Author Archives: AlexR

A tale of two Saint Emilions

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing… Here I was thinking that I was pretty clued-in to the wines of Bordeaux, especially the great growths, and then the following happened.
I was particularly interested in getting to know unfamiliar (to me) estates included for the first time in the 2012 Saint Emilion classification. So, I snapped up a bottle of 2010 Château La Fleur Morange, Cuvée Mathilde.  Here I was thinking that I would discover a newcomer and broaden my knowledge. But no, Cuvée Mathilde is something different from the real Mc Coy and I ending up feeling as though I’d been had…

Let me explain.

Named after the owners’ daughter, about 10,000 bottles of Cuvée Mathilde are produced a year. The classified growth (i.e. without any mention of a cuvée), produces half as much… and costs more than twice as much. Most second wine labels make a discreet allusion to the grand vin rather than misleading consumers, as this was the case here, into believing they were buying a cru classé.
Buyer beware!

What of the wine?  I wish I could be more positive. A 13 year-old wine from a great year, it should really have been better. The color was about right for its age. Despite 15° alcohol, the nose was gentle and sweet with hints of dark chocolate and anise with some underlying spice.
However, the wine fell down on the palate, which showed too much oak and the decided presence of alcohol, accompanied by a dry finish.  I do not think that ageing will even things out.
While I may give “Cuvée Mathilde” a pass next time around, I am still intrigued about how the cru classé tastes in recent vintages.

I posted a profile of Château La Tour Figeac last year:

Seeing as I happened to have a bottle of the 2009 in my cellar, I decided to open this for lunch on Christmas day, to accompany a roast leg of baby lamb from the Pyrenees.
I decanted the wine three hours before the meal and was richly rewarded with something wonderful.
The nose was subtle and extremely attractive even if, curiously, thanks to its hints of graphite, I think it could easily be mistaken for a fine Northern Médoc. There was no question, however, that this was an upper tier Right Bank wine on the palate. The attack was soft, enveloping, and voluptuous, and went on seamlessly to show the backbone Bordeaux is famous for, but without any harshness or austerity. I like this wine so much, I figure that it could easily hold its own with the Premier Crus Classés in this vintage. A really positive experience and a great pleasure.

Two 2010 Pauillacs: Bellegrave and Tour Sieujean “Alchima”

2010 Château Tour Sieurjean, Cuvée Alchima, Pauillac
This château, located in Saint Laurant, not far from La Tour Carnet and Larose Trintaudon, has 5 hectares of vines in Pauillac and 3 in the Haut-Médoc appellation. They produce 2,000 bottles a year of this prestige cuvée, consisting of 100% Cabernet Sauvignon aged for 24 months in new oak barrels.
Served blind to my better half, she took only a moment to ask: Pauillac?
This was a vigorous wine with cherry-vanilla aromatics and a lot of punch. There were black olive and herbes de Provence nuances on the aftertaste, as well as a marked oak influence.
An interesting discovery. If I had another bottle I’d give it more cellar time.

2010 Château Bellegrave, Pauillac
This 8.3 hectare estate is surrounded by Latour, Pichon Baron, and Lynch Bages.
85% of the Pauillac appellation is composed of great growths, so wines such as this are fairly rare.
The small château building is very attractive and has a beautiful garden.
This 2010 had a very deep, fine color and a relatively muted nose. It screamed Cabernet Sauvignon on the palate rather than terroir. I see that drinkers on Cellartracker are divided as to the wine’s longevity. I tend to side with those who feel it is too young. There was an impression of alcohol even though the degree listed on the label was quite moderate.
There are many estates named Bellegrave, or variations thereof, so care should be taken not to confuse this with any other château, especially Château Bellegrave, 5th growth in Saint Laurent, AOC Pauillac.

Three 2002s: Mouton, Léoville Las Cases, and Latour

Some American friends and regular contributors to the Bordeaux Wine Enthusiasts forum recently came to visit.
BWE ( is the only internet forum devoted to Bordeaux and, over the years, virtual friends have become real ones at wine dinners shared on several continents.

My wife and I served a special dinner to which I invited two other friends. Jean-François Bourrut-Lacouture,  a retired négociant and Lori Westmoreland, who works in public relations at Ch. Léoville Poyferré. The 8 of us tasted 10 ½ bottles (I say tasted, but I see this morning that there was surprisingly little left over…). Here’s an overview of the wines. I say overview because I don’t take notes at table.

