Large bodies representing the vast majority of the top Châteaux – like the Union des Grands Crus or the Syndicat des Crus Bourgeois arrange huge tastings in En Primeur week each spring, where all the wines of a region are gathered together in a few of the Châteaux. Others – the elite like the first growths of Lafite, Latour, Mouton-Rothschild, Margaux and Haut-Brion – do not take part in these events, and visitors must arrange to visit the individual Châteaux at a specific time.
I spent a week hurtling around Pauillac, Margaux, St-Emilion and Pomerol to attend the best of the large tastings. Given that a day spent this way can allow tasting of 75 wines or more, I elected not to make appointments with the individual Châteaux, where a day’s efforts would gain access to only a half dozen wines. I was not short of top wines however, with many “super-second” growths and top Crus Classés tasted.
It must be remembered that these wines were still grapes on the vine less than six months ago; they are very far from the finished product that will appear in the bottles in another 18 months time. For a start, the influence of oak-ageing has only started to take effect, and there are fining and filtering procedures to go through.
Most importantly of all, these may not be the final blends that are made by the winemakers: almost all will have vinified tanks of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, petit verdot and malbec separately, and will not make a final selection and blending of these for 15 months. The samples here are prepared specifically for the shows, so human nature suggests that the blend will be the most flattering at the moment. It will also use only the very best tanks; not the wine from younger vines, not the wine from remaining patches of S04, an over-productive rootstock that was widely planted in the last few decades. These factors must all be taken into consideration when looking at my, or anyone else’s notes
Having said all that, many visitors will be keen to know what the early impressions are. In a few weeks these wines will be offered for sale, and every fine wine merchant in Britain will be doing all they can to entice customers into buying “en primeur”; committing themselves to purchase at this stage for delivery in 2004. These notes are as honest as I can make them at this stage. All of these wines are inky purple in colour, tannic, and pretty one-dimensional – tertiary aromas and nuances have yet to develop. What I was looking for was four basic things: 1) Fruit quality and ripeness, 2) concentration (Bordeaux had a little rain immediately before harvest), 3) structure and, most importantly, 4) balance. The latter means that even given the young and tannic nature of the wines, there appears to be quality and sufficiency of fruit and acids to guarantee a positive evolution. I also searched hard for any nuances which suggested the wines had already a little complexity about them.
In general I found this to be a very good vintage. There seems to be no lack of concentration, and the fruit quality is pure and good. Tannins are ripe and acid levels are fine. For me, the left bank is probably the star this year. The wines of Pauillac and St-Julien are delightful, with Margaux and St-Estèphe not far behind. On the right bank, I was disappointed in the St-Emilions, particularly on a stylistic basis: wines seemed over-extracted in several cases, with inky, dry, bitterness about them and very dense, impenetrable tannins. Pomerol was better and more joyful. In Sauternes the botrytis and sweetness levels varied dramatically, but there was lovely fruit and good acidity. In all, I would say this vintage is good to very good.
My tasting notes on some 150 wines follow. In all cases I have given a score out of 20 for the wine, but please note: these scores come with all the caveats mentioned above, and I would like you to mentally bracket every score plus or minus one point.
This has some quality on the nose, with a mineraly edge to decent fruit. It rather fades on the mid-palate, though a light, smoky quality of black fruit is attractive, this is in a rather lightweight style. 15/20.
Château La Cardonne
A little more flesh on this, and a little more refined, perfumed complexity. The tannins and acids are crisp, and this has some style and elegance. 16/20.
Château La Gorce
Very tight, crisp blackcurrant fruit. This is ripe and attractive. It doesn’t quite follow though on the palate, but is well-balanced and quite good. 15/20.
Château Patache d’Aux
Nice round, vegetal and earthy quality, with plenty of fruit; autumnal berries and blackcurrant. It is soft and sweet, perhaps lacking a little structure, but delicious. 16-17/20.
Bright, pure, attractive fruit quality. Good fruit – very rich and substantial, with a red plum weight and crisp blackcurrant tartness and tannic edge. Good acidity and balance. 17/20.
Château Rollan de By
This has plenty of solid, sweet black cherry and blackcurrant fruit. The palate too is solid and pure, with good black fruit quality. Quite classy, with good length. 17/20.
Château Caronne Sainte Gemme
Pleasantly floral nose. Cherry and soft strawberry fruit. Silky mouthfeel, though quite rich, with powerful tannins that are powdery and dry. Dark, extracted, but good fruit quality. Might come together nicely, but for now 16/20.
