UGC Week: Bordeaux 2016 - Day one, The Right Stuff

UGC Week: Bordeaux 2016 - Day one, The Right Stuff

Monday 3rd April 2017
by Tom Jenkins

Our custom is to start on the Right Bank and ‘avoid the crowds’. Monday morning started with an early appointment with Denis Durantou at L’Eglise Clinet. Saintayme, Le Chenade, Cruzelles and Montlandrie were all spectacular, possibly the best range we’ve seen from Denis, boasting wonderful purity, lots of intensity and great balance. 

The Pomerols were a step up again; both very profound and exciting wines. Bravo Denis. Next stop was Le Pin to meet Jacques and George Thienpont. L’If continues to go from strength to strength, a St Emilion with real verve and a nervous tension that delights the taste buds. Le Pin is very grown up and muscular, less flamboyant than normal, but still packing a kaleidoscope of decadent fruits and seriously impressive tannins. This was becoming a tough morning and it was about to get tougher… Alexandre and Guillaume Thienpont presented the magnificent Vieux Chateau Certan 2016. They are rightly proud, this is a very handsome VCC full of breed. Did I mention that this was hard work? Next stop was Petrus for a very important ‘initiation ceremony’. We feared that the J&B bulldog, donated a few years ago, was about to get the snip, but this was actually a huge honour for our humble hound – he was made the official mascot for the forthcoming Petrus vintage. The wine itself is stunning and quite unique. It’s a powerful Petrus that harks back to greats of ’89 and ’90,  with a hint of exotic spice, yet all wrapped up in the suavest of tannins – it really is quite moving and deeply impressive – chapeau!

There was just time for a trip into Libourne to the offices of Edouard and Christian Moueix. Lafleur Petrus and Belair Monange were both on song and there was a strong showing from Certan de May, which is really finding its feet under the watchful eye of Jean-Claude Berrouet. We were also really impressed by Lafleur Gazin, a surprisingly serious Pomerol at around the 300GBP per case level. Leaving Libourne we headed for Cheval Blanc and a well-deserved lunch with Arnaud de Laforcade. There is a Petit Cheval this year, produced from just three plots, and very good it is too. The style of Cheval and Petit Cheval really appeals to our palates – these are intense, but refined, really seductive and thought provoking with a real depth of core that suggests a very long future ahead. By this stage, we had worked up quite an appetite, so were ready for a glass of Cheval Blanc 2006. We finished with a superb bottle of Yquem 2007.

After a leisurely morning, it was time to up the pace. A walk through the vineyards for some, and a short drive for others took us to Evangile for our next appointment. The Domaines Barons de Rothschild Pomerol has fabulous terroir and is capable of producing exquisite wines, although recent vintages haven’t quite lived up to expectations. The 2016 certainly does. This is a big, dark, brooding, highly impressive Evangile, which may not have the poise and finesse of VCC, but has considerably more mass and is a seriously good effort. 

Back into St Emilion and the gleaming bells of Angelus. Stephanie de Bouard greeted us and explained the philosophical change to wine-making here. There’s a distinct drive for elegance and purity. The 2016 is dark and concentrated, but it’s also starry, elegant and fresh. We were really impressed. 

Our next appointment was with another leading lady in St Emilion, Pauline Vauthier. The whole range here really impressed us. Fonbel and Moulin St Georges are the best examples we can remember tasting – they are more refined than usual with a lovely tautness and precision. What can one say about Chapelle and Ausone? Wow, what wines. Powerful, ethereal, graceful and so complex – wonderful. 

By now the inevitable had happened, we were running late… Next stop, Chateau Canon. The magnificent 2015 was still fresh in our minds. It successor is less flamboyant, but no less good – this is so charming, refined and suave, with a cool and commanding presence, a superb Canon. A short trip along the Cote and we were in Francois Mitjavile’s charming cellars underneath Tertre Roteboeuf. This is normally one of the highlights of our week, but this turned out to be an extraordinary tasting. Let’s start with the good news. The Tertre Roteboeuf is sensational, a classic Mitjavile masterpiece of decadent, slightly degraded fruit, with wonderful purity and freshness. Alas, the Roc des Cambes left us scratching our heads. We’d never tasted anything like it, it was like tasting pressed Durian fruits – the sample was clearly not right. We will defer judgement on it… 

And finally, to our last appointment. Had we saved the best ‘til last? Baptiste and Omri presented the 2016 Guinaudeau wines to a slightly jaded team, but as soon as the first drop of Grand Village hit our lips, we were revitalised. This was and is the best range of wines we can remember. Particularly the Grand Village and Acte – these are so refined, full of a classy reserve, an exquisite tension and balance and long, long flavours. There is the cool, floral Cabernet Franc aromas one associates with Lafleur in both these wines, they are both truly astonishing. Moving into the Pomerols and that same drive and tension is evident, but with more density and complexity. These are such profound, yet effortless wines; so engaging one really wants to drink them right now… We then tasted Grand Village Blanc and Les Champs Libres – both are wonderful, expressive, vibrant examples, full of character, but not dominated by the overtly Sauvignon Blanc character – we were really impressed. Then Baptiste suggested we revisit the Lafleur, something one wouldn’t normally do after a glass of zesty Sauvignon, however, the low pH and the intensity of fruit helped the Lafleur to soar above the whites – it was in no way overawed, in fact it just kept growing in stature with this persistence and length that just kept going. This is an astonishingly good range – bravo!

Continue reading the UGC blog posts: Day oneDay two