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Bordeaux 2000 report
Peter Ballantyne
Ballantynes of Cowbridge

Vintage Report
Since 1993 every vintage in Bordeaux has been plagued with unusually high volumes of September rain. Years which looked promising in August have been reduced from great potential to either good or good plus, nothing really sensational. Within these years many outstanding wines have been made: one has only to remember 1996 Lafite, 1998 Haut Brion, 1996 Ducru Beaucaillou etc. but not a vintage which had the depth and breadth of 1982 and 1990.

Last summer as a very warm August in Bordeaux continued into September, we were riveted to our seats as reports of clear blue skies and high temperatures became the norm: could this be the vintage: was God really a Bordelais (or related to them)? Could the magic 2000 be the vintage of the century?

Picking started around 20th September in ideal conditions but rain did arrive on the 24th and picking stopped. The rain only lasted twenty-four hours and was not the downpours of previous years. Many estates delayed picking immediately after rain and some held off until October and were rewarded by an Indian Summer which produced wines of gorgeous ripeness. Some growers picked in September and their wine just missed the boat, but were still of good quality. One of the keys to this vintage is recognising this in the wines.

For a number of years, I have not felt the same surge of adrenalin as I arrived in Bordeaux and this has not been solely the lack of a great vintage. I have felt, rightly or wrongly, that Bordeaux was losing its way with the emphasis on overly extracted wines at the expense of the birthright of elegance and complexity. Far too many spivish characters making wines to suit influential journalists and dragging prices ever upwards in a feeding frenzy.

However, as I drove over the Pont d’Aquitaine I had this feeling of real enthusiasm and as I dropped down onto the Quai Bacalan and Quai Chartron, I could see the immense work that was being started to clean up the waterfront and I thought how appropriate, the city was going back to its roots, and I looked forward with enthusiasm to tasting the wines.

From the outset it was obvious that there was something special about the wines: they had good colours most had very ripe fruit, balance, concentration and length: indeed very little was missing. The wines are at their best in the Medoc, where I feel the vintage is clearly the best since 1982 and in some instances I fell that some monumental wines have been made. St Emilion had many stunning wines and has slightly overshadowed Pomerol and in the Graves there is great consistency and some brilliant wines at Haut Brion. All in all there is something for everyone, and at every price level - this is a vintage for drinkers and investors.

Peter R. Ballantyne

This has always been the commune of under-achievers, but this year some really fine wines and many good wines too numerous to purchase. I felt there was improvements in the like of Brane Cantenac, Siran, Dauzac, Prieuré Lichine and Lascombes, but the selection was the following.

Chateau du Tertre
There has been a huge cellar investment at Chateau du Tertre, which is now completed. This Chateau is another one in Margaux, which has for many years underperformed, but those with long memories will recall the excellent 1979 and the very good 1985 and will know the potential. The vineyard itself is very stoney and has steeper slopes than any in the commune. The wine has a lovely colour, nose is very fruity with hints of oak and the palate gushes with blackcurrants. More structure would have pushed this wine into another class, but there is no denying the lovely elegance of the wine and it is so typical of Margaux. 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot 30% Cabernet Franc - 50% new oak.

Chateau Palmer
After many years of under-achievement, Palmer has at last turned out a wine to rank with the marvellous wines produced in the period from 1953 - 1978. I choose those dates very carefully, as I believe that good as the 1983 and 1989 were, they were not as outstanding as say 1966 or 1970. The 2000 to my way of thinking is the best Palmer for a generation. Those with long memories will recall that Palmer used to occupy (with La Mission) a mid point in esteem and price, between the first growths and the emerging super seconds. It lost its place in the eighties as new plantings diluted the wines and some decidedly dodgy decisions were made in the cellar. However, from the mid-nineties a huge investment has been made in the cellar and the hiring of Philippe Delfaut, who understudied at Las Cases, was a very positive move. I noted Palmer 1998 when tasting that vintage and wrote at the time "Palmer is nearly there", well it has arrived! The wine has a beautiful ruby red colour which glows with highlights. The nose is tight at present but you can sense the hidden depths. Dense palate without over extraction, good structure showing spicy oak, lovely ripe blackcurrant fruit - very long and classic. 47% Merlot, 53% Cabernet Sauvignon - 42% new oak. Excepting Chateau Margaux, easily the best wine in the commune and one of the best Medocs. Welcome back Palmer, you have been sorely missed.

