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So, the wines. In no particular order, participants are: Smith-Haut-Lafitte, Gazin, Angélus, Branaire, Léoville-Poyferré, Canon, Rauzan-Ségla (these last two under the same ownership), Pontet-Canet, plus the vignobles Stefan von Niepperg i.e. Aiguilhe, Clos de l'Oratoire, Canon La Gaffelière and La Mondotte.
And to add extra motivation (if any were needed) for one to respond affirmatively when that yearly invitation hoves to in one's in-box, each château shows 2, 3 or 4 of the immediately preceding vintages.
As predicted, the tasting was of interest on several levels. Example: The 2011 Rauzan-Ségla in Bordeaux was having some kind of major strop. Like a hormone-fuelled teenager it was uncommunicative, surly and not remotely interested in letting on what it means to be a part of the new generation. In London last week, its charms were much more in evidence, its quality apparent.
Yet it was another vintage of Rauzan-Ségla that most left me pondering the meaning of life (well, of claret, at least). I thought the 2008 absolutely delightful: cool, complete, scented, balanced and possessing that classicallly claretty aroma of cedar. But I was speaking about this wine to someone later in the tasting and this person stated that he'd found it a bit green. This set me athinking.
Surrounded by all those 2009s and 2010s, with their massive concentration and elevated levels of ripeness, perhaps the '08s looked a tad "subtle". Certainly, they are less ripe than their immediate descendents. Yet the great wines we know and love generally come from climates that are considered marginal for the ripening of grapes and Bordeaux without doubt falles into that category. The cedary aroma of maturing Médoc is very much a product of the marginal nature of the local climate, but I wonder whether, faced with climate change and the drive for super-ripe, ultra-concentrated red bordeaux, we might be at risk of forgetting it; worse, considering it a fault.
I will enjoy drinking my stock of 2009 and 2010 claret in the years to come. But sometimes I do wonder whether I will pour myself an occasional glass of 2004 or 2008 and marvel at its subtlety, elegance and freshness.