Notes of Cellartracker Bordeaux Trip (v. long)

Some 30 CT members made a trek down to Bordeaux last week for a great week of tasting and fun. I will post the notes on the wines we had plus a short description of each day’s activies in case anyone is interested:

Day 0:

30 or so excited people gathered at the bar of the Regent Hotel in Bordeaux to kick off our inaugral CT Bordeaux trip. It was a wonderful time of meeting and greeting and finally being able to put faces to all the handles on the forum. We started out with cocktails and a nice Champagne, before decamping to La Brasserie Bordelaise for dinner. The start of a wonderful few days.


N.V. Ruinart Champagne Blanc de Blancs - France, Champagne
Our first drink in Bordeaux, courtesy of Brian and Ashley. This was a very decent Blanc des Blancs. Lovely refined nose, gentle minerality, yeast, white meat, white appley fruit. Very Chardonnay scents. The palate was very fresh, with lots of lemons and green apples. Nice depth, very fresh and citrusy, with a nice tension on the palate. It finished with a good persistence in its white meat and yeast notes. Not bad at all. (90 pts.)


2010 Château Graville-Lacoste Blanc - France, Bordeaux, Graves
Surprisingly, this was actually pretty good - a good value of the wine list of the restaurant. The nose was very expressive, with notes of mineral, bright grapefruit scents, some white flowers, gooseberry, pineapple and some meadow herbs - quite a splash of Sauvignon Blanc in there I would think. The palate was really fresh, but also had nice body, with flavours that echoed those picked up on the nose - grapefruit, ripe gooseberry, sweet lemons, all nicely balanced into the finish, which showed a touch of spice and mineral. A pretty nice wine, and it went beautifully with our briny Marenne oysters as well. (89 pts.)

2010 Domaine de la Croix Côtes de Provence Cuvée Eloge - France, Provence, Côtes de Provence
Recommended by the waiter - we all thought this was an excellent Rosé. Rather pale pink in colour, it had very nice nose, full of gently sweet scents of strawberries, red cherries, some earth, garrigue an a flowery hint - lavender maybe. The palate was really lovely. Lots of wonderful fresh acidity, lovely red fruit flavours of strawberries and berries filling the mouth, a long, energetic finish with a little lemon and mandarin orange touch. This was only 12.5%, so when wed to that lovely freshness, it was just so easy to drink. And yet for all that, there was certainly no lack of depth and a nice sense of food-friendly structure that one seldom gets with a Rosé at this price. A really nice drop. (91 pts.)

Day 1:

Off we go then, starting with Pauillac. The grins on the faces of the CT members on this trip were a sight to behold. Each Chateau offered a very different experience despite being just a few kilometers from each other, from the horse-drawn, cosmos-respecting Pontet-Canet, to the money-fueled technology and architecture marvel that is Pichon-Baron, and then to the two Rothschild aristocrats, this was such a varied and wonderfully fulfilling day.


2010 Château Pontet-Canet - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
Barrel sample. This was really good. Lovely nose, full of fresh plums and cassis, wild blackberries, violets and other dark flowers, a touch of sweet Chinese herbs and a layer of sweet oak. Really expressive for a wine this young. The palate was framed by fine powdery tannins and just lovely freshness. Lovely focus and precision on this one, and I really liked the beautiful purity in its wild dark berry fruit tones, which were sprinkled with bits of earth, sweet spices and a little layer of mocha oak as the wine moved into a lingering finish where there was just a little bite of tannins. A lot going on here, and it promises much for the future. Very good indeed. 93-94 (93 pts.)

2005 Château Pontet-Canet - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
Brilliant - this tasting confirmed my impression of the wine at UGC two years ago. What an incredible nose. Earth, loam, truffly mushrooms, plums, cassis, flowers, a little layer of oak, sweet spices - deep reservoirs of wonderful aromas, so much going on. The palate was absolutely beautiful too. There was pure, pure fruit - tons of fresh wild berries, dark cherries, cassis, with a bit of bramble, some truffle hints. Lovely stuff. There was lots of power here, but it was always the amazing elegance and integration on the wine that stood out. There was lots of finesse from the attack to the long, satiny finish, where fine tannins coated the mouth slightly. Still a very young wine, but this is bursting with potential. Really top-notch. (94 pts.)


2004 Château Lynch-Bages - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
Not bad, but not great. 80% Cab, 9% Merlot, 5% Cab Franc and 2% Petit Verdot. This had a very pretty nose. Very flowery, with violets wed to pats of earth, some rich cassis scents, a bit of leather, quite a bit of oak still, but all coming together to form an attractive bouquet. There was lots of fresh acidity on the palate, which lent its quality to some clean, pure cassis and dark cherry notes, along with just that bit of green peppers and then little secondary notes of earth, tobacco and some savoury dried meat and leather touches in the background. I liked the flavour profile, but there was not the greatest depth and breadth of expression, and this had a distinctly short to mid-length finish with some bittersweet bramble notes. However, that said, it was showing quite nicely resolved tannins and a nice freshness at this stage, and should be very pleasant drinking in a few years’ time. Overall, a decent Pauillac, but nothing to shout about. (89 pts.)

