Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Bordeaux 2011 - Day 1

Posted by Tom Jenkins, Bordeaux Buyer

With the wine trade’s equivalent to the Ashes safely secured by the Poms, we started the real work on the Right Bank. First appointment - the all new Le Pin. Jacques Thienpont gave us the full guided tour of his new winery; and very impressive it is too. We were marched up the tower to the extraordinary foot press come infinity pool on the top, which also enjoys the most wonderful panoramic views over Pomerol. This traditional Douro technique avoids splitting pips and extracting harsh tannins, not something that Le Pin ever suffered from! The 2011 is the first vintage to be produced at the new facility, and superb it is too. Fragrant, intense, with oodles of perfumed fruit – as profound and as seductive as ever.

Next stop, Jacques’ cousin Alexandre’s Chateau, VCC. Vieux Chateau Certan is always a joy to taste and 2011 does not disappoint. At about a tenth of the price of Le Pin, one might expect it to be overwhelmed, but VCC is a true heavyweight in 2011. Alexandre explained that `11 was a ‘return to classic VCC’ after two vintages dominated by Merlot. 29% of the blend is from Alexandre’s old vine Cabernet Franc plots. If anything, this has more concentration than Le Pin. We loved the noble, regal flavours – a very sophisticated, grown up VCC.

You’d think that things might start to head down hill after such a strong start, but quick stops at Lafleur and Petrus kept the bar high. Lafleur as one would expect is brooding and masculine, but has a sweet, playful, fun-side too in ‘11. Criss-crossing the plateau, we met with the dynamic Denis Durantou at Eglise Clinet. Denis’ range is spectacular. I personally think that the 2011 is the best cuvee of La Chenade is the best I have tasted. Petite Eglise and Eglise Clinet are nothing short of spectacular.

After a brief battle through the streets of Libourne, we were greeted by Christian and Edouard Moueix at their quayside offices. To be honest, the whole range was a highlight, but Providence, Belair Monange, La Fleur Petrus, Hosanna and Trotanoy stood out. All possess ample concentration, plenty of structure and are built for the long haul – a really impressive range of wines.

After lunch, we ventured deep in to Lalande de Pomerol to Hubert de Bouard’s Fleur de Bouard. Angelus is massive and impressive, but didn’t necessarily charm us. Bellevue on the other hand was rather seductive, packed with sweet, decadent Merlot fruit and wrapped in a sumptuous structure.

To complete the Pomerols we just had Evangile and Conseillante to go. The former was utterly regal and as grand as ever, but will require patience. Initially rather demure, with aeration this opened up into a spectacular Evangile – think the structure and precision of the 2008, but with a little more puppy fat. Charles Chevalier, a devotee of statistics is delighted with an IPT reading of 76 and a pH of 4 – a really impressive wine. Jean-Michel Laporte has crafted another smart wine at La Conseillante, but sadly nothing close to the epic 2009 and 2010. Pretty, precise and bright, this is lacking a bit of oomph at the time of tasting. If it puts on a little mid palate weight it could be up amongst the best wines in the commune.

Just three appointments to go, so we bid farewell to Pomerol and we say ‘hello’ St Emilion. Ausone, Chapelle d’Ausone, Moulin St Georges and Fonbel are hit the mark: intense, perfumed, enticing, and with the Ausone - profound. The fruit is quite exotic and wild, with lots of crème de mûre, but there is also that seductive Ausone minerality. Along the Cote to Francois Mitjavile’s Tertre Roteboeuf for our penultimate tasting. Domaine de Cambes is spectacular and could be one of the ‘best value’ buys from 2011. Tertre Roteboeuf is extraordinary; super-ripe fruit content, silky texture, complex, thrilling – one quite easily gets carried away when tasting in this cellar. Roc de Cambes was tasted after Tertre Roteboeuf and certainly didn’t disappoint. At about a third of the price, this is a match for its grander stable mate.

And so to the last degustation of day one. Paul and Cedric Valade greeted us to their Castillon estate, Grande Maye. This father and son team are creating great wines from Castillon and St Emilion. We firmly believe that the eponymous Chateau Valade would make a mockery of many of the grand names in the region. Delightful, charming, intense, enjoyable and well priced wines.