This tasting was organised as part of Vinexpo 2001 in Bordeaux, by the Union des Grands Crus, an association of most of the top Châteaux of Bordeaux. At this stage, the wines have been maturing in barrel for only 8 months or so, and most will have another year in barrel before fining, possible filtering, and bottling. A lot can change in that 12 months, so this tasting is merely a snap-shot of how the wines are structured at this stage. However it is a chance for some sort of assessment, especially at a time when wine merchants are bombarding the wine-buying public with en-primeur offers on this much talked about vintage.
I was looking for wines that showed a high quality and ripeness of fruit, that showed concentration and structure, and above all, that showed balance between fruit, tannins and acidity. I would say that this is definitely a very good vintage indeed, and that several of the wines I tasted showed outstanding promise. Running through the appellations, my general impression was that St-Julien was the star of the left bank (though Pessac-Leognan was very, very fine too overall) and that it is a great St-Emilion year.
The tasting was not blind. Because there were so many wines, I have awarded a score to each. This served as an aide-memoire for me during the tasting. It is based roughly on the Parker 100-point system, with 90+ representing a great wine, 85-90 representing a very good wine. Remember my caveat above about the dangers of judging such young wines though!
Château Lafon-Rochet, 4th growth
Savoury coffee oak, toasty and rich over bramble and plum fruit. This is rich and dense on the palate with a lovely texture. It is big, bold and broad shouldered, powerful wine with plenty of sweet fruit that really pushes through to challenge the massive tannins. Very good indeed. 91/100.
Château Phélan-Ségur, Cru Bourgeois
Rustic and chunky in a very nice way, with a truffle and damp earth quality on the nose. Big tannins, but plenty of sweet fruit too. Tannins are powdery and fine but have the palate in a vice-like grip. Possibly a little chunky, but concentrated and long. Very good. 87/100.
Château Ormes de Pez, Cru Bourgeois
Another good performance from a less expensive wine, with plenty of spicy bramble fruit on the nose and a hint of smoky ash, then fine, sweet and weighty black fruits on the palate and a good tannin and acid structure. Impressive. 89/100
Château Beychevelle, 4th growth
Very elegant and fine nose of cedarwood, blackcurrant and redcurrant fruit with a lovely core of minerality. The palate has some creamy density and again that finely-wrought core of blackcurrant fruit wrapped in elegant tannins and good acidity. Will need time, but very poised and impressive. 91/100.
Château Gruaud-Larose, 2nd growth
Wonderfully concentrated nose and terrific ripeness with ripe blackcurrant fruit, hints of dark chocolate and violets and real sweetness. Very concentrated palate. Fine-grained tannins give grip, but mocha coffee, cream and deep layers of black fruit that is quite fat and powerful dominate before a cedary tannic structure grips the finish. Excellent. 95/100.
Château Lagrange, 3rd growth
Creamy, sweet violets and black cherries, a hint of mint. Very ripe, and a creamy vanillin oak adds to the sensation of lushness. Lots of sweet new oak on the palate that isn’t yet integrated, but a lovely quality of black fruit and bittersweet plum and chocolate. Very good indeed. 92/100.
Château Langoa-Barton, 2nd growth
There is a lot of depth here, layered with fine cassis fruit on the nose. There’s a lovely texture on the palate with a weight of fruit that is silky and rich, very concentrated and long. Very classy, balanced and impressive for this Château. 94/100.
Château Léoville-Barton, 2nd growth
Just about everybody’s wine of the vintage, so a lot to live up to. Very fine nose, quite closed but loaded with polished minerality, black and blueberry fruit and a background of custardy, creamy oak. Very focused and tightly wound. Silky texture on the palate and a real depth of sweet, glossy fruit begins to emerge. Complex and concentrated, the finish is fine and long. Excellent and very distinguished, but one for the long term. Excellent/Outstanding. 95+/100.
Château Léoville-Poyferré, 2nd growth
Fine, high, forward sweetness; almost sherbetty. Good fruit, and more depth emerges is it unfolds revealing a mineral core. Very steely and gravelly tannins grip the palate making it tight and slightly lean at present. I don’t think this showed too well at this stage, but the components are all there so my score should be taken with a big caveat and it needs to be re-tasted. 88/100.