2010 Château Lynch-Bages - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
Barrel sample - this was quite impressive. 79% Cab Sauvignon, an usually large amount, some 12%, of Cab Franc, 9% Merlot and 1% Petit Verdit. It had a lovely nose of soap-suddy florals, almost lavender essence-like, nice sweet cassis, blackberries, a little layer of oak - very perfumy. A bit like the 2004, but even more aromatically expressive and rather higher tones. Nice stuff. The palate was still rather woody, with plenty of wood spice notes sprinkled amongst bright cassis flavours with a bit of green bell peppers. Some pretty well-shaped if not exactly fine tannins added a sense of muscular structure, while tehre was a nice freshness towards the brightly fruited finish, where a little ring of smoke curled around the fruit. Decent length, nice freshness and focus - this should make a pretty nice wine when its time comes. 90-92 (91 pts.)


1986 Château de la Rivière - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Fronsac
From an ex-Chateau double-magnum - a kind gift from H to commemorate two couples celebrating their 25 anniversaries. This was still going strong, and while it was not the greatest Bordeaux, it certainly gave a lot of pleasure on the day. Very funky on the nose, very earthy, with some tobacco, spice and a bit of metally mineral scents riding alongside hints of dark fruit and sweet roasted green peppers. After that, the palate had a surprisingly nice attack with a ring a matured sweetness - I got haw flakes, dried strawberries and plums, some fruit tea across the mouth. The finish was slightly short, but it did have a nice linger of tobacco and spice. I think this wine may have seen better days, but it was nevertheless certainly still alive, and really pleasant to drink. (89 pts.)


2010 Château Mouton Rothschild - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
Barrel sample at the Chateau, a whopping 96% Cab Sauv (the most in the Chateau’s long history), the rest Merlot, this was incredibly impressive. What a nose it had. Pure cassis, licorice root, violets, some fresh herbs, thyme I think, a little bit of earth, all in an incredible melange - I could really sniff this all day. There was some oak there, but such was the fruit that you barely noticed it on the bouquet. On to the palate then, and boy, this was beautiful. It had just pitch perfect balance with oodles of acidity and the finest tannins, almost a rustling of silk here, framing just amazingly pure, yet tremendously powerful flavours of cassis, dark cherries and dark chocolate laced with a hint of mineral. This had stunning fruit, so dense, intense, yet so pure - like the essence of perfectly ripe cherries, berries and cassis. Very primary, yet somehow, for something so young, it managed to come across as perfectly integrated from attack all the way into an amazingly long, fresh, open finish full of that succulent fruit now sprinkled with a touch of coffee grounds. 14 percent alcohol here, but we did not feel it at all. Absolutely brilliant wine - I would love to try this in 25 years’ time. 95-98 (95 pts.)


1995 Château Lafite Rothschild - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
A fantastic wine. It was a real privilege to be drinking this along with other CT members in Lafite’s awe-inspiring cellars. This had been decanted for 2 hours pending our arrival, and while not exactly at going at full tilt, it was nonetheless easily the wine of the day for me. The nose was certainly still tight, but it was quite lovely, with a spectrum of elegantly attractive scents - from a gentle, loamy earthiness with truffles and soil - all very forest floor, and then tobacco, cigar, spice box scents, some nice cassis and blackberry accents, a hint of licorice - all this integrated into a wonderful, gentle, mellow bouquet. Very nice, but it was rather the palate that absolutely floored me. The wine put a major smile on many faces on first sip. It was just wonderful, showing an incredible elegance with satin tannins wed to gently mouthwatering acidity and a lovely, gentle, mouthfilling perfume of cassis and blackberries, with some flavours of melted dark chocolate, hints of tobacco, and then spice box accents, with nutmeg and cinamon flavours on the midpalate, all framed with just the right amount of freshness. Like the nose, the palate too was perfectly integrated, so that the wine came across as a complete whole as it pulled away with a long, long finish of dark fruit, dark spicy notes and a little touch of forest floor, all wafting away with a gentle, complex, almost undulating length. Such a contrast with the Mouton we had just before - while that was all shock and awe with the sheer depth and clarity of its fruit, this came across as an aristocratic wine. It did not shout, it was not show-offish, yet there was so much going on and it was sheer pleasure to drink it - someone described the wine as having a restrained opulence. To me, it was just pure class. I loved this. (96 pts.)


