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Bordeaux 2008: day one, afternoon

This afternoon’s tastings took us to La Mission Haut Brion, Cheval Blanc, Ausone and Canon-la-Gaffelière – quite a few miles but I can hardly describe it as a chore.

From this first day’s tastings it’s difficult to generalise too much because we really have cherry-picked from the very top echelons of Bordeaux. Cheval Blanc is a very smooth, open-knit, sexy wine with real class; Haut-Brion and La Mission, whilst not hitting the heights of form they showed in 2005 and 2006 are lovely; Ausone is an awesome (and sadly awesomely rare) treat.

Tomorrow we’ll be tasting much more generally, and only on the Médoc, so we should have a much clearer idea of the vintage there. While it is I think safe to say that 2008 is a stronger vintage than 2007, with far more serious wines being produced, we need to be careful because most of the properties we visited today employed some labour-intensive techniques to improve their wines. As well as rigorous selection and deliberately restricted yields, we’ve been hearing a lot about expensively drawn-out harvests over four weeks or longer, and in particular numerous ‘tries’ through the vineyard to select bunches (or in some cases portions of bunches) that had reached optimium maturity. Only the big boys with big money can do this.

And that’s quite enough for one day. It’s been fun, the weather has been great and the wines delicious. We’re looking forward to tomorrow. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter.

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