Inky, dark cherry and black fruit nose. Powerful. Big tannins on the palate and a dark, liquorice fruit. Deep and tightly-wound, this seems to have plenty of structure, but it is difficult to say how good the fruit is at this stage. 16-17/20.
Slightly lighter style, but still really rather closed on the nose. Tight tannins, quite smoky and attractive with a touch of oak showing. Fruit is moderate and maybe slightly lacking in the overall balance. 15-16/20.
Adds a nice perfume of animal, bloody complexity. Good fruit. Quite plummy. Dense and structured palate, but again that yielding fruit quality and good ripeness. Delicious and potential to be very good indeed. 18/20.
More lovely perfume here, with plenty of ripe fruit and some sweet earthiness. Quite a bright fruit quality on the palate with cassis and cherry. This is very pure and is very well balanced. 18/20.
Château de Lamarque
Good red fruit. Quite fresh, with a nice tobacco note. Very savoury red fruit suppleness. Dry, but good quality of fruit, medium body and some elegance. 17-18/20.
Château de Villegeorge
Sweet black fruit and even a little violet note on the nose; tight and blackcurranty. Pure and solidly packed with fruit on the palate, quite juicy and supple. Maybe not quite the refinement of some, but good. 17/20.
I visited the delightfully dynamic Catherine Blasco at Hanteillan and will be posting notes on a mini-vertical tasting soon.
Château Lamothe Bergeron
Lovely nose on this; fine fruit quality that is very dense, dark and pure. Svelte and supple, there is plenty of juiciness about the fruit on the palate, tannins pushing through assertively. Very good indeed. 18/20.
Rather more vegetal quality here; quite earthy and leafy, with red fruit. Plate is extracted and a bit dry, but there is some nice savoury depth and it has a lurking fruit. A touch too dry at present, but good. 16/20.
Good black fruit; a little creamy depth. This is earthy and warm on the palate, but has decent fruit and a sense of harmony. 16/20.
Bright, focused, blackcurranty fruit with a hint of minerality. Lovely fruit on the palate; terrific ripeness and solid, meaty structure. Already a little weight of toasty oak on the finish. 18/20.
Château Puy Castera
Nice bright quality of fruit; cassis and again a suggestion of minerality. Good quality of quite fat fruit, that is spicy and powerful, though clamped by big, dry tannins. 17/20.
Château Tour du Haut-Moulin
Bittersweet black cherry nose with a lovely freshness about the fruit. A little suggestion of bitter dark chocolate. Real concentration here, svelte black plum and good, sweet, ripe tannin underpinning. Lovely purity and focus. 18/20.
Château Fourcas Dupré
Immediate mineral and earthy quality, with a good back-up depth of black fruits. Quite liquoricy and powerful. Palate is a solid, with sweet black fruits packed into an extracted black plum and olive savouriness. Good length. Very good indeed. 18/20.
Château Fourcas Hosten
Much more earthy, vegetal, slightly animal nose; classic claret with a bloody edge to the fruit, which is more raspberry than blackcurrant. Nice fruit on the palate, with a raspberry tart cut against dry, gripping tannins. Quite elegant, but some tough structure beneath. 17-18/20.
Dense, dark, glossy black fruit; cherry, blackcurrant and vanilla. Lots of sweetness here and a very silky, ripe black fruit quality on the palate. Massive tannins and obvious concentration, but balanced. Very good. 17/18.
Immediate quality of fruit evident; dense and tight, but a background of warmth and a hint of toastiness. Good ripeness. Classy, full, structured mouthful of fat, dark, black cherry and damson fruit. A very nicely made wine. 17-18/20.
Quite classy on the nose. There’s a creamy, slightly cedary quality of blackcurrant fruit. The palate is medium-bodied and balanced, with a dusty quality of black fruits and quite elegant tannins. Long. Very good. 18/20.
Château Dutruch Grand Poujeaux
Tight, rather reserved nose. Refined, but a bit difficult at present. Nice quality of fruit on the palate, with a dark, savoury note of black olive and black cherry. Good length, and really quite nice. 16-17/20.
Very appealing nose, with a mineral quality and juicy highlights of raspberry over solid, dense black fruit. Very tangy and savoury on the palate, with plum, cherry and sweet cassis. Long and well-balanced. 18/20.
