A very decent departure time of 9am took us through the centre of Bordeaux into the often underrated Graves to complete our round up of the first growths, amongst others. Once again renovations diverted us from Haut Brion to La Mission Haut Brion but this neighbouring property was renovated just a few years earlier and is a haven of tranquility despite its urban setting and the rumble of passing trains. Here we saw the beautiful chapel, the gardens and (oh yes) more vat rooms before we reached the ornate tasting room. Here the 2007 was out to taste, both La Mission and Haut Brion, side by side to highlight terroir differences.
2007 La Mission Haut Brion
“(43 Merlot:48 Cabernet Sauvignon:9 Cabernet Franc) Quiet nose but the freshest notes on a 2007 that I have encountered. Lots of black berries come through and a hint of spice. The palate has all of this as well as some chalky notes but it remains juicy and so fresh, lovely wine.” 17 Points FINE+RARE
2007 Haut Brion
“A similar nose in the fresh quality quite rare in 2007 but jammier fruit and slightly more austere with some frangipane at the back. Straight away there is a firmer backbone of tannin though they remain silky and there is more oak influence but definitely integrated into the round body and final smoky notes, simply more complex.” 18+ Points FINE+RARE
Then the sun came out as we bundled our tired tasting team to the last stop, Domaine de Chevalier. It was impossible not to be affected by the enthusiasm of Remi Edage, Olivier Bernard’s right hand man for 20 years. Whether he was telling us about drought (young vines cope better because they have vigorous roots), phenolic ripeness (berry skin can keep ripening for up to 3 weeks whilst the acidity and sugar of the juice within remains constant) or the quality of barrels (that he furthered himself with some big 1st growth names) there is no lack of passion for what he does. We also experienced our only “sulphur hit” of the trip walking through a room where candles had recently been burnt in barrels. So into the tasting room with – finally – the sun streaming through and we were poured some very interesting wines.
2010 Domaine de Chevalier Blanc
“(80 Sauvignon Blanc:20 Semillon) This was cloudy in the glass at the lees had not yet been filtered out. This had a fascinating flavour profile with a powerful tropical nose straight from the bottles and a delicious full body with perfectly balanced acidity.” 18.5+ Points FINE+RARE
Close behind was the first vintage from an estate they have rented:
2009 Lespault Martillac
“Golden in colour and the same blend as above, there is a Tokaji-like quality to the nose and a full rich palate offers pineapple, citrus and tropical fruit with a clean finish. Very different to the Domaine de Chevalier this is none the less delicious.” 18.5 Points FINE+RARE
We took our places for the Michelin standard lunch (and indeed a starred chef behind the catering) and started with St Jacques Carpaccio and crab with:
2007 Domaine de Chevalier Blanc
“This was decanted from half bottles 3 hours before fooling many of us into thinking it was older. It was more subtle than its 2010 counterpart with perhaps more Semillon but did not lack flavour with green apple and citrus, unripe pineapple and grapefruit in abundance. The richness of the palate came from tropical fruit with buttery notes and a clean citrus finish. There is great acidity and length can still develop.” 18.5 Points FINE+RARE
Next we had, what you could describe as, the French version of chicken kiev with red wine reduction and earthy mushrooms served with:
2002 Domaine de Chevalier
“Although fresh blackberries were in abundance there were definite notes of truffle on the nose. A generous body allowed some leather notes, garrigue and more black fruits to finish very balanced and clean.” 18.5 Points FINE+RARE
1989 Domaine de Chevalier
“Typical mature 07 nose leads to full and fruity palate with lots of blackberries. It does not have as much length as other vintages (yet?) but develops some jammy notes in glass.” 19 Points FINE+RARE
With a final dessert – and one of my personal favourites – of blood oranges with a brûléd custard came Chateau Guiraud, which was the first certified biodynamic vineyard in Bordeaux:
“A very honeyed nose led onto a fresh palate with kiwi notes and kiwi acidity. Let’s be honest we were all tired by this point but I know I could continue to drink this gem all day in the sun. Highly recommended.” 18 Points FINE+RARE
It was here that we finished with cigars (for some) in the sunshine. It was a fabulous trip and for that we have to thank the chateaux for their generous hospitality, Arblaster & Clarke Wine Tours for their help in the organisation and lastly our customers for their interest, enthusiasm and for being a pleasure to spend time with.