The aperitif wines were 2012 Veuve Clicquot and 2012 Dom Pérignon. The former was certainly a good Champagne, but did not really float my boat. The Dom was, in everyone’s opinion, head and shoulders above it and, as opposed to many other vintages of DP, quite enjoyable to drink at age 11, i.e. relatively young. It was complex, yeasty, biscuity, and had a wonderful aftertaste

We started the meal with  two Sauternes and foie gras on a bed of mâche, or lamb’s lettuce. The first Sauternes (or rather, Barsac), was 2001 Doisy Daënes, which was delightful and the kind of wine you can love either young or old. We raised a toast to the late Denis Dubourdieu, owner of the estate and Dean of the Faculty of Enology at Bordeaux University. One of the great men of Bordeaux. The wine had the trademark minerality and digestibility of great Barsac.
This was followed by 1997 Yquem. Once again, a toast was raised to the late Count de Lur Saluces, who died earlier this year. As opposed to the red wines of Bordeaux, 1997 is a very good vintage in Sauternes. As this was tasted blind, most people thought the wine was older, from the 1980s. I can see why because the color looked that way. The wine was, to my mind, at peak and a joy to drink.

With the goose confit, duchess potatoes, and cauliflower we transitioned to reds, starting out with a 2019 Siran from Margaux that had been given by Edouard Miailhe during a visit earlier that afternoon. This was a promising, elegant wine.

Next up were three wines served side by side: 2002 Mouton Rothshild, 2002 Léoville Las Cases, and 2002 Latour. It was fascinating to compare these blind. Everyone agreed that the LLC was not up to the standard of the Pauillacs. I had hoped it would be because many people feel that this estate is on a par with the first growths and the Delon family at one point unsuccessfully tried to price it in that category. So, the duel was between Mouton and Latour. I was in the minority, felling that the former edged out the latter. Mouton was beautifully aromatic and elegant, a superb Médoc entering its drinking window. Where Latour did outperform was on the incredibly suave long aftertaste.

Next up was 1986 Talbot, a beautiful, classic wine with any Cordier funkiness pretty much under control. This proved to be a meaty, rich Saint Julien in traditional mode, with great acidity and length. The last red wine of the evening was a 1979 Château Margaux. Although the finish was drying, the wine was graceful, poised, and elegant at age 44.

With dessert, we enjoyed a gift bottle brought from the US, a Kopke Colheita Port from 1953, my birth year. I was really touched. This was bottled in 2012. To say the tannins are resolved would be an understatement. This has moved into another dimension, with a softness and warmth that caress the palate, the ultimate “comfort wine”. In fact, I’m sipping some as I write this, feeling pretty damned good about the time I’ve spent with my friends the past few days.

2010 Château Chantelune, Margaux

This itsy-bitsy (1.5 hectare) vineyard is owned by José Sansfins, the manager of third growth Château Cantenac Brown. The odd name (as portrayed on the label by a wolf baying at the moon) comes from a previous owner, a carpenter, who cut down the trees he needed when the moon was full in the belief that, in this way, the wood would never be attacked by insects or deteriorate. His vineyard was planted on the highest point in the Margaux appellation, in the commune of Soussans, on a bed of gravelly soil.  

I opened this wine expecting to find something serviceable, but nothing special. Boy, was I mistaken. I don’t know if it’s the vintage quality coming through more than anything else, but this wine was a beauty, as good, if not better, than most of the 3rd and 4th growth classified growths of Margaux. This was a streamlined wine of great finesse and a joy to drink. At age 13, it was in its early drinking window.
To give you an idea of pricing, a recent vintage, the 2020, can be purchased retail at 30 euros a bottle in France. Who says that serious Bordeaux has to be expensive?

Château Ad Francos: a Franc success

How many of you have ever tasted a wine from the Côtes de Francs?

Hmmm. I didn’t think so…

Francs Côtes de Bordeaux (as it is now called) is the smallest appellation in Bordeaux, with approximately 400 hectares of vines. This Right Bank region is located near the Dordogne River and the border with the Dordogne department, a half hour by car from Libourne and twenty minutes from Saint Emilion.

