Paul Pontallier seems such an assured presence you just can’t imagine him losing his temper. If something seriously went wrong, say someone racked Pavillon Blanc into a vat containing the Grand Vin at Chateau Margaux of course, I’m sure he’d go completely bonkers but in twenty-seven or so consecutive vintages at the helm here there can’t be a problem of one sort of another that Pontallier hasn’t encountered either in the vineyard or the cellar, or demonstrably surmounted, given the consistency of the wines at this property over the years.
OK, so you’d expect to come away inspired by a trip to Chateau Margaux having spent an hour or so with the marvelously enthusiastic Paul Pontallier. You’d also expect to have a more profound sense of the natural beauty and deceptive simplicity of fine winemaking after spending some time with Alfred Tesseron at Chateau Pontet Canet. And you’d have to be made of stone not to be awe inspired by the new chais assembled by Jean-Guillaume Prats at Chateau Cos d’Estournel or the quality of his controversial 2009 grand vin whatever your verdict. But would you really expect to be all fired up after a visit to Chateau Grand-Puy Ducasse? Probably not, but that’s just what happened to me after I’d spent an afternoon there. I’ll explain more later but first some background.
Well, well, well, what a real beauty Chateau St Pierre 2009 has turned out to be. I must confess that when I’d first tasted it, admittedly on a rather wet and windy Tuesday morning in late March earlier this year on the opening day of the ’09 primeurs tastings, it wasn’t the most expressive of the wines shown from St Julien. Mind you, given how spectacular this appellation has been in 2009, rising above the likes of Chateau Léoville Barton and Chateau Léoville Poyferré would have been tricky. I had the opportunity of tasting St Pierre ‘09 again this month, now two thirds of the way through its elevage and the wine is simply fantastic. So if you bought this wine en primeur then well done. I wish I had!
I’ve just spent the last few days on whistle stop tour of the Haut-Médoc and Pessac-Léognan. It’s been great fun and tremendously exciting, not just because of visits to some great estates, or because the new vintage is in and there is lots of positive talk. Rather it’s because I’ve had some wonderfully frank and inspiring conversations with proprietors generally and met exciting emerging winemakers filled with passion and energy. I’ve even met one owner who flies a helicopter for a living and has set up his chais in a dining room. So interesting times in Bordeaux indeed. There has also been the chance to look again at some 2009s, some I missed earlier in the year, and a few for the second time. There is no doubt at all that this vintage redefines the term extraordinary. More on that soon but before that a brief word the 2010 harvest now that the young wines are in tank and being pressed off….
Overall Bordeaux 2006 reds 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 last week. 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.
Mas de Daumas Gassac needs little introduction, established by the idiosyncratic Aimé Guibert and his wife Véronique in the 1970s, the estate pretty much pioneered the concept of high end, boutique Vin de Pays. The first wine was made there in 1978 and for some time the estate’s red had a strong claim to being the grand cru of the Languedoc.