Tag Archives: Médoc

Three 99s: Pichon Baron, Pichon Comtesse, and Mouton Rothschild

1999 has a rather low profile. It is certainly not considered a great vintage, but neither do people think of it as a poor one. The “received wisdom” seems to be that it is early maturing and on the light side.

I recently invited some American friends studying wine industry management at Bordeaux Sciences Agro to lunch for a double blind tasting.

My notes are cursory seeing as I was hosting a meal, but I still though they were worth sharing.


We started off with two Champagnes. The Bérêche Brut Réserve was wood-aged, which is not very common these days. The nose was pleasant enough, but the taste was rather one-dimensional and the oak added more hardness on the aftertaste than anything else. The 99 Laurent Perrier, on the other hand, was a beautiful wine, pretty much in its drinking window although it will age for many more years. The nose was biscuity, creamy, complex, and a real treat. The wine was also yummy on the palate with a long fine aftertaste. This was one of the most enjoyable Champagnes I’ve had in a long time.



We enjoyed a bottle of 2001 Ch. La Tour Blanche with foie gras and toast. I have a soft spot for this vintage of La Tour Blanche because I spent a day picking grapes there in 2001 with my wife and son.  The wine had a lovely deep golden colour with bronze highlights. The nose was utterly classic with vanilla overtones to complement the rich botrytized fruit aromas. The wine was neither too heavy nor too sweet on the palate and it had a smooth, long aftertaste with some zippy acidity and a lovely touch of bitterness that kept it from being cloying. The consensus was that this 2001 was nearing the middle of its drinking window, but that it has a very long way to go.

Next up were the three 99s, all great growths from Pauillac.



The wine we liked most was Mouton Rotshchild, even though there was some greenness on the nose and we would have liked more flesh on the bones. I had enjoyed this same wine during Vinexpo 2015. That bottle was further along, even tired. This one was more vital, but still not a benchmark Mouton. It is fine to drink now and won’t gain much form further ageing.

99 Pichon Comtesse was, as expected, the smoothest and roundest of the three, but the nose had a carmel quality that I didn’t like very much. My honest impression is that the wine was starting to fall apart and that it was somewhat disjointed. This statement must be put in perspective, however, because the wine wasn’t actually poor – just a shadow of what a great vintage would be like.

99 Pichon Baron might have trumped Mouton except for some TCA on the nose. This wasn’t marked enough to leave off tasting the wine, but it certainly detracted from the overall impression. That’s a pity because the wine was much, much better on the palate than the Mouton, with a good tannic texture and structure missing from the other two wines. I’m inclined to think that a bottle without cork taint would have been the best of the lot.


A tasting of 17 wines from Saint Estèphe

Bruno Prats of Château Cos d’Estournel once told me that the Médoc should not be divided into communal appellations, but rather a string of gravelly rises running parallel to the Gironde, i.e. vertically rather than horizontally. The word he used, chapelet, also means rosary beads!
In fact, I have heard this explanation several times since from dyed-in-the-wool Médocains. It goes on the premise that a thick gravelly rise in Margaux and another in Pauillac have far more in common than such a terroir and a more pedestrian one in the same appellation…
Be that as it may, wine from each Médoc commune pretty much has its own reputation. Margaux is said to be “feminine”, Saint-Julien “fleshy”, etc. Adjectives often used to describe Saint Estèphe are “strong” and “virile”.
It has been a long time since I did an in-depth tasting of wines just from Saint-Estèphe, so I was delighted with the opportunity to go to one organized by Terre de Vins magazine. This was held on the 4th of February 2016.

Before I recount this experience, here is a look at total area under vine in each of the Médoc communal appellations:
Pauillac – 1,239 hectares
Saint-Estèphe – 1,212 hectares
Margaux – 1,500 hectares
Saint-Julien – 910 hectares
Moulis – 600 hectares
Listrac – 540 hectares
Saint-Estèphe has 43 independent winegrowers, 5 great growths (24% of total area under vine) and a cooperative, Le Marquis de Saint-Estèphe, with 17 members.
Here is a brief look at the 17 wines I tasted. I debated whether or not to post scores, but decided not to, largely because I am a tough grader and this may have given a misleading impression…
Every château served two vintages: the 2013 and one other of their choice. I decided to bypass the 2013s, not out of snobbery, but because with 40 estates present, I couldn’t taste everything.
Please also note that the color of young Bordeaux does not vary tremendously, so I have rarely mentioned it in my tasting notes.