Chateau Monbrison
This was tasted twice, at the Union des Grand Crus tasting and at the Chateau and is consistent. Back in the eighties Jean-Luc Vonderheyden propelled Monbrison into the position of a leading cru bourgeois and after Chateau Margaux contender for the best wine in the commune. His unfortunate early death meant a fallow period in the nineties, but recently his brother Laurent has come to grips with the wine and the arrival of a new winemaker in 1998, who is very sympathetic with the vineyard, has returned the Chateau to its rightful place. Proper colour with real class on the nose - very ripe fine - lovely blackcurrants on the palate - really mature tannins, oh so silky mouthfeel with lovely plumpness. Interestingly only 40% of the wine was selected for the Grand Vin which shows the committment to quality.


Chateau Cambon La Pelouse
This Chateau which is situated in Macau on fairly high ground between Cantemerle and Giscours, was once highly regarded and Cocks & Ferret of 1949 stated that the wines fetched prices above the 4th and 5th growths. Since then the Chateau largely fell into disrepair, but since 1996 Jean-Pierre Mairie took over the property and iaded by Eric Diaz (former cellar master st Chasse Spleen) has set about restoring its fortunes. The 2000 is more in the style of Giscours, full bodied rich and vigorous and the weight on the palate is exceptional for a wine of its class. This is most certainly a wine on the way up and could again challenge at the lower end of the classified growths. Very good value. 50% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc.

Some nice wines in Moulis, with two lovely examples from Poujeaux and Chasse Spleen.

Chateau Poujeaux
Lovely, bright ruby colour, less extracted than the 1998 or 1999. Really fine nose which comes through on the palate: not chunky but refined and elegant. Finishes very well with the sweetness of ripe grapes. A very good Poujeaux. 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot, 4% Cabernet Franc. 65% of the blend went into the Grand Vin.

Chateau Chasse Spleen
I have never been a great fan of this Chateau, rightly or wrongly feeling that it lacked style, I think that I must have been wrong because the 2000 vintage is just my type of Claret. The Chateau has changed hands in the last year within the family, and now is run by Celine Villars and her husband Jean-Pierre who seem to have the right attitude and committment to produce proper wine. They certainly have taken a major step by not presenting their wine to Robert Parker: in the current climate this takes a measure of courage! The 2000 has a huge colour, not extracted and the nose reveals depth and a touch of cloves. The palate shows very ripe fruit, properly framed with oak and the structure will bring the wine to maturity after ten years. I thought the wine oozed class in a masculine style. This old dog has learned a new trick, and by the way I loved the 1999 tasted at the same time!

A very successful vintage in St Julien, the problem was not what to include but what to exclude. Lagrange for me was a little hollow and St Pierre lacked definition, and one of my favourite Medocs Ducru Beaucaillou could have been better - more of this later. Gruaud Larose was truly outstanding as was Leoville Barton, but the star for me was Leoville Las Cases (surprise, surprise) in fact, for me, with Lafite, the wine of the Medoc.

Chateau Teynac
This Chateau, which I discovered in the back streets of the village of Beychevelle, has been steadily built up in the nineties by owner Philippe Pairault; it was just what I had been looking for a really good St Julien at a moderate price. Bright, lively, dark ruby colour - lovely spice and blackberry nose - full palate, not huge tannins, and a nice rich finish - will drink inside five years, but will keep. At £87per case en primeur this is a bargain, discover again just how good and relatively inexpensive Bordeaux can be.

Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou
I am at a loss to understand Ducru this year, this is one of my favourite Chateaux, which I tasted at the estate, and was a little underwhelmed. Normally I do not seek opinions, but in this case I listened to other experienced tasters who found the wine much better than I did, and so I am including it in my offer with reservation. So what did I find? I found this year that Ducru was much more like a Pauillac than a classic St Julien and seemed to lack the complete ripeness that other wines had in abundance. Now, I am quite willing to accept that I tasted this on a bad day, but one other taster has exactly the same notes as I have - this is a very cautious recommendation, and only for followers of the Chateau.

Chateau Beychevelle
I am very partial to Beychevelle, I feel it has a unique flavour and could be picked blind in a line up of its peers. However, it has not quite clicked in the nineties and nothing in that period compares to 85, 86 and 89 which were just delicious. The 2000 on the other hand showed well at the Grands Crus Tasting with good ruby colour and classic Beychevelle on the palate. Tasted again at the Chateau, the colour looked gorgeous, classic nose and so gently St Julien on the palate. The fruit was very ripe and importantly well defined. Lovely. 49% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, 6% Petit Verdot.

