Bordeaux and the South West

Jeremy, Adrian and our chairman Alun Griffiths MW visited Bordeaux and the South West of France at the end of May. Alun has put together a detailed review of their visit, along with useful tasting notes on some of their favourite wines from the trip.

Vignobles Alain Brumont

Visits were made to Château Montus and Château Bouscasse. The Montus wines are almost universally excellent, whether it be white wines made from Petit Courbu or red wines made from a blend of Tannat with Cabernet Franc.

The main Bouscasse range is excellent. The 2017 white Jardins Philosophiques is a revelation. Among the reds, the Bouscasse 2017 was one of the wines of the week for me. The 2016 Bouscasse Vieilles Vignes was a monumental effort which will keep for ages.

Jurancon, Charles Hours

A more informal, relaxed encounter with the very affable Charles. The moelleux wines are excellent and show wonderfully pure, natural sweetness with ripe, stone-fruit flavours on the palate.

Château Balestard La Tonnelle, Cap de Mourlin, Roudier.

2022 tasted from barrel was excellent; concentrated, (14%) and dense but with no loss of freshness. Oak well controlled, plenty of depth of fruit. A very well-made and attractive Montagne St Emilion.

Moving on to the two Grands Crus Classes. The 2022s showed superbly. Cap de Mourlin was harmonious and fine, but Balestard displayed an extra level of quality, an indefinable touch of pure class. One of the stars of the week.

Château Gombaude Guillot

An absolute revelation for me! It is biodynamic, sits on the plateau surrounded by the great names of Pomerol. The wines are very classy and represent astonishing value when compared to the prices fetched by their near neighbours. The 2019 and 2018 were remarkably good, displaying true Pomerol plateau class. The Pom’n Roll, vinified and matured without oak, was a proper wine, with real Pomerol character.

An added bonus here was the discovery of Château Mangot, their friends in St Emilion Grand Cru, which impressed us all, so much so that Jeremy immediately sought so secure the remaining bottles!

Nicolas and Alexandra Robin, Clos Vieux Taillefer & Château Rol Valentin

2020 Clos Vieux Taillefer was a lovely Pomerol, displaying a wonderful quality of fruit, great presence in the mouth, fine tannins and exceptional length and persistence.

We finished with three vintages of Château Rol Valentin, each of which was marvellous in its own way. 2016 was technically the best of them, with fabulous quality of both fruit and tannin.

Château Siaurac & Château Vray Croix de Gay

In Lalande-de-Pomerol, 2018 and 2019 displayed round, ripe, lush fruit in a very approachable style. We then tasted Pomerols, L’Enchanteur de Vray Croix de Gay 2018 and 2019, both of which were very attractive with plenty of Pomerol typicality. Finally 2019 Vray Croix de Gay was a class above, with lush fruit, some true Pomerol class and a hint of spice.

Vieux Château Bayard

A short and very pleasant visit with Marie-Laure Latorre to taste her Montagne St Emilion. 2022 was a big success, showing all the ripeness one would expect from the warmth of the vintage, but retaining plenty of freshness, too. Balanced. A skilful hand at work in this cellar.

Château Graville Lacoste

A pleasant interlude with Herve Dubourdieu. 2022 Graville Lacoste, Semillon makes up the majority of the blend. No oak is used, which helps to preserve freshness. An interesting titbit of information gleaned is that by planting acacia trees, they reduce the ground temperature by up to 10 degrees, a useful tool in the battle against the warming climate trend.

Château Haut Rian

A property which needs little introduction for TH staff, a stalwart of the list for decades. The Dietrichs daughter Pauline is now in charge of winemaking and she is clearly exceptionally talented. How she retains such vitality and freshness in the dry white wines in the face of a succession of mostly very warm vintages is a mystery.

The white 2022 Les Acacias was one of highlights of the week, barrel-fermented, with hints of tropical fruit on the nose, lovely texture on the palate and nothing clumsy about the use of oak. The red equivalent, Haut Rian Saint Seurin , has 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and this adds considerable structure to the fleshy ripeness of the Merlot. A delightful family, and a spectacular visit.

Château Sigalas Rabaud

We finished the day in Sauternes at Sigalas Rabaud. A major discovery for me here was the dry white wine made from 100% Semillon, called La Semillante. The 2018 was more expressive, not surprisingly at this stage, and was a sensational wine. It had the texture and weight in the mouth of a top White Burgundy but hinted at its origins with a core of ripe, sweet Semillon fruit, building to a very long, mineral finish. Clearly a wine from a noble terroir. This represents astonishing value. A great food wine.

Château Siran, Margaux

We then drove to Château Siran where we were welcomed by the wonderfully relaxed and affable Edouard Miailhe. We just tasted 2018 and 2019 Siran, both of which were very Margaux in style, with perfume of violets and other aromatic flowers. An interesting note of spice from the quite substantial portion of Petit Verdot was noticeable on the palate, but the overriding impression was of gentle harmony, subtle use of oak and a lovely, balanced integration of all the wine’s various elements.

Passion des Terroirs

Thursday morning saw us at this negociant owned by the Lurton family for a mixed tasting. Château Bouscaut Blanc 2022 was sumptuous and balanced. We then tasted Haut Bages Liberal, the 2016 was excellent, testament to the quality of this vintage.

Château Langoa Barton

Very illuminating visit in St Julien revealed just how much progress the Barton family has made with their Moulis estate, Mauvesin Barton. The 2018 was the best example I have tasted from there, by a long chalk, although, to be fair, I had not tasted 2016. 2017 Leoville astonishing, with a massive 93% of Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend, perhaps the wine of the week. Not super-concentrated but unbelievably fine and elegant.

Château Lynch Bages

We tasted only 2022s, which were as polished and well-made as one would expect from such a high-tech winery. Ormes de Pez continues to be a very good-value, approachable St Estephe, Lynch Bages is a great example of benchmark traditional Pauillac.

Château Branaire Ducru

The process of revitalising Branaire Ducru began in 1988 under new owner Patrick Maroteau, now his son, Francois Xavier, continues his work and has taken the quality of the wine here to a new level.

The 2019 Duluc was delicious, with a lot of class, although it will benefit from more ageing. Francois Xavier kindly opened a selection of older vintages of the Grand Vin after first showing the 2022. The Primeur wine has been hailed as one of the best in the vintage, a brilliant wine!

Château Fourcas Dupre

We tasted Fourcas Dupre from 2022, which showed richness and freshness, with bags of promise for the future. Of the older wines, Fourcas Dupre 2018 and 2020 were, to me, remarkable for their cost.

Château La Tour de By & Château Noaiillac

Our final visits brought us to Château Noaiillac. The 2017 was very fine-boned, while the 2016 was exceptional at this level.

Château La Tour de By was more substantial and dense in its composition than Noaillac. Investment in the winery is clearly providing more focus to the wines. The 2022 may well prove to be the best of the many which we sampled.

Bordeaux is adapting itself to the market and to climate change. The red wines benefit from the warming trend of recent years in that they can more regularly deliver ripe, soft, approachable wines at an early age, in contrast with the more tannic and acidic wines of bygone eras. Whites benefit from modern winemaking technology to retain freshness, and Sauternes estates tackle the current loss of popularity for sweet wines by turning their hands to the production of stunning dry wines.