The first wine I sampled upon arriving was at 2011 Ch. Le Crock (32 hectaresà. This was poured by Didier Cuvelier, who is also owner of Léoville Poyferré.
The wine had a well-focused, soft and fairly understated bouquet of brambly berry fruit. The wine seemed quite fluid on the palate with unaggressive tannin. Not a powerful wine and the aftertaste is shortish, but pleasing and with decent grip on the aftertaste. Will be enjoyable soon.
Next up was Château Cos Labory (18 hectares), where I tasted the 2010. I stopped to chat with M. Bernard Audoy, who also happens to be the president of the Saint Estèphe winegrowers association. Because of the number of people crowding around the tasting table, I did not have much time to talk to him, but was able to slip in one question: “What are the trends in your appellation, what has changed most over the past several years?” He thought a moment and replied, “The percentage of Merlot is now much greater than it used to be”. The 2010 Cos Labory I sampled had a very closed, almost mute nose, but there were some cranberry notes lurking there and little evidence of oak. The wine started out quite round and forthcoming and then shifted gears to show the estate’s hallmark tight and somewhat astringent tannin. Not the kind that will soften with age, in my opinion. It is remarkable how different this wine is from its neighbor, Cos d’Estournel.


I had never come across Château Martin, so I was interested to meet the owner, M. Jean-Marc Martin, and taste his 2010. He has 28 hectares in Saint Estèphe and 24 at in the next town over, Vertheuil (Cuvée La Marsaudrie). The nose showed a surprising amount of toasty oak and a touch of caramel. The wine was round, chewy, and very fresh on the palate. This freshness continues onto the aftertaste. Although very enjoyable now, the wine will also age. This was a nice discovery for me, the sort that makes tastings such as this worthwhile.

Tronquoy-Lalande is a 30 hectare estate that is the younger brother of Château Montrose (by the way, this was the only great growth I was not able to taste – they had run out of wine!). Their 2007 was on show. The nose was deep, but not wide – a fine bouquet in a minor key. Forest floor nuances accompanied the fruit and there was a very feminine side. I might have detected a hint of volatile acidity though. The wine was big on the palate, but somewhat hollow and short. It picked up, however, on the aftertaste. This is the kind of wine that would be a treat with food, but suffers when appraised on its own.


I had never tried Château L’Argilus du Roy (5 hectares) before so was intrigued by their 2012, which I quite enjoyed. It had a lovely berry nose: upfront, smooth, and sweet. The wine had good volume, even if there was a certain hollowness on the middle palate. There was a fine tannic follow-through and an attractive tangy finish. This was certainly one of the discoveries of the tasting for me. I’d like to see what this estate do in a better vintage and follow its progress, because the present owner, M. Martial Mignet, has not been in the driver’s seat for very long. He told me that Guy Savoy orders his wine, which is a pretty good recommendation.
Château Meyney (50 hectares) has long been a favorite of mine. Curiously, I’ve never visited and that is something I must remedy J. The 2012 did nothing to change my opinion about this dependably delicious wine. The nose was very classic Médoc: clean and bright with plenty of blackcurrant and a slightly spirit side. The wine was round and meaty on the palate with a lovely deep black cherry flavour and a great aftertaste showing good grip. A textbook Saint Estèphe and a very good wine that does not need to blush when compared with certain grands crus. The fact that the estate is owned by one of France’s biggest banks, the Crédit Agricole, doesn’t detract at all, as far as I’m concerned. They do good work.

I have dim memories of having tried Château Lavillotte (12 hectares) before, but definitely wanted to become reacquainted. Unfortunately, this was not one of the better wines that evening. The 2010 featured a nose that was overoaked and reminded me of smell of a cellar with all new barrels. The wine was light and, once again overpowered by the oak on the palate. It seemed inconsistent with its appellation and the great vintage it came from. I must give it another chance sometime.
Lilian Ladouys (45 hectares) is part of the Jacky Lorenzetti empire. This Franco-Swiss also owns fifth growth Château Pédesclaux in Pauillac and half of Ch. d’Issan in Margaux.

