A quick trip to Bordeaux
Just come back from a quick trip from Bordeaux with fellow wine journo Tim Atkin. We were visiting Dourthe, one of the larger negociants who own several properties spread across the region.
The focus of yesterday morning was Sauvignon Blanc. Tim and I tried 30 of the blend components for Dourthe No 1 Blanc, which is a varietal Sauvignon Blanc, with winemaker Thomas Drouineau, consultant Christophe Ollivier and CEO Patrick Jestin (below). It was interesting to see the differences between the various lots of wines, and we more-or-less agreed about the best wines. We also had a go at making some theoretical blends: it's interesting how just a small amount of one particular wine can change the whole blend.
This was followed by a benchmark blind tasting of Sauvignons on the UK market ranging from £6-£17, with most under £10. The shock was how badly Cloudy Bay 2008 fared: Oyster Bay 2008 was much, much better. Tim and I more or less agreed with our ratings, except with the two most methoxypyrazine-dominated wines, where his scores went right up, and mine went right down. I hate wines with excessive methoxypyrazine. My favourite wine was the Leyda Garuma Sauvignon Blanc from Chile.
We then visited La Garde in Pessac Leognan, where we had dinner. At dinner, where we were joined by winemaker Guillaume Pouthier and Matthieu Chadronnier, a lot of blind tasting was done. The most interesting bit was a pairing of two wines, one of which I thought was first-growth quality and complex in a Graves style, the other which I thought was a good wine but which was dominated by a roasted oak character to its detriment. The first turned out to be Dourthe Essence 2000; the second Ch Mouton Rothschild 2000. I'd rather drink the former by a mile.
Today we visited Ch Pey La Tour in Entre Deux Mers, and then Ch Belgrave (above), which borders St Julien and Ch Lagrange on one side, and Ch Latour Carnet on the other. It has a lovely terroir: white gravel, largely, with some clay (pictured below is an old Merlot vine on gravel). There we looked at the blending components for the 2008 Essence, which is made from the best bits of the various Dourthe properties.
Tim and I did our own blends, in competition with Guillaume and the other Dourthe head winemaker Frederic Bonnaffous (top picture). My chosen blend was 45% La Garde Cabernet, 23% Le Bosq Merlot and Petit Verdot, 8% Belgrave Merlot Soleil block, 8% Belgrave Cabernet Graves block, 8% Belgrave Cabernet Puits block, 8% Belgrave Cabernet Rendez Vous block. I think it was great. We then tried the blends blind, where mine came second behind Guillaume's. It was great fun.
We tried a lot of 2009 samples from all properties. It looks like a really serious vintage. Really serious.