For the English ‘Bordeaux’ means just one thing – claret, the English word for red wine from the part of SW France that ‘we’ used to rule (back in the twelfth century was it?). Some how we feel proprietorial about it, with a little justification as it was the export trade to England that originally created this the largest fine wine market. Our tasting started with Berry’s Good Ordinary Claret, an excellent everyday wine with a nice berry and damson nose and then leaped into entirely different quality level with ten year old wines and so-called super-seconds.
Even corks can be classé. Bordeaux feels like an invitation list to a stuffy late nineteenth century ball. Tonight, ladies and gentlemen we present:
Pavie Macquin 1999, St Emilion grand cru classé
Domaine de Chevalier 1999, Pessac-Léognan grand cru classé – because we are from the Graves, we don’t mess with fine distinctions, you are either ‘grand cru’ or your not (and of course we are!)
Les Tourelles de Longueville 2005, Pauillac, can’t manage an actual title but can claim to be a second wine of the second growth Pichon-Baron, so allowed into the ball
Dufort-Vivens, 2000, Margaux 2éme cru classé
and finally a ‘super second’
Cos d’Estournel 1999, St Estephe 2éme cru classé
Having acknowledged the order of things, what stood out in the tasting? The three vintages were very different. The brilliant 2005 is still young and full of lively fruit. There was a big difference between the wines of a similar age with the 2000 still youthful while 1999s were obviously mature . 1999 was a very difficult year and only the best made good wines, while 2000 was a much better year all round.
But the differences between the 1999s was equally marked. Pavie Macquin in St Emilion, mainly Merlot grown on the right bank’s limestone and clay, was garnet in colour with an excellent dried fruit nose and a strong wiff of old vegetables. Not one for keeping much longer, even threatening to grow old disgracefully! Even browner in colour was the Domaine de Chevalier. However this 10 year old from the Graves on gravelly soils and with a more equal split of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot did smell of earth and root vegetables but with some subtle blackcurrant notes. Still refreshingly sharp and with good grip in the mouth, it has more year ahead of it.
Ok, so it’s a very large picture of the Cos label but then it’s a very grand wine. Here class really does show. This 1999 is bigger in the glass too – the nose was vibrant with black fruits, pencil shavings and something in the sulphur/graphite range. Powerful and concentrated on the palate it tastes both complex and for its 10 years remarkably young. A suitable climax to a grand tasting.
It wasn’t all serious stuff – the cheese moment!