The 2012 Lilian Ladouys had a penetrating bouquet with a nice balance between fruit and oak. The wine was juicy and lively on the palate with a tangy finish. This is a modern Bordeaux in a crowd-pleasing and relatively early-maturing style. The aftertaste was more authoritative than expected, if a little bitter. As for ageing potential, I’d give this the benefit of the doubt.

2012 Château Ségur de Cabanac (7 hectares) was light in color with a pure, simple, understated bouquet. It was big and round, but somewhat dilute on the palate. The wine fell down in the middle and the tannin on the finish was rather unyielding. A sound wine, but not one of the best.

It is fairly rare for Médoc châteaux to produce a cuvee prestige, but La Haye (16 hectares) has one called Majesté, which I tasted from the 2012 vintage. This was a classic example of what happens when one tries too hard – the nose was patently overoaked. Of course, I don’t rule out the possibility that the fruit will emerge and possibly take the upper hand over time, but color me dubious. 2012 Majesté was big and reminiscent of a New World wine with strong tannin and a dry finish (oak). I prefer the regular bottling of Château La Haye.


The next table was Château Lafon Rochet (45 hectares), manned by Basile Tesseron. 2009 Lafon Rochet turned out to be one of the high points of the tasting. The nose displayed fine, well-integrated oak and a soft, enticing, complex nose of sweet fruit (raspberry). Just wonderful. The wine turned out to be unexpectedly soft on the palate and segued into a tremendously long aftertaste with an ethereal berry finish and superb tannin. Give it another 10 years. Unquestionably one of the top wines in its appellation – and the classified growths of the Médoc.

Another cru classé was next on the list: third growth Calon Ségur (50 hectares). A lot of changes are happening here. The estate was sold by the Capbern-Gasqueton family to Suravenir Assurances in 2012 and a new cellar is being built. However, the most important change is the wine itself, where a new, more supple and early-maturing style is being sought. The vintage I tasted, the 2008, is from before this change. The nose was toasty and brooding with a chocolatey side. Very promising. The wine was quite big, chewy, and assertive on the palate: my notes, written in the heat of the moment, say “an elegant steamroller”, whatever such expressions mean! The aftertaste was tight and seemingly uncompromising. Further ageing will nevertheless smooth this out considerably. On the whole, though, there was not quite enough richness to back up the tannic structure and the wine could be better balanced – a good, but not a great vintage for Calon Ségur.


Calon Ségur was followed by second growth Cos d’Estournel (91 hectares), a big hitter by anyone’s standards, and one of the great Médocs. The nose of the 2012 was quite classic and pure with exquisite hints of blackcurrant as well as cedar and graphite reminding us that Pauillac is just a stone’s throw away. The bouquet was both intense and subtle. The wine was very classy on the palate, with great acidity and balance. There was a pleasant dryness on the finish. The oak needs time to meld and this is on the light side for Cos, but it is nevertheless quite a successful wine from a middling vintage.

I was totally unfamiliar with Château Haut-Coteau (14 hectares), so I was eager to try the 2010 vintage. Redolent of wild berries, the nose was simple and pleasant but lacked a little oomph and definition. It was fairly enticing even so. The wine showed better on the palate, with juicy morello cherry flavours, although it dipped in the middle. The flavour picked up again on the aftertaste with plenty of (slightly rough) tannin. This wine will be ready to drink soon, but will never be altogether balanced.


2011 Château Petit Bocq (19 hectares) had an upfront, aromatic nose of ripe blackcurrant, vanilla, and mint that was reminiscent of New World Cabernets. However,there was too much oak, or this was overly toasted, or both… The wine seemed a little overdone on the palate, but it did have a tangy finish. Pity that the balance was off due to the type of barrel ageing, because this is an interesting wine. It just needs less oak.
The Château de Saint-Estèphe (12 hectares) is owned by the Arnaud family, who also own Château Pomys, also in Saint Estèphe. I tasted the 2011 which had a confected nose with spring flower, wild berry, and caramel nuances. It was also toasty and unfortunately already a little tired. The wine was simple, fruity, and ready to go on the palate, with a thirst quenching quality and an unexpected dry mineral aftertaste. Best enjoyed sooner rather than later.

