Medoc, Graves and Saint-Emilion, France
Graves is between Sauternes and Bordeaux so it makes a good afternoon visit.
Chateau Carbonnieux tasting room
Chateau Carbonnieux, Léognan, 05 57 96 56 20 www.carbonnieux.com
We tasted their Chateau Carbonnieux blanc 2009 (€25) and rouge 2008 (€22) Grand cru classé both good and typical for the appellation. Unfortunately they did not have any of their second wine Tour Léognan white and red of the same vintages for tasting, both (€10). But, as we had bought and enjoyed both on previous visits, we bought some more again. We also bought a few bottles of both the rouge and the blanc Grand cru classé.
Chateau Haut Bailly
Chateau Haut Bailly
Ch Haut Bailly tasting room
Chateau Haut Bailly 05 56 64 75 11 www.chateau-haut-bailly.com
They told us that all their wines are now sold en premieur but they had kept back a couple of their main and second wines (La Parde) for tasting purposes. We tasted the 03 and 09 Haut Bailly and the 07 La Parde. They were up to standard.
Chateau Le Crock
Chateau Le Crock
Barrel maturation cellars
Chateau Le Crock Tel 05 56 59 73 05 www.chateaulecrock.fr
In previous years we had tasted from the barrel and when we mentioned this to the winemaker he took us to the cellars where we tasted the 09 in steel tanks that were awaiting bottling and the 10 in oak barrels in the maturation cellar. This is a rare privilege as winemakers don’t like to do this because the wines taste so different from the final product. The 10 was fruity and fresh having not picked up the necessary oak tannins; it gave a good indication as to why people are beginning to talk up this vintage as being the third vintage in a row that will be great. The 09 was full of fruit and all the right tannins; clearly demonstrating the quality of the vintage. We bought the 04 of the second label Ch La Croix Saint Estephe (€12) for immediate drinking and the Ch Le Crock 2005 (€23) for laying down.
Ch Haut-Marbuzet cellar door
Chateau Haut-Marbuzet, Saint-Estephe 05 56 59 30 54
A difficult chateau to find – turn up the road to the visitors entrance to Château Cos d'Estournel and follow the road across a railway line; go past the sign to Chateau le Crock; take the next right. After an interesting cellar tour where we found that they still used the traditional concrete and wood vats we tasted their 2007 range – chateaus Haut Marbuzet, Mac-Carthy from St Estephe and their medoc Layauga-Duboscq. The Mac-Carthy was tannic with little fruit, the medoc was full of red fruits and had soft round tannin; easy to drink in 5 or so years. The Haut Mabuzet was a good example of the area and the vintage. It was relatively light with angular tannins that would need to be laid down for ten or so years. We bought the medoc (€16).
Chateau Tour de Pez
Chateau Tour de Pez, Pez, Saint Estephe 05 56 59 31 60
After being thrown out of Ch le Ormes de Pez for not having a reservation we went down the road the road to Tour de Pez where we have always been welcome. We tasted the 08 of Tour de Pez and their second wine Hauts de Pez. Whilst both were good examples of the area and the vintage we though the second wine was really good value for money (€12) and bought that.
Ch Clauzet cellar door
Ch Clauzet tasting room
Chateau Clauzet, Leyssac, Saint-Estephe. Tel 05 56 59 34 16 www.chateauclauzet.com
Ordinarily a SRV (appointment only) place but we managed to talk our way in. We tasted their 2005 (€23), 07 (€19) and 08 (€19) Chateau Clauzet. They were all good examples of the vintage and the area. One can see in their 08 why this vintage was the start of the trilogy of good Bordeaux years in that area. We bought half bottles of each and offer the 2008 - see here. They advised that the 09 was going to be sold at about €23 but it had not yet been bottled.
Chateau Pomys, Leyssac, Saint-Estephe 05 56 59 32 26 www.chateaupomys.com
With lunch at the charming chateau we had a bottle of 2003 Chateau Pomys. It was well rounded, fruity and drinking well. We promptly went next door to buy some for immediate drinking (€17). Up till now we had been shying away from the 03 because we viewed it as a hot, over-alcoholic wine that would take years to become drinkable. After this we changed our view and now think that the 03 is an drinking now so we started tasting and ordering 03 at restaurants and our view was confirmed.
Chateau Lafon Rochet
The rebuilt Ch Lafon Rochet
Ch Lafon Rochet tasting room
Chateau Lafon Rochet, Saint Estephe 05 56 59 32 06 www.lafon-rochet.com
The scion of the family, Basile, who has recently taken charge took us on a full tour; a most charming person whose command of English was superb and made us wish again that we were fluent in French to be able to learn that much more often.
