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Wines with Tannin; Dogs with Bones; Cats with Stripes






Chateau Ausone this misty morning. Note the vineyard roof





Bucking the trend, this morning dawned very foggy. The rocade - the ring road around Bordeaux - was slow, but cleared once I was across the Pont d'Aquitaine and I landed in St Emilion with time to spare.

It's always going to be a good morning when Chateau Ausone is one's first apppointment and I wasn't disappointed. All the wines here (there are six altogether in the line-up) are very good, the top three - Moulin-St-Georges, Chapelle d'Ausone and Ausone itself - are fabulous. Ausone is one of the wines of the vintage, without doubt.

Thus started a long day of tasting. In St Emilion one finds some of the most intensely coloured wines of the region and this colouring is quick to transfer itself onto one's teeth and tongue. The teeth retain it as the sort of grey colour attained by one's whites when a rogue sock has made its way into the wash. One's tongue becomes bright black/purple.

A couple of chateaux have pulled away from the Union des Grands Crus, meaing that one has to make separate visits to taste them, which is rather boring. Canon and Angelus have both done this. Angelus tries to make up for it by showing a range of wines from properties for which its owner, M de Bouard, consults. At Canon there was just the 2008 and 2007 to taste. The '08 from Canon is simply brilliant. I have a great soft spot for this wine anyway and its style seems to have been perfectly complemented by that of the vintage.

From Figeac, where the UGC St Emilion tasting was held, I drove down to Canon-La-Gaffeliere, there to taste Clos Marsalette, Aiguilhe, Clos de l'Oratoire, Canon La Gaff itself and La Mondotte, as well as various wines with the word Faugeres in their titles and something called Chateau Soleil.

Then I went to Pavie. On the way there I sang a couple of verses of God Save the Queen, replacing the word Queen with Tongue. I was concerned for its wellbeing.

All the wines tasted at Pavie were so tannic that I honestly thought my tongue would need a shave this evening. Does one need foam to shave a tongue? Fortunately, I haven't yet gone so far as to find out, but it's been a close run thing.

I say tannic and tannic they no doubt were; they had tannin in the same way that the blue ringed octopus has poison, that is unquestionably and a lot. And yet...and yet. These wines, for all their austerity, appear balanced. I think they'll come 'round one day. But until then, I would dig a hole in the garden and, like a squirrel with a nut, or a dog with a bone, throw in one's treasure, cover it over and forget all about it, including its location. I presume that a metal detector could pick up the capsules in 300 years time, which is about when these wines will be ready to drink.

From Pavie, I headed to Chateau La Gