Day two in Bordeaux was jam packed with six Chateau visits: Cheval Blanc, Vieux Chateau Certan, L’Eglise Clinet, Larcis Ducasse, Haut Bailly and Pape-Clement. In contrast to the Left Bank, the Right Bank has a somewhat more intimate and rustic feel. Namely, the properties tend to be a lot smaller.
Stop 1: Cheval Blanc
Our first stop was in St. Emillion at Cheval Blanc to tour their new facility and taste the 2010 vintage. Cheval has about 50 hectares under vine of growing 60% Cab Franc and 40% Merlot. This high blend of Cab Franc is one of Cheval’s distinguishing factors. Their new building focuses on a clean, modern aesthetic. They use specially designed Italian concrete fermentation tanks, one for each vineyard plot, gravity flow and continued racking throughout the 18 month barrel aging process. Cheval has a green roof with three meters of earth covering the entire building. This leads to natural coolness and also an incredible view over the roofs of the old Chateau buildings.
Our tasting was of the 2010 Cheval, a blend of 48% Merlot and 52% Cab Franc. The wine had a deep ruby inky hue and a rich nose of licorice and Asian spices. The palate was rich and chocloately, silky smooth in the mouth. A very refined and elegant wine. The ripe fruit is present but not glaring.
Stop 2: Vieux Chateau Certain
Our next visit was at Vieux Chateau Certan in Pomerol where we toured with Guillaume, the young winemaker who is the third generation in his family to be making wine at the family estate. VCC is quite small with only 14 hectares under vine. Their oldest vines date back to 1932 with an average vine age of 50 years. “Vines are supposed to last a human lifetime, you plant them for the next generation,” Guillaime told us. VCC uses wooden tanks to ferment their wine. The current tanks were installed in 1973. Until 2006 they used 100% new oak during barrel aging. A change to 80% new oak was made after 2006 because, due to global warming, the wines are reaching higher levels of ripeness and tannin in the vineyard. The oak was scaled down to accommodate for this change. We tasted both the 2006 and 2010 vintage. They both showed precision and elegance. The 2006 (65% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Cab Franc) had a sweet nose of red fruits, particularly raspberry. The palate was rich with the same bright fruits and finished with spice and length. It was drinking very well. The 2010 (86% Merlot, 10% Cab Franc and 4% Cabernet Sauvignon) showed plum on the nose and very sweet supple fruit on the palate. Very powerful with big tannin and acid to match the pure core of fruit. You can really tell this wine is meant to last. Our host said he has found 2001, 20002 and 2006 to be drinking very nicely. I definitely agree on the 2006!
Stop 3: L’Eglise Clinet
After VCC it was time for the quick drive back to St. Emilion to see Denis Durantou at L’Eglise Clinet. We tasted 2012 and 1999 L’Eglise Clinet as well as his newer wines, Montlandrie (Cotes de Castillon) and Saintayme (St. Emillion). The first vintage for both of us these wines was 2009. Saintayme is 100% Merlot while Montlandrie has about 30% Cab Franc in the mix. I was particularly excited to try Montlandrie because the 2010 vintage has been such a pleasure to drink (especially at $30/bottle). The 2012 Montlandrie was a delight: very floral on the nose, violets and lilacs, rich fruits, namely blackberries, a touch of smoke and a very soft supple character in the mouth. I highly suggest the ’10 and ’12 for everyday drinking wines.
Stop 4: Larcis-Ducasse
Following L’Eglise Clinet we made the drive over to Larcis-Ducasse (still in St. Emilion) for a tour, tasting and lunch. They are growing about 70% Merlot and 30% Cab Franc which is more or less the same blend you will find in the finished wine. They use concrete fermentation tanks and age in a combination of new and old oak. They rack just twice before the wines are fined and bottled. I found myself very curious about the fining process. Lucky for me the winemaker David was willing to indulge my interrogation. At Larcis they add the egg white to the wine while it is in barrel before blending everything together. They do not crack the eggs themselves, they buy them. The amount used is about one handful/barrel. It is added into the barrel, stirred and then gradually the egg proteins bind to the impurities and all settle down to the bottle of the barrel. After much discussion and probing by yours truly “but what does the substance look like? How does it feel?” we were told “…like yogurt.” So there you have it! We tasted a great number of wines there including several other wines made by the same group: Pavie-Macquin, Beausejeur, Berliquet, Trimoulet and Puygueraud. I was impressed in general with the quality of these wines would suggest the Berliquet, Trimoulet and Puygueraud to those looking for good Bordeaux at reasonable prices. A standout of the tasting for me was the 2012 Pavie-Macquin: deep purple/dark blue color, expressive nose of blue berries, black currents, lots of flint, smoke and something a little salty like cured meats or olives. Very concentrated with big but ripe tannins. I think it will develop nicely or benefit from decently if consumed young. We had a wonderful lunch following our tasting. We discussed Lamprey are great length and were even given some to take home, cooked in Larcis-Ducasse no less!
Stop 5: Haut-Bailly
We left St. Emillion for Graves to make out next appointment at Haut-Bailly in Pessac Leognan. Here the Cabernet percentage is higher, 64% Cab, 30% Merlot and a bit of Petit Verdot and Malbec. A total of 30 hectares under vine. They do not use any herbicides for pest control, instead they use a process called “sexual confusion”. They ploy using tractors, ferment in stainless steel tanks installed in the 50s and age in new and old oak.
We tasted three different vintages of the La Parde and Haut-Bailly: 2008, 2010 and 2012. The 2010 Haut-Bailly was the standout wine there.
Stop 6: Pape-Clement
Our final stop for the day was Pape-Clement where we met Lionel for a tour of the beautiful estate. The estate has a rich history going back to the 1252 when the first vines were planted there. In 1986 the property was purchased by Bernard Magrez who owns close to 40 wineries around the world including Spain, Portugal, California, South American and France. We toured the chapel in the basement of the Chateau that including a statue of the Pope Clement. The basement of the building also houses a sizable library of Pape-Clement.
Following the tour we tasted several wines in their tasting room including 2007 Pape-Clement Blanc that was super interesting. 2010 Pape Clement did not disappoint either!
We had a suburb dinner there with Dan Snook, Lionel and Phillipe Magrez and enjoyed many wines from the estate. I found myself particularly impressed by both the 2007 Pape-Clement Blanc and the 2010 Pape-Clement. The 2010 Pape Clement is one of the most affordable Parker 100s and would be a great addition to any cellar either for investment or future drinking. Buy as much as you can!
Our second day in Bordeaux was just as educational and fun as the first day! After a restful night at Pape-Clement we were off to Beaune for two days of tasting in Burgundy.