I tasted the Domaine Clarence Dillon wines last Monday at Chateau Haut-Brion without knowing their vital statistics. Nevertheless I did spot some warmth on Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion, but it didn’t worry me particularly. If I hadn’t been sitting down I would have fallen over when I was told at the end that it was over 15 degrees. I’m glad I didn’t know that before because, other than the warmth, La Mission looks really good. Nearly everywhere I went during the rest of the week everyone was saying, ‘Oh but what about La Mission? Fifteen degrees – too much surely?’ Well on paper and maybe if you’ve got a bottle to yourself [though I think I could manage one alone] but I had to say that I didn’t notice La Mission was too alcoholic when I tasted it. That’s the problem with statistics, you don’t judge a wine looking at charts. Nor do you judge a feature film by its running time. If it’s engaging enough even two and a half hours flies by. Acidity is the narrative drama of a wine and it’s what is making 2010 such an interesting vintage. It is yielding wines that defy your expectations. You taste La Mission at fifteen degrees and it works.
Posts Tagged ‘Merlot’
Last November Paul Pontallier was expressing embarrassment at the potential quality of the 2010 vintage he had just put in vat. Just how could the estate follow on from the 2009? Again it’s a case of a different year rather than a better one, but 2010 is a beauty here. In terms of the harvest itself the vintage was more homogenous across the plots than in 2009, a year in which some of the younger Merlots did struggle a bit with the heat and the drought. That wasn’t the case in 2010 and there was more consistency to the harvest. This has had a knock on effect more for Pavillon Rouge which is terrific. As for the grand vin, it is exceptional, with remarkable purity and freshness. In the line up of first growths this year it is the most beautiful and seductive. For the first time the proportions of the grand vin and Pavillon Rouge are the same, at 38%, down 15% on 2009, with the remainder of the harvest going into the estate’s new third wine [as yet to be christened – or to be tasted…].
Charles Chevallier and his team at Chateau Lafite-Rothschild have come up with the goods again, though that hardly counts as news these days. Hot on the heels of the perfect 2009 is a grand vin of extraordinary intensity in 2010. It’s not a better wine than 2009 but it is different. Maybe it doesn’t quite have the elegance and subtlety of the previous year but it is more classic, with more ‘volume’ as they put it at Lafite. It certainly feels like it has more power and concentration. It is a sublime and quite amazing wine, yet still with freshness and somehow ‘only’ 13.5 in alcohol. What terrific terrior they have. Carruades de Lafite too is a marvel in 2010, a ‘second’ wine that seems to have upped its game exponentially in the past few vintages.
There is no doubt that Latour has produced a set of extraordinary wines in 2010. There is profound depth, concentration and freshness here in the wines. Chateau Latour itself, which represents only 36% of the total production of the harvest, is dense and concentrated with real minerality and focus. It is outstanding. So too is Les Forts de Latour, a separate wine in its own right made from plots outside the main walled vineyard [the Enclos], but this year also including some fruit that usually would have made it to the grand vin. Les Forts was absolutely dazzling on the day and to me it is of first growth quality. It is 40% of the production, the remaining 24% going into a clean and very pure Pauillac.
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!