It would be an exaggeration to call Francs (fewer than 200 people) a one-horse town. I doubt there is even a cat there… However, they do have a castle whose oldest section dates back to the 6th century. The family of the famous enologist Michel Rolland lived here, at Château Ad Francos, for two centuries and his team currently oversees winemaking there.

Ad Francos has about 8 hectares of vines (average age 30 years) on clay-limestone soil producing roughly 30,000 bottles of wine a year. The property, entirely restored in the early part of this century, was acquired by Guillaume Brochard and his wife, Qiong Er Jiang, in 2017. Monsieur Brochard lives most of the year in Shanghai, where he had a successful jewellery business that he sold to Kering (Pinault) in 2013. He also acquired three other wine firms having both a négociant activity and/or their own vineyards: La Guyennoise, GRM, and Le Star. 

Château Ad Francos is definitely off the beaten track, both geographically and vinously. Relying not only on the wine’s quality, but also its rarity, Monsieur Brochard has intelligently decided to position it in the premium category, with prices to match.

I tasted through the range in July.

The 2019 and 2020 white wines, AOC Francs Côtes de Bordeaux, were both light, aromatic and mineral without too much oak. The 2015 red Ad Francos was a wine of character needing further ageing and would make a fine match with flavorsome food such as stews or game. The 2016 vintage was also quite tannic with well-integrated oak and a promising future.  The 2012 barrel-fermented Reserve, (full name: Réserve Ad Aeternam) at age 11, still showed some oak as well as sweet cherry overtones on the nose, along with hints of spice, pepper, and earth on the palate. 

It should be said that Ad Francos has one of the most unusual labels in Bordeaux, reproducing an old engraving of the château and the facsimile of a passage from the 1898 edition of Bordeaux et Ses Vins (Féret).

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.

2022 En Primeur tasing: Saint Emilion

N: Spirity, soft, burgeoning.
P: Dynamic, rich, broad-based and strong with assertive black fuit flavors. More toned down and understated than other recent vintages, and better for that.
Good plus.

N: Tight, mysterious, revealing little at this time.
P: Fresh, exceedingly well-structured with wonderful balance, and an aftertaste that fits in perfectly with the whole. Superb texture and length. Velvety rather than silky. Black fruit and bramble bush.
Very good.

N: Very sweet-smelling nose of blackberry liqueur.
P: Big and round, going on to show its power. Alcohol makes itself felt on the finish. Brawny and lacks elegance. For people who like strong sensations.

Balestard La Tonnelle
N: Inky black fruit aromas along with licorice and nice floral notes.
P: Rich, chewy, and more enjoyable than sister château Cap de Mourlin.  Good balance and satisfying candied fruit flavors. Lovely development on the palate. Long aftertaste in which the fruit overrides everything else. Touch raisiny.
Good plus.

Beauséjour Duffau-Lagarosse
N: Sweet and primary, with some intriguing rose nuances.
P: Plush, fills out beautifully on the palate going on to show a good tannic backbone. Subtle mint and eucalyptus. Fine balance between richness and minerality. Candied black fruit flavors and a certain salinity on the finish.
Very good.

Bélair Monange
N: Fine subtle nose with violet overtones along with toasty oak that is under control.
P: A rather old-fashioned style, but a prime and beautiful example of wine from the Côtes de Saint Emilion.  Wonderful ageing potential. Starts out quite round and luscious on the palate, then displays great concentration, ending in a super aftertaste with classy tannin.
Very good.

Bellefont Belcier
N: Underdeveloped at this time with vague red fruit aromas along with nuances of coffee, vanilla, and caramel.
P: Better on the palate with lively acidity, rich blueberry fruit. Starts out quite fluid, then rich, then reveals mouth-coating tannin. Powerful tannic aftertaste, uncompromising. Seems slightly unbalanced at this time but may age well.

N: Pure red and black fruit. Seems almost more redolent of fresh grape juice than wine.
P: Tremendously round with medium-heavy mouth feel. Not overoaked. Rich and very attractive. Unquestionably seductive.
Good plus.

Cadet Bon
N: Sweet and concentrated black fruit (blackberry) aromas.
P: Round and big. Both flabby and tannic with some alcoholic heat and dryness on the palate.