The final wine (after 15 or 20, I’m just no good) was 2009 Beausite Haut Vignoble. The bouquet was on the indeterminate side, with forest floor overtones and a touch of greenness. Fortunately, the wine was much better on the palate with deep, rich, candied cherry flavours – one of those instances where there is a decided sensation of sweetness despite the absence of sugar. The aftertaste was on the dry side, but this was nevertheless a good wine that would be even better with food.

Can any sort of conclusion be drawn from the tasting? Broadly speaking, I would say that the wines were on the hearty, solid side. The crus classés confirmed their position as clearly superior. I haven’t mentioned price at all, but several of the crus bourgeois were very good indeed and the price puts them among the best values to be found in the world of wine today. 



La Brasserie Bordelaise: southwest cuisine and a great wine list…

The primary meaning of brasserie in French is “brewery”. But it also means a specific sort of establishment in France: a café-cum-restaurant with a relaxed atmosphere that serves food outside the usual set mealtimes. Brasseries usually offer a limited range of popular dishes rather than an elaborate menu, and diners frequently do not linger, often ordering just one dish.
What is the difference between a “brasserie” and a “bistrot”? It’s actually more complicated than it sounds, and you can find a long discussion (in English) on that subject here: http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g187147-i14-k6250591-Difference_between_brasserie_and_bistro-Paris_Ile_de_France.html

But I’m sure you get the idea :-).

The Brasserie Bordelaise is located at 50 rue Saint-Rémi in Old Bordeaux, about a 5-minute walk from the Grand Théâtre. There are no fewer than 25 restaurants practically side-by-side on this street, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous…

Where does the Brasserie Bordelaise fit in?

in Old Bordeaux

in Old Bordeaux

First of all, created in 2008, the Brasserie has already become an institution. It is relaxed, authentic, and lively, sometimes to the point of boisterousness. No chichi here. There’s a good buzz and a lot of positive energy. The food is simple, hearty, and wholesome. The wine list is outstanding.

The first part of the restaurant has a bar and perhaps a dozen tables, and there is a larger room downstairs with long wooden tables and wooden benches, as well as a mezzanine overlooking it.

Counter service

Counter service

Cuisine: The theme here is superb ingredients simply prepared. Delicacies from Southwest France have been carefully sourced: oysters, dry cured ham, foie gras, lamprey, caviar d’Aquitaine and, above all, beef. In fact, the beef is superb, and what better food to go with good red Bordeaux?
The restaurant’s website gives the background to suppliers: http://www.brasserie-bordelaise.fr/brasserie_bordelaise_en.php#/
Prices are in the moderate range. The meal I enjoyed last week with friends (4 of us altogether) included the following: foie gras, cuttlefish cooked with garlic and parsley, and melon with wafer-thin dry cured ham for the first course followed by rump steak, entrecote steak, and Waygu beef skirt steak for the main course. Everything was just fine, and the beef top class.
We enjoyed a 2010 Cuvée Flora from Château Patache d’Aux (AOC Médoc), that was quite enjoyable, not ridiculously young, and mercifully not over-oaked like many cuvées presige are.


Wine: The full wine list can also be found at the above link. It is quite extensive and intelligently broken down into different categories: “Specially Recommended”, “Right Bank”, “Left Bank”, “Wines by the Glass”, “Pomerol”, wines from different négociants (including Bernard Margez, Cordier, and Jean Merlaut – who is part owner of the restaurant), ones from famous winemakers and consultants, “Rare and Exceptional”, etc. As for this last category, you can find crus classés going back to 1995, up to and including first growths, at reasonable retail prices. The choice of vintage Armagnac is very impressive, and not outlandishly priced. I might add that the Bordelais are traditionally more partial to this brandy than Cognac although the former is much closer geographically.
The restaurant recently began handing out the wine list on iPads. However, 4 out of 10 were stolen, so they are rethinking that particular innovation…

Nicolas Lascombes

La Brasserie Bordelaise is the brainchild of Nicolas Lascombes, a serial entrepreneur who managed La Tupina restaurant in Bordeaux for ten years. Monsieur Lascombes also owns and runs three restaurants on Arcachon Bay: le Comptoir du Port in Arcachon and l’Hôtel de la Plage and Le Bouchon du Ferret in Cap Ferret. Last, but not least, he has been chosen to run the restaurant in the new Cité du Vin, due to open next year.



