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April 8, 2017

Bordeaux 2016 En Primeur: Day 5, Friday 7th April

Chateau Climens

Bérenice of Chateau Climens


Friday. The last day of our marathon tasting tour of BDX16.


A nice lie in rising at 7am to pack the car up and head to Sauternes, after our nightmare trip last year we gave the Rocade an extra half an hour for their appalling traffic arriving at Chateau Climens with 7 mins to spare.


Bérenice was on great form and so was her beautiful 2016 Climens, wonderful purity on all 12 barrel samples we tasted from different pickings in total there were two main “tries”; the first 28th September to 7th October and then the second from 18th to 22nd October as the quality of the botrytis was first class.


Chateau d'Yquem, Sauternes


From Chateau Climens we headed to Chateau d’Yquem, partly so Robert and Andrew could see the property, partly to remind ourselves on how the 2016 was showing and compare it to the Climens.


Chateau Pape Clement


We then headed to Chateau Pape Clement to taste Bernard Magrez’s impressive range of Cru Classé. Pape Clement was a real delight with plenty of power yet wonderful freshness and elegance. With still the taste in our mouth we headed to the airport to catch our flight back home and thoughts turn to the dark, sophisticated Theakstons with a creamy top… With just over 60 chateaux visited in 4 1/2 days of intensive tasting, black teeth which would even frighten the mother-in-law and roughly about 500 wines tasted, we feel we have a good understand about the vintage.


In conclusion, it is a unique vintage due to its low maturation over the summer and the Indian summer helped ripen the tannins yet the cool nights helped maintain freshness and acidity. The result is lower alcohol levels than normal so most wines are coming in at a healthy 13% ABV, rather than 14+% in vintages such as 2009 & 2010. The best wines have this wonderful ripeness and purity with plenty of freshness and energy that makes you want to drink them straight away. It is a very good year without being exceptional, therefore scoring the vintage 9 out of 10. It’s impossible to pull out a particular region or grape varietal; Cabernet Franc has done really well which can often struggle with ripeness. Cabernet Sauvignon on the left bank seems to have slightly outperformed the Merlot if you analyse many of the blends compared to their vineyards holdings. On a Sauternes front, it was a bit of a mixed bag as the purity and quality of the botrytis is very good, however, some of the wines are very high in grams of sugar with wines like Chateau Coutet having 153 grams per litre. Great for those with a big sweet tooth! Dry whites in places lacked a bit of focus and density, charming in places but I would score 8 out of 10.


Our wines of the vintage and personal favourites will be published next week. We hope you’ve enjoyed our trip and thoughts, let’s hope for fair prices.

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April 7, 2017

Bordeaux 2016 En Primeur: Day 5, Thursday 6th April

UGC Margaux tasting at Chateau Kirwan

UGC Margaux tasting at Chateau Kirwan


After a welcomed later start we left after a good breakfast for our first appointment Chateau d’Issan at 8:30am arriving with 10 mins to spare, before diving into some excellent wines from both d’Issan and Pedesclaux; their sister property in Pauillac. These were attractive wines with wonderful balance and vibrancy, sure to be on our recommendations list if the price is right.


From d’Issan to Chateau Palmer to be bowled over by their 2016, left on a huge high. From Palmer we had an hour before our appointment with their neighbour, Chateau Margaux so we headed to Kirwan for the UGC Margaux tasting. The star performers were Chateau Malescot St Exupery, Chateau du Tertre and Chateau Giscours. However, the overall quality was indeed very good.


Dufort Vivens


Realising that Dufont-Vivens wasn’t at the tasting, we took a quick detour for an impromptu tasting which was well worth the effort. Possibly the best from this Chateau, I have tasted in a long time.


The 2016 Chateau Margaux was seriously good, probably not quite the power of 2015 however, not far behind.


Stopping for a quick lunch at Le Lion d’Or at Arcins (recommended if you’re ever in the Medoc). As you would expect it also has a rather good wine list, however the dedication of the our tasting team meant that only water was served, to save our palates for a busy afternoon…


Chateau Cantemerle

UGC tasting at Chateau Cantemerle


Ch. Cantemerle was our next stop for the UGC Medoc tastings, impressive wines all round. Ch. Cantemerle was excellent and Ch. Belgrave was a lovely big surprise.


Then on to a negociant tasting to taste some interesting and vibrant cru bourgeois. Ch. Tour St Bonnet was a cracker, Ch. Senejac shone with an array of others.


Chateau Haut Bailly


With only 50mins to get from the Medoc to Haut-Bailly in Pessac we set off in haste. For once the ‘Rocade’ motorway was kind to us and we arrived at the Chateau with 5 minutes to spare where once again we tasted some glorious wines showing real class.


