Discovering Chateau de Lauriole – A Wine Made by a Gourmet on a Long Lost Island

lauriole 22Could it be that wines sometimes take on the characteristics of their makers? Sometimes you come across one that does. Chateau de Lauriole is made by Jean Michel Laplagne in the Isle Saint Georges, a long lost island in the River Garonne upstream of Bordeaux, near to the Pessac Leognan appellation. The chateau is named after the Golden Oriole, a beautiful migrant bird that flits between the poplar trees that grow along the river.

Jean Michel Laplagne is an epicurean by nature. Not only does he love wine but he also farms a famous French gastronomic delight . . . snails. Jean Michel and his wife Muriel farm the snail Petit Gris (helix aspera muller) in their greenhouses and meadows around the vineyard. ‘Petit Gris’ means Lauriole aa‘Little Grey’ and these snails are a delicacy in France. The snails are fed on radishes and white clover with corn and soy flour as a supplement to help build their shells. As you know, the French adore snails and eat 40,000 tons of them a year. However only 5% come from France and the rest are imported. Jean Michel was brought up on snails simmering in his grandmother’s pan and decided to farm them himself in 1989. He now produces over 500, 000 snails a year!

Jean Michel enjoys cooking and he sells his snails prepared in regional sauces and in the shell. His specialities are Escargot à la Bordelaise and Escargot aux Ceps (Porcini mushrooms). Both are cooked in Bordeaux wine. To prepare Snails à la Bordelaise he first cooks the snails in a court bouillon with thyme, bay leaves, fennel, leeks, carrots, cloves, salt and pepper. The Bordelaise sauce is prepared with lauriole 44garlic, onion, shallots, bacon, chorizo, ham, tomatoes, a little red pepper and wine. His Snails aux Ceps are made with sausage, bacon, ceps (porcini mushrooms), garlic, parsley and white wine. He is always looking out for new dishes to try and is currently developing a third recipe, the Escargot Morilles (Snails with Morels).

lauriole 22As you can imagine, Chateau de Lauriole, being made by a gourmet, is a fantastic food friendly wine. It is a deliciously deep Claret with polished structure and brims with lovely flavours of blackcurrant, black cherry and blueberry edged by hints of mocha, herbs and graphite. Classically clean and silky with good length; it is made from a blend of 80% Merlot 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. De Lauirole pairs beautifully with dark meats (duck, vension, rib of beef, rack of lamb, pigeon and kidneys) and dishes with rich sauces (red wine or creamy mushroom and pepper). The locals recommend it with lamprey and it is fabulous with carpetbagger steak.

lauriole 77Jean Michel’s vineyard lies on clay and limestone, which suits the Merlot in particular as it thrives on clay. The little chateau sits in the hamlet of Boutric which is one of the oldest places in Isle Saint Georges. Boutric takes its name from Old German meaning ‘a rich messenger’ and was possibly the name of the landowner there. It’s not surprising that the Isle Saint Georges has been made a home for people from across Europe as it was once the crossroads of an ancient ford on the River Garonne on the great Roman road from Bordeaux to Narbonne. Goods were exchanged here and the island soon became a market with several small harbours. Wine has played an important role here for thousands of years and fragments of wine amphorae are widely scattered across the site.

lauriole 55The old island is no longer visible as the river’s meandering, a tendency to silt up and centuries of local drainage schemes have attached the island to the bank. It now lies 100 metres from the river. But the vines are still grown, the Golden Oriole still sings in the poplars and the wine is still enjoyed by the locals. And now by us, thanks to its discovery!

We are pleased to say that we have Chateau de Lauriole available to buy from us here at Bordeaux-Undiscovered.  The vintage is 2010, a wonderful year, and it is priced at £7.99 as our introductory price to the UK.  To buy Chateau de Lauriole 2010  click here.

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Bordeaux’s Added Benefits – What’s in Your Wine? 2013, A Vintage With A Difference

cabernet francDisaster strikes hard when a winemaker, or even an entire wine making region, suffers the impact of severe weather during the growing season. Unlike many other wine regions across the world Bordeaux has the advantage in that its wines are made from a blend. In red wine blends Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot are the most planted but Petit Verdot, Malbec and Carmenere are also permitted. With Bordeaux white wines Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Muscadelle are widely used and Sauvignon Gris less so. Different grape varieties ripen at different times and can be a fail safe if one prominent variety succumbs to pests, disease or the weather. With the 2013 vintage there was a Merlot crisis and winemakers used higher proportions of Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc to compensate. However, if conditions are very bad (as in 2013) and the entire range of grapes are decimated in a vineyard; Bordeaux has some little known added benefits that can be used to try to save the day.

grapesCenturies ago Bordeaux in the 18th century used to improve its blends by adding wines from Hermitage in the Rhone to their blends. It was done in times when there was a particularly poor vintage (this was also common practice in Burgundy). Wines from Bénicarlo in Spain were also sometimes added. Nowadays it is not permitted to add wines from another region (let alone country) to Bordeaux wines under the AOC rules. But you might be surprised to discover that in a poor year Bordeaux winemakers can add 15% of ‘reserve wine’ to the blend from a better vintage. Likewise, they can also dilute a good vintage with 15% from a lesser year (this could be useful in a big bold vintage with high alcohol levels that needs ‘cooling down’).

gold4This is known as the 85/15 Rule and was brought in by the EU, partly to level the playing field with New World winemakers who had been using this technique for some time. The 85/15 Rule applies to all EU countries and it means that winemakers can ‘top up’ with 15% of a wine with another vintage – provided, of course, that it comes from the same vineyard. It’s common in Champagne, where you often see ‘Reserve’ on the bottle labels. The 85/15 Rule is useful as it allows the winemaker to balance the wine, improve the blend and top up production from a low yielding crop.

