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Bordeaux 2008: In bottle review

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UGCB  London tasting report, October 2010

The 2008 vintage was famous for being trashed before it was tasted. The growing season was so cool and wet in the most part and it led many observers looking at the statistical charts to write the vintage off even before the harvest. Consequently, although warmer weather in September and October saved the day, many journalists and merchants didn’t even visit to taste the wines en primeur. Those that did were pleasantly surprised.

In this respect the vintage was similar to 2007, except the resultant wines have much more flavour and generosity than that vintage tasted at the same stage. Much was made of the extended growing 2008 season affording greater ‘hang time’ for the fruit building up flavour in the grapes.  The end result then is far from a disaster and on the whole pretty good. One critic, of course the critic that matters, Robert Parker’s prognosis post primeur tastings went the other way entirely. He was positively bullish, giving some pretty high scores to many wines, some of which I’d agree with partially, others which I can’t fathom at all in my tastings now the wines are in bottle. As usual the pendulum swings back and forth; some wines deceive, some wines develop. The same is also true of vintages themselves.

So how are the wines now? There is plenty of tannin and acid as well as fruit amongst the best wines. These will need time to settle, so it is a more traditionally styled vintage than say 2009 but much more enjoyable than the meagre 2007 vintage. Generalisations are difficult. Tastings only ever offer a snapshot of a wine in time. Moreover, given a room full of 100 plus wines and only five and a half hours to taste them all, I’m conscious that what you are reading about below are notes wines that were evaluated in less than a minute or so in a busy room as packed as a tube train in rush hour. If I’d had time, I’d have returned to those wines that didn’t show that well initially, to give them a fairer chance but there simply wasn’t enough time. So, big tasting, big caveats.

Disclaimer out the way, now the rash generalisations.  In the Haut-Médoc St Estèphe, Pauillac and St Julien showed best, with the wines of Margaux more disappointing. Generally here the wines were feeling a bit leaner and more angular. Moulis looked good in a tannic, traditional way. The top Haut-Medoc cru classe and the like were all good. Quite big chunky wines were made in St Emilion, with plenty of chewy fruit and tannins, though a number felt over extracted. The few wines from Pomerol on tasting seemed ripe and intense. Good wines were also produced in Pessac-Léognan. The whites there are especially fresh and enjoyable, more so than in 2009 in my opinion, as there is greater acid and freshness in the wines.

Overall where the wines were disappointing it is because they lacked ‘middle’, or felt unduly angular and austere. The tannins in this vintage are also generally a little dry and hard in some cases suggesting that there was a bit of greenness to some of the grapes. Nevertheless despite this I’m much more confident that this vintage will come round in the long term, not something I felt last year tasting the 2007s. The main attraction to the consumer is that these wines are still comparatively cheap, compared with 2005 and 2009 [and 2010 subsequently] especially. So it’s a good vintage to stock up on but you do need to tread carefully.  Below are my top wines tasted on the day, a bit of a beauty contest but hopefully of some use.

ST ESTEPHE

Difficult to generalise on the showing of just five wines but despite vintage conditions which you would imagine would not favour the heavier clay dominated soils of St Estèphe, 2008 has yielded good wines with attractive St Estèphe qualities – wines with plenty of colour, fruit and tannin.  Chateau Ormes de Pez, Chateau Lafon Rochet and the continually improving Chateau Cos Labory have all made impressive wines.

Chateau Cos Labory

Deep purple-black, legs; quite dumb at first; some creamy richness here beneath and ripeness; attractive with density; quite floral and attractive; good density on the palate; full and ripe; nice grip here with good acid, chewy and tannic style but not drying. A good effort here. [42%Merlot  58% Cabernet Sauvignon]. 88+/100

Chateau de Pez

Slightly lighter; less depth than the other St Estephe’s – stalky, slightly more lifted nose with earth and a feral edge; palate less weight and some angularity on the palate. 84/100

Chateau Lafon Rochet

Deep; legs, colour tight to the rim; intense looking; very polished wine; quite pent up but with layers on the nose; some green bean notes; palate quite chewy with tannin; intense and concentrated – certainly not as easy as the ’09 here but this strong St Estephe.  Bit dry on the finish a good long term prospect and there is plenty of fruit here. [59% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Merlot 6% Cabernet Franc  and 4%Petit Verdot]. 90/100

Chateau Ormes de Pez

Deep; thick and intense in the glass; lovely rich ripe nose with mulberry; savoury meat characters – really very good; layered. Wonderfully attractive nose and showing well. Palate quite big and gutsy; full of fruit, extract and tannin; Palate needs to settle a bit but all the elements are there – fruit, acid and chewy tannin – by the sack full. Impressive 90/100

