My second day tasting Bordeaux 2017 started in bright sunshine at Château Haut Bailly. The purity of the wine in the past few vintages here has been unsurpassed and their terroir in Pessac-Léognan is wonderful. Frost took out a plot from production but there is finesse and elegance to this 2017. Ten minutes away, in contrasting but equally beautiful terroir, Château Smith Haut Lafitte has delivered the goods once again. The whites are brilliant, showing what a great vintage 2017 is here potentially for white wine. The reds are plump, and very well-upholstered with plenty of fruit and freshness. Excellent stuff. At Château La Mission Haut-Brion the remarkable quality of the whites was again underscored. Château La Mission Haut Brion Blanc and Château Haut-Brion Blanc are fabulous – though they never put a foot wrong with the whites mind. The reds are impressive, combining of the structure and fruit of 2014 perhaps with the freshness of 2008. La Mission is more approachable than usual in 2017 and Haut-Brion felt the fractionally deeper of the two. Both show wonderful purity.
Great to be back in Bordeaux and excited to taste the infant 2017 vintage. How have the wines faired given the challenges of the growing season – the frost that devastated some, the hail that affected others and the challenge of vintage rain? Yesterday I had a nose around St Estèphe, Pauillac and St Julien. I’ll post in more detail later but first impressions? The wines tasted had vivid, fresh flavours, bright acidities and round tannin. They don’t have the weight or texture of 2016, 2015 or 2014, but there is the freshness of 2008 with the harmony of 2012. Cabernet seems to have faired well, better than the Merlot which was a little more affected by the September rain, but these are very early generalisations.
The estate of Clos L’Eglise in Pomerol is run by Hélène Garcin Lévêque, and her family have been the custodians of this estate since they acquired it in 1997, writes John Willis. The property, which dates back to the 18th Century, used to be 14 hectares, double the size it is today. The missing half went to form part of Château L’Eglise Clinet in 1954. The size of Clos L’Eglise is small (even by Pomerol standards) with only 5.9 ha under vine at present. Tasting the vintages from 1997-2016 was a fantastic insight into the overall philosophy of this estate and shows the general improvement of the wines across the period. A genuine sense of place, of terroir, comes across in the wines of this ambitious Pomerol, something to which many properties aspire but sometimes fail to achieve.
I’ve recently been reunited with eight cases of Bordeaux that have been kindly stored in a friend’s cold cellar in Gloucestershire for half a dozen years. Much of it is pretty decent Bordeaux that finally coming into bloom from the 2005 vintage. There are also some 2006s, 2003s and 2000s from what are often seen as ‘lesser’ properties but which have provided wonderfully enjoyable drinking. The question that I’ve been asking myself as I’ve been reacquainting myself with these wines six years on is whether my taste for Bordeaux has changed…
There is no doubt that 2016 is a brilliant year for St Estèphe. The dry summer and sunny harvest conditions played to the strengths of the terroir here. I’ve already marvelled at the harmony and balance of the wines at Château Calon Ségur, Château Montrose and Château Cos d’Estournel in this vintage, but, as ever, there are a bevy of other wines at lower price points that have produced wonderful red wine. Château Beau-Site, Château Le Boscq, Château Capbern, Château Le Crock, Château Domeyne, Château Haut-Marbuzet and Château Meyney, to name a few, have all made excellent wines. St Estèphe is really an appellation to seek out in 2016 [as in 2014 too]. It is also one of my favourite Bordeaux appellations.
Château Montrose has been on a roll for the past decade. Legendary wines have been made here in 2009, 2010 and 2014. 2016 continues this run of form at this leading St Estèphe property. The vineyard position here, adjacent to the Gironde, brings to mind Château Latour in Pauillac, and Château Léoville-Las-Cases and Château Ducru-Beaucaillou in St Julien, although Montrose’s aspect in St Estèphe is somewhat more elevated than these other great sites. 2016 Montrose shares characteristics with both the 2010 and 2014 here in my book. It is a wine laden with cassis and blackcurrant fruit and exhibits wonderful purity. La Dame de Montrose has lashings of plum and black cherry aromatics along with some graphite tones. Château Tronquoy-Lalande, junior to both of these wines, from an entirely different terroir, looks to be exceptional value in 2016. It has produced a wine loaded with fruit, bounce and life. Perhaps it’s the best yet from this property?