However as long as the wine is only topped up by 15% and no more, this is not indicated on the bottle labels. So if you are a follower or collector of certain vintages you might not necessarily have a wine that is made solely from the vintage depicted on the label. The 85/15 Rule allows for wines to be topped up with older or younger vintages; so your 2007 may be 15% 2005. And, of course, this EU rule doesn’t just apply to Bordeaux.

pThe 85/15 Rule also applies to grape varieties and this affects New World wines rather than Bordeaux vintages. For example a wine can be labelled a Pinot Grigio even though 15% of it may contain another grape. As long as the remaining 85% is made with Pinot Grigio, that’s what goes on the label.

The other practice that Bordeaux winemakers can turn to in the event of a catastrophe is VCI (Volume Complementaire Individuel) or ‘Individual Supplementary Volume’. VCI was also brought in by the EU and Bordeaux has been experimenting with this technique which has been used successfully in Chablis since 2005. It’s also used in the Rhone and Monbazillac. Most Bordeaux red wine producing AOCs have been using VCI since 2010 and Bordeaux dry white wine producers since 2013. Bernard Farges, President of the CIVB, has explained that he has used VCI himself, adding 2011 and 2012 VCI to his 2013 vintage to ameliorate a crop failure. AOCs that are not taking part in the VCI experiment (as yet) are Moulis, Saint Estephe, Margaux, Pauillac, Saint Julien, Pessac Leognan, Saint Emilion, Pomerol, Fronsac and Canon Fronsac.

Barrels vVCI is a sort of ‘liquid insurance’ as winemakers can ask for permission to use it in their blend during a bad year when their harvest is poor. VCI is a reserve of wine and it works by allowing winemakers to keep their surplus wine from one year to complete any gaps in subsequent years. The winemaker must prove that he has need of his VCI in order to reach full production. (Winemakers are not allowed to exceed their permitted yield so using VCI will not increase their production, only sustain it).

vines vMany vineyards in Bordeaux were devastated by severe hail in 2013 and vines were damaged, affecting the crop. Yields for 2013 were low and some vineyards saw their harvest decimated. In this instance these vineyards could apply for VCI, which would allow them to add wine from the 2012 or 2014 VCI vintages to top up their production.

VCI is strictly regulated by the INAO, CIVB and Ministry of Agriculture and a winemaker can only add 5 hectolitres per hectare of VCI wine to his vintage. Grape crops (yield) in Bordeaux are measured by hectolitres per hectare and each AOC has its own regulations as to the maximum yield (it’s usually between 50 -55 hectolitres per hectare).

deluge3Winemakers producing VCI each year also have to follow stringent checks. Each VCI has its own vintage and it can not be sold. It can only be kept as a reserve for a limited number of years and any unused VCI wine past this date is destroyed.

Perhaps, with climate change on the agenda, we may see more Bordelaise winemakers using the 85/15 Rule and VCI. I’ll keep you posted . . .

Posted in Bordeaux - The Appellations, Bordeaux Grape Varieties, Bordeaux News, En Primeur 2013, Harvest 2013, Labels | Leave a comment

Raise A Glass To Celebrate – A Horse Named After A Wine, Pineau de Re, Wins The Grand National

Leighton Aspell smallWe are celebrating this week thanks to Leighton Aspell’s thrilling race at the Grand National where he came in first on Pineau De Re, trained by Dr Richard Newland. We met Leighton Aspell recently when won at our final race of the day ‘ The La Fleur Morange Mathilde National Hunt Flat Race’  last Saturday, 29th March at Stratford Racecourse.

Leighton Aspell retired a few years ago and came back to riding as he missed it so much. He is a popular jockey amongst his peers as well as horse racing fans and has an online fan club set up in his honour. He forged 5 lengths clear of Balthazar King at the Grand National, which turned out to be an extraordinary race.

Stratford 2011 Trainer Presentation smallThe Grand National at Aintree Racecourse remains the supreme test for both horses and riders and is uniquely challenging. Many of the fences have become famous in their own right but thanks to safety improvements put in place a couple of years ago all horses and riders returned safely for the second year running. It is the most valuable jump race in Europe with a prize fund of £1 million this year.

Pineau De Re was bred in France and is named after the wine Pineau which comes from the Charentes in western France (north of Bordeaux). It’s s a fortified wine, made from fermented grape must and eau de vie (brandy) and is drunk as an aperitif in France. There are both red and white styles. Legend has it that it was created by a happy accident in 1589. A wine maker placed grape must into a barrel that he thought was empty but actually contained a little eau de vie. A few years later he discovered that the contents were delicious and Pineau was born. The Re part of the bay gelding’s name is taken from the Ile de Ré, small island off the coast in Charentes.

grand national winner on way homePineau de Re’s sire is Marresco Sorrento and his dam, Elfe du Perche, has Selle Francais ancestry. The Selle Francais are a breed of sport horses whose breeding comes from French mares used by the military or for pulling carriages crossed with English thoroughbreds in 19th century Normandy. Selle Francais horses are renowned for their success in show jumping, dressage and eventing and their riders have won numerous medals in the summer Olympics and World Equestrian Games.

It’s a fantastic win for Leighton Aspell and Dr Newland, Pineau de Re came in at 25-1 and we are toasting their success!

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Bordeaux En Primeur 2013 – Conclusion and Summary

Tasting glasses at Chateau Latour

Tasting glasses at Chateau Latour

I am now back in the UK and have had time to reflect on last weeks tastings. Numbers were noticeably down at the tastings and to summarise I think this is a unique vintage producing, in the main, pretty mediocre wines with a few exceptions (which I will list below). It is ‘unique’ in the sense that invariably you can find a past vintage which has similar traits but 2013 has no such comparison. It can not be termed a ‘classic’ vintage which is normally the adjective often used to describe a vintage if people can’t think of anything else to say. If this vintage had taken place 20 years ago when todays technology and knowhow were not around very little wine would have been made and there wouldn’t be a vintage. Some have tried to compare 2013 to 1984 as there was a Merlot crisis back then. The only comparison I can make is that the 2013 Left Bank wines seem to be more Burgundy in style and the Right Bank wines are similar to the style of the Rhone. As I said, there are a few exceptions, but if people are interested in buying Bordeaux wines at this time I think they would be best advised to look at past vintages where the quality is far superior and is attracting some very reasonable prices.

