Above, the Margaux tasting at Chateau Labegorce and what better thing to add to a room crowded with focussed wine tasters than a tripping hazard in the form of piles of super-sized kindling?
Day two in the Medoc started early, but I am happy to say that it commenced after a suitably lengthy period of sleep. Dinner last night was taken at the Relais de Margaux with some friends. Food was decent, wine was very good and included a bottle of rose champagne from Veuve Fourny, the white wines of which producer are entirely blancs de blancs. It was very good and toothsomely dry.
Two clarets then accompanied our main course: 2004 Malescot St Exupery and 2006 Segla. The first was a beautifully a point wine from a property I am happy to confess is one of my pet chateaux; the second was, if anything, in need of a year or two, but my liking of the Cabernets of the '06 vintage was further underlined at lunch today. I needed sustenance at Chateau Phelan Segur before tackling the scrum that is the Union des Grands Crus St Estephe/Pauillac/St Julien tasting, so dropped anchor in their marquee at an empty table that was soon overrun by chatty and amicable Czechs.
Beef Parmentier - a recipe of a Michelin starred chef - was washed down with the 2006 vintage from the host chateau and superb it was: the epitome of fresh, pure Cabernet fruit.
My tasting day started at Chateau d'Issan. Not an easy tasting this, at least for the grand vin, which did not yet seem comfortable in its own skin (hardly surprising this. Does a mewling, dribbling babe-in-arms give and insight into the adult it will become? These wines are hardly more developed than newborns), yet its elegant framework and filigree structure suggest to me that fine things are afoot.
Then it was decision time, and I plumped for the early despatch of the tricky stuff. The tasting of the wines of the Medoc, Haut-Medoc, Listrac and Moulis is usually something of a litmus for the vintage: if there are faults to be found they will show up here as if viewed via the eyepiece of an electron scanning microscope. And blow me down if they weren't a really decent bunch. Okay, there were two or three exceptions, but lots of fun to be had.
And then similarly at the Margaux tasting, usually a hotbed of over-extraction and -oaking: the entire shooting match was sullied by a mere pair of dull wines and a single duffer.
Believe me when I say I am feeling chipper at this stage and then add the fact that, whilst tasting skills may, to a certain extent, come and go like the tides that will intermittently bother the sandcastles of disappointed children at the beach, my faculties felt as though they could find the last molecule of nutmeg sprinkled on the surface of a rum punch and it all adds up to an informative morning.
Lunch at Phelan-Segur was, I admit, a mistake, as it so often is. It takes some time for the tastebuds to recover from the bombardment of beef, cheese, chocolate and coffee and so it was at the tasting that followed. Eight wines it took me to get back into my stride; eight wines that I had to go back and retaste before my departure for my next destination: Chateaux Sociando Mallet and Meyney, both mercifully nearby.
Thereafter, it was a long haul back to Macau where the wines of Sauternes were being shown at Chateau La Lagune. And here we have our first disappointment. The sweet wines of 2012 are slight, simple, slightly facile things. That's not to say that they won't give the drinker some sort of pleasure, but they're not fully tailored. Hard times for their owners.
All-in-all a good day. Lots of good wines have I tasted: wines showing a purity of fruit, nicely fresh and focussed, of excellent intent. Who will buy them is the question people are asking and I find that I have no answer. Yet contentment reigns. Tomorrow the red and white wines of Pessac-Leognan in the south. But first, food and bed!