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Whistling Whites and a Shotgunned Lunch


The tasting room at my first stop this morning: La Mission Haut Brion

Today's diary didn't really work on paper so I decided to tweak it as per last year. My appointment at Chateau La  Mission Haut Brion was scheduled for 11am and it's always a long visit (of which more in a sec). Abiding by that itinerary I would have struggled, as I had to get to Chateau Malartic Lagraviere to taste all the reds and whites there before heading back to the Medoc to evaluate the Medocs, Haut Medocs, Listracs, Moulis and the like at Chateau Citran, then hit La Lagune for a Sauternes sample-a-thon.

I pitched up at La Mission at about 09h20 and donning my best hang-dog expression approached the niftily-clad young lady at the door. I was on my own...might it be possible? It would be a great help.

I was waved through into the room you see above. But here's the thing. I confess that I always struggle to assess these wines in their youth. One now has to taste nine wines (La Mission and Haut Brion, their second wines and their white wines, as well as Haut Brion's second white wine, plus a relatively recent addition to the portfolio: the St Emilion Quintus and its second wine Dragon de Quintus (the product of two properties: what used to be called Tertre Daugay and l'Arosee)) and for whatever reason I sit there sniffing and gargling and spitting and wondering whether my taste buds and olfactory senses are even turned on. This is odd, because when I go back to my tasting book it all seems to make sense somehow. 

In any event, they were superb wines with me favouring Haut Brion in red and white over La Mission. Who knows how I will feel in a decade when the wines will be just about ready for drinking. (N.B. A quick word about alcohol. Clearly Merlot grown on gravel can get a bit, well, heavy. In a vintage of moderate abvs, these Domaines Clarence Dillon wines are something like 14.5%. Caveat imbibor.)

It's about 25 minutes from La Mission in downtown Pessac to Malartic Lagraviere outside Leognan and I was smartly out of the car and into the reds wines on arrival. I do them first these days as I find them harder work. After the reds the whites come as something of a relief and I can whistle through them.

There are delicious wines here in red and white. In red, Carmes Haut Brion, Domaine de Chevalier were notable, but there were many others. In white, Domaine de Chevalier, Carbonnieux, de France and Chantegrive cover the bases at all price levels.

I shotgunned lunch and rather too much of it: charcuterie, crudites, chicken salad and potato salad starters, asparagus risotto, touch of cheese, along with half a glass of 2006 Domaine de Chevalier, a wine that is elegant, resolved and very pretty indeed.

I hared north heading for Chateau Citran up the back road behind the Medoc...and somehow I managed to miss it. I ended up down at La Lagune and thought I might as well tasted the Sauternes whilst there. Gosh, this is a Sauternes vintage. Lots of botrytis and really good acidity in most cases. Almost all the wines were delicious, some very fine indeed. Clos Haut Peyraguey, Guiraud, the Doisys, Rayne Vigneau and de Fargues were stand out in a field of stand outs.

And then back north to try once again to find the pesky Citran. And there it was, not exactly well sign posted tucked in behind Paveil de Luze.

I tasted almost everything here. And as is so often the case, many of these wines come across as dry and over-worked. Some were positively painful to taste. Anyway, Cantemerle's very good, as is La Lagune and one or two others. These could be excellent value if pricing is sensible.

Now I am back at the hotel with a gap before dinner. I might take my book out to a bar and have a glass of champagne in the sunshine. I feel as though I have deserved it somehow...
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