A pleasant introduction to the qualities of any given vintage is the first day of the en primeur tasting week in Bordeaux. It's a day of reasonably relaxed visits to those chateaux that don't deign to show their wines at the big combined Union des Grands Crus tastings that take place on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. And it is an opportunity to sample what could well be some of the finest wines of the harvest. Today has conformed to these generalisations!
We started at Lafite at 09h00. We set off in good time and had to wait, hoping the weather would turn the way it was suggesting it might i.e. more of the blue bits of sky, less of the lumpy greyish bits. In this, too, we were lucky.
From Lafite, a short drive to Pontet-Canet and a tasting with Alfred Tesseron's young niece, who speaks English in a very Fulham accent (having lived there and in other locations in London for much of her life) and who was entirely charming.
P-C to Montrose. One starts to get the feeling that one is involved in a large organised dance for the entertainment of the Bordelais. One's paths cross the same people, one's conversations repeating with minimal tweaking: what do you feel about x wine; and what about y? ad infinitum.
Montrose to Mouton-Rothschild, the sun shining harder now, the rosemary bushes in Mouton's garden covered in their washed out blue blossoms, painted ladies and red admirals feasting on the early season nectar.
Mouton to Cos d'Estournel, the tasting finishing with an extremely welcome half glass of chilled (and extremely zippy) Hungarian dry Furmint. We invaded a boulangerie in Pauillac, buying quiche, tartines, chilled lager, a small pizza. We drove to the banks of the Gironde behind Beychevelle and took some time out between the woods and the water, the trees fulls of liquid birdsong, our spirits lighter than light.
Ducru-Beaucaillou, Leoville-Lascases, Margaux and Palmer have punctuated our afternoon. At Margaux Corinne Mentzelopoulous welcomed us and we talked at some length about her beloved beagles before we tasted the wines with her R&D guru, Marie.
We are steadily forming a picture of this vintage, in the Medoc at least. These are big wines; long-termers. They are crisp and juicy. They are highly and - in most of the wines we've tasted today - finely tannic. There's tension here and focus in the best. These are quite unlike the '09s, which were so easy to taste last year. These demand attention and concentration. The best will be quite extraordinary. More tomorrow!