Pessac Leognan is an AC recently created (1987) sitting within the Graves region of Bordeaux. It claims to have similar soils to the Medoc i.e. gravel over sand and, as such, produces wines of a similar style. The wine we tried was La Parde de Haut Bailly 2004, the second wine of Chateau Haut Bailly and one of the earliest examples of the now-popular ‘second wine’ model. The ’04 blend is 50% Cab. Sav, 30% Merlot with 20% Cab. Franc. The ABV is 12.5%. I tasted it blind.
The colour was very deep red, almost black, an intense block of colour refracting no light whatsoever which made me think, initially, of a southern French red. Richard quickly disavowed me of that. The ripe nose had a slightly rustic quality but plum and wood dominated the aromas. R. thought he detected a spirity nuance.
The palate was wood and menthol with a tannin structure and the ripeness continued into plums and even prunes. There was some heat to it, suggesting this wine still had a while to go. It was a wine big in flavours, belying its 12.5% ABV and certainly no ‘lunchtime claret’; I think it will continue to improve and gather more leanness over the next five years. Very enjoyable.
[Richard: purchased in 2011 from the WS for now seems to be a bargain £24, part of a ‘Communing With Claret case’. Daft name in my view and there wasn’t much communing going on last Sunday. The wine was good but not a religious experience. Geoff actually guessed claret first off and then had second thoughts. To me the ‘cigar box’ nose was faint but unmistakable. Easy when you’ve seen the label. Very enjoyable drink, with some years to go (WS said drink by 2015) although Angie preferred a (much lighter) 2015 Beaujolais Villages. One bottle left from the case – a Réserve de la Comtesse, 2004 – which should be even better.]
Even a cursory glance at the Lopez de Heredia website (lopezdeheredia.com) will indicate the importance of the traditional values of this operation. From solely using grapes from their own vineyards, coopering their own barrels out of Appalachian oak to the ageing of both red and white wines, the sense of continuity dominates. As red and white Riojas rush to fruitier, fuller and less oaky styles – thereby losing their distinguishing characteristics – LH haven’t changed. And the world has caught up with them.
A white Vina Gravonia 2003 has been sitting in my ‘cellar’ for about three years (I’ve also an ’02) and Sunday we tried it. Very deep gold in colour, bright and clear, it had a slightly weighty (lanolin) look. So far, so excellent.
The aroma was the sherry smell of slightly oxidised orange peel, and as we both said, ‘quite unique’. Or very unique. Or too unique. Whatever it was, it was good.
With the colour and the age one is not prepared for the fresh, balanced acidity of the palate, as if it had just been drawn from the barrel; reminiscent, to me, of the sherry bars in Jerez. As Richard said, this could be served with ‘nibbles’ as an aperitif, the dryness slightly edged with sweetness. It’s medium in length. For their quality (and age) these wines are very good value – if you like your Riojas traditional. And we certainly do.
[Richard: our first joint tasting for ages with work and holidays getting in the way. We went to Rhodes where the wines were ordinary – nowhere near as good as Kefalonia, last year, although our village had little in the way of decent shops. A not-bad assrytiko in a restaurant was as good as it got. Incidentally the waitress was astounded that decent Greek wine could be bought in the UK.
So – onto the wine. This is a taste we know well and have blogged on before. Absolutely unmistakable and a seductive drink with loads of flavour. Something every wine lover should try.]