lafite

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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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…)

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.