A quick stop off at UGC Pessac tasting at Ch. Carbonnieux before heading to our final First Growth at Ch. Haut Brion to taste the Clarence Dillon range. La Mission and Haut Brion have been toned down with alcohol to normal levels (relief for my delicate palate), after last year’s blockbuster 15.1% ABV.


From Haut Brion we headed to our last tasting of the day at Ch. Smith Haut Lafitte. Sadly, our luck changed and we got stuck in gridlocked traffic making us 45 minutes late for our tasting. Thank you to Florian, the winemaker, for patiently waiting for us before presenting and talking us through his beautiful and charming 2016’s.


Before heading back to Bordeaux Lac, Monsieur Blatch called to say the steaks were on the BBQ, we hastened our pace. Very generously he has allowed us over a large glass of Raymond-Lafron 2009 to publish his vintage report and Sauternes report for our customers. Thanks Bill, great steaks too… will publish next week.


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April 6, 2017

Bordeaux 2016 En Primeur: Day 4, Wednesday 5th April

Calon Segur, St Estephe line up


In anticipation of another big day in Bordeaux, we left at first light, with a long drive up the Medoc. Our first tasting of the day kicked off with Calon Segur at 8.30am where we talked through the 2016 vintage with my old friend Laurent Dufau, a very informative and engaging meeting; really liked their entry level St Estephe, Capbern. A really pretty wine with lovely texture, energy and purity. Calon Segur did not disappoint, in fact it shone. From Calon Segur we headed to Montrose to taste Tronquoy- Lalande, Dame de Montrose and Chateau Montrose. As you would expect Montrose was the winner in terms of power and structure, however, the wine that really impressed me was their second wine, Dame de Montrose.


Sticking to our schedule we followed Montrose with Cos D’Estournel and Chateau Lafite. This year, Cos has been toned down a little, now around 13% alcohol, although powerful, the tannins were very fine and it oozed harmony and class. The tasting at Lafite was also impressive. Duhart Milon and Lafite were outstanding. For me the Lafite was the best since had real power yet such sophistication.


Chateau Mouton Rotschild new label

David Hockney’s Mouton Rothschild 2014 label design. Credit: Château Mouton Rothschild/David 
Hockney, who was a close friend of longtime Mouton owner Baroness Philippine de Rothschild, has paid tribute to her by using the words ‘In tribute to Philippine’ both above and below the image of two wine glasses. One glass is full and one empty. The estate said that this symbolised the ‘constantly renewed miracle of the birth of a great wine’.


Sun still shinning we headed to Chateau Mouton Rothschild for an equally impressive tasting. I was charmed by D’Armailhac and Petit Mouton and really impressed by Clerc Milon and Mouton Rothschild. The team were delighted to see a fellow Yorkshireman in the spotlight with David Hockney illustrating the label for Mouton 2014.


Chateau Grand Puy Lacoste


Still with two more tasting to do before lunch we headed back into Pauillac town to Grand Puy Lacoste to taste the very pretty Lacoste Borie and my personal favourite mid-range Pauillac, Grand Puy Lacoste. Emilie talked us through the wines, unfortunately she informed us that Haut Batailley had been sold to the Cazes Family from Lynch Bages and was therefore unavailable to taste.


From Grand Puy Lacoste it was back across Pauillac town to Pontet Canet. This wine is definitely back on top form offering wonderful purity, generous fruit and serious focus. Not at the dizzy heights of the 2009 and 2010, however, definitely in the 94-95 points category, although I try not to score wines from the barrel. It was Robert’s pick of the day.


Chateau Batailley


After an impressive lunch at Pontet Canet with “guess the vintage” for the lunch wine, (Robert and Andrew, the En Primeur rookies guessed rightly as 2007, beating six of us seasonal pros!!) we then headed to the UGC St Estephe and Pauillac tasting at Chateau Batailley where we speed tasted a whole host a great wines.. Les Ormes de Pez, Cos, Latour, Lynch Bages and Batailley to name a few.


From Batailley, our next stop was to Leoville Lascases to taste all the Domaine Delon wines…I sometimes struggle with the Leoville Lascases at this stage from the barrel, however, I think it is the best I have tasted from the barrel, which I put down to the lateness of the harvest and quality of the tannins.


Ducru Beaucaillou was next, Lalande Borie showed really well, often one of our St Julien star buys. The La Croix de Beaucaillou, has changed its name again to La Croix Ducru-Beaucaillou. Both it and the Ducru Beaucaillou I felt were too big and concentrated for my palate, more suited to Robert Parker’s taste I think.


With half an hour to spare before our tasting at Chateau Latour we headed to the UGC Saint Julien tasting at Chateau Talbot, here we only managed to taste half the wines before rushing to Latour, tasting the 2005 Latour, their latest release. It really is a tough job at times!