WHITE WINES

The 2013 Bordeaux dry white wines and sweet wines from Sauternes and Barsac however are exceptional.

Sauternes and Barsac

To be fair I could hardly fault any wines from Sauternes and Barsac – the majority contained all the characteristics of the terroir and the grapes with all the fruit and honeyed sweetness of true sweet wines.

These AOCs are also producing some very good dry whites as well as the more traditional sweet wines and S de Suduiraut (from Sauternes Chateau Suduiraut) is a good example.

Dry Whites

The dry whites produced from the following estates are excellent:

Domaine de Chevalier
Chateau Pape Clement
Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte
Chateau Haut Brion

tasting room 2013 smallRED WINES

For those insist in buying or those who would like to buy the 2013 reds the following wines from various AOCs would be a reasonable bet and are probably the best wines from this poor vintage in my opinion. The reason I say the vintage is poor and the wines mediocre is down to the fact that there were common traits in the wines; they were lacking in colour and did not possess the usual opulence and complexity that Bordeaux lovers like to see present in these wines.

New Chai at Chateau Pichon Lalande

New Chai at Chateau Pichon Lalande

First Growths

Chateau Haut Brion

Saint Estephe

Chateau Calon Segur
Chateau Le Croix (A Cru Borgeois made by Leoville Poyferre)

Pauillac

Chateau Lynch Bages
Chateau Grand Puy Lacoste

Saint Julien

Chateau Leoville Poyferre, their Second Wine Pavillon de Poyferre and Chateau Moulin Riche
Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou, their Second Wine Croix de Beaucaillou and Chateau Lalande Borie
Chateau Branaire Ducru
Chateau Talbot

Margaux

Chateau Palmer
Chateau Lascombes
Chateau Monbrison

Horse working in the vines at Chateau L'Evangile

Horse working in the vines at Chateau L’Evangile

Pomerol

Chateau Clinet
Chateau Gazin
Chateau Beauregard
Vieux Chateau Certan

Saint Emilion

Chateau Troplong Mondot
Chateau Soutard
Chateau La Laurence
Chateau Sansonnet
Chateau la Fleur Cardinale
Chateau de Pressac

Pessac Leognan and Graves

Chateau Les Carmes Haut Brion
Chateau Haut Bailly
Chateau Olivier
Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte
Domaine de Chevalier
Chateau Pape Clement

Haut Medoc, Moulis and Listrac

Chateau Chasse Spleen
Chateau Cantermerle
Chateau Beaumont

The biggest problem that I feel will affect the 2013 vintage will be the price tag the chateaux put on their wine.

Chateau Angelus new building works

Chateau Angelus new building works

To some degree I can understand why their prices are high in good years but I can not understand this thinking in poor years. As 2013 is a poor and at best a mediocre vintage it should attract representative prices. However chateaux will argue that their production is down and that their costs have increased due to the technical demands of the vintage, therefore there will be less profit. In my observations travelling around Bordeaux the opulence that is lacking in this vintage is very evident in the larger chateaux themselves thanks to their investment programmes which they have been pouring into rebuilding their chais. Figures in excess of 80 million euros have been mentioned. Do the chateaux have an ulterior motive for these expensive refurbishments? For this reason I believe they will maintain their prices as close to those of the 2012 vintage as possible, as is evident with the wines already released. That said the wines in my opinion are not worthy of a price tag that high.

Building at Chateau Margaux

Building at Chateau Margaux

This is definitely not a speculators vintage

This is definitely the vintage for Francophiles who like to drink Bordeaux wines. The wines are thinner, brighter and less complex than normal and will definitely drink a lot younger.

Having tasted numerous wines at the Cru Bourgeois tasting (which presented over 240 wines) there were wines there which are better than those made by some of the Grand Cru Classé.

I believe true value will be from the lesser known estates at Cru Bourgeois level

In my travels I was introduced to a small winemaker who has estates in Saint Emilion and Lalande de Pomerol. I tasted his wines (which he makes in back yard) and I honestly could not believe the level of fruit he had managed to maintain in a wine that would cost about 7 euros. Without being coy I am not going to name him but I will be endeavouring to purchase some.

Small winemaker

Small winemaker

This has shown me that if the winemaker has empathy with their terroir and its conditions they can still make good wines without the investment in technology. This winemaker has certainly done that.

Conclusion

In conclusion the 2013 vintage is a very good year for Dry Whites and sweet Sauternes and Barsac and a pretty mediocre year for the Reds with some exceptions; which is why – if you want to buy – you will really have to trust your wine merchant to be honest with you. For the true Bordeaux drinker I would advise you to look at the lesser known estates for real value or back vintages which are going to be far superior in quality at a similar price.

I hope you have enjoyed reading my thoughts on the En Primeur campaign this year.  Should you like to discuss any of my writings please do not hesitate to contact me.

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Bordeaux En Primeur 2013 – Day 4 – Domaine de Chevalier, Chateaux Smith Haut Lafitte, Pape Clement, Olivier and Haut Bailly

Pessac Leognan and Graves MapIt rained all night and all day here in Bordeaux. Today I visited Chateau Malartic Lagraviere to taste the wines of the Pessac Leognan and Graves AOCs. Several wines were on show and having tasted all of them I am now convinced that 2013 will be a very good vintage for sweet Sauternes and the dry whites.

I retasted Chateau Les Carmes Haut Brion and reconfirmed my initial thoughts on how well it presented earlier in the week. Wines that deserve special mention as being the highlights of the tasting are:

Chateau Olivier

Chateau Olivier 58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% merlot, 2% Petit Verdot presented a nice colour and a good nose with plenty of expressive fruit. Well balanced in the mouth with a good structure of fruit, tannins and length.

