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Bordeaux 2010 Primeurs: Pessac-Léognan

Written by JW. Posted in Bordeaux

Out of all the Bordeaux appellations Pessac-Léognan’s wines are probably the most immediately appealing in 2010. The vintage has given richness and plushness to the reds but grip and acidity that makes the wines feel fresh, lively and complete. The whites have power and concentration as well as more acidity than in 2009. They should age well and yet provide attractive, positive drinking in their youth. Overall hardly anyone put a foot wrong here that I could see, white or red. In that sense it is probably the most complete and satisfying of all the appellations tasted in the primeurs week. Yes St Emilion and Pomerol [which I’ll post my notes on soon] have produced terrific wines in 2010, with St Emilion looking better than 2009 for me, but the consistence in Pessac-Léognan is quite amazing.

Amongst the whites, Chateau Haut-Brion Blanc and Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion were extraordinary [see earlier post], but brilliant whites have also been made at Domaine de Chevalier, Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte, Chateau de Fieuzal, Chateau Larrivet Haut-Brion and Chateau Malartic-Lagravière. Chateau Pape Clément needs to settle but I’m sure it will come good. Excellent whites were also made at Chateau Bouscaut, Chateau Carbonnieux, Chateau de France, Chateau La Louviere, Chateau Latour Martillac, Chateau Olivier and Chateau Pique Caillou. Some of these should provide good value.

For the reds, Chateau Haut-Brion and La Mission Haut-Brion have made superb wines in the appellation but at the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux tastings I was struck by the homogeneity and quality of pretty much all the reds I tasted, regardless of price. The UGC field is led by Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte which has produced an astonishingly good wine followed by Chateau Haut Bailly, wonderfully concentrated and rich, and Chateau Pape Clément, powerful, voluptuous and decadent. These three are not far off the quality of the quality of the first growths in their different ways. Terrific reds have also been made at Domaine de Chevalier, Chateau de Fieuzal, Chateau La Louvière, Chateau Malartic-Lagravière and Chateau Olivier. Also very impressive are Chateau Bouscaut, Chateau Larrivet Haut-Brion, Chateau Haut-Bergey and Chateau Picque Caillou. The only red wines that were showing a fraction disjointed were Chateau Les Carmes Haut-Brion [brooding and pretty tannic], Chateau de France [slightly drying tannins] and Chateau Latour Martillac [lovely nose and lots of concentration but hefty tannin and palate]. Even then I wouldn’t worry overly about these as I’m sure they will settle but generally they were less impressive than the others.

Overall given the quality here Pessac-Léognan is an appellation to buy in spades in 2010. Not only are these great wines, with lots of fruit and wonderful balance, in most cases they are likely to be less expensive than their qualitatively equivalents in the Medoc and the right bank. Chateau de Chantegrive, Chateau Ferrande and Chateau Rahoul were shown amongst the Graves. All were very good efforts, reds especially. These too will be great value buys in 2010 without a doubt.


Chateau Bouscaut

White: Pale straw; toasty oaky nose, very warm; grapefruit and ripe with some zing; grapefruit on the palate less oak here, some lees notes; pretty good. Lowish acid. 88-90/100 [50% Sauvignon Blanc, 50% Semillon – fermented in oak, half new] Tasted 6 April 2011 UGC

Red: Deep and arterial; little dumb but depth; some earth and coffee, strawberry notes later revealed; ripe palate; lush and forward; plush with lots of ripeness; bite towards the end but tannins nicely handled. Very good. 90-92/100 Tasted 6 April 2011 UGC

Chateau Carbonnieux

White: Colourless; some grassy, leesy notes; fresh; clean and wet wool palate, wax; good length and depth. Good grip and finish 88-90+/100 [65% Sauvignon Blanc, 35% Semillon] Tasted  6 April 2011 UGC

Red: Deep and black; arterial; plush and velvety on the nose; full and fresh; layers here and very good; quite soft and plush palate, nicely done; lovely and seductive. Nicely judged extraction 90-92+/100 Tasted 6 April 2011 UGC

Domaine de Chevalier

White: Colourless, fresh, ripe, some wax, feels very substantial; broad palate with depth; not especially complex but lovely depth. Terrific length and intensity with real zip on the finish. 93-95/100 Tasted 6 April UGC

