Last Sunday was a moderately warm day with the sun sometimes piercing through the clouds that gathered over East Dulwich. The combination of the weather and the fact that Moxon’s, the fishmongers on Lordship Lane, supplied us with brilliantly fresh tuna steaks made me easily pick up a magnum of Cheval Noir 2007 from Saint Emilion at the local wine merchant’s. It benefited from a bit more than an hour’s decanting, and it was drinking well with ripe, but not jammy fruits, some age already showing and surrounding spices. As this Sunday is set to be on the chillier side as well, I have thought it is time to have a look at some Bordeaux wines.
A quarter of a year earlier it was the Bordeaux Grand Crus Classes tasting showcasing the 2007 – 2010 vintages for a selection of properties. This article will review the wines I managed to taste despite my late arrival at the Portico Rooms in Somerset House. The fascination with this tasting was that it offered the opportunity to taste much applauded vintages side by side for the same property and across a number of producers as well as communes though the majority were from Saint-Emilion with some from the Left Bank and only one from Sauternes.
2007 was a good, but by no means extraordinary vintage. Most wines achieved a good ripening and balance, but nothing else to excite ourselves about. 2008 was a somewhat similar year, though less precipitation than in 07 and the cool autumn resulted in good freshness. Vintage description from the CIVB’s website suggest dominant aromatic and phenolic ripening, whilst the wines I tasted were quite restrained with medium concentration and intensity in general. There were two shining stars from both Banks. Ch. Angelus form Saint-Emilion excelled with its exquisite balance, whilst Ch. Pontet-Canet from Pauillac paraded its flavours with intensity and elegance. The 2009 vintage is noted as an haute-couture by the Bordeaux producers and whilst it definitely has elegance, finesse and concentration, the liveliness of the fruits was also accompanied by higher alcohols, which took the shine off them for me. Ch. Leoville-Poyferre from Saint-Julien had a delicate texture well worth pointing out. Then there was vintage 2010, which had been trumpeted as the vintage of the century, yet another one; and then the en primeurs campaign was outraging critics and buyers with sky-high prices. The truth is that 2010 was the shining beacon of the tasting. What is described as a robust, concentrated and acidic vintage by Bill Blatch, a Bordeaux negociant, was showing great ripeness with retained freshness, firm tannic structures, superb concentration and excellent length. Let us see the wines in detail below, but here is a list of my top picks from both Left and Right Banks:
- Smith Haut Lafitte 2010 (rouge) (17.8)
- Ch. Angelus 2008 (17.8)
- Ch. Branaire-Ducru 2010 (17.6)
- Ch. La Gaffeliere 2010 (17.6)
- Ch. Pontet-Canet 2008 (17.1)
Ch. Smith Haut Lafitte
The always smiling and charming Florence Cathiard, co-proprietor of S-H-L, was standing at the table and pouring the wines produced on this 67-hectare large estate in Pessac-Leognan.
les hauts de Smith 2009 (blanc)
Very light lemon, medium intense nose, quite smoky but with ripe apples and a hint of butterscotch. Light, good concentration and excellent intensity. 15.8
Smith Haut Lafitte 2008 (blanc)
Light lemon with a green hue. Vibrant even if a bit restrained nose with minerals and crisp fruits followed by gentle toast on the palate. Lighter than ’09, good concentration and silky texture. 16.3
Smith Haut Lafitte 2010 (blanc)
Light lemon, slightly hazy yet. Floral nose, rose, apples and zesty. Medium concentration, very good complexity on the back-palate. 16.5
les hauts de Smith 2008 (rouge)
Medium ruby, ripe berry notes, smoky bacon and cloves. Dry, silky, very well integrated tannins, a tiny bit of black-currents and leafy tones on the finish. 16.2
Smith Haut Lafitte 2008 (rouge)
Deep ruby, restrained nose. Ripe berries with cedar and tiny tar. Dry, firm but very well integrated tannins, a bit of schistous finish, gentle and medium length. 16.4
Smith Haut Lafitte 2010 (rouge)
Deep purple, crimson rim. Lively nose, shining, ripe and fresh fruits with some floral and oaky tones. Fresh, brilliant fruits, cassis is just strikingly superb. Mid-grain velvety tannins. Balance is brilliant, as well as very good length and intensity. 17.8
Ch. D’Aiguilhe (AOC Cotes de Castillon, not Grand Cru)
A Neipperg property. 50 hectares of the 110 are under vine with 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc.