Chateaux Pape Clement, Smith Haut Lafitte and Domaine de Chevalier Reds

Chateau Pape Clement (40% Merlot, 54.5% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5.5% Cabernet Franc) came over as a very nicely structured and balanced wine as did Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte (60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot and Domaine de Chevalier (80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot and 5% Petit Verdot).

However their whites were the stars of the show.Domaine de Chavelier Blanc Label

Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc

A blend of 90% Sauvignon Blanc, 5% Semillon and 5% Sauvignon Gris this was fresh and clean on the palate with very good length. A lovely example.

Domaine de Chevalier Blanc

I thought the DomDomaine de Chevalier Tastingaine de Chevalier Blanc was excellent. It is a blend of 80% Sauvignon Blanc and 20% Semillon with a good crisp floral nose. In the mouth it expressed fresh white fruit and had a very well balanced level of acidity. A wine that I am sure will go down well on a sunny summer’s afternoon – it’s delicious.

The lunch which Olivier Bernard put on was extremely good and there were several wines on display to try with your meal. I allowed myself a small glass of Chateau Mouton Rothschild 1984.

Chateau Haut Bailly

Having tasted Chateau Haut Bailly at Malartic Lagraviere I was also invited to taste it at the chateau. I’m pleased I did because there were two wines on offer, La Parde de Haut Bailly and the Grand Vin itself. Whilst talking at the chateau they told me that during the harvest on the day that they had decided to pick the grapes (Oct 1st) the temperature rose quite dramatically but luckily they managed to double the harvesting team within two hours.

Chateau Haut Bailly is a blend of 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Franc and is a clean clear crimson colour. It’s very expressive on the nose with good layers of fruit and hints of spices. In the mouth the layers of fruit reaHaut Bailly Barrelslly come alive offering good balanced structure and good length with hints of complexity.

Complexity has been sadly lacking in a lot of other wines in this vintage but Haut Bailly put in a lot of attention to detail, time and hard work to ensure that the juice was gently extracted from the grapes so perhaps this played a hand.

La Parde de Haut Bailly

La Parde de Haut Bailly (52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 46% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc) is a bright fresh crimson in the glass and in the mouth the fruit really expressed well with good balance and a good length.

I also tasted the Chateau Haut Bailly 2012 which is coming along very , very nicely and will be a beautiful wine when its ready to drink.

Le Parde de Haut Bailly New LabelIt was a relatively short day’s tasting for me today as I had three further meetings in the afternoon. The atmosphere over here is quite tense surrounding this vintage, knowing as we do the release price of a couple of chateaux. As I have said before this is in general a mediocre vintage and should be treated as such in the market re pricing but I have my doubts. I will summarise my thoughts and they will be available to read on Monday.

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Bordeaux En Primeur 2013 – Day 3 – Chateau Lynch Bages, Branaire Ducru, Montbrison, Lascombes, Chasse Spleen, Doisy Daene, Guiraud and Crus Bourgeois

bordeaux townYou’ll be happy to know that the weather currently in Bordeaux is what we normally experience in the UK, it’s persisting with rain and I am sat in my hotel room this evening looking out on a wet and soggy Bordeaux. Today I visited the length and breadth of the Left Bank, starting at Chateau Lafon Rochet which was hosting the Paulliac and Saint Estephe AOC tastings. I bumped into Basile Tesseron who runs Lafon Rochet for his family. He is a very warm and charming character and, as seems to be the fashion for the younger men nowadays, he has grown a full beard. Basile showed me a video that he has recently made which is extremely informative and he promised to send me a copy which I’ll ultimately put on my website, so watch this space.

pvThe Petit Verdot grape in the 2013 blends is making all the difference this year. Those wines that do contain it seem to be the better for it and I have noticed that the chateaux who have used this grape have produced wines that I have generally preferred. Petit Verdot ripens late and is grown in smaller quantities than the major varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and to some extent Cabernet Franc. It adds colour, tannin and structure to the blend. In previous vintages you normally see between 1 – 3% used in the blend but it has been used in higher quantities for 2013. It seems to have added a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ to the vintage, adding richness and roundness to the wines.

Pauillac and Saint Estephe

The wines on show from Pauillac and Saint Estephe showed reasonably well given the trying year that the winemakers had endured. I retasted Chateau d’Armailhac and Clerc Milon and my disappointment remained the same as when first tasted. The wines presented from Saint Estephe all showed similar characteristics and had good colour and balance – they will be good drinking wines.

Chateau Lynch Bages

The wine from Pauillac that I thought worthy of note was Lynch Bages. It’s a blend of 72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot. This had a nice deep crimson colour, was very well balanced in the mouth with rich fruit. It was lacking a bit of depth compared to previous vintages but will be a very nice drinking wine when ready.

Saint Julien

I visited Chateau Lagrange which was holding the tastings for the Saint Julien AOC. I must admit Lagrange really is a beautiful chateau with its small lake in front of the chateau home to a family of swans at the moment. Here, I also had the opportunity to retaste Chateau Leoville Poyferre and this reaffirmed my earlier opinion that it will make a good wine.

In the main the wines from Saint Julien showed well. Petit Verdot was used in the blends of those that I enjoyed most, for example Chateau Beychevelle had 9% Petit Verdot , Gloria 5%, Lagrange and Talbot both had 4%. In particular I must highlight Chateau Branaire Ducru:

Chateau Branaire Ducru

Branaire Ducru is a blend of 5% Petit Verdot, 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Merlot and 1% Cabernet Franc and is a rich crimson in the glass. It has good fruit on the nose and a well balanced structure in the mouth with good length.

siranMargaux

At Chateau Marquis de Terme I tasted the wines from the Margaux AOC and I thought these were good presentations. Once again I preferred those where Petit Verdot had a hand in the blend: Chateau du Tertre had 5% Petit Verdot, Rauzan Segla 2% and Siran 10%.

Chateau Prieure Lichine (5% Petit Verdot) and Chateau Kirwan (10% Petit Verdot) came across very well. They picked the grapes 10 days earlier than anticipated at Kirwan and the entire village joined in – as they have done for the last 50 years. Although they have produced a good wine under the circumstances production is down 35%.