A cedary perfume here, over sweetish cassis fruit. Lovely silky sweetness of cherry and blackcurrant fruit on the palate – really ripe and fat, with an undercurrent of chocolaty tannins and good acidity. Very good. 17-18/20.
Light, floral hints here are attractive. Nice nose this, with lots of red fruits. Elegant onto the palate, with a ripe tannic framework to sweet, concentrated fruit. Very good 17-18/20.
Dark, glossy, good black fruit quality with lots of blackcurrant and sweet, ripe cherry. Fine sweetness carries through to the palate, with cassis and raspberry and a nice glimpse of espresso on the finish. Very fine. 18/20.
Another round, ripe, red berry and blackcurrant fruit-filled nose. Good quality of fruit in Margaux it seems. The palate is pure and sweet, with plenty of black fruit that are elegant with crisp tannins and nice acidity. Very good. 17-18/20.
Classy this, with already a classic cedarwood element to creamy, sweet, not too extracted black fruit with hints of old roses and great elegance. Chewy, densely-packed fruit on the palate, with dry plum fruit, cherry skins and tight tannins. This has a lot of generosity and composure. Lovely. 19/20.
Bright fruits. Pleasant, herbal, slightly vegetal nuances. That herbal quality continues on the palate, with plenty of cherryish fruit and a leafy element running through to the finish. Good tannins. 16/20.
Saint-Julien & Pauillac
Château du Glana, Saint-Julien
Little notes of coffee and crisp, smooth, blackcurrant fruit. Nice ripeness and elegant, pure cassis on the palate. A pleasant plumskin roughness through grippy tannins into a long, balanced finish. Very good 17-18/20.
Château Bellegrave, Pauillac
Raspberry and lighter, peppery red fruits. Silky palate with an earthy quality and really quite classy medium-bodied, structured appeal. Earthy but fresh. 17/20.
Red cherry and a touch of mineral, with cool, clean fruit on the nose and palate. Sweet and ripe, but freshened by crisp tannins and good acid levels. This is balanced with a bit of spicy depth and bite on the finish. Very good. 17-18/20.
Château de Pez
Moderate fruit on the nose, that is rather non-descript. On the palate it is more forward, but still rather one-dimensional with decent fruit quality and big, dry tannins. 15-16/20.
Minerality, with bright red cherry and raspberry edge to the fruit. A definite ozone-like, mineral edge. This is medium-bodied, with good elegance and supple class. Sweet fruit has some richness, but it is medium weight and restrained. Very correct and classy. 18/20.
Château Lilian Ladouys
Earthy quality; lots of gravelly overtones and expensive coffee-bean oak. Quite plump fruit beneath. Ripe and medium/full, this has plumpness and charm, as well as good structure with fine tannins. 17-18/20.
Clean, classy nose. Lots of pure black fruits and a little salty tang. Underpinned by a nice leathery, meaty quality. Lovely richness of fruit on the palate; blackcurrant, damson and a rounded texture. Good weight. very good. 18/20.
Crunchy raspberry and mineral-edged fruit with unfolding depth of more animal, sauvage quality. really quite dense on the palate, this is rich and full though very tannic and dry. The fruit base is broad and powerful, with spice and grip. Very good 18/20.
Château Tour de Pez
A deep seam of tight, glossy, blue/black fruit. Very focused and pure. Solid, grippy, dense and thick fruit on the palate with a liquorice edge of extraction and a muscular character. Sinewy and powerful, but good ripe, spicy, powerful fruit too. Big and impressive of its style. 18/20.
Coffee and ripe, sweet, almost jammy raspberry and creamy red berry fruit. Very sweet, ripe and forward on the palate too, with again that big coffee-bean toastiness, good fruit and quite a flamboyant style – though perhaps just a touch down on complexity? Very nice though. 17/20.
Château Cos-Labory, 5th growth
Quite elegant, with vanillin-wrapped black fruits, and although quite subdued there’s a fine sense of purity. On the palate plenty of richness and silky texture, with a svelte chocolaty character. A lovely drink, though perhaps lacking a little complexity for now. 17/20.
Château Lafon-Rochet, 4th growth
Quite a savoury nose, with an autumnal berry fruit quality and some toasty notes. Plenty of jammy, fresh, sweet blackcurrant comes through. Very dry tannins on the palate, with plum-skin and blackcurrant fruit of good quality. Lovely balance really, with nice weight and a sense of freshness. 17-18/20.