Red: Very deep and dense; real colour and intensity; brooding and deep, blackcurrants, some earth and chocolate; ripe entry, sweet and good attack. Lots of grip here and acid. Density but also sweetness. Very ripe but with grip. Very good 92-94+/100 Tasted 6 April 2011 UGC

Chateau de Fieuzal

White: Pale straw; ripe, some cashew, wax, very rich; good palate with richness and will age well on the long term. 92-94/100 Tasted 6April 2011 UGC

Red: Deep and black; concentrated and deep nose; sweetness here; really nice; some smoke, lots of ripeness, some cream; lots of blackcurrants on the palate; ripe and rich fruit; very good; concentrated. Coffee and chew. Very good and concentrated. 92-94/100 Tasted 6 April 2011 UGC

Chateau de France

White: Palest straw; some zesty, yeasty notes; quite strong and firm; round and quite leesy and waxy note; quite attractive with some zip 88-90+/100 Tasted 6April 2011 UGC

Red: Deep and arterial; lush and plush; lots of fruit here; some smoke, chocolate; thick and ripe – little stewed note though and slightly stalky edge penetrates the palate. Over-extracted and tannic palate. 84-86?/100 Tasted 6 April 2011 UGC

Chateau Haut-Bailly

Deep and arterial, saturated colour; very ripe, strawberry and red fruit notes; lots of ripeness here, some stalks too; needs to settle a bit; plumy and earthy; ripe and sweet attack, and then the Haut Bailly tannins – pretty dense but ripe tannins alongside waves of fruit. Freshness too – a strong and powerful wine even if feels a bit raw at present. Everything in spades here. 94-96+/100 [42% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc 13.9% alc] Tasted 6April 2011 UGC

Chateau Haut-Bergey

White: Pale straw, ripe and toasty oak with grapefruit and citrus elements; some lees; poised; attractive; palate a bit oaky, some oil, maybe a bit heavy but should meld. Not that bad overall. 86-88+/100 Tasted 6 April 2011 UGC

Red: Deep and dark; black red; some smoke and blackcurrant; deep and succulent; sweet attack on the palate; good density, bit monolithic and needs some work during elevage but pretty good. Chocolate and tannin at the end. Tannins ripe and doesn’t feel over extracted. 90-92+/100 Tasted 6 April 2011 UGC

Chateau Haut-Brion

Saturated and tight to the edge; very dense; some blue-ish tinge; very deep and layered nose; wonderful layers; some smoke too; very intense and sublimated feel on the nose; richer and seemingly even plusher than La Mission; velvet palate; real ripeness and some liquorice and tar; but very polished indeed. Lots of tannin here, very ripe, but bathed in ripe fruit. Great length overall. Didn’t notice the high alcohol in infact unlike La Mission. Balanced by the acidity. Terrific. [57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, alcohol 14.6 IPT 80 pH 3] 98-100/100. Tasted 4 April at the chateau.

Chateau Haut-Brion Blanc

Pale straw; peaches, passion fruit and guava; very attractive nose with real power behind; some lees on the palate alongside this very fresh fruit; real concentration and depth; full bodied and powerful. Bewildering length and depth. Much more obvious fruit here [much more Sauvignon] and less oak dominated than the La Mission’s Blanc. Flawless to me. White wine can surely get no better? [54% Sauvignon Blanc, 46% Semillon, alcohol 14.4] 100/100. Tasted 4 April at the chateau.

La Clarence de Haut-Brion

Dark, deep; more purple in the meniscus; cream; floral tones; layers, quite fat feel; creamy yet muscular; violets here; good entry, very supple palate; very rich indeed; focused; good density and very attractive. Really good grip at the end with length. Very good. Hardly a ‘second wine’. [52% Merlot, 36% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot,, alcohol 14.4 IPT73 pH3.5]  93-95+/100 Tasted 4 April at the chateau.

Chateau La Louvière

White: Pale straw; candy, some lees, some soap and grapefruit; waxy nicely done palate, good density here and will develop very well. Nice acid and balance. 90-92+/100 [85% Sauvignon Blanc, 15% Semillon, barrel ferment in new oak, aged 10-12 months]. Tasted 6April 2011 UGC.