Pichon Lalande


From Latour we when to Pichon Comtesse Lalande and Pichon Longueville Baron to re-taste the wines we had tried at the UGC Pauillac tasting. Both these wines showed much better at the Chateau. Pichon Lalande was my favourite…looks like it could be in my top 10 again this year. Absolutely gorgeous. It’s doesn’t have the muscle and power of the Baron but has wonderful purity and focus. A queen amongst nobles.


With half an hour before the UGC closes at 6pm we had just enough time to taste the second half of the UGC Saint Julien’s before heading back to Bordeaux Lac for a quick change, brush of teeth and into Bordeaux for dinner.


Another huge day and our first on the left bank with 14 Chateaux and tastings complete. Not much rest as we are due back in Margaux at Chateau D’Issan at 8.30am tomorrow!


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April 5, 2017

Bordeaux 2016 En Primeur: Day 3, Tuesday 4th April

chateau Faugeres, St Emilion Grand Cru


Day 3 started with an early rise leaving our chalet at 7:15am for our first appointment at 8am with Martin Krajewski at Clos Cantenac before heading to Chateau Faugeres for our second tasting at 8:30am. Cap de Faugeres showed really well, another wine that often over delivers for its price tag.


Chateau Figeac, St Emilion


From Faugeres we tasted another exceptional Chateau Canon, which again was firing on all cylinders. We then headed to Chateau Figeac, one of the right banks true princesses with wonderful elegance and grace.


From Figeac we headed to the palatial Chateau Pavie, more like a five star hotel than a Chateau and tasted Gerard Perse’s five properties. Big, powerful wines, a bit too concentrated for my palate however, I’m sure they will receive some big scores from some of the top critics.


Big thumbs up from the team to Alexandre Thienpont at VCC for another awesome wine. From VCC we headed to La Dominique to taste some Michel Rolland wines and lunch in La Terrasse Rouge restaurant overlooking Chevalier Blanc.


Cheval Blanc


With 30 mins to spare before our Cheval Blanc appointment, we headed to La Pointe for the UGC Pomerol tasting. Clinet and Gazin were my favourites. Hugely impressed by Quinault Le Clos at the Cheval Blanc tasting.


From Cheval Blanc we made off around the corner to La Conseillante. Incredible harmony and purity… beats Cheval Blanc for me.


Chateau Angelus Wine Tasting


Then on to Chateau Angelus for Hubert de Bouard consultancy tasting before heading to l’Evangile (this really impressed me). We then moved on to Chateau Nenin & Chateau La Couspade for the UGC St Emilion tasting and a quick 10 min tasting at Ch. La Grappe for Stephane Derenoncourt’s consultancy tasting before heading for a dinner appointment at Ch. Lascombes.


A marathon 16 Chateaux visited in one day. Trying not to smile too much as my teeth are frightening! An even earlier start tomorrow morning as we need to leave at 7am to be sure of getting to our Calon Segur tasting for 8:30am in St Estephe.


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April 4, 2017

Bordeaux 2016 En Primeur: Day 2, Monday 3rd April

St Emilion


A foggy start at Bordeaux Lac as we drove through Monday morning traffic on our way to our 9am tasting at Jean Pierre Moeuix. We were warmly welcomed by father and son, Christian and Edouard who ran through some key aspects of the 2016 vintage, explaining that after an incredibly wet winter and spring, the summer was extremely hot and dry, resulting in some of the vines on the gravel soils dropping their leaves due to lack of water; a rare and somewhat concerning occurrence, which hasn’t been reported since the 1990 vintage. One of the top vintages of the 20th century. Like all vintages, its character was shaped by the weather. 1990 was the hottest vintage to follow 1947. Many great Bordeaux vintages have sprung from hot years and 1990 Bordeaux was no exception.


Back to the Moeuix tasting, we were entertained to an impressive show of wines, majestically crafted by the team, these wines really stood out. There is excellent fruit concentration, yet beautifully balanced with harmony; making the wines very approachable and easy to taste. Puy-Blanquet was the best I’ve ever tasted and is definitely in the running to be our star value St Emilion recommendation.


From Libourne we headed into St Emilion to the JCP Maltus tasting where Myriam talked us through Jonathan’s impressive wines. Chateau Teyssier was excellent, a touch more vibrant in style offering great fusion and balance. Le Dome was outstanding and our star of this tasting.


Pomerol wine Tasting


From the JCP Maltus tasting we made our way to Pomerol for the syndicate tasting at the town hall where we split up to taste our way through the ranks and files of the smaller Pomerol Chateaux. We targeted 50 wines to taste in 45 minutes before getting in the car to rush to Domaine de Chevalier for our 12:30pm appointment.