Château Ormes de Pez, Cru Bourgeois
Good sense of quality, juicy, fresh fruitiness about this wine – quite floral with a touch of minerality. The palate has some almondy character and quite modest red fruit with a hint of spice. Juicy, fresh and elegant in a lighter style. 16/20.
Château Phélan-Ségur, Cru Bourgeois
Moderate nose. Nice quality and purity of fruit that is black and tightly-wrapped, with a touch of damson and blueberry depth. Tight, juicy quality on the palate too. Pure blackcurrant, with crisp tannins and good concentration. This is focused and positive, though maybe not quite the intrigue to merit a higher score at this stage, it is very good. 17/20.
Château Beychevelle, 4th growth
Lovely finesse here. The blackcurrant is fine and there’s a little glimpse of lighter raspberry, then a note of darker plum and chocolate. Quite complex. Nice mouthfeel, though the tannins are clamping down, the fruit has nice quality. 17/20.
Château Branaire-Ducru, 4th growth
Quite deeply-seated blackcurrant; juicy and dark. Quite closed though, and the palate has a firm, liquoricy edge to the fruit and plenty of tannin. Bittersweetness here, with tart plum-skin. Concentrated and deep, but rather tough. 16-17/20.
Château Gruaud-Larose, 2nd growth
A light more light, perfume and complexity on the nose of this wine. Classic Gruaud-Larose hints of game and earthy, animal aromas. Ripe berry fruit. The palate has lovely quality and a tingling spiciness. Black fruits, developing a touch of cedar, and lovely balance and finesse. 18-19/20.
Château Lagrange, 3rd growth
Already fat with toasty, coffee-bean oak influence. Beneath is a lovely perfume of bright cassis and raspberry, with hints of violet and dark chocolate. Concentrated, rich palate, clamped by serious tannins, but big, sweet, svelte and spicy fruit pushes through. A bit of a blockbuster style, and very good. 18/20.
Château Langoa-Barton, 2nd growth
The nose has a little almondy note, with marzipan and sweet toffee – presumably oak influence. The fruit is a touch subdued, but the palate is quite broad and generous with a savoury quality. Juicy black fruit emerges with a plum and cherry-skin depth and a raft of broad tannins, but good balance and length. 18/20.
Château Léoville-Barton, 2nd growth
Very ripe, sweet and concentrated. Almond and a touch of mint. Lovely black cherry and cassis background. Cool and concentrated, classy black fruit palate. Gripping tannins; touches of spicy and earthy power. Very fine and long. 18/20.
Château Léoville-Poyferré, 2nd growth
Light, elegant, with violet and creamy, sweet cassis. Lovely purity here. The palate too is juicy and fresh with delightful, rich cassis and deeper plum juiciness. Fine concentration, but elegance with silky tannins and excellent structure. 18-19/20.
Château Talbot, 4th growth
This has a fine nose too, with a background of vanillin oak to quite earthy, toasty aromas. Bramble and juicy blackcurrant fruit. This is deep and concentrated, with broad fruit and fine quality. Lovely. 18/20.
Château Croizet-Bages, 5th growth
Soft and quite elegant. There is sweet raspberry fruit, and this is clearly lighter than many. Hints of sweet, floral nuances and a jammy ripeness. Plate is fresh and juicy, with lower extract and lighter tannins, but delicious for earlier drinking I’d have thought. Good purity of fruit. 16/20.
Château Grand-Puy-Ducasse, 5th growth
Also more lightness here, and some finesse. A little vanillin note enriching cassis and berry fruit; rounded and creamy. Good weight on the palate, maybe lacks a touch of elegance with lip-smacking bittersweet fruit and concentation. Good though. 17/20.
Château Haut-Bages-Libéral, 5th growth
Classy, cool, quite subdued nose at present.Not giving much, but dig deep and the fruit is good. Palate has plenty of dusty, savoury, damson and blackcurrant wrapped in fine tannins. Good concentration, if a touch more monolithic than some. 17/20.
Château Lynch-Bages, 5th growth
Much more pure, focused, concentrated blackcurrant on the nose that is blackcurranty, creamy and svelte. Velvety and full on the nose. Lovely quality follows onto palate, where liquorice and minerals join cassis fruit. Very concentrated, but not as dryly extracted as some, with structure, spice and balance. Long too. 18-19/20.