Two wines that stood out for me were Chateau Montbrison and Chateau Lascombes.

montbrison labelChateau Montbrison

With a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot Montbrison was reasonably deep in colour with good, elegant fruit on the nose and a nice balance between fruit, tannins and acidity in the mouth with good length.

Chateau Lascombes

Lascombes with a blend of 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 50% Merlot and 5% Petit Verdot was definitely a few degrees above the rest. A nice crimson in the glass it had a good layer of fruit on the nose and good balance of cassis and blackcurrant fruit in the mouth with a touch of violets and spice.

Over lunch I met the Director at Lascombes, Dominic Befve, and had a long chat with him about his wine and how he had coped with the difficult vintage. Dominic said that he had enjoyed it because it had proved to be a challenge: ‘it’s easy to make good wine in a good year but the challenge is making it in a demanding year’.

Medoc, Haut Medoc, Moulis and Listrac

I visited Chateau Clarke to taste the wines from the Haut Medoc, Moulis and Listrac AOCs. I wasn’t looking forward to the tasting as in the past these wines have not suited my palate and I used to find the tannins harsh. I was genuinely surprised to find that this was not the case with the 2013 vintage. It proved to be a pleasant tasting with the wines presenting very well, although one or two wines were over extracted. Two wines to highlight are Chateau Chasse Spleen and Chateau Cantermerle.

Chateau Chasse Spleen

Made with a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot and 7% Petit Verdot this was slightly lighter in colour than usual but had a clean, fresh nose with nice freshness of fruit in the mouth. There wcantermerleere hints of tannins but it was well balanced and I think this could be a very nice easy drinking wine when the time is right.

Chateau Cantermerle

Chateau Cantermerle (55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot) was a good crimson in the glass with good fresh red fruit on the nose. Nicely rounded and well balanced in the mouth with rich blackberry fruit and good length.

sauternes and barsac mapSauternes and Barsac Dry and Sweet Whites

At Chateau La Lagune I tasted the wines of Sauternes and Barsac. 2013 is definitely a vintage that will be remembered for its beautiful dry and sweet whites from these AOCs. All the wines I tasted presented very well indeed. The more I taste the sweet wines the more aware I become of their great versatility with food. They make fantastic pairings with strong and salty Roquefort cheese, enhance dishes in rich tangy sauces such as Duck al’Orange and are superb with spicy Indian cuisine – try them with your favourite curry, Balti or Madras, whatever your preference. Two wines that struck a real note with me were Chateau Doisy Daene and Chateau Guiraud.

Chateau Doisy Daene

Chateau Doisy Daene is made with a blend of 90% Semillon and 10% Sauvignon Blanc and is a rich gold colour with fresh white summer fruits on the nose. Well rounded in the mouth it offers opulent peach and good acidity. A lovely wine.

Chateau Guiraud

A blend of 65% Semillon and 35% Sauvignon Blanc Chateau Guiraud was honey hued in the glass with good soft white fruits on the nose. Good acidity, nice and fresh with hints of nectarine and honeysuckle. Nicely rounded. Another lovely wine.

cbCrus Bourgeois

I completed the day with a visit to the Crus Bourgeois tastings at Chateau d’Arsac. I am a great believer that it is here that you will find the true reflection of any vintage as these are usually Petit Chateaux who don’t necessarily have the finance to take them into the high tech realms that the big chateaux can afford. These are real artisan chateaux with great history and with around 240 wines on display I had a very good selection to go at. I hasten to add that I didn’t taste all 240 but chose a selection from each AOC.

Very few people seem to visit the Crus Bourgeois tastings compared to the bigger tasting events. The local wine enthusiasts do and this tells me something. I think that the Crus Bourgeois are where the true value is going to come from this year – and maybe in the future. These wines are made by passionate traditional winemakers who make quality wines that many overlook.

The wines reflected what the larger chateaux had provided in terms of quality in a difficult year. One or two were over extracted but you can’t blame them if yields are down. I retasted Chateau La Croix from Leoville Poyferre (Saint Estephe) and reaffirmed my findings on Day 1 – it will make a very nice wine. Wines to note are:

Chateau Plantey (Paulliac) is a blend of 45% Cabernet Sauvignon and 55% Merlot. I thought this was charming.

Chateau d’Arsac (Margaux) is a blend of 67% Cabernet Sauvignon and 33% Merlot.

Chateau Cissac (Haut Medoc) is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Merlot and 8% Petit Verdot. This will be a very good drinking wine when the time is right.

Chateau Lamothe Cissac (Medoc) is a blend of 58% Cabernet sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot.

Chateau Le Monteil d’Arsac (Haut Medoc) is a blend of 48% Cabernet sauvignon and 52% Merlot.

peyrabon labelChateau Peyrabon (Haut Medoc) is a blend of 59% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot.

Chateau Senejac (Haut Medoc) is a blend of 48% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Franc and 4% Petit Verdot. Followers of Senejac will not be disappointed.

Tomorrow I will be visiting the Graves and Pessac Leognan tastings at Chateau Malartic Lagraviere. I will also be tasting Chateau Haut Bailly and am looking forward to having lunch at Domaine de Chevalier. Olivier Bernard always treats us to a jolly good spread and some wonderful wines. I will post my findings on Friday and sum up the vintage on Monday.

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Bordeaux En Primeur 2013 – Day 2 – Chateau Haut Brion, Angelus, Cheval Blanc, Troplong Mondot, La Fleur Morange, Vieux Chateau Certan

HB signDay 2 started at the First Growth Chateau Haut Brion (Pessac Leognan) where we were offered 6 reds and 3 white wines from the estate. All the reds were around 13% abv and yet again showed the 2013 vintage’s characteristic lack of concentration in colour. However overall they presented quite elegantly compared to the wines I tasted yesterday.

