(2022) From a very good vintage in Bordeaux and with a handy 12 years already under its belt, this is a Merlot-dominated red. I was initially surprised to find it closed with a modern DIAM technical cork, but that is explained. The colour shows a little development but is still solid at the core. There's a hint of tinned plum tomato on the nose that gives a savoury character, a little spice too. In the mouth that spiciness of red and black fruit continues, not a lot of barrel component showing, but firm tannins are resolving nicely and the overall balance is good.
(2022) A ripe and chunky right bank Bordeaux, blending 50% Cabernet Franc, 40% Merlot and 10% Malbec. Castillon lies east of Saint-Émilion, with similar soils of limestone, gravel and clay. This has a nicely savoury tapenade character to firm, dark black fruit. In the mouth there's quite an expansive fruit core here, plummy and chocolaty, the tannins are fat and ripe too, and the acidity balances nicely in a very satisfying glass of typically right bank Bordeaux at a knock-down price really. It will also cellar for a few more years for sure. Watch the video for more information.
(2022) In the same family hands for 10 generations, this 25 hectare estate makes both dry and sweet wines. The first thing that strikes is the oily, rich mouthfeel of the wine, dominated by a fat lemon and lime juiciness. There is a hint of passion fruit from the Sauvignon content, but it is discreet and the wine is more about citrus, a lightly buttery quality on the mid-palate, and a tangy, grapefruity finish for a food-friendly, versatile and inexpensive wine.
(2022) A left-bank blend coming mostly from vineyards in St-Estèphe, a blend of Merlot, both Cabernets and Petit Verdot, with élévage in large barrels (30% new). With five years under its belt, it holds a youthful, solid colour, with meat-stock and black fruit aromas, an intriguing touch of Nori character and good depth with a wisp of tobacco. In the mouth it is substantial and fleshy, a savoury, very St-Estèphe wine, with a certain robustness, but high quality oak and a juicy black cherry acidity layering the finish. Punches above its weight this one.
(2021) From the famous terroir of Pauillac, this estate is now owned by its illustrious near neighbour Château Pichon-Baron, and the wine made by the Pichon team. It's predominantly Merlot (68%) from a year when frost reduced the Cabernet Sauvignon yield in particular. It has a deep, saturated and youthful colour, and really quite a lovely nose, some fragrant Sandalwood and spice plays against cassis, with a cool, stony character  beneath. In the mouth there is copious and sweet black fruit, lots and lots of mocha coffee barrel supporting (50% new barrels), the tannins truly silky and the acidity giving a nice, tart and savoury plum and cherry skin bite. Really, a young Bordeaux drinking very well, but with a decade of cellaring potential surely. Watch the video for more information and food matching ideas.
(2021) Made by the winemaking team at Margaux third growth, Château Giscours, this appellation Bordeaux red is 70% Merlot with 30% Cabernet Sauvignon. Now with five years under its belt, there's a gentle pink rim to the ruby colour and very attractive aromas of spiced plum compote, with some classy cedar and a depth of fruit. A very pleasing wine in the mouth too, lots of juicy plum and black cherry, firm tannins and keen cherry-skin acidity give enough bite and structure, against the suppleness of the fruit.
(2021) Sourced from Saint-Émilion and neighbouring appellations, this is made by Johnathan Maltus, perhaps best known for his super Right Bank 'garage wine', 'Le Dôme'. This Merlot-dominated blend has smooth, concentrated aroma of plums and blackcurrant, an elegant little hint of Sandalwood spice in the background. It's a big, caressing mouthful of luscious Merlot on the palate, with very sweet and soft tannins, but a little liquorice twist of bittersweetness from the acid, oak and tannin does give a pert, fresh finish too. With 14.5% alcohol it is ripe and full, a bit of a contrast to the Petite Sirène, but really rather delicious.
(2021) A Cru Bourgeois I have not come across before, a blend of 50% Merlot and 50% Cabernet Sauvignon from their Médoc vineyards. Apparently, the château once belonged to Château Lafite, and it is sited on the highest plateau in the Médoc. It's remarkable to find a 2010 Cru Bordeaux on the shelves at under £20, so how does it taste? The colour is still quite deep (this wine comes directly from the Château's cellars) and there is graphite and cedar to open, the fruit dark, touched with espresso, but mostly about blackcurrant and damson plum. It's really very youthful at 11 years old, suggesting there's no hurry to drink, the palate balanced with good fruit and a gently supportive framework of tannins and acidity.
(2021) From the Entre-Deux-Mers region of Bordeaux, this is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Sauvignon Gris. It opens with very pretty notes of bright confit lemon, just a hint of fresh leafy green herbs and a certain elegance to the aromas. It is surprising rich and luscious on the palate, perhaps the Sauvignon Gris adding a little texture and flavour, and after flirting with peachiness the palate tightens up again into fresh-sliced apple and citrus on the finish. Lots of mouthfeel here giving broad appeal.
(2021) The 4th growth Beychevelle from 1985 has been one of my favourite ever wines for three decades now, a bottle from a case bought around 1989 having been drunk every few years. This the last of the dozen. Now the colour is still a lovely ruby, a hint of brick on the rim, though the nose and palate both show some age. There's a little autumn leaf, vegetal note that was not there on the previous bottle seven or eight years ago, but it does not detract: there is still so much to like. The palate still has that quite sumptuous, plummy fruit depth and swirling smokiness and hints of fudge and chocolate generosity, and the framework of tannins and now slightly more angular acidity give it tension and drive, making for a really enjoyable wine. Would I buy more of the 1985 at this stage? I'd say it is definitely just past its peak, but possibly would at the right price. Current price is shown below.