N: Serious, monumental bouquet. Very sweet and very classy. Exotic and sensual.
P: Rich, unctuous, and pure. Great follow-through into a long textured aftertaste. Spherical than pivots beautifully into minerality. Fine long finish.
Very good.

Canon La Gaffelière
N: Berry bush blossoms, iris, and violet. Elegant beguiling bouquet.
P: Puckery and fresh with lots of oak. Penetrating with the stamp of limestone terroir, but lacks richness, body, and softness. Considerable ageing potential leaves room for improvement in a wine that is already good.

Cap de Mourlin
N: Soft and primary with aromas of freshly-picked grapes.
P: Somewhat angular and acidic compared to other wines of the vintage. At the very least, this will help the wine to age well. On the whole, in the middle range compared to its peers.

N: Sweet blueberry and pronounced candied fruit aromas. Little oak.
P: Rich, spreads out well on the palate. A big wine that carries itself well. Quite full-bodied and round, but with the inimitable minerality of the Saint Emilion plateau. Calls for food that can stand up to it. Mouthfilling. Deserves to be better-known.
Good plus.

Cheval Blanc
N: Subtle wildflower nose, but not well-defined at this time.
P: Suave, big, and juicy, with ripe Cabernet Franc coming through particularly in this vintage. Fresh and the seeming simplicity at first blossoms on the palate to reveal superb authoritative tannin. Such a successful vintage that no second wine (Petit Cheval) was made.
Very good.

Clos Badon
N: Understated, sweet, and simple with some chocolate notes and unobtrusive oak.
P: Starts out with attractive roundness. Refreshing with a good follow-through. Medium weight on the palate. Well-balanced and good length for this new grand cru classé belonging to Thunevin.
Good plus.

Clos Dubreuil
N: Not very expressive, but shows overtones of toasty oak and brambly fruit along with white flower aromas.
P: Plush, melts in the mouth, going into a tannic and slightly dry aftertaste. Marvelous texture. Generous. Very fruity and juicy with a mineral aftertaste.
Good plus.

Clos Fourtet
N: Primary aromas of ripe red fruit.
P: Compact and resonant with good acidity. With good acidity. Classic Saint Emilion with a a long cool aftertaste with the unmistakable stamp of the limestone plateau on the finish, which is long and velvety.
Very good.

Clos Saint Julien
N: Refined berry nose. Quite a complex, fresh, classy bouquet with well-integrated oak.
P: Melts in the mouth then goes into teeth-coating acidity. Will surely age beautifully. Seems almost Pomerol-like but the limestone finish shows its Saint Emilion roots. Quite tannic. A sleeper and fine wine a tiny vineyard.
Good plus

Clos Saint Martin
N: Wafting nuancs of berry fruit and violet. A soft subtle bouquet for connoisseurs because you need to look for it to find it.
P: Beautiful taste profile. Plush mouth feel that caresses the palate, then goes into the traditional minerality of the limestone plateau. Simply wonderful. Smallest cru classé in Saint Emilion.
Very good

La Confession
N: Very engaging fresh berry aromas with some dark chocolate overtones.
P: Fine tannic texture coupled with vibrant, but not sharp acidity. On the light side for a 2022 Saint Emilion, but elegant with very excellent tannin. A little dry on the aftertaste now, but that could very well disappear over time.
Good plus.

N: Sweet, perfumed, and delicate with violet, rose, and some fermentation aromas,
P: Medium-body. Svelte and poised with a touch of tar on the fine floral aftertaste. Ageworthy. The best Corbin I’ve had thanks to its finesse rather than its power.
Good plus to very good

Corbin Michotte
N: Touch of reduction at this early age and slightly spirit.
P: Pure and brambly with great fresh acidity to provide freshness and ageing potential. Interesting long aftertaste underpinned by that great acidty.

Côte de Baleau
N: Very enticing, with violet nuances
P: Round with a fairly heavy mouthfeel going into tough tannin. This is a pity because there is much that is good about this wine that falls down only due to a lack of elegance.

La Couspaude
N: Bursting with fruit. Rich sweet cranberry aromas with little interference from oak. Fine bouquet already.
P: Big mouthfeel, but seems hollow after this first impression, and goes on to reveal noticeable alcohol and a dry finish. This wine will always be somewhat top-heavy, but it’s a decent big Saint Emilion nevertheless.

