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First appointment was La Mission. I set off early. Although I have been there numerous times before, I always have concern that I am going to get lost in the suburbs of Bordeaux, take a wrong turn and find myself involved in that most French of celebrations: a car burning party.
My aim was true, however, and I arrived at La Mission half-an-hour early. I waited in the car with rivers of rain running down the windscreen.
At five to, I put myself in the capable hands of the pert young women, dressed to the nines, struggling with needlepoint stilettos on the gravel drive, there to guide tasters to the relevant tasting room in the bowels of the chateau. On the way up the stairs, I pass Prince Robert of Luxembourg, scion of the family that owns the property. He appears to recognise me, which gives me a welcome feeling. Either I've been attending these tastings for long enough for my face to stick, or he's good; really, really good.
The tastings at both Haut-Brion and its sister chateau across the road are elegant affairs. No scrum; all seated; attentive maitre d's. Bahans has gone. It is no more. The second wine of Haut-Brion is now known as Le Clarence de Haut-Brion, named for the American financier who bought the property early in the 20th Century.
The red wines are okay. There's a big step up from the second wines (La Chapelle in La Mission's case, the shiny Clarence for H-B) to the firsts (unlike at Latour), but there are no great wines until I hit the whites. And wow, these are show-stoppers. Both Laville - the white of La M - and the H-B Blanc are utterly sublime; the best I can remember.
And this was the story at my next destination, for I drove back to Larrivet-Haut-Brion to taste the white wines of the region. I can say with hand on heart that these are truly fabulous. Wrenchingly expressive minerals that, at this stage, make one feel like one is sucking on a cow-lick: one of those blocks of salt designed to up the mineral intake of cattle that stand around worrying them with their tongues in the pastures where they're "housed". Such intense fruit; such concentration. Why do so few wine collectors lay down white Bordeaux? In a vintage like '07, it would make great sense.
From the depths of the countryside around Léognan, I point the Peugeot north and end up at Château Desmirail in Margaux where the sweet wines are being shown. In a gesture of ultimate sacrifice, I taste them all and believe me, it's no small sacrifice tasting 25 unformed, occasionally still cloudy baby Barsacs and Sauternes. But they are brilliant: nervy, rich, smothered in botrytis.
So it's been an excellent day at the coalface. My taste buds have been thoroughly tickled and are now quite ready for bed.