The Cabernet moment
Last Thursday was the turn of the Cabernet territory of the northern Médoc as the en primeur circus moved on. This is the land of the great growths, with their outspoken and opinionated directors. They have plenty to say about 2007.
At Château Mouton-Rothschild, director Philippe Dhalluin says it was the year of both Cabernets. He believes the Cabernet Franc was at its best ever, and was happy to include it in his Château d’Armailhac. While as for Château Mouton-Rothschild, “this was the year of the Cabernet Sauvignon, the right varietal on the right terroir.” Vines planted on marginal land, vines planted away from the very best terroir were hard to work and hard to ripen.
Just across the hill, at the Rothschild family’s other great estate, Lafite, director Charles Chevallier talked about the wayward nature of the fermentation. “In some years, we can ferment every vat the same way. This year, we had to work out what to do with each tank. And making the blend was just as difficult.”
Like Chevallier, who calls 2007 “a pleasurable wine, one to drink”, Bruno Rolland, cellarmaster of Château Léoville Las Cases in Saint-Julien described as “a year that’s easy to understand. It has fruit, and will develop, but it is already in balance.”
Jean-Guillaume Prats at Château Cos d’Estournel in Saint-Estèphe talked of the long season – 162 days from flowering to harvest, an unheard of time in Bordeaux. And he brought out another theme which runs through everybody’s conversation when describing the 2007: “we had to be very severe in our selection, we needed low yields and only the best fruit. The quantities of the First Wine, called the Grand Vin in Bordeaux, are as low as they have ever been, as lower yields and stricter selection when the wine was being blended take their toll.
The verdict on these wines is that they are pleasant, enjoyable, likely to develop relatively fast. Whether they will be worth buying depends on the price, and at this question the whole Bordeaux wine world, owners, cellarmasters and sales directors, coughs discreetly and looks the other way. They know a big price drop is what all their customers expect – but will they deliver?
On the Wine Road
Wine flows in many directions. Leading up to the Olympics in Beijing, there are massive amounts of Bordeaux wines going to China and Hong Kong. It is why buyers from China are out in force this en primeur week – even though they are buying older vintages.
But this surge isn’t limited to Bordeaux. There are calls for tenders for wines from other areas of France, California, Italy, Australia, Austria, Germany, Chile and Argentina. This grand movement is a good indication of why China moved up to the Number Three global import spot in 2007. (UK is Number One, US Number Two and Germany is now Number Four.) Depending on the continued flow in 2008, speculators tell us China could move to Number Two.
And if you are in France, and the non-stop tasting and wine reviews from the 2007 futures/barrel tastings in Bordeaux are making you thirsty for a sip. Bordeaux has just the answer. Why not zip to taste and drink the incredible, just-released 2005 vintage from more than 100 grand cru chateaus? On May 17 and 18, in the beautifully restored 18th century city, Bordeaux chateaus open the bottles and the estates for “le Week-end des Grands Amateurs.” In other words, people who love wine.
Each chateau will present the 2005 and another vintage between 1997 and 2004 (dealer’s choice) on Saturday (53 euros/$83). Chateau dinners in the Médoc, Sauternes, Saint-Emilion and Pomerol follow (130 euros/$202).
Sunday features free open house tours. Golfers get an extra bonus-the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux Cup at 9 a.m., Sunday (60 euros/$94). For reservations, contact ugcb.net or bourdeaux-tourisme.com.
90-92 Château La Lagune, Haut-Médoc
Dense, structured, the fruit ripe, full-bodied. There’s great blackberry fruit flavors here, a wine with concentration. —R.V.
89-91 Château Belgrave, Haut-Médoc
Perfumed fruit on a wine that shows mint and herbal characters as well as dense hedgerow blackberries. It’s tough, but the fruit is all there. —R.V.
89-91 Château La Tour Carnet, Haut-Médoc
Perfumed wine, rich with good blackcurrant juice flavors. The wine certainly has wood, but that fruit is going to bring it into balance. —R.V.
88-90 Château Cantemerle, Haut-Médoc
Unfocussed initially, the fruit flat. The wine has some good acidity though and this promises well. —R.V.
87-89 Château Beaumont, Haut-Médoc
Some leaness here, with the fruit heading towards austerity. The structure, though, comes from the fruit, and this wine could well open out with richness. —R.V.
87-89 Château Bernadotte, Haut-Médoc
Fresh, lightweight, fruity, with a bitter chocolate edge. Intense blackcurrant acidity aftertaste. —R.V.