Couvent des Jacobins
N: Ripe Merlot in all its glory. Fresh and forward, almost seems as if it just came from a tank. Touch of mint and a little oak influence.
P: It is funny how the floral component comes through so much more on the palate than on the nose. This is a natural unmodern traditional sort of wine that is 100% Saint Emilion. Starts out sensually with a sort of “sweetness” ending in a long lingering finish. Bravo!
Good plus.

Croix de Labrie
N: Sweet, pure, chalky. High quality.
P: Chewy, chunky wonderful soft tannin with menthol freshness. Mid-weight body and nice decidedly mineral aftertaste that is nevertheless stops a little short. Appetizing.
Good plus

La Croizille
N: Pure deep fruit.
P: Melts in the mouth then goes into searing acidity and tannin. Medium body and an impression of freshness that leads into a dry oaky finish.

N: Sweet red fruit, black cherry, good oak, and a touch of anise.
P: Sensual opening with sheets of soft fruit going into unmistakable Saint Emilion minerality on the finish. Less body and perhaps less ageing potential than others at the tasting, but a fine wine best enjoyed on the young side.
Good plus

N: Bit spirity, but suave.
P: Round into a tight structure with noticeable oak, but not too much. Flavor of black fruit jelly and very appetizing. Concentrated with a medium-long finish.

La Dominique
N: Subtle, ethereal blackberry aromas.
P: Voluptuous. Melts in the mouth and transitions seamlessly into a fine long aftertaste. Best La Dominique I’ve ever had and a wonderful reflection of its terroir.. There’s a floral component, as well as great tannic texture.
Very good

N: Closed for business on this day. Obviously needs time to come out.
P: Medium-heavy mouth feel along with sweet bright fruit. A commercial style, but also serious. Very long velvety aftertaste.
Good plus.

De Ferrand
N: More indeterminate than anything else, with some celery aromas.
P: Curiously light and then a certain harshness sets in.

N: Rich fruity bouquet with marked violet overtones.
P: Lovely mouthfilling first impression going into the type of reserve bordering on austerity displayed by the finest wines of Bordeaux. Perfect illustration of an iron fist in a velvet glove. A saline impression on the finish shows how appetizing this great wine is. It can surely vie with Cheval Blanc.
Very good.

Fleur Cardinale
N: Hard to know if the bouquet smells more or red or black fruit.
P: Lovely juicy development on the palate. Soft from beginning to end with cherry flavors. A little weak on the middle palate, but tremendously seductive. Medium long aftertaste for this wine with plenty of character.

Fleur Morange
N: Low intensity dark fruit.
P: Pomerol-like with good acidity inside an unctuous framework. Sexy an luscious, but with the tannin and substance to back it up. Fine-grained tannin.
Good plus.

N: Clean, irreproachable, but not very distinctive. Berry and blossom aromas typical of the best wines of the vintage.
P: Big mouthfeel that shifts into uncompromising minerality typical of the terroir. Very round up until the aftertaste this aftertaste of limestone terroir. Slightly hollow even so. Will age well thanks to its structure and marked acidity.

N: Pure, with subtle blackcurrant and candied red and black fruit aromas.
P: Some gas in this sample, which was nevertheless a good solid example of Saint Emilion without any special distinguishing characteristics.

Franc Mayne
N: Deep intense nose of briar and black cherry jam. Sweet, but not obvious. Great nose.
P: Not quite as good on the palate. Something a bit weak and diluted until the aftertaste, which is slightly rough with some greenness. Minerality in spades.
New label this year for an estate that changed hands in 2018.

La Gaffelière
N: Plummy with violet nuances.
P: Big mouthful i.e. heavy mouthfeel, then dips a bit on the middle palate, but comes back with a fruity, gummy flavor and a sweet, pure, and very mineral aftertaste. Worthy of retaining its Premier Cru status? Good winemaking and high-quality fresh aftertaste would suggest so.
Good plus.

Grand Corbin
N: Pure and discreet with candied red fruit.
P: Tight with good development on the palate. Dense and fresh, with fine tannin and candied black fruit. Excellent finish.
Good plus.

Grand Mayne
N: Beeswax and floral notes with underlying blackcurrant.
P: Brawny, chunky, with good fruit and textured tannin. Not as big and clumsy as some previous vintages. Strong and characterful though, and there’s the acidity to provide balance. A meaty virile kind of Saint Emilion. Long assertive aftertaste.
Good to good plus.

