Bordeaux week

Bordeaux week

Tuesday 26th March 2019
by Tom Jenkins

Justerinis’ Bordeaux week 2019 opened with a star-studded line up at BAFTA. There were gongs aplenty and the only talk of raspberries, was being used to describe the delicate fragrance wafting from the glasses. 

For many guests, this was their first experience of the much vaunted 2016 vintage, and by the reactions, they lived up to expectations and some. Our own team who have tasted these wines from barrel and bottle were equally enthralled – they just keep getting better and better. Initially they were not as flamboyant as the glitzy 2015s, but as their predecessors have closed down a touch and are showing more of their structure, the 2016’s fruit is purity and class. They display an effortless grace that is so seductive you just want to drink them now, although that would be a huge mistake – these have all the hallmarks of a great, age worthy vintage. 

It was impossible to chose favourites, literally every wine was a winner. Olivier Bernard’s Domaine de Chevalier (£325/6) must rank amongst the finest vintages from the modern era. We weren’t thrilled by this en primeur, but shame on us, we should have had faith in Olivier’s abilities – this is grand Graves with a mighty future ahead. Also from the commune of Pessac, Les Carmes Haut Brion showed why everyone’s in such a clamber to get their hands on this label. Produced with ‘Burgundian’ techniques such as whole bunch fermentation, Guillaume and team have crafted a gorgeously pure and captivating 2016.

Starting at the top of the Medoc, Calon Segur displayed a dark fruited, deeply Cabernet character. The modern style is mighty impressive and won lots of admirers. Alas it has sold out, but at a fraction of the price, sister chateau, Capbern wowed us with its precision and elegance – it really is a steal at £180/12 ib.

Working our way down into Pauillac, we displayed the Mouton owned properties, d’Armailhac and Clerc Milon, Emeline Borie’s Grand Puy Lacoste and one of the superstars of the vintage, Pichon Comtesse. D’Armailhac still represents one of the best value classified growths from Pauillac - the 2016 has an extra layer of polish and class. Clerc Milon was another big step up. The bouquet is an explosive mix of cassis and potpourri. It is so flamboyant and luxuriant – it’s hard not to be charmed. Grand Puy Lacoste is at its classical best. This is a suave, elegant GPL brimming with class. Despite a slight repositioning, this remains one of the best buys from Pauillac. At £370 per 6 it is still less than half the price of the regal Pichon Comtesse, which, by the way was every bit as fabulous as we remembered it. Those who bought it en primeur have much to look forward to!

From St Julien we had the trio of Beychevelle and the Barton properties. Since Romain Ducolomb has taken the reins at Beychevelle the wines have excelled. Perhaps in the past the abundance of Merlot prevented these wines achieving their full potential, however, armed with his new state of the art winery and a great technical team, the bar has been raised high. 2016 is clearly a beautiful example from this high-flying chateau. Leoville Barton is back with a bang, well in truth that quality of this favourite Second Growth never really dipped, but the 2016 is definitely one of the most impressive efforts we can recall. This is a big, vin de garde, an Iliad of a wine that will command decades of patience, we absolutely adore it.

We completed our tour of the Medoc with a brace of magical Margaux: Brane Cantenac and Rauzan Segla. These Lurton and Wertheimer owned chateau are at their pinnacle, offering the very best of what this commune has to offer. Nicolas Audebert certainly has the Midas touch. This, his second vintage is every bit as wonderful as the magical 2015. And not to be outdone, Brane Cantenac keeps knocking it out of the park. Following its success at Southwold with the 2015, the 2016 is without doubt worthy of its 96 points from Neal Martin – this is a stunner!

Chateau Canon neatly segues us from Margaux to St Emilion. The Wertheimer’s other property in Bordeaux (they do have good taste…) can do no wrong. Nicolas’s 2015 was one of the wines of the vintage, and this 2016 is a fabulous successor. This Chateau is back to its very best. Rauzan and Canon are both on excellent form, though on the day it was Rauzan that was more open and charming with real class. Polished, salty, beautifully weighted like a fine knife.  Canon’s dark fruit was well wrapped up in serious structure, but it had superb poise and purity, with an intensity and persistence that clearly points to the long haul.

Neighbours at our tasting, and neighbours in St Emilion, Belair Monange’s enviable situation on the best slopes of the Cote is a fascinating contrast to Canon. The Moueix team has produced some staggeringly beautiful wines. Belair Monange was very good indeed; polished supple and with the most wonderful texture and quiet complexity. Unofficially 100% Merlot, we were really taken by this, it feels like a very serious yet luxurious wine. La Fleur Petrus is a masterful display of Moueix winemaking. This is such a handsome effort, combining power and elegance in equal measure. The sweetness of fruit and smart oak here gives a sexy air to things. It is perhaps less cerebral than Belair Monange, but has wonderful texture and allure.

Guillaume Thienpont presented the effortlessly charming Gravette de Certan and Vieux Chateau Certan. VCC has a reputation for consistency, quality and drinkability, but it’s much much more than that. The 2016 is ethereal and so refined; a quintessential Pomerol with wonderful florality, complexity, notes of violet scented fruit and a hint of salinity – such class. Gravette, although officially the second wine seems to attract scores that other Grands Vins would be envious of. This is so silky and charming.

And lastly, but by no means least, Julie and Baptiste Guinaudeau presented their entire range of wines. Their 2016s are rather special. There is an extra level of detail and precision – they possess stunning purity and a lightness of touch that belies their huge depth and aging potential. These are certainly the best examples of Grand Village and Acte we have tasted and the Pensees and Lafleur must rank up there with the all-time greats from this legendary Pomerol terroir. There is such a splendid perfume, floral notes emanate from the glass, subtle and delicate, yet deep and powerful with a growling intensity. Bravo!

The tasting was so good, we decided to hop on the train and do it all over again in sunny Scotland the following day! Thank you so much to our friends from Bordeaux for presenting their wonderful wines, and thanks to The New Club and BAFTA for their hospitality and providing such great venues.