87-89 Château Camensac, Haut-Médoc
A firmly tannic wine, all black plum skins and solid fruit. The problem is extraction, and this gives it a bitterness. —R.V.
86-88 Château Citran, Haut-Médoc
Hard, extracted wine, dominated by hard wood and fruit tannins. Tough. —R.V.
86-88 Château Coufran, Haut-Médoc
Lean, touched by green peppers as well as spice from high toast new wood. The fruit doesn’t seem rich enough for the wood. —R.V.
86-88 Château de Lamarque, Haut-Médoc
Very dry, somewhat extracted fruit which misses the freshness of the year. Chew on matchsticks and blackberry tannins. —R.V.
85-87 Château Malescasse, Haut-Médoc
This has no fruit, a wine that only shows hardness. —R.V.
93-95 Château Lynch-Bages, Pauillac
Smoky aromas, with new wood. It is tough, hard, the tannins severe and giving austerity. Yet, there is also rich Cabernet is this modern, dense wine. —R.V.
92-94 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac
The fruit appears soft, mellow, layered with generosity, with only hints of tannins. The spice from the wood spills over into the rich sweet fruit flavors. To finish, it has vivid blackcurrant acidity. —R.V.
92-94 Château Pichon Longueville, Pauillac
Showing the maturity of the Cabernet Sauvignon in 2007, this is a structured wine, already well balanced, packed with blackcurrant, finishing with dry tannins. —R.V.
91-93 Château Pontet-Canet, Pauillac
New wood dominates the aroma here. The wine is firm and tough, the fruit a long way away. It’s going to need considerable time, but the potential is there. —R.V.
90-92 Château Clerc Milon, Pauillac
Big ripe blackcurrant juice, edged with ripe tannins. The fruit is all Cabernet richness, delicious juiciness. —R.V.
90-92 Château Duhart-Milon, Pauillac
Firm, but still fruity, the dry structure just pushing the wine towards some density. The tannins are fine, sweet. —R.V.
90-92 Château Haut-Bages-Libéral, Pauillac
Big, tough tannins, some signs of extraction, but the fruit is rich, the blackberries ripe, and the finish promises freshness —R.V.
90-92 Les Forts de Latour, Pauillac
The second wine of Latour. Structured, very correct, very straight down the middle sort of wine. There is freshness, but spice and pepper as well. At the end, intense acidity shoots through. —R.V.
90-92 Réserve de la Comtesse, Pauillac
The second wine of Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande. There is some good density, fine black plum juice, followed by delicious, fresh Cabernet acidity. —R.V.
89-91 Château Batailley, Pauillac
Firm, tough initially, but then just feel the fruit expanding. Then the wine becomes fresh, offering good ripeness as well as dryness. —R.V.
89-91 Château d’Armailhac, Pauillac
A firm, tannic wine, with just enough juicy fruit to support the tannins. Expect this wine to develop, but slowly. —R.V.
89-91 Château Lynch-Moussas, Pauillac
There certainly is dryness, the tannins dry, but they also have ripeness. It’s dense, firm and concentrated. —R.V.
88-90 Carruades de Lafite, Pauillac
The second wine of Lafite-Rothschild is fruity, soft, ripe, jelly fruit flavors, with red cherry and juiciness. It is a delicious fruity wine, almost drinkable now. —R.V.
88-90 Château Croizet-Bages, Pauillac
Surprisingly rounded, soft, the tannins only playing a supporting role. There is plenty of richness but this is not a powerful wine. —R.V.
88-90 Château Grand-Puy-Ducasse, Pauillac
Medicinal aromas and a lean structure in a wine that shows toughness and elegant fruit. —R.V.
88-90 Les Tourelles de Longueville, Pauillac
Pichon Longueville’s second wine. A soft wine, with flavors of chocolate, and smoky fruit. There is some bitterness, laying on dense black fruit. But generally fresh. —R.V.
88-90 Château Pibran, Pauillac
Smoky fruit, forward, advance. There are blackberry and currant flavors. The tannins are soft, the aftertaste fresh, flavored with blackcurrants. —R.V.
86-88 Petit Mouton, Pauillac
Mouton Rothschild’s second wine. Chocolate, licorice and black fruits on this attractive wine. Good density, fresh, approachable. —R.V.
92-94 Château Cos d’Estournel, Saint-Estèphe
Impressively perfumed, packed with blackberry fruits, balanced with dark tannins. Of course, there are new wood flavors, but the fruit surrounds it impressively. The aftertaste is ripe, juicy. —R.V.