Haut Sarpe
N: Fresh, but unforthcoming. Subtle berry fruit, but too closed at this time.
P: Vibrant raspberry Cabernet Franc aromas. Excellent and refreshing balance with a tangy finish. Chunky in a good way but neither top-heavy nor overly alcoholic. Rubbery tannin and the sort of wine that is good either young or old.
Good plus.

N: High-pitched, deep, and subtle with coffee and vanilla nuances.
P: Seems very much like a Pomerol to begin with, then the wine’s structure emerges. Seems rather delicate until the aftertaste kicks in. Svelte body with good length and ageing potential although not broad-based or especially assertive.

N: Biscuity, with some lead overtones. Some reduction at this time. A bit curious, but OK.
P: Rich, even flabby to start off with, then rough tannin kicks in. Not altogether balanced, but this is a decent old-fashioned style of Saint Emilion. Grippy tannin on the aftertaste. This will help the wine to age, but will the fruit stay?

Larcis Ducasse
N: Rather retiring and hiding its charms for the time being. Some wild flower nuances.
P: Forthcoming, with slick smooth tannin. Seems more like a Pomerol than a Saint Emilion. The aftertaste is not very long, but this is an attractive wine to drink young. Immediate neighbour of Pavie.

N: Good, but unremarkable at this time, which is to say average.
P: Soft velvety tannin going into a medium-long round aftertaste full of berry fruit.  A crowd-pleasing sort of wine, quite aromatic on the palate with violet nuances. Commercial style. A touch dilute. Will be forthcoming young.

N: Fresh, pure, berry fruit aromas with some licorice. Concentrated and appealing without oak overreach.
P: Very rich with chocolate overtones. Frankly on the heavy side with noticeable alcohol on the finish. Not a bruiser, but a very tannic wine calling for strongly-flavored food.

N: Plummy, sweet, upfront, and fresh with some depth.
P: Fresh, but disjointed with unpleasant acidity and harsh tannin. This only goes to show how young the wines are at the en primeur tastings, and how good wines are not necessarily on their best form. Tannin here seems quite tough.
To be fair, this wine needs to be retasted before and after bottling.

N: Powdery, with refined cherry and fruit juice aromas.  Some heat. Not up to the palate at this time.
P: Mouthfilling and seemingly sweet. Big and coats the palate. A bit simple, but goes into a pure mineral aftertaste with textured tannin. First vintage of this wine as a classified growth.

N: Very roasted nose with coffee, vanilla, and caramel nuances (oak) that overrides the fruit at this stage.
P:  Better. Plush on the palate with licorice flavors and good follow-through. Interesting balance, but rather short. Good fruit. A nice surprise for this estate newly promoted to cru classé status.

N: A little simple and ordinary. Not very expressive.
P: Rich and soft on entry, going into an above-average mineral aftertaste. There’s an impression of sweetness from beginning to end and an interesting balance between austere tannin and an easy-going cherry flavor. Marked acidity on the finish

Moulin du Cadet
N: Something a little off at this tasting, but  the nose is inky, deep, and mysterious.
P: Big, but there is sprightly raspberry acidity that makes this more easy-going and “digestible” than some of the other wines at the tasting. The body is there, but not quite enough elegance. Clean limestone finish. Rich and tasty, just a little obvious.

Pavie Macquin
N: Promising red fruit, blueberry, and refined candied fruit aromas.
P: Vinous with great acidity. Big, but restrained. Unexpectedly delicate, with fine-grained tannin and a subtle long aftertaste.
Good plus.

Péby Faugères
N: Closed, brooding, but one senses that there is much to come.
P: Very oaky along with some exotic flavors such as mint. Very enjoyable. Faugères showed better than Péby Faugères on this day, but it could be a different story in ten years.
Good plus

Petit Faurie de Soutard
N: Fine, sweet, and subtle. Fresh, delicate, and marked by floral aromas (iris).
P: Great development on the palate. Fresh once again, with spring water purity and some rose nuances. The floral overtones blend with great berry flavors (forest fruit). Elegant floral finish very reminiscent of crunch fresh fruit. Elegant. This is an estate to watch.
Very good

De Pressac
N: Not showing a great deal at this time. Some blackberry notes.
P: Full-bodied and spreads out on the palate with heaps of black fruit flavors. Great acidity inside a plush shell. Will age well. Coarse velvet texture. A little disjointed at this stage, but one of the best wines I’ve had from this estate.
Good plus.

