Black kites were carving the air over the Medoc this morning as I drove north for my first appointment. And it seemed that the frogs by the stream at Chateau Kirwan had noticed them too, as they seemed nervous, leaping into the gin-clear water when my shadow fell on them, cutting chains of bubbles as they headed for the safety of the bottom and the weed that grows there.
Today was the first day of the Union des Grand Crus tastings and I intermixed these marathons with individual chateau visits. All has been conducted under clear skies and bright sunshine and the wines have been similarly clear-voiced and bright. These liquids are an easy taste; don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
And lots of thoughts have been churning around in my head, the main one relating to the question of style. My issue is thus:
A few years ago - a very few years ago - vintages classed as fine were generally relatively homogenous in style. 2010 was fabulous to taste young and one felt that, in a decade's time, one would have a reasonable shout of identifying the vintage characteristics if one were served one of the wines blind.
Now, that seems not to be the case any longer. Styles within individual communes vary really quite widely. Alcohol levels are markedly different; wines are radically varying in colour; levels of tannins come from polar opposite ends of the spectrum. And I've been trying to imagine the reasons for this.
At one senior chateau yesterday the wine maker told me quite succinctly that they tried to make a wine that defines that chateau, rather than the vintage and I wondered whether this might explain the stylistic differences in the wines. Whatever it is, it is clear that the modern vigneron still has a great many questions to think about when growing the fruit and making the wine from that fruit.
In any event, lots of very nice wines today, including Chateaux Latour and Margaux, this latter as especial highlight. It's the mutt's.
Lynch Bages lovers take note: the 2016 vintage of the wine you love is a properly serious bit of kit, almost Latour-like in its stuffing and purity. And it has higher IPT (that polyphenol/tannin thing again) levels than even Latour. At 95 it really is brimming with matter.
Look, 2016 has produced a great many superb Bordeaux wines. But I wonder whether superb Bordeaux wines are becoming rather like pretty girls. When one sees a pretty girl walking down the street she might catch your eye and then sail past with her nose in the air, but you know for a fact that there's no shortage of pretty girls and another will be along any minute.