Tag Archives: bordeaux

Who needs en primeur?



Claret from Bordeaux was the first wine to be offered en primeur and it is still the biggest market for those of us who like to buy wine in advance of shipping or even bottling.

But, for a while now, dissenting voices have been heard. Unless you are after a particular chateau which may sell out early there is now little point in using the en primeur market since, firstly, there is an awful lot of claret around and, secondly, prices of newly released claret are much the same, or even more expensive than, mature wines.

Tonight’s wine – Chateau Coufran 2004 – is a good example. Around £17 from MWW, fully mature with the tannins integrated, classic claret nose – savoury, meaty, some eucalyptus. Big mouth feel, in a rich, not austere style doubtless caused by it being Merlot-dominated. A bargain and I’m sure you wouldn’t enjoy a similar 2014, say, as much.

[Geoff: Given my recent views about old red wine this was a great example of how they can taste. Not expensive and from a seemingly endless supply that Majestic possess, this wine is drinking well right now. Two years time may see it a little tired as the CS proportion is only 15%. As the better wine critics write ‘snap’ or ‘grab’ it now, ‘before it’s all gone’.]


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The Indian giver


The American term ‘Indian giver’ describes someone who presents a gift and asks for its return. I bought Richard this wine a few years back and, last Sunday, he presented it for us both to taste; it had been decanted 30 minutes, I tasted it blind. The wine was an ’06 La Reserve Leoville Barton, the ‘baby brother’ of a well-known St Julien 2nd growth Chateau Leoville Barton and, therefore, has some pedigree.

Intense red in colour, it had a very slightly brown rim. The aromas were dominated by vanilla and dark fruits, particularly damsons and plums rather than blackcurrant. There was an appealing freshness and slight spice to the nose but it was difficult to pick as Cabernet Sauvignon. Information about the blend is difficult to find. The palate was pleasantly tannic – expected of a claret – but without any particular characteristics. ‘Too young?’ is what I noted but I don’t think it will develop and change greatly. I would describe it as pleasant, but no more.

[Richard: Not familiar with the phrase but it is a good one. I think this was a birthday present from Geoff in 2012 but I could be wrong on both counts. From MWW? Anyway when John and I bought claret en primeur in the early eighties we shared a case of Leoville Barton – the 1982 as I recall – why was terrific. So I was interested to try this wine. As Geoff says, it didn’t have much in the way of classic claret indicators, like the cigar box nose. A decent drink but, ultimately, one lacking excitement.]

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Chateau de la Grave Grains Fins 2015 Bassereau

Cote de Bourg, situated on the Gironde’s right bank, is well known for its red wines which dominate the AC’s production. There are, however, 25 hectares (out of 4000 +) devoted to white wine production and this wine is one of the results. It is a blend of Semillon (70%) and Colombard and has an ABV of 13.5%. It’s available from the Wine Society at a bargain £9.75.

The Semillon grape, widely grown all over the world, then just as widely uprooted, earned a reputation for basic, characterless white wines of high acidity and minimal flavour. It is notable in two areas – Bordeaux (particularly for sweet whites) and the Hunter Valley in New South Wales. Colombard is a grape favoured by brandy producers but now finding devotee growers and makers of still wines where it raises acidity levels and adds peach flavours.

Intrigued yet?

The colours were a medium intense lemon yellow with a very slight green tint. It was particularly clear and bright. The nose was a blend of citrus and yellow peach but with a fascinating, and unusual, smell of ginger spices.

This was not a wine shy of flavour. Peach dominated, broad, dry and long, it is a wine with bags of character. To be critical, it could be said to be lacking in refinement but – and this is only a theory (don’t groan, Richard) – I think it needs to be given time. The Semillon famously develops after 8 -10 years therefore the dominant flavour at present is from the Colombard. It’s good now but it’s also one to put down, I think.

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“Nectar? No ta.”


