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En Primeur – Day 3 – Haut Brion, Haut Bailly, Domaine de Chevalier, Pape Clement, Smith Haut Lafitte, Brane Cantenac, Coutet, de Fargues

As many of you who follow me know I always try to find a WOW factor from each vintage that I taste and with the 2011 vintage I found it today – not from one wine but from an appellation. Well, two appellations to be exact: Sauternes and Barsac. This is a first for me, especially as my palate is not particularly suited to sweet wines. However I must say that they were a pure joy to taste. So, today was a day of highs and lows – the lows I will mention later.

My day started at Haut Brion where I tasted all the wines from their estates, including their new venture, Quintus in Saint Emilion (you can read more on their new chateau here). The tasting confirmed my first impression that 2011 is a ‘white wine’ vintage. I thoroughly enjoyed all the white wines presented – they were fresh, floral and extremely well balanced.

From Haut Brion I travelled to Chateau de Fieuzal which was presenting the wines from the Pessac Leognan and Graves appellations. Of the wines I tasted there were definitely a few that stood out from the rest: Domaine de Chevalier, Haut Bailly, Pape Clement and Smith Haut Lafitte.

Haut Bailly (50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 47% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc) was around 13% abv and was very well balanced with good fruit and had lovely structure – the chateau should be very pleased indeed with their efforts this year. Pape Clement (50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot) is also another choice red to consider buying this year.

Both the whites from Smith Haut Lafitte (40% Sauvignon Blanc, 35% Semillon, 15% Sauvignon Gris, 10% Muscadelle) and Domaine de Chevalier (85% Sauvignon Blanc, 15% Semillon) showed exceptionally well – they were vibrant with good aromas and with lovely balance in the mouth. The reds from these two estates showed a little opulence that has been lacking elsewhere and are also well worth considering when they come onto the market.

Moving on to Marquis de Terme where wines from the Margaux appellation were being presented I thought that overall they didn’t show particularly badly. To me, Brane Cantenac, Lascombes and Malescot St Exupery all showed real promise and deserve special mention.

I then went on to Kirwan which was hosting the wines from the Sauternes and Barsac appellations. The wines were real eye openers and I found my WOW factor here. Many of them had the opulence, the depth, the balance and the fruit that I look for in a good wine and they had truly good structure.

The wines that shone were de Fargues (80% Semillon, 20% Sauvignon Blanc) and Coutet (75% Semillon, 23% Sauvignon Blanc, 2% Muscadelle). The de Fargues was fresh and well balanced with lovely structure. Coutet showed exceptionally well – a beautiful wine. Congratulations are due to both the chateau who should be proud of their offerings for 2011.

There were a number of wines that I could write about but I must mention Filhot (30% Sauvignon Blanc, 65% Semillon, 5% Muscadelle) and Nairac (92% Semillon, 4% Sauvignon Blanc, 4% Muscadelle) as they stood out above the others. I think the sweet wine lovers amongst us will really appreciate this vintage.

I visited Carmensac to taste the wines from the Moulis, Listrac, Haut Medoc and Medoc appellations. Here I really had difficulty during the tasting as there seemed to be a problem with the acidity balance in the wines to me. Therefore I think I should not comment further.

So, as I said earlier, today had a high and a low but I am very pleased that found my WOW factor this year. Sauternes and Barsac should be complimented on their efforts.

I re-tasted some of the wines from my previous days in Bordeaux and it only proved to me what an extremely difficult and complex vintage the wine makers of Bordeaux have had to deal with. Where some chateaux normally excel they sadly have only achieved mediocrity. Mother Nature has had a great hand in this vintage – you could say that She saved 2008 by bringing the sunshine with an Indian Summer, that She brought great conditions for 2009 and 2010 but that for 2011 She said “you’re on your own”. But this is why we love Bordeaux wines – for their diversity, for the differences, albeit good or bad.

Tomorrow I will be revisiting a couple of First Growths and am looking forward to tasting the Cru Bourgeois where I hope to find a couple of gems.

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2 Responses to En Primeur – Day 3 – Haut Brion, Haut Bailly, Domaine de Chevalier, Pape Clement, Smith Haut Lafitte, Brane Cantenac, Coutet, de Fargues

  1. So you lead with the WOW factor and proceed to talk about everything but the wines that wowed you? You are a teaser, sir…

    hopefully a follow up post will provide further elucidations?

    • Nick says:

      Thanks for your comment Alfonso – I tend to write my En Primeur blogs chronologically ie I visited “Chateau X to taste the wines from AOC X” and then travelled to “Chateau Y” etc. It’s easier to follow my notes when writing the blog in the hours after midnight! I thought I had made it plain that the WOW factor for me this year was from the appellations Sauternes and Barsac?