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.
The Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux held its annual horizontal tasting of the most recently bottled vintage, in this case the 2008 vintage, on Tuesday at Covent Garden’s Royal Opera House. It’s a great event where you have a hundred plus Chateaux proprietors all under one roof showing their wares – although there is never quite enough time to taste them all. More detailed notes will follow and the vintage profiles will be updated. Sadly I missed out on Sauternes and Barsac, despite skipping lunch to continue tasting, the end of session bell being rung just as I arrived at Bastor Lamontagne…I don’t know how I quite managed that error. Nevertheless overall tasting the 2008s reds was a far more enjoyable experience than working through last year’s austere, tricky 2007 vintage. The few whites from Pessac-Léognan I tasted looked very racy and attractive with more zip than 2009.
At long last the Medoc Cru Bourgeois hiatus is over. Following the legal challenges that overthrew the controversial 2003 classification, Frederique de Lamothe, the director of the l’Alliance de Cru Bourgeois du Medoc [www.crus-bourgeois.com] announced last week, after three years of painstaking effort, the first new selection of wines entitled to the Cru Bourgeois name. It is not, in fact, a classification at all this time round, rather a list of those wines that have met a set of standards which entitles them to use the term. 243 Chateau have been selected from a total of 290 that applied for inclusion, a selection made following blind tastings based on the 2008 vintage conducted by a panel made up of professional tasters, this time with no chateau owners involved, one of the main gripes of those who felt unfairly treated in the 2003 classification.
Last week saw the publication of Langton’s classification ‘V’ of the highest performing Australian wines as defined by their movements on the Australian auction market. Although essentially a market guide, the Langton’s classification is generally regarded as a list of the very finest and most collectable wines made in Oz. Revised every five years the classification was first introduced in 1991. Back then 34 wines were included, last week 123 wines made it to the list – 33 more since the last classification in 2005, reflecting the increased demand for fine Australian wine on the secondary markets in general as well as the sheer quality of the product at the top end.