02 Ch. Sociando Mallet, 01 Ch. Talbot, and 04 Ch. Durfort Vivens



Everybody loves a success story, and Sociando Mallet certainly falls into that category. When Jean Gautreau bought the estate in 1969, there were just 5 hectares of vines. There are currently 85! However, it was not only production that increased. Sociando Mallet also built up a solid reputation for quality and established a loyal following.
The vines grow on a rise overlooking the Gironde Estuary east of the village of Saint-Seurin-de-Cadourne, the northernmost commune in the Haut-Médoc appellation. The soil is very gravelly, with a clay-limestone subsoil.
Sociando-Mallet did not even ask to be included in the most recent cru bourgeois classification. They felt above it, and the price their wine commands tends to confirm that…
The first time I tasted 2002 Sociando was at the Darroze restaurant in Langon, where I had been invited to lunch by Xavier Gonet-Médeville of Ch. Gilette in Sauternes. This was about 5 years ago and the wine was quite closed at the time. The situation was compounded by the fact that young wines rarely have the chance to open up in restaurants, even when properly decanted.
Anyway, by August 2015, this wine was, unsurprisingly, much more developed. It was decanted 3 hours before the meal. The color made the wine appear younger than its age.
As for the bouquet, Sociando is noted for displaying a decided green pepper quality in certain years, to the point where some people have found it too overpowering. The 2000 vintage is a case in point. Personally, I have never felt this way, but that green pepper factor was there in the 2002, albeit in an understated way.
The wine has a velvety texture and good grip on the palate. It also seems to share characteristics with nearby Pauillac. My friends know that I prefer my wines on the young side, but at 13 years I must admit that this is still not all it could be. It is heady and virile, the perfect wine to have with red meat, making up in vigor and assertive Cabernet fruit what it may lack in elegance. That having been said, Sociando Mallet has just 48% Cabernet Sauvigon (and 5% Cabernet Franc), but this variety seems to dominate the flavor profile.
I would love to taste this wine blind in a line-up of California Cabernets…


I have visited Château Talbot, a 4th growth Saint Julien only once, a long time ago, and have not tasted their wines as often as I’d like to… I have a fond memory of the odd proprietary bottles the Cordier estates used to come in, with a picture of old man Cordier and his white moustache on the embossed part.

Times have changed, and most of those estates (Gruaud Larose, Meyney, Lafaurie-Peyraguey) have now been sold. Château Talbot, though, acquired by Désiré Cordier in 1917, has been in the family ever since. Talbot has 106 hectares of vines, which is absolutely mammoth in Burgundian terms, and big even in Bordeaux. They also make a small quantity of white wine, Le Caillou Blanc, AOC Bordeaux.
I had just one bottle of Talbot in my cellar, from the 2001 vintage, one usually overshadowed by 2000. However, I’m a huge fan and it is not rare for me to prefer a 2001 to the 2000 from the same château.
So, we enjoyed the 2001 Talbot just after the Sociando-Mallet. The Talbot is the weightier wine, with a deep regal color. The nose is gorgeous, everything I love about the Médoc and classic Bordeaux. It smells like a room with old mahogany furniture polished with beeswax, as well as subtle, pure blackcurrant fruit – none of the famous bretty/phenolic odors sometimes referred to as the “Cordier stink” that existed years ago… The wine is also very traditional, refreshing, and well-balanced on the palate. It is a lovely drink, and while not at its peak, is not far off. This 2001 Talbot is an excellent wine to serve to people who think that “modern Bordeaux” is over-extracted, over-oaked, and over-alcoholic. In fact, it is just the opposite.

2004 Durfort-Vivens

2004 Durfort-Vivens

Château Durfort-Vivens is one of several great growths owned by the Lurton family, but it never seems to attract the same attention as the other Lurton great growth in Margaux, Ch. Brane-Cantenac. The fact that Durfort has 55 hectares of vines compared to Brane’s 75 may have something to do with this, but that doesn’t explain everything. I once enjoyed a lunch with Lucien Lurton and he told me that the “dur” (meaning “hard”) in Durfort describes the wine’s character. It is perhaps this slightly austere and unyielding side when young that makes Durfort less popular.
The Lurtons sold the actual château building to Philippe Porcheron, who renamed it Château Marojallia. The château is now a luxury hotel as well as the name of the AOC Margaux garage wine Monsieur Porcheron produces.

