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Bordeaux Primeurs 2013: Haut-Médoc

Written by JW. Posted in Bordeaux

Cantemerle label cuFor me the wines of the Haut-Médoc performed much better than  I feared during primeurs 2013. Expecting the worst, I was generally encouraged and came away feeling that many had made the best of the poor hand the growing season had dealt them. There were casualties though. Château Malescasse and Château La Lagune will not release 2013s. Nevertheless Château Cantemerle [as ever], Château Belle-Vue and Château La Tour Carnet have produced good wines. Château Cissac, Château Belgrave, Château de Camensac and Château Larose-Trintaudon were also encouraging and should offer good value.

It’s difficult to generalize about the precise conditions the Haut-Médoc properties experienced in 2013; many of them are from completely different areas. Overall though, the bad weather during the early part of the growing season was global across all the districts in Bordeaux, as was the humid botrytis-inducing weather that accompanied the harvest period. Still there would have been important variations in rainfall and ripening cycles between sites.

Looking at the value end of things I was impressed by Château Belle-Vue. It’s enjoyable every time I drink it, whether from great, good or middling vintages. The explanation maybe lies in well positioned vineyards on the Margaux border close to Château Giscours. Likewise Château Cissac, positioned further north but well located inland from St Estèphe and above Pauillac, impressed with its purity and freshness. Château Arnaud, a Haut-Médoc that  lies close to Moulis, had attractive soft, fruity qualities. I was also pleasantly surprised by Château Larose-Trintaudon, a very large Haut-Médoc property that you pass on the road to Pauillac from St Laurent. It is cool, classical Haut-Médoc.

These wines were all tasted at the cru bourgeois event at Château d’Arsac. Admittedly I cherry-picked the better-known wines but overall many felt reasonably well judged relative to their fruit characters. Looking back at my notes I’ve scored quite a few at least as high as some [cru classé] counterparts in Margaux. If that feels preposterous to you it’s because I’d preferred to taste something balanced, elegant and composed in 2013 than over-extracted [yet high acid] wine that frequently felt pushed through the grinder. I also wonder if, given that 2013 is the third in a string of middling years,  whether properties here have re-adjusted their ambitions to the limitations of what the fruit can deliver in a tricky vintage. Better to aim for something balanced and drinkable, rather than proceed with the delusion that by going hell for leather at the fruit in the cellar, a silk purse can be fashioned from a sow’s ear. Maybe they are simply getting more practiced at delivering good wine in mediocre [or less] vintages. So by the time 2013 came along, they’d honed their act. Either way, I was pleasantly surprised.

At the UGCB event held at Listrac property Château Clarke [I’ll report on Moulis and Listrac in a forthcoming post] I thought cru classé Château Cantermerle [Macau] looked nicely done as did fellow classed growths Château Belgrave, Château de Camensac and Château La Tour Carnet. All these properties neighbour each other and border St Julien, not at all far from Château Lagrange. Their terroir is good. Interestingly St Julien had a lot less rain during the growing season than the southern end of the Haut-Médoc and the wines have faired quite well here. These three should provide vigorous and sappy reds down the line, La Tour Carnet something perhaps a bit more beefy.

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I thought that Château Beaumont, Château Bel-Orme Tronquoy de Lalande, Château Coufran and Château Clément Pichon looked reasonably good. Again these will be fresh, stalky, vigorous styles of Bordeaux. Château Citran and Château Lamothe Bergeron need to settle but have the right elements.

There are disappointments though. I thought Château Charmail, usually a sure-fire bet, was lacking in character, Château Liversan and Château Sénéjac were, to varying degrees, disjointed and needed to settle. Château Paloumey lacked flavour and Château Ramage La Batisse felt light and dilute. Despite these, all in all, the Haut-Médoc is not the little shop of horrors you may expect or have been led to believe in 2013. I didn’t make it to Château Sociando-Mallet, though that property is good at pulling a rabbit out of a hat.

The following wines were tasted on Thursday April, 3, 2014 at both the Union des Grand Crus de Bordeaux event at Château Clarke and at the Cru Bourgeois Association tasting at Château d’Arsac. I’d have liked to have tasted more cru bourgeois but the mad dash to squeeze everything in prevented me. As it was I practically had heart failure sprinting to my car to make it down to Pessac-Léognan on the same afternoon [there’s an extremely large drive at d’Arsac, the length of a couple of football pitches – it feels double that in pouring rain].