Chateau Phélan-Ségur

Deep red with depth; purple at edge; slightly stalky note; some oak quite punchy nose; stalky blackcurrant palate with guts and material; quite chunky. Mid weight with grip with tannin and acid on the finish. Typical St Estephe. Pretty good. 86+/100

PAUILLAC 

Pretty homogenous group of wines from Paulliac in 2008. The top wines here are not as knock-out fabulous as they are in 2009 but there is plenty to commend these, not least as they are all trading at a substantial discount. For me Chateau Pichon Longueville [Baron] leads the wines along with Pontet Canet and Lynch-Bages. No surprises there I suppose. Chateau Clerc Milon, d’Armailhac and Pichon Lalande look good also as does Batailley and the ever improving Grand-Puy Ducasse. Disappointments here are Haut-Bages-Libéral, bit austere and tannic, and Croizet Bages which seemed pretty light.

Chateau Batailley

Mid red; depth; some purple at edge; ripeness here on the nose; quite round; cassis whiff of the Pauillac lead-pencil; some leaf too; soft-ish palate with cassis, blackcurrants and leaf – all adds up to something pretty good here in 2008. Nicely handled tannin too – which emphasises the increasing sophistication of Batailley, for many years a source of good value, traditional Pauillac. 75% Cabernet Sauvignon and 22% Merlot. 88+/100

Chateau Clerc Milon

Quite deep and dense looking; tight to rim [a fraction deeper than stablemate d’Armailhac]; polished and bright in the glass with purple meniscus; quite pronounced cassis and blackcurrant nose; soe earth; some hardness at the back; blackcurrants and wet stones on the palate; minerality; quite taut and less overt [soft] than d’Armailhac. Tannins here. More longer term and serious. But a good effort. 88-90/100 UGC London tasting Oct ‘10

Chateau Croizet-Bages

Quite light looking; lacks the colour concentration of the other Pauillacs, some weak leaf notes; some blackcurrants and savour here on the nose; chocolate too; palate comparatively elegant; leafy, slightly green note; tannins and acid at the end. 82/100

Chateau d’Armailhac

Deep black/red, purple at the edge; some dark fruits on the nose; a meaty quality; layered; and attractive wine with savour; attractive palate too; quite soft and flattering compared with some of the more intense Pauillac’s here; dips away a fraction but chewy finish with balance and acid. Grippy but not too much so. Very good effort. 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot. 88-90/100

Chateau Grand-Puy Ducasse

Deep black red; some purple at edge; rose petal nose with cassis nose with some pencil; attractive; some leaf at edge; softish palate – not pushed too far and more medium weight style [and the better for it]. Lacks a bit of depth maybe on the palate but overall nicely handled, medium weight harmonious style. 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot. Good 88+/100.

Chateau Haut-Bages-Libéral

Red/black; some purple at edge; stalky blackcurrant nose; quite lean in style; leafy; palate quite austere and tight with currently obvious acid and tannin alongside some raspberry and red fruits. Bit disjointed. May show better with some bottle age. 84?/100

Chateau Lynch-Bages

Deep and intense in the glass; purple red at edge; some rose petal and perfume with blackcurrants beneath; real depth here and quite sumptuous. Palate seductive with soft entry, full and enjoyable with chewy tannins and quite a lot of acid tucked away under the meaty, substantial mid-palate. Very good. 92/100  

Chateau Lynch-Moussas

Mid red; some purple at edge; some lift on the nose; blackcurrants but feels a little less expressive than some of the others. Quite ripe characters and soft easy palate; lacks the density of the best here but quite enjoyable nevertheless. Grip and acid at the end. 86+/100

Chateau Pichon-Longueville [Baron]

Deep and dark; real ripeness on the nose here; lovely pure blackcurrant cassis style – quite pretty – what a joy!  Intense and quite excellent. Palate full and – certainly compared with the Pontet Canet open. Very attractive with good density and length on the palate. Intense, pure and classical. 92-94+/100

Chateau Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande

Depth here; some red; bit more evoled looking; some of that stalky blackcurrant Cabernet nose here to begin with but on more aeration also that wonderful delicious ripeness you find here; some coffee notes at the edge; palate quite seductive but again that reductive, slightly stalky Cab note alongside the red fruits; quite polished but overall lacks the power of Pichon Baron. May settle in bottle. 90/100