2010 Château Pichon-Longueville Baron - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
This was definitely one of the better barrel samples that we tasted on the day, and it should make an absolutely smashing wine when bottled. It had a really great nose - all plums and cassis nestling amongst some earth, some spice and a little layer of oak. Very nice. The palate was full of rich fruit - dark cherries and blackberries, cassis, just layers and layers of beautiful dark fruit laced with some tremendous acidity. The finish was long, powerful, with some oak, lots of spice, a bit of tobacco, all framed by firm but well-shaped tannins. Tons of depth, tons of powers, muscular, very Pauillac, yet with a sense of nobility and finesse. This was tremendous. 93-95 (94 pts.)

2009 Château Pichon-Longueville Baron - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
Wow - I really enjoyed this. The nose was still a bit tight, some coffee oak scents, some dark plum and cassis fruit, wood spice, some dried earth. The palate was a whole different matter though - surprisingly plush, smooth, almost velvety, it was certainly opened for business, attacking with a mouthfull of clean dark fruit that strode energetically across the mid-palate into a friendly finish that showed some lovely black fruit, some tobacco flavours and a little touch of oak. Very yummy, almost hedonistically so, and surprisingly open fruity, open and generous. While the 2010 barrel sample came across as noble and serious, this is all about the succulent, immediately seductive quality of the 2009 fruit. Thankfully, however, the Pichon-Baron managed to wed this to an impressive sense of balance and some structure. Really impressive - delicious now, but this should make a really great mid-term wine. (94 pts.)

2008 Château Pichon-Longueville Baron - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
This was the most classic of the 4 vintages that we had side-by-side, and I really liked it. It had a beautiful, beautiful nose, full of earthy, mushroomy scents, heady fruit scents of blackberries and ripe cherries, some pork ham, a bit of wood spice, all really nice. While the palate did not quite have the richness or concentration of either the 2009 or 2010, it had a nice ring of clarity and freshness to its dark cherry and berry flavours along with a lovely sense of focus and precision. The finish was fresh, clean, with great energy and unexpected length as it pulled away with a whiff of smoke and a grip of fine teeth-coating tannins. Really nice, a classic Baron that should age really well. (93 pts.)

2003 Château Pichon-Longueville Baron - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
Not my favourite Baron, but this was actually quite good. Served blind, I could not pick it out as a 2003. Indeed, it had a lovely nose, with mushrooms, toast, coffee and sweet black fruit scents, all quite nicely integrated now. The palate had lots of sweet black fruit, cassis and blackberries I thought. It was rich, ripe but not overblown, and actually pretty nicely balanced a for 2003, with good acidity wed to good tannin shape. There was some length in a meaty, earthy back-palate, but it got just a bit tight and austere on the very tail of the wine, where some drying vine stemmy accents showed. That aside, this was actually an impressive wine for its vintage, just not one I would rush out to buy. (92 pts.)


2000 Harlan Estate - USA, California, Napa Valley
My first Harlan - very kindly popped by Tacman and poured straightaway. A bit of a pity I thought - this looked liked it needed a longish aeration. Nevertheless, a good wine which I enjoyed drinking. It had a very Big nose, with a huge amount of ripe cassis, some bramble and earth, a bit of spice and a little whoosh of glycerol. Attractive, but the alcohol was a tad distracting. The palate was excellent though. It had an incredible amount of depth and breadth, with deep dark cassis and plums, lots and lots of spice, some brambly notes, all with a touch of powdery tannins that gave a firm sense of structure and lots of lovely fresh acidity. The superbly long finish had lots of coiled up power, with warm earthy notes and black fruits peppered with a bit spice zooming away into the distance. Still really, really young, very primary, but lots of quality. This may not be one for classic Claret drinkers, but is was a very good Cali cab that should continue to age effortlessly over the decade or more. (93 pts.)

1986 Beaulieu Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Georges de Latour Private Reserve - USA, California, Napa Valley
The first of two 1986s popped by LST. This had a really matured nose, with some balsamic notes, soy, earth, dark fruits and black tea. I was wondering whether it was over the hill with all those soy and balsamic tones. The palate was still just about hanging in there though. Really quite pleasant actually, with a gentle sweetness to its dried cherries, strawberries and haw flakes flavours. The finish was still there, pretty alive too, with some orange peel and a little dried flower note at the end. Pretty nice, but this has seen better years - time to drink up. (88 pts.)

1986 Monticello Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Corley Reserve - USA, California, Napa Valley
Second of two 1986 Napas. This had another very mature nose. Slight balsamic notes, some mushroomy earth, still some sweet oak and a bit of dried cassis notes. The palate was just about keeping together, showing sweet red fruit, some cassis, more dried than fresh fruit here. It was nicely resolved, still some woody tannins, not that much energy left, but it had a nice fullness on the midpalate and surprising length with some fruit tea notes lingering in the mouth. Nice, while maybe a bit more tired than the BV, I liked this wine a bit more. An enjoyable experience. (89 pts.)


