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Bordeaux 2011 - Day One: Monday 2nd April - 2nd April 2012
By Tom Gearing (Director) - Cult Wines Ltd -

Degustation Sign - Cheval Blanc

An early start for the team on board the 7am flight from Gatwick, saw us touch down in mid morning sun and mild heat. Not quite the aggressive temperatures of last year that flirted with the 30 degree mark for the entirety of the trip, but nothing to complain about! With a relatively easy start on our first day it was into our people carrier, a quick survey of our accommodation, unpack and straight out. Sunglasses on and we were on our way with a few Sat Nav teething problems to our first destination of the week – the Angelus En Primeur tasting.

1) Angelus:

This year’s Angelus tasting at which Hubert de Bouard showcases his portfolio of wines that he is a consultant for including an interesting Thai Syrah, was held at Fleur de Bouard whilst renovation work (a common theme these days) continues at Chateau Angelus.

As the consummate professionals we are, and somewhat affected by the 4.30am rise and hour long flight delay as a result of another strike from French Air traffic control, we made a b-line to the wine we were really here to taste ‘the golden bell’ or Angelus as us traditionalists like to call it! A blend of 50% Merlot, 47% Cabernet Franc and 3% Cabernet Sauvignon for the 2011 vintage, it displayed a deep purple colour but the nose seemed a little closed off. There is a good depth of flavour with rounded fruit and silky tannins, showing finesse. The second wine, Carillon d’Angelus didn’t show as much complexity but an enjoyably fruity nose with sweet cherry and crème de cassis hints at a wine that will be enjoyable young. Out of the rest of the wines showed at this tasting special mention goes to Ch. Montlabert which impressed our team for a second year running as well as the host vineyard La Fleur de Bouard which presented some rounded fruit flavours and had a nice balance of acidity. Ps: the cheese puffs were to die for!

2) Cheval Blanc:

Next stop on day one was a wine that needs little introduction. Fresh from a striking renovation of the cellars and Vat room which is set against the beautifully idyllic and typical Saint Emilion beauty of the main Chateau presents a striking contrast between old and new, which I suppose is an apt representation of Cheval Blanc as a ‘brand’. And it was the ‘brand’ wines that we first encountered here tasting Quinault l’Enclos and Tour du Pin, which is made from the vineyard directly opposite Cheval. Two nice wines that will please drinkers without pulling up any trees but on a price vs. quality scale, it might struggle. There is no doubt that 2011 is a ‘winemakers vintage’ and one that brought the best out of the technicians – something I dare say we will hear again during this week – but the salesmanship was in true evidence here as it was quietly whispered to us that they actually prefer this style of vintage compared to the blockbusters of 09 and 10. We’ll forgive them that piece of poetic licence and concentrate on the wine…and in this vintage; wines such as Cheval Blanc are not going to struggle. 52% Cabernet Franc and 48% Merlot, and it certainly benefitted from the beautiful cabernet franc which seems to be the star of the show for 2011. Nice balance, rounded fruit with silky tannins accompanied by menthol notes and hints of roses, violets and bergamot. The second wine, Petit Cheval was made from a combination of 75% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Franc. Like so many of the top second wines recent demand and increases in price have seen more care attention and investment go into producing a wine worthy of the price tag.

3) Figeac:

It must be mentioned that our 5pm tasting was preceded by a somewhat hectic dash round the local supermarché which slightly overran due to a distracting detour around what can only be described as the world’s best supermarket wine selection. Needless to say, driving skills were put to the test with a rally-esque drive through Saint-Emilion and accompanying villages locating a hard to find estate without the use of our trusty tomtom. A Tom of another sort came to the rescue and we arrived at destination with minutes to spare!

Now for the wine. We enjoyed the whole range of Figeac Estate wines (as did our ebullient host) and whilst pleasant, they were but a precursor to the main show. Figeac this year is 1/3 Cabernet Franc 1/3 Cabernet Sauvignon 1/3 Merlot. An intense wine with lovely freshness, plump tannins, round fruit and a hint of spice. Petit Figeac was equally enjoyable and will undoubtedly be received well.


That ended our day on a good note and hinted at what could be a surprisingly enjoyable week. Tomorrow we have the sweet wines of Barsac and Sauternes to look forward to as well as the white and reds of Pessac-Leognan.

Check back tomorrow for more news as the ‘Bordeaux banter bus’ sets its wheels in motion once more.



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