Binny’s Wine Managers Steve Reiter and Chris Speir joined Wine Buyer Barbara Hermann on a trip to one of France’s most famous wine regions, Bordeaux. They tasted barrel samples of the 2013 vintage – now in the early stages of its en premier campaign – visited Chateaux and negociants. Steve reports from the road:
I expected the city of Bordeaux to be large (the 9th largest in France) but not quite the expanse that it is. We’re staying in a charming, modern sprawl radiating from the river with a modern, urban feel. However, the “Centre” or old part of Bordeaux, is just as large, and definitely has the rustic feel I expected. With stone buildings, colored shades of earthy white, grey, orange and green, it reminds me a lot of Venice. Old churches and architecture dot town squares where people pass time. We wander a few hours through the alley-like, brick-layered streets. I would hate to have to park here. No wonder there are so many bikes.
It surprises me just how tightly the chateaux are woven into the villages. Haut Brion is surrounded by population, with vineyards right next door! Here is one of the world’s most famous wineries – not nestled on a remote hillside, but at the heart of an urban center, past a bagel place and a mechanic’s shop. Even the vines are right in the middle of town. As we travel to each commune along the Left Bank, we find similar locales. In some areas, there are a couple vineyards next to each other, but then a village right away. I’ve been to wine regions in Napa and Italy where there is much greater separation between agriculture and dwelling. It’s mind boggling that these world famous wines are all right next to each other. Amazing!
Tomorrow we travel to the Right Bank, where I’m there is a more rural feel. We’ll see….
Tasting Bordeaux, Day 1
We’re off and running by 9 am to our first appointment at La Mission Haut Brion. We taste several reds, including La Mission Haut Brion, Chateau Quintas and Haut Brion. All the reds are muscular with lots of tannins showing and little fruit. The whites are nice, offering depth and concentration to the gooseberry, stone fruit and herbaceous flavors with juicy acidity. A stop at Chateau Margaux offers similar results. While Pavillon Rouge and Margaux both express some toasty oak notes, it is the Pavillon Blanc that steals the show.
Our third stop, Ducru Beaucaillou, and finally some promise for the reds. The Hortevie, Croix de Beaucaillou and Ducru Beaucaillou all express more fruit and less tannins, with good acidity. Next is Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande. Quite a mouthful to say, but the mouthfeel of both the Lalande and the Reserve de la Comtesse are again elegant, fresh and balanced with bright fruit flavors. So far, the more feminine reds are showing better.
For lunch at Pontet Canet, we taste an older Pontet while feasting on foie gras and a huge selection of cheeses. The wine is big, but with more classic Bordeaux cassis and other black fruit. Still needs time, of course.
Cos d’Estournel shows lighter tannins but an herbaceous quality, Chateau Montrose more tannins. All the Leoville Las Cases wines show bright acidity with decent fruit as the up and down trend in style continues. We hit three more at Grand Puy Lacoste. The Lacoste Borie, Haut Batailly and Grand Puy Lacoste all show balance and depth. Mouton Rothschild is good if not special. Lynches Bages the same, but once again the Blanc has loads of fruit and character.
Needless to say the 2013 vintage is going to be tough for Bordeaux with a lot of inconsistencies and irregularities.
Day two, the team heads to the Right Bank. Check back on the Binny’s Blog tomorrow for more…