2010 Bordeaux

Exclusive coverage of the 2010 UGC En Primeurs Tasting! Notes and anecdotes from the front.

When Sleep Deprived & Parched, There’s No Place Like Domaine de Chevalier

When Sleep Deprived & Parched, There’s No Place Like Domaine de Chevalier

Post by John Perry | April 8th, 2011

While my colleagues from the south may be able to cope with the temps in Bordeaux this week, 80 degrees is roasting for this northern California guy.  Couple that with tasting 50-100+ wines in a day and the insanity of Bordeaux rush hour traffic, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.  Thankfully, we wound up at Domaine de Chevalier for dinner, which would turn out to be one of my most memorable experiences in Bordeaux.

Olivier Bernard: A true gentleman

With the mood set—lack of sleep, spent palate, hot weather, traffic jams, getting lost—we pulled up to Domaine de Chevalier looking something like The Bad News Bears. Outside to greet us was the owner of the property, Olivier Bernard, whose reputation had preceded him. My boss had told me that Olivier is a really intelligent and charming guy, and the negociant who drove me to the property confirmed this. But meeting him in person, I was blown away by his generosity, relaxed personality, and philosophy about wine.

Sporting a suntanned face, calloused hands, and the build of a linebacker, you immediately get the sense that he’s completely down to earth and connected to the land here, despite being the owner of one of the best properties in Pessac.  He welcomed us into the entrance of the cellars, and seemed to know that, instead of wine, what we’re really needed was a glass of water!  With our thirst quenched, rather than pouring the 2010, he offered us a tour, telling us he knew we had very likely had the wine multiple times this week (which we had) and that there was no need to strain us further when “relaxation is the only thing on the agenda.” (more…)

The Magic Number at Malescot St. Exupery

The Magic Number at Malescot St. Exupery

Post by Alex Shaw | April 7th, 2011

A handful of truly mythical numbers for Bordeaux lovers—1945, 1959, 1982, and, possibly most of all, 1961—are widely considered the greatest vintages of all time. These are legendary years that all Bordeaux lovers know but few have actually had the opportunity to experience.  I’d certainly never had the chance to taste any of them…until recently.

Relaxing in the Beautiful Garden

Along with a few of my colleagues, I attended a dinner at Chateau Malescot St. Exupery in Margaux on Tuesday night.  The weather this week has been nothing short of fantastic, and on this absolutely stunning evening, we had appetizers and vin rosé in the chateau’s luxurious back yard.  Over dinner, there was a steady upward arc in the quality of wines, the 2006 La Dame de Malescot (their second wine), followed by three vintages of Malescot out of magnum: 2004, 2000 and 1989.  Each wine was a step up in depth, complexity, nuance and overall quality, with the 1989 in the absolute prime of its drinking window.  It was the first 1989 I’d had on this trip, and it was a real treat. (more…)

A Man with a Plan: Bernard Magrez at Pape Clement

A Man with a Plan: Bernard Magrez at Pape Clement

Post by Cory Gowan | April 7th, 2011

After spending most of Tuesday tasting the 2010s of Pessac-Leognan, we headed to Chateau Pape Clément for a tasting, tour, and dinner. The chateau and vineyards of Pape Clement are unique in Bordeaux in that they are basically just outside the city limits, surrounded by suburbs and sitting right next to the small village of Pessac.

Walking Up the Steps and Back In Time

The story of Pape Clément is almost like a tale of two wineries. On one hand, there is the ancient chateau, dating back to the 1500’s. On the other, is Bernard Magrez, owner of three Bordeaux estates (Pape Clément, Fombrauge in St. Emilion, and La Tour Carnet in the Haut-Medoc), as well as 31 other vineyards around the world.

Magrez is unshakable—dedicated to terroir, traditional winemaking and manual production. Whether it’s a $100+ Grand Cru or a rosé from Provence, he puts his name on the bottle and stands by it. A tireless worker, he is always looking for better wines and never shies away from a challenge. It was a pleasure to meet him and his son at Pape Clément on a beautiful spring day in Pessac. (more…)

Cos d’Estournel: I Don’t Think We’re in Kansas Anymore

Cos d’Estournel: I Don’t Think We’re in Kansas Anymore

Post by Alex Shaw | April 4th, 2011

During En Primeurs, Bordeaux is extremely busy (picture restaurants with people spilling out the doors and cars bumper to bumper on the roads), and appointments are an absolute must.  In fact, as many as a thousand or more visit requests may have to be denied by a prominent chateau, as Cos d’Estournel director Jean-Guillaume Prats told us on Monday.  Luckily, we made the cut.