Red: Dense and saturated colour; fresh and ripe, strong Cabernet influence to the nose; blackcurrants; makes it cooler and fresher; lots of fruit on the palate, concentration and sumptuous fruit; blackcurrants again. Grip and tannin too. Very good prospect. 90-92+/100 [60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot]. Tasted 6 April 2011 UGC.

Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion

Saturated, deep; tight to the meniscus; very smoky, savoury note but with real polish; cassis too; some oak here but really integrated; olives, tapenade and menthol notes [some minerals]; lots of ripeness here; good density on the palate; ripe attack, layered and dense but feels very round; tannin is considerable but very ripe. Real concentration and flavour. Little hotness creeping in at the back, otherwise feels very complete and refined. Excellent length. Quite fantastic. The only question would be the alcohol level, at 15 degrees, which does give a fraction of heat on the finish, though there is plenty of grip. Terrific in almost all other respects. Virtually perfect. [37% Merlot, 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Cabernet Franc, alcohol 15, IPT 80, pH3] 97-98+/100 Tasted at Chateau Haut Brion 4April 2011

La Chapelle de La Mission Haut-Brion

Saturated colour; up to the rim; legs; very concentrated, some spice and life; blackcurrants and earth; floral and quite pretty too; very sweet entry; ripe palate; real finesse here; blackcurrants, smoke, some blackfruits; density but also quite open and supple. [47% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, 26% Cabernet Franc, Alc 14.8% IPT 72 pH 3.53] 91-93/100 Tasted at Chateau Haut Brion 4 April 2011.

Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion Blanc

Pale gold straw; very focused and fresh on the nose; some grass, gooseberry waxy; very top end; some oaky barrique influence; broad and masculine; full bodied and rich on the palate with amazing density; not oily but certainly rich and broad. Finishes well. Terrific length. Amazing wine. [81% Semillon, 19% Sauvignon Blanc, alcohol 14.3] 98-100/100 Tasted 4 April 2011 at Chateau Haut Brion.

Chateau Larrivet Haut-Brion

White:  Pale gold; waxy, some oak here; some butter too; feels fresh with citrus and grapefruit notes; waxy palate, nicely done; some apricot notes; density here, very attractive and ripe. Good wine. Attractive and excellent. 91-93/100 [90% Sauvignon Blanc, 10% Semillon, 100% new oak fermented, batonage and will have 11 months on lees 14.2 alc but more acid than 2009] Tasted 6 April 2011 UGC.

Red: Very deep, saturated colour; real strength and intensity; blackcurrants and some smoke; feels pretty good; minerally; plush on the palate lots of flesh; some violets and perfume; very good. Really sweet but with grip and quite floral. Creamy and attractive. 90-92+/100 [55% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14.6 alc] Tasted 6 April 2011 UGC.

Chateau Latour-Martillac

White: Colourless/palest straw; fresh, some grass, grapefruit and passionfruit too; grass and candy on the palate, good zip and life; lees and wax alongside floral and spicy tones too. Will develop well. 90-92+/100 Tasted 6April 2011 UGC.

Red: Deep and saturated; thick and rich, ripe and lush nose; really succulent; ripe palate but quite extracted feel, too much for me; tannins very puckering; may meld; nose is very promising but for me too extracted and tannic. Verdict out until it settles. 86-88?/100 Tasted 6April 2011 UGC.

Chateau Les Carmes Haut-Brion

Deep and dense; some freshness, little dumb, sweetness later, brooding and deep; sweet ripe fruit and tannin, extracted but there is fruit; maybe a little pushed but finishes better than you’d imagine; will it come together? 90-92?/100 Tasted 6April 2011 UGC.

Chateau Malartic-Lagravière

White: Pale straw; grass, fresh, little warm ferment note; wax and lees on the palate; should develop well. Nice balance and freshness. Very good and moreish on the palate. Potentially really excellent 92-94/100 [85% Sauvignon Blanc, 15% Semillon] Tasted 6 April 2011 UGC.

Red: Deep and dense colour; thick and sweet on the nose, some minerality but feels very rich; some smoke and blackcurrant notes; palate dense, lots of material and extract; tannic but ripe, though may be a little overdone. Certainly dense and chewy. Tannic at the end. Feels a bit over extracted. Hopefully will settle – if it does 90-92/100 [45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot, alc 14%] Tasted 6 April 2011 UGC.