Chateau Pontet-Canet

Dark in colour; more red less purple at edge; creamy and intense nose; real mulberry ripeness here and lots of oak; intense and concentrated style; dense palate with layers and concentration. Quite pent up. Quite dense and tannic in the finish. Long term prospect. Pichon Baron more enjoyable at present. 92+/100

ST JULIEN

 A pretty homogeneous set of wines as you’d expect from this appellation. Chateau St Pierre, Chateau Leoville Poyferre and Chateau Langoa Barton look real good to me in 2008 with the top wines most definitely being the Chateau Léoville Barton and Chateau Lagrange – the latter is an absolute steal in 2008. In fact these wines really are wines to buy over their pricey 2009s. They are not better of course but at nearly half the price [for the Lagrange at least] they are good buys.  The relative disappointments in St Julien appear to be Chateau Gruaud Larose and Chateau Beychevelle neither of whom produced wines as good as their peers nor anything near the splendour of their wines in 2009. Chateau Léoville Las Cases and Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou are not members of the Union des Grand Crus and so their wines were not shown.

Chateau Beychevelle

Some depth at core; earthy purple at edge; some lift and strawberry; quite elegant palate- not showing the intensity or depth say of Lagrange in 2008 – feels almost old fashioned Beychevelle. Bit angular on the palate with tannins dry and present. May round out but not amongst the best wines in St Julien in this vintage – or a patch on the beauty produced here in 2009. May put in weight in bottle. 86?/100

Chateau Branaire-Ducru

Deep purple red; some roses and also stone fruits and a mineral like quality here; palate a little hard and austere; blackcurrants and fruit but some angularity; this will probably remain on the ‘elegant’ side, though may put on weight; chewy tannins at the end and quite dry. 86-88?/100

Chateau Gruaud Larose

Less dense than the Lagrange [tasted before] – some stalky Cabernet; feels a bit lighter and looser; some animal notes; coconut and cake; quite light on the palate versus its peers and loose on the finish. Not one of the best St Juliens. 86-88?/100

Chateau Lagrange

Mid red; dark at core, purple at edge; very intense nose, sturdy with red fruits, stones and minerals, quite pure; very clean and attractive in that classical, pent-up Lagrange style; blackcurrant and some mint; really good mouthful; lots of extract but nicely handled tannin; some chew at the back, very attractive with good balancing acid. Excellent. 92+/100

Chateau Langoa-Barton

Deep red black with purple hue, ripe muscular style; blackcurrants; cassis; quite serious; pretty full across the palate, no dips; softer, rounder tannin than I expected; well integrated. Intense and with good length. Very good 90+/100

Chateau Léoville-Barton

Deep redblack; intense looking in the glass; blackcurrants, oak resin; minerals; quite inky; real quality here yet feels surprisingly fruit driven. Full palate; dense, then come the tannins, which are pretty dry but the fruit is here.  Long haul. Excellent. 92+/100

Chateau Léoville-Poyferré

Dense, quite red/black; intense blackcurrant nose, cassis and oak; quite seductive; palate lush on entry with layers but also considerable tannin – both oak and fruit tannin – feels a bit disjointed at the end. Tannins quite dry and feels a bit extracted on the finish. Lots of fruit here though so should come together. [60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 7% Petit Verdot and 3% Cabernet Franc]. 90-92/100

Chateau St Pierre

Dense in colour; tight to rim, purple at edge; meaty looking; some stalky Cabernet on the nose, quite a strong wine; opens up well in the glass; good structure on the palate with intensity, blackcurrants; good length; strong and well made. 60% new oak but it’s been soaked up by the fruit.  [81% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot].  90+/100

Chateau Talbot

Mid red; earthy looking; quite clean stalky blackcurrant nose, some earth but clean; palate more open, some herbs and slight hole in the palate; seems to lack a bit of oomph. Blackcurrants on the finish. [2nd] more open, some strawberry and some oak resin, quite dense.  Inconsistent notes here 86-88?/100

MARGAUX

This seemed the least impressive of the major Haut-Médoc communes in 2008. There were definite successes but a great many of the wines seemed lacking richness to me and there was an elegance bordering on the austere. Felt as if some of the wines had struggled to reach phenolic ripeness. I’d reserve judgement to see how the wines settle with more bottle age, however St Estephe, Pauillac and St Julien have undoubtedly had far greater success than Margaux it would seem. Opt for 2009 Margaux over 2008 even if though they are more expensive, the quality is far better overall.

