haut brion

2013 Bordeaux: JJ Buckley Pursues a Road Less Travelled

This sign leaves no doubt as to where we are

This sign leaves no doubt as to where we are

On the first big day of tastings at each years en primeur, many folks find themselves cruising up and down the famed D2 highway of the Medoc visiting the domaines that line the rolling road from Margaux and St. Estephe. This year JJ Buckley decided to take the road less traveled and headed south to Pesssc-Leognan to dig a little deeper into the red and white wines of this unique appellation. As it turns out, it was a great plan.

The region formerly known as Graves has been a source for delicious wines over the past few years. Whether red or white, the wineries of Pessac (just outside the boundaries of Bordeaux city proper) and Leognan (where estates are scattered among the rolling hills some 20 minutes south) have been making wines that rival those made by the top domaines of the Haut-Medoc. And it’s not just the top estates like Haut-Brion or La Mission Haut-Brion that are driving the region forward. Reds like Haut-Bailly and Domaine de Chevalier are proving that quality extends among many.

Knowing that the reds of Pessac-Leognan have often successfully weathered the problems that arise in difficult vintages, we were optimistic that we would find some exciting surprises. Well we did but not as expected. For the most part, the wines we sampled showed medium-weighted palates with vibrant red fruit flavors. Bright and expressive, there were often firm tannic undercurrents found across the appellation that detracted a bit. It’s hard to day whether this came from pressing that was too vigorous or picking grapes too early. It is true that the delicate nature of the fruit in 2013 required that tannins be in balance.

One of the top wines from 2013 are twice as nice here

One of the top wines from 2013 are twice as nice here

The top wines immediately brought the best Burgundies to mind with their suave textures and softness of fruit. Many times we found ourselves guessing whether a wine was more like a Cotes de Nuits versus a Cote de Beaune. The delicate nature of the fruit in 2013 required wineries to adopt more gentle techniques on the cellar to minimize the tannins so my guess is that the pinot noir resemblance came from this lighter touch. Could some wineries been a bit too gentle?

Where the reds left us a bit underwhelmed, the same could not be said about the whites. These are wines that are thrilling to taste and are full of potential. Already showing oodles of fruit that swirl around and reveal even more nuance and complexity, these wines will be stunning wines during the next 4-8 years. The best wines will rival anything that Burgundy can produce with mouthwatering minerals and acidity adding spine to broad textured palates full of pear and apple flavors. These wines are always made in small quantities when compared to each winery’s red wine production so they are well worth searching out. Look for our upcoming Bordeaux report to read about our favorites.

Bottomless Pours at Chateau Margaux

Bottomless Pours at Chateau Margaux

Post by Alex Shaw | April 2nd, 2012

Here in Bordeaux, two words inspire more reverence than any others: First Growth. Thanks to the 1855 classification system, there are only five First Growths (Lafite, Latour, Haut Brion, and Margaux, with Mouton added to the group in 1973), and they are widely considered to produce the finest wines from the Left Bank. We were lucky to taste all five on Monday, an excellent exercise that shed some light on the possibilities of the top end of the 2011 vintage. For many, including myself, the First Growth that inspires the most passion, even  reverence, is Chateau Margaux, so it was with great anticipation that I looked forward to dining there that evening.

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First Impressions of the Big Five

First Impressions of the Big Five

Post by Chuck Hayward | Monday, March 29th

They are called the Premier Grand Crus, the First Growths— a Bordeaux Best of the Best, designated as such by the famed Classification of 1855 (with a certain exception made in 1973). These five revered wineries— Lafite, Latour, Margaux, Haut-Brion and Mouton-Rothschild— produce some of the most sought after and coveted wines by enthusiasts and collectors from across the globe. And I was about to taste them all!

There has been much debate about the 1855 Classification and whether it’s

The JJB Team at Chateau Margaux

still valid today. Many wineries further down in the classification are now producing wines that are considered superior to those made by the Premiers— and you can be assured that the JJ Buckley staff have been hacking away at that old chestnut over the course of our visit! But this is not the time nor place to rehash the argument. I can say, though, that these wines are something special.

Interestingly, however, the ways these grand estates present themselves and their en primeur wines is sometimes anything other than grand. In the case of Chateau Haut Brion, we tasted the new wines in a beautiful salon. For Lafite it was an unadorned conference room and at Latour, we tasted quietly in a lab.

Whatever the setting, the wines from the “big five” were exceptional, each with its own, unique personality. Margaux stood out for its almost rustic qualities. Lafite impressed me with its restraint and elegance, while at the same time avoiding any unripe qualities or a sense of dilution.

For those who favor power, Latour, Mouton, and Haut Brion will be at the center of the First Growth conversation in this vintage. All three offered up rich, mouthfilling flavors that never ended. These are big wines but do not become cloying or ponderous thanks to fully integrated acids and the barest of tannins to support the thick fruit.

The key observation for all the Premier Grand Crus is that each wine, while being fully expressive, seems to offer a sense of restraint and the feeling that there is much, much more to come down the road. Tasting them young is like being in a boxing ring, knowing that my opponent is holding something in reserve that’s later going to put me on the ropes.

Well, if it’s going to be a Premier Grand Cru that clocks me, then just ring my bell.