2004 Durfort Vivens has a browning rim and dark core, with thick legs. The nose is soft and smoky, with subtle cosmetic and chocolate overtones, along with a major earthy/truffle component.
The wine starts out smooth on the palate, showing textured tannin, but the finish unquestionably displays that Durfort hardness, and the wine is starting to dry out.  While enjoyable at table, this smelled better than it tasted, and the balance is such that any evening-out of the tannin in a few years will leave the fruit behind. In short, I am somewhat disappointed, especially since I rated the wine highly when tasted en primeur in spring 2005.


2009 Durfort-Vivens

2009 Durfort-Vivens


Two fine Médocs and a reflection on vintage reputations

I was invited to dinner recently and served 2 fine wines that belied some received wisdom about Bordeaux.

The meal started out in the back garden of my friends Dewey and Catherine Markham with white and red Lillet (I prefer the white). This patent aperitif is made in Podensac, in the Graves, and was sold by the Borie family of Ducru-Beaucaillou to Pernod-Ricard seven years ago.

Dewey wrote the definitive (and only!) book on the 1855 classification http://www.amazon.com/1855-A-History-Bordeaux-Classification/dp/0471194212 and his wife is office manager at Ch. Clerc Milon (Ph. de Rothschild). Other guests included Hamilton and Wendy Narby, former owners of Ch. Guiraud in Sauternes.



The first wine, 2005 Ch. Brane Cantenac, was served blind. I didn’t venture to say what it was because I was confused. There were elements of Right Bank smoothness, or so I thought, but also the tell-tale graphite smells of the Médoc – but without the body of the Pauillac and Saint-Julien wines I usually associate with those aromatics. I should have deduced from this that the wine was a southern Médoc, but didn’t and remained baffled. I was very surprised indeed when the label was revealed because here was a second growth Margaux from a great vintage, just ten years old, but fully enjoyable and ready-to-drink. The structure was supple, without any tannic asperity.
A wine like this confirms that vintage reputations are misleading. This 05 Brane is as good as it’s going to get. I don’t see it any better a decade or two from now, despite the qualities people associate with the 2005 vintage.
I might add, as an aside, that Brane Cantenac is coming up in the world. I did a vertical tasting at the estate with Gonzague Lurton not long ago and was particularly impressed with the 2010 – the best Brane I have ever had.



Wine number two was 2003 Mouton Rothschild. We all know what is said about 2003: record heat and wines that are supposedly alcoholic, low-acid, and often flabby. Well, I don’t know anyone who would taste this Mouton and find those characteristics… Furthermore, I think that even the most hard-bitten old-school English claret lover would agree that the wine is enjoyable to drink NOW. Why wait? The lovely trademark blackcurrant and pencil shaving nose is perhaps lacking in complexity and it’s true that might develop a little over time, but the wine is all there on the palate. Where the 2003 vintage has left its mark is in the wine’s exuberance, not unlike that found in some high-class New World Cabernets. A very enjoyable experience. The label celebrates the 150th anniversary of Mouton’s purchase by Nathaniel de Rothschild.

2007 Clos Dady, 2002 Ch. Troplong Mondot, and 2000 Ch. Siran 




I have been a fan of Clos Dady for a while. This 6-hectare estate in Preignac was recently purchased by the Russian Eli Ragimov. It is currently managed in conjunction with nearby Château d’Arche.As opposed to the red wines of Bordeaux, 2007 is a good year for sweet white wines, and this comes through in 2007 Clos Dady, which I enjoyed with panfried foie gras – a marriage made in heaven…
The color is a rich deep golden yellow with bronze highlights. The nose is very fresh and fruity with quince and (decided) pear aromas, with some waxy nuances. The bouquet seems much more overripe than botrytized.