Chateau Haut Brion, La Mission and Quintus

Chateau Haut Brion (50% Merlot, 4.5% Cabernet Franc and 45.5% Cabernet Sauvignon) has a subtle and elegant nose with hints of soft fruits. In the mouth the elegance really came through – there was nothing harsh, nothing austere and it was nicely rounded and balanced. So, a very good start to the day! Haut Brion is my favourite out of the First Growths I have tasted but it certainly doesn’t have the ‘wow factor,’ albeit a very pleasant offering.

Chateau La Mission Haut Brion (45% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc and 32% Cabernet Sauvignon) came through similarly. Of the lesser wines from the estate I thought Chateau Quintus (80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc) – Haut Brion’s Saint Emilion estate – was most interesting.

The 3 whites showed well and this suggests to me that my previous thoughts were right. It looks like 2013 is a vintage that favours the Bordeaux white wines. All 3 were floral on the nose with fresh white fruits and had good acidity.

Saint EmilionSt Emilion and Pomerol map

I ventured on to Saint Emilion on the Right Bank where Chateau Angelus were hosting a tasting in their recently refurbished chateau. The revamp must have cost an absolute fortune and it was very, very well done – especially the oak lined roof in the tasting room. Tasting several wines at the chateau it quickly became evident that the Merlot has performed much better on the Right Bank this year than the Left, giving a nice depth of colour.

Saint Emilion First Growths

Chateau Angelus

The Second Wine of Chateau Angelus, Carillon d’Angelus, presented a nice deep crimson colour, as did Chateau Angelus, but I didn’t get the density and depth from the wine that I have had in previous years tastings.

The owner of Angelus, Hubert Bouard, is a consultant oenologist at several estates and I came across one of his wines that I have not tasted before: Chateau La Laurence. It is 100% Merlot and is from a plot near Saint Sulpice et Cameyrac with about 7 hectares of vines. The wine was deep garnet in colour and the Merlot was rich – a nice little wine.

Ch Cheval BlancChateau Cheval Blanc

The Second Wine, Le Petit Cheval, is a blend of 79% Merlot and 21% Cabernet Franc. It lacked density and concentration of colour, has an acceptable nose and some soft blackberry and raspberry fruits in the mouth.

Chateau Cheval Blanc (53% Cabernet Franc and 47% Merlot) is a reasonable colour, has good fruit on the nose and in the mouth has a nice balance and a good finish with quite a lot of fruit.

Chateau Troplong Mondot

Chateau Troplong Mondot presented delightfully with a blend of 90% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Cabernet Franc. It was very expressive on the nose with deep rich berries, really dense in colour and in the mouth it offered good layers of dark fruits: cassis and blackberry. Yields are slightly down at the chateau. In 2012 they produced 37 litres per hectare, they produced 34 this year. Interestingly the chateau believes that the younger vines had greater resistence to the adverse weather conditions and I think the spirit of Christine Valette will live on with this vintage.

Chateau La Gaffeliere and Clos Fourtet

I visited the La Grappe tasting organised by the consultant oenologist Stephane Derenoncourt hosted by Chateau La Gaffeliere. I liked the elegance of Chateau La Gaffeliere, there was no harshness or austerity in the mouth and I appreciated the way it presented.

Amongst the wines Chateau Les Carmes Haut Brion (Pessac Leognan) is worthy of note with a blend of 20% Merlot, 60% Cabernet Franc and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. I thought it was a charming presentation and the wine had a pleasant bouquet with some subtle fruits, Nice in the mouth with decent balance and structure with good tannins and fruit.

I also thought Chateau Clos Fourtet showed well.

ch soutardSaint Emilion Grand Cru Classés

I tasted the Grand Cru Classés of Saint Emilion and overall they were pretty good but there were one or two which were lacking a bit – not by much, but a little. Sansonnet along with Laroze, La Fleur Cardinale and de Pressac were good examples from the AOC.

Whilst talking with the owners about the problems the year had thrown at them one producer said that if this vintage had happened 20 years ago they would not have been able to produce any wine at all. This just goes to show how much technology has moved on and how it has helped advance methods of winemaking.

Chateau La Dominique showed well as did Chateau Soutard. What I found interesting with Soutard is the blend used to make the wine: 62% Merlot, 28% Cabernet Franc, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Malbec. The Malbec did its job in offering that extra concentration of cassis and blackcurrant fruit and it presented well.

LFM barrels chaiChateau La Fleur Morange

I also tasted Chateau La Fleur Morange with the owner, Jean Francois Julien, and he explained what a difficult year it had been. His yields were very down; last year he made 22 barrels of his Second Wine, Mathilde, and this year he could only make 9. It was the same story with the Grand Vin, La Fleur Morange. This year it contains an unprecedented blend of 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. The wine was a little down on its usual richness and colour with a nose that was slightly closed but the fruit in the mouth was elegant. It’s not as opulent as in previous years but it is a good wine and I am sure it will develop.

Pomerol

I found that the further I went into the Right Bank the more the colour became evident; a nice deep crimson colour rather than the subtle, lighter colour that presented yesterday on the Left Bank. The one AOC that was homogenous was Pomerol. Most of the wines here presented well; the majority of which are Merlot, in some cases as much as 98%. Gazin, of course, was 100% Merlot. As with Saint Emilion, Pomerol faced a difficulties regarding the quality of the Merlot but the hard work of the winemakers has paid off.

A couple of wines which I thought showed better than the rest were Chateaux Beauregard, Clinet and Gazin. They had good layers of fruit, a nice level of opulence and are wines that I think will make good drinking.

VCC labelVieux Chateau Certan

As usual I had a very interesting chat with Alexandre Thienpont, the owner of Vieux Chateau Certan, who is always charming. He is sad to announce that they have only been able to produce 20% of their usual output which equates to about 1000 cases. They usually produce 4000.

The wine itself is very attractive and talking to him I described it as an ‘elegant lady’. It presented very well with a lovely crimson colour, an elegant and expressive nose and was charming in the mouth.

