Christmas Clarets: Lafite, Talbot and Gruaud


There’s something about Bordeaux. It’s fashionable to knock it (I even saw one of my colleagues boasting on social media about how he rarely drinks it), but there’s a reason Bordeaux is the world’s leading fine wine region. It’s because the top wines have history, age beautifully, are made in sufficient quantities that you can actually get hold of them, and because it’s a relatively easy region to get your head around.

This is chiefly because of the genius of the Bordeaux model: each Château’s main production is their grand vin. What is the significance of this? Well, you don’t need to navigate a range of 10-12 different bottlings each year. And because most of the Châteaux have decent sized vineyards, there’s enough of the wine to go round. It means you can buy a case and track its progress through its drinking window. And you can compare vintages side by side.

It’s an immensely satisfying way of enjoying fine wine. It means you get to be reacquainted with old friends from time to time, and there’s a depth that comes from this. I love novelty and meeting new people all the time, but there’s something to be said about hanging out with old mates.

These were yesterday’s Christmas Clarets.

Château Lafite Rothschild 1993 Pauillac, Bordeaux (magnum)
Brother-in-law William bought this magnum of Lafite for £50 in 1997, from a Justerini & Brooks bin-end sale. If only we’d all stocked up in those glory days when top wines were much more accessible than they are now. This isn’t a top vintage – in fact, it was a bit of a disaster with masses of rain during harvest – but this wine has aged very well and is now drinking at peak. It shows lovely maturity, with sweet, warm blackberry and blackcurrant fruit, as well as savoury notes of gravel, herbs, chalk and spice. Perfumed with some floral cherry fruit, this shows attractive autumnal, leafy complexity. Multidimensional and lovely, and this magnum is singing, in defiance of a rather written-off vintage. 95/100


Château Talbot 2003 Sant-Julien, Bordeaux
2003 was a difficult vintage for very different reasons from the excessively wet 1993, but this wine is drinking well now. It’s rather stern tannins may not resolve, so I’d drink now while the fruit can still stand up to them. Vivid blackberry, raspberry and spice here, with nice grip. Good density to the black fruits, finishing grippy. 92/100


Château Gruaud Larose 2000 Saint-Julien, Bordeaux
Another meeting with this old friend. Sweet, spicy, slightly earthy blackcurrant fruit, with nice density. Warm and spicy with good concentration and some savoury earthiness. Balanced and mature, this still has potential for development but it’s lovely now. 93/100

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