Next up on the day’s schedule was the Union des Grands Crus tasting for Margaux. Having loved the Palmer and Château Margaux, I was really looking forward to seeing a broad range from the area. Overall some very fine wines and strong performances from the well priced set. Château Prieuré Lichine stood out; 65% Cabernet Sauvignon 30% Merlot and 5% Petit Verdot; a gorgeous fragrant wine with an excellent, generous finish. Château Giscours also made its presence known in the crowd, a powerful structured wine, brooding and very smart. Château Ferriére has produced a lovely 2014 wine; 61% Cabernet, with 24 days on skins and 40% new oak; whilst not a blockbuster, this is a classic wine with strength of character, one to go back and look at when prices are released.
From there I headed down the Medoc to Château La Lagune where the Sauternes and Barsac UGC. 2014 is definitely a vintage for sweet wines, the best are concentrated and with a bright acidity. After a cool, long growing season in 2014, the heat came quickly at the end and following some rain. This proved excellent conditions for botrytis. The challenge was to have the right number of staff to pick before the imminent rain appeared again. I really enjoyed tasting through this many sweet wines, so many are excellent, the standouts include: Château de Malle – 65% Semillon, the vines are an average age of 40 years and there were 2 picks. Château Doisy Vedrines was vibrant and fresh, Château de Myrat was lively with a light enjoyable finish, Château Sigalas Rabaud has an incredible length and Lafaurie Peyraguey was all about finesse. Three standouts, Suduiraut, Rieussec and Coutet – all incredible. Château Coutet is 75% Semillon, 23% Sauvignon and 2% Muscadelle; 7 picks were required in total with many half days. 80% of the team that pick at Coutet are the same each year, easing the logistical challenge.
At this point the day was almost over, the last visit – Château Gruaud Larose and its new tower. The new addition is metal and stands above a new guest area. The climb to the top was bone chilling, the evening temperature a little cool – the view, well worth the cold. Sarget 2014 is 61% Cabernet, 7% Cabernet Franc, 29% Merlot and 3% Petit Verdot; I tasted the 2014 at the end of a 10 year vertical of Sarget, the standout vintages the 2010 for its youth, the 2004 and 2008 for their maturity, both lovely right now. Sarget has always punched above its weight and it was great to compare the years. Château Gruaud Larose is Cabernet dominant, as with many of the 2014, the classic nature of the vintage lets the terroir shine through, this is classic St Julien. Our tasting was followed by some generous Gruaud hospitality, a glass of Philipponnat Vintage 2004 to start, then onto older Gruaud Larose en magnum. The food was classic French, served in canapé sized portions.