Chateau Brane Cantenac

Mid red; purple at edge; some stalky blackcurrant notes; feels a bit angular and tannic on the palate; quite chewy, not the most appealing [2nd] Slightly dumb [fresh bottle]; elegant palate with some savour and grip with some length but tannic at the end. Needs to settle. 86-88/100

Chateau Cantenac Brown

Dense; very ripe nose, strawberries and jam quite fresh and lifted; quite a tough, tannic palate with lots of chewy fruit and tannin; extracted style; tannins at bit furry at the end. Solid and dense if tannic. Bit tough.  86/100 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot

Chateau Angludet

They have dropped the d’ here, so it’s just simply Angludet now so that should march them up the batting order at tastings at least. Quite dark; opaque at centre; some chocolate and mocha notes; palate quirte sweet and sturdy; some violets here. Chewy and dense but maybe lacks a bit of life. Goodish. 86+/100

Chateau Dauzac

Deep red; quite sturdy nose, quite meaty with smoke and tar alongside red fruits and violets; palate quite settled and pretty good. Round. Not dry and tannic and feels that extraction has been quite nicely done. Pretty good effort. Good. 88/100

Chateau Desmirail

Mid red; attractive open nose of earth, violets and oak; some lift here; intense; palate attractive and already quite forward with some tobacco notes. Quite a forward and attractive modern styled wine for relatively early consumption. Good. 88+/100 [60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot]

Chateau du Tertre

Mid red; some earthy notes on the nose; mocha and chocolate too; not as pretty and appealing as their wonderful 2009; palate feels a bit hard here; bit elegant and lacking interest. Bit disappointing for this usually superb estate. 84-86/100

Chateau Durfort-Vivens

Deep red black; red at edge; quite clean and positive on the nose; some earth; good palate, dense and tannic but should develop; slightly austere note but feels well-made. Lacks a bit of flesh. 86/100

Chateau Ferrière

Deep red; some resin and intensity here; blackcurrants and cassis; some mint and menthol; palate quite open and comparatively lush; layers; quite tannic at the end but with good acid and extract. Good, interesting wine. 88+/100 [70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot]

Chateau Giscours

Mid red; deep; quite big and sturdy nose with some chocolate; some leafy blackcurrant notes; leafy notes continue on the palate – a Cabernet dominated wine I’d imagine. Quite grippy and a little angular. 86/100

Chateau Kirwan

Mid red; some purple; pretty nose; some coconut, blackcurrants and toast; bit of resin too; lots of fruit here and richness but also tannin; fruit and oak tannin and the palate ends up feeling quite dry and a bit over-extracted. 86/100

Chateau Labégorce

Deepish; some earthy ripeness; good density on the palate; quite firm and tannins quite obvious; some chew but feels a little tannic and angular. Will probably settle down. 86/100

Chateau Lascombes

Deep red/black; quite muscular, meaty nose; some stalky blackcurrants beneath; mocha etc but feels a little overworked; some violets on the palate; some freshness of Cab [stalky notes] but also a bit angular and pretty tannic too. 86-88/100 [50% Merlot, 47% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Petit Verdot]

Chateau Marquis de Terme

Dense, quite deep, purple at edge; ripe nose; some mulberries, strawberries full; quite fat palate but with structure and a bit of tannin at the back. Pretty extracted style but fruit is lush. This works. Good. 88/100

Chateau Monbrison

Mid red; some depth; some resin bit a bit dumb; violets on the palate with blackcurrants; chocolate notes; some angularity here but better than Prieure Lichine tasted previously. Some depth and chew here with acid. This will come together.  86-88/100

Chateau Priéure-Lichine

Good depth; dark at centre; red at edge; quite sturdy and savoury notes, some nutty qualities and chocolate; palate quite elegant, acid quite high, tannin also; feels a bit angular and lacks depth and roundness. 84-86/100

Chateau Rauzan-Gassies

Earthy mid red; quite fresh nose, some Cabernet, also some chocolate and violets; some violets on the palate; lacks concentration  but not over done and tannins not over dry. Some length. OKish 86/100

Chateau Rauzan-Ségla

Quite developed mid red colour; quite a meaty nose with some perfume; palate rather hard; some fruit and savour but tannic and dry. This may round out but pretty tannic style. 86-88/100

Chateau Siran

Mid red; some purple at edge; slightly stalky nots; some earth and roses with toast and savour; palate quite full, some stalkiness and some tannin, falls away a little in the middle; quite angular and some acid. 84/100

HAUT-MEDOC AND MEDOC

Overall the wines here seemed to have plenty of fruit and acid and quite a bit of tannin. Chewy and grippy is a note that springs up a lot. Nevertheless the best wines here, on the whole, had enough generosity and fruit to balance the tannin. The top tier are pretty impressive – especially Belgrave, de Camensac, La Lagune and La Tour Carnet – and when you look at the prices of these wines [still available on the market today] they are comparative bargains. That said there are plenty of 2009 Haut Medocs on wine merchant’s shelves and I’d tuck into those first.

