All my pre-departure research had left me rather gloomy about the week ahead, tasting through the latest vintage in Bordeaux. Thank goodness I was travelling with Jack, ever upbeat, hopefully we could buoy each other along through the teeth-shattering tastings.
I feel like these blogs have become something of a confessions of late, so here’s another one. As much as, when we visit Bordeaux, I’m acting in a professional capacity (something many of you will know I’m just about capable of…) to taste, evaluate and communicate a vintage to you, I’m also secretly really just figuring out what I want to buy.
With not only the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee to celebrate but also an additional Bank Holiday to enjoy (making a lovely long weekend) what better way to mark it, than with a specially selected Platinum Jubilee mixed case (£295 for 12 bottles and a book).
Great old, grand old Pauillac. The most revered appellation in the Médoc felt more like it had gone back in time than perhaps any other area. The wines were generally very lean and precise – Merlot, again, suffered a fair bit up here and, with the wines usually Cabernet focussed anyway, it meant that these high percentages were pushed even higher.
Saint-Estèphe certainly felt like the most far flung, northerly part of the Médoc when we arrived, driving down the dip from Lafite and up to Cos d’Estournel as the sky darkened and rain began to threaten.
I have a soft spot for Margaux. I thought it was worth prefacing everything you’re going to read with this – The feelings I have for Margaux are along the lines of the ones I have for great Burgundy.
Our tour de Saint-Julien started on a lovely sunny morning, with both of us slightly the worse for wear from the night before, having briefly gone our separate ways (David for a dinner at Château Lafite, myself for a far more oikish, if exceptionally fun do in Bordeaux Town Hall).
Pessac-Leognan is a slightly peculiar place. You start in the city – Carmes Haut Brion, it’s fair to say, is quite literally an ‘urban winery’, such is its proximity to the hustle and bustle of Bordeaux. Slowly you start to drift out, Haut-Brion & La Mission, two absolutely stunning Châteaux, appear almost out of nowhere, cutting through the tower blocks and urban sprawl.
Did Merlot suffer in Saint Émilion? Yes, is the short answer, but it was quite terroir dependent and also seemed less impacted than their left bank cousins.
How on earth to summarise a vintage by appellation, which more or totally defied homogeneity? I’m going to try my best, almost solely using our own meandering experience and stack of tasting notes. Luckily Pomerol, which is where we began, makes is rather easier than most.
I am often asked why I have such a strong attachment to the wines of the Northern Rhône and in particular those of Côte-Rôtie.
'Our first proper tasting for ages, and I was unable to attend having contracted Covid, (the reason for the long hiatus since our well-attended Italian tasting in March 2020). This was particularly galling after I had helped organise the attendance of some of the winemakers, notably producers of three new grower Champagnes who I had unearthed on on my post-vendanges trip in October.