Near miss!


Wellington boots at Chasse-SpleenAlthough it is very early to say, I think at this stage the 2010 Bordeaux vintage will not be quite in the same league as 2009. It would be very unfair to generalize, but early signs show that the Merlot, once again, has failed to deliver. With a very fragile flowering season and a very dry summer, wines with a high proportion of Merlot will not, in most cases, be as great as last year. For dry whites on the other hand, the grapes and the numbers look very good. Again, it’s too early to say, and we cannot drink data, but looking at the paperwork and the grapes at arguably one of the best dry white Bordeaux producers…things are looking good.

I started my trip with a visit to Olivier Bernard at Domaine de Chevalier. The Sauvignon Blanc was in and the Semillon half-way there, with the Merlot scheduled for late September / early October. The red grapes on the vines are looking magnificent and healthy (see below), and the great winemaker that is Olivier will, I am sure, make yet another great duo of red and white (ones to buy every year).

Although it is always tempting to only visit the big guns, I also decided to highlight the great work of some other properties that most common mortals can afford…

A very energetic Jean-Pierre Foubet showed me around his fast-improving little gem that is Ch. Chasse SpleenVineyards at Chevalier (which, incidentally, has a fantastic selection of art, like the giant Wellington boots in the garden – above). The wines on this estate have always been good but Jean-Pierre and his wife’s great work over the last few years is finally paying dividends. Their 2008 and 2009 are real gems to be stored and enjoyed in 10 to 20 years. Their enthusiasm and joie de vivre is also a breath of fresh air in a region where some might take the enjoyment of wine a bit too seriously. Another one of my new favourites is the connoisseur’s choice that is Ch. St Pierre. Only producing a mere 5,000 cases a year this is, I think, one of the best St Juliens of the past few years. Just a bit behind is the vastly improved Ch. Gloria….one to watch. As no action was taking place, despite all the pickers being on their starting blocks, I whizzed to Ch. Margaux for a quick chat and a taste of the ‘09 with managing director Paul Pontalier. To my amazement the 2009 that we found to be a bit hard to taste in April was now in all its splendour and showing extremely well…. Finally, a quick lunch at one of my favourite 2009 properties, Ch. Grand Puy Lacoste. Xavier Borie and his wife very kindly served a flight of vintages spanning from 1998 back to 1966, with the unexpected 1979 as the star of the show, proving that this property has a magnificent terroir produces great wines to be enjoyed for a long time…. and still represents brilliant value for any good cellar.

A last word on terroir; here is a picture taken in 25 Grey skiesdegree sunshine in Margaux, where pickers were gathering to start, while a massive rain storm poured its might over St Estèphe and north Paulliac in the distance. This is why we must not generalise about a vintage … we’ll be back in October with more details…