Episode 106 – Bordeaux (NOT En Primeur)
27th April 2022
I have just landed at an empty Bordeaux airport. It is Sunday the 24th of April, and the French nation is voting for a new President. The streets are completely clear, and my drive up to Saint-Estèphe was a doddle, so it was great timing from my perspective. I will spend Monday to Friday this week tasting every serious red, white and sweet wine in the region and then I will publish my 2021 Bordeaux En Primeur Report for your delectation. So, while this week is all about young wines tasted out of barrel, I thought I would gather together a few notes on my favourite red Bordeaux from a pair of tastings late last year. All of the wines mentioned below are bottled, and many of them are drinking well, too, so if you want to grab a few stunning clarets while the 2021s gather themselves together in their oak overcoats, then here is a mouth-watering list of the very finest.
The finest 2006 Bordeaux
a snap I took as I walked home over Waterloo Bridge
I tasted this incredible line-up last year at the Goedhuis & Co Charity Dinner in support of JDRF (fighting Type 1 Diabetes and funding research to find a cure) & The Goed Life (to help fund people with learning disabilities to find meaningful employment as well as support their daily lives)
Of the 32 Châteaux on show, which included all of the big names, I picked out my top ten favourites. These are all wines that shone from quality, balance, and potential points of view. I have not listed prices, but you can search for them on the internet as all are available to purchase. I have also not listed my scores. Suffice to say, they all clocked 18.5/20, or higher, in my notes, although there were no perfect 20/20s.
2006 Château Canon, 1er Grand Cru Classé Saint-Émilion – With impressive stuffing and muscularity, this is a fabulous Canon and a wine that already shows impressive balance and, dare I say it, drinkability already. While there are another 10-15 years in the tank, I like this wine already.
2006 Château La Conseillante, Pomerol – Exotic, wildly sexy and stunningly lush, this is a standout wine from the fantastic nose all of the way through to the beautifully balanced dusting on tannin on the finish.
2006 Château L’Evangile, Pomerol – Dryer, more refined and super-elegant by contrast to La Conseillante, this is a red-fruited thoroughbred with a Burgundy-like gossamer texture and immense appeal. It is right in the sweet spot for starting to drink now, so don’t feel guilty if you uncork a bottle today!
2006 Vieux Château Certan, Pomerol – Very long and very classy, this is a composed and highly complex wine with stunning, stylish fruit and a heavenly texture.
2006 Château Palmer, 3ème Cru Margaux – With an amazing, silky texture and prodigious length, this is a thrilling wine and one that is just about starting to relax in the bottle. The layers of fruit here are mindboggling.
2006 Château Ducru-Beaucaillou, 2ème Cru Saint-Julien – With an extra layer of oak and a plushness that shocks the palate, this is a showy, ostentatious wine but it hangs together extremely well, and there is plenty of energy and momentum here. It still needs some time, but there is so much to look forward to here.
2006 Château Léoville Poyferré, 2ème Cru Saint-Julien – The joker in the pack and most likely the finest value by a mile, I was very impressed with LP. As well as being one of the most forward wines in this collection, it is perfectly complete and also a benchmark example of what I think a Saint-Julien ought to taste like. Great effort.
2006 Château Haut-Brion, 1er Cru Pessac-Léognan – While it would be a surprise if H-B didn’t make the cut, plenty of extremely starry wines did not get a nod here. While this is one of the most closed and unyielding of the collection, the nose and fruit are sublime, and the refinement of oak integration and length is simply spellbinding.
2006 Château Mouton Rothschild, 1er Cru Pauillac – Richer and glossier than expected, this is almost the antithesis to the refinement and restraint of the Haut-Brion, and with the Freud’s ‘zebra eating a pot plant’ (my description, not his) label this is a rather theatrical wine. I am amazed at the forward stance and just how lip-smackingly delicious it is at such an early stage of its life.
2006 Château Latour, 1er Cru Pauillac – As always, there is a step change with Latour, and it is matt black, immensely powerful, unyielding, and breathtakingly complete. Yes, this is huge and somewhat imposing, but it looks the part and will go the course.
An elite collection of 2017 – 2020 Bordeaux Grands Crus Classés
Another tasting late last year was a 2017 – 2020 Grands Crus Classés event with the following Châteaux taking part – Branaire-Ducru, Canon, Canon La Gaffelière, Clos de l’Oratoire, d’Aighuilhe, Gazin, Guiraud, La Mondotte, Le Crock, Léoville Poyferré, Montrose, Moulin Riche, Pontet-Canet, Rauzan-Ségla, Smith Haut Lafitte and Tronquoy-Lalande.
