Stuart George

Posts Tagged ‘Léoville-Barton’

I’m so Bordeaux with the USA

In Tastings on May 3, 2010 at 3:52 pm

Recently I was a guest at a wine auction held in Costa Mesa, just south of Los Angeles in Orange County.

Having written a great deal on the fine wine market and fine wine auctions over the last six years, it is rather embarrassing to admit that I hardly ever go to live auctions in London. Then again, they are so painfully boring that I’d rather stay at home and wait for the results to be sent to me.

In the USA – or California, at least – wine auctions are an excuse to have fun. In Costa Mesa there was lots of good food and good company. People were enjoying themselves in a way that is unheard of in London. The auction was part of a raucous –which is to say typically American! – evening, with the relaxed atmosphere encouraging strong bidding. There is nothing comparable in the UK, indeed anywhere in Europe, where wine auctions are very drab, staid affairs.

In addition to the bottles generously served by the auction house, people brought their own wines along to share with their buddies. And what wines these were…

These are a few of the blue-chip bottles that I drank on Friday and Saturday night. The notes are pithy because of the party atmosphere that prevailed – and I was severely jet-lagged.

Château Mouton Rothschild 1982

Fabulous nose, perfumed and aromatic. Very rich and full but elegant, though with a beefy finish. Still some tannins apparent. Age to 2030+? Very good and not as over the hill as some other 1982s that I’ve had. Less of the “hot” character of that vintage than expected, too, with much less cassis fruit than, say, Lynch-Bages when I last had it a couple of years ago. A great wine – for me the best of the evening.

Château Léoville-Las Cases 1985

Not as rich as the Mouton. Sweet, juicy and generous. Pencil/graphite aromas – very typical of Las-Cases. Elegant but not of the finest quality. Now to 2025?

Château L’Evangile 1994

The third time that I have had this wine over the last couple of years or so, when it has usually been drunk by itself. In tonight’s company it didn’t seem as forward as previous examples. Its quality was evident but coming after the generous Las Cases 1985 it felt very tight by comparison.

Château Léoville-Barton 1990

Full and fleshy but far from ready… 2013-25?

Château Lynch-Bages 1985

Green pepper nose but this is not to suggest unripeness! Fleshy, too. 2013-25?

Several other wines crossed my path, including a few white Burgundies that I thought were poor – they often appeared oxidised, or on the verge of oxidation. A Guigal LaLa was poured – I can’t remember which one – but it was dreadful, as I would always expect of that over-hyped producer…

California Dreamin’… In Paris

In Tastings on March 26, 2010 at 12:28 pm

On Wednesday 24 March I was in Paris for a tasting of “Vins et Spiriteux des Etats-Unis” at the US Ambassador’s residence on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré.

Such a tasting would be unlikely in the UK: The best wines are shown via their agents rather than at a generic gathering like this. I have been to California only once so do not know the wines at all well. Producers from such unlikely places as Colorado and Georgia were also showcasing their wares to what I suppose was an audience of top Parisian sommeliers, cavistes and journalists.

With the taste of the outstanding Léoville-Barton 2009 still resonating on my palate, the wines here were predictably a mixed bunch and too often striving for power rather than finesse. Randall Grahm’s 2004 Bonny Doon Le Cigare Volant was a ringer for Châteauneuf du Pape. It even had some Brett for added authenticity! I also liked the fleshy and luscious 2005 Joseph Phelps Insignia and Ridge’s rich and almost elegant 2006 Lytton Springs Zinfandel and Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon. The two Au Bon Climat Pinot Noirs were soft, juicy and elegant – good wines.

There were some curiosities from Colorado that I had not encountered before. Boulder Creek Winery produces a Merlot/Cabernet blend called VIP Reserve 2006 that really wasn’t bad at all. There was a bit of excess oak but the mid-palate was pleasantly juicy and fruity.

