We started our Bordeaux trip in Sauternes. First visit was to Château Guiraud, a benchmark producer of Sauternes that we visit every time that we are in the area.
Château Guiraud33210 Sauternes Tel 05 56 76 61 01
We offer their second wine Petit Guiraud 2011 (see here). This is not your typical second wine that is usually made from the grapes of young vines and the portions of the wine that were not considered good enough for the first wine. This wine is deliberately made less sweet and cloying by harvesting the gapes in the first two of the Pourri stages of noble rot – (see here) for further details.
We tasted the ‘13 and ‘12 Petit Guiraud. The ‘13 was light and attractive with relatively low levels of sugar. It was rounder in the mouth because of the higher proportion (65%) of Semillon. The ‘12 tasted of sweet yellow fruits, very nice. We will offer the '12 when we have sold out of the '11. Many sauternes growers suggest roast chicken to accompany Sauternes and these two would be ideal in our view. We then tasted the ‘11 of the grand vin. Absolutely fabulous! Full of fruit and the taste of the botrytis; sweet but not cloying. One can quite easily see why the wine reviewers rave about this vintage. We are very happy to have quite large stocks of the Petit ‘11 as it will last quite some time.
Château Les MingetsLe Padouen, 33720 Barsac
We first came across Les Mingets at a tasting run by one our suppliers in London and were impressed so we made an appointment to visit. This wine has great fruit, is unctuous and sweet but, as with all good sweet wines, finishes dry when swallowed meaning that it had good acidity. Unusually for the area it is 100% Semillon. It has a touch of oak achieved by placing a small quantity in oak for 6 months and then blending it back with the rest of the wine that remained in tanks and then drawing off another small amount to mature in oak for 6 months. This is repeated four times before the wine is bottled for sale; again a somewhat novel approach.
As we had been very kindly asked for lunch at Phélan Ségur in Saint Estèphe we cut short our time in Sauternes and drove to the other end of Bordeaux; and lunch was certainly worth the effort!
Phélan Ségur33180 Saint-Estèphe Tel 05 56 59 74 00
Phélan Ségur drawing room
Phélan Ségur tasting room
We started with a tour of the facilities which was followed by a tasting of Frank Phélan ’12 (the second wine) followed by the ’11, ’12 and ’14 en primeur of the first wine – all in half bottles! The second wine was not as approachable as the first wines; less fruit and more obvious tannins. Over lunch we had the ’08 Frank Phélan which the winemaker said the ’12 would taste like in time; it was really good and reinforced our belief in second wines being the affordable option for really good wine. The Phélan Ségurs were all seriously good (including the ’06 at lunch) with the ’14 showing great promise. These vintages are all rated 7 out of 10 so the wines from the more highly rated vintages must be stunning.
After lunch we headed north to start our search for reasonably priced Bordeaux.
Château Rolan de By18 route de By, 33340 Begadan Tel +33 5 56 41 58 59
They were open but would not let us taste – not impressed and will not offer their half bottles of wine.
On our way back to Bordeaux we stopped off at Château Potensac. We are not sure that they are open to the public as they are part of a large group but we said that we had come all the way from England to taste their wines so they had pity on us and gave an impromptu tasting just before closing time at 5pm.
Château Potensac33340 Ordonnac in the small village of Potensac next to the church
We tasted some of their older wines, the ’97, 2000 and ’03. They are all blends of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, the precise proportions varying by vintage. The ’97 had good fruit and was lightish, consistent with the vintage. The 2000 was had excellent fruit and balance; definitely our type of wine. The 2003 we thought was more USA in style, a bit of a fruit bomb. We bought the 2000 (€32). They did not have any half bottles of wine in stock but we know that they make them.
Côtes de BlayeThe next day we started at Château Frédignac in the Northern end of the Right Bank.
Château Frédignac7 Rue Emile Frouard, 33390 St Martin Lacaussade Blaye Tel 05 57 42 24 93
We tasted their range of wines from ’12 starting with the F de Frédignac. This was a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc made without oak maturation. Despite this it was well rounded with good clean fruit. The Cuvée Terroir, 80% Merlot and 10% each of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon from 40 year old vines also with no oak aging, was full bodied with great structure. This was given 90 points by Wine Enthusiast which is a pretty good score. The Cuvée Prestige had some barrel aging and the additional complexity there from. We preferred the Cuvée Terroir and this is available in half bottles so we will get some for you.
Château Haut-BertinerieChâteau Bertinerie 33620 Cubenzias
We started with the Blancs from Bertinerie (’14) and from Haut-Bertinerie (’13). The former was minerally and floral but light; the latter was fuller on the mouth. Neither had any Semillon which is a pity in our opinion as this is what sets Bordeaux Blanc apart from all the other Sauvignons in the world. We also tried the Bertinerie ’10 red which was spicy but light. For some unknown reason they were not prepared to let us taste the red Haut-Bertinerie which was the reason why we went there. We did not buy anything.
Château Dalem1 Dalem 33141 Saillans Tel +33 5 57 84 34 18
Château Dalem tasting room
Château Dalem cellar door view - for more great cellar door views see here
Brigitte Rullier makes two wines from vineyards that she owns around the village; Château Dalem and Château de la Huste. Both are approximately 90/10 Merlot/Cabernet Franc, are made the same way and score around 90 in most critics’ reviews. So both pretty good wines. We tried the ’11 from both and both were excellent, full of fruit, good tannins and structure. The Dalem was a bigger wine and will probably take longer to reach its drinking time than the Huste. Both are available as half bottles of wine. We will buy the Château de la Huste for you.
