On my last full day in Bordeaux, the sun finally came out. What a tease. Because instead of kicking the dirt in the vineyards today, I was back inside, sitting down with Nicolas Thienpont and David Suire to taste a vertical of Château Larcis Ducasse. Vertical tastings always make me wish I could taste the old vintages when they're young and the young vintages when they're old, and that was just as true today. The oldest four vintages were all beautiful wines, that showed divergent vintage character while surviving extended cellaring thanks to the force of terroir. The youngest vintages showed how the property is getting a dust off and reemerging to reclaim its position among the elite of St.-Emilion. Here are my scores and tasting notes for 19 vintages of Larcis Ducasse, beginning with the 1955.
Thomas Duroux has become one of my favorite winemakers in Bordeaux. He likes jazz. He thinks. He experiments. Oh, he also happens to make some compelling wine. Perhaps that's because he takes his time and he doesn't seem to get ruffled by anything. At Château Palmer, the third-growth estate located in the Margaux appellation, he dealt with hail in 2011 that lowered his yields in that and the ensuing 2012 vintage as well, to 2 tons and 1.5 tons per acre, respectively.
On yet another of Bordeaux's raw, rainy days featuring a knifing wind, Christian Moueix wanted to show me his latest acquisition, a stunning 4.68-acre parcel located right in front of the famed cellar of Le Pin in Pomerol. Later that day, I headed over to meet with Comtes Stephan von Neipperg, owner of châteaus Canon-La Gaffelière, La Mondotte and several others on the Right Bank.
Finally, after 11 straight days of all-day tasting, it was time to get some fresh air. I slammed my laptop closed to punctuate the end of the tasting, put on my vineyard shoes (it's rained steadily since I've been here and the vineyards are muddy) and headed over to Fronsac to get back in touch with terra firma. After all that, my first stop is Fronsac, you ask? Not a first-growth or Sauternes estate?
With 2,000 acres of vines and 71 producers, Fronsac is just a blip in the overall scheme of Bordeaux. It pales in size and reputation to its cross-river neighbor St.-Emilion, for example, and the wines are often overlooked by the marketplace. But there must be something to Fronsac, if Michel and Dany Rolland call it home.
I spent the last few days of my 2010 Bordeaux tasting by working through the reds of St.-Estèphe and then Pessac.
The reds from Pessac, with their typically tarry spine and sometimes wild notes of tobacco and ash, were a standout group, with the fruit showing the extra amplitude of the vintage and the structure evident but well-integrated. Branon turned in a very strong showing, as did some of the usual suspects. There really were no disappointments.
I'm getting into the meat of my 2010 Bordeaux tasting now, having worked through the Right Bank wines of St.-Emilion (which takes two full days), Pomerol and their various satellite appellations. As mentioned briefly in my last blog, the wines are showing very, very well.
I have started in on the Left Bank now, tasting wines from the Médoc, Graves and Margaux. The highlights so far, though, have come from Pauillac and St.-Julien.
I arrived as scheduled in Bordeaux - just on time for lunch. I like to plan things like that...
My annual in-bottle Bordeaux tasting is easily the biggest and longest single tasting I do. When in my New York office, I taste every day, but perhaps only 20 or 30 wines a day. When I travel in the Rhône, I may taste dozens of barrel samples in a day, but I'm not writing formal notes or reviewing those wines, since they are unfinished, sometimes just lots of pre-blends, and not tasted blind. That makes the Bordeaux tasting unique.
It's that time again: I'm heading across the pond to taste Bordeaux's most recently bottled vintage. This time around, it's the vaunted 2010, a vintage that wound up surpassing 2009 to claim the mantle of most expensive en primeur vintage ever. Now the question is, will the 2010 wines surpass 2009 qualitatively?
I'm excited to taste the wines for a few reasons. First, 2010 was the first vintage I tasted en primeur, after assuming coverage of Bordeaux in August 2010. So, it's the first time I'll be able to measure my impressions of the bottled wines against the ranges I gave them as young barrel samples.