Chateau Gruaud Larose
Once the old standby of the British Wine Trade Gruaud Larose and its former stablemate Talbot were typically solid St Julien. Not now, from 1999 I noticed a change in Gruaud Larose which has become more refined and elegant and for the first time last year, I purchased it as a primeur. First noticed at the Grands Crus Tasting - lovely colour very dark ruby - nose fine, showing really ripe fruit, which translates to the palate - spicy oak and good grip - this is a top notch effort. Same again at the Chateau, the fruit is so elegant and well defined - gorgeous. 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot.

Sarget de Gruaud Larose
The 2nd wine of Gruaud Larose will turn out to be a bit of a bargain as it is just a minor version of the Grand Vin. Very typical St Julien.

Chateau Leoville Barton
This I tasted several times, twice at the Grands Crus Tasting, at the Chateau and also with Negociants and the notes are totally consistent. Saturated colour, classic St Julien nose, enormous depth of fruit on entry, layers of fruit in mid-palate, just a little unyielding and shows high extraction on the finish. Undoubtedly a great wine from one of life’s gentlemen, but I do wish that he didn’t extract quite so much. This is a minor reservation and one of the best (I would say joint 2nd best) in the commune.

Chateau Leoville Las Cases
In the last twenty years no Chateau has consistently produced great wine like Leoville Las Cases. They have all had their ups and downs, but I do not remember any vintage of Las Cases which was not the best within the constraints of the year, and as for 2000, well it just blew me away. Here goes with another leading statement, Leoville Las Cases 2000 is the greatest wine produced at the Chateau for forty years and I include the great 1982. The colour is just off the scale, you can tell overextracted colour by the hints of charcoal grey, but Las Cases is pure purple/black with a brightness which is so healthy and there is almost no rim on the wine. The nose is very closed and hard to coax, but one can sense the depth. The palate defies description, senational pure fruit and weight - yet retaining all its elegance and balance: the fruit definition is also good, it just ravishes the palate and the finish lasted until I was out the door, in the car, and past Cos d’Estournel. For me, I have never tasted a better Las Cases, Michel Delon must be smiling in heaven at the efforts of the new generation.

Clos du Marquis
Obviously tasted before Leoville, this proved to be a chip off the old block with a ravishing colour, majestic St Julien nose - huge on the palate with very mature tannins. This beats hands down many of the classified growths. One to buy if you cannot afford the Grand Vin.

Pauillac has suffered in recent years with the exception of Lafite and there have been no really outstanding wines, possibly excepting the revival in Pontet Canet. There is a different story to tell in 2000 , with some stunning wines. However, there is one great disappointment with Mouton Rothschild which quite frankly is fairly poor for a 1st growth. the wine was dilute and picked too early and 85% of the crop went into the Grand Vin. Quite frankly I cannot see what they are trying to achieve.

Chateau Lafite Rothschild
Since 1996 Lafite has consistently turned out the best wine in the Medoc, it rose to the occassion again and for me just pips Las Cases (or does it?). The colour is fabulous and dense, the nose totally closed not an inch of give - it has the same depth of fruit as the great 1996 but even riper and is just the epitome of Cabernet excellence - the wine really has a soul and their great terroir is being fully exploited by the talented Charles Chevalier. 93% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot, only 37% of the crop in the Grand Vin. Are you ashamed Mouton?

Chateau Latour
Much deeper colour than Mouton tasted just before, quite dense but not overextracted - good weight in the glass - nose is totally locked up - lovely ripe majestic fruit not a heavyweight and more feminine than the great Latours of the past. The wine has all the flavours of Latour, tobacco, spice, earthiness and dark chocolate. On the second taste the palate opens more and reveals the very ripe tannins. This mature elegant Latour is the best of recent years but not as great as 1990.

Les Forts de Latour
Lovely dark colour - oak on the nose - good tannins and fruit on the palate - delicious flavour and real elegance and persistence on the finish.

Chateau Pontet Canet
Pontet Canet improved out of sight from the mid nineties and we were very struck with and bought the impressive 1999. The 2000 is on a higher plateau and may well turn out to be one of the bargains of the vintage. With the 1999 vintage the Chateau instituted a double table de trie and the grapes were brought to it from the vineyard in small boxes. With better selection has come higher quality and the vineyard at an average of thirty five years is mature. The 2000 has been tasted on several occassions at the Grands Crus Tasting and at the Chateau and consistently shows a huge natural colour - lovely nose of truffles and black fruit - nose and palate show complexity and the wine finishes on notes of spice. This is an extremely serious wine at a less than serious price.