Château Cantemerle, Cru Classé, Haut-Médoc

Mid depth; translucent at centre – vibrant at edge; sweet fruit on the nose; some plum and cream; nice Bordeaux nose – appetizing; palate has some material; elegance here; lacks power but better for not being forced to try and attain something false; simplicity here. Sap on the finish. Well judged. [55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 5% Petit Verdot]. Drink 2018-2025. 87-88+

Château Belle-Vue, Cru Bourgeois, Haut-Médoc

Deep and saturated looking; purple edge; attractive nose; some perfume lift and black cherry tones; some earth and spice; enticing; soft entry with earth black cherry and spice blackcurrant notes; soft and easy. Elegant and nicely done. I’ve been impressed with every bottle of Belle-Vue I’ve had. Nice terroir that borders Margaux and Chateau Giscours. Drink 2017-2025. Tasted 3/4/14 at Cru Bourgeois tasting Chateau d’Arsac. 86-88

Château La Tour Carnet, Cru Classé, Haut-Médoc

Deep and saturated looking; toasty oak; sour cherry and plum notes; lots of fruit on the palate; pretty chewy and gutsy but should settle. Bold and extracted but should add up well if in a rather chunky style. [60% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon]. Drink 2018-2025. 86-87+

Château Cissac, Cru Bourgeois, Haut-Médoc

Dark core; earthy purple edge; spicy cool blackcurrant aromatics; elegant palate with spicy blackcurrant tones; not at all forced; soft-ish and not too structured or austere; good middle; good effort from this value estate. Drink 2017-2025. Tasted 3/4/14 at Cru Bourgeois tasting Chateau d’Arsac. 85-87

Château Belgrave, Cru Classé, Haut-Médoc

Deepish; purple at edge; earthy note; some creamy plum tones with blackcurrant notes; quite pure on the nose; dense and chewy on the palate with good-ish material; perhaps a little foursquare but will be ok. Fraction short on the finish. [70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot]. Drink 2018-2025. 85-87

Château de Camensac, Cru Classé, Haut-Médoc

Mid depth; light at edge; vibrant; fresh stalky Cabernet tones; blackcurrants; clean and fresh; sweet entry and blackcurrant tones dominate the palate; quite round and elegant on the finish. Some sap here but elegant and unforced style. [55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot]. Drink 2018-2025. 85-87

Château Larose-Trintaudon, Cru Bourgeois, Haut-Médoc

Glossy colour; deepish at centre; cool, fresh stalky Cabernet nose; classical; good entry; cool blackcurrants again on the palate; works well. Nicely done. Elegant but even has a little mid palate richness. Drink 2017-2025. Tasted 3/4/14 at Cru Bourgeois tasting Chateau d’Arsac. 85-87

Château Arnauld, Cru Bourgeois, Haut-Médoc

Deep core; red purple; quite pretty, fruit driven nose; sappy and attractive; palate forward and fruity; easy going and nicely handled; fraction short on the finish but good in the context. Drink 2016-2021. Tasted 3/4/14 at Cru Bourgeois tasting Chateau d’Arsac. 84-86

Château Beaumont, Cru Bourgeois, Haut-Médoc

Deep-ish core; vibrant purple at edge; spices, some plums and bubblegum notes; sweet initially but then the sap and acidity; still not too sappy and should settle. [55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 43% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot, harvested 30/9-4/10 30% new oak]. Drink 2017-2023. 84-86

Château Bel-Orme Tronquoy Lalande, Cru Bourgeois, Haut-Médoc

Mid depth; stalky blackcurrant flavours; less warmth and generosity than Belle-Vue [tasted immediately before]; palate pretty decent if a little austere but there is some flesh on the bones; needs to meld a bit but not extracted or puckering. Good-ish. Drink 2017-2025. Tasted 3/4/14 at Cru Bourgeois tasting Chateau d’Arsac. 84-86

Château Citran, Haut-Médoc

Deep-ish colour; purple at edge; earth and undergrowth note; cool and leafy notes; earthy Cabernet palate; quite full initially but with strong acids running through; lots of elements and some chew on the finish. Perhaps a bit hollow in the middle? See how it settles. [47% Cabernet Sauvignon, 44% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc]. Drink 2017-2023. 84-86