Sunday and the usual blind tasting rules applied, R. decanting 30 mins before pouring an inch into two glasses. Look, discuss, smell, discuss, taste, more discussion. “Well?” Richard inquired. “Old world.” Correct. “Is it Italy?”. No. “Southern French?” No. “Has to be Bordeaux, then.” Correct. Then we trailed off into Left/Right Bank source.

The wine? Chateau de la Grave Nectar 2010 14% ABV (90% Merlot, 10% CS)

Now my defence.

This was probably the most unlikely candidate for a claret that I’ve ever tried. Intensely black/red with a slight brick rim; very viscous, violet-perfumed with spicy black cherry notes, it yelled out hot climate from the glass. (2010 was a hot year; now being called a classic by some, controversial by others). The palate was a bruiser. Heavyweight, long, very concentrated, the tannins well-integrated but into the red fruit sweetness that dominated. Not a twig of cedar, a shaving of pencil or smudge of graphite could be detected. Great with a big stew, barbecue or cassoulet.

Absolutely nothing wrong with the wine but certainly not typical of the region. And, unfortunately, not for me. It might be more subtle given a few years but Merlot is not known for its ageing.

[Richard: every six months TWS send out a Fine Wine list which includes a page of ‘small wonders’ – the unnecessarily cute name denoting fine wines under £20. The above was only £12.50 which is low-end for fine wine although the heavy bottle and pretentious name/label seem to be an attempt to position the wine a bit higher up the scale. As did the taste – too sweet and international in style, with no sense of place. Given the way TWS promoted it I expected more than was delivered. Fine if you like Merlot, although you could probably better spend your money on something from Chile.]


We also tasted the above – not blind as Geoff had to do a detailed note on it for WSET. A claret we both know well, although it’s only been blogged once. In terms of typicity this was the complete opposite of the Nectar. Unmistakably claret, even though the nose was more red fruit rather than black (it’s 50-50 cs/merlot). Complex, interesting, structured with ageing potential. All the things the Nectar wasn’t and at around the same price. No contest.

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2005 Bordeaux


The 2005 vintage in Bordeaux is recognised as truly exceptional on both left and right banks. Prolonged dry weather and cool nights produced berries that had concentrated fruit flavours with ripe tannins and good levels of acidity. On Sunday, Richard presented a Listrac-Medoc Chateau Fonreaud 05 which he’s had for some time from the Wine Society at £13. It proved to be excellent value.

The brick coloured rim spoke of its maturity but the colour was intense red/black. The nose showed also the aged quality of the wine with its stewed black fruit aromas and some acidity, which faded. there was slight menthol quality but not the tell-tale blackcurrant nose. The flavour was distinctly earthy to me, both spicy and savoury but not overly fruity. The finish was distinctly dry and long. The tannins were well-integrated; this was a classic claret at its best. It would have been a fine accompaniment to red meat or a riper cheese. Lovely.

I have a bottle of the 2008, if it’s half as good as the 05, we’re in for a treat.


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Reserve de la Comtesse 2004


This is the second wine of Pichon Longueville Baron, a 2nd growth Medoc from just south of the village of Paulliac on the left bank of the Gironde estuary. 2004 weather conditions of a wet August saved by a dry September and October produced wines of reasonable but not superb quality. The notes below are our impressions.

Colour: Intensity, very deep, tawny rim.

Nose: Slight menthol, black fruits, savoury, some muted acidity, intense, developing.

Flavours: dry, medium acidity, medium + tannins and mouth feel, pronounced black plum fruits, long finish.

This is ready for drinking but will develop more subtlety as it ages. Good, but yet to reach its best.

My more general opinion would be that of surprise at its body which was quite rustic rather than lean. I associate claret with a more refined style than this wine is showing; my first impressions were that it was southern French. The blend is 58% CS, 36% Merlot and 6% CF. I think it would benefit from more time to let the subtler flavours come through.

Still a very enjoyable wine, though. Thanks, Richard.

[Richard: the last, and probably the most expensive – around £28 –  of a of a mixed claret case from TWS. Very enjoyable drink which really needed red meat rather than the baked potato potato and cheese we drank it with.]

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Not one for lunchtime


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.]






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