2000 Château Kirwan - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
At La Tupina in Bordeaux - a magnum shared with the CT crowd. I enjoyed this wine. It had a lovely nose with lots of flowers, smoky ash, cassis, some earth. Very perfumy stuff, very Margaux. The palate was very nice too. A bit rustic in terms of its structure, but otherwise it was a really nice wine with plenty of depth to its nice cassis flavours with a red cherry overtone, some earth with a nice smoky tinge and a really nice sense of integration. Soild stuff, and went very well with superb roast chicken we had. While drinking well now, I would give this about 3-4 years more before it hits prime time. (91 pts.)

Day 2:

Day 2 then, and if I was forced to pick, I would say that this was probably the most enjoyable day of the trip. From an early morning visit to the amazingly beautiful La Mission cloister / winery, to a wonderful second visit at Domaine de Chevalier where Remy Edange (the winemaker / general manager) charmed, tutored and entertained us with a wonderful tour around the vineyards and facilities, to a lovely lunch at Smith Haut-Lafitte, where we were hosted by the Cathiards (complete with a tour of the “James Bond” cellar), and finally to d’Yquem, where we had a taste of the 2007 - magic in a bottle. What a way to end a stupendous day!


2007 Château La Mission Haut-Brion - France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
Still a pretty good wine, but I thought this was one of the poorer La Missions in recent years. It was more or less blown away by the 2007 Haut Brion that we tasted alongside. What a beautiful nose on this though - lush scents of plums and dark berries, toasty tobacco notes, a whiff of chocolate fondant, some warm earth with a little flowery accent, such a lovely bouquet. Unfortunately, the palate lacked a bit of the weight and depth you normally get with a La Mission. It excelled in its precision and focus, with a lovely sense of elegance and a beautiful freshness in its bright flavours dark berries and cherries, all framed with silky tannins, however there seemed to be less than usual substance underpinning the mid-palate and the wine finished a bit shorter than I would have liked. Someone was saying that it would be prefect if you could synthesize the nose on this wine with the much more impressive palate of the Haut Brion. This was still very young, but it was already giving quite a bit of pleasure. There is plenty of room to develop of course, but this seems set to be an early drinking, easy vintage rather than one for the ages. (91 pts.)

2007 Château Haut-Brion - France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
A tremendous wine. The nose was rather less aromatic than the 2007 LMHB tasted alongside, but had plenty going for it still, with wafting scents of chocolate, coffee, some tobacco and roast meat alongside some subtle dark fruit. There was no doubting the quality on the palate though. This had really nice depth and breadth for 2007 along with a lovely transperancy to its dark fruit flavours of cassis and dark plums. On the mid-palate, these were accompanied by roasted meat flavours, some earthy accents and tobacco leaf notes, all surrounded by a really fine sense of structure lent by well-formed tannins and well integrated acidity. The finish was way longer than the LMHB’s, with really surprising persistence for a 2007. It just licked away at the back of the palate with a wonderful linger of earth, herb and spice. A lighter style of Haut-Brion this vintage round, but really lovely stuff. While still very young, I thought there was certainly no crime to drink this with a little decanting. (94 pts.)


2010 Domaine de Chevalier - France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
Barrel sample. I thought this was really very good. Lovely Graves nose here, slightly green tobacco leaves, some cigar smoke, deep dark scents of plums and cassis, earth, some gravelly stone. A really nice bouquet. The palate ws really fresh, with lots of bright acidity and harmonious tannins framing juicy dark fruit - cassis, dark cherries, blackberries, a bit of licorice root. It was very bright, high-toned, elegant, with lots of energy from attack into the long finish, where the fresh fruited flavours where met by some meatiness, a really smoky minerality and bits of wood spice and coffee grounds. Tons of purity here but no lack of depth either. Very good indeed. 91-93 (93 pts.)

2005 Domaine de Chevalier - France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
I thought this was excellent - a real turnaround from the last time I tasted it in the UGC event two years ago. Much deeper on the nose than the 2010 from barrel, also more aromatically expressive and really pretty - just tons of cassis, earth, mushroom and dark flowers accented with just a bit of smoked meat. Lovely. The palate was beautiful as well. What stunning purity on this - fleshy blackberries, currants, a touch of dark cherries, just ringingly clear and pure in the mouth and framed by the most elegant tannins and really juicy, quite perfectly integrated acidity. The finish was long, but so integrated with the rest of the wine that you did not notice the length as it put in a lovely show of mineral, earth and fruit. Lots of elegance and finesse, but with all the fleshy, voluptous concentration of the vintage. Brilliant stuff. (93 pts.)