Here are my picks (in no particular order, please use the internet to search for stock) –
Château Smith Haut Lafitte, Pessac-Léognan
2019 Château Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc looked phenomenal, while 2019 Petit Smith Haut Lafitte Rouge was a superstar given its price! It certainly followed that 2019 Château Smith Haut Lafitte Rouge was also terrific, making this vintage an absolute landmark for this renowned property.
Vignobles Comtes Von Neipperg
Château d’Aiguilhe, Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux showed a neat trio of 2020, 2019 and 2018 and the 2018 was the pick! Such value for money and some seriously swaggering fruit to boot. Interestingly Clos de l’Oratoire, Saint-Émilion Grand Cru Classé performed precisely the same trick, whereas it is clear that 2019 Château Canon La Gaffelière is a stunning wine and one that is built for the long run, and the 2020 is sultry, sexy and alluring, but my favourite was the drop-dead classy 2018 vintage. All three vintages are tremendous here, and the 2017 even manages to earn an honourable mention! La Mondotte is always an anomaly, and this time, the 2020 vintage looked outstanding.
Château Canon, 1er Grand Cru Classé Saint-Émilion
2020, 2019 and 2018 Château Canon all looked sublime, with the 2019, again, showing the most long term potential, but sitting behind the two more expressive vintages on the day, with the 2018 inching ahead of the 2020 in terms of absolute class. It is worth mentioning the 2018 Croix Canon because it was cheeky, delicious, and a fraction of the price of the Grand Vin, too.
Château Rauzan-Ségla, 2ème Cru Margaux
The 2019 vintage was the outright winner here, but I love the balance and silkiness of the 2020 vintage, and the 2018 is gentlemanly and extremely civilised. It is so clear that these vintage are confirming to type, and it shows just what a fabulous trio 2018-2020 is. Note I have only mentioned one 2017 so far, and here is my second. 2017 Château Rauzan-Ségla was a revelation, and its pure fruit, bright demeanour and refreshing tannins show the immense skill employed at this estate. Not content with mentions for all four of the vintages of the Grand Vin, both the 2018 and the 2017(!) second wine Ségla also looked amazing lively and accurate.
Château Branaire-Ducru, 4ème Cru Classé Saint-Julien
2020, 2019, 2018 and 2017 Château Branaire-Ducru gained a clean sweep of decent scores and even 2017 Duluc looked presentable. Once again, I preferred the 2018 Grand Vin on the day, the 2019 looked like a caged tiger and the 2020 looked youthful but happy, welcoming and rather good fun! This must be one of the most reliable (and affordable) top estates in the Left Bank.
Château Le Crock, Saint-Estèphe
I am a rather vocal supporter of Château Le Crock, and the 2019 was the pick, albeit still needing some more time.
Château Moulin Riche, Saint-Julien
I am also a fan of Château Moulin Riche, and this time the 2018 was my preferred vintage.
Château Léoville Poyferré, 2ème Cru Saint-Julien
2018 and 2019 Château Léoville Poyferré looked suitably classy, and I know that the 2019 will fill out and last longer, so it is the ‘finer’ of the two, but it is not the most ‘refined’. 2018 Pavillon de Léoville Poyferré was an absolute superstar, gaining a fulsome score in my notes and nudging the 2019 out of contention. This 2018 Pavillon is a cracking way of drinking LP class for a more affordable spend.
Château Pontet-Canet, 5ème Cru Pauillac
Every vintage was a joy, from the boisterous, explosive 2020, to the tremendously expressive and elegant 2019. The 2018 was my pick on the day – the 2018s all showed harmony and synchronicity that was impressive – and even the quirky 2017 looked a little leafy and oddball, but I liked its pure fruit core.
Château Tronquoy-Lalande, Saint-Estèphe
The 2019 Château Tronquoy-Lalande was undoubtedly the most ostentatious of the trio, but there is no doubt that the 2018 and the 2020 were only a hint behind the quality of this wine. I imagine that the 2020 will drink first, so do not discount this wine from serious consideration for your cellar.
Château Montrose, 2ème Cru Saint-Estèphe
The Montrose line-up was monumental, with 2019 Château Montrose gaining a very high-altitude score! I also love the 2018 and the 2020, and they are true to type, with the ’18 showing uncommon refinement and the 2020 loaded with coffee, spice and dense fruit. Interestingly, with four vintages of La Dame de Montrose from which to choose a winner, the prize was going only one way – 2019.
Château Guiraud, 1er Grand Cru Classé Sauternes
There was one sweet wine to finish this amazing event, and while the dry version, 2020 Le G de Guiraud looked typically lip-smacking, the 2019 Château Guiraud, showed true Grand Vin distinction and glamour and with this wine still lingering on my palate, I set off home.