Chateau Pichon Baron
I have been critical of Baron since its majestic 1990 vintage feeling that the wines have been too extracted. I am pleased to say that the 2000 tasted at the Chateau was very impressive in a much more feminine and expressive style. Dark ruby colour very natural and not overextracted - intense fruity nose leads to an elegant very ripe palate of good complexity. It has a long finish and has clearly benefited from good vineyard management. Whilst not an 1989 or 1990, this has been the best vintage since then. 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc.

Chateau Pichon Lalande
At long last a great Pichon Lalande. We have had so many fallow years, it is good to see it back on course. The colour is bright ruby, not at all dark, the nose is stylish, elegant and the palate whilst not being huge has good intensity and definition and complexity: delightful is the word for me, and fine and really fine, crop up again and again in my notes. Possibly the most elegant Pichon for over a decade.

Chateau Lynch Bages
Tasted twice at Grands Crus Tating and at the Chateau this is a very serious Lynch Bages and for me back to the quality of 82, 85 and 89. I may be wrong but the wine is more traditional Pauillac than before, perhaps not so exotic but deriving great benefit from it. A very full colour with sparkle and glow - closed nose but real depth - palate is not as huge as one would expect from Lynch, but really intense and follows through with real length. A very serious Pauillac.

Plenty of good wine here, including Cos d’Estournel which I am not buying for reasons which will become clear.

Chateau Haut Marbuzet
Normally this is a big strapping wine but in 2000 the style was more feminine and I did like it. Ruby red colour - gentle non-extracted palate - beautiful balance with lovely ripe fruit and 100% new oak - even a touch of cassis on the fruit. A very pretty wine which will put on weight.

Chateau Montrose
Montrose has had a spotty time, exotic and rich in 1990, austerely nice in 1993, very classic in 1996 and downright poor in 1999: so what was I going to expect in 2000? Certainly not a candidate for wine of the Medoc and clearly one of the five best. Here is another famous Ballantyne stick your neck out statement: the 2000 Montrose is the finest wine made at the Chateau since the war and eclipses the more exotic 1990 which a certain gentlemen from Baltimore awarded 100 points. The wine is awesome. Very deep colour, again dense and bright showing natural colour no extraction. The nose at first was all locked up, but with real agitation revealed huge depths. The fruit on the palate was beautifully defined, crisp and had awesome struture and a 60 second finish. This is just a classic Claret reminiscent of the very lovely 1970 but in a much more modern style with more mature tannin and greater fruit definition. I really jumped up and down about this, a wine for heros (and heroines). Hats off to everybody at Montrose and expecially Monsieur & Madame Charmolue for the courage to spend on the new cellar which has already reaped the reward. 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot. 56% of the harvest in the Grand Vin.

Chateau Sociando Mallet
Having praised the 1996 to the heavens it is difficult to see how Sociando could do better, and I would hate to pronounce on which is ultimately the better, all I can say that the 2000 at this stage is all the 1996 was but even riper. The colour is the monster black you expect. I would say even deeper than the Montrose, closed nose but palate reveals layers of ripe fruit which for the present submerge the tannins. You can detect a range of flavours, from coffee through blackcurrants and cassis. This is a real sleeper which will need serious ageing. Stirring stuff. 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 42% Merlot, 3 Cabernet Franc. 100% New oak and honesty.

Chateau Tour Haut Caussan
We have been following Philippe Courrian’s estate since the 1985 vintage and can state with a good degree of authority that this is the finest vintage to date. This 50/50 Cab and Merlot blend is deeply coloured, full of ripe autumnal fruit has good acidity and structure and the fruit is quite delicious. Amazing value.

Chateau Potensac
This Chateau is the stable mate of Leoville Las Cases and made by the same team and is highly sought after, as it generally offers very good value. This year, like Las Cases itself, I do not think I have tasted a better Potensac, the colour was impenetrable but bright - very dense nose of black fruits - follows through on the palate with hints of eucalyptus. 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc.

Anyone remotely interested in Bordeaux cannot have missed the problematic & so called "Vins de Garages" which have emerged in recent years: I have been very sceptical about them and perhaps in my haste to condemn them I have not dug deep enough. This trip I gave St Emilion an in depth examination and have found some really exciting wines and also some wines which are not to my taste - the bad news first.

The leader of the garage movement is Jean-Luc Thunevin of Chateau de Valandraud. His philosophy of highly restricted yields, very late picking and enough oak to build the Mary Rose has been lavishly praised by Robert Parker. This has lead to other micro-estates emerging from under the stones and before long there is a list of Chateau never heard of before, all earning 90+ points from Bob. In 1998 Richard Ballantyne visited Thunevin and his verdict was "all the wines taste the same". I was determined to look for myself and visited Thunevin on my trip.

