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Orange Mustard and a Pile of Poo

In the vineyards of Chateau Pichon Baron

Radio silence yesterday, I am aware. My excuse, however, is a goodie. Read on to judge for yourself...

Some days during these primeurs weeks are busier than others. For example, the Right Bank - to where I am to head tomorrow - is frantic. One has to attend the Union des Grands Crus tastings of St Emilion and Pomerol wines, as well as visiting assorted chateaux - Angelus; Canon; VCC; Cheval Blanc; Ausone, and others - and try one's hardest to cover events hosted by the region's prolific consultants e.g. Derononcourt and Thunevin. Most often it's a case of prioritising and coming to terms with the stuff that one simply cannot manage.

Yesterday was no quite that frantic, but it was Bordeaux Deranged Day of Tasting 2: the Medoc. Be afraid; be very afraid. In Margaux, no one can hear you scream...and other bastardised movie straplines.

So, it went something like this: Chateaux Margaux, Palmer and Issan is quick succession; quick dash to Chateau Marquis de Terme for a rat-a-tat sample fest of, oh, perhaps twenty wines; rapid transit to Chateau Lagrange (how very kind of the Bordelais to have separated the wines of St Julien from those of Pauillac and S Estephe; really most helpful) for a further dozen-or-so, before pointing the car north again for Lafon Rochet, that pretty chateau unprettified by the application of a coat of mustard-orange paint (not 100% certain if there's an orange mustard, but if there is it is surely the same hue as Lafon Rochet). I'm in a hurry now, as I have to get to Leoville Poyferre for 2pm and I would like to squeeze in some lunch.

Wines tasted; lunch squeezed. Hang on, I thought. What about Meyney... Sociando Mallet? I have forty minutes to go to my appointment in St Julien, but decide that it might make me late, but I have to shoe-horn in these two over-achieving properties. I am glad I did. Both were very good. And I made it to Poyferre but 15 minutes overdue.

From memory (I am back outside by hotel, beer at hand, and my tasting book is up in my room), there were six wines there and a further seven at Leoville Lascases over the road.

Two Pichons followed, Lalande, extraordinarily, 100% Cabernet Sauivgnon this vintage, and quite superb. Then, ah, Latour. The '13s were presented, followed by the new releases: Pauillac '08, Forts '06 and Latour 2004. Mon dieu, these are fine wines. And me, I have always been a sucker for the '04 Bordeaux vintage. This grand vin is a magical work: barely ready; cool; no fireworks, just lengthy delight.

Then, yes then, after a day like that, the reason for my failure to blog yesterday. I had been invited to dine at Ducru Beaucaillou. A cellar tour was followed by a tasting of the 2013 vintage and I was glad to revisit it. I had not left Ducru with the best impression of the grand vin the day before and I was pleased to have the chance to try it again. It is really very good.

Then it was up to the terrace for champagne, nibbles, lively conversations with new friends. Then dinner. It was an evening of delights that saw me return to my hotel late: too late to blog; too late for an easy awakening this morning.

But wake I did. My diary showed one chateau appointment today: an 11am at Haut Brion. Thast is a boring time, as it made it impractical to put in some hard graft at the UGC Pessac-Leognan event at Malartic Lagraviere beforehand. In the end, I arrived at HB at 09h45 and announced that I had come for my ten o'clock. I was alone and, as I had predicted, they found time for me. Really excellent wines here. La Mission is utterly extraordinary: one of the longest wines I have ever tasted. Haut Brion next to it was - as is so often the case - lusher, less direct, more user-friendly. The whites are - o0h la la - ravishing beauties.

The ravishing beauty was to continue at Malartic. But as ever, I forced myself to work through the reds first. A few gave that impression of having been extruded through a wine maker's mangle, being opaque and dry and unnatural. Yuk. Many others were wonderfully pure and fresh and - signature of the vintage's best wines - very, very long in the mouth.

And the whites. What is French for "By 'eck"? I am not sure I have ever tasted white Bordeaux wines so packed, so fresh, so characterful, so exciting. I felt humbled before them, Domaine de Chevalier lighting up the day like one of the flares the army sends up above Salisbury Plain near our house i.e. breathtakingly bright, even in the daytime.

Quick lunch. My work was not yet done.

I hit the Rocade and returned to the Medoc and Chateau Clarke in Moulis, where the wines of the Medoc and Haut Medoc were being shown.

It's been a couple of days of surprises, I must say. Day one saw me grappling, I suspect, with my expectations; expectations that had been instilled by rumour and prediction I'd been hearing and reading in the press. The tasting at Clarke brought everything into clearer focus. Yes, there are many worthwhile wines this vintage. And I say this in the expectation of selling barely a bottle. Yet, just like the '07s, there are many wines that will give great pleasure down the road. All they need id to be priced right.

I'd left the cream till last. Literally, the grape cream, as I moved finally on to Chateau La Lagune to taste the Sauternes. And wow. Just, simply, wow. I can't sell them; you don't want to buy them, and I confess, I too rarely drink them. But the Sauternes are achingly beautiful: airy, clean, sweet, floral, classy and sophisticated. Lovers of these wines, please take note. Your time is now.

And that's it. Two really pretty full days. And the message? Well, it's to buy these wines. Buy selectively, but only if they're cheap. If they're not, they will surely be available in coming years with more tempting tickets. And then you will be able to find out just how the Bordelais managed to pull, if not a ruby, then a top grade garnet from the climatic pile of poo that was the 2013 growing season.




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