Quinault l’Enclos
N: On the simple side, but displaying  some promising fruit jam notes.
P: A pretty fruit forward wine that permeates the palate. Upfront ant attractive.

N: Good oak and enough fruit to back it up. Sweet, elegant, and voluptuous.
P: Big masculine style with a perception of alcohol clearly present. Rather overwhelming and the oak is too much at this stage. Disjointed now, but give it time!

La Serre
N: A little spirity, somewhat remniscent of cherry liqueur.
P: Powerful, but tasty and tangy. Lipsmackingly good. Long assertive aftertaste that is not aggressive. Juicy. Maybe should be a little more reserved, but this is a sensual wine with an fine finish and velvety tannin.

N: Oak, candied fruit, and general sweetness.
P: Seems somewhat hollow, but there is a good tannic backbone. Medium-heavy mouthfeel. Pure and refreshing although a little puckery and hard on the finish. Balance is not ideal, but will improve with age. At this time the oak comes through much too strongly.

La Tour Figeac
N: Very attractive understated nose showing ethereal black fruit and some spice. Sweet and stylish.
P: Beautifully soft on entry going into medium-bodied roundness and fine-grained tannin. Unfolds seamlessly. Long aftertaste. An unquestionably fine wine, but also a fruity user-friendly.
Good plus.

Tour Saint Christophe
N: Toasty oak, berry fruit and a sweetness that may come more from oak than fruit.
P: Big, chunky, a little hot but the limestone finish adds freshness. Tannin coats the mouth and teeth. Hearty more than refined and rather dry, but this could change with ageing.

Troplong Mondot
N: Attractive berry and blossom aromas. Sweet and straightforward.
P: Heavy round mouthfeel. A Merlot lovers wine… Fresh, i.e. not top heavy as in some years, but a bit flabby. I acknowledge the quality of this wine, even if it is not a style I especially like.

N: Very classy, inky, almost Médoclike. Bright fruit with a touch of greenness along with some winemaking aromas, but very promising.
P: The softness at the beginning is misleading because this is a very tannic wine. An iron fist in a velvet glove. Blackberry and chocolate flavors. Long future ahead.
Good plus.

N: Cassis and black fruit jam along with some beeswax.
P: Full frontal roundness going into waves of acidity, tannin, and oak. A very big wine lacking distinction, but not a monster either. It weighs in more with power than nuance. The textured tannin on the finish is a pleasure, but I’d have like the wine less mammoth and I wonder how it will age.

Yon Figeac
N: Sweet and engaging, but some fermentation aromas there. Blossom aromas appear with aeration and the nose is altogether very nice.
P: Ripe rich wine with heavy mouth feel. The fruity flavors spread out beautifully on the palate going into limestone minerality typical of the Saint Emilion plateau. Slightly old-fashioned style, but very successful. Not exactly heavy or overbearing, but not for the faint-hearted.
Good plus.

2022 En Primeur tasting: Pessac-Léognan

Bouscaut (red)
N: Closed and moderately oaky.
P: Long on the palate, but seems massively overoaked at this stage. Plenty of acidity, but not enough fruit and way too much oak. Not a good time to taste this wine, which needs to be re-evaluated later.

Carbonnieux (red)
N: Seems very young indeed. Fresh fruit aromas and not overoaked.
P: Plush on entry going on to reveal polished tannin and acidity. Tangy, refreshing, and delicious. Just a little short. Nevertheless, a fine effort from the château.
Good to good plus.

Carmes Haut Brion
N: Subtle red fruit aromas along with vanilla and black pepper notes.
P: Medium body. Tight, with teeth-coating tannin that are nevertheless of extremely high quality and bode well for long ageing. A lively appetizing wine with some tarry overtones. The texture is absolutely wonderful.
Very good.