I have to say, that I tasted around twenty wines made by Thunevin, including De Valandraud, and it was the most depressing tasting of Bordeaux wines I have ever made, they all tasted the same. They should have been poured into one exceptionally large vat, stirred and bottled as "Thunevin 2000".

Someday, the end consumer is going to pull the corks on wines like these and I certainly do not want to be associated with them; my worst fears have been realised. The same depressing picture emerged at Chateau Pavie which was sold in 1997 by the Valettes to the supermarket tyro Gerard Perse, who already had Monbousquet. All the wines have the same approach, totally overextracted, late picked and overoaked. No doubt Pavie will get 97-98 Parker points, but I wouldn’t put it in my Coq au Vin, this is vandalism to compare with the sack of Rome, and what is most depressing this estate has just about the best terroir in St Emilion and some ancient vines. Angels weep and strong men turn their faces to the wall.

Having got that out of the way, there was much to enthuse about in St Emilion and if our selection seems a little long, then it is because I found so many wines which I liked and would put in my own cellar.

Chateau Berliquet
The good thing about Bordeaux this year was the proliferation of tastings which allowed a huge range of wines to come under the microscope - we might have missed this wine if it had not been presented in a range of its peers at a tasting at La Dominique. As I made my way along a line of some twenty wines noting the good, bad and indifferent, this one just stopped me in my tracks, it was so good. I hurriedly arranged a visit to the Chateau to find out more about the wine. Berliquet is owned by retired investment banker, the Vicomte de Luquesne and is situated on the escarpment of St Emilion surrounded by the premier crus of Beausejour, Magdelaine and Canon - the terroir is magnificent. The Vicomte had the good sense to bring in Patrick Valette, late of Pavie, in 1996 and the wine has taken off. One of the improvements is a double table de trie which sorts the grapes before and after the eggrapoir. I was fortunate to have a CD ROM of the vintage which was very instructive and can vouch for the quality of the fruit. The 2000 is a lovely feminine wine of real beauty (Catherine Deneuve) concentrated but not heavy and so thrilling to taste: my notes show heavenly as one of my adjectives. This is just so good, premier grand cru classé quality and a must buy this year. 80% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon.

Chateau La Dominique
This has been a favourite Chateau for a number of years and in 2000 has turned out a very serious wine. If Berliquet is to the feminine side then La Dominique is masculine and how. Very dark colour, the nose and the palate give sensations of very dark fruit and the volume of wine is huge a wine with real size. A majestic wine, very serious it seems to me a fusion of St Emilion and Pauillac.

Saint Domingue
This is a special vineyard selection made by La Dominique from a parcel of adjoining vines which could not be included in the Grand Vin under the appellation laws. This piece of ground of 2.7 hectares has been drained and restructured over the years and is now producing a wine which is so like La Dominique but even more concentrated and majestic. Made from 100% Merlot with an average age of 30 years this is a magnificent wine of real power and structure without any sense of overextraction, this is a pure terroir wine. 6,000 bottles only at natural yield of 25 hectos/hectare.

Chateau Le Tertre Rotebœuf
The enthusiastic and talkative Francois Mitjaville has elevated this property to the top echelons of St Emilion. Situated high on the ridge, that runs east from the town, the terroir is magnificent and only needed sympathetic handling to produce great wine and since the mid-eighties there has been a string of gorgeous wines. The 2000 is perhaps the best yet, even better than the magnificent 1998, but due to the hail only tiny quantities have been made. (20 hectos/hectare). The nose explodes with black exotic fruit with more than a hint of torrefaction - very full palate, even fuller than the 1998 with lovely ripeness and a whole range of flavours cascade over the palate. 14.2% natural alcohol which you could easily miss. A St Emilion for lovers of Grand Cru Burgundy. 85% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc

Chateau Faugeres
Until 1987, this Chateau which had belonged for over a century to the Guisez family, had sold its wine off in bulk, but from that year Peby Guisez and his wife Corinne inherited the estate and decided they were going to produce a top quality wine. There is no doubt that the terroir is here. I visited the estate and found superb vineyards ideally situated on the fine slope that continues past Tertre Rotebœuf and down to the Côtes de Castillon. The Guisezs have just put in an enormous investment in the cellars with new stainless steel vats made in a conical style which allows slow extraction of the tannins, the anthocyans and the other constituents in the grape skin so as to enhance elegance and finesse. Great progress has been made since 1987 and gradually the world press took notice of the wine and as they realised their efforts, Peby Guisez died of a sudden heart attack in 1997. If anything Corinne is now more committed and you would have to visit the estate to understand how determined she is to make the most of each parcel of land. With the 1999 vintage she isolated a terroir which had always yielded the best results and named a separate cuvee after her late hjusband. Peby Faugeres is the top wine of the estate. Before describing the wines I have to admit that Michel Rolland consults here but does not make the wine. The winemaking is handled by the talented Alain Dourthe, who is an agronomist as well as an oenologist. The 1999s and 1998s tasted here were extremely fine and I wish I had tasted them before.

