Friday, 3 April 2009

Postcard from Bordeaux en Primeur - Part 2

A new day and my spirits are still high. The weather has held, still lovely tasting conditions, and I'm closer to home today, covering Pomerol and Saint Emilion; Merlot and Cabernet Franc country, both of which were harvested very late (last few days of October in many cases).

Difficult to follow yesterday’s highs and given the lateness of the harvest over on this side, actually rather difficult to taste the wines which are much more closed and 'brut'-ish than their Left Bank sisters at this stage.

Nevertheless, there are some beauties hiding under layers of tight tannins. I started in Pomerol at La Conseillante, hosts this year, and emerged teeth-stained and rather dry-mouthed, but very convinced by Clinet, Gazin, La Conseillante and Petit Village. These are real 'terroir' wines, stoney, pure-fruited and extremely elegant if a little cold and stand-offish at the moment.

I moved on to Christian Moueix's offices in Libourne and obediently worked my way through their range of family-owned and/or managed properties with my eye on the bottle of Petrus placed temptingly at the end of the table ....

Puy Blanquet (St Em GC) and Belair-Monange (1GCC) were lovely, succulent, more-ish, everything you could want from a classic St Emilion.

Plince, Bourgneuf, Certan Marzelle, La Fleur Petrus and Certan de May stood out for me in their Pomerol line-up. Pure, vibrant, taught .. Super classy.

And then came Petrus ....

I'll leave Hugh Johnson to use his magic with words to describe the wine, I'm sure he could do it justice. I simply can't!

Suffice to say that I found it extremely special, extremely concentrated and just perfectly balanced. Magic in a bottle.

Through the sunshine, on to Chateau Figeac to the Saint Emilions. Perhaps the supreme elegance of the last wine I tasted threw the Saint Emilions into relief. There were some winners for me though; Balestard la Tonnelle, Beau-Sejour Becot, Figeac, La Gaffeliere, Pavie Macquin and most especially Larcis Ducasse (sexy wine). My usual favourites, Troplong Mondot and Clos Fourtet were just not showing well today, perhaps too early for them.

The current rumours circulating are that prices will be released very quickly – within the next couple of weeks, although probably after the Easter weekend. Rumour also has it that the First Growths have plotted behind closed doors (as they always do) and might release at a significantly reduced price.

IF this happens, chances are the rest will stampede to release their prices and wines on to the market. The guesswork is of course all part of the excitement ..

Clare Tooley, Bordeaux Buyer

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Postcard from Bordeaux en Primeur – Part 1

There is something very exciting whilst at the same time comforting about the Bordeaux Primeurs week. The fleets of shiny hire cars buzzing up the Routes des Chateaux bringing the world's wine trade to the Chateaux gates is long anticipated and a welcome sight. It is a time-honoured tradition which the region hosts and handles extremely well. It is both formal and very French. It is respectful to the wines of the region even if the concept of tasting and commenting on such unformed wines is slightly baffling.

I have joined the throngs of bordeaux disciples in the Medoc today and am following the brightly coloured corduroy trousered and blazered British brigade, the immaculately presented Asians and cravated Bordelais – they're all here, in their hundreds and thousands once again, despite the economic doom and gloom.

It marks the end of weeks of speculation on quality as now a more general and global commentary will start to be published.

It also marks the beginning of the real 'campaign', one that promises to be fast and furious

Hence the excitement in the air today - it's a wonderfully bright, sunny fresh spring day, breezy, hot in the sun, very cool in the shade, the perfect conditions for tasting these purple babies.

I thought I would send you my very first impressions: Left Bank today, Right tomorrow, saving the Top Lot (Firsts etc) for next week when Tony and Dan are joining me.

I started at Branaire Ducru, hosts to the St Estephes, Pauillacs and St Juliens.
Lovely. Ripe. Generous Gentle Giants. The best are succulent, non-aggressive, sweet, velvety tannined which will give them lovely depth in years to come. Those that are flawed are mostly simply over-extracted, the temptation to get just a bit more juice overcoming the better judgement to let the ripe late-harvested pure fruit sing through.

My winners in no particular order:
Nearly all the St Juliens: Beychevelle, Branaire Ducru, Gruaud Larose, Lagrange, Langoa Barton, Leoville Barton, Leoville Poyferre (always so classy), Talbot (lightly pretty)
Some of the Pauillacs: Batailley, d'Armailhac, Grand Puy Ducasse, Haut Bages Liberal, Pichon Baron and Lalande (my top 2 from today), Pontet Canet
And a couple of St Estephes: Lafon Rochet and Phelan Segur.

On to Chasse Spleen for the Medoc line-up. A couple that really stood out for me: Fonreaud (Listrac), Poujeaux (Moulis, just delicious) and La Tour Carnet (Haut Medoc - a real top class bomb)

And on to Margaux, Marquis de Terme, where I'm sitting now in the sun, tapping away with purple stained fingers, having slurped through a rather mixed bag; at worst light, at best fresh, and at very best a couple of true Margaux, subtle, elegant and most definitely feminine ...

My winners: Brane Cantenac, Cantenac Brown, d'Angludet, Dauzac, Giscours, Kirwan (very vibrant), Malescot St Exupery, Rauzan Segla and Siran

More tomorrow ...

Clare Tooley, Bordeaux Buyer