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Bordeaux 2006: At four years

Bottle tops - lagrange

November 2010

Overall Bordeaux 2006 reds at four years of age can be summed up as firm, quite strong, structured wines, but for me often a bit joyless. This was certainly my immediate impression having tasted ninety or so wines from the vintage at the Master of Wine Institute’s Annual Claret tasting that took place in the wonderfully oak panelled, if rather gloomy, Vintners Hall in November 2010. The best wines had good structure, acid and enough flesh to make complex wine eventually but the best do need time in bottle. Even mature these will always be firm wines I reckon as in this vintage there is plenty of tannin, albeit it ripe and fine enough.

There were also quite a few disappointments and the vintage is not consistent across all the appellations. Pauillac and St Julien were, for me, the two that stood out and made the best wines in 2006, St Julien especially. St Estèphe, Chateau Cos d’Estournel apart, produced good but unexciting wines, judging from the half dozen wines shown. The Margaux appellation was generally disappointing, which is a shame as it’s an appellation I enjoy. Chateau Palmer was very good along with others, including Chateau d’Issan but too many wines here felt a bit hollow and overdone relative to their fruit in 2006. Some good red wines were made in Pessac-Leognan and in Pomerol a number of wines looked good, though not necessarily knockout.  That old devil over-extraction remains alive and well in St Emilion in 2006. To be fair I reached these wines last and may have been a little jaded, but more than a few displayed frankly torturous levels of tannin.

Amongst the first growths tasted, the wines were extremely impressive. Chateau Mouton-Rothschild has made a wonderful wine and its exotic, flamboyant nature recalls the 1986 tasted at a similar age. It was certainly one of the wines of the tasting. Chateau Lafite has made a powerful and intense wine in 2006 but Mouton has the edge for me. Chateau Margaux exhibited wonderful perfume and purity on the nose and it was that was up there with Mouton for sheer intensity and was pretty dense on the palate. Chateau Haut Brion was really attractive and remains the bargain amongst the first growths for the quality as I can see this isn’t much off the pace of Mouton, Lafite or Margaux. Chateau La Mission Haut Brion had a classy nose but felt very extracted, dry and tannic on the palate at the tasting. If I’m honest I found Chateau Cheval Blanc a little disappointing certainly in the context of the others, while it showed density and concentration, it didn’t match the class of the others in my opinion.  Chateau Latour wasn’t shown.

In terms of value for money I thought that Pauillac and St Julien offered the best options. Chateau Haut-Batailley and Chateau Batailley have both produced excellent wines, as has Chateau Haut Bages Libéral, after relatively disappointments here in 2008 and 2009.  In St Julien Chateau St Pierre has once again produced a lovely wine, Chateau Langoa Barton looks terrific, and hot on Chateau Léoville-Barton’s heels.  Chateau Lagrange is as precise and intense as ever and Chateau Beychevelle, which has been creeping up in price over the last year or so, seemed a considerable success too.  For fans of Chateau Léoville Poyferré the 2006 won’t disappoint either and is considerably cheaper than more recent vintages.

Overall 2006 seems a red wine vintage that is much better than 2007 but lies in the shadow of 2005 and 2009. 2008 may also be a better bet eventually, although the comparison between two vintages is a potentially interesting one.

ST ESTEPHE

Chateau Calon-Ségur

Dark red and central core; quite dumb and brooding; blackcurrants emerge but also minerals and wet stones; some oak lift and some chocolate at the back; palate firm and structured, less flesh than Cos, quite old fashioned in style [in the best sense]. Lots of chew, tannin and acid. Firm wine, tannic and structured. 88-90/100

Chateau Cos d’Estournel

Deep red with some purple at edge; bit dumb initially, earth, some prunes, stones and minerals – bit tight – quite layered with strawberry fruit beneath, some stalks; palate sweetish entry, still quite firm but with more depth and richness; palate looks good, quite closed though plenty of extract, tannin and acid here. This needs time again. 90-92/100

Chateau Cos Labory

Mid depth; quite earthy red; little dusty and chunky on the nose; straightforward; some oak resin; palate quite firm, little trace of oxidisation, feels a little tired. Palate quite firm with acid but lacks flair. 84/100

