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Bordeaux 2011 - Day Two: Tuesday 3rd April - 3rd April 2012
By Tom Gearing (Director) - Cult Wines Ltd - http://www.cultwinesltd.com


It was an early start for us today and having spoken for weeks about the great French weather that would grace us, it was a more London-esque grey overcast sky that greeted us. We weren’t going to let that dampen our moods however, as we were on our way to Sauternes and Barsac for the morning – a region which had been highlighted by many as the star of the show for 2011. Following our foray to the sweet white region we had an afternoon with the reds and whites of Pessac-Leognan, ending with a planned ‘swing by’ the UGC’s in Saint Emilion and Pomerol.
 


‘Morning of Gold’: Yquem & Climens:

On our first day we heard three different proprietors compare 2011 to the 2001 vintage. This news made our morning visit to sauternes even more exciting, considering that ’01 is one of the great vintages for sweet white wine, so what better place to start than the world’s greatest. For 2011, Château d’Yquem is a blend of 80% Semillon and 20% Sauvignon Blanc and it was quickly apparent that Semillon in particular has really excelled in this vintage. The Sauternes and Barsac estates were blessed in 2011 by the Indian Summer and fast developing ‘Noble Rot’ (Botrytis). Most of the estates, as is the case for Yquem, had a short harvest during the month of September picking a fair share of ‘gold’ grapes in order to provide freshness and balance – and boy is that evident in the 2011! It might have only been 10am but it was a wonderful start to the morning. It had the opulence of 2009, but balanced with a crisp freshness from the acidity. It’s early to suggest this will be as good as 2001 – but there is no doubting this will be a great wine.

Our next visit was to Chateau Climens in Barsac (a Cult Wines favourite, following a ‘stonking’ bottle of ’89 we enjoyed in December). This is 100% Semillon and – whilst we didn’t taste the final blend – of the 7 different barrel samples we had, it is clear the wine makers have a lot to work with! The overriding impression was of beautiful fresh fruit, pear and honeyed notes. It was expressive, aromatic and well balanced. We then enjoyed a vertical tasting of Climens (’05-’09) with the 2007 showing exceptionally well.

The prevailing feeling upon leaving Climens, was as long as sweet whites continue to be considered ‘dessert wines’ they won’t be enjoyed to the full extent that they deserve. There is no doubt that 2011 will be considered a very good vintage for these wines and whether they reach the dizzy heights of 2001 time will only tell.
 

Afternoon ‘Titannic’: UGC Pessac-Leognan, Domaine Clarence Dillon, UGC Saint Emilion & Pomerol:

It wasn’t just the sweet whites, which were garnering attention pre-primeurs, but the dry whites were also getting heavily mentioned as star performers. So it was a welcome trip north from Sauternes, to the region most closely located to Bordeaux city centre. The short trip would have been a whole lot smoother if our car – which on first impressions looked good – wasn’t slowly falling apart and our map reading skills and ability to drive on ‘slick’ tyres on narrow vineyards roads wasn’t being put to the test. The wines at this UGC typified the vintage, in that it is particularly difficult to generalize. With the whites there were some very fresh, expressive and balanced wines but not across the board. The reds, it was definitely a battle of the tannins (a theme for 2011) and weren’t showing as impressively as the whites. Those that came out on top were Domaine de Chevalier and Haut Bailly, but the clearest indication of the quality at this tasting was the inability of any of our team to remember a standout without checking their notes.

After a quick but delicious lunch it was back on board the bus and onto the first First Growth of the week. The Domaine Clarence Dillon tasting gave us the opportunity to taste the whole breadth of wines from the estate including newly purchased Quintus, previously Chateau Tertre Daugay, which was a lovely wine. However, it was the miniscule production whites that excelled at the tasting with the Semillon dominated La Mission Haut Brion Blanc (550 cases) and Haut Brion Blanc (420 cases) showing very well. The LMHB Blanc developed magnificently on the palette with beautiful balance, freshness and fruit – an absolute privilege to taste. Of the reds, it was LMHB, which impressed us over its First Growth counterpart, but both were notable offerings showing great concentration, freshness and rounded fruits.

Our last two stops of the day were the UGC tastings at Chateau Beauregard for Pomerol and Chateau Soutard for St Emilion. Interestingly we found similar results across the board at both events, whilst many wines were displaying qualities associated with classic styles from both regions we were struggling to find any standout wines. For Pomerol our search ended with Chateau Clinet, which exuded a clean pure fruit with an exciting racy edge and well balanced acidity and tannins leading us to believe that this will become a quite delightful example from this estate. At St Emilion, there was absolutely no doubt as the team all plumped for the fabulous Beausejour Becot, which was enticing on the nose and then delivered layer upon layer of fresh rich black fruits which took it to levels we had yet to experience, it was quite simply a fitting end to a interesting and at times rewarding day of tasting.

As we wound our way back to base with jaded palettes our thoughts turned to dinner and the bottle of Chateau Climens 2004 that was nestling in a seat of its own, seatbelt securely fastened.

 

 

     
 
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