Saturday morning started in the cellars of Jean-Luc Thunevin. It’s always a tasting that I look forward to. Thunevin is candid about the late April 2017 frost which hit the right bank hard. Some of his properties and those he consults for were unscathed, some were left slightly affected, and others have been decimated. In some the effect is simply on volumes, in others it has also affected quality and style. I’ll write in more detail on St Emilion in a future post but the good news is that qualitatively Château Valandraud is excellent. It has wonderful perfume and layers of fruit. For me it is up there certainly with the 2012 and the 2014. St Emilion Grand Cru Clos Badon is in good shape [but very low production]. Jean-Luc’s Pomerol Le Clos du Beau Père also looks good.
An early visit to Château Palmer was a great start to day three on the 2017 primeurs trail. The morning was sunlit once again [it would get up to 25C later] and Thomas Duroux was in good form, as were both Alter Ego and Palmer. If 2017 Palmer is not in the league of the fab 2016s or 2015s here, this is seductive Margaux. The consistency the property now achieves is remarkable, in large part due to Duroux’s attention to detail and their biodynamic practices. I’ll write in more detail on Palmer and what they are up to soon [natural yeast ferments, seriously low sulphur use – it’s all fascinating}. Although Duroux sees Palmer ’17 as its own beast, it reflects elements of 2014 with the tannic structure of ’08 he reckons. For me the grand vin was nimble with great perfume.
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…