Chateau de Pez

Less depth than Ormes de Pez, lighter more lifted nose, leafy with maturity but high toned; quite round, less weighty palate; lot lighter and less intense; leafy and fresh but a bit short. Some acid and a slight hardness to the tanninc. Lacks a bit of stuffing. 84/100

Chateau Lafon Rochet

Concentrated looking; legs; intense nose, some raspberry and strawberry notes, oak, some resin but intense and focussed if also a certain elegance; some coffee and mocha notes at the back; palate quite firm and strong, tannins here too. This wine needs time; structure and chew but lacks some flesh between the bones. Good length and structure, falls away a bit. Needs time. 87+/100

Chateau Le Boscq

Good depth, mid red; some violets, freshness, some attractive plummy qualities also some oak resin but starting to integrate. Beneath some cake and mineral notes – and attractive nose. Some depth to the palate but also a tautness that emerges and palate does fall away and tannins at the end. Feels it may have been overextracted a little relative to the fruit? 85?/100

Chateau Ormes de Pez

Mid-red, to edge; legs; ripeness on nose, some mineral, some raisin notes; palate quite chunky, mid weight, quite right, pretty classic St Estephe but falls away a fraction end 86/100

PAUILLAC

Chateau Batailley

Mid red, good colour; good strong nose of blackcurrants , some lead pencil/graphite, very clear and precise nose; fresh, also some layers here, bit of chocolate at the back; palate full and strong with blackcurrant fruit, structured with acid and tannin but all well integrated and not at all disjointed; very well balanced; some chew and extract here but everything in the right order. Good classical but also refined Pauillac. This would benefit from 5-10 years although pretty harmonious. 90/100

Chateau Clerc Milon

Better depth, mid red; again some of that cider apple element but more stoney and mineral note; could this be ripe plumbs I’m confusing it with? Quite reserved and a bit dumb; palate quite hard and unyielding, yes blackcurrants and some spice; lots of structure and acid and firm on the palate. Good length but lacks flesh. Tannins ripe. Should show more eventually. 88/100

Chateau Croizet Bages

Mid red, lacks depth, weak at rim; leafy, old fashioned nose, stalky, some strawberry, palate lacks concentration, more cru bourgeois than cru classe; some spice but lacks concentration and flesh. Empty and washed out on the palate. Not a great effort. 82/100

Chateau d’Armailhac

Mid red, less tight to rim than Duhart, attractive lift, some of that cider apple ripeness again; blackcurrants too but not as showy as usual; palate feels a bit angular and there is a little hardness here although also some freshness and life that suggests this will come round and age into something interesting. Vintage overall feels a bit like a less rich version of 2006. 88/100

Chateau Duhart-Milon

Mid depth; good colour; bit closed at first, blackcurrants and lead pencil on aeration, quite attractive and forward when it opened up; the most attractive of the Pauillac wines on the nose; blackcurrants on the palate, again quite firm, some chocolate too; good structure and tannin here, has more than enough flesh to cope. Remains elegant but very good to excellent. 90-92/100

Chateau Haut-Bages-Libéral

Good colour, fresh looking red with density; blackcurrants on the nose [no leafiness] cassis and quite classic; palate quite fresh with blackcurrants, structured wine with acid but freshness too; good blackcurrant fruit and well made. Quite settled and fine. Good effort. 88+/100

Chateau Haut-Batailley

Good colour with nice depth; some stalky blackcurrant fruit, some chocolate and minerals; softish palate compared to Lynch Bages and not worse for it; quite fine grained tannins, structured wine but more approachable and enjoyable now than most. Slightly lighter, softer style but good 88/100

Chateau Lafite Rothschild

Deep red, maybe a fraction less intense looking than the Mouton, more redder at edge; resin and intensity on the nose at first; powerful and dense but not the exotic and flamboyant wine that is Mouton; intense blackcurrants and cassis; very well integrated with the oak, seamless, some espresso and coffee bean here too; feels very intense, concentrated and pent up; palate equally intense, with blackcurrants and cassis, good density and not a trace of hardness despite the concentration; blackcurrants, lead pencil, leafy tobacco notes; very nicely done and tannins polished and ripe. Good length here, pretty weighty feel [for Lafite] with tannin and extract on the finish. Currently not as flamboyant or as exotic as Mouton. 95+/100

