
Good plus.

Lafleur Gazin
N: Sweet and simple.
P: That “sweetness” is reflected on the palate as well. Displays its charms brazenly, but these disappear into a short aftertaste. Reminds me more of the better wines of Lalande more than a Pomerol.

N: Subtle black cherry aromas with iron filing nuances.
P: Round and compact, backed up by good oak. The only flaw is the short aftertaste. However, a fine representative of the Pomerol appellation, i.e. very typical. Some empyreumatic (burnt rubber) flavors.
Good plus.

N: Bramble bush, with deep fruity aromas.
P: Heavy mouth feel with a vanilla/almond flavor often found in Pomerols. Vinous, but lacks finesse. Will be enjoyable young.

Le Moulin
N: Good oak overlaying discreet black fruit.
P: A flashy wine that is rich, but somewhat topheavy. A little green and hot at this time.

Petit Village
N: Soft bouquet reminiscent of cherry cough drops and black fruit.
P: Quintessentially Pomerol. Some anise. Just a little weak on the middle palate, but showing good acidity and uplift into a fine finish. Seems slightly dilute up until that fairly assertive aftertaste.
Good plus.

N: Very subtle bouquet with violet nuances and some mint.
P: Simply wonderful texture. Creamy, chalky, and balsamic with plush tannin and an aftertaste that does not let up. My notes say “so goddam soft”. However, that does not preclude a monumental structure. Will take decades to reach its apogee. Not unduly wowed by price or reputation, I honestly found this to be the top wine of all I tasted from the 2022 vintage.

Le Pin
N: Sophisticated bouquet with hints of both fresh berry fruit and dried fruit.
P: A tour de force achieving a tremendous balance between a sensual, melts-in-your-mouth texture and a superb structure. A tad austere, but a majestic Pomerol.
Very good.

N: Vanilla, almond, inky, fine, and delicate.
P: Rich, swish, and silky with surprising acidity on the finish, which is nevertheless rather short and with oak that is too prevalent at this stage. A touch of bitterness on the finish. The palate does not quite live up to the promise of the bouquet.

N: Fine soft Pomerol nose with violet overtones. Penetrating without being aggressive. Some alcohol discernible.
P: Big mouthful of wine 1,000% Merlot. Spherical. Huge, then dies down by degrees. Tasted just after Vieux Château Certain, this suffered from the comparison, but it is a very good wine.
Good plus.

N: soft bouquet with hints of talcum power and flower petals.
G: Rich mouthful with sweet fruit into a fresh zingy finish. Lip-smackingly good.
Very good

N: Some violet, but also some lingering fermentation aromas.
P: On the delicate side. This estate is on the outskirts of Libourne. Tasty, with a cool ethereal aftertaste.
Good plus.

N: Markedly floral with engaging deep fruit
P: Sinewy with a marvellous velvety texture and a lovely long aftertaste. Weighty with excellent ageing potential. Tightly wound. The opposite of an easy-going fat Pomerol.
Very good.

La Truffe
N: Despite the name, there are no truffle notes on the bouquet, which is simple and attractive.
P: Rich, typical Pomerol with a delicate flavor profile. Excellent follow-through. Deserves to be better-known. Delicious. By the way, this wine does not have, nor has it ever had, truffle aromatics. The etymology of the place name is lost in the mists of time.
Very good.

N: Fresh, engaging, deep.
P: Very rich with strong violet overtones. A wine for Merlot lovers. That violet flavor goes on and on! A little obvious, but attractive.

Vieux Château Certan
N: Inky, soft, and deep with violet overtones.
P: A marvelous texture with great acidity to match. Raspberry flavor and suave tannin that coats the mouth. The aftertaste is pure magic and there is some minerality among the plushness.
Very good.

Vray Croix de Gay
N: Rich with interesting facets of berry fruit just coming to the fore.
P: Sweet and round with vanilla/almond flavors. Good follow-through and length. A serious wine.
Good plus. This estate was just acquired by the owners of Calon Ségur in the Médoc.