Château Talbot, 4th growth
Wonderful, typically Talbot nose with cedary, fragrant oak atop sweet blackcurrant and meaty, earthy, slightly leafy fruit. Fantastically sweet, jammy fruit on the palate with cassis, plum and nuances of tobacco and woodsmoke. Already very together and very long. Excellent. 93+/100.
Château Lynch-Bages, 5th growth
Very fruit-forward nose that is thick with ripe cassis fruit and cream. a lovely sense of power and roundness. The palate is lithe and muscular, with sinewy, forceful tannins and great structure. There’s lots of really deep, weighty fruit quality and fine balance and length. This is another star and one for the long haul. 94/100.
Château Lynch-Moussas, 5th growth
Nice, gently coffeed nose with a fine quality of fruit, a little gravel at its core, and lovely juicy sweetness. On the palate raspberry and blackcurrant fruit is lively and light with fine chocolaty tannins beneath and a little cedary, savoury oak into a long finish. I’m delighted an old favourite at a moderate price is looking so promising. 90/100.
Château Pichon-Longueville (Baron), 2nd growth
Massive, charry new oak nose of coffee and burnt toast over ripe, rich plum and deep blackberry fruit. This makes a big impact. The palate is flooded with cassis and plum fruit that is rippling and dense, silky-sweet and concentrated. It is layered and full, with a concentrated balance of tannin, spicy oak and acidity into a fine, long finish. Excellent/Outstanding. 95/100.
Château Pontet-Canet, 5th growth
From the same stable as Lafon-Rochet, this is dominated by sweet, toasty oak and rich berry fruit, with hints of earth, leather and smoke. Very firm on the palate, this is structured with fine black cherry and blackcurrant fruit. Very concentrated and long, this is very good indeed. 91/100.
Margaux and Haut-Médoc 2000
Château d’Angludet, Cru Bourgeois
Immediate Margaux fragrance, with little floral notes, cherry and redcurrant before some spice. The palate displays a gentle red fruit quality, with some cool blackcurrant and supple, fine tannins. A smaller-scaled wine, but very elegant. 87/100.
Château Brane-Cantenac, 2nd growth
There’s a silky, dark, glossy-fruited intensity on the nose of this wine, with cherry and plum fruit and moderate oak. On the palate quite a rich mouthfeel, and again that profile of luxurious black fruits, though fine tannins and good acidity add an elegance and length to the finish. Very good indeed. 91/100.
Château Kirwan, 3rd growth
Another interesting, moderately-priced Château, the 2000 Kirwan has a savoury, dense plum and earthy forest fruit nose, with suggestions of leather and beef. Good fruit on the palate, and a supple texture is heightened by firm tannins and an elegant finish with good length. Rounded and chewy, yet pin sharp in the finish, this is a very good effort. 91/100.
Château Lascombes, 2nd growth
Finely-wrought, tight, blue/black fruit, cherry and a mineral core. Concentrated palate that’s a little hard and unyielding at present, but plenty of fruit and good tannins. There’s quite a lot to this Lascombes, with deep, sinewy structure and good length. 91/100.
Château Rausan-Gassies, 2nd growth
This has a lovely nose, quite firm with moderate black fruits beneath a layering of coffee and tobacco oak. There is really good fruit on the palate, which is sweet and multi-layered. The texture is thick and creamy and this is really quite opulent into the finish. Very good. 90/100.
Château Cantemerle, 5th growth (Macau)
Another regular favourite of mine which I’ve recommended in many previous vintages and which has happily produced the goods in 2000. Lovely rich nose with spices and deep, sweet blackcurrant fruit and a smoky, vanillin core. The palate is wonderfully deep and filled with blue/black fruit. Long and cool, this does not have the complexity of some other examples, but is very fine and beautifully made. 90/100.