Cap de Faugeres, Côtes de Castillon. Lovely colour, very structured and serious, the vines are just separated by a path from St Emilion, and will need three years in bottle to emerge. The yield is 38 hectos/hectare from 80% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon.

Chateau Faugeres. The same cepage as the Cap de Faugeres with 50% new oak being used - very silky fruit and lots of it. Tightly packed but in no way extracted - this wine balances power and elegance and finishes well.

Peby Faugeres. This terroir cuvee has a dark colour and the extract balances the use of 100% new oak. It is 100% Merlot, very concentrated, lots of spice on the palate and it has a very long finish. A very modern wine which expresses its terroir and gives enormous pleasure - very satisfying.

Chateau Rol Valentin
I nearly dismissed this wine as another De Valandraud, how wrong could I be! Rol Valentin is owned by former soccer star Eric Prissette who bought the property a few years ago and called in Stephane Derononcourt of Canon La Gaffeliere fame to help with the vinification. At the Chateau I tasted 1998, 1999 and 2000 and for me the latter was the best wine aided by the introduction of more Cabernet Sauvignon & Cabernet Franc: the colour is deep purple/black, the nose shows Cabernet and the palate is very firm with notes of sous bois. A very serious wine from a little known estate.

Chateau Teyssier
Jonathan Maltus arrived in France in the early nineties, having sold a successful engineering business in England, and decided on a second career in wine. Having worked two vintages in Cahors learning the basics, he purchased the run down Chateau Teyssier in the flatlands around St Emilion. A huge investment in the cellars and vineyards then followed, raising the quality of Chateau Teyssier significantly. If that were not enough, very shrewd purchasing of blocks of old vines in good terroir, has lead to the creation of two new wines Chateau Laforge and Le Dôme and these have caused significant interest since the wines were first released. Because they are not sold on the Bordeaux market place, their distribution has been slow, but the number of significant tasters, who really appreciate these wines has grown.

Chateau Teyssier. Very dark colour, big Merlot nose - palate is full of lush fruit, well balanced with good silky tannins, finishes well. The price means that this wine is an outstanding bargain.

Chateau Laforge. Laforge runs the spectrum of St Emilion with soils of three different types, sandstone, pure gravel and clay limestone. The cepage is 92% Merlot and 8% Cabernet Franc and the wine is aged in 100% new oak. The balance of this wine is extraordinary probably helped by the different soil types. Deliciously ripe fruity aromas of blackberry and tobacco, very pure and rich. The tannins are sweet and ripe and as good as the 1998 was here, I feel that the 2000 is the best yet. All the wines here were planted in 1957 after the frost of 1956 and can claim to be Vieilles Vignes. Sumptuous.

Le Dôme. A candidate for the most idiosyncratic wine in Bordeaux, Le Dôme is almost a rarity with its high cepage of old vines Cabernet Franc (72%) and Merlot (28%). The vineyard is situated close to Angelus and the wine is very intense with hints of violets, fraise des bois, damsons and blackberries. The palate is tight with silky tannins and good fresh acidity which will combine to give this wine a thirty year, and possibly longer, ageing potential. The length of the wine is unbelievable and is surely pushing the first growths of St Emilion. Beware quality goes hand in hand with price.

Chateau Beausejour Duffau-Lagarosse
This premier grand cru classé Chateau situated on the limestone plateau has perfect terroir and the age of vines to make top class wines. For many years it has been an exclusivity of one negociant and not available freely for the UK: from this year it is now free and I was able to taste there for the first time. The assemblage is normally not completed until much later in the year and I had to taste the components from several different barrels, but I had the choice of barrels which was very interesting. This is a terroir wine, made to be elegant, complex for ageing, this is not a Parker wine. Several of the barrels revealed scents of violets, which reminded me of La Conseillante at its best. The same theme runs through the palate, tightly constructed wines of real finesse, showing violets, sous bois and dark fruits. A very rough assemblage was done for my benefit and I noted all the points above and the extreme elegance of the wine. This is a wine for those who really understand Bordeaux.

