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Something of the Scottish baronial style about Lascombes; little Scottish about the weather, however: blue skies over Margaux
We have just now crawled back into the hotel at the exceedingly welcome end of a predictably tiring day. Our mettle has been tested; our stamina fully explored. We are weary adventurers, yet we feel as though we have come out on top, just about, and have a much better picture of this vintage in the Medoc.
There was a low, thin stratum of mist covering the Medoc's vineyards this morning as we motored north for a 09h00 appointment at Chateau Calon Segur. I wished more than anything to stop and snap off a couple of photographs with the estuary - sun above - in the background and vines from the foreground back smothered with a ghostly covering of vapour, soon to melt in the rising temperature.
Calon is a study in cassis purity; utterly lovely. We also got to taste Chateau Capbern Gasqueton, which is under the same ownership as Calon. It is also quite stunning, although without the impeccable DNA of Calon's noble terroir.
After Calon it was a case of bracing oneself for the UGC onslaught. We motored south to St Julien and Chateau Branaire Ducru where the Pauillacs, St Juliens and St Estephes are being shown this year. It was, in short, a bunfight.
There are more people than ever in Bordeaux to taste this new vintage and most of them seemed to be in the tasting room at Branaire this morning c. 10am. The inconveneince of having to face densely packed humanity paled into insignificance against the quality of the wines we were sampling. I cannot emphasize enough how beautiful are a high proportion of the wines of the northern Medoc. Stand-outs are almost too many of name, but the Pichons, like mismatched twins, the one very much male (Baron), the other super-elegant and very much female (Comtesse). Lynch, Beychevelle, Gruaud, Langoa- and Leoville-Barton, Poyferre, Talbot...too much! Black tongues, grey teeth, we moved on.
We were to lunch at Sociando-Malet. I'd never visited before. Directions were drive to Pauillac and head north and stick to the estuary whenever there was any choice in the matter. Bingo! Soc-Mal hoved into view. We pulled up plates of daube of beef and glasses of '03 Soc-Mal and took our business out onto the terrace overlooking the vineyard and, ultimately, the estuary. What an amenable place to break bread!
We tasted the wines after lunch and were fascinated to compare the '09s with the '10s: our first opportunity. Both are stunning here, by the way. Which is better? Who cares?! Both are quite fabulous, represent, perhaps, wines for differing moods. Don't stop! More to do!
We hared down to Latour. This stuff is magisterial. The Grand Vin not a blockbuster so much as a Henry Moore sculpture, hewn of grape, dramatic, chiselled, achingly pure and of the utmost class: awesome, in the true sense of the word.
We subsequently tasted all the Margaux wines at the UGC tasting (some duds, some utterly mindbending; Rauzan-Segla quite extraordinary and probably the best I have ever tasted from here; one of the wines of the trip to date).
Next the Sauternes. Some a bit too pretty-pretty, a few really intense. Best for me: two Doisys - Daene and Vedrines - Coutet, Suduiraut, Nairac.
Latterly a smattering of Medocs and Haut Medocs. At one point (and to make a point) I lowered my Riedel glass to the table slightly more firmly than usual and the stem snapped, driving the shattered edge off glass into my thumb, which proceeded to flow redder, but in no less concentrated a fashion, than the 2010 clarets. I thought enough was enough and retired hurt.
Just enough time to stop for a quick glass of very lovely de Souza champagne at La Winery on the way home. This extraordinary light and airy warehouse contains a fabulous wine shop, library, bar etc. i.e. pretty much all one needs in wine-related study and pleasure.
And now, an end to this post. We must away to supper and reinvigorate ourselves for the days to come. I am on my own from now on as my current Tasting Buddy heads back to Blighty tomorrow. I will need all the strength I can muster if I am to complete the week of tasting unscathed!