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.
Posts Tagged ‘Pessac-Léognan’
Château Haut-Bailly has some of the most enviable terroir in Bordeaux. Unfortunately even this was insufficient to spare the property from the devasting frosts of April 27 and 28, 2017. These frosts did damage to the lower plots on the property, but the old vine parcels were spared. Subsequently even flowering and an exceptionally dry summer, saved the day. In 2017 Château Haut-Bailly has produced red wines that have depth and freshness. The vintage is a little reminiscent of 2008 and 2014 but with softer tannins and more gentle extraction.
Château Pape Clément was badly affected in volume terms by the damage wrought by the April frost in 2017. At the property, in Bordeaux’s suburbs in Pessac, production for the red was sixty percent down and fifty percent for the whites. Other properties elsewhere in Bordeaux owned by Bernard Magrez were affected even more significantly. Château La Tour Carnet in the Haut-Médoc, for example, lost 70% of production. At Pape Clément, despite the considerably reduced crop, and the knock-on effects in terms of blending options, the quality is excellent. The white is very exciting. It is full and deep but not overblown. The Pape Clément red is typically layered and lush, with lots of black fruits.
I’m publishing these in-depth notes somewhat belatedly. I have already posted last April briefly about the quality of the dry whites and the structured reds made in 2017 at Château La Mission Haut-Brion and Château Haut-Brion. Today I’m publishing more detailed notes and thoughts on the wines. The top line? 2017 is a genuinely ‘epic’ year for the whites here. Even by their own sensational quality, La Mission Haut-Brion Blanc and Haut-Brion Blanc are super sublime.
The 2017 vintage was a difficult one for Stephan von Neipperg and his team. In the frost of April 27-28 they lost much of the crop at Clos Marsalette in Pessac-Léognan, half of the crop in both his Castillon estate Château d’Aiguihle and St Emilion property Clos de l’Oratoire. At Château Canon-la-Gaffelière frost reduced the harvest by 40%. Only the prized La Mondotte vineyard was spared. That’s the bad news. The good news is that team Neipperg have succeeded in making impressive wines, very much against these odds. This is partly thanks to the quality of the remaining crop, a huge amount of work in the vineyard but also a determination to encourage a useful harvest from second generation grapes. It is also says much about Stephan von Neipperg’s own strength of character. Determined not to be despondent, he encouraged his team in the face of adversity. When the going gets tough, as Billy Ocean famously noted, the tough get going.
Many of the red wines tasted during my visit to Bordeaux this April had freshness, engaging aromas, juicy fruit flavours, reasonable depth and generally soft tannins. On this basis 2017 is surely a good vintage? Well yes. For the best properties we’re talking of wines with elements of 2014, 2012 and 2008, possibly a combination of all three in certain places. Things are more exciting for the whites [it looks to be a brilliant year] and Sauternes too has excelled again. But these generalisations hide a somewhat heterogeneous vintage.