Chateau Belgrave

Quite deep and dark; creamy, intense and pretty rich on the nose; some figs and blackcurrants; palate quite lush with blackcurrants and cassis and some plummy Merlot. Good extract and grip. Good effort at this great value estate. 88+/100

Chateau Cantemerle

Mid red, some earthy tinge; some earthy reductive tinge, some smoke and blackcurrants, also savoury notes and lift; palate quite structured with stalky Cabernet influence. Not bad effort though and should settle. 87/100 48% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot, 8% Petit Verdot and 7% Cabernet Franc.

Chateau Citran

Mid red; nice strawberry fruit, real lift and life on the nose along with some oak resin; palate quite dense with some lift and acid and tannin but not too dry; more sappy. Needs some time but a good wine. 86+/100

Chateau Coufran

Good colour, mid depth, some purple; some freshness here with strawberry notes; palate quite grippy and tannic. Should soften. OKish 84/100

Chateau de Camensac

Mid depth; blackcurrants on the nose; quite pure and fresh; ripeness here and real Cabernet precision and freshness; some chocolate too; palate concentrated with guts and extract. Lots of flavour and pure fresh style. Not bad and further evidence of the renaissance at this estate. 87+/100

Chateau de Lamarque

Mid red; sturdy muscular nose but a bit dumb; quite soft agreeable palate. Easy going but not that interesting. 84/100

Chateau La Lagune

Quite deep colour; up to edge, earthy purple at rim; quite sturdy, red fruits on the nose; some chocolate; palate feels fresh and bright with grip and tannin but has the extract and fruit to cover the tannin. Chewy. Good effort. 88+/100

Chateau La Tour Carnet

Quite deep at the edge; purple hue; real life here on the nose; fruit first, strawberry and earth then some oak resin but intense and well integrated; palate quite dense but has life, strawberry and red fruits here along with tannin and acid. Real grip and chew with tannin. Good length. Very good effort from this redeveloped estate. 88+/100

Chateau Malescasse

Mid red; little loose at the edge; stalky notes, some strawberry, some smoke; quite grippy palate, stalky blackcurrants, almost old fashioned. Grippy and tannic. OK. 84-85/100

Chateau Greysac, [Médoc]

Mid depth; some cherry and strawberry, quite lightish palate but with structure and acid. Grip here but with length. Will come round I’m sure. 84-85/100

Chateau La Tour de By, [Médoc]

Mid depth, earth purple at edge; some cassis and stalky blackcurrant; some earth and chocolate;

slightly leafy palate but with blackcurrants. Has guts but a bit alkward at the moment. Should come round. 84-85/100

MOULIS AND LISTRAC 

The wines of Moulis showed better than Listrac. Chateau Poujeaux was especially impressive as ever in the former appellation, but Chasse Spleen and Maucaillou have also produced good wines, though I’d search out their 2009s over the 2008s if still available. Listrac, whose wines are always dominated by their tannic structure, except Chateau Clarke which has tamed the soils of Listrac withe Merlot, seemed a bit hard, Fourcas Dupré especially so, with Fourcas Hosten appearing the better bet. Again I’d look to 2005 and 2009 here before these 2008s, there is not much difference in price, but the made more successful wines in these warmer years and Listrac’s wine prices, and to a degree in Moulis too, are not as vintage sensitive.

Chateau Chasse Spleen, Moulis

Mid red; strawberry notes and some lift with earthy elements; quite fruit driven initially with extract on the palate; quite dry tannin at the end but good length. This a good wine but in a classic style and needs time. 87/100

Chateau Maucaillou, Moulis

Deep and dense; some strawberry and resin, some chocolate; reasonable density on the palate, sturdy, extract, soe earth and tannin, grippy and tannic overall but also with extract and fruit and some tobacco notes mixed in. Good 86+/100

Chateau Poujeaux, Moulis

Deep at centre; red at edge; rich nose, quite earthy but dense with some oak resin; muscular with blackcurrants and earth; some leaf and lift; palate earthy, dense and tannic with lots of fruit and extract but also acid and tannin; real grip here but also with the fruit here, savoury. This will be very good. Tannic and dry finish but it will develop and is an excellent effort. 90/100

Chateau Clarke, Listrac

Mid red/black; strawberry and red fruit nose; quite lifted and appealing; soft palate and lighter and less tannic than the other wines from Listrac in 2008 – much higher percentage of Merlot [70%] to Cabernet Sauvignon [30%] here. Attractive and agreeable, if a little on the light side. 85/100