Château Lynch-Moussas, 5th growth
Big, crunchy, bold blackcurrant nose of sweet cassis and bitter dark chocolate. Very attractive. Liquorice edge on the palate, and just a background of toasty oak, but loads of ripe, sweet balck fruit and fine quality. Lynch-Moussas continues a fine run of recent form. 17-18/20.
Château Pichon-Longueville (Baron), 2nd growth
Lovely nose of toast and espresso coffee-beans layered over warm, earthy fruit. There’s a deep seam of chocolaty, rich black fruit as well as hints of minerals and a warming tobacco note. Gorgeous fruit on the palate; really sweet-edged and velvety. This has lovely finesse and balance, though it also has plenty of power and weight. 19/20.
Château Pontet-Canet, 5th growth
Lovely fruit. Terrific purity, sweetness, and expressive, harmonious cassis and ripe summer berries. Fine sense of fruit quality here, and elegant on the palate too. Maybe not the depth of the Pichon-Baron, but a terrific effort, with balance and no lack of substance. 18/20.
Château d’Angludet, Cru Bourgeois
Warming, soft, gently attractive berry fruit. Quite clean and polished, with a good purity of fruit. The palate is very dry, with a mass of tannins weighing down on plummy, black chery and damson fruit. Nice fruit, but a little dry. 15-16/20.
Château Brane-Cantenac, 2nd growth
Quite reserved at first, but classy and appealing with black fruit and raspberry on the nose; quite bright aromatics, though it is rather closed. Fine, mouth-coating fruit quality with dark plum richness and really lovely quality. Good tannins, and this has structure as well as openness and warmth. 17-18/20.
Château Cantenac Brown, 3rd growth
Nice sweet perfume here, with fine, pure black fruits and a sense of minerality. Again, quite subdued and needs work to get at the fruit. The palate has good concentration. It is dark with plum and blueberry fruit. Quite tannic, and perhaps just a little too dry-extracted, but there is a good quality and otherwise it is balanced. 16-17/20.
Château Dauzac, 5th growth
A little more openness about this, with some gravelly quality on the nose and glimpses of sweet, lighter fruit; raspberry and cherry. Nice sweet purity. This has some elegance on the palate with good grip and a bit of finesse, as well as structure. 17/20.
Château du Tetre, 5th growth
Hints of coffee bean and toast. This is a more up-front style, with a pleasant animal quality that is atractive and quite alluring. Nice fruit on the palate. There’s a lovely sense of sweetness about this, with ripe, silky texture and a rich mouthfeel. Though the oak is flattering, and this is definitely a rather more “international” style than some, this is also very good. 17/20.
Château Durfort Vivens, 2nd growth
Ceamy nose here. Quite elegant, with a little vanillin new oak and a touch of tobacco, but mostly creamy black fruit. The palate is cool and minty, with a little marzipan note, but mostly sweet, svelte black fruit. It is a little lacking in flesh and structure on the mid-palate. 16/20.
Château Ferrière, 3rd growth
Fairly modest nose. Quite compact berry and dark cherryish fruit, but rather subdued. There’s a much more solid, deep seam of morello cherry that is tight and bittersweet. This is a little harsh perhaps; lacking a alittle breadth on the mid-palate, but it has structure and good fruit. 16/20.
Château Giscours, 3rd growth
Sweet, light, ozoney quality on the nose, over punchy sweet cherry fruit and a little creamy cassis. Rich palate that is silky-textured with quite plush fruit; lots of weight and ripeness, with a glossy quality. Moderate tannins, thought there’s a sour cherry and plummy acidity. Tasty and very good. 17/20.
Château Kirwan, 3rd growth
Attractive sauvage perfume, with bloody, gamy notes before vanillin and very sweet cassis fruit. The palate is really very dry, with an almost inky extraction – all bitter plum and cherry skins at present. There is rather a tannic grip on the finish, and I’d need to be convinced the fruit is sufficient to cope. 15-16/20.
Château Labégorce, Cru Bourgeois
A wine I tasted twice: here and a tasting of Crus Bourgeois one day before. For completeness, I’ll include both notes: 27/03: Lovely, elegant, sweet fruit on the nose; distinct creaminess, though partly this is a vanillin slick of oak, but the fruit quality is silky and deep. This has quite a big, chewy, extracted palate with grippy, dry tannins, but here the fruit is more dense and sweetly ripe, with good concentration and structure. 17-18/20.
