Stars of the Day
Lafleur - Nowhere else will you find precision, clarity and focus allied so easily to beauty, complexity and form. It is far too early to say but let's simply concede that it has a very strong chance of inclusion in the pantheon of greats.
Vieux Château Certan - everything was able to ripen to its optimum, achieving the same levels as 2009, with a normal yield of 42 hl/ha.
Yquem - simply put, sensational
With the whole of our second day dedicated to the right bank, the Armit team headed across the Gironde shortly after first light but alas still not early enough to miss Bordeaux's traffic jams. With a tight schedule throughout the day and therefore time already precious, Car 1 headed straight to Libourne to assess the range at JP Moueix while Car 2 continued straight to St Emilion for full engagement in the 30 or so wines being shown at the Union des Grands Crus (UGC) event at La Couspaude.
Both St Emilion and Pomerol clearly enjoyed some fine weather conditions in 2015- there was no shortage of ripe fruit to be found and lots of dense, concentrated and powerful wines. Some of the wines carry this exuberance more easily than others, so the key, and much overused, word 'balance' was foremost in our minds as we tasted. It's fair to say that there are some fabulous wines here. However, we had hoped that we might have a 'blanket-buy' scenario like 2005 and this was quickly proven not to be the case. In St Emilion, too many wines displayed an excess of alcohol, an excess of wood tannins, too much extraction and sometimes, all three. That's the negative. On the positive side, there are some quite marvellous creations and depending on your tastes and preferences you should happily seek out the ethereal Canon, the seductive Clos Fourtet, the meaty, serious Figeac or the outrageous Troplong Mondot to name but four. At the UGC Pomerol, where only ten or so wines were on display, we enjoyed Clinet and Gazin amongst the bigger names and I was again impressed by La Pointe among the lesser-known.
Then we stepped into the big league with a series of Château visits that read like a who's who of wine nobility. Where else to begin but Petrus? We were greeted by the charismatic Olivier Berrouet who wasted no time in dispelling the notion of a deckchair vintage. It was a vintage where he needed to be attentive, he said, and the resultant wine, which he describes as "lace in kevlar" is indeed a beautifully tailored, strong, confident wine that carries its rich, ripe fruit with effortless grace.
Next door at Vieux Château Certan, Alexandre Thienpont uses the phrase "La Force Tranquille" to summarise the vintage. He remarked that everything was able to ripen to its optimum, achieving the same levels as 2009. The blend is 80% Merlot:19% Cab Franc:1% Cab Sauvignon and with a normal yield of 42 hl/ha, he has every good reason for a broad grin. This was one of the best wines we tasted all day.
At Lafleur, we tasted the full range of wines and enjoyed a simple lunch with the Guinaudeau family, with sunlight beaming through the windows. We were in our collective happy place. Time spent in such surrounds and in such company never lasts long enough. Praise is already being showered on Lafleur 2015 and it is obvious to see why. Nowhere else will you find precision, clarity and focus allied so easily to beauty, complexity and form. The wine is bewitching. None of us could answer the question of where this sits in the pantheon of greats- it is simply far too early to say- but let's simply concede that it has a very strong chance of inclusion. Less of a debate, however, surrounded Grand Village and G' Acte 7, comfortably the best that we have seen of either wine at this early stage and sure to represent irresistible bargains.
The tough job of following act fell to Eglise Clinet where Constance Durantou led us through the tasting of their six wines. I liked La Chenade in particular for its freshness on the palate but inevitably the bar was raised substantially by the time we moved to La Petite Eglise and to Eglise Clinet itself. Here we saw tannins that we hadn't seen so obviously before, a purposeful, structured wine that will need plenty of time in bottle.
To La Conseillante, a property that has been on an upward curve for some time now and yet still manages to improve. We loved the wine for its honesty: seductive, curvy, supple and while perhaps not as cerebral as Lafleur or VCC, this is surely a wine that everybody will love.
At L'Evangile you can add the word 'hedonistic' to the descriptors, the wine showing plush, enveloping fruit and an explosive, rich and heady finish.
Cheval Blanc was notably back on form last year and we were eager to see if this was to be repeated, given the promising signs gleaned of the region's fortunes during the day. While I was a bit non-plussed by the Quinault l'Enclos, Cheval Blanc easily secures my vote for best wine in St Emilion. This is a wine that has everything and lacks nothing. Indeed, it even has the greatest sweet wine in the world as a stablemate! What could be an easier question to answer than "would you like to taste Yquem before you leave?". We don't know if the 2015 will be released (we suspect we will not know until it is bottled) but when it is, please put a note in your diary to buy some. It is just sensational.
Back across the plateau we hurtled, dodging carefully around some very poorly piloted Peugeots and we headed up the narrow laneway to Ausone. This celebrated Château enjoys one of the best views in Bordeaux and arriving here never fails to make me grateful for my career choice. The Vauthier family are also very charming, very modest people who despite all of my attempts over the years to praise their wines and congratulate them on their work, don't ever seem to get carried away. We tasted 7 wines with them, with Fonbel very much enjoyed by the team at the lower levels. Ausone itself was a little withdrawn on the day, if truth be told- back to our words on barrel samples yesterday- but if class is permanent and form temporary, I think it is safe to say that few risks are taken by purchasers here.
To finish the day, we visited one of the most individual properties, Tertre Roteboeuf. It has become something of a tradition for us to end the day here as after listening to Francois Mitjavile and his family talk about their work, it is very hard to concentrate on anything else. They are the most delightful and thoughtful people and their wines are full of fascinating contradictions. The marriage of ripeness and freshness; of huge concentration and power yet lightness and finesse of finish; of both sweetness and minerality; wines of high tannins yet silky smooth textures- no one else in Bordeaux makes wine this way.