2010 Domaine de Chevalier Blanc - France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
Barrel sample. This was mind-blowingly good - possibly the very best Bordeaux blanc I have ever had. What a nose! Passionfruit, pink grapefruit, pineapples, lots and lots of musky white peaches and nectarine. A beautiful, beguiling bouquet. On to the palate, and wow, there was such beautiful wonderful clarity and freshness to the fruit that it was like biting into a fresh white peach. Past the midpalate, the pure stone fruit notes were lifted by a citrussy accent - I was thinking grapefruit and ripe lemons, maybe pineapples, with just a touch of ripe gooseberries, and then towards the long finish, all that fleshy voluptuous fruit leaned down into a beautifully sturctured, minerally tail. The wine was so mouthfillingly perfumed that you hardly noticed the little touch of oak at the very end. What a gloriously balanced, integrated wine, beautiful depth, great precision, amazing clarity, a wine full of beautiful things. This was magic in a glass. 94-96 (96 pts.)


2007 Château Smith Haut Lafitte - France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
Not the best wine we had on the day, but this was pretty good. Some mocha hints formed the backdrop for lovely cassis and plum scents, some earth and sprigs of herb, tobacco leaf and smoke. A lovely nose. The attack on the palate was marked by clean, clear acidity which went really well with the wine’s ripe, fleshy cassis and black cherry fruit. This was seasoned with some wood spice and smoky hints at the finish. This did not have the depth of raw-material of few of the top 2007s that we had, but it was well balanced, nicely integrated, with fine tannins and a good amount of substance and length for the vintage. I really enjoyed this. Should show well in the short to mid-term. (91 pts.)

2008 Château Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc - France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
A really good Bordeaux blanc. Lovely nose, white peach, apricot, yellow flowers, a bit of ripe lemons - really nice. Less flashy than the super-expressive Domaine de Chavalier on the nose, but no less attractive. The palate, though not quite as good as the Chevalier, was quite lovely too. Lots of depth, with a lovely mouthfull of stone fruit, flowers, sweet lemons, Chinese pears (the Sauvignon Gris speaking here I think) and a very nice little streak of mineral carrying it into a fresh, almost citrus finish. Very bright, lively, a bit tightly coiled, yet already pretty well-integrated and nice to drink. A nice wine. (92 pts.)


2001 Château Cantelys Blanc - France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
Yellow gold in colour, this had a beautiful nose of figs, dried lemons, persimmons, with just a curl of smoke and some toasty nuttiness with a bit of caramel and toffee. Very attractive. The palate was not quite as nice though. There were fleshy yellow fruited tones wed to some nutty caramel notes with just a bit of heat at the edges. This was lovely with our smoke duck and green bean dish, but I thought it lacked the precision and freshness of the other Bordeaux blancs we had on the day. Decent, but not great. (87 pts.)

2009 Les Hauts de Smith Blanc - France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
Very impressive for a 2nd wine. Lovely nose. Musky flowers, grapefruit, green apples and then some lemony notes, sweet stone fruit scents, a touch of sweet oak, a curl of smoke - really attractive, with lots of stuff going on. The palate had a lovely balance, with lots of lovely peachy flavours on the attack, opening up into apples and sweet lemons and pineapples. A mouthfull of fruit. Really pleasant stuff. I thought it lacked just a bit of the focus, precision and maybe the length of the Chateau’s 1st wine, but this was excellent for what it is. (91 pts.)

2006 Château Smith Haut Lafitte - France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
Third outing with this wine, with pretty similar impressions. Good, but not great. It had a lovely nose, really forward and expressive for a wine this young, with earth, spice, smoke and deep cassis fruit notes on a little meaty backdrop - really nice. The palate showed some lovely smoked meat notes, ripe cassis flavours, a touch of minerality, all with a good sense of balance. Nice lingering finish too, with a bit of smoke curling around the mouth and lots of lovely freshness. Nice stuff, just somehow lacks a certain je nais se quois, so that it came across as well-made, pleasant but a little unexciting. (91 pts.)

1998 Château Smith Haut Lafitte - France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
This was at a very nice place. Lovely nose. Smoke, mineral, deep cassis and plum notes, some dark chocolate, just a lovely aromatic bouquet. The palate had a lovely mellowness with velvety tannins forming a really nice background for maturing flavours of plums and dried cherries, some green peppers, all laced with some mineral and earth and just a hint of coffee. A good amount of acidity kept everything very clean, clear - a really, really nice wine to drink, and quite a brilliant pairing with lamb. (93 pts.)


2007 Château d’Yquem - France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes
What a wine! Beautiful nose, still tight, but rather lighter and fresher than I normally associate with d’Yquem, less coconut than usual too. There was a bit of it still in there somewhere, but it was the spectrum of caramel scents, butterscotch, honey, accompanied by figs and poached pear notes that stood out more. There was even a touch of flowery perfume, and a bit of high-toned passionfruit at the edges. A really nice, complex bouquet, with a dancing fresh lightness to its scents. The palate totally perished any thought of lightness though - there was just tons of rich weight and depth in a creamily textured mouthful. From attack to finish, the wine showed a whole panoply of of tropical fruit flavours - mangoes, passionfruit, even some jackfruit, along with a shade of dried apricots. Great complexity, but also with a tremendously impressive amount of integration for such a young wine. There seemed to be a slight pause at the back-palate, and then the finish sets in with a lovely sense of freshness that lifted the wine into a really superbly long back-end peppered with sweet clove, nutmeg and cinamon spice and, finally, just a little hint of coconut juice at the very tail. This is still a baby of course, but it was extremely precocious and choked-full of quality. A brilliant d’Yquem. This is one to lay down and keep for the ages. (96 pts.)