26/03: Light, floral hints here are attractive. Nice nose this, with lots of red fruits. Elegant onto the palate, with a ripe tannic framework to sweet, concentrated fruit. Very good 17-18/20.
Château Lascombes, 2nd growth
Pure blackcurranty, cassis ripeness here. Terrifically creamy and pure, as well as being elegantly rounded-out by background creamy oak. There’s a nice note of bitter dark cherry on the palate, with a more dense, thick tannic layer supporting deep fruit. Lovely depth and structure but beautifully balanced. 17-18/20.
Château Malescot-Saint-Exupéry, 3rd growth
Quite a rounded, ripe mulberry character here. Not singing as pure and sweetly as the Lascombes, but a fine fruit quality. The palate has thick, jammy black fruit and a dense plumminess. Good balance of tannins and acids. 17/20.
Château Marquis d’Alesme Becker, 3rd growth
There is a slightly soapy quality on the nose of this. It has good fruit beneath, and is quite rich, but the odd note on the nose is off-putting. Pretty good fruit and balance on the palate, but didn’t grab me. 15/20.
Château Marquis-de-Terme, 4th growth
Bright minerally, cherry fruit. Ripe and juicy with cherry ans savoury, spicy blackcurrant. Fine, dry tannins but retains elegance and good balance. A little structure too. Good 16-17/20.
Château Monbrison, Cru Bourgeois
Another wine I also tasted at the Crus Bourgeois tasting on the 26th: 27/03: Some delicate charcoally and floral notes but solid fruit quality that is sweet and glossy. The palate shows lovely fruit too; very harmonious with cherry-skin grip, a nice little toasty oak note and a long finish. 17/20.
Château Prieuré-Lichine, 4th growth
There’s a sweet cherry ripeness on the nose here, and again a little hint of super-ripe mint and violet. Very concentrated palate – maybe a touch too extracted – with mouth-puckering tannins, yet the fruit is persistant and good. 16-17/20.
Château Rausan-Gassies, 2nd growth
Quite a deep, glossy, pure quality of blackcurrant and tight, creamy, quite mineral nuances. Big chewy mouthfull of inky black, but supple fruit. Very attractive. Savoury plum and black olive notes, this is dense but balanced and fine. 18/20.
Château Rausan-Ségla, 2nd growth
Tight, pure, very expressive black fruit that is focused and sharp with sweet floral nuances, cassis and a crisp minerality. Very sweet, creamy, dense and ripe. Lots of purity here. Crisp, chewy tannins, this is long and harmonious. 18-19/20.
Château Siran, Cru Bourgeois
Another wine I also tasted at the Crus Bourgeois tasting on the 26th: 27/03: Quite a nice earthy nose here at first; warm and quite soft with some oak influence and a little plummy depth. Tight and focused palate, with big tannins and good concentration. Long and lovely quality. 17/20. 26/03: Another round, ripe, red berry and blackcurrant fruit-filled nose. The palate is pure and sweet, with plenty of black fruit that are elegant with crisp tannins and nice acidity. Very good. 17-18/20.
Château Angélus Premier Grand Cru Classé
Subdued sweet cherry nose, but with thick, liquorice intensity. The palate is cool, tight and dense, with a lot of dark, savoury fruit beneath compact, velvety tannins that are grippy and deep. Seems to have a lot of structure and gravitas, but a bit impenetrable. 17-18/20.
Château Balestard-La-Tonnelle, Grand Cru Classé
Very, very tight again. Thick and dense quality of violet-tinged black fruit, but all very compacted. Rich seam of blackberry on the palate, with dense, juicy blackness and plenty of tannic heft. More svelte though, with a bit of gloss and depth. 18/20.
Château Beau-Séjour-Bécot, Premier Grand Cru Classé
A theme emerging here, with a bittersweet, compact, chocolate and dark fruit nose. Highly extracted. There’s a suggestion of mineral in there. Very juicy palate, with lots of sweet, ripe black fruit and cherry and fine, if powerful tannins. This has real quality and suppleness about it. 18/20.
Château Canon, Premier Grand Cru Classé
A little more warmth on the nose, and some more openness. A hint of vegetality, but still quite fine, dark, tight fruit. Good quality on the palate, with a bit of toastiness coming through, and very dry tannins. 17/20.
Château Canon-la-Gaffelière, Grand Cru Classé
Ripe red cherry and plum fruit, a touch of smokiness. Ripe and sweet fruit ok, but pretty tight and closed with a great spine of bittersweet black cherry acidity and tannin. Extracted style, but this could come round nicely. 17-18/20.