Chateau Lynch Bages

Mid deep in the glass; more intense, ripe, blackcurrants, some oak and savour plus a whiff of tobacco; cassis and blackcurrants too, some resin and chocolate; palate quite dense, firm and structured with tannins. Big firm traditional-styled wine – all fruit, tannin and acid at present. Good in classic way. Not knockout or that joyful and needs time 88-90/100

Chateau Lynch-Moussas

Mid red, some depth; some ripeness, some chocolate, bit of leaf, some elegance; not complex, earth too; quite open and attractive; palate easy and well done. Not over extracted, some spicy blackcurrant notes; maybe lacks depth and intensity but mid weight and attractive. Goodish effort 86-87/100

Chateau Mouton Rothschild

Deep and thick in the glass, tight to the rim; wonderfully attractive and flamboyant nose, very flattering, oak, tobacco, spices, lead pencil layer upon layer of blackcurrant fruit; really attractive; palate surprisingly open with lots of fruit but polished and medium weight and surprisingly harmonious; very good palate, structure here too alongside the tannins, but tannins extremely fine grained and not overdone. This is extremely fine. Blackcurrant cassis, some chocolate and espresso on the end of the palate. Doesn’t tire at all, just dances across the palate. Very good extract and excellent length – really extremely long. This is a dazzling wine even now. 97+/100

Chateau Pichon Lalande

Red black; good density without looking too forced; more voluptuous on the nose [always higher proportion of Merlot than other Pauillacs]; sweeter, more violets; very polished and attractive – this wine certainly seems to settle well in bottle; real blackcurrant cassis too; good entry on the palate, fruit and acid; structured yes but with more flesh here; more velvety qualities along with chocolate and mocha notes; blackcurrants on the finish; tannins too but chewy and not dry. Good length. Attractive. 92+/100

Chateau Pichon Longueville

Dark core, red black; little more resinous and intense than Pichon Lalande, feels more akin to Pontet Canet; real oak resin, blackcurrants and richness here but well integrated and layered; attractive; palate open initially, blackcurrants, some leaf and lead pencil; gits and tannic; very classic Pauillac and quite a lot of tannin at the end. Pretty good but needs 5 years plus. Very different in style to Lalande. 92+/100

Chateau Pontet Canet

Deep black, very dense and tight to the rim, black at centre; very intense blackcurrants, oak resin, very pent up, lots of oak here too; just starting to budge; bit new world feel; palate polished with good entry; firm, structure and acid; tannins a bit dry; lacks flesh. Quite chewy tannins, and big structure. Feels a bit dry on the finish. Needs time. Firm, structured wine, not fleshy or opulent. 90-92/100

ST JULIEN

St Julien is the most consistent appellation in 2006, the one that has made the most enjoyable wines, with the best balance. All the wines, as usual, are pretty homogeneous in style and in quality. You can’t really go wrong here.

Chateau Beychevelle

Good depth, dark at core and dense to the rim; some leaf and blackcurrant, elegance here, some lift with coffee and mocha notes, quite attractive; layers here; not the biggest St Julien but intense in this vintage; good attractive wine on the palate; mid weight wine with real pleasure and elegance but also inrtensity. Some cassis and resin – blackcurrants and rose hips. Plenty to chew on here but tannins pretty fine and well handled. Great length. This is a considerable success. 92+/100

Chateau Branaire Ducru

Deep and dense, quite dark at edge; stony, minerally nose, quite solid which later yields blackcurrants and almost some mint and camphor; this is a strong nose and lots of blackcurrants here; blackcurrants come through on the palate along with acid and tannin. There is some dryness to the palate here but there is extract and fruit to match. Not that bad and needs time as it will probably fill out further. 88-90/100

Chateau Gruaud Larose

Similar depth to Lagrange, but with a little more development showing; cassis and resin on the nose; strong wine with some meaty qualities, this is good [and better than the disappointing 2008] – really attractive savour here also smoky notes also meaty too and some mocha and chocolate at the back; palate is full, sweetish but with extract and material. Lots of flesh here. Also good grip, structure and chew, maybe lacks a fraction at the end – but good to very good. 88-90/100