Château Coufran, Haut-Médoc

Mid depth; soft and attractive on the nose; blackfruits and some cream; quite clean palate; light and elegant and not overdone; acidity but not overly present and neither tannic on the finish. Light style. [85% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon]. Drink 2017-2023. 84-86

Château Clément Pichon, Cru Bourgeois, Haut-Médoc

Deep core; tight to the edge; legs; thick and full – feels like it has some oomph; little simple at this stage but full and soft. Good effort it would seem. Drink 2017-2025. Tasted 3/4/14 at Cru Bourgeois tasting Chateau d’Arsac. 84-86

Château Lamothe-Bergeron, Cru Bourgeois, Haut-Médoc

Deepish; dark centre; full; some wood to integrate; some plum and blackcurrant; sweet entry on the palate; not too forced with an elegant finish. Nice chew at the back. Drink 2017-2025. Tasted 3/4/14 at Cru Bourgeois tasting Chateau d’Arsac. 84-86

Château d’Arcins, Cru Bourgeois, Haut-Médoc

Mid depth; earthy look; some depth but not that expressive; softer palate; some blackcurrant and spicy fruit tones; easy. Drink 2017-2021. Tasted 3/4/14 at Cru Bourgeois tasting Chateau d’Arsac. 83-85

Château de Lamarque, Haut-Médoc

Very deep and saturated look; oaky, spicy menthol notes; some blackfruits; oak sweetness and some blackfruit tones again on the palate; quite extracted and thick in feel; chunky and chewy style. [45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot] Drunk 2018-2023. 83-85

Château Barreyres, Cru Bourgeois, Haut-Médoc

Deepish; some earthy purple hues; stalky blackcurrants; fresh and elegant on the nose; quite fresh palate if a little austere on the finish. OK. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted 3/4/14 at Cru Bourgeois tasting Chateau d’Arsac. 82-84

Château Caronne Ste Gemme, Cru Bourgeois, Haut-Médoc

Mid depth; purple at edge; some leafy tones; little hint of green; palate sweet and light and not forced; leafy, spicy and herbal hints; despite green tinge soft and not attenuated but light. Drink 2017-2025. Tasted 3/4/14 at Cru Bourgeois tasting Chateau d’Arsac. 82-84.

Château Charmail, Cru Bourgeois, Haut-Médoc

Mid depth; earthy purple at edge; some wood; little reticent; light sour cherry tones; palate high toned and quite firm; feels a little hard on the finish. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted 3/4/14 at Cru Bourgeois tasting Chateau d’Arsac. 82-84

Château Dillon, Cru Bourgeois, Haut-Médoc

Mid depth; goodish colour; spiky blackcurrants on the nose; little dusty note; soft entry and easy palate; some material; not hugely flavoursome but not astringent though structure evident on the palate; still finishes a little dry. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted 3/4/14 at Cru Bourgeois tasting Chateau d’Arsac. 82-84

Château Sénéjac, Cru Bourgeois, Haut-Médoc

Mid depth; deepish at core; some bubblegum fruit; quite fresh; bit woody on the palate and quite sappy; may come together better down the track. Drink 2017-2021. Tasted 3/4/14 at Cru Bourgeois tasting Chateau d’Arsac. 82-84

Château Liversan, Cru Bourgeois, Haut-Médoc

Deepish at centre; some earthy purple at edge; wet rocks and graphite; wood on the palate which dominates and makes it feel disjointed at this stage; dry, tannic and woody on the finish. Not a good showing. See how it settles. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted 3/4/14 at Cru Bourgeois tasting Chateau d’Arsac. 81-83

Château Paloumey, Cru Bourgeois, Haut-Médoc

Deep and saturated colour; earthy purple at edge; neutral & rather dumb on the nose; soft palate; lacks flavour; has some weight but little flavour. Simple. Drink 2017-2025. Tasted 3/4/14 at Cru Bourgeois tasting Chateau d’Arsac. 80-82

Château Ramage La Batisse, Cru Bourgeois, Haut-Médoc

Light; rather dilute aromas; spices; light palate with zero texture. Loose and dilute. Drink 2016-2020. Tasted 3/4/14 at Cru Bourgeois tasting Chateau d’Arsac. 78-80

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