The taste goes from round and unctuous into a finish with pronounced acidity. The aftertaste is pleasant, but on the short side.
This is nevertheless a good wine to enjoy at this stage of its development. It is fresh and vital. I am of the opinion that there is a style of Sauternes (like this) that appeals more to the French market, as opposed to the other kind (more botrytized, more concentrated, and oaky) that appeals to foreign markets. At table, even so, this Clos Dady was a treat.



I expected much from the 2002 Ch. Troplong Mondot, a wine that I do not follow regularly, but which was promoted to Premier Grand Cru status in 2006 and confirmed in 2012. Aware that 2002 is not such a wonderful vintage, especially on the Right Bank, I was willing to make allowances. I was nevertheless disappointed with what I tasted. The color is lovely and deep, looking younger than its age. The nose has hints of leather and musk as well as a ferrous, and what I call a soy sauce element. It is ripe and shows candied fruit. Things unfortunately go downhill from there… The wine is simply steamrollered by the oak.
One of the great discussions among Bordeaux lovers is the “classic” versus the “modern” style. I freely admit to belonging more to the former camp. Still, I have an open mind. But when a wine is as overwhelmed as this by barrel ageing, you simply have to admit it. 2002 Troplong Mondot is thus big and a little “hot” on the palate with a hard, dry, oaky aftertaste. It is curiously diluted on the attack, and then goes dumb and tight. The wine showed a little better after a few hours in the decanter, but it is going nowhere. Someone was a just a little too ambitious that year in light of the fruit’s potential.
The last Troplong Mondot I had was a 1990, which was delightful, so I do not mean to paint every vintage with the same brush by any means.
Also, I am anxious to go to the restaurant that recently opened at Troplong Mondot, called Les Belles Perdrix. I’ve heard very good reports…
The Bordeaux rumor mill has been very active with news of a possible takeover of the estate since Christine Valette passed away last year, but these seem to be ungrounded.



I am increasingly finding that mid-range 2000 Bordeaux is ready to drink. So, I decanted a bottle of 2000 Ch. Siran to have with rabbit à la moutarde. I should point out that the mustard ends up being very subtle when blended with the cooking juices and cream, so this did not really skew my evaluation. Anyway, the color of this 2000 Siran is very deep and thick, looking younger than its years. The nose is surprisingly mute. Although pure, it is not very expressive at all. What little I could detect smelled like beetroot. The wine is somewhat better on the palate and reminded me of nothing so much as the way Médoc used to taste when I first arrived in Bordeaux, over 30 years ago. I noted cedar and a touch of blackcurrant, but also unquestionable greenness and bitterness on the finish. I came back to the wine 5 hours after the meal, and it had changed little. The tealike flavors are very reminiscent of old-fashioned Médoc. Above all, this wine would have been much better a few years ago. You’d have to look very hard to find any of the characteristics usually associated with Margaux…

2005 Goulée, AOC Médoc

Goulée is a wine from the Northern Médoc (AOC Médoc), near Port de Goulée and the commune of Jau-Dignac et Loirac. The vineyard has gravelly soil and overlooks the Gironde estuary.

It is made by the team from Cos d’Estournel. The first vintage was 2004 and later ones say “Goulée by Cos d’Estournel” instead of just “Goulée”. It is interesting that the owner, M. Michel Reybier decided to market a brand rather than a château name.

The 28 hectares of vines – Cabernet Sauvignon (80%) et Merlot (20%) – are about 25 years old.
The wine is 50% aged in new oak, and it spends 14 months in barrel.

Goulée is moderately expensive for its appellation but, of course, cost much less its more southerly neighbors. Is it worth the money? I have had the wine en primeur and found it to be OK, but this was the first mature example I have ever tasted.


The color was very deep, with thick legs. It is begining to brick on the rim and looks a little older than its age. There was sediment in the bottle which is often the good sign of a natural wine to me.
The nose showed rich plummy and mint aromas as well as classic overtones of blackcurrant and lead. The wine is very Médoc on the palate with deep and slightly spirity flavors. The Goulée website says that “the climate gives Goulée a fruity character that is somewhat reminiscent of New World wines,” but I don’t really see that… This 2005 is medium-bodied with a shortish aftertaste. It is a little dry on the finish, but has decent grip. Verdict: a good wine, in its drinking window, and a brand worth investigating.