Chateau Lagrange

Deep and dark, little more lifted and oaky on the nose compared to the two Barton wines; slightly more higher toned and lifted nose; some strawberry and red fruits and also blackcurrants; with also mocha and espresso notes at the back; blackcurrants come later; palate feels polished and neat, to a degree still compact and taut and needs to unfurl, but lots of depth here and structure, palate quite ‘worked’ but retains freshness. Good grip and intensity with good length. Classic. 92+/100

Chateau Langoa Barton

Again good depth here, deep and intense looking; coming after big brother a bit difficult but minerals and stones here alongside the blackcurrants; resin and intensity here but this is very good – deep and intense but also fresh. Some tobacco creeping in. Lots of cassis and blackcurrants here. Palate concentrated and fresh with excellent intensity and grip and structure. There is sufficient flesh here and the tannins, while a little dry, should work out. Overall good guts and extract on the palate rich in fruit with lots of cassis and blackcurrant flavour. Really quite rich. Excellent length too. Langoa has showed extremely well in the past four vintages with little of the estate’s [former] benchmark austerity. This is hot on Leoville Barton’s heels. 92+/100

Chateau Léoville Barton

Deep and arterial in glass but also fresh looking; plums at first, quite ripe, then very intense blackcurrants, quite pure, almost inky; even more precise than the Leoville Poyferre. Cassis here too. Good chewy, dense palate, quite fresh with lots of guts and material. Also big structure here with acid. Marvelous length here. Wow! This is a great wine. Extracted and powerful and pent up and the oak has been completely soaked up into the wine. 94+/100

Chateau Léoville Poyferré

Deep in the glass, tight to the edge, legs; blackcurrants and cassis, initially quite strong and pure – real depth here with intensity, but a little brooding too; good chewy palate with blackcurrants, extract, lots of acid and structure and tannin – pretty big and bold here – really lots of chewy tannin and extract and good grip. Impressive and quite pure in style. 92-94/100

Chateau St Pierre

Deep and dense; dark up to edge; fresh, red fruits, strawberries and impressive; intense and pent up with blackcurrants and cassis notes; good clean, classic blackcurrant flavours; well made wine, good and fresh; good extract here with intensity and chew; really very good mid palate punch here; an attractive wine with good length and grip. Strong wines being made here recently. 90-92/100

Chateau Talbot

Good colour, mid red; some leaf, spice and tobacco [but tall order coming after the Lafite!]; some savour here with extract beneath; not unattractive; mid weight palate, some spicy, weedy undergrowth notes with blackcurrants; good chewy extract and tannin, but not disjointed. Not a bad effort. 88-90/100

MARGAUX

This was the least consistent appellation in 2006 in the Haut-Medoc, not just because of the wide variety of terriors in this appellation but again, it seemed to me, as much as to do with the winemaking decisions. I wasn’t sure some of the wines were developing that well and there seemed a hollowness to some allied to what felt like over extraction. The best wine was clearly Chateau Margaux, with a terrific nose with that characteristic perfume, alongside concentration and a fair bit of tannin. This needs five to ten years to open out I’d imagine. Next best was Chateau Palmer which was typically polished with intensity and some real delicacy.

Chateau Brane Cantenac

Mid red, some depth; earthy, leafy, reminds me a little of d’Issan, quite intense, blackcurrants earth and chocolate at the back; good blackcurrant intensity with some leaf; some spice and undergrowth. Attractive and earthy Margaux 88+/100

Chateau d’Angludet

Mid depth, deeper at the core; some earth and tar on the nose but a bit subdued; some chocolate and mocha but all a bit secondary; mid weight palate; good intensity and extract – will need time here. Quite tannic finish. Feels like the 1986. 86-87/100

Chateau d’Issan

Nice deeply coloured wine, tight to the rim; attractive deep blackcurrant nose with some truffle, earth and tobacco – very nice in an earthy way – refreshing given the style of the last half-dozen wines; palate similarly earthy with truffles and undergrowth alongside the blackcurrants. Good grip and extract here. Pretty fine and pretty classic Margaux. 90-92/100

Chateau Dauzac

Quite vibrant, deep but alive; some oak resin, some strawberry some cassis and intensity; quite lifted; palate quite full and concentrated, not over extracted [thank God], palate quite full and concentrated, not over extracted here but chewy with chocolate and mocha notes; not that bad effort with warmth at the end. 86-88/100

