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

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