A good Friday


Les Carmes Haut-BrionOur last day of our Bordeaux 2009 en primeur week was spent in the Graves – a 9am start at Ch. la Mission Haut-Brion, tasting both Haut-Brion and La Mission.

We’d already been mentally preparing our taste buds for the final First Growth of the Médoc. Ch. Haut-Brion was fabulous, showing subtle red fruit aromas and an expressive palate with ripe tannins, glorious depth and resounding flavours. We felt however that it was pipped to the post by La Mission’s deep black cherry and cassis aromas, gorgeous texture and fine precision, all balanced perfectly within a framework of elegance.

Our next stop was an exciting new property for us. Ch. les Carmes Haut-Brion is a 4-hectare only property whose vineyard is also overshadowed by the rather prosaic water tower that marks the end of Ch. Haut-Brion’s territory (above). This was a great find – a truly lovely wine with silky, succulent fruit and wonderful sophistication, thanks to the unusually high proportion (30%) of Cabernet Franc in the blend. This is most definitely a property to watch.  Here is a video we took of Penelope Furt from the Château:

So, with only Domaine de Chevalier and Ch. Haut-Bailly to go, it was already turning out to be a good Friday.

Domaine de Chevalier’s red Grand Vin was stunning.  Opulent, seductive, silky, succulent and wonderfully balanced – a true star of the vintage (see us below arriving at the Château). We believe it’s better than its brilliant 05.  Surely it could not get better than this, we thought. We were about to be proved wrong.

domaine_chevalier2Veronique Sanders of Ch. Haut-Bailly has surpassed herself this year with an absolutely magical wine. Not since tasting Ch. Latour on Wednesday have we had the same frisson of being in the presence of something uniquely special. Succulent yet so elegant, there is a feminine touch to the ’09 Haut-Bailly that lifts it way above its usual (already high) standards. Better than the 2005, this is a wine to rival all the ‘super seconds’ and a couple of the firsts; an utterly wonderful way to finish the week.

So, what is our verdict on 2009?  It does seem that, by chance, we chose the best order in which to taste the communes this year, with each day building upwards from the last.

The hallmark of the vintage seems to be an extraordinary high level of fine but very ripe tannins, offset by an amazing freshness – a vintage therefore for the Cabernets to shine. The Right Bank had some greats but was inconsistent overall with some of the Merlots being overripe and alcoholic. The truly great wines of the vintage are certainly centered in the four main communes of the Médoc, with consistent high quality and some truly magnificent, ethereal wines – especially at the level of the First Growths.

We will go back and take time to reflect on the wines we have tasted while our teams who look after our private clients from the UK and from Hong Kong also head to the South West over the next couple of weeks to add their opinions to ours. It’s been an amazing experience, and the campaign hasn’t even begun yet. Right now, we feel drained, euphoric and very excited about the forthcoming months.  It’s not going to be fast, pretty or cheap but we’ll keep you posted every step of the way.

Finally, we’ll leave you with a video of Simon Staples, Alun Griffiths MW and Nick Pegna from this week’s team, discussing their thoughts of the 2009s so far…