Château Cap de Mourlin, Grand Cru Classé
Notes of chocolate and a little violety sweetness and ripeness. There is blueberry and plum-skin dark fruit, but plenty of tight, refined quality on the palate. Good fruit. 17/20.
Château Dassault, Grand Cru Classé
Sweet vanilla-slicked cassis and cream. Quite flashy, but a little more openness and good purity of fruit. Big savoury tannins and acidity, but a lovely underpinning by quality black plum fruit. Very nice. 18/20.
Château Figeac, Premier Grand Cru Classé
There is more of an elegance about this, with some tobacco and cedar notes and sweet black fruits. Good quality. Cool palate, and still quite extracted but ripe, dense fruit with plenty of plummy roughness and good length. 18/20.
Château Fonpléglade, Grand Cru Classé
More modest nose on this – not quite so dense. Good quality of fruit, but a gear down from previous wines in terms of concentration and purity of fruit quality. Supple and cherryish palate. 16/20.
Château Clos Fourtet, Grand Cru Classé
Very tight on the nose. Very hard to get into this wine. Concentrated on the palate and has a lot of grip, but tough to make a judgement. 16?/20.
Château Franc-Mayne, Grand Cru Classé
A little suggestion of violet and ripe cherry sweetness. Deep, ripe fruit behind. On the palate there is more of that sweet fruit quality evident, and nice tangy quality. Good balance and an attractive, modern style. 17/20.
Château Grand-Mayne, Grand Cru Classé
Quite a powerful, savoury nose with earthy qualities and plenty of intense, deep, rich fruit. There’s a lovely quality of fruit here, with a plate that is really sweet and rich, with fine concentration, flesh and balance. 18-19/20.Quite an open, charcoally
Château La Couspaude, Grand Cru Classé
Quite a charcoally note here, and already toasty with a big plum and damson core that continues onto the palate. Very juicy and supple. Generous fruit here, and an up-front style, though plenty of grip. 17-18/20.
Château La Dominique, Grand Cru Classé
La Dominique is always so forward, sweet and flattering on the nose with a feminine, soft, floral and elegant berry nose. A little creaminess too. Still fine concentration on the palate, with pencil-shaving nuances, liquorice and deep cherry fruit. Maybe not the most profound, but delicious and very good. 17-18/20.
Château La Gaffelière, Premier Grand Cru Classé
Earth and mineral qualities give a lovely cut to solid balck fruit. Oak has already affed a nice tobacco and toast note. The palate is powerful and dense, with lots of thick, sweet fruit and a chocolaty note. Rich and long. 18/20.
Château La Tour Figeac, Grand Cru Classé
There’s a cherry-skin, fragrant nose here, with a touch of sweet floral perfume. Good crunchy black fruit on the palate, and a touch of blueberry. There’s a relly bitter plum-skin, tannic edge that is a touch too dry. 16-17/20.
Château Larcis-Ducasse, Grand Cru Classé
Quite an open, berryish quality on the nose, with more of a red fruit quality. But then the palate lacks depth, with a touch of hollowness and modest fruit. Quite nice in a lighter style, and decent early drinking if cheap enough. 15/20.
Château Larmande, Grand Cru Classé
Mineral and charcoally edge to black cherry fruit. Nice toffeed undertone. Very concentrated palate with fine, rough, plummy texture and weight. Plenty of spice and concentration, but balanced and good length. 17-18/20.
Château Troplong-Mondot, Grand Cru Classé
Deep and tight nose that isn’t giving a lot. Some toast. On the palate there is an inky blackness of fruit; plum and blackcurrant, damson skins. Very dense and extracted. A bit of a bruising tannic quality, but there is a ton of juicy fruit beneath though to redeem it. Big wine, that has balance and could be very good indeed in time. 18/20.
Nicely earthy, slightly bloody note, a touch of woodland berry fruits and chocolaty mouthfeel. There’s plenty of sweet, dark, plum and bitter cocoa, but this has lovely freshness, depth and balance. 18/20.
Nice leafy, earthy quality here, backed up by firm blackcurrant. A great chewy weight of fruit on the palate, with high extraction and lots of lummy, damsony depth, but a definite lush quality. Long and opulent. 18/20.
A little schisty, charcoally note here. A pleasantly sauvage quality of gamy perfume. There is kirsch-like fruit. Concentrated palate with silky texture, flesh and a chocolaty depth. Lots of life and joy about this wine. Lovely. 19/20.