Chateau Desmirail

Quite deep core, bit loose at the edge; meaty savoury note, quite appealing and forward in style; not long term clearly as it’s almost fully mature; some leaf and blackcurrant and some intensity; palate some leaf, less of the meat and bolder notes here; quite structured with acidity and developing in an OK way but also some dry, austere tannins. 86-87/100

Chateau du Tertre

Some depth, bit looser at the edge than some; earthy, chocolate, some undergrowth, definitely earthy; also some blackcurrant and a whiff of tobacco leaf; palate quite earthy, not unattractive and mature notes creeping in; tannins quite round and agglomerated, not that bad. Mature but will improve over the next five years. 87/100

Chateau Durfort Vivens

Mid depth; ripeness here and more strawberry notes than the leafy quality of 2008, nevertheless [given the high cab content] there is some leafy Cabernet Franc notes – but nevertheless quite attractive; earth here too [gravelly style]; quite grippy and austere here on the palate; fresh yes but also a bit austere; ‘old fashioned’ I’ve written, and I mean this in the best sense I think… 86-88/100

Chateau Ferrière

Good depth, central core dark, quite intense, some pine, some cassis, blackcurrant, not that bad; opened up in the glass too. Palate quite intense with grip but also layers behind, quite grippy with structure and acid, nevertheless not too dry, rather chewy and quite nicely done. Overall a bit on the grippy side but should come round with a few years – and certainly some food. 87-88/100

Chateau Giscours

Some development at the edge, otherwise dark at core, some earthy, leafy, strawberry and blackcurrants, little ‘high toned’ [leafy notes here], some chocolate too, but overall a fresh and lifted quality, palate quite leafy – minty almost – not quite the 2005, some tannins here too and a little dry with bite at the end. Hmmm, probably will develop OK as it has good length but also austerity here. Should be OK in the long run 86-88+/100

Chateau Kirwan

Mid depth; quite hefty nose, some strawberry and coconut, but frankly feels a bit tired; some chocolate; lacks flesh and feels a bit overdone and over extracted; tannic and dry; in fact very dry and extracted on the palate with an extremely dry finish. Not a patch on the glorious wine made here the year before in 2005. 86?/100

Chateau Labégorce

Some depth at core but lighter than past few; some lift and chocolate on the nose; quite stoney and mineral note; firmness here on the palate and lacks a bit of life; lacks intensity – all acid and tannins at the moment and lacks richness. 84-85?/100

Chateau Lascombes

Deep at centre; legs; some reddening at the edge; full nose, meaty and savoury quality quite strong and feels more like St Julien, attractive and big; strawberry fruit on the palate with some oaky coconut notes; lacks a bit of middle and a little drying on the finish;  feels like the fruit has been pushed a bit far. Overall lacks flesh in the middle, some perfume and fruit here but a drying wine with tannin on the finish. May come round eventually. 86?/100

Chateau Margaux

Concentrated and deep looking with life; wonderfully pure, lifted nose; very intense with blackcurrants and cassis but wonderful purity here; hits you in the face – some sweet oak behind but this is very well done. Palate very rich, lots of fruit but extract and tannin too. Palate is just a bit dominated by its oak relative to the other first growths; very good length and extract; feels quite tannic and tight on the palate. I imagine this will come round as the nose suggests fab quality but palate obviously backward and closed. 94-96/100

Chateau Marquis de Terme

Mid depth, red; [some VA lift here?], resin, strawberry, bit more high toned, some sweetness to the nose; palate feels a bit volatile and hard as nails, tannins also dominant. This is not attractive whatever it is. Tannic and sour edged wine – tried both bottles but the same notes. Confused. Very bad showing. 82?/100

Chateau Palmer

Deepish core, tight to the rim; nice intensity here on the nose, blackcurrants, some lift and oak; nose opens up nicely to reveal tar, molasses and some tobacco elements alongside the blackcurrants; quite a full meaty nose here with layers and some seduction; sweet entry, ripe and polished palate with structure here, some leaf and faintest of meanness to the tannin but there is lots of fruit here and some coffee and chocolate notes too. There is elegance and the overall length seems good. 90-92/100