Domaine de Chevalier (red)
N: Impression of ripe Merlot fruit predominates. Moderately expressive red fruit and quite fresh.
P: Svelte with marked acidity without softness to back it up. Wine to enjoy for its elegance rather than power or richness. Raspberry flavors. Bit unyielding finish, but there is textured velvety tannin there and this will obviously reward ageing.
The label is quite unusual for this vintage, featuring a 1941 watercolor of a galloping horse by Chinese artist Xu Bei Hong.
Good plus

Fieuzal (red)
N: Pure blackberry jelly aromas and subtle oak. Not profound, but certainly engaging.
P: Starts out round then progresses into a long aftertaste. Raspberry and redcurrant flavors with lively acidity. Fine-grained tannin on the finish.
Good plus.

de France (red)
N: Brambly as always, and soft. Aromatics of earth and forest floor.
P: Moderately fruity, short aftertaste with slight impression of alcohol. Overoaked at this point, but time will tell…

Haut Bailly
N: Spicy, fresh, pine resin aromas.
P: Sinewy and svelte with a positive sort of bitterness on the aftertaste which nevertheless drops off somewhat. Too oaky at present, but has the structure to integrate that over time. Narrow flavor profile, with some licorice, but excellent within that framework.
Good plus

Haut Brion (red)
N: Fine beeswax and lovely scent of fruit hiding its light under a bushel at present.
P: Chewy texture. Quite round, then assertive with new oak, significant acidity, and an uncompromising quality that provides decades of ageing potential. There’s a positive sort of greenness to go along with the ripe fruit. The tanginess at the onset is very appetizing, and this is complemented by tremendous length. Just shy of 15° alc./vol. but altogether extremely elegant. Times have certainly changed in Bordeaux!
Very good.

Larrivet Haut Brion (red)
N: Fine fresh raspberry bouquet. Brambly and smoky Pessac-Léognan nuances. Understated and classic.
P: Tight with vibrant acidity. Made to last. A different style to the others and one I quite like. Not so commercial, but encourages ageing. Medium-light in body and succeeds in focusing acidity and fruit at the same time. Cool fresh aftertaste.
Good to good plus

Latour Martillac (red)
N: Aromas of caramel, oak, and black fruit. Fairly suave, but lacks personality at this stage. Some toasty oak.
P: Natural fruit flavors, especially raspberry, with a very positive kind of marked acidity. Light on its feet. A little short, but refreshing. Will age well, but this is not one of the appellation’s frontrunners.

La Louvière (red)
N: Sweet and simple with some toasty oak.
P: Medium in most ways. Elegant flavor profile with a floral aspect. Short, but balanced and attractive. Should La Louvière be promoted one day to great growth status? In light of today’s tasting i.e. compared to other crus classes, I’d have to say no.

Malartic Lagravière (red)
N: Elegant perfumed bouquet redolent of violet, rose, red fruit, and oak.
P: Bit sharp and tangy. Poised and feminine in style, as usual, but the sample was not in tip-top condition, showing too much oak and a dry finish at present. Promising, but needs to be retasted.

Mission Haut Brion (red)
N: Sweet briary aromas with pipe tobacco nuances. Understated and very promising and already showing signs of complexity.
P: Possibly as little diluted on the attack, but zings in with authority revealing wonderful Graves tannin. Medium-weight in body, even tending towards lighter-than-average. The tannin clearly gives the wine structure to last for decades. Fresh, but development on the palate is short of perfect. Long subtle finish.
Very good.

Olivier (red)
N: Upfront and very ripe. Lovely deep dark berry fruit nuances.
G: Soft, easy-drinking wine with red and black fruit flavors echoing the bouquet. Refreshing, but the oak is rather hard at this time. Well made. An estate offering worthwhile value for money.

Pape Clément (red)
N: Not very expressive at this time.
P: Rich with good acidity and grip. Black fruit and the oak in in keeping for a wine that needs to age for a long time. Delicious aftertaste with an unmistakale slightly leathery/smoky Graves quality.
Good plus.

Pique Caillou (red)
N: Sweet, natural, penetrating.
P: Soft and easy-to-drink with a pleasant aftertaste of red and black fruit. The oak influence seems a little hard-edged at this time. The wine is well-made and good value for money.

Smith Haut Lafitte
N: Inky violet nuances along with forest fruit.
P: Rich and concentrated with marvelous tannin that coats the teeth. Lovely long textured aftertaste with a touch of bitterness. Rises above most other wines in its appellation and at this point seems superior to Haut Bailly. Melts in the mouth and the toasty oak is not overdone.
Very good