We tasted their second wine, Les Pélerins de Lafon Rochet 08, which is a Merlot dominated wine because the vines for this wine are grown on a sandy slope but it also has young vine fruit and the barrels that did not make it into the chateau wine; better than good for what it was. From the Chateau wines we tasted the 05 and a 10 en premieur sample. The 05 (€50) was excellent and the 10 had excellent fruit – could see why the 10s are attracting a lot of attention. We bought the 08 Les Pélerins (€25).
Ch Tayac tasting room
Chateau Tayac, Soussans, Tel 05 57 88 33 06 www.chateautayac-margaux.com
One of the very few Chateau with cellars on the main road – you can’t miss their vine covered buildings. Over the years we have found their cru bourgeois wine to be good value for money. We tasted the 03 and the 08. The 03 was typical of the vintage and ready to drink now. The 08 was full of fruit and soft tannins and needing a few years before drinking. We bought the 03 (€17) and some half bottles from the late 80s (the only half bottles more than 20 years old that we have come across) to see how they fared.
Chateau la Grange
Ch la Grange tasting room
Chateau la Grange 05 56 73 38 38 www.chateau-lagrange.com
Tasted their Fiefs (second label) 2007. The quality of the le Grange wines have undoubtedly gone up over the last 8 years and so have the prices. We paid €5 for the tasting and bought no wines.
Chateau d’Angludet, Cantenac Tel 05 57 88 71 41 www.chateau-angludet.fr
We were welcomed by one of the large family of Sichels, Ben, the manager of the property, who’s willingness to discuss their wines and their heritage made the visit a real pleasure. Many critics believe the wine is of classed growth standard. What was really interesting was their pricing structure; the acknowledged good vintages priced significantly above the rest. We tasted a barrel sample of the 2010 and the 2005 of their Margeaux Cru Bourgeois Superieur. We bought the 05 (€45) for laying down till 2020 and the 03 (€33) for more immediate drinking. They also have a second label Moulin d’Angludet which we did not buy as we already have some back home.
Chateau Kirwan, Cantenac, Tel 05 57 88 71 00 www.chateau-kiwan.com
They now have a tasting and sales room open the usual hours so no need to book ahead. We wish other major chateau would make themselves equally accessible to the wine loving person. Their venue is staffed by a most knowledgeable, competent and pleasant person. We started with the 2008 second wine, Charmes de Kirwan whch was just the type of second wine that we were looking for. We bought the 08 (€13) to lay down for at most 5 years and the 07 (€12) for current drinking. We also tasted the 98 and 03 of Chateau Kirwan. The 98 tasted of dried fruits and seemed to have some aging potential left. The 03 was typical of the vintage, quite jammy and ready for drinking now and over the next few years.
Having exhausted ourselves and our stock of places that might accept us we moved across to the bigger challenge of the right bank. If you think it is challenging to find places to taste on the left bank, just try the right bank. The only place we knew of in Pomerol had ceased to offer direct sales. Although there are quite a number of houses and cellars in Pomerol they all seem to be inhabited (or rather not inhabited) by people who do not base themselves there. The local village is also bereft of places to taste. Saint-Emilion in contrast seems to be solely inhabited by wine merchants, souvenir shops and restaurateurs – there can’t be many places with as many wine shops in such a small area.
We are in general against making appointments because you only taste what you know – we like discovering new, smaller producers. However, unless you want to taste in wine shops, you would be well advised to make a couple of bookings so that you don’t get too frustrated with knocking on closed doors. Having said that we found the Chateau le Chatelet that we offer in a wine shop - see here. The other challenge is the price of the wines – outrageous! We only know of 2 places that are likely to be open that have good wine at a fair price. They are both addressed in the village of St Christophe des Bardes, a small one about 5 km north east of Saint-Emilion, but both are located out of the village back towards Saint-Emilion.
Chateau Haut Lavallade
Chateau Haut Lavallade, St Christophe des Bardes, Tel 05 57 24 77 47 www.chateau-haut-lavallade.com
We tasted several of their vintages and bought the 07 and 08 (€13). The 07 was bought for drinking over the next 4 years and the 08 for starting after that. Both were typical of their vintage and had good fruits and pleasant tannins.
Chateau Milon, St Christophe des Bardes, Tel 05 57 24 77 18
At Chateau Milon they have wines from two properties; the Chateau Milon from vineyards around the house and Clos de la Cure located on the higher slopes where the presence of limestone makes for a richer, more minerally wine. We tasted several vintages from both properties priced around €14 for Chateau Milon and €17 for the Clos de la Cure. We preferred the greater complexity of the Clos de la Cure and so bough the 06 and 08 vintages. We offer both, starting with the 06 - see here.