Chateau Priéure-Lichine

Mid depth, red, some earthiness art the edge; some resin and some chocolate and lift, some strawberry and mineral notes beneath maybe a whiff of violet perfume at the edge; palate quite sweet with some chew and tannin but there is enough fruit and extract here to balance, not that bad but a bit chunky. Some grip and goodish length but also a certain chunkiness too. 88/100

Chateau Rauzan Gassies

Mid depth, good looking wine with some earthy tint; slightly dusty walnut note, ripeness but also dusty notes; some resin and leaf; palate quite mid-weight and lacks some intensity but a lot better than Domaines Quie estate Croziet Bages. Goodish chew on the palate. Bit foursquare and tannins a bit on the dry side though some length. 86/100

Chateau Rauzan Ségla

Deep, dark at core; attractive nose with Margaux perfume, some violets and some lift and oak; some elegance here too; quite firm palate, lacks some flesh and there is lots of structure and acid. This will age well and the tannins are ok. Quite nicely judged on the palate; quite chewy and with some density; maybe lacks a bit of concentration at the end but overall finish seems good. Real chew and extract here. Not as show off fantastic as 2009 which remains for me the benchmark for the heights this well situated estate can achieve. 88-90/100

HAUT-MEDOC

Chateau Belgrave

Mid red, some development at the edge; sweet strawberries, ripe and attractive nose; some depth with added warmth from oak, reasonably good intensity; blackcurrants and ripeness here, lots of extract, a little overdone possibly as the tannins feel a little dry and austere. Feels slightly overplayed. Time will tell if settles. 86-88?/100

Chateau Cantemerle

Mid red, some development; more lift and interest than La Lagune, gutsy nose; some geranium edge here but quite dense; some coffee and dark chocolate; palate OKish, ripe notes, some blackcurrants, mid weight, acid and tannin here too! Needs time, currently disjointed. 86-87/100 

Chateau de Camensac

Deep central core, up to the edge; nutty note to the nose, some intensity, quite dominant Cabernet note but pure with intensity; grippy and tannic but good flesh on the bones. Tannin and acid still pretty strong but should develop well in the medium term. 87/100

Chateau La Lagune

Quite deep looking; initially dumb and inky [both samples the same], quite closed; some earth and ink; some red fruits on the palate [strawberry] but then the tannins! Hard palate, very dry and tannic palate – not at all as flattering and sexy as the 2005 here. Not sure what to say 84-87?/100

Chateau La Tour Carnet

Typically deep and saturated, super ripe feel here – almost as if we’re in Pomerol, Merlot dominant blend? Certainly intense [would be good with steak], very ripe strawberry note too; lots of red fruits and oak resin; tannins feel a bit dry, feels like the fruit isn’t quite enough here, a fraction over extracted? 86-88?/100

MOULIS

Chateau Chasse Spleen

Mid depth, some reddening at the edge; quite pure, some earth and development creeping in, slightly sweaty note, not that unattractive; quite soft entry to the palate, easy style and quite polished almost mature feel; not especially dominant tannins which is a little surprising and quite elegant 87/100

PESSAC-LEOGNAN

Top wines tried here, with Chateau Pape Clement and Chateau de Fieuzal the major omissions. Chateau Haut Brion extremely impressive, La Mission less so and Smith Haut Lafitte a joy in terms of concentration and finely handled tannins. Chateau Haut Bailly serves up a lot of tannin alongside the huge fruit and I’ve given  a dense but tannic Marlatic Lagravière the benefit of the doubt. Tannic wines overall but with concentration and depth.

Chateau Haut-Bailly

Tight to the rim; concentrated looking; quite open, plummy nose, deep, with real fruit here, some oak resin too, nutty edge; quite big and a little monolithic; palate big and fresh but also dry and extracted at the end; lots of fruit admittedly but lots of tannin too [true of the 2009 and 2008 also here]. So tannic. This is big and bold and there is a ton of fruit but a ton of tannin too. Dry tannins dominate the finish. Again time will tell here. 90-92?/100

Chateau Haut-Brion

Dense and dark at core; molasses, tar and real ripeness here, roasted notes alongside methol and tobacco; attractive; wonderfully silky note on the palate, dances across the palate; layers here too, some gravel, tar and lots of ripe extracted notes; this is great stuff and much more harmonious than La Mission in this vintage. Chew and extract and some warmth with excellent length. Good chew and intensity on the finish. Brilliant effort and this bottle is showing wonderfully well. 97+/100