Varaison Vineyards and Winery, however, is totally misguided. The earnest young man pouring these shockers told me, “We’re trying to produce wines that taste 20 years old without waiting that long…” He has succeeded admirably: The Chardonnay and two Merlots that I tasted were indistinguishable from each other – and from a lame Fino Sherry, for that matter. I am still staggered that somebody actually thinks these are good wines and that people will buy them.

Probably this “Judgement of Paris” was organised along standard French practices. But the tiny spittoons on each table were woefully inadequate for so many people and had to be emptied at frequent intervals, meaning that sometimes there was no spittoon at all. It all looked very nice but the logistics could have been better – says a London-based journalist!

Bordeaux 2009: The hype begins… Here!

In Tastings on March 25, 2010 at 1:44 pm

I was in Bordeaux earlier this week for a flying visit to see some paintings and to try some wines!

The en primeur circus begins next week though some UK writers were already assessing the 2009s… I have never been involved in the en primeur campaign and have always felt that it is quite ridiculous to buy and sell wines that are not necessarily representative of the finished product.

At any rate, with my friend Véronique Hoffmann-Martinot I visited Châteaux Langoa-Barton, Léoville-Barton, Pichon-Baron and Pichon-Lalande.

The first wine of the day was the 2009 Langoa, which was fruity and bright but retained the characteristic hardness of the estate. Blended from 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot and 12% Cabernet Franc, it should come of age from 2015 to 2025.

The 2008 was even tougher, the oak still apparent and creating tar/coconut aromas on the nose. The palate was very dry and austere. I thought it had a bit more acidity than the ’09 but that was merely my impression.

Léoville 2009 was also sui generis, much softer and more elegant than the Langoa. Although more closed on the nose, it was fuller and had more flesh than the first wine. Despite the high (77%) Cabernet content, it promised to become silky when mature. A very good wine, with fine length, to drink 2020-35. It will be interesting to see how Anthony Barton sells this: It is undoubtedly of outstanding quality and as such can command a high price. But the UK and USA markets are still quite fragile and there is an awful lot of Diageo stock sloshing around… I guess that he will price it at or about the price of the 2008, even though the ’09 is superior.

At Pichon-Baron we tasted 2009  Château Pibran, Tourelles de Longueville and the grand vin itself.

The Tourelles had a bright and fruity Merlot nose – 61% of this wine is Merlot, with 21% Cabernet Sauvignon and 18% Cabernet Franc. Oak was more apparent on the palate, especially the grippy finish, but the middle was supple and juicy. Quite charming on the whole and to drink 2012–18, perhaps.

Pibran is made at Pichon-Baron but aged at its own estate. It had more structure, and particularly more tannic extract, than the Tourelles. The length was superior, too. Drink 2015–20?

As at Léoville, Pichon-Baron’s 2009 grand vin has a high Cabernet content – 67%, with 33% Merlot. Cabernet Franc has not been used here since 2006. The nose was bright and fruity, though again the palate was wearing quite a bit of new oak makeup. The fruit flavours and textures were beautiful but the oak makes this very hard and tannic at the moment… Fine persistence, though. Try 2015–25?

Véronique and I were apparently the first “journalists” to see Pichon’s new tasting room and “history” room… It all looks (and smells) very new – and very expensive.

Over the road at Pichon-Lalande we were given a guided tour of the château’s paintings – a rare treat. The main reason for me to come to Bordeaux was to see Sophie Lalande’s paintings and to write about them. Of course we also tried the wines!

The 2009 Reserve de la Comtesse was bright but earthy – the influence of Lalande’s St-Julien vineyards, perhaps – and more tannic and chunky than the finer 2008. Try 2013-20?

Pichon-Lalande’s 2009 grand vin had an even more viscous colour than the Comtesse but there was hardly anything on the nose. The mid-palate had rich, savoury fruit and finished with fleshy, almost chunky tannins – obviously a family resemblance to the Comtesse! The juicy acidity suggested that this could be aged 2015-25.

So that is a very brief look at what Bordeaux 2009 promises. To generalise, the best wines have wonderful richness and purity of fruit, with fine tannins and persistence.

As for the prices…