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Day 3 – Right Bank and Graves

Our busiest day of tasting today, covering Pomerol, St-Emilion and Graves. Fortunately, with the 2007s being lighter in body and tannin than the last few years, the tasting is not as physically demanding as it sometimes is – our teeth are a bit less blackened than usual, and our palates are still functioning normally.

As for what we’ve learnt, the right bank seems more consistent than the left. Producers that have concentrated on producing supple, fruity wines have succeeded much more than those who have tried to overreach in such a difficult year. This was a year for lots of work in the vineyard, but a much lighter touch in the winery.

As ever, the Pomerols of J.P. Moueix were one of the highlights. Chatting to Edouard Moueix, he believes that this is a vintage for Merlot, which is the earliest maturing variety. Interestingly, he suggested that picking Merlot too late could cause problems with rot developing in the juice inside the berries. To counteract this, by mid-August, after a record 15 treatments in the vineyard, J.P Moueix had stripped their vines of virtually all foliage to give the grapes maximum exposure to the sun. The sun shone in September and this tactic worked, but when rain returned on 24 September the vines diverted their energies to producing replacement foliage and the berries stopped ripening. These non-ripening berries were the ones in danger of going off.

(If you’ve been following our blog for the last couple of days I realise this might seem to contradict our view that late picking was important. But that was on the Médoc. Cabernet naturally ripens later, and it was the Cabernet-heavy wines of St-Julien and Pauillac that impressed the most. Margaux, where Merlot is a more prominent part of most blends, that was the most disappointing.)

On the whole the Pomerols were a little difficult, with the best wines those that focused on delicacy and subtlety, such as La Conseillante and Vieux-Château-Certan. At VCC, M. Thienpont was open in saying that his wine is intended to be supple and early-drinking, not an easy admission for someone whose wines fetch such high prices.

St-Emilion was a similar story. Well-managed vineyards and a light touch in the chai were again the key to making attractive wines. Good samples include Figeac, Berliquet and Troplong-Mondot, wines which we often follow precisely because they adapt their vineyard husbandry and winemaking to suit the needs of the vintage.

Of course, money makes the world go round and those estates with not only the terroir but also the resources to react to the difficult summer conditions shone the brightest. As always there were surprise successes here and there, but it’s as much a case of the “usual suspects” on the right bank as we found yesterday on the Médoc.

This afternoon, we schlepped aross to the other side of Bordeaux to taste the wines of Graves and Pessac-Léognan. To be frank, the reds were not that exciting a bunch. For the reasons I’ve already talked about those properties with the best terroir stood out. Pape-Clément, Domaine de Chevalier, Smith-Haut-Lafitte make an unsurprising list – terroir and resources helping to overcome the difficult climatic conditions.

The white wines made a refreshing end to the day’s tasting, both literally and metaphorically. 2007 is a genuinely great year for white Bordeaux. Did I already rave about the superb whites from Haut-Brion? Today I can add wines such as Carbonnieux and Smith-Haut-Lafitte, and even what may (fingers crossed) be a great value white Haut-Bergey. We don’t normally offer many white Bordeaux en primeur but we may give it a go this year – email enprimeur@majestic.co.uk if you’d be interested.

We’ve had a few conversations (quietly) about pricing, and although we never have the luxury of leaving the tastings with a clear idea of how prices will go, we are hopeful that we’ll see some sensible reductions on 2006. The Euro is very strong against the pound, dollar and yen, and in a vintage that’s unlikely to receive the same accolades as the last two we hope that common sense will prevail.

  • Ian Hastie

    Where can I get hold of Pomerol, Chateau la Croix St Vincent? It is difficult to find, but the 2000 and 2002 vintages are excellent.