Pessac-Léognan Red 2000
Very dark, vivid colour with a fine black fruit nose, hints of minerals and salts and firm black cherry fruit. Blackcurranty palate has juicy acidity, and the wine has a decent, quite classy finish. Very good. 88/100.
Rather closed at this showing, with a mineral nose, some earth, gravel and black cherry followed by cool black fruit on the palate. There are nice tannins and good balance, but this wasn’t singing for me on this showing. 87/100.
Domaine de Chevalier
Some obvious, high-toast oak gives a layering of coffee, spice and roasted nuts over blackcurrant fruit. The palate has a nice quality of fruit that is rich yet cool and classy, really quite fat in style with a mouthfilling texture before fine tannins push the finish along. Impressive. 91/100.
Château de Fieuzal
Fine nose with very sweet fruit, quite cherry like with more blackcurrant and a subtle seam of classy, toasty oak. Rich in the mouth, the fruit is really quite jammy and super sweet, with a long finish displaying adequate acidity and good tannins. Very good. 90/100.
Slightly soapy nose with floral notes, blackcurrant plum and a hint of liquorice. Rich palate is loaded with grippy tannins, but there is a good quality of dark fruit, roasted coffee beans and vanilla on the finish. A bit odd on the nose on this showing, but very good components and well balanced. 90/100.
Big, powerful high toast nose with charry, bittersweet character of coffee grounds and sweet, dense fruit. Full-bodied and thick on the palate, there is plenty of ripe fruit but maybe just a little too much extraction with a really grippy finish and moderate length. 88/100.
Fantastically rich, round, dense and earthy nose full of cherry, spice, violets and delicate floral nuances. There’s a characteristic mineral element too. Beautiful chocolaty tannins coat the palate in a full-textured format with superb weight of fruit that is savoury and black, with hints of tobacco, olive and woodsmoke. Gorgeously ripe tannins and a fine acid structure complete a picture of complexity and genuine thoroughbred class. Outstanding. 95+
Château La Louvière
Sweet custardy oak totally dominates the nose at present, with little floral notes and some fragrant cherry fruit. On the palate big, dry tannins are set against sweet, slightly baked, but good quality fruit. Very good. 89/100.
Nice quality of plummy fruit on the nose here; lots of inky, dark plumskin rounded out by toasty oak. Dark and opulently rounded on the palate too, this seems forward and of very good quality. Delicious, with good balance and length. Very good. 90/100.
Nice, bright black fruits on the nose; cherries and bold, crunchy blackcurrant. A fresh character. Much riper and more fruit driven on the palate, with bold, racy flavours against a background of oak. Good concentration. Very good. 89/100.
Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion
Light, sherbetty nose with red cherry and citrus brightness. Juicy and savoury palate with lots of mineral acidity and crisp, well-delineated fruit. Perhaps lacks a little weight and structure, but still quite good. 87/100.
Big roasted, charry toasted oak on the nose with a deep core of cassis. On the palate it is concentrated and quite rich, with spice and pepper elements over sweet, glossy black fruits. This has decent tannins and is made in a bold, forward style for earlier drinking. Very good. 90/100.
Château La Mission-Haut-Brion
There’s a gorgeously rich, bramble depth on the nose. wonderful sweet, fragrant plum fruit with notes of cherry and blackcurrant, tobacco, toast and chocolate. Powerful tannins on the palate, and a silky textured weight of fruit. Fine balance with the sweet tannins and oak bolstering the long finish. Outstanding. 95+/100.
Lighter, cherryish nose. very lightly oaked, with light cherry and raspberry fruit to the fore. Tight on the palate, with a focused quality of fruit this has good length and shows fine structure in a modest scale. 90/100.
Sweet, ripe, rounded black fruit nose that is cool and moderately oaked. Just a little hint of toastiness. Nice fat quality of glossy black fruits on the palate; brambles and cherry skins with a nice edge of acidity and good tannins. Excellent. 92/100.
Château Picque Caillou
Dusty black fruit nose, but quite modest. Rounded, but compact. The palate is sweet, smooth and quite dense with a violet edge to black cherry fruit. Good balance, though not terribly complex. 86/100.
