In early March 2012, FINE+RARE's Sales Director Jamie Graham, Events Manager Amanda Baxter and a small group of our customers embarked on our annual tour of Bordeaux. Amanda Baxter updates us on their trip below.
Less than half our small group of customers boarded the (luxury) minibus to Saint Emilion last Wednesday as the temptation of an extra night at Hostellerie de Plaisance proved too much for the rest. On arrival, an 11 o’clock glass of NV Jacquesson Cuvee 734 settled our guests into what would prove to be an intensive tasting trip around Bordeaux’s top estates.
The games began at midday at Chateau Cheval Blanc, where the hospitality never fails to impress nor do the new facilities including all cement vat vessels and beautiful cellars with carefully designed brick walls to regulate the humidity and temperature. This new design was to allow micro vinification i.e. 44 identified plots can be vinified separately and blended later; And when you invest in your 1871 classified vineyard, your 22 permanent workers, your ‘curative not preventative’ philosophy and your sorting tables that follow harvesters as they pick, why would you then throw the grapes in together?
Lunch started with the always delicious 2002 Dom Perignon with some tasty canapés (wasabi and sesame rolled cherry tomatoes anyone?) before we moved into their classically beautiful dining room to start our meal with a mushroom and egg starter (which sounds better in French: Oeuf Mi-Cuit Tombee de Pleurotes) alongside:
2001 Le Petit Cheval
"Plummy nose with an influence of oak. Round and well formed with more dark stone fruit and a nice backbone but remains silky. Easy drinking but that is absolutely not to say overly simple." 17+ Points FINE+RARE
2000 Cheval Blanc
(with John Dory and stuffed courgettes)
"Even more plums than the Petit Cheval with addition of spice and tobacco forming nicely. This all transpires on the palate too with a whole lot of length, a sure winner for your wine rack." 19 Points FINE+RARE
(with a Strawberry Eton Mess inspired dessert)
"Spectacular wine with a very dark golden hue. Caramel and honeysuckle rise from the glass and lead to a very long, complex stunning wine. Beautiful." 18.5 Points FINE+RARE
Our replete group had a jump start espresso before we whipped them 2 minutes across the vineyard to the very different Vieux Chateau Certan to be met by Alexandre Thienpont. Our host is always reticent about his level of English - which is excellent - and there is no PR polish here. He took us straight into the cellar to try the unblended 2011 from barrel and by plot. Merlots tried came from vines planted in 1998, 1959 and 1942. These samples clearly showed how each parcel contributes to the final blend, be it length, fruit or backbone. The Cabernet that we tasted was from a 1958 parcel before moving onto the finished products.
2010 Vieux Chateau Certan
"The vintage that Alexander has declared himself for over 2009, it lacks the openness of 2009 but is still silky and welcoming with notes of plum and coffee. Spicy notes develop enhancing these and drawing out the length. One for the cellar in our opinion and that of the man who made it!" 18.5+ Points FINE+RARE
2009 Vieux Chateau Certan
"Silkier, sexier and more accessible – even at cellar temperature, smoky, loaded with black fruit and rich in flavour with layers there and so much more to come, both if warmer and with some years in bottle. Interesting to see if this will close up at all." 18.5+ Points FINE+RARE
There was a brief repose to wander the town’s cobbled streets before we travelled the short distance to Chateau Troplong Mondot for dinner. We were received by Christine Valette, Xavier Pariente and the family dogs for a tour around the house to enjoy a view of Saint Emilion at dusk, the stainless steel vat room and pictures of the gypsy family who used to harvest for them every year – until the neighbours complaints got too loud! We then retreated back to the warmth of the fire in the large dining room that also forms part of their oeno-tourism adventure – Les Belles Perdrix. Here we were greeted with canapés and NV Ruinart before embarking on a little teamwork as we all gathered around the table to pull in the large pews that ran down either side of it.
2007 Troplong Mondot
(with Duck and Foie Gras)
"Light, tight and young with a fair bit of tannin, it has not yet filled out though there is plenty of fresh raspberry here." 17 Points FINE+RARE
2004 Troplong Mondot
(with Brioche-encased Beef Wellington)
"Soft, well balanced “classic” claret with dark fruit, slightly smoky meat and great length all wrapped in a full body." 17+ Points FINE+RARE
1998 Troplong Mondot
"Almost green pepper nose, angular and seems young. Fresh palate (passion fruit?) then tannins wrap around the mouth, gums, tongue…years to go." 17.5+ Points FINE+RARE
1990 Troplong Mondot
"A very special year when they decided to do an enormous green harvest reducing yields from 50hl/hec to 16hl/hec. The colour is so different from its lively purple/ruby counterparts and there is real smoked bacon here and also an aniseed quality." 18++ Points FINE+RARE
2001 Siglas Ribaud
(with Apple and Grape Crumble)
"Very nice (I am afraid that the last wines of the night get the short straw on notes!)" 18 Points FINE+RARE
And so to bed.