Chateau Fonréaud, Listrac

Mid red; some purple; some resin and density on the nose with chocolate and blackcurrants; palate more open than Fourcas Dupre; quite agreeable; some savour and meat and lift on the palate; some length. Goodish wine and tannins not drying and overdone. 86+/100

Chateau Fourcas Dupré, Listrac

Mid red; good depth; some strawberry with a little tobacco at the edge; some savour  but the Fourcas Hosten is more showy. Quite tannic palate; with leafy blackcurrants but very dry. This needs a lot of time. Recent vintages here, 2009 included, feel pretty tannic. May come round but tannins feel very dry and present currently. 84?/100

Chateau Fourcas Hosten, Listrac

Mid depth, some purple at edge; earth and wet stone, quite meaty with some savour; quite chunky palate with tannins and acid but some density of fruit and extract to carry these I think; tobacco and oak and blackcurrants. Needs time but lots to chew on here. Pretty good 87+/100 

ST EMILION

The major differences between the wines here in 2008 appear to reflect the wine making choices as much as terroir. Broadly the wines grouped into those that felt extracted and a bit over wrought, wines which lacked a bit of freshness, and those that had concentration but also precision and intensity. It’s a question of getting the balance right, to my palate at least. I can see the reasons for late picking, tannin ripeness, rich, lush flavours etc, but wines without any acid do lack freshness. Add in extractive winemaking techniques and quickly the wines can feel a bit tired prematurely. For me then the wines  I enjoyed most got the balance just right, like Canon, Figeac, La Couspaude, Clos Fourtet and, to an extent, Trottevielle. That said I was also taken by Chateau Troplong Mondot and that’s no shrinking violet, along with Beau-Séjour Bécot and Canon-la-Gaffelière. I make no claims consistency but these wines though still big still had freshness, I don’t know quite how they manage to do it, but they seem to.

Chateau Beau-Séjour Bécot

Deep and dark, sweet aromas on the nose of oak with ripe fruit beneath, feels dense and substantial; palate has lots of extract and fruit; some tannin here too plus acid and crunch. Good finish. Typically extracted style and quite a mouthful, but it adds up. 90/100

Chateau Canon

Mid red; some depth, strong nose of minerals, stones also mint and menthol; intense palate with minty menthol note which is attractive; ripeness here with typical intensity, taut yes but with layers. Extremely well made and tannins well managed. Intense and concentrated but also maintains some elegance. Extremely fine 92+/100

Chateau Canon-la-Gaffelière

Black red; lots of figgy ripeness to the nose, dark chocolate and strawberry, some lift; sweet entry on the palate with lots of ripe flavours – molasses and figs – lots of chewy extract here. A very extracted style but still with freshness. Very good if you like this style. 55% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Franc and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. 90+/100

Chateau Cap de Mourlin

Mid red; some ripe strawberry and fig, quite ripe nose and open; soft figgy palate with some strawberry freshness. Quite soft and agreeable. 87/100

Chateau Figeac

Dense wine, close to rim; fresh and quite complete nose with some mint and blackcurrant alongside oak; feels quite serious and considerable on the nose; some density and some chocolate. Good palate which is quite intense and quite dense! Lots of tannin here too but has depth. Certainly needs time and reflects the high proportion of Cabernet in the blend.  Good but tannic and long haul. 90+/100

Clos Fourtet

Deep red; some stalky notes on the nose but also ripeness, later with aeration some fig and molasses alongside oak; good palate, with extract, lift and tannin. Length. This is very good. 90/100 85% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc

Chateau Franc Mayne

Deep colour; again ripeness on the nose, some chocolate, not fresh and flowery but more secondary and feels a bit ‘worked’; some sturdy notes on the palate with lots of extract and seemingly lots of alcohol; lots of flavour and quite intense, chunky palate. Lots of effort have gone into this 88-90/100 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc

Chateau Grand-Mayne

Very dark looking and dense; quite resinous on the nose with a very ripe, rasiny note – very late late picked feel at any rate; some strawberry; palate soft and easy with some tannin. Very ripe, late picked extremely ripe style. Not sure this is me. 86-88/100

Chateau La Couspaude

Mid depth, close to the edge; some freshness, some cherry and strawberry on the nose with some oomph but good; some espresso and coffee too along with stalks, blackcurrants and oak; good intense palate not overdone, plummy and dense. La Couspaude always produces attractive and enjoyable St Emilion. This is good 90+/100