92-94 Château Ormes de Pez, Saint-Estèphe
Rich wine, blackberry jelly flavors, good acidity, a wine that is in fine balance, its density offering medium-term aging. —R.V.
91-93 Château de Pez, Saint-Estèphe
Big, bold, solid, dense. This is classic Saint-Estèphe, with its layered blackberry over firm tannins. —R.V.
91-93 Château Haut-Marbuzet, Saint-Estèphe
A powered wine, with modern, smooth wood and fruit flavors, ripe, dense, the tannins in good balance. —R.V.
91-93 Château Phélan-Ségur, Saint-Estèphe
Solid, dense and concentrated, there is plenty of matter here, the fruit supporting and tannins supporting each other. Good potential. —R.V.
89-91 Château Cos Labory, Saint-Estèphe
This is tough, the tannins dry and dominant in the way of classic Saint-Estèphe. The aftertaste is more fruity, but still hard. —R.V.
89-91 Château Lafon-Rochet, Saint-Estèphe
Ripe, spicy Cabernet aromas here on this dense, tannic but also fruity wine. It has dryness, but the juiciness is also there. —R.V.
88-90 Château Haut Beauséjour, Saint-Estèphe
Dense, maybe too dense for the fruit, although the tannins are not so dominant. It is powerful, tough, foursquare. —R.V.
88-90 Les Pagodes d’Estournel, Saint-Estèphe
The second wine of Cos d’Estournel. Very fruity, fresh, full of blackcurrants, jelly fruits, sweet. There are some dark tannins, finishing with vibrant, black fruit flavors. —R.V.
93-95 Château Ducru-Beaucaillou, Saint-Julien
As a sign of the vintage, there is less of this wine than of the second wine from the property. As with other top wines, severe selection has paid off in a firm, finely structured wine, packed with solid tannins, even though there is some extraction. The high tone black fruit balances with the structure. —R.V.
93-95 Château Léoville Las Cases, Saint-Julien
A big, luscious wine, very approachable initially. On the second taste, the sweet tannins show, while blackcurrant flavors give a burst of acidity. It is balanced, the structure already coming into place. —R.V.
93-95 Château Léoville-Barton, Saint-Julien
Dry, the wood dominated by new wood toast. It’s powerful, certainly, and it is going to be a dense, important wine, but relatively slow in developing. —R.V.
92-94 Château Langoa-Barton, Saint-Julien
Firm tannins, supported by vanilla wood flavors give this ripe a modern, smooth feel. The structure is potentially velvet, rich. —R.V.
92-94 Château Léoville-Poyferré, Saint-Julien
Dark-hued wine, with concentration, the black plum flavors over the solid structure. Potential power. —R.V.
91-93 Château Lagrange, Saint-Julien
Starting lean, this opens out with dense fruits, concentration and dark tannins. It’s very dry, still with a hard edge. —R.V.
91-93 Château Saint-Pierre, Saint-Julien
New wood toast aromas, followed by concentrated but juicy fruits. Dry structure but delicious fruit. Likely to develop quickly. —R.V.
91-93 Château Talbot, Saint-Julien
Rich, well structured wine, showing good fruit, acidity and blackberry jelly fruits. —R.V.
90-92 Château Beychevelle, Saint-Julien
Rather tough initially. There are signs of extraction, black plum skin flavors, dark tannins, bitter coffee. The fruit needs to happen. —R.V.
90-92 Château Branaire-Ducru, Saint-Julien
Ripe, fruity, dense wine. Bitter chocolate flavor going along with some dry tannins. It’s a wine which could go either to richness, or remain tannic. —R.V.
90-92 Clos du Marquis, Saint-Julien
The second wine of Léoville Las Cases is an impressively ripe wine, dominated by red berry and blackcurrant jelly flavors, with only light hints of wood. The aftertaste is dry and spicy. —R.V.
90-92 Croix de Beaucaillou, Saint-Julien
The second wine of Ducru-Beaucaillou shows something of the structure of the chateau wine. It is dense, firm, with touches of licorice, edged with some bitter tannins. —R.V.
89-91 Château Gruaud Larose, Saint-Julien
Nutmeg spice, rather tough tannins, just a hint of blackcurrant flavors. It’s still pretty dark, and dry. —R.V.
88-90 Château Lalande-Borie, Saint-Julien
Very soft, with ripe blackberry and jam fruits. It is the sweet tannins that give the softness, but the fruit also offers freshness. —R.V.