2009 Dourthe No. 1 - France, Bordeaux, Bordeaux Contrôlée
From a 375ml at Cafe l’Orleans, Bordeaux. After a whole day of drinking top-end Bordeaux blanc, this was a real come down. Still though, pleasant enough to wash down our oysters and sole meunier with. Very fresh, this had a nose of lime, gooseberries and a bit of grass. Lots of fresh citrus notes on the palate as well along with some seasidey mineral tones. Simple, but fresh and drinkable. There was just a bit of heat on the finish, but otherwise, this was a pretty decent food wine. (86 pts.)

Day 3:

Another day then, and if Day 2 approached wine nirvana, this could probably be called the most touristique for our 4 days in Bordeaux. The day started with a tour around the jaw-dropping Disney-land-like Chateau and cellars at de la Riviere in Fronsac, followed by lunch and a short walk around the postcard-picture-perfect town of St Emilion. Cameras flashing away then. The afternoon was a bit more serious, with a tasting of the excellent 2010 Conseillante, followed by a short visit to the UDPSE co-op with its enomatic machine. Finally, back to Bordeaux to get dressed up, and then the highlight of the day for me, an excellent dinner at Coutet hosted by the lovely Aline Baly.


2005 Château de la Rivière - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Fronsac
We had clearly crossed into the right bank with this wine. 80% Merlot, decent if unspectacular. It did have a lovely nose of plums, savoury earth, chocolate and spice butressed by a touch of sweet oak. The palate was not quite as attractive though. Really tight, it had plenty of nice acidity and nice tannins, but not showing all that much character, with just some rather closed flavours of dark fruit and spice moving into a rather light, a little tart finish where there was a touch of toasted coffee bean and vine stems. Hard to gauge this, right now it comes across as a pretty well-made wine at a difficult stage of its development. (88 pts.)

2008 Château de la Rivière - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Fronsac
A nice little Fronsac - I found this a whole lot better than the 2005 on the day. The nose showed mocha, coffee bean, sweet plums, some toasty spice - just a bit buried under the oak at the moment, but judging from the 2005, this should clear up quite well. It was really nice on the palate though, very forward, lots of lovely sweet black cherries, some plums, all with a lovely freshness and a nice sense of structure with soft, rounded tannins. It finished with a nice mouthfull of dark chocolate, spice and a little toast. Some smoky, meaty flavours hovered in the background too. Not great length, but very decent nonetheless. All in all, this was a wine that I would not mind drinking on a day-to-day basis. Pretty good. (90 pts.)

2001 Château La Riviere Aria - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Fronsac
Some Chateau make second wines, some do prestige cuvees with big name consultants. This was one of the later, 100% merlot, and very much a Michel Rolland wine. Lovely deep nose, full of opulent chocolate, dark plum and liquered black cherry, some sweet spices, and earthy, mossy, truffle scents. Heady stuff. The palate was just starting to soften up into a plush velvety feel, with layers of pure plums and prunes, very opulent, voluptuous on the attack, but with a nice acidity and a sense of mineral and a touch of leather and meat as it moved into a surprisingly fresh and balanced finish where there was just a bit of earth, cocoa bean and spice. A good wine for sure, but not quite my cup of tea. Very nice, with a bit of elegance to it, but just a bit soul-less. Still very, very young though, and there is lots of room for development still - time will tell. It may not be the longest term wine, but it should easily age and improve over the next decade and a half or so. (92 pts.)


2010 Château de Sours Rosé - France, Bordeaux, Bordeaux Rosé
By the glass at l’Envers du Decors in St. Emilion. Not a serious wine, but quite pleasant, especially given that it was sweltering outside. Fresh cassis and redcurrant on the nose, some brambly herb notes, nice stuff. Really fresh and fruity on the palate too, with lots of red fruit this time - raspberries, red currants, maraschinos. Very fun wine, not much depth or complexity to speak of, just that shade off on the balance, so that it was a touch hot at points, a touch tart at others, but all said, it was a really nice quaffer on a hot summer’s day and a good accompaniment to an onion omelette. (87 pts.)

2005 Château La Grave Figeac - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
Bought by the glass at l’Envers du Decors in St Emilion to wash a lovely entrecote with shallots down with. A decent wine, but not all that great, especially given the vintage and its terroir, being just a stone’s throw from all the great names of the appelation. The nose was promising at first - lots of smoky mineral, some roasted meat, dusty earth, blackberries and plums. I kinda liked it. The palate on the other hand was rather lean and mean for a 2005 initially, but it thankfully opened up to make a pleasant wine - nice dark fruited plums and berries lined with some stone and earth and some smoky, spicy notes at the end. The wine had a decent sense of structure and balance, and quite a bit of substance to it, but I thought it lacked some of the clarity and focus of classier St Emilions. Overall, a nice enough glass to have with my steak, but not one I would hunt out and buy. (88 pts.)


