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From Treacle Tart to Lemon Meringue



On the way to taste the wines of Jean-Luc Thunevin in a St Emilion side street. Note the Wistaria, which is adorning the facades of many a chateau at the moment




The vines have become a great deal more leafy in the last week. The summery conditions are blasting them into their full growth cycle and there is an almost tangible sense of burgeoning vitality about the vineyards. If there was absolute silence, I suspect one could hear vines shoots unfolding.

I set off this morning for a 09h45 appointment at Vieux Chateau Certan. I saw her - or perhaps him - again: the stork. She/he has now landed on the pylon and seems to be biding her/his time for some approaching event, possibly the ripening of an inchoate urge to get building its twiggy platform.

I was early, despite missing a turning and being trapped in see-saw morning rush hour traffic. Not wanting to arrive unexpected at VCC, I went instead to Chateau l'Evangile nearby, ignoring the signs that an appointment was essential and blagged my way into the tasting room. Only one wine here, the Grand Vin, that represents something like 80% of the harvest. It is absolutely gorgeous: ravishing black fruit of the sexiest sort.

As the day went on, I discovered that the extraordinary terroir of this hallowed corner of St Emilion/Pomerol has met with the most stunning success.

I was now dead on time for VCC and M Thienpont, in his quiet, rather shy way is evidently extremely pleased with the results of the 2010 harvest. HIs wine, often one of the most burgundian of Bordeaux, is a Rembrandt-like masterpiece, destined for the classical corner of collectors' cellars.

In steadily climbing temperatures I drove to the bottom of St Emilion town and then up the winding, impossibly narrow and twisting lane that rises sharply to the partially troglodytic chateau that surmounts the road that enters St Emilion from the east: Ausone. One tastes a string of wines here from properties owned by various Vauthier family members. None is less than superb in 2010. The Grand Vin and its second wine - Chapelle d'Ausone - are magnificent.

The streets of St Emilion were fully warmed to summer heat by the time I dropped back down the hill from my tasting.

Next, I was back up to the plateau and a visit to the UGC tasting at Chateau La Couspaude. The place was rammed with tasters: a heated mass of multi-lingual humanity all scribbling and spitting like mad. There were some profoundly successful wines here and at my next visit, Chateau La Pointe in Pomerol, where I tasted the UGC Pomerol wines. Some deep, pure, intense and mineral wines of vast length; some mean, charm- and fruitless liquids. I tasted my first ever Thai wine at the marathon tasting at Chateau Angelus and I preferred it to a number of the St Ems and Pomerols!

The Angelus tasting is always something of a marathon, so I decided that, this year, I would be very picky about what I sampled. Bellevue - a property adjoining Angelus across the road - is exeptional. Angelus itself is really quite seriously frightening. I might buy this for my great grandchildren if I can find a cage strong enough to hold it in the meantime.

On my way to Angelus, I had stopped by Canon to taste one of my favourite wines of this bank of Bordeaux and they were showing their 2010 alongside their 2009. They make for a fascinating comparison. I cannot for the life of me say that one is better than the other. Both are simply stunning.

Lots more tasting took place this afternoon. Temperatures were not far off 30 degrees C. Chateau owners are already talking about drought!

Last of all I arrived early at Cheval Blanc and, despite the hour, was welcomed and allowed to taste the wines: Tour du Pin, Le Petit Cheval and Cheval Blanc itself. These are really fine liquids. Tour du Pin is gorgeous, yet the two Cheval wines stole the show with their dry, expressive, finely turned fruit and extreme length and minerality.

I have, of course, to mention Yquem, which I tasted inside the chateau of Cheval Blanc. What a stunner! Initially I thought it much more like the '08 than '09 i.e. floral, airy and citrus. However, with more examination, I reckon it's more like a blend of '08 and '09. There is butterscotch and lemon meringue here, nutty botrytis married to that floral aspect. What a way to end a day!

The end is in sight. I wake tomorrow and drive to St Emilion where I am to taste the wines of Jonathan Maltus. And from there I head off to Bergerac and my flight home. I must say that I am profoundly looking forward to stepping through the door in Wiltshire and back into the bosom of family Bowes!
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