Ch. D’Aiguilhe 2007
Deep ruby, medium intense sweet spices of cedar, cloves and cinnamon. Ripe fruits, a bit earthy tannins. Nutmeg on the finish. Very good complexity and balance. 16.6
Ch. D’Aiguilhe 2008
Deep core, crimson rim. Pine, tar and meaty tones. Lean and firm, well integrated small grained tannins. Quite closed, fruit is crisp, acids fresh. 16.8
Ch. D’Aiguilhe 2009
Deep ruby. Ripe red fruits with floral acacia wood, mid-grain tannins, quite open on the palate, alcohol is a bit spiky, very fruity. 16.6
Ch. D’Aiguilhe 2010
Black, crimson rim. A bit closed, cassis and dark fruits, tarry. Dry, gripping tannins, mid-grain. Concentration over complexity. Alcohol quite high. 17.1
Clos de l’Oraterie
Another Count Neipperg property, which has somewhat more than 10 ha and is located at Fronsac within the AOC of St Emilion. The plantations have 90% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon.
Clos de l’Oraterie 2007
Medium deep ruby. Dry leafs, red fruits, pate an dry, earthy tannins with mushrooms. Quite developed, it seems to be more aged than one would expect. Medium complexity. 15.9
Clos de l’Oraterie 2008
Medium deep ruby. Meaty, mushrooms, liquorice. Dry, quite crisp fruits, lots of cedar, mid-grain tannins, gripping. Medium finish. 15.8
Clos de l’Oraterie 2010
Black core with crimson rim. Tarry, meaty, black fruits in the nose. Very firm tannins. Quite meaty. Good concentration and long finish. 16.5
Ch. La Gaffeliere
A 22-hectar large vineyard and Premier Grand Cru property in Saint-Emilion boasting of a winemaking history back to the Roman times.
Ch. La Gaffeliere 2007
Ruby, generous garnet rim. Quite aged nose: dry leaves, pate, cedar, leather and pine. Dry, fresh, a bit hollow on the mid-palate followed by dry red fruits on the back-palate. Mid-grain tannins, medium finish. 16.7
Ch. La Gaffeliere 2008
Ruby, garnet. Restrained nose with ripe red fruits, some cedar tones. A bit earthy mid-grained tannins. Good concentration of fruits with great integration of tannins. 16.9
Ch. La Gaffeliere 2009
Medium deep ruby, tiny garnet rim. Lively red fruits with cedar, nutmeg, acacia. Sweet ripe fruits, but dry wine with gentle tannins. A good balance and velvety long finish. 17.2
Ch. La Gaffeliere 2010
Black with crimson rim. Very closed nose, minty, sour-cherry and cassis. Dry, acacia very soft and ripe tannins, velvet in full blow. Long, excellent concentration. 17.6
A 4.5-hectar St Emilion AOC property with 75% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Franc plantation. It is owned and managed by Count Neipperg.
La Mondotte 2007
Ruby with generous garnet. Medium intense nose of pate, leather and dried leaves. Medium concentration, quite weak fruits and mid-grain, firm tannins. 16
La Mondotte 2008
Ruby. Very restrained, ripe red fruits, dry, mid-grain tannins with acacia and floral tones followed by red fruits. Medium concentration and finish. 16.3
La Mondotte 2009
Black with crimson rim. Cherry, cassis and very good concentration. Dry, fresh and rich in fruits. Big yet elegant. Quite straightforward. 16.8
La Mondotte 2010
Black. Minty, sour-cherry, crisp and concentrated fruits. Dark, very soft tannins, quite a bit of freshness. Liquorice, mint and meaty finish. 16.9
This Premier Grand Cru property is situated in St Emilion and its grand vin produced on a vineyard slightly more than 23 hectares is one of the eponymies of the appellation.