2010 Château La Conseillante - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol
Absolutely brilliant stuff. A barrel sample, bottled in the morning, so it was still throwing of a little gas, but a few swirls and it revealed a gorgeous nose of mulberries, plums, lots of violets, just a hint of sweet spices - so perfumed, so beautiful, just pure right bank seduction. The palate followed up where the nose left off. It had dollops of lovely acidity wed to a fine, lacy structure so that the wine was supremely elegant even though there was tons of power and reservoirs of depth in its pure blackberry and plum flavours, which were sprinkled with attractive little flecks of spice and herb on the mid-palate. 14.5% but you never quite felt it. Fleshy, seductively, voluptuous, yet with a nice sense of structure that carried it into lovely finish. Really young of course, and still intimidatingly primary, but this was a superb wine, and one to cellar for sure. 94-96 (94 pts.)


2007 Château Lamartre - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
Very middle-of-the-raod wine. Nose showed fresh scents of cassis and red berries, some mineral and smoke. The palate had quite a bit of mouthwatering acidity, not much depth, but with a nice freshness and and structure and plenty of spice and dark fruit. Simple, but decently quaffable stuff. (86 pts.)

2003 Galius St. Émilion Grand Cru - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
Good QPR for a sub-10EUR wine. Nothing fancy, but a pretty decent drink. It started out with a very ripe nose - prunes and plums, some roasty, toasty earth scents. A bit OTT for me. The palate was surprisingly nice though, with a lot of acidity framing simple but pretty nice flavours of dark cherries and plums leading into a little earthy finish with a bittersweet twist. Short, a bit lacking in energy, but certainly not unpleasant. (87 pts.)

2001 Aurelius - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
Best of the line-up, this was actually quite a solid, well-made wine. Tight nose, some smoky earth, a bit of mineral, some dark fruit, flowers, dark chocs maybe, but all a bit closed. The palate was better. Plums, prunes, a dusting of mineral and earth, some soy, a bit rustic on the structure, but it was pretty nicely drinking wine with a touch of depth on it. Very decent. (89 pts.)


2010 Château Coutet - France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Barsac
2010 barrel sample, served as an aperitif before dinner. I enjoyed this - it had a lovely apricot nose, along with lively scents of honey, musk, flowers, all light, fresh, almost dancing on the bouquet. The palate was very good as well - almost like liquified dried apricots on the attack, accompanied with some minerality, a bit of musk and more stone fruit. With time, it opened up into some candied pineapple, honey and spice on a nutty midpalate. Lots of depth, but this also had a nice freshness, especially at the finish where there was a lively, almost citrusy lift. I must add that the wine was lovely with food, going really well with a succession of delicious appetisers. 92-93 (92 pts.)

1998 Château Coutet - France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Barsac
I liked this wine. It had a really nice nose. Foresty earth scents, mushrooms, caramel, toffee, some lovely golden honey accents, high-toned, perfumy flowers, nectarines and apricots, a touch of petroleum, just lovely stuff. The palate was still young, but was just about starting to show some lovely aged characteristics, with burnt caramel flavours and some gentle honeyed tones. However, it was still marked with lots of fresh fruit - sweet lemons, apricots, peach, nectarine, all laced through with a whole lot of lovely freshness which made the wine a wonderful pairing for our langoustine sushi entree. It finished really nicely, with a distinct tail of caramelised nuts. A nice wine with its best years still way ahead of it. (92 pts.)

1976 Château Coutet - France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Barsac
This had an amazingly young colour - just slightly deeper gold than the 1998, and far, far lighter than the amber gold on the 1989. The nose showed rather younger than I would have thought too, some earth, dried apricots and pineapples, orange peel, some sweet spice, but this still smelt fresh, and certainly did not have the caramelly treacle that I would expect of a Sauternais at this age. The palate was really youthfull too. It still retained quite a bit of the sweetness of youth and also had a surprising freshness on the attack, think candied citrus fruit - lemons and mandarin oranges - along with a rim of sweet spices. The finish lacked a bit of depth, but lingered very nicely with a mouthfull of orange peel at the back-palate. Not the greatest vintage, but certainly a good wine. I enjoyed this, especially when it was paired with our roasted fowl. (90 pts.)