We arrived at Domaine de Chevalier in Pessac Leognan where he had a chance to re-taste some of the wines from the tasting on Sunday night and a 20 minute break for some light lunch before racing around the corner to Chateau La Louviere for Pessac Leognan tasting with many of the smaller producers. Pape Clement was the most impressive for me, however Picque Caillou, usually a great value buy, was well crafted and a personal favourite.


From La Louviere we raced back to the right bank for a tasting at Pavie Macquin with Nicolas Thienpont. Nicolas called the 2016 an “apex and unique vintage” which in his opinion was truly made at the end of the vintage, where the cold nights in October helped maintain acidity and polish, ripen the tannins. The wines have a high acidity and low PH however, the impressive harmony of fruit balances out these factors. Pavie Macquin, Larcis Ducasse and Beausejour were all very good; typically modern, polished style with a lovely seductive nature, his Puygueraud and La Prade wines also impressed.


Denis Durantou and his daughter

Denis Durantou and his daughter


From Pavie Macquin we headed for one of my favourite tastings with the renowned award winning winemaker Denis Durantou at L’Eglise Clinet; he didn’t disappoint. One of the highlights was Saintayme, Denis’s St Emilion Grand Cru property (normally under £10/bottle), vibrant with wonderful ripeness and concentration of fruit, a real delight.


From L’Eglise Clinet it was to La Marzelles, for a tour of their impressive new winery. We also tasted their stunning 2016 against the 2015, which was one of our star recommendations of the 2015 vintage… I have to say that the 2016 L’Eglise Clinet is equally as impressive.


Chateau Tertre Roteboeuf


From La Marzelles we headed to Le Tertre Rotebeouf for a catwalk line-up with Francois Mitjavile, owner of Chateau Roc de Cambes one of the leading properties in the Côtes de Bourg. Our man from Leeds, Robert Chamberlin told Francois that many years ago he used to sell the 1982 at £30 a bottle in his restaurant, Sous Le Nez. Francois got rather excited about this and delved in his cellar, which resulted in us tasting both the 1998 and 1982 vintage; an unbelievable end to the day… A real treat and incredible generosity from Francois!


The time was now 7.45pm so we headed for a quick bite in St Emilion before heading back to Bordeaux Lac in preparation for an early start, where we have to leave at 7.15am for our first tasting with Martin Krajewski at Clos Cantenac. This week do think of us when you are putting the kettle on or turning off the alarm, we are already on our first tasting of the day… Bonsoir.


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April 3, 2017

Bordeaux 2016 En Primeur: Day One, Sunday 2nd April – The Adventure Begins…

Chateau Guiraud, Sauternes

Chateau Guiraud, Sauternes


The team met up in Bordeaux last night for their first tasting of the campaign. Andrew ‘the Rookie’ Ray flying in from London Luton, James Goodhart driving 700 km from Grenoble met with legend restauranter, of Sous Le Nez in Leeds, Mr Robert Chamberlin.


Picking up Robert from our chalet at Bordeaux Lac and then Andrew from the airport we headed south down the Toulouse Road (A46) down to Sauternes with a comment from Robert, “we are almost back in Bradford…” I guess that is where the A46 is? It was a glorious, almost summer evening at a whopping 15 degrees, when we drove down the tree lined avenue into Chateau Guiraud to taste the Xavier Planty, Robert Peugeot, Count von Neipperg and Olivier Bernard wines to start our Bordeaux 2016 En Primeur campaign.


La Mondotte

Owner of La Mondotte, Stephan von Neipperg presenting his 2016 vintage

We were not to be disappointed, the wines offered impressive fruit concentration. Chateau Guiraud’s Bordeaux Blanc was our first wine, which oozed character; bags of citrus fruit, pineapple and importantly a lovely harmonious
balance. The reds were also impressive with La Mondotte being my star wine, closely followed by Canon La Gaffeliere and Domaine de Chevalier Rouge (no surprises here). My star performer with long odds was the beautifully crafted Chateau Lespault-Martillac Rouge from Pessac Leognon, made by the team at Domaine de Chevalier.


It is always with some anticipation, and then excitement, we commence our first few days of tastings. As many of you know we taste the whole spectrum of the new vintage. From the UGC tastings in each appellation where we will have over 250 wines on offer, to the specialised First Growth tastings at the Chateaux, bringing an experience of a Haute Couture catwalk show for Chanel; it’s a wine spectacular like no other.


We awake this morning to a foggy start, heading to Libourne for our first tasting with Edouard Moueix at 9am…


If you are interested in En Primeur but haven’t yet taken the plunge, read our introduction to buying En Primeur wine.


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