Chateau Malartic-Lagravière

Good depth, quite deep and with legs in the glass; smoky, blackcurrant nose, very attractive, also ripeness and sweetness from oak which gives the nose a bit of lift; nice espresso notes alongside savoury notes and leather; intense, inky palate, very good balance between the considerable extraction and the tannins as the fruit dominates. Palate pretty big and extracted and needs to settle as the wine feels like it had been pushed hard but I think on balance this will work. 90+/100

Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion

Deep at core, looser at edge; quite a classy nose, minerals, stones and chalky note alongside red fruits with chocolate and earth; some dustiness also; intense palate, with minerals, stones and red fruits along with that dust and wet rocks; dry tannin though. Feels extracted and very tannic on the finish although there is considerable depth and density here. Given it is La Mission it will probably meld but otherwise I’d be a little worried by the quite ferocious tannin here. I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt – shouldn’t really of course. 90-92/100  

Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte

Red at edge but depth; earthy, gravelly notes on the nose, with chocolate, very attractive, seam of blackcurrant beneath these smoky notes; sweet strawberries on the palate which feels fruit driven and open, ripe and soft tannins which don’t feel over done. Tannins really well managed in this vintage here. Excellent wine. 92+/100

Domaine de Chevalier

Deep at core, quite pent up nose, inky and fresh, some higher tone notes with aeration; some fruit cake and some mineral and wet stone; quite unyielding though it feels deep; red fruits on the palate, quite chalky and minerally, lacks richness and real flesh but full and dense instead; tannins here and some dryness but fruit is there. Chewy finish. Should be good in time. Length but tannins a fraction dry on the end. 88-90/100

POMEROL

Bit difficult to generalise on the basis of just a handful of wines, but generally better balanced than those that follow in St Emilion. Relatively thickly textured wines, again not knockout but well made wines. Chateau Clinet as ever very impressive as was Chateau Gazin at the [relatively] cheaper end.

Chateau Clinet

Real density in the glass; quite saturated and up to the edge; legs; polished nose with savour and life, some fig and tar but intense and not loose; real precision here and also minerals and wet stone notes too; not as flamboyant as 2009 or 2008 even but pent up and layered; palate quite lush, lots of fruit, some extraction and intensity but doesn’t feel too forced. Bit of a sleeper which needs a few more years. Some grip and bite at the end. Excellent 92-94+/100

Chateau de Domaine de L’Eglise

Deep central core, quite extracted looking; more lifted oak, plums and blackcurrants, very flattering and seductive; quite modern and forward but that’s not meant as a criticism; palate quite dense and chewy, rich with also real ripe qualities; molasses, cake and spice; overall dense and chewy with some length and grip. Good effort. 90+/100

Chateau Gazin

Deep black, initially more freshness here [cf La Conseillante], some savoury, meaty quality here too; rich palate with density and chocolate. Palate feels more alive than La Conseillante. Quite spicy and rich. Chewy tannin on the end means this wine needs a few years yet. Pretty good effort though. 90/100

Chateau La Conseillante

Deep at centre; mature notes of chocolate and truffle, feels a bit tired? Sweet entry on the palate and lots of ripeness here, fruit tending toward the ripe strawberry and raspberry notes; some tannin here too and furry quality to the tannin. 86-88?/100[2nd sample] Feels a bit fresher, super ripe notes on the nose, menthol and clear Cab Franc lift; palate more silky then first bottle and less tannic than previous sample too. Very soft and attractive but density beneath too. Tannins solid but not dry. Much better second bottle 88-90/100

Chateau Petit Village

Deep red; dark at core; rich nose; quite Christmas pudding like, tar, truffles, spices; very attractive; ripe soft palate, intense, some inky notes; lots of extraction with dry tannins on the end. Quite bold and extracted. Pushed a bit too far? Could be excellent but dry tannins on the end. 90?/100

ST EMILION

Overall a very dense and tannic set of wines here in 2006. For me the best managed to have precision and intensity, alongside the riper and denser notes; the wines that were more supercharged and explosive I just can’t get my head round whether these have the balance ever to be truly enjoyable. So much dry tannin to deal with in this appellation in some of these wines. I’d say tread carefully.