1989 Château Coutet - France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Barsac
A superb wine - head and shoulders above everything else we had on the night, and amongst the best 1989 Sauternais I have yet had. Golden syrup colour, this looked quite a bit older than the other wines, including a 1976, on the table. What an absolutely brilliant nose though - manuka honey, maple, figs, caramelised apples, gentle wood spice and some sultanas with a little citrus pineapple lift. Beautiful. The palate was at a beautiful place too. Nicely resolved, with perfectly integrated flavours of apircots, peach, stone fruit, lots and lots of figs, a mouthfull of sweet spices, everything wonderfully buttressed with fresh acidity. There was a long, lingering finish with toasted nuts, caramel and brown sugar, maybe just a hint of orange blossoms. Exquisite stuff especially since all this was laced with typical Coutet acidity. This just melted across the mouth with a beautiful mouthfull of botrytised goodness. Gorgeous stuff, and when paired with a few well-chosen cheeses, just heavenly. (94 pts.)

Finally, Day 4:

Time to say goodbye then, with a handshakes, hugs and a few wet eyes, but not before we made a final stop at Margaux to visit the eponymous Chateau - a dream come true for Khamen, who looked as though he found the promised land when the gates swung open - and then to Rauzan-Segla, one of the rising stars of the appellation. What a fitting way to end a wonderful few days in the company of some of the nicest people I have been privileged to travel with.


2007 Pavillon Rouge du Château Margaux - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
A pretty nice second wine. 38% Merlot, 58% Cab Sauv, the rest being a dash of Petit Verdot. The nose was a bit tight at first, with some toasty oak at the fore only slowly opening up into fresh cassis, a touch of earth, some ivy leaf, flowers and a slightly greeb alfafa sprout notes. Lots of nice acidity on the palate, along with fine tannins and flavours of spice, cassis and plums, some tobacco leaf, all very balanced, nice to drink. This had a nice depth for a second wine and finished with good length showing bits of bramble and spice. Very elegant, lots of finesse, a really nice without ever threatening to be spectacular. (90 pts.)

2007 Château Margaux - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
It takes a bit of genius and a lot of good terroir to come up with a wine like this in a vintage like 2007. 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot and a tiny sprinkle of other stuff, this was positively lovely. What a knockout nose. Incredibly seductive, deep dark fruit scents, with lush nose-fuls of cassis and plums, blueberries, black cherries, some damp foresty earth, a lot of perfumy sweet spice and floaty floral notes. Really pretty. The palate, in keeping with the nose, was clean, clear and ringingly pure, with more beautiful floral accents wed to slightly savoury plums, cassis, some earth, wet leaf, a touch of sous bois, some loam - all on a backdrop of the freshest acidity and the finest of tannins. This was all finesse and silky elegance gliding away into an incredible finish of the most astounding length. I could taste it minutes later, gently coating the mouth with black fruit, loam and slightly dried flowers. I just loved this wine - not the greatest from the property, but a wonderful effort for its vintage. This will be a fantastic early drinking Margaux. (95 pts.)


2010 Château Rauzan-Ségla - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
This property has been improving year-on-year ever since Chanel bought it over, and this barrel sample was a great testimony to the heights which they have been hitting in recent vintages. It had an incredible nose, almost fruit tart like, with a touch of toasted vanilla and sweet spice wafting around layered scents of red cherries, dark berries, raspberries. Very high-toned, yet with a little savoury, meaty base. Beautiful. On to the palate then, and wow. I could not spit this, every sip just invited another - lots of elegantly shaped tannins along with perfectly integrated acidity lending the wine a fresh balance, lovely pure red fruit flavours, some meaty undertones, all lacy, fine and filigreed from the first sip into the perfumy finish where a whiff of flowers mingled with a toasty, caramelly accent. This could not be anything but a top-end Margaux. Still some very obvious oak at the back-palate, but otherwise, this was a stunning effort that will be a real beauty when it hits its stride. 93-95 (94 pts.)

2006 Château Rauzan-Ségla - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
Very similar impressions from two years back. A pretty good wine in its own right, but rather unfortunately overshadowed by a fantastic 2010 barrel-sample we tasted alongside. Still though, it had a beautiful nose though, absolutely floral, very Margaux, with roses, violets, some thyme, floating alongside earth, red cherry and berry fruit scents, with just a touch of roast meat at the edges. Hauntingly pretty. The palate had a nice juiciness on the attack, with fresh cherry fruit spiked with some cassis. The fleshiness dried out a bit on the midpalate though, where some fine, slightly dry tannins took to the fore just before the finish opened up with a touch of fresh black fruit sprinkled with bramble and spice. Not the greatest complexity, but it had a nice sense of structure, lovely balance, great acidity, pretty nice length. A nice wine, but all bit tight at the moment - I would like to try this again in 5-7 years’ time. (92 pts.)

Pretty awesome, it must have been great fun!

It was quite a trip - wish you could have joined us, I think you would have enjoyed it tremendously. Crowd was real good company too.

Great to see you had some fun with the Baly’s at Coutet. For a video of Bill Blatch tasting Coutet back to the 1940s take a look at this:

Phenomenal set of notes, absolutely 1st class work…


Great notes. Sounds like a great trip.