Chateau Quinault L’Enclos
I first visited this vineyard which is in the suburb of Libourne in the eighties in the belief that they had a special terroir, my lead for that was Prof Enjalbert, who had made a study of the subsoil. The wine was truly forgettable and I gave up that line of enquiry. I quite missed the fact that new owners, the Raynauds, took over in the mid-nineties and spent heavily on the vineyards and cellars, and thus the enormous strides that have been made were missed until this year. A visit here verified that they indeed have this terroir and and are exploiting it correctly.

The 2000 has a very healthy colour, really full bodied wine that fills the palate with rich spicy fruit, I found good complexity and a very satisfying finish and the structure for long ageing. This is not an early drinker despite the richness of fruit. 70% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Malbec.

Chateau Roc des Cambes, Côtes de Bourg (Honorary St Emilion)
This is Francois Mitjaville’s property in the Côtes de Bourg, but do not consider it as you would other properties from this appellation; that would be the same as describing De Vogué’s Musigny as Bourgogne rouge. This Chateau produces very serious wine to match many classified growths. The 2000 yielded 28 hectos/hectare and is almost entirely a 50/50 Cab/Merlot blend very little Cab Franc. Very full colour, lots of Cabernet on the nose, full Cabernet palate, very stylish and with a long, long finish - my notes say knockout.

Although Pomerol and St Emilion border each other and you can drive from one side to the other in under twenty minutes, there seem to be differences this year, and whilst St Emilion is highly successful, apart from a few notable wines, I did not think Pomerol was as fine as 1998. However, our regulars turned out some very fine wines and a moribund estate, which we have been watching, forced itself into the limelight.

Chateau Rouget
Rouget is one of the old estates of Pomerol, capable of making great wine, but not having performed since the early sixties. The vineyard is very well sited being separated only by a small road from Clos L’Eglise and L’Eglise Clinet, the terroir is obviously there. In 1995 Jean-Pierre Labruyère, president of the Syndicat of Moulin a Vent, purchased the Chateau and set about refurbishing the vineyards and cellars. The first stage was to create a second wine which came about in 1996, and next Monsieur Labruyère hired a competent winemaker in Antoine Ribeiro. The improvements were noticeable almost immediately and the 1998 and 1999 were really good wines showing the latent potential. In 1999, Labruyère sold two hectares of low lying land at the far extent of the property, which borders Lalande de Pomerol, and was not best sited, and purchased two prime hectares next to Trotanoy. This parcel which could have been marketed as a special cuvee, it was so fine, has sensibly been included in the Grand Vin, the results show a huge increase in quality from 1999 and 1998 and firmly place Rouget amongst the stars of Pomerol. This is the time to buy before the speculators latch on and the price is pushed up. The 2000 is very deeply coloured, with a smokey nose which reveals a hint of burnt toffee (I have noticed this before in old Rougets). The palate is mouthfilling, huge volume of fruit combining chocolate and something animal. The structure is huge which will allow extensive ageing - finishes very long - this is a must buy - reminds me of great old La Fleur Petrus.

Vieux Chateau Certan
Since 1986 when Alexandre Thienpont took over the family estate this renowned Pomerol has improved its quality quite markedly - it has never been the darling of the American press probably because its style is not voluptuous and heavy with Merlot. However in 1998 the Merlot content was increased to 85% and the resultant wine was highly praised by Parker and we sold our allocation in less than a day - such is the power of the press. The 2000 has gone back to 70% Merlot with 20% Cabernet Franc and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and I think is better for it. It is a classic VCC, lovely dark colour, the fruit is restrained and elegant, but the mouthfeel is so silky and shows black fruits and dark chocolate. This is a very fine wine which for me is the best VCC since Alexandre took over; I did say to him that I even preferred it to the 1998 and he was in agreement. Style wins again, this is really classic Pomerol.

Chateau L’Eglise Clinet
This is real vin de garde from Denis Durantou this year, a wine which will need serious ageing, perhaps fifteen years and he will need to give it the maximum time possible in oak. The colour was the usual deep L’Eglise Clinet but the nose suggested more power and structure and this was reflected on the palate. This is a really good L’Eglise Clinet, a Chateau I have followed since 1982, but there possibly have been better wines in 1998 and 1995.

Clos l’Eglise
This Chateau which runs alongside L’Eglise Clinet and shares the same terroir has made enormous strides in recent years and I felt that the 2000 was very serious, indeed even better than L’Eglise Clinet. Fabulous dark colour, looks very serious, nose of restrained dark fruits. On the palate, suave, dense, full bodied but not extracted. Finesse and fantastic length. Sure to be expensive, but probably justified.