Chateau Angélus

Very deep and extracted; very tight and dense to the edge; dense nose with minerals and tar, feels very strong but I’m not sure I’ve the stomach for this – palate actually more silky than I’d expected given the density and extract here. Still feels like it’s a wine on steroids though. Not a huge amount of joy at present. I’ll leave it to James Bond. 88-90?/100

Chateau Beau-Séjour Bécot

Dense colour, some chocolate and chewy fruir here, little fresher and less tarry in character than some of the other ‘top’ St Emilions here; mid depth on the palate with freshness and clarity, but then come the tannins again. So much tannin on this table of St Emilions…. 88?/100

Chateau Canon

Very deep and intense looking; intense and precise nose with real focus [at last!]; layers and density with stones and minerals beneath, tightly wound; palate has real purity and feels layered and focussed – not merely explosive. Some hardness to the tannins nevertheless but the chew and intensity of the fruit seems appropriate and proportional to the tannin. Potentially very fine.  90+/100

Chateau Canon-la-Gaffelière

Deep and arterial; super ripe strawberry and red fruits and oak; very sublimated and concentrated feel; a silky quality to the palate and a lot of fruit. This is a more open style than the Pavie stable and the palate feels a lot better for it. Still not quite me but this is much better balanced than many here. 90-92+/100

Chateau Cheval Blanc

Mid depth, not quite as deep as the other first growths; some lift on the nose, stones, minerals and plums but not as impressive or seemingly quite in the same league; palate feels big and extracted and pretty chewy with tannins to match. Certainly dense and with body and structure but less polish, complexity and finesse than the right bank first growths for the money. May settle in time. Feel Canon, Figeac and Canon La Gaffeliere are competing well with this great estate in 2006. Again time will doubtless tell. 92+/100

Clos Fourtet

Deep central core, dense and tight to the rim; attractive nose, feels a bit of a relief; seductive infact with red fruits, minerals and nice oak; layers – feels good; palate quite dense with strawberry notes plus tannin but much more give here on the palate; lots of dense, chewy fruit alongside the tannin. Very good effort. 90-92+/100

Chateau Figeac

Very dense and dark up to the edge; lots of layers and extract here, quite dense; attractive leafy, tobacco note [the Cab Franc?]; attractive nose; palate of roses and strawberry fruit with some Cabernet elements; actually pretty dense and long term, excellent length too. This is potentially excellent but needs more time. 90-92+/100

Chateau La Couspaude

Dense and extracted; really saturated look; some figs and molasses on the nose; very ripe, saturated in aroma and in colour; palate in line too – extracted with strong tannins. Bit of a disappointment as La Couspaude usually works for me. 86-88/100

Chateau Monbousquet

Another deep extracted looking wine with depth; arterial; figs and super ripeness on the nose, some lifted notes with a whiff of VA; layers yes but a bit too tarry and thick; palate softer than the previous two but then the tannins set in [I’m feeling a bit jaded now]. I’m afraid that I find these wines so extractive that at present I find them almost undrinkable. I’ve no idea how they will develop. 88?/100

Chateau Pavie

Similary deep; intense, tarry notes with figs, coffee and extract; palate sweet and big initially and very big with density – then come the tannins like a runaway train. Very extractive and inky feel. Blimey these tannins are big and chewy. No idea how this will turn out so being generous. 88-90?/100

Chateau Pavie Decesse

Very deep and arterial looking in the glass; very ripe notes on the nose, prunes and intense, little like Canon-La-Gaffeliere; almost like we are somewhere down in the Languedoc here; some smoke too; lots of fruit and extract and richness here – and tannins too. Very extractive style. Very dry tannins, lots of them, on the finish. Where will this go? Weighs in 14.5 on the alcohol scales too… 88-90?/100

Chateau Trottevielle

Dense at the middle, tight to the edge; some stones and minerals, quite firm and smells like it will be gutsy and muscular; some open qualities on the palate, attractive, fruit, coffee and oak; lots of extract infact and guts, acid and tannin. Quite a mouthful as the nose suggested. Fruit, acid and tannin here. Structured and muscular. Could be good. 88-90/100

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