The Super Second That Came In First
Post by Alex Shaw | April 4th, 2011
Ducru Beaucaillou, the Second Growth in Saint Julien, hosted the entire JJ Buckley assemblage for the first dinner in Bordeaux. Driving up to Ducru, a grand chateau with sprawling vineyards running down towards the Gironde, was the picture perfect commencement to our evenings in Bordeaux. It was also a sort of “coming home,” as dinner at Ducru had been a highlight for many of us last year. As we walked up to meet Bruno Borie in our suits and ties, the warm, inviting owner of Ducru greeted us dressed in jeans and Chuck Taylors. I knew then it would be an informal and lively dinner, the type relished by old friends with a shared love of wine.
As with most events in Bordeaux, we began with a tour of the barrel rooms. After a stroll through the caves holding the chateau’s library of Ducru vintages dating to the mid-1800s, we were treated to a tasting of the new vintage of Ducru’s portfolio, led by Stephen Lemaitre, the chateau’s ambassador. Each of the wines (Croix de Beaucaillou, Lalande Borie and Fourcas Borie) leading up to Ducru was more impressive than the last. The quality was clearly equal to, or better than, 2009, as the wines were richly textured with tremendous structure and vibrant acidity. The cool growing season with ample sun kept yields for 2010 down by about 20% for each wine but provided freshness to the fruit that was evident even in its youthful state, with alcohol levels up to 14%, about .5% over last year.
Following the tasting, we strolled past artwork by Keith Haring, expecting to enter the grand dining room as we had last year. Instead, Bruno led us into the chateau’s kitchen, where a table was set for the entire team. An accomplished cook and a true food lover, Bruno happily passed around champagne and hors d’oeuvre while answering questions about the most impressive kitchen I’ve ever seen. We’re talking massive burners, giant inlaid pots for cooking stews for the entire harvest crew, copper cookware— a dream kitchen for any cook, myself included.
The lovely dinner consisted of white asparagus wrapped in ham, veal roast, potatoes with lardons, morels and roasted carrots and was accompanied by an impressive lineup of 9 wines—the 2008, 2004 and 2003 vintages of Lalande-Borie, Croix de Beaucaillou and Ducru Beaucaillou. It is always an interesting exercise to taste multiple vintages of the same wine, but even more special to taste multiple wines from the chateau from each vintage. The 2008s were young and vibrant—still babies. The 2003s were just starting to hit their prime—elegant and beginning to take on the secondary characteristics that make Bordeaux so famous. But it was the 2004s that were really a revelation, and conversation over dinner kept returning to them. A somewhat overlooked vintage due to the massive success of 2005, the 2004s, particularly Ducru, showed excellent structure, ripe fruit with beautifully integrated tannins and an unexpected elegance . In fact, the 2004 just may turn out to be one of the more impressive Ducrus from the decade.
As glasses drained, conversation flowed easily around the table—the history of Ducru, the state of Bordeaux both in France and in the United States and the wine industry in general. Seconds were passed around the table, ties were loosened and removed and, as you might do for a friend you hadn’t seen in a year, Bruno pulled out a rare treat to accompany the cheese course—a magnum of 1966 Ducru.
Whatever the rest of en primeurs may hold, this was an amazing way to start our week in Bordeaux. It was also a reminder that wine is not only the product of the soil from which it comes but the people behind it. As we walked into the cool night air to leave, I glanced back at a sign hanging next to the entrance, written in French, which had been translated for us as we entered: “A visitor finds happiness with the wine.” Truer words were never written.
Check out video from the dinner on our YouTube Channel!