He explained that his Cabernet Franc was planted in 1958 and his Merlots were planted in 1932, 1942, 1959 and 1972 and believes that the complexity in the wine comes from vines of 25 years of age or more. He confirmed that it had been a difficult year but that the winemaker had done wonders and hoped that he wouldn’t have to face another vintage like this one again soon.

Tomorrow I will be visiting the Left Bank starting with Saint Estephe and working my way down.

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Bordeaux En Primeur 2013 – Day 1 – The Four First Growths on the Left Bank, Chateaux Palmer, Grand Puy Lacoste, Ducru Beaucaillou, Calon Segur, Montrose, Leoville Poyferre

medoc en primeurNot having read too much into the 2013 vintage before arriving in Bordeaux I started with a completely open mind. My conclusions at the end of the day are that it is not a vintage to get excited about. It’s a pleasant vintage producing very drinkable wines that will be drunk early but there is nothing inspiring, so far. Out of the wines I tasted today there are no super stars and thanks to very difficult growing conditions most of the wines lack depth and colour. It was a watery year and this shows. However this is also a vintage where experience, training and terroir are playing a large part, helping to make the best out of what the chateaux have produced. The advances in winemaking technology have bolstered the process enormously and for those who have been able to invest in them, it has paid off.

It’s obvious talking to the winemakers and chateaux owners on the Left Bank that the Merlot has been the problem child. To sum up the essence of the vintage concerning the red wines today: on the good side it is pleasant and on the bad, it’s bland. There is nothing to dislike but there is no wow factor. The whites are quite different. From the 3 that I have tasted so far it could be a very good year indeed for both dry and sweet whites. I am looking forward to tasting more before I can draw a definite conclusion.

EP 13EP 13First Growths Chateaux Lafite Rothschild, Latour, Margaux and Mouton Rothschild

Having tasted the 4 First Growths from the Left Bank: Chateaux Lafite Rothschild, Latour, Margaux and Mouton Rothschild, I came away with some disappointment. They lacked depth and opulence that you would associate with chateaux of this rank. This is characteristic of many of the wines that I tasted.

Chateau Margaux contains no Merlot whatsoever, relying on 94% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot. The Merlot that was harvested will mainly be going into the Third and Fourth wines. The Pavillon Rouge de Chateau Margaux did contain 10% Merlot and as a Second Wine it was pleasant. The wine I did enjoy tasting was the dry white Pavillon Blanc de Chateau Margaux. It was fresh and floral on the nose, crisp and well balanced – but only 1000 cases will be produced.

Chateau Latour was respectable but the highlight for me were the past vintages that they offered at the tasting: Chateau Latour 2004, Les Forts de Latour 2006 and Pauillac 2008. Out of the three I thoroughly enjoyed the Forts de Latour 2006. With a blend of 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Merlot, I thought it was delightful in every department: good structure, a good nose, good concentration of fruit. It’s drinking beautifully.

Chateau Mouton was a bit of a let down and Chateau Lafite was acceptable. For fear of repeating myself I felt that they lacked something.

EP 13 bChateaux Pichon Baron and Pichon Comtesse de Lalande

At both chateaux yet again I thought that depth was lacking. Chateau Pichon Baron will only be making 10,000 cases whereas in the 1970s they were making 30,000.

At Pichon Baron I had the chance to taste 2 white wines – a dry and a sweet. Both were very good. S de Suduiraut is a dry white with a blend of 60% Sauvignon Blanc and 40% Semillon. It is a pale lemon yellow in colour with summer fruits on the nose – a very floral fragrance. On the palate it has good levels of acidity, nice layers of fruits and its a lively, fresh wine.

suduirautChateau Suduiraut is a sweet Sauternes with a blend of 92% Sauvignon and 8% Semillon. A golden hued wine, it is fresh on the nose with hints of honey and apricot. Well rounded on the palate with flowers accentuated in the mouth.

Chateau Cos d’Estournel and Leoville Las Cases

I thought that Leoville Las Cases wine was pleasant, as was Cos d’Estournel, but it’s not typical of what you’d normally expect from Cos d’Estournel. For me, Cos lacked the signature characteristics it usually has.

Chateau Pontet Canet

As most Bordeaux enthusiasts are aware, Chateau Pontet Canet released early before the tastings at 60 euros. Having tasted it today I personally don’t think it is as good as the 2012 and as far as my palate is concerned I found the 2013 too jammy.

Having experienced a few lows I had better point out a few highs. I felt that Chateaux Palmer, Montrose, Calon Segur, Grand Puy Lacoste, Ducru Beaucaillou and Leoville Poyferre all had something that the others weren’t offering.

palmerChateau Palmer

The Second Wine, Alter Ego de Palmer ,definitely offered something different and the first thing I noticed was that it had real depth of colour – it was a good dark crimson. With a blend of 46% Merlot, 46% Cabernet Sauvignon and 8% Petit Verdot, the wine had good fruit on the nose and hints of opulence on the palate; as did the Grand Vin, Chateau Palmer, which was a blend of 49% Merlot and 41% Cabernet Sauvignon. Under difficult growing conditions Chateau Palmer has made a wine that stands out when compared to its peers.

Both Chateau Montrose and Calon Segur also offered more than others.

Chateau Montrose

La Dame de Montrose, the Second Wine of Chateau Montrose, is a blend of 69% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Sauvignon and 13% Cabernet Franc. As a Second Wine I thought it showed better than the average and Chateau Montrose (68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot and 3% Petit Verdot) showed very well.

Chateau Calon Segur

I tasted Chateau Calon Segur in their new tasting room (which would have had Madame Capburn Gasquetron turning in her grave if she knew how much had been spent on it. It’s beautifully done though!) Both wines at Calon Segur presented well.

The Second Wine, Marquis de Calon (60% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon) had a reasonable nose which wasn’t overpowering with hints of juicy soft fruit. A nice structure, good tannins and fruits on the palate.