Chateau La Dominique

Deep red; legs and tight to the rim; sweet and soft, some fruit pastel alongside ripe strawberry notes; some mocha and coffee; palate has extract and tannin but not too overpowering. Nevertheless there is something that feels a little overworked here and the palate feels a bit prematurely tired. 86-88?/100

Chateau La Gaffelière

Earthy red; some tar, quite rich and figgy; concentrated palate, chewy and dense with lots of tannin; bit of leafy Cabernet Franc if I’m not mistaken; some warmth here. Not bad and a big chewy slightly old fashioned style. 87/100

Chateau La Tour Figeac

Dark, mid red, some strawberry, some resin and intensity; palate quite sweet initially but then feels rather dry and extracted at the end. Tannins very dry and over-extracted feel here 84-86?/100

Chateau Larcis Ducasse

Deep colour, legs; quite strawberry notes alongside super-ripe notes; good palate, very ripe and plummy with tannins at the end. Better than the La Tour Figeac, tannins less dry. 87/100 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc.

Chateau Larmande

Mid depth; lots of chocolate and mocha notes alongside ripe strawberry fruit, quite chunky in style and strong on the palate; good concentration, lush nice extract and chew without feeling overdone and huge tannins. Good. 88+/100

Chateau Troplong Mondot

Dense, very saturated look; legs; perfumed and intense with lots of extract; strawberry and some chocolate and mocha; intense palate with lots of fruit and concentration; very pent up and big – wow such concentration with lots of alcohol. Very big and alcoholic style – an enjoyable glass or two but I couldn’t imagine finishing a bottle! 92+/100 90% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon

Chateau Trottevielle

Glossy, mid red, some purple at edge; attractive perfumed nose; lots of oak but there is fruit here too; blackcurrants and plums beneath; palate quite chunky and intense with lots of tannin and oak. Quite enjoyable. Despite the oak and the extraction there is still freshness here. 88-90/100 50% Merlot, 47% Cabernet Franc and 3% Cabernet Sauvignon.

POMEROL

Difficult to generalise as there is only a handful of Pomerol chateaux who belong to the Union des Grand Crus  but those members that did show their wines they felt ripe and intense, though not as obviously flamboyant and attractive as in 2009. Chateau Clinet was especially impressive and Chateau Beauregard showed very well at the opposite end of the price spectrum.

Chateau Beauregard

Deep, up to the edge; some plums, fresh and fruit driven and quite open; some stalks blackcurrants too; ripe palate, quite intense with extract; some lift but layers to the palate. Overall a good wine with lots of extract and material here. This should age well. Impressive 90+/100

Chateau Clinet

Intense colour, close up to edge; quite fresh and some minerality on the nose then lots of oak resin; intense and lifted; plums; dense palate with minerals and quite structured – great stuff here; lots of guts and material. Not as fab as Clinet’s marvellous 2009 but a pretty impressive effort nevertheless. 92-94+/100

Chateau La Cabanne

[2006 – the 2008 was lost in a fire] Mid red; earthy looking; stalky notes; some mocha; palate a bit foursquare with blackcurrants and reasonable structure. Ok. 84/100

Chateau La Conseillante

Quite dense and earthy purple; lots of ripe red fruits here; strawberries, quite intense, almost Burgundian; quite fresh palate with similar notes; some grip here. Good and ripe. 88+/100

Chateau La Pointe

Some stones and minerals; quite earthy, some ripeness and fig; lots of oak on the palate with some tannin; there is fruit but a bit subdued; lacks a bit of fruit and oomph and feels a bit oaky and disjointed. 86/100

Chateau Petit Village

Mid red; some depth; some leafy lift on the nose [Cabernet Franc?], some chocolate too; palate has intensity and extract; concentration with good length. Good wine. 88/100

PESSAC-LEOGNAN AND GRAVES

I didn’t really do the wines here a justice as I was running out of time at the UGC tasting and hurried through them a bit. There are also plenty of reds that I missed but that I wished to try. Amongst those that I did Chateau Pape Clément was undoubtedly showing wonderfully [so too was their white]. It was probably the wine of the entire tasting in terms of flamboyance and opulence. Domaine de Chevalier has also produced a strong if tannic red, it’s white always a bit subdued early on for me to judge it. Chateau Haut Bailly has undoubtedly produced a big, concentrated wine but wow the tannins are similarly as big. I’d like to see how that settles down, although the elements seem proportionate. Overall the dry whites were exciting and fresh and will do well in bottle I imagine, though there is real refreshment and bite to these whites now. Chateau Carbonnieux, Chateau Pape Clément, Chateau de Fieuzal were most appealing now, but these whites have the ability to age like fine Burgundies and I was generally impressed with the whites across the range.