Château La Cabanne
Toffe and sweet fudge on the nose, with toasty aromas and a note of sweet, floral fruitiness. Th epalate has very dark plum and bittersweet chocolaty fruit. Lots of rough, grippy black fruit and tannin. Bold and good. 18/20.
Château La Conseillante
Tight, submerged, deeply-seated sweet black fruit. Dark, chocolaty and dense. High extraction of bittersweet black fruit, that is sinewy and chewy, with undoubted concentration but a hint of toughness about it. Should come good. 17-18/20.
Château La Croix de Gay
More light here, with red fruit character and sweet, fudge-like oak, summer berries and good ripeness. There’s a sense of finesse on the nose. The palate has plenty of grip and concentration, but there’s that extra dimension of sweet fruit and balance. 18/20.
Château La Pointe
Charcoally nose; a hint of minerality and a background of toast. Good, ripe blackurranty fruit. This is muscular in style, brawny palate with sinewy, meaty fruit and clamped by solid tannins. Good quality of fruit and plenty of structure, but maybe just a touch foursquare? 17/20.
Fine depth here, even notes of complexity with a suggestion of cedar, vanilla, flowers, sweet plums and a glossy blackcurrant core. Th epalate id concentrated but very fine. There is a weight of silky, black sweet fruit; fruit compote and cassis. Long and structured, this is excellent. 19/20.
Quite a jammy, ripe blackcurrant confiture quality; very sweet and lovely. Not much obvious oak influence at this stage. Good fruit on the palate; savoury and tart with cherry skins and plum, hints of woodsmoke, tobacco and a long finish. Good weight and balance. 18-19/20.
Château Filhot, 2nd growth, Sauternes
Only light botrytis evident on the nose, with floral and citrus aromas and a touch of honey. Lovely and rich on the palate, a smooth mouthfeel with plenty of clean acidity and round, ripe fruit. Balanced and delicious. 16/20.
Château Doisy-Daëne, 2nd growth, Barsac
A little more richness here, with more botrytis; lush notes of honey, nuts and marmalade. Fine, sweet, full and lush palate. Lovely tropical nuances of mango and nectarine, sweet and musky quality and good acidity again. A step up. 18/20.
Château Rayne Vigneau, 1st growth, Bommes
Not a lot of botrytis evident, but a lovely sweet, luscious, peachy fruit character with a little toffee and fudge. Sweet, caramelised fruit on the palate; hints of exotic banana and lovely weight of rich fruit. Good acidity. 17-18/20.
Château Guiraud, 1st growth, Sauternes
Light, toffee and crême brâlée nose. Lots of apricot and a delicate botrytis giving honey and orange nuances. Fine palate that is thick and luscious, with good concentration. Quite a heavy style, with moderate acidity, but very harmonious and long. 17-18/20.
Château Rabaud-Promis, 1st growth, Bommes
Lightly honeyed nose with a nice weight of ripe, sweet apricot fruit. Really quite rich and powerful, with lots of botrytis and a honeyed, butterscotchy quality and rich texture. Good concentration, acidity and length. 17-18/20.
Château Coutet, 1st growth, Barsac
Typically light, elegant and floral edged nose to Coutet, with citrus, minerals and light but fine, apricotty botrytis. Richer on the palate, with waxy botrytis texture and lush with nectarine, ripe mango and good length. Very fine, with lovely balance and a bit of oomph inthe finish. 18/20.
Château La Tour Blanche, 1st growth, Bommes
Not nearly so flamboyant, bit delightful nevertheless with a nose of marzipan and peach. The palate has a broad stripe of citrussy acidity, plenty of lemon fruit but and underlying richness and hints of depth. There is a vanillin note, and tropical nuances starting to fill-out the finish. 17-18/20.
Château Siglas Rabaud, 1st growth, Bommes
Nice richness on the nose. A little one-dimensional at present, but a good quality of fruit. Lovely and sweet on the palate, but lacks a touch of complexity. Has the underlying quality to improve I think, but for now, 16/20.
Château Suduiraut, 1st growth, Preignac
Lovely nose here, brimming with botrytis notes of toffee, honey, fig and cream. Concentrated yet elegant. Fine sweetness of ripe necatarine on the palate, with exotic mango, but very pure, focused and long. Good balance, and very stylish. 18-19/20.