A week of Bordeaux in New Zealand

My week has been full of wonderful Bordeaux experiences – it’s been a whole heap of fun, the tastings and events finished last night with a look at 2001 – 2008, skipping 2002. This followed a look at seven wines from the 2008 vintage at Thorndon Quay in Wellington on Wednesday night. Over both nights we tried some great Bordeaux and really explored the 2008 vintage wines which have recently arrived.

Last night’s tasting was conducted by my good friend Thibault Delpech from Ginestet. Ginestet are one of the oldest Bordeaux Negociants, founded in 1897. Originally the owners of the first growth Chateau Margaux, Ginestet are today, once again Chateau owners – now owning Chateau Ferriere in Margaux, Chateau Gruaud Larose in St Julien, Chateau Citran in Haut Medoc, Chateau Broustet in Barsac, Chateau Haut Bages Liberal in Pauillac, Chateau Camensac in Haut Medoc, Chateau Chasse Spleen in Moulis, Chateau La Gurgue in Margaux and Chateau Gressier Grand Poujeauc in Moulis.

Here are the wines were tasted last night and my thoughts on them;

l’Hospitalet de Gazin Pomerol 2005
l’Hospitalet is the second wine of Chateau Gazin in Pomerol, it was introduced in 1986. Chateau Gazin is owned today by the Bailliencourt family and is a property that is producing outstanding wines from their unique terroir in Pomerol, consistently good and from 2000 the quality has reached even higher levels. L’Hospitalet is 90% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Cabernet Franc. It has a smokey nose, not fruit driven and forward, all full of mocha, dark chocolate and intrigue. The palate initially shows you some sweetness, has chewy notes and great rich weight on the finish, an impressive second wine.

Chateau Beau-sejour Becot – Saint Emilion 2006
I really enjoyed this wine. It had a great nose and developed in the glass as we discussed it. Merlot dominant (about 70%), the nose was wonderfully fragrant, forward and expressive. The 2006 vintage has always been a favourite of mine, is has great fruit, good acidity and with it balance. The 2006 vintage suffered coming after a great vintage like 2005 and I think was overlooked. During the tasting Thibault explained quite rightly his thoughts on the need to buy every year. Now for those thinking, here goes the retailer pitch – it’s not just that yes we’d like our customers to buy every year, it’s more that – you need to! Let me explain – presuming that you are buying your wines to enjoy them, in recent years if you only bought the 2000, 2005 and 2009 vintages, then you won’t have anything to drink whilst waiting for them to mature. The in between vintages – the one’s that the Bordelaise will tell you are ‘classic’ years, are generally earlier maturing – this is certainly the case in 2006. Even in these classic years, the great properties produce high quality wine, they just don’t last 20, 30, 40 years +

Chateau Pontet Canet Pauillac 2007
2007 was a difficult vintage in Bordeaux, it was quite wet and until the end looked like it was going to be a disaster but was saved by good heat before the picking started. Pontet Canet is a Chateau whose quality has jumped forward in leaps and bounds over the last few years, unfortunately the price has too. There’s two ways of looking at this and I tend to take the view that it was perhaps underpriced previously – this 2007 definitely is. The nose was quite closed, the palate meet you with strong tannins and a powerful structure. The fruit is taught and well balanced; it has incredible length and opens up to be lovely and fragrant. A wonderful example of a great property from a not so great vintage.

Chateau Ferriere Margaux 2008
Chateau Ferriere is a very pretty little estate – little being very appropriate, it’s the smallest of the classified growths and in fact the name vanished for a number of years. Right after the way, for around 30 years, Chateau Lascombe used the grapes off the vineyard land at Ferriere in their production. The 2008 is a brilliant wine from the Margaux appellation – it’s pretty and fragrant, has power on the palate but all in a very delicate well balanced way. For many years this Chateau has represented excellent value and still does.

Chateau Ferriere Margaux 2001
Interesting to try alongside the 2008, another example of a not so great vintage from a good property that has matured a little early – in fact it’s drinking very well right now. It has nice aged notes on the palate, integration; the tannins are beautiful, still strong, but nicely enclosing the fruit sweetness. Quite delightful right now.

Chateau Gruaud Larose Saint Julien 2008
Gruaud is quite unique in that the land it has today is the same as what was classified back in 1855, many of the other chateau have bought, sold and traded land over the years to increase or decrease their properties. Saint Julien is one of the smallest appellations in the Medoc, with Gruaud Larose sitting proudly on the highest point. The 2008 was just as good as it was the night before in Wellington and distinctly Gruaud. It was powerful, strong, dark and brooding. The 2008 vintage does signal a change at Gruaud Larose, the winemaker had been the same for the 30 years prior. I really like the new approach and think it actually harps back to the glory this estate had seen many years prior.

Chateau Gruaud Larose Saint Julien 2003
What a different vintage! 2003 was very hot in Bordeaux (Europe generally in fact) and you can see that in this wine. It’s not necessarily a bad thing; they are just very different wines. It’s spicy, hot and forward on the nose. The fruit is great; it’s ripe, but balanced and actually drinking very well now.

Chateau Rieussec Sauternes 2004
A little sweet wine to finish the night – quite closed on the nose, the palate is lovely and sweet, it has great power, apricot notes, almost cinnamon, with wonderful hints of baked pineapple and coconut. Nicely balanced, the acidity is not overly prominent but that does not leave you with an overtly clawing wine – which you would expect. It’s classic, interesting, opulent and nice now – although it would also age very gracefully.

Whilst this tasting explored a number of vintages, the 2008 wines were very interesting. The vintage was not raved about by the media which resulted in reduced release pricing. Now in comparison to the 2009 and 2010 wines that have subsequently been released, the 2008 wines, look like bargains. Having now tasted a good number of them since they arrived, I have been really impressed with the quality, they are classic wines, great balance and excellent cellaring options for the short to mid-term.