Chevalier, Latour-Martillac, Gazin, La Pointe
3 June 2021
An old-school favourite gets better than ever
21 May 2021
This morning sees the release of 2020 Batailley. We're used to liking Batailley - it's always been an Uncorked favourite. But the sample we saw last month was outstanding, and showcases the way the last few vintages have taken Batailley to a new level. Packed with cassis and bramble, cedar and cigar box, pencil shavings and cured meat, it is a big, serious, structured wine - and quintessential Pauillac. The Merlot was especially aromatic this vintage, so there is a slightly higher proportion than usual in the blend: 70% Cabernet Sauvignon/26% Merlot/2% Cabernet Franc/2% Petit Verdot. In the winery, fermentation was kept cool and pumpover managed very gently to achieve finer tannins. Estate director Phillipe Casteja has been making a lot of changes here over the last decade, and is manifestly delighted by the way they have been bearing fruit: new cellars, the introduction of a second wine, parcel by parcel vinification. Jane Anson is already looking forward to this one in 10 years' time, and so are we. /NT
Between Laroque and La Hard Place
20 May 2021
'Tasting the 2020s was a real joy - not least because so many producers are defying hot, dry years with delightfully fresh, expressive, 'new old' wines.' - Jancis Robinson, All Change in Bordeaux, jancisrobinson.com
'Change has been afoot. And you can now taste it in the wines.' Jancis Robinson has been admiring the great developments sweeping Bordeaux (and beyond) over the last decade. In an article in last Friday's FT and on jancisrobinson.com, she describes how the region's winemaking focus has moved out of the cellar and into the vineyard - and how beneficial this has proved. 'Wines are generally becoming much fresher and more expressive of the vineyard… These 'new old' wines delightfully combine the classicism of traditional Bordeaux with modern winemaking and vine-growing sophistication.'
We have seen several releases this week that capture just what she is talking about. From the left bank, it's a hats-off to the Bartons for their hugely impressive 2020 Leoville Barton, bursting with blue fruit, cedar and spice; classic St-Julien. And this morning we had Basile Tesseron's Lafon-Rochet - with yields down and developments at the estate exciting big interest, that flipped straight to sold out. We do still have stock of the excellent Larrivaux, which is owned by Basile's wife Berangere, and where the great Eric Boissenot consults.
Across the estuary, from one of the most cool and exposed spots in St-Emilion, Laroque enjoys a natural freshness and will amply reward some aging. Also from St-Emilion, de Ferrand is a property we've had our eye on for a while - Professor Colin Hay has flagged it as 'one to watch'. The Bich family originally made their fortune with the Bic biro, and acquired the estate for its sheer beauty; but generational change has brought a new awareness of its viticultural potential, and since 2009 Philippe Chandon-Moet has been guiding a sweeping programme of investment and improvements. Abutting Ausone, we have two Vauthier family properties: La Clotte stands at the gate of St-Emilion, while Moulin St-Georges lies just down slope of Ausone. Both benefit from the same wisdom behind Ausone itself. Finally, it has been a great year for Fronsac, and Les Trois Croix, de la Dauphine and Dalem all offer plentiful points for modest money. /NT
Angludet, and other early releases
12 May 2021
Angludet released this morning at the same price as last year. With a floral approach, a nice weight of silky, mid-palate fruit and a savoury finish, 2020 Angludet noses ahead of the 2019 for complexity and depth; the changes that winemaker and owner Ben Sichel has been making here are truly bearing fruit. The wines of the commune of Margaux are by reputation all about perfume and delicacy rather than the sheer power one can find up the road in (say) Pauillac; Angludet admirably captures that Margaux character.
The chateau has not been without its troubles. It was devastated by frost in 2017 (no 2017 Angludet was released at all) and was hit again last month, so 2021 Angludet will be thinner on the ground. The chateau is now prudently investing in some state-of-the-art vineyard heaters. Meanwhile, the adoption of biodynamic viticulture has given a whole new lease of life to the vineyards. In the cellar, amphorae are used alongside a mix of new and old barrels to raise the wine. Where barrels bring depth and development, the amphorae preserve the sheer vitality and freshness of the fruit. It is an attractive combination.
The campaign began last week with some cru bourgeois releases and their right-bank equivalents. Angludet is often the property that fires the real starting gun on the campaign. But it was pipped at the post yesterday by the surprise early release of Cheval Blanc, at a price attractive enough to last year's buyers for it to sell out immediately. Tomorrow is the Ascension Day holiday in France, so we expect a lull. Next week there's rumoured to be Labegorce/Marquis d'Alesme on Monday, the Barton stable on Tuesday, Laroque on Wednesday. But of course that could all change. /NT