Château Smith Haut Lafitte is one of the most impressive set-ups in Bordeaux. The terroir in Pessac-Léognan is fabulous; the vines immediately surrounding the property are beautifully mature; the cellar is state of the art and eco-friendly. In my experience, the past half dozen vintages here, both red and white, are qualitatively at the very highest level. This is true once again in 2014. Throw in the smart hotel that adjoins the property, with its spa and two Michelin star restaurant and it adds up to a level of sophistication and consumer awareness that would turn the owner of even the most ambitious Napa Valley boutique operation green with envy. And as for Bordeaux, it puts almost all of the grand crus classés to shame.
Posts Tagged ‘Petit Verdot’
Overall St Estèphe was a little more variable than I’d expected in 2013. The wines are fresh, vigorous and pretty high in acidity. Some lack charm and there’s not the full-fat quality of the good years here. There are successes. I’ve posted already on Calon-Ségur, Château Cos d’Estournel, Château Meyney and Château Montrose, but Château Phélan Ségur looks nicely polished, Château Capbern Gasqueton is very pretty and I was particularly struck by Château de Pez. There are also solid efforts from Château Haut-Marbuzet, Château Tronquoy-Lalande, Château Le Crock and Château Ormes de Pez, though they lack the flair of the best vintages.
It shouldn’t have come as a surprise given the man, but I’ve just discovered [having got around to reading them] that Bruno Borie, the force behind Château Ducru-Beaucaillou, writes wonderfully playful vintage reports. Usually you reach for these when you’ve forgotten your producer chats, or not understood their French, but these Borie-penned documents are worth seeking out in themselves. On his 2013 vintage report, I’m 100 points [as James Suckling might say]. Borie describes how the grape clusters yearned for a man `with a slow hand,’ and ‘an easy touch,’ in the manner of Pointer Sisters [Slow Hand, 1981] . Go Bruno, go! But did the grapes get lasting satisfaction in 2013?
The Margaux appellation has struggled more than most in 2013. A great many wines tasted at the Union des Grand Crus tasting were in a kind of no-man’s land. The delicate fruit tones of 2013 had been worked too much in quite a few cases, rendering them chewy and extracted yet with puckering levels of acidity. Some very good wines have still been made. I’ve posted separately on Château Margaux and Château Palmer. Both stand out as beacons of hope but neither are what you might call affordable. Elegant efforts from Château Angludet, Château Giscours and Château du Tertre are pure and vigorous and worth considering if you’re a Margaux fan [like me]. Château Rauzan-Ségla and Château Brane-Cantenac, Château d’Issan and Château Lascombes, should also work out well too. The disappointments seem more to do with approaches to the vintage in the cellar as much as the problems that 2013 presented itself. In some respects many of the Margaux wounds are self-inflicted.