Chateau Calon Segur is a blend of 92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Merlot and 2% Petit Verdot. The wine was a nice deep, rich colour with an elegant hint of fruit on the nose. On the palate there was a good level of fruit, good structure and good length.

grand puy lacosteChateau Grand Puy Lacoste

I tasted 3 wines at Chateau Grand Puy Lacoste. Chateau Haut Batailley was fair, however the Second Wine of Chateau Grand Puy Lacoste, Lacoste Borie, offered a nice depth of fruit and was well rounded. It is a blend o 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc.

The Chateau Grand Puy Lacoste was very elegant and very feminine with a good nose and nice structure in the mouth. To me, it was a typical Grand Puy Lacoste.

Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou

At Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou I tasted 3 wines: Chateaux Lalande Borie, Croix de Beaucaillou and Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou. All 3 were very pleasant.

The Lalande Borie is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Merlot and 4% Cabernet Franc. It has a good concentration of colour, a touch of good soft fruit on the nose with nice rounded tannins in the mouth, good structure and hints of spice.

The Croix de Beaucaillou is – in Mr. Borie’s words – the colour of ‘Bishop Red’ (whatever that may well be) but it is a good colour with a nice floral and fruity bouquet, good structure and tannins and a slight hint of jamminess.

Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou is a blend of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot and of the 3 wines this gave the best dense red colour. It is elegant on the nose with hints of violets and red berries. In the mouth it is soft and polished with rich red fruits and a hint of spice. A nice wine.

EP 13 cdChateau Leoville Poyferre

The last chateau I visited was Chateau Leoville Poyferre where I tasted 4 wines. With all 4 Mr. Cuvelier and his team have done a very good job in difficult conditions.

Chateau Le Croix, the Second Wine of Chateau Le Crock is a blend of 53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot and 7% Petit Verdot. It has good colour, a good nose and good layers of fruit in the mouth with nice raspberry flavours. It has good length and some depth.

Chateau Moulin Riche (55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot and 17% Petit Verdot) has a good density of colour, a good nose with nice layers of fruit and a good depth of fruit on the palate with hints of spice and elegance. A nice example from the estate.

I had had the opportunity of tasting the Second Wine of Chateau Leoville Poyferre, Pavillon de Poyferre, which has a blend of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot and 15% Petit Verdot. To me this was slightly a notch above the Moulin Riche but it has similar structure and elegance and is a good crimson colour.

Chateau Leoville Poyferre (55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot and 3% Cabernet Franc) was a nice deep crimson with rounded tannins, good balance and a nice nose of raspberry and red fruits. It was a very nice wine to end my first day on.

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Taste Our Wines at Stratford Racecourse and Spot a Winner This Saturday

stratford tastingSaturday looks set for a great days racing with the weather turning warm and sunny. Bordeaux-Undiscovered are sponsoring the days racing this Saturday (29th March) at Stratford Racecourse and Nick will also be showing our range of wines including some new great discoveries having their first introduction into the UK market!. So why not come along and taste a few treasures and spot a winner or two this Saturday?

tent 2Stratford Racecourse is one of the country’s leading small summer jumps racecourses and racing takes place regularly between March and October. You can see many top trainers and jockeys there and it has a very friendly atmosphere. The going is said to be good to soft and temperatures will be around 16 – 17ºC on Saturday at the racecourse! This is a big change from this time last year when racing had to be called off due to flooding thanks to waterlogging.

Bookings can be made online as well as over the phone (01789 267949) and by email info@stratfordracecourse.net.

Bordeaux Undiscovered BBC Good Food Show 4The races during the afternoon are:

13:55 bordeaux-undiscovered.co.uk Novices’ Hurdle

14:30 Bordeaux Undiscovered 1855 Classification Handicap Chase

15:05 Bordeaux Undiscovered For A Good Tipple Selling Hurdle

15:40 Bordeaux Undiscovered Claret Handicap Hurdle

16:15 Great Value Wines From Bordeaux Undiscovered Handicap Chase

16:50 Bu Grand Cru Classes Handicap Hurdle

17:25 La Fleur Morange Mathilde Standard Open NH Flat Race

Runners for each race can be found at

http://www.sportinglife.com/racing/meeting/stratford/29-03-2014/fast-cards

We hope to see you there!

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Breaking News – 2013 Bordeaux En Primeur Campaign Starts Early

pontet canetAstonishingly the 2013 Bordeaux En Primeur Campaign has kicked off early this morning before anyone has had a chance to even taste the wine they are being offered to buy. Chateau Pontet Canet has been released at 60 euros. Surprisingly this is the same price as the 2012. The market was widely expecting to see significantly lower pricing for the 2013. This, quite simply, is a crazy stunt. How can you buy something and recommend it to your customers when you haven’t tasted it?

Usually the chateaux do push forward a sacrifical lamb to release first so the chateaux owners can test the mood of the market. However this is normally after the tastings have been held!

The 2013 has been a difficult year for Bordeaux and there has been controversy about the potential quality of the wine and also about Robert Parker not tasting the vintage till June. Parker’s tardy tasting has literally thrown a cat amongst the pigeons as his scores can make or break the value of a vintage.

The quantity of wine that Bordeaux has been able to produce for 2013 is dramatically down and it may be that Pontet Canet’s early release has this is mind. Watch out for this being used as a marketing ploy and don’t be fooled. It falls apart as in the space of 10 minutes we were offered the initial allocation which was then upped with the offer of being able to acquire larger amounts!

The 2012 Pontet Canet is available for 69 euros and could be a better wine for the money – we don’t know as we haven’t been given the chance to taste the 2013 yet. The 2012 was scored 91 – 94 points by Parker. Do Pontet Canet expect the 2013 to be scored the same? It’s a bit presumptious.

As you can imagine, the mood of the market is not good on hearing this news. Lets hope the message it sends the chateaux owners is actually listened to before Bordeaux 2013 goes down as the year of the Laughable Vintage.

Is this a wine being sold or is it a brand being sold? If they are selling on the reputation of their brand they may have just devalued it.pontet canet

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