The tasting room at Haut-Brion; a sample being poured with the chateau visible through the doorway
We drove south this morning under pale blue skies that have remained locked over Bordeaux all day. It seems that flights paths bisect one another somewhere over Bordeaux's southern suburbs, for the blue above us was criss-crossed by vapour trails like the lattice-work pastry on my mother's treacle tart.
Then, a few minutes ago as I approached my hotel, I spotted a stork circling an electricity pylon, sizing it up as a nesting site, no doubt. So it has been a day for looking up. And my taste buds have been examining the heights of some very lofty wines indeed.
First visit was Haut Brion. We were early, so sat in a courtyard under the chateau's cliff-like walls. When allowed access, we were presented with exceptionally fine red wines, although I must say that the HB itself was very hard to taste. The whites were very delicious; quite forward and plush, but showing the most alluring fruit.
From the Pessac suburbs, I headed back to the rocade, the ring road that encircles the city of Bordeaux. Bordeaux's airport, Merignac, was not so far away, and that was our next stop as Tasting Buddy had to catch a flight home.
I drove back south on my own, took the Leognan turning off the rocade and headed for Malartic-Lagraviere where the wines of the region are being shown this year.
"Get the reds done first," I told myself, "then you can dissolve all that tannin with a plate of lunch and get the easy work of the whites done thereafter".
The reds were quite a different showing to those I'd been sampling in the Medoc the previous two days. They are much more like the '09s: creamier than the Medocs; more lush and rounder. Many are utterly delicious and full of mineral terroir.
Lunch was accompanied by a magnum of 1990 Malartic. On opening, the wine came across as a fully mature, soft claret. Second look and it was already oxidising. It wouldn't have been much later that the bottle was undrinkable.
The post-prandial flight of white wines was a pleasure. Ripe, bright fruit and varying degrees of mineral intensity, the best with great solid finishes to their exceptional length, along with enough acidity to keep the palate interested. Some are quite superb; some at the more modest end of the spectrum highly impressive.
I thought about going for another lunch, but instead contented myself with a plate of cheese in the garden and a cup of coffee. The sun was beating down, the uniform of the international wine merchant very much including sunglasses today.
I set off at a leisurely pace for Barsac. I was early for a meeting at Climens, but a 'phone call told me that they were quite prepared for my arrival. We tasted 8 or 9 casks that represented various passes by the pickers through the vineyard. Each sample of profoundly different from each other. Trying to extrapolate what the end result will be is not entirely straightforward, but the keyword for most of the samples was delicacy, airiness, elegance. this'll be a beaut.
And now back at the hotel after a hideous drive through the Bordeaux rush hour with the car telling me that the outside temperature was 31 degrees C. Whatever the truth, it is certainly very hot for the time of year. Can we be in for another vintage of the century?? Again?!??