Ch. Angelus 2007
Lovely ruby. Clay and cherry in a medium intense nose. Quite savoury. Dry, mushy, cedar, forest floor, ripe but fresh red fruits and soft tannins. Medium finish. 16.6
Ch. Angelus 2008
Deep crimson. Bacony, red-cherry, liquorice and pine. Finely-grained tannins, fresh, very chalky and velvelty. Medium concentration and finish is long. Exquisite balance. 17.8
Ch. Angelus 2009
Soft, but it is all about structure. Restrained fruits, which open up on the palate, dry and tannins quite present. 16.8
Ch. Angelus 2010
Crimson, intense violet. Dry and fresh with bursting fruits, mainly cherry. A bit gripping, mid-grain tannins, softer on the finish. Long. 17.4
A Grand Cru estate in St Emilion owned by the famous fashion house, Chanel. The wines are produced on 22 hectares and the winemaker in charge is John Kolasa, a Scots transplant in Bordeaux, who previously oversaw winemaking at Ch. Latour.
Ch. Canon 2009
Deep ruby. Restrained nose, mean cherry, which opens into more fleshy fruit. Some good spice on the palate, mainly nutmeg and liquorice. 15.9
Ch. Canon 2010
Deep ruby, crimson rim. Fresh, very fresh sour-cherry. Velvety tannins with attractive black-pepper, nutmeg and spices. Good concentration. 16.5
A Saint-Julien estate, Fourth Growth in the 1855 Classification. 50 hectares are under vine of which 70% is Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot.
Ch. Branaire-Ducru 2007
Medium deep ruby, cherry and mushroom in the nose. Fresh, medium concentrated fruits, some cabbage and mushrooms. Very softly textured. 16.7
Ch. Branaire-Ducru 2008
Medium ruby. Lovely complex nose: cherry, raspberry and cedar. Elegant and fresh with very good balance. Long. 16.9
Ch. Branaire-Ducru 2010
Medium crimson, very closed nose. Raspberry, cherry, violets. Fresh and mid-grain tannins, soft and velvety. Very good concentration and long finish. 17.6
A Second Growth property in Saint-Julien with an area of 80 hectares under vines. 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, 8% Petit Verdot and 2% Cabernet Franc.
Leoville Poyferre 2007
Medium ruby. Forest floor, leather and fresh cherry. Dry, fresh, very soft tannins with tiny grains. Wonderfully delicate. 17.4
Leoville Poyferre 2008
Medium ruby. Lively nose: bacon, smokey and cherry tones. Dry, very fresh, even may be too fresh. Fruit is concentrated followed by pine and leather. Medium finish. 16.2
Leoville Poyferre 2009
Quite deep ruby. Brilliant medium intense nose of ripe fruits: cherry. Lots of acacia, straightforward, soft mid-grained tannins, lovely texture and long finish. Delicate. 16.9
Leoville Poyferre 2010
Dark, crimson. Concentrated, ripe cherry. Dry, very fresh, some cherry, nutmeg, cloves and a bit of gripping tannins, but a lovely ripeness. Medium concentration, long. 17.2
A Pauillac estate, which was classified as Fifth Growth in 1855, but the current owner, Guy Tesseron, has allowed it to flourish and earn a reputation for converting to biodynamic production whilst uncompromising on quality. 80 hectares under vine of which 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot.
Ch. Pontet-Canet 2007
Ruby with a garnet rim. Vibrant nose, leather, pine, forest floor, mushrooms and dry cedar. Dry, aged quickly, rich forest floor on the palate. Mid-grain and well integrated tannins, spicy long finish. 16.9
Ch. Pontet-Canet 2008
Medium deep ruby, tiny garnet rim. Delicate and restrained nose. Very good spicy French oak of pine, leather and liquorice. Medium concentration and extremely good intensity. Elegant, spicy and long. 17.1
A Premier Grand Cru property in Sauternes, it produces wine on 85 hectares. The cepage is made up from Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.
Ch. Guiraud 2007
Light amber, medium intensity, ripe quince, pear, candid orange peel, zesty lemon. Sweet, low concentration of botrytis, generous open and jammy fruits, almond on the finish. 16.2
Ch. Guiraud 2008
Light golden, lemon rim. Pineapple, honey, peach nose quite creamy on the palate with tiny amount of botrytis but very well concentrated. Very fresh and luscious on the finish. 16.6
Ch. Guiraud 2009
Very light gold, generous lemon. Medium intense floral nose with camomile, rose petals and peach. Pears and lemon zest. Sweet, low intensity of botrytis, creamy, soft texture. Fleshy fruits, very much so. 16.2
Ch. Guiraud 2010
Light golden. Floral, tangerine, honey and mint. Sweet, soft, fresh with very low botrytis. Medium concentration. All very fresh and young yet. Good fruit concentration. Long. 16.7