I’m very sorry to hear that Sue Glasgow has retired from the wine scene. Sue was synonymous for many in the UK wine trade with fine Bordeaux, doing public relations for the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux [UGCB] in particular and organising their tastings each year. Her swansong event, held in tightly managed, socially distanced conditions at Church House in Westminster last October was a superbly organised tasting. It worked like clockwork. Tasters occupied pretty much every corner of the entire building, each escorted to their individual tables, where waiters in masks and visors poured samples at arms-length. Usually these events are a bit more of a bun fight, but this year it all felt very refined if a little solemn. My only issue was a lack of time. During Primeurs 2018 I’d majored on right bank properties in St Emilion, Pomerol and the Bordeaux Côtes. I did dip in to see some of the stars of the left bank [notably Calon Ségur, Cos, Latour and Palmer] but I’d missed out on tasting St Julien, Pauillac and St Estèphe in detail. So, with only a few hours to taste at this year’s UGCB event this autumn, I decided to focus on these appellations. First up, St Julien.
Posts Tagged ‘Chateau Léoville Poyferré’
St Julien produces wine typically of high quality and in a consistent style. This is true of its wines in 2017. In terms of the left bank, it feels like the high point for me in this vintage on this side of the Gironde. Château Branaire Ducru has succeeded well and the Léovilles are very good as you’d expect. Amongst the Barton stable, there is a wonderfully fresh Château Langoa Barton and a very complete, and serious, Château Léoville Barton. Château Léoville Poyferré feels somewhat pent up but it is evidently concentrated with great texture. Siblings Château Gloria and Château St Pierre are both fantastic. What a marvel Gloria always is and St Pierre tops the lot, admittedly in a field sans Ducru and Las Cases. Château Beychevelle also looks impressive in 2017 for the vintage. Good wines have also been made by Château Gruaud Larose, Château Talbot and Château Lagrange, though they lack the depth of the very best. Still this is a particular achievement for Lagrange whose crop was especially affected by the April frost.
2017’s a funny old vintage in Bordeaux. It feels to me like this year is the least successful of the past decade, assuming we forget about the washout 2013 vintage. That’s not to say that there aren’t a number wines that are really impressive now that the 2017s are in bottle. Last October’s annual Union des Grand Crus de Bordeaux tasting in London showed some excellent wines in Pomerol and St Emilion, perhaps more so than in the other communes, but there were fine wines to be found in all the appellations. That said many lacked a bit of charm, seemed somewhat austere and lacked mid-palate concentration. Yes, they are fresh. Yes, the acidity is bright and some have a decent zap about them, but, overall, it’s hardly a vintage that sets the pulse racing. The same couldn’t be said for the experience that the vignerons themselves faced in the early part of the growing season in 2017 when devastating frosts wiped out entire crops in St Emilion and Pomerol and did much damage elsewhere, notably in parts of Pessac-Léognan and the Haut-Médoc. Some properties didn’t make any wine at all. It was certainly a nerve-jangling time for growers. Looked in that light, perhaps we must actually see 2017 as something of a success.
Finally notes taken on wines tasted at the Bordeaux Grand Cru Classé tasting in London last year. While the majority of these were 2018s that I’d missed during primeurs week, it was also a good opportunity to look at other recent vintages. In Margaux, Château Rauzan Ségla had made a sublime wine in 2018, so too Château Branaire-Ducru and Château Léoville Poyferré in St Julien. In Pauillac, Château Pontet Canet was astonishing, paralleled in different ways by extraordinary wines at Château Montrose in St Estèphe and Château Smith Haut Lafitte in Pessac-Léognan.