The Lap of Luxury

Entering the Cos d’Estournel tasting room, which is like no other in Bordeaux, you might think you were entering the lobby of a swank midtown Manhattan hotel.  Dark stone floors and walls, red carpets, high tables for tasting, complete with back lighting, and soft music filling the spacious hall. The wines—Goulee, Pagodes de Estournel and Cos d’Estournel—were big and impressively structured, certainly well received by the JJ Buckley team, but we were probably most overwhelmed by the tasting room.  For lack of a better word, it is just….cool. (more…)

Taking it from the Top: Day 1 starts at Lafite

Taking it from the Top: Day 1 Starts at Lafite

Post by Chuck Hayward | April 5th, 2011

On Monday Team JJB dove head first into in EP 2010. Racing up and down the D2, the main drag which runs the length of the Left Bank, gravel flew as our caravan tore in and out of parking lots. Like a Brooks Brothers-clad A-Team, we jumped out of vans, sprinted across impeccably manicured lawns, took steps two at a time in our suits and ties to make our appointments.

With a radically different itinerary from last year, our first intensive look at the vintage was through the prism of the Premier Grand Crus, the

Latour vista

First Growths of the upper Medoc. The “Big Five”, as they are often referred to, generally attract the most attention each year and it’s not often one gets the chance to taste these wines, either from the barrel or from the bottle. So smoothing hair and straightening jackets, we entered the quiet salon at our first stop, Chateau Lafite. Then we dashed over the hill and south to Chateau Mouton-Rothschild, followed by Chateau Latour, and on to Chateau Margaux. Visits to Cos d’Estournel, Palmer, and Leoville-Las Cases were also on the packed Day One itinerary, as well as a tasting of 2007 and 2008 Bordeaux at the warehouse of a top negoce. Before the sun hit the horizon, it was already a full day.

As might be expected, conversation among the team revolved around the favorites of the four Big Chateaux visited that day (Haut Brion would come on Tuesday). Our conversation turned to (more…)

Under Pressure

Under Pressure

Post by Jeff Loo | April 6th, 2011

When I heard that we would be visiting Jeffrey Davies this week to taste through a slew of 2010 Right Bank wines, I was thrilled at the opportunity to reconnect.  Two years ago, just before I left for France to work the 2009 harvest at La Confession, I met him in San Francisco. After dinner he told me I would have fun and learn a lot and then offered me a taste of 1928 d’Yquem.  What an introduction!

Jeffrey Davies (r) tasting with the JJB crew

Fast forward to April 2011. Jeff welcomed the whole JJB team to his Signature Selections office on a cold and rainy day, rather dreary really. We proceeded to taste through 65 wines from St. Emilion, Pomerol, Cotes de Castillon, Fronsac and other satellite arenas from the Right Bank, and during the course of the tasting, we noticed some of the wines were ones we had tasted the day prior with superstar consultant Stephen Derenoncourt.  The interesting thing was that they were completely different.  We had been hearing about barometric pressure and how it affects winetasting.  To be honest, I thought it was complete bunk.  (more…)

After Hours of Bordeaux, There’s Nothing Like Champagne

After Hours of Bordeaux, There’s Nothing Like Champagne

Post by Alex Shaw | April 5th, 2011

The Driveway to Chateau Prieure-Lichine Seemed So Long

The team split up for our second night in Bordeaux—a few folks stayed back at the hotel to get work done, one group went to Chateau Kirwan for dinner, while we set out for Chateau Prieure-Lichine in Margaux for the evening.  Following an afternoon of tasting 75+ wines, with no lunch, on about 3.5 hours of sleep, we were understandably dragging.  Settling into the living room, the evening was led by Prieure-Lichine’s Commercial Director Lise Latrille, who immediately started us off with the new vintage of Prieure-Lichine.

The Table Is Set—With Bollinger

While the wine was wonderful and elegant in a way that the great cabernets from Margaux are, we were fading and in no shape to truly appreciate it. I could see people fidgeting in an attempt to stay focused and knew this was going to be a long evening.  And then came the Bollinger!  When your palate is fried from hours and hours of tasting barrel samples of tannic reds, there is simply nothing in the world that can compare to a glass of champagne.  It’s hard to overstate this. Lunches often start with a glass of bubbly (as mornings are filled with tasting multiple wines), and marathon tastings are often interrupted by a glass of champagne, which reinvigorates the palate and helps assess the wines that follow more accurately.  Lest we forget the sheer joy of Champagne…  It’s medicine for the palate and brings joy to the soul. (more…)