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Bordeaux 2008: day one, morning

The morning of day one has seen us visit three first growths and two second growths – not a bad way to begin assessing the 2008 vintage.

First stop of the morning was Margaux. As ever this wine impressed with a subtlety and elegance all its own. Paul Pontallier introduced the wines to us, describing 2008 as a “classic” vintage. “It’s difficult to say it is a great vintage,” he added, “but certainly it is good.” Interestingly we also tasted the 2006 and 2007 vintage as a comparison: 2008 has more density, fruit and structure than the 2007 but perhaps not quite the quality of the 2006.

Mouton was our favourite first growth last year and was impressive again this year. There is real savoury complexity and stuffing to the wine, and it will probably need time to show its best. Near neighbour Lafite was the standout wine of the morning, though – lovely pure Cabernet characteristics, very precise and deep, this was charming but will again need time for its inherent complexity to fully show.

Montrose and Cos d’Estournel were definitely contrasting styles of St-Estèphe: the former lighter and more elegant, the most attractive Montrose primeur sample I’ve tasted, the latter a powerful and extravagant, exotic wine that will probably divide opinion – it certainly did the Majestic team.

Whilst at Cos we visited the stunning new winery. None of us has seen anything like it – with 72 gleaming space-age tanks to allow individual parcels to be vinified separately, this amazing facility is entirely gravity fed, even to the point of using four 100l “lift tanks” in glass lift enclosures to repace the traditional “pumping over” process with a more gentle “rack and return”. They also have a liquid CO2 fuelled cooling tank to lower the grapes’ temperature during destemming and help prevent oxidation. The spectacular barrel hall is lit like a nightclub. As I mentioned on Twitter, the overriding impression was of a James Bond baddie’s lair.