Toast, exotic spice and tobacco is layered over a rich seam of black olive, plum and sweeter, minty cassis notes. The palate shows good balance with big drying tannins at present, but savoury black fruit and juicy acidity is in balance. Good length. Very good/very good indeed. 90/100.
Château Angélus Premier Grand Cru Classé
Displays wonderfully silky, sweet-fruited elegance. Fine, ripe layers of blackcurrant and bramble fruit and a tight base of toasty oak. On the palate brambles, loganberries, plum and chocolate meld with oak and lovely tannins. Complex, this has terrific balance and elegant length. Excellent/Outstanding. 95/100.
Château Balestard-La-Tonnelle, Grand Cru Classé
A hard act to follow, and this has much more subdued fruit that is slightly baked in quality. The palate is fine and sweet however, with good concentration and a long, lingering finish that allows creamy oak and good acidity to show. Very good. 90/100
Château Beau-Séjour-Bécot, Premier Grand Cru Classé
Lovely creamy oak quality over bold, focused cassis fruit and a lovely, ripe, full character that, like the Angélus, is layered and rich. Cool, sweet fruit on the palate and fine concentration. The long finish is balanced by spicy oak, nutmeg and firm tannins. Excellent/Outstanding. 94/100.
Château Canon-la-Gaffelière, Grand Cru Classé
Another seductive and lovely nose with sweet, minty black fruit and buttery, toasty oak in the background. Fat, sweet fruit on the palate with excellent ripeness, and a little bright raspberry sharpness. Quite broad acidity and good, ripe tannins extend the finish. Excellent. 93/100.
Château Cap de Mourlin
Quite fragrant and ripe on the nose with leafy aromas too, some leather and slightly baked fruit. Rich, sweet palate with good weight and concentration, and good balance into a long finish. Very good. 89/100.
Château Figeac, Premier Grand Cru Classé
Dark, dense and deep on the nose, almost Porty with bittersweet chocolaty depth, leather, tar and floral nuances. The palate shows great depth and is savoury and structured with plenty of supple, concentrated fruit and fine-grained tannins. Good concentration. Excellent. 93/100.
Château La Dominique
This has a really charming, seductive nose with a sweetness of mentholly black fruits. The palate is complex and very smooth and sweet – like sucking a blackcurrant lozenge, with notes of cherries and a creamy, sweet roundness. Very good indeed/excellent. 93/100.
Château Troplong-Mondot, Grand Cru Classé
This has lovely creamy black fruits on the nose with great sweetness. Quite jammy, with raspberry and even strawberry flavours as well as lush blackcurrant. The palate is quite dense and is smoothly textured, with dark chocolate nuances and more sweet, ripe, raspberry fruit and hint of spice. Relatively low tannins, but not unbalanced and very delicious. Very good indeed. 92/100.
There’s a nice mulberry sweetness here, with mint and cassis and a little leafy blackcurrant quality. It is sweet and compact. On the palate a rich quality of dense, creamy, ripe fruit and toasty oak is moderately tannic and well-balanced. Very good indeed. 91/100.
Sweet red fruit, with cherry and red plums. A much lighter nose than the Clinet, with floral notes of violets, this is perfumed with lots of jammy blackcurrant too. Beautifully rich and ripe on the palate, it is clean and bright with firm tannins and taut acidity. Very good/very good indeed. 90/100.
Closed nose that slowly reveals a fine quality of tight black fruit. On the palate it is very deeply endowed with black fruit. Full-bodied and concentrated, there is plum and plum skin bittersweet fruit and excellent layers of fruit, moderate oak and tannin. Excellent. 93/100.
Sauternes and Barsac 2000
Château Climens, Premier Grande Cru
Fine quality of apricot fruit with modest botrytis, but notes of honey and butterscotch. Rich palate, with a fine, thick, syrupy sweetness. Quite straightforward, but cool and long with good acidity. 90/100.
Château Doisny-Daene, Duxieme Grand Cru
A brief tasting suggested this was the equal of Climens in this vintage, with again lovely clean, racy fruit but plenty of sweetness and fine balance. 89/100.