News from Bordeaux


Alun Griffiths MW (Wine Director) and I have just spent a fascinating week in the vineyards of Bordeaux. We were there mainly to re-taste the 2006s and the now bottled 2005s. The former have added a little weight now and are definitely softer than when we tasted them in April; with a few magnificent new finds for us, namely: Pavie Maquin and Larcis Ducasse, two glorious St Emilions made by Nicolas Theinpont. The latter, further highlighting how totally extraordinary 2005 is as a vintage – it really is perfect. The majority of the wines we re-tasted were rich, generous, complex, pure, beautiful, precise, exciting, sexy and totally rewarding.

I believe the 2005 vintage really will up there with 1982, 1961 and 1945 as one of the greatest ever. The other reason for our visit was to observe the harvest of the much talked about 2007. With real problems early on in the year of rot, and then as poor an August as we had here in the UK (I had the fire on twice!), the Bordelais were facing a dreadful outcome. Then, fortunately, the fabled “Indian Summer” kicked in with three glorious weeks of sunshine. Was it enough to save 2007?

Of course it is far to early to call, but the growers who have harvested the faster maturing Merlot (the majority of Pomerol, St Emilion and a good proportion of Pessac) seemed more than happy, several were very excited. Was this simply relief or genuine excellent quality? I’m seriously looking forward to finding out. The looks of the face of our friends in the Medoc, with its much slower ripening Cabernet Sauvignon, did not look quite so cheerful, sadly. They now have to sit, wait and hope that the next two weeks will bring warmth and sunshine. Fingers crossed for them all.

With world demand for this region (particularly the top 50 chateaux) growing every month I can’t see 2007 being a bargain vintage whatever the outcome. I really hope I’m wrong. For the future, my greatest concern for the new Bordeaux pricing structure is for those chateaux that are priced between the ever improving superstars of the region, who are currently selling for between £180 to £500 and are offering sublime and affordable wines, and the aspirational First Growths.


The wines in this “doldrum” area, with their very odd see-saw pricing structure, are our slowest selling by far,with a very few notable exceptions (i.e Leoville-Las Cases and occasionally Palmer and Angelus) and therefore I presume consumers struggle with bottles of wine on the table for more than £50 a bottle (inc taxes) unless its a £300 bottle of First Growth. This, of course, leads on to the 1855 classification table as many of these wines are “Super Second” Growths. I used to know all the classifications but now I hardly ever think “Is this Chateaux a 3rd or 4th Growth ” only how good is it for the price.

I wonder if anyone still considers at what rank their preferred chateaux are before they buy.