Wednesday, 18 September 2013

A memorable evening with Denis Durantou

Posted by Tom Jenkins, Bordeaux Buyer
Last night, we were privileged to welcome Denis Durantou to our St James's Street office. Denis generously provided nine magnums of his flagship wine, Eglise Clinet for our guests to drink - and drink we did - spitting was definitely not on anyone's agenda!

Denis explained that we would taste three flights each representing specific and important periods during the development of Eglise Clinet. After the devastating frosts of '56, much of Pomerol was re-planted, although there was not the same care and attention as to the choice of clones that we see today. As a result, Denis has undertaken a massive re-planting exercise during his tenure. The oldest flight ('88, '89 and '90) were produced from the vines planted in the 50s, the younger flights incorporate Denis' own plantings. The flights would paint the journey and progression of what is now one of the elite Pomerol estates.

Our first flight included 1998, 1999 and the 2000 vintages. The ‘99, by no means a revered year was something of the surprise package. Juicy, sweet, alluring and beautifully poised; the tannins were pure cashmere. The 1998 was perhaps not showing at its best, which was a great shame. Recent bottles have been nothing short of spectacular, but this magnum was still somewhat dominated by its tannins - more time required... But the star of the flight, and quite possibly the evening was the majestic 2000. This possesses enormous depth, is truly multi-layered and just got better and better throughout the evening.

Flight two comprised the '88, '89 and '90 and proved slightly divisive. A rift emerged between those in the ‘89 and ‘90 camps. In truth, both are magical. The ‘90 is more exotic and there is more evidence of the heat of the vintage. It was only right that Denis should have the final word, saying that he didn’t expect the 1990 to evolve over the next decade, but sees more to come from the 1989. Denis has the casting vote!

Our final flight included the 100 point 2005, the seriously underrated 2008 and the exotic, 99+ point 2009. Denis plantings have now come of age and these wines aptly demonstrate why Eglise Clinet is one of the most sought after wines from Bordeaux. The 2008 clearly doesn’t possess the levels of concentration of the 2005 and 2009, but it beautifully constructed with a sweet core of Pomerol fruit and pure silk tannins. 2005 was arguably the most impressive wine on the night. It is perhaps not as showy as the 2000 at this stage, but it is a multidimensional offering and has such impressive concentration – it’s not difficult to see why this impressed Robert Parker so much. It’s a classical beauty with a very long life ahead of it. 2009 was by contrast an exotic, flamboyant, masterpiece. Although it is fascinating to taste now, it needs to be forgotten about for seven years or more to be fully appreciated.

As ever the dining room was the scene of plenty of lively discourse. Several Arsenal fans were present so themes ranged from Mesut Ozil, to Californian wine and winemaking, as well as plenty of lively debate about Denis’ wines. Denis enthralled us all with his knowledge of his vineyards and particularly his newish acquisition in Castillon. Despite it being an Eglise Clinet dinner, Montlandrie was the given plenty of air time – a measure of how good this estate is. Denis’ charm and honesty were a revelation. One guest asked him which his favourite vintage was from Eglise Clinet – without hesitation he said 2010, before adding (with a wry smile), ‘that’s the one we’ve got to sell right’. Thank you Denis for being such a charming and generous host.