White wines of Pessac-Léognan and Graves in 2008:

Chateau Bouscaut, Pessac-Léognan

Pale gold; quite forward with waxy Semillon notes; nice waxy palate with grapefruit and citrus tones; real race and lift here. Good 88+/100

Chateau Carbonnieux, Pessac-Léognan

Gold; fresh nose, some grass and wax; but with real zip and freshness on the palate. This is is really rather racy. Should develop well but very appetizing now. 90+/100

Domaine de Chevalier, Pessac-Léognan

 Grey gold; fresh, ripe notes; quite firm palate with some grassy notes but quite full bodied and solid too; wax on the palate and acid keeps the palate refreshed. Looks good and long term 90+/100

Chateau de Fieuzal, Pessac-Léognan

Straw coloured; firm nose; some limes and citrus notes with weight and substance; attractive and modern palate well balanced and polished. Very good wine and quite showy, much more so than Domaine de Chevalier. 92+/100

Chateau de France, Pessac-Léognan

Quite golden, quite open nose with ripe notes and soapy laolin tones; good 87/100

Chateau La Louvière, Pessac-Léognan

 Gold, quite solid, feels a bit reductive on the nose, some wax on the palate. Not that expressive at present. 87/100

Chateau Larrivet-Haut Brion, Pessac-Léognan

Pale straw, sturdy nose with some wax and freshness; leads to a lively palate with grass and gooseberry notes. Lots of refreshing zip on the palate. Impressive. 90+/100

Chateau Latour-Martillac, Pessac-Léognan

Pale gold; very fresh nose with grass and concentration, very appealing; lots of fruit on the palate, fresh candy and citrus. Very attractive. 90/100

Chateau Malartic-Lagravière, Pessac-Léognan

 Pale gold; some wax and resin; quite full bodied; palate nicely done with real race but also with body. Very good 90/100 80% Semillon, 20% Sauvignon Blanc.

Chateau Oliver, Pessac-Léognan

Light gold, lovely fresh grassy note to the nose; grapefruit and citrus elements too; real zest and some laolin too; waxy palate, fresh and nicely balanced. Very good again 88-90/100

Chateau Pape Clément, Pessac-Léognan

Green gold; lots of barrique influence on the nose, along with grapefruit and citrus elements; palate full and attractive with real weight but also race and zip. Excellent 92-94+/100

Chateau de Chantegrive, Graves

Pale gold; attractive nose with grapefruit and some citrus notes; nicely done; nice waxy palate with good concentration. Positive too. 89+/100

Chateau Ferrande, Graves,

Gold; quite ripe and full on the nose; palate a bit taughter than nose suggests; quite appetizing though not quite as positive and fresh as the Chantegrive. 86/100 60% Sauvignon Blanc and 40% Semillon.

Chateau Rahoul, Graves

Pale straw; some lees and wax on the nose alongside some grapefruit; fresh palate, alive but also round. Good wine which should put on more weight with a couple of years. 87/100

Red wine of Pessac-Léognan in 2008:

Domaine de Chevalier, Pessac-Léognan

Very dark, opaque at centre, tight to rim; quite strong, firm nose; some stalky blackcurrant fruit, quite pure; some oak too; flesh and extract here alongside the tannin. Quite dense and concentrated. A little drying on the finish. Long haul but promising. 90+/100

Chateau de Fieuzal, Pessac-Léognan

Mid red, some density, some chocolate, rust and earth on the nose with sweetness at the edge, soft palate, easy entry; lots of extract and ripe tannins, not without grip. Good effort 88+/100

Chateau de France, Pessac-Léognan

Very dense, dark and colour tight to the rim; some strawberry and red fuits with lift on the nose; dense palate with lots of extract but also firm, quite dry tannins. Smoke here too. Feels disjointed now. 86?/100

Chateau Haut Bailly, Pessac-Léognan

Mid red, dark at core; deep nose, some chocolate but a bit brooding; palate soft and full, lush with lots and lots of extract, layers. Tannins too in abundance. Quite dry finish. Should come round but long haul here. Pretty bold and extracted style.  90+/100

Chateau Pape Clément, Pessac-Léognan

Deep opaque, tight to the rim, lovely nose, sweet violets, blackcurrants and sexy oak; some coffee and mocha notes too, wonderfully seductive; palate intense and concentrated with layer upon layer of fruit; blackcurrants by the bucket load and sweet oak, tannin but very ripe. Fabulous and very showy. I’m certainly seduced. 94-96+/100

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