Don’t forget the Graves



Poor old Graves – it’s not a Médoc, it’s not a Right Bank, it feels like a bit of an orphan, unloved and forgotten.

Even with the stylish new Pessac-Léognan name its top estates have been able to use since 1987, the region – with the honourable exception of Haut Brion – has never really caught Claret-lovers’ imagination.

After all, why go for a Pessac when you can have a wine a bottle of evocatively-named Margaux or St Emilion?

Well, for one thing Pessacs can be every bit as good and tend to be much better value too. Excellent wines (especially in the last decade) from estates like Haut Bailly  and Domaine de Chevalier have created a real momentum.

At their best, red Pessacs combine the structure and minerality of the Médoc with the plump richness and sweet textured fruit of the Right Bank. So forget about picking up a famous name this year, adopt a Pessac, and not just for Christmas either.


Our last visit of the week was to one of Pessac’s very best estates, Domaine de Chevalier, known affectionately as Dommy Chev.

The charismatic and clearly perfectionist Olivier Bernard’s  attitude to nature and wine, working the soil naturally and respecting the terroir and the vintage, makes him a Burgundian at heart according to Jasper Morris MW, which is praise indeed.

Certainly nowhere outside of Ch. Haut-Brion and Ch. Margaux will you find a better pair of red and white Bordeaux wines.

Domaine de Chevalier’s red is absolutely glorious in 2007. The tannins are higher than in 2005 and the concentration here is close to that of Haut Brion. It has full, spicy blackberry and plum fruit with a gorgeous streak of minerality and an impressive long, pure finish. The previous 3 vintages of Domaine de Chevalier (which we were lucky enough to taste) are well worth a mention too.

The 2006 is very pure and focused but not quite as good as the 2007. The rich, explosive 2004 is probably on a par with 2007, while the fantastic 2005 is even better, reminding us (again) just what a wonderful vintage that was. Apart from yours truly – who has a costly pied à terre in Paris to support along with a glamorous wife, hedonistic lifestyle, not to mention no job – everyone snapped up at least a case of the 2005 red as soon as they left the tasting.

It surprised us too, but the white Domaine de Chevalier was even better than the red. It was one of those moments where you wonder where on earth all the flavour comes from. The white had everything: a phenomenal concentration of pears, pineapple and citrus fruit, balanced but crisp acidity, silky smooth texture and a finish of eyewatering intensity and purity.

Grand Cru White Burgundy? Montrachet, Corton Charlemagne, Chevalier-Montrachet, Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet, Criots-Bâtard-Montrachet – your boys took one hell of a beating. At this stage it is even better than the Haut Brion Blanc, although the Haut Brion has just a smidgen more richness and depth so is likely to overtake it in the next few years.

All in all not a bad end to the week.