Tag Archives: Bordeaux

Sweet tooth (Bordeaux, France – Day Five)

It seems somehow fitting that the last day I will be visiting wineries is spent tasting some of the most famous dessert wines in the world. Graves is in the southern part of Bordeaux on the left bank but a long way from Medoc. It is a special area in the sense unlike other parts of Bordeaux all three of the famous wines are produced here; namely red, white and dessert wines. Red wine is the largest proportion of production, and in fact this was the origin of claret wine. In the original classification of 1855 one red wine was given first growth classification,which was Chateau Haut-Brion. Graves is also famous for the sweet wines, most importantly wines from Sauternes and Barsac which were also classified back in 1855. As you would remember I visited Chateau d’Yquem which is the most famous Sauternes house that has been given special First Growth Superieur status, but there are a number of other first growth estates. The varieties used for these wines are semillon and sauvignon blanc with a little muscadet. The fruit is harvested so late that the berries are botrytised and the sugar concentrated, and it is not uncommon for several passes to be made through the vineyard during the harvest to ensure only the best botrytised fruit is selected. The fermentation is stopped whilst there is still a high level of residual sugar in the wine, which is where the sweetness comes from. I visited two Sauternes estates in the morning and finished the day with an estate in Saint-Emilion.

The many aromas of sauternes captured by Chateau Suduiraut

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Lead by example (Bordeaux, France – Day Four)

If you don’t work in the wine industry then Bordeaux can be one of the best wine experiences you can have. For one thing the old part of the city of Bordeaux is quite beautiful and offers many epicurean delights (although wine lists are very inconsistent and of course parochial). There are plenty of places to stay providing your budget isn’t too small, and it is quite easy to get around thanks to the buses and trams. Getting out to the wineries means renting a car or joining a tour which by all accounts are great with some tour being allowed to visit some of the top producers. There are thousands of producers to choose from and they are all relatively close to the city. The chateaus are often beautiful and the cellars are filled with flashy fancy equipment and plenty of new barrels. Speaking personally I find Bordeaux to be one of the most boring regions to visit, in no way impressing me and making very little attempt to impress me. For one the thing they have a very homogeneous and flat landscape offering one less influence on the terroir. As I have mentioned in the past fancy wineries and modern equipment don’t offer anything if you aren’t understanding and expressing your terroir well, which in most cases they are not (partly because in my opinion the terroir isn’t that good to begin with). I also feel they aren’t making respectful wines when they are doing pretty heavy maceration and new oak maturation, resulting in wines that don’t begin to drink until many years after they are released. The system of selling also is completely out of touch and arrogant in my opinion. There is a good reason why other regions in France and Europe get frustrated with Bordeaux, but at the same time their influence has been so strong on other producers around the world.
A lamp shade in the shape of the mouton of Mouton-Rothschild

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A river runs through it (Bordeaux, France – Day Three)

There are many places in the world where a river is a divider both from a geographical perspective but also in an intangible way. Some of the most famous cities in the world are split by equally famous rivers, like the Thames in London and the Seine in Paris. Not that it is any comparison to these cities but Melbourne is also divided by the Yarra River, and a common question asked is ‘which side of the river are you, north or south?’ There are often philosophical, political and financial divisions around this that have a lot to do with history. Wine region sometimes have this and none more so than Bordeaux, which is separated by the Garonne River. On the right bank you find Saint-Emilion and Pomerol where merlot is the major variety. On the left bank you have the Medoc with Margaux and Pauillac, and cabernet sauvignon is king. Winemaking is pretty similar which means the selection of variety and the terroir. On the right bank there is more clay in the soils which is better for merlot, and on the left bank it is a little warmer and therefore better for the later ripening cabernet sauvignon. The left bank wines tend to take longer to age in the bottle which is why I tend to prefer right bank wines younger. But there is plenty of spoils for all and as always every vintage is different. For my third day I visited one estate on each side of the river, and then met with one of the more important Bordeaux negociants to discuss how the wines are sold in their own unique way.
One of the coolest spitoons I have encountered

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Everything’s bigger in Bordeaux (Bordeaux, France – Day Two)

How did Bordeaux become the most important wine region in the world? With 120,000 hectares it is by far the largest single viticultural area in France, and when you consider the density of planting here that results in a lot of production. It has some of the highest and lowest yields in France as well, which means you can have some of the best quality and the lowest. Bordeaux was the first region I visited in Europe back in 2010, and it amazed me the size of the area and the extent to which vineyards are planted here. In spite of the quantity of wine they produce they seem to do a pretty good job of selling it, and the reason has less to do with quality and more to do with image. Bordeaux has developed one of the strongest connections with quality in wine second only to champagne. Through the classification system that designates quality of vineyards, to the glamour of the chateaus and then to the system of selling, all combine to make bordeaux wine one of the most immediately recognisable but also mysterious. My second day was spent at two estates on the left bank; Chateau Montrose and Chateau Pichon-Longueville.