Chateau Olivier

White: Palest straw; fresh, some grass, like a summer meadow; fresh palate, attractive, some lees, ripe and round; very good and attractive wine. Very good with real freshness at the end. 90-92+/100 [80% Sauvignon Blanc, 20% Semillon, all barrel fermented, 25% new] Tasted 6 April 2011 UGC.

Red: Deep and arterial; smoky blackcurrants, very deep, plush and lush, creamy too; lush sweet entry, plump but with structure. Ripeness. Very well handled. Quite terrific effort. 92-94+/100 [60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot] Tasted 6 April 2011 UGC.

Chateau Pape Clément

White: Pale straw; some peach, guava and grapefruit; butter too from the oak; very attractive nose; wow, very oak dominated palate, has structure and poise though but very oaky at present. Needs to settle. Lacks a bit of zip? Slightly disappointing showing. 90-92/100 Tasted 6 April 2011 UGC.

Red: Deep and opaque, you won’t get darker; defines the term hedonistic; rich and very ripe, liquorice, black cherry, dense and then the oak, toasty; but can’t mask the voluptuousness here. Oak on the palate too but plenty of fruit to soak it up – blackcurrant, cassis and liquorice notes. Very big and chewy but it works for me. Great density and alcohol [exactly how much I forgot to ask] but lashings of fruit. 94-96+/100 Tasted 6 April 2011 UGC.

Chateau Pique Caillou

White: Pale straw; leesy, quite fresh, some wax; nice palate, candy and wax promising and a good value option I’d have thought; nice roundness and good zip. Excellent and very well made. Very good length. 90-92+/100 Tasted 6 April 2011 UGC.

Red: Deep and saturated; fresh mineral note; crushed rocks and pleasing purity here; refreshing Cabernet influence – quite unadorned but none the worse for it; real blackcurrant fruit; sweet and ripe palate, good attack and nicely balanced; has extract but also depth. Tannic finish. Should be good and good value 88-90+/100 [55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot 13.5-14 alc] Tasted 6 April 2011 UGC.

Chateau Smith Haut-Lafitte

White: Pale straw; some candy, fresh and strong nose; ripe and concentrated palate; waxy and will work well – has zip and life. Very promising. Grapefruit on the palate, lots of life and zing but also concentration and strength. One of the best white wines at the UGC. 94-96/100 [90% Sauvignon Blanc, 5% Sauvignon Gris and 5% Semillon] Tasted 6April 2011 UGC.

Red: Deep and dense, saturated; menthol, concentrated blackcurrants and cassis; some perfume too, less adorned with oak than Pape Clement and better for it; very ripe palate, big and plush; sweet and ripe but incredible purity. Lots and lots of flavour. This is truly great wine. Resonance and purity. Easily one of the best reds of the appellation. 96-98+/100 [65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot 13.7 alc] Tasted 6 April 2011 UGC.


Chateau de Chantegrive

White: Colourless; soft passion fruit style, forward and easy, attractive; lees on the palate, finishes well. Very good 87-88+/100 Tasted 6 April 2011 UGC.

Red: Deep and arterial; ripe and rich; layers and lovely life, perfumed and layered; lots of ripe fruit, really like this, some tannin here but ripe and lots of richness on the palate. Round and complete. Exciting 90+/100 Tasted 6 April 2011 UGC.

Chateau Ferrande

White: Pale straw; less expressive than the Chantegrive; full some spices on the palate; lacks a bit of zip. 85-87/100 Tasted 6 April 2011 UGC.

Red: Deep black; lovely earthy nose with depth; ripeness and layers, good depth; sweet entry, nice balance, soft but with real concentration and layers. Very very good for this estate. Nicely judged. 90-92+/100 Tasted 6April 2011 UGC.

Chateau Rahoul

White: Pale straw; fresh, some grass; attractive; full bodied; some wet wool and wax on the palate – Semillon dominant; full bodied, attractive wine. Soft finish, could do with a fraction more zip. 88/100 [70% Semillon, 15% Sauvignon Blanc, 15% Sauvignon Gris] Tasted 6 April 2011 UGC.

Red: Deep colour; ripe, earthy blackcurrants; lively freshness; some coffee; layers on the palate; quite plush and soft entry with layers; plump with some earthy notes. Very nice 88-90+/100 Tasted 6 April 2011 UGC.

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