Lalande de Pomerol
Château Siaurac33500 Neac Tel +33 5 57 51 64 58
Château Siaurac tasting room
Château Siaurac have a number of Château; Château Vray Croix de Gay in Pomerol; Château Siaurac in Saint Emilion; Château Siaurac in Lalande de Pomerol. We wanted to try their Pomerol but one was not open so we bought a half bottles to try (€34.50 or half the bottle price plus €.50 which is very reasonable). This 90/10 Merlot/Cabernet Franc. The ‘11 was awarded 4 stars by Decanter and was full and rich and opened up really well later in the day. The ’12 had no Cabernet Franc and was less complex because of that. The Château Siaurac ‘12 Lalande de Pomerol was 80/20 Merlot/Cabernet Franc. It had great fruit and structure and at less than one third the price was far better value than the Pomerol.
Château Reignac38 Chemin de Reignac, 33450 Saint-Loubes Tel +33 5 56 20 41 05
Château Reignac tasting room
Château Reignac white wine "egg" and barrels
Château Reignac cellar door view - for more great cellar door views see here
Château Reignac refer to themselves as an unclassified Grand Cru. It is probably because of their location and most critics agree that it is not an idle boast. Their Reignac ’13 White is 80% Sauvignon Blanc which is oak fermented and matured in lightly toasted barrels and 10% Semillon and 10% Sauvignon Gris which are aged in the egg-shaped vessels that you see in the picture above. The oak and the Semillon are well integrated making this a lovely rich Bordeaux Blanc (€19). Their second wine (Château Reignac) was a 75/25 Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon blend as is their main Grand Vin de Reignac. We tasted the ’12 vintage. The second wine had good fruit and was quite light. The Grand Vin ’09 was full of fruit with good tannins; complex, rich and spicy. The 12 was softer with less tannins (€20). They also make a range called Balthus which is made in a novel way with 100% Merlot. The result is an alcoholic (14.5 ABV) wine with serious oak; not to or taste. They make the white and Grand Vin in half bottles so we will try to get hold of some.
Château Boutisse3330 Saint-Cristophe des Bardes Tel +33 5 57 50 33 33
When we arrived the winemaker was pretty busy and so could not arrange a tasting. Instead he offered us a barrel sample of the ’13 that was to be bottled shortly. The picture above shows him tapping off a glass to taste. This had really good fruit and was well balanced. Too bad he did not make half bottles of wine.
Château Haut-Bacalan56 rue du Domain Bacalan, 33600 Pessac Tel +33 5 57 24 51 23
We had come across Haut-Bacalan at a tasting in London and as they said that they produced half bottles of wine we thought that we had better visit them. They are part of the champagne house Michel Gonet. We tasted two from their range of Bordeaux. The ’10 Saint Eugene had great fruit and soft tannins. It was 80% Merlot plus Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. The ’11 Château D’Eck had a very modern and distinctive label and was tighter, not as fruity with lots of tannin. Unfortunately they did not have any half bottles left so we decided not to taste the rest of the range. Worth going back to when they produce half bottles of wine again.
Château Le Sartre78 Chemin du Sartre, 33850 Leognan Tel +33 5 56 64 08 78
They were not really set up to receive visitors but when they heard that we had tasted their wines in London and were after their half bottles they gave us 6 to taste at our leisure. Their white was a blend of Sauvignon and Semillon; the ’10 and ’11 were 80/20 whilst the ’12 was 90/10. We far preferred the larger portion of Semillon. The ’11 Bordeaux whites have the best reputation and this was also the one we preferred. The ’10 had a touch of bottle age which was very pleasant and showed that these wines can take aging as one would expect. The ’10, ’11 and ’12 reds were all 60/40 Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot. Again the vintage with the best reputation, the ’10, was the one we preferred. We will get both for our webstore.
Côtes de Castillon
The next two winemakers were on Oz Clarke’s list of a dozen château for value in Decanter September 2012 as was Château Siaurac above.
Vineyards near Belves de Castillon, Bordeaux - for more great vineyard lunch views see here
Clos Puy Arnaud7, Puy Arnaud 33350 Belves de Castillon Tel 33(0)5 57 47 90 33
This biodynamic château produces great wine. The Cuvée Perveneche is usually all Merlot but the ’13 had 20% Cabernet Franc. Made for early drinking it was unoaked but perfumed, fresh and fruity. The ’12 Clos Puy Arnaud was also 80/20 Merlot and Cabernet Franc but had spent 12 months in oak. With a nose of violets from the Cabernet Franc it was full of fruit and soft tannins; good value at €32. We bought some.
Château Puygueraud33570 Saint Cibard Tel : +33 (0)5 57 56 07 47
The white Les Charmes-Godard ’12 was made from 40 year old vines; 50% Semillon with the balance being Sauvignons Blanc and Gris. Semillon has a tendency to be ‘fatty’ but this was not, rather fresh with a touch of oak from eight months in barrels. And at €14 at bottle something to buy, which we did. Pity no half bottles of wine! We then tried their range of reds which were primarily Merlot with some Cabernet Franc. They were all full of fruit with the judicious use of oak for the more serious wines. We bought the flagship Puygueraud ’09 (€16) which we thought was very good value for money.