The soils of Saint-Estephe

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Chateau Soutard – 27/07/2012

Chateau Cadet-Piola 2006
A little sharp on the nose, quite precise and fresh, red fruits but a tad volatile and bretty. Tight and lean, very intense but somewhat simple, very soft tannins, good acids but generally quite empty and simple.

Chateau Larmande 2002
Dense and meaty, darker fruits more mature and savoury, picking up some nice bottle-character, toastier and a little mint elements, dried fruits. Quite sharp and precise, definitely a product of its vintage, high acids and a little bitterness. On the bitter side, volatile and alcoholic. Not impressive.

Chateau Soutard 2003
Visibly ageing very fast. Much meatier on the nose, burger rings, bacon rind, fairly cooked on the nose, fruit all but gone. Soft and supple on the palate, looking quite complex at the moment but very little chance that it will improve, leathery and yoghurt. Creaminess in the texture but typical old-world bad.

Chateau Soutard 2007
Deeper and darker fruits, more mellow on the nose, good concentration but still showing some of that old-world funk, almost like a brunello. Good structure through the palate, well balanced and filling the mouth very well, subdued red fruits, a little creaminess in texture from the oak and the tannins, quite supple but persistent. Good acidity through the mouth, certainly potential and a fine example but still a lot of improving to be made.

Chateau Soutard

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Chateau Suduiraut – 27/07/2012

Chateau Suduiraut 1989
Looking a little oxidative, possibly due to it being open a few days(?), showing some nutty notes and some watercress and celeriac, just like an old semillon should, some minerality and dried banana and fig. Creamy yet still bright and fresh texture, caramel and vanilla showing through but the sweetness is really dying down, very late dried apricots which would have been prominent in youth. Very complex and long, on the warm side at 14.5% alcohol, but lot’s of dried fruit complexity.

Chateau Suduiraut 1997
More brightness and showing minerality, oily and kerosene notes, dried citrus. Very nutty on the palate and texture, creamy and yet dense in the apricot and dried peach, denser but more linear through the palate with some nice savoury elements as well. Textured and bold but tight and fresh. Still plenty of life left in it, more complexity in the nose than on the palate for now.

Chateau Suduiraut 1999
Less expressive aromatically, very tight and linear on the nose, showing a lot of the minerality, finesse and elegance with a lot of freshness and more citrus than stone fruit. Denser and more concentrated than the 1997, but very tight and volumous, bright and textured at the same time, developing a little nuttiness and some lovely ripe vegetable elements like pumpkin and sweet-potato, great minerality and a core of acidity. Very shy at the moment, in a trough period of the ageing, needs another 10 years.

Chateau Suduiraut 2002
Quite different aromatically, showing some barley and wheat notes possibly as it is quite closed, very subtle caramel. Nice candied characters on the palate, dense and very concentrated viscosity, quiet in the palate as well, but showing a lot more youth in the dried apricots and warmth. Quite closed with a lot of intensity and potential or the future, powerful expression and bold volume and texture.

Chateau Suduiraut 2006
Combination of fruit and also some very subtle spice and celeriac aromatically, oil and minerality, thick and viscous. Very powerful and full of fruit, very full in the texture and viscosity, creamy and bold, layers of flavour and complexity, quite tropical and sweet, a real fruit salad of pineapple, passionfruit, mango and papaya. The weight and viscosity adding to the impression of sweetness. Juicy and approachable but very complex and elegant given time.

Chateau Suduiraut 2009
Kind of fat on the nose, looking slightly dull and inexpressive. Creamy buttery, slightly flabby aromas, not seeing enough brightness of fruit, seeing an evolution of style and winemaking perhaps. Quite thick and intense, very ripe fruits on the palate, warm and intense, but still quite well balanced, probably far too young to be appreciating and understanding this wine, it is designed for age and development in the bottle.

Chateau Suduiraut tasting

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Chateau Guiraud – 27/07/2012

Le G de Chateau Guiraud 2011
Very classic sauvignon blanc aromas of kiwi, white peach, guava, citrus and passionfruit. Very slightly grassy and mineralic. Crisp bright and fresh, albeit a little on the oaky side. Textured and a little warm, nice and round with persistent acids and fruit. Quite classy with the potential of ageing 5-10 years.

Petit Guiraud 2006
Nice oily petroleum kind of nose, very mineralic and slightly flinty. Extremely fresh and bright, only a little viscosity and texture, some sweetness but well integrated with the oak. Persistence and character, very young at the moment, wonderfully subtle and elegant, closer to a sweet German than a sauternes. Wonderful texture and purity, so simple yet so elegant. My style of sauternes, showing the difference with the sauvignon blanc.

