Dourthe part 3, Château La Garde, Pessac-Léognan, and dinner with Matthieu Chadronnier   
The Bordeaux negociant and property owner aiming to change the fortunes of affordable wines from Bordeaux

Here we met with Guillaume Poutier, who is winemaker responsible for the Dourthe properties in the south of the region: La Garde, Rahoul, Pey de la Tour and Ricaud. There are 59 hectares of vineyards at La Garde, with 51 currently in production. They have recently renovated the winery and put in tanks suitable for the size of the vineyard parcels.

Guillaume Poutier

La Garde has just two hectares of white vineyards, split equally between Saivignon Gris and Sauvignon Blanc. These are in the portions of the vineyard with clay and some chalky limestone.

The best bits of the vineyard have up to 40 cm gravel with clay subsoil, which is very important for reducing the water supply to the vine from flowering to harvest. ‘When the berry is growing hydric restriction is very important,’ says Poutier. However, they don't want hydric restriction for the whites. Through the vineyard there are more than 200 sampling points where pressure chambers are used to measure the hydration status of the vines through the growing season, every 15 days from July 1st until harvest. The spots with more clay have less hydric restriction, and in these they'll keep the grass higher and allow a higher canopy to compensate.

Cabernet Sauvignon is grown at 9000 vines per hectare (although there are two plots with 13 and 15 000 vines/hectare as trials). When Poutier arrived at La Garde in 1990 he immediately recognized the elegance of the wines made from the old vine Cabernet, but many of these 50 year old vines were essentially exhausted and weren't producing enough quantity. As a result, the upper part of the vineyard has been replanted.

From 2009 they have been trialling biodynamics on the remaining old vine plots, to see whether it produces better results than organics or lutte raisonnee. It wasn't the best vintage to do the trial because it was hot and there was low disease pressure: they'd be interested to see how biodynamie performed in a more typical year. Incidentally, La Garde was the first estate to do certified viticulture raisonnee in France.

‘For me, wine is as natural as possible. I don't like too much wood,’ says Poutier. He says he does malo in tank, not in barrel. ‘Doing malo in barrel is better for primeur, but not for the wine.’ 

We did some cask sampling of the 2009 components

Sauvignon Blanc 2009
From an old barrel. Very reduced, minerally and flinty. Quite complex with a grapefruit edge. PH 3.05, 13.3% alcohol

Sauvignon Gris 2009
pH 3.15, 13.6% alcohol. Mouthfilling and vibrant with lots of fruit and high acidity.

Press fraction of 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon
Bit reduced with nice fresh fruit and lovely focus. Mineralic. Apparently this is the worst batch of wine in the cellar, but it's nice enough!

Merlot 2009 – this will go into the second wine. Lovely intense, vibrant, pure wine with fresh gravelly fruit.

Merlot 2009 from gravel over clay. Dark, intense and vibrant with lovely focused fruit. Really alive.

Merlot 2009 from only clay. Lovely vibrant, tannic, intense fruit. Lively and assertive with nice purity.

Merlot 2009, another parcel. Soft, rich, generous and pure.

Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 Very dark, structured, dense and vibrant.

Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 Young vines, on top of hill. 14.6% alcohol, pH 3.6. Lovely density and depth with lovely balance.

Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 Biodynamic plot, 50 year old vines. Rich, ripe and intense with nice boldness and minerality.

Petit Verdot 2009 Organic. Very intense, ripe and bold. Amazing intensity. This will be 4-6% of the final blend. PH 3.4, 15.2% alcohol.

Dinner with Matthieu Chadronnier

We had dinner with Mattieu Chadronnier and Patrick Jestin. Matthieu is Jean-Marc's son and is in charge of the Grand Cru Classe negociant side of the business. Of the 400 Bordeaux negociants, Dourthe gets the second highest level of allocations. Like everyone else, Matthieu has to buy through the courtiers, who take a cool 2% off all transactions. Being a courtier must be a nice gig. There's no risk. 

Champagne Thienot Grande Cuvée 1999
Very rich, intense and quite complex with broad flavours of toast and vanilla, and some sweetness to the fruit. A big, rich, crowd-pleasing style. 93/100

Champagne Thienot Cuvée Grance Blanc de Rouges 2002
Very taut and fresh with crisp, intense, pure lemony fruit. Really fruity with some ripeness. Fruitier and riper than most Champagnes. 91/100

We discussed Château Palmer's experimental historical wine. In the past, Hermitage (northern Rhône Syrah) was used to fortify Bordeaux, adding a bit of beef. Thomas Duroux of Palmer is making a special wine to recreate these wines of the past. He's sourcing some Syrah from the northern Rhône and blending 10-15% of this with Palmer, creating some 4–6000 bottles of 19th century claret. It's priced the same as palmer, but has to be labelled Vin de Table. 2004, 2006 and 2007 have been made so far. None was made in 2008 or 2009. Apparently, the 2007 is exceptional.

Then we had six wines blind, some of which were Dourthe wines batting against much more expensive opposition. Notes and scores here are as written, without sight of the label.

Château Beausejour St Emilion Grand Cru Classe 2006 Bordeaux
Fresh, minerally nose with lovely dark cherry and robust raspberry fruit. Fresh and youthful with firm tannins and nice definition. Dense, taut and pure. 93/100

Château Pey la Tour 2006 Bordeaux Supérieur
Sweet nose with ripe fruit and a bit of herbiness. Slightly stewed. The palate is quite tannic with fresh bright fruit and attractive focused berry notes. A ripe, appealing style for drinking soon. 88/100

Château Soutard St Emilion Grand Cru Classe 2006 Bordeaux
Nice blackcurrant and red berry fruit with some chalky minerality. The palate is dense and tannic with a subtly bitter, tarry edge to the fruit. Finishes with firm tannins. Stylish. 90/100

Château La Garde 1990 (magnum) Bordeaux
Mature, herby and aromatic with hints of iodine and game. Lovely richness and minerality with spice and tar notes. Drinking beautifully now. 91/100

Dourthe Essence 2000 Bordeaux
Taut, intense mineralic nose with brooding dark fruits. Intense and serious. The palate is savoury, mineral, taut and intense with a lovely gravelly edge. Serious and powerful with amazing depth to it. Some meaty notes. 95/100

Château Mouton Rothschild Pauillac 2000 Bordeaux
Toasty, slightly roasted nose with a savoury, roasted character dominating. There’s serious fruit and minerality hiding under that roasted character, and it’s a tannic, intense wine. 92/100


1 Introduction
2 Sauvignon Blanc
3 Château La Garde, and dinner with Matthieu Chadronnier
4 Château Pey La Tour
5 Château Belgrave, and blending Essence
6 Château Le Boscq

See also:

The Bordeaux wines of Bernard Magrez (series)

Wines tasted 11/09
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