I thought that there were quite a few really decent wines in these appellations; whose rusticity is quite charming, but the best wines I felt came from Paul Barre who has two estates, the better being the Canon-Fronsac from marginally better terroir.

Chateau La Fleur Cailleau
We have known of Paul Barre’s wines for some time but this was the first occassion we have been able to visit the estate. La Fleur Cailleau is one of the few estates in Bordeaux which is totally biodynamic, practised and certified since 1990: the wines reflect this totally natural way of working and are concentrated stylish and need no extractive practices to reveal their fruit. The wine totally reflects the soil, it is very concentrated rich with a touch of rusticity which is typical of the appellation. I found the wine a throwback to another generation yet the winemaking techniques are quite modern.

Chateau La Fleur Cailleau Cuvee 43
Paul Barre did not want to reveal the significance of 43 as the name of this special cuvee, we can only speculate. The wine is very special, the colour was perhaps the deepest I noticed on the trip, the nose rich with Merlot and the palate dense with succulent fruit, yet, yet the terroir shines through. These very special Canon-Fronsacs are on the lists of many michelin 2 and 3 stars in France and are made in very small quantities. This is the first time to my knowledge that they have been offered en Primeur in the UK.


Chateau Poupille
We have been buying the wines of Philippe Carrille for over ten years but have never offered them ‘en primeur’ before, because Philippe does not like selling them this way, preferring to wait until the wines are in the bottle. Although I could not persuade them to offer his St Emilion Chateaux, he was prepared to offer his Côtes de Castillon Chateau Poupille, which was recently highlighted bu Revue du Vins de France as one of the best buys in Bordeaux. Philippe is very much a proponent of making the wine in the vineyard and the density and ripeness of fruit in his 2000 shows the care he lavishes on the soil. Made from 100% Merlot this full but elegant wine shows the potential of the Côtes de Castillon and at £43 per case it is an outright bargain.

At the Grands Crus Tasting of the Graves and Pessac-Leognan there was a fairly even standard of wine with good efforts from Domaine de Chevalier and Pape Clement. However, I felt that these wine were eclipsed by the Haut Brion stable which were tasted separately at the Chateau - my selections come entirely from the latter.

Bahans Haut Brion
This is the second wine of Haut Brion and can be a hot buy in vintages where the Grand Vin is supreme - this is one of these vintages. Good depth of colour, lovely dark fruit on the nose - elegant complex palate - a low key version of Haut Brion. Delicious 45% Merlot, 31% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Cabernet Franc.

Chateau La Tour Haut Brion
This is a real insiders wine one of the least known of the great wines of Bordeaux. At the risk of repeating myself this wine is a separate parcel of ground within the boundaries of Chateau La Mission Haut Brion and is capable of producing a wine which is different from its stable mate due to the higher percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon. Some stunning wines have been made here including the 1970, 1975 (probably better that the 2nd growths - excepting Las Cases), 1982 when it was as good as La Mission, 1989 and into the nineties. The 2000 in my opinion, beats all the good wines of the last decade, at least matches the 1989 and could approach the 1982. Buy this one all day long as it is not only a great wine, its small production ensures price movement. Darker colour than Bahans, nose is a bit locked but does reveal dark fruits with almost a Pauillac sous bois character but the "hot stones" Graves character comes through - marvellous depth of fruit and so in balance - finishes very long - monster quality. 42% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc, 53% Merlot.

Chateau La Mission Haut Brion
Fabulous colour - nose completely hidden for the moment real power on the palate backed with a huge structure and a very long finish. You have the feeling that this wine is waiting to burst forth and ultimately it could be one of the wines of the vintage. 58% Merlot, 32% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc.

Chateau Haut Brion
This I just loved and I place it with Lafite and Leoville Las Cases as my wines of the left bank - lovely dark colour, the nose is so elegant yet full of fruit, that it is worth the price of the bottle alone, tobacco, wood fires and hot stones. Very silky palate, backed with a structure for twenty plus years ageing - well balanced and finishes very long and complex and the tannins on the finish are so fine. Wine really doesn’t get better than this. 51% Merlot 43% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Cabernet Franc.

Peter Ballantyne
Ballantynes of Cowbridge
3 Westgate, Cowbridge, CF71 7AQ, UK
Tel: +44 1446 774840 Fax: 1446 775253

For details of Ballantynes offer of 2000 Bordeaux see:

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