Chateau Guiraud 2008
Quite tight aromatically, extremely fresh and lean, showing some green notes from the sauvignon blanc, bright fresh fruits, small apricots and white peach. More intense creaminess from smaller yields, definitely some influence from barrel but still showing so much elegance and freshness, bright concentrated fruits, well balanced alcohol and sweetness, will develop exceptionally well.

Chateau Guiraud 2002
Nicely developing nose, showing some dried fruit aromas now, more creaminess and vanilla influence, minerality and oiliness expressing more now. Denser and a little fuller, more extraction and phenolic compounds, a little more density in the oak but with some maturity. Brightness of acidity starting to settle down and the more complex elements opening up a little. Certainly more concentration that needs more time.

Chateau Guiraud 2005

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Chateau Leoville-Poyferre – 26/07/2012

2011 Chateau Le Crock (Saint-Estephe)
Soft and mellow merlot nose, quite plummy with some interesting very ripe tomato. Very soft opulent tannins, nice freshness good acids, very supple and generous, quite broad and surprisingly light, balanced concentration. Good purity and freshness.

2011 Chateau Moulin Riche (Saint-Julien)
More closed on the nose, deeper darker fruits, less brightness more brooding, concentrated and subdued by oak for now. Excellent lines through the palate, bold on the front but softening quite nicely, cabernet doughnut hole being well filled by the merlot and petit verdot. Mouth-filling acidity and tannins, firm but not heavy or abrasive. Great consistency through the palate and extension. Benefit from 5-10 years in bottle.

2011 Chateau Leoville-Poyferre
Deeper more intense colour, but good clarity. Significantly more cabernet sauvignon influence on the nose, very berry concentrated with stalkiness and some tight-grain oak characters, but overly a great balance between fruit and savoury characters. A little more texture and grip from the tannins, certainly an influence of more cabernet sauvignon, textured and will take a lot more time in bottle to soften out and start to express the concentrated and closed fruit characters. Powerful expression but not heavy and well-balanced alcohol.

Chateau Moulin Riche 2007
Starting to show some age in the colour. Very stalky and dusty on the nose, fruit somehow a little subdued but more in the red fruit area. Good freshness and balance, seeing some of the secondary and tertiary elements come through, good balance and some nicely developing texture as well. Still with another 5 years perhaps, you might start to see a little more leather in the background.

Chateau Leoville-Poyferre 2006
Wonderfully perfumed floral and dark berry aromas, very inviting and expressive, a lovely bouquet, one of the nicest I’ve seen in a Bordeaux for a long time. Intense and fresh, lively and full, soft yet structured. Excellent purity but still tight in the structure and needing more time to continue softening and opening up in the bottle. Tight but showing wonderful finesse and elegance, great acidity to keep things together and ageing well. Superb balance will be wonderful in 15-20 years.

Chateau Leoville-Poyferre case

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Chateau Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande – 26/07/2012

2011 Reserve de la Comtesse
Light soft bright merlot colour. Juicy but also quite brisk fruit aromas with toasty balsamic notes. Very full and bold but also soft and juicy, nice clean finish, showing some very subtle red honey notes. Fairly dense but fresh, acids having a minimal influence, structured and very approachable, a nice young wine. Very late aromas of floral.

2011 Pichon-Lalande
Much denser and darker from the cabernet sauvignon. Very dark and intense fruit notes, sweet toasty oak notes, some dustiness and earthiness, slightly stalky but quite closed fruit richness. Very broad and lacking a little structure, approachable but also very dense in the tannins, a little full, very good but lacking personality. May open up given tie, but doesn’t look particularly balanced.

Chateau PIchon-Lalande 2004
Lovely and bright, juicy dark fruits with some attractive floral notes, creamy and jubey, like blackcurrant cordial. Softening out beautifully, supple and pretty, good concentration of fruit, structured with some nice acids, will improve for another 10 years or so. Still plenty of time to show more of the complexity. Firm but fresh tannins.

Chateau Pichon-Lalande 2004

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Chateau Mouton-Rothschild – 26/07/2012

2010 Chateau Mouton-Rothschild
Very deep intense aromatics, really dark berries and cassis notes, some black olive and slight balsamic notes, nice dusty earthy cabernet fruit notes with some elements of oak and stalky maturity. Very fresh and bright, lively acidity and brisk tannins, a little warmth initially with softens out quite nicely. Well structured and balanced, but very reductive in fruit expression, not open at all. Very linear through the mid-palate, quite subtle vanilla oak characters, but reasonably well integrated. All about the structure and the acidity for the moment, the fruit and more complexity will come in time.
Chateau Mouton-Rothschild 2010

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