(2020) From the Bordeaux Right Bank appellation Côtes de Castillon, this is 95% Merlot with the balance Cabernet Franc. From an obviously ripe and rich year, it's a big bear-hug of a wine, 14.5% alcohol a testament to the ripeness and glorious sweetness of fruit here, yet it is not a wine that feels over-extracted or clumsy. Aromas are the essence of cassis and plum, some pencil-shaving finess in the background. Mouthfilling, creamy and voluptuous black fruit floods the palate, with creamy-soft tannins and a nice stripe of sour plum acidity to give freshness. It's plushness might not suit lovers of more austere, traditional 'claret', but I loved this personality-packed wine.
(2017) I've previously reviewed and recommended the St Julien 2010 bottled for FromVineyardsDirect from the vineyards of a famous second growth Chāteau, and I have to say this 2014 Pauillac is equally good. Once again the producer is not revealed, but it is a declassifed Cru Classé, possibly made from the estate's younger vines, or simply a surplus that was not needed in the blend - this wine is dominated by Merlot. It is svelte and plush on the nose, deep black fruit and a hint of graphite and cedar. In the mouth it has tension and structure, a grip of youthful tannin, but the savoury, lightly gamy and meaty presence speaks of the wine's class and heritage, the finish long, chewy, but agile. Though drinking well already, this will cellar for several years.
(2016) Oak showing quite obviously in this barrel sample, but a lovely rounded balsamic and sweet black fruit quality comes through, really good concentration and ripeness, pepper and spice and lovely tannin structure giving a firm, liquorice twist. Really promising, but score is provisional. Corney & Barrow are importers, but they list the 2012 at time of review.
(2016) The first vintage from this 2.5 hectare estate that neighbours Lascombes, vines on average 41 years old, but some plots 80 years old. This Grand Vin sees 100% new oak, and this was a barrel sample. Real perfume here, a lovely floral character that has real lift and buoyancy, with great purity to the black fruit, very fine, very scented and aromatic, and the tannins are very silky and fine. Lovely balance. Should be available in autumn 2016. Score is provisional.
(2016) Lovely fragrance of quality oak here, a touch of coffee, but mostly about exotic spices and Sandalwood, the fruit full and rich beneath, highly inviting and promising. A real big mouthful of cassis and glossy black plum, the tannin are fruity and dry, but the flesh of the fruit and the spice of the barrel are delicious. Long and layered, this is impressive Cru Bourgeois, with great length and the sweetness inherent in the fruit persisting.
(2016) Lovely harmony here, fine oak character melting seamlessly into the fruit, with a little plum and balsamic note, but fresh and inviting. Great fruit sweetness on the mid-palate, a really pure cassis, delightful balance, the gentle spice of the barrel, dry, fine tannins and good cherry skin and plum skin grip and acid. Surely a good 10 years cellaring potential?
(2016) The first vintage fully vinified by Grand Chais after acquiring the property. Immediately refined, plenty of plushness, but a degree of elegance too. The fruit is lighter in the red and black fruit spectrum than the 2012, with a lovely agility on the palate, tight tannins - quite grippy at the moment - but good acidity and a penetrating freshness. This should also cellar another five years quite easily.
(2016) Oak is a tiny bit raw on this at present compared to the 2011, but with lots of fruit substance beneath, and that comes through really nicely on the palate. Again that agility and a nice concentration of fruit and fruit acidity gives this density without heavy oak influence. A direct, grippy, youthful wine that shows considerable promise.
(2015) We're over on the Right Bank now, just west of St Emilion, for this Merlot-dominated blend from vineyards that are more than 25 years old. It's another estate that I have followed over the years and the aromas of this saturated, youthful 2004 leap out of the glass: kirsch and graphite, a keenness to this, with some game and floral perfumes adding to the complexity. In the mouth so alert and juicy: some may prefer the solid plummy character of a wine like the Taillan, but for me this has all the elegance, fruit, balance and power that sometimes only Bordeaux can deliver in such an arresting package.
(2015) Co-founder of FVD, Esme Johnstone, owned Château de Sours for many years so no doubt it's his connection that let the company source remarkable 'de-classified' wines from top classed growth properties in Bordeaux. In this case it doesn't take a mastermind to work out that Ducru-Beaucaillou made the wine, and it is from a top vintage (Ducru is selling at £290 per bottle at time of writing). It is much the same and just as good as when I last tasted it several months ago: plush with cassis and ripe black plum, plenty of perfume and cedar. The framework of tannin and acidity really does show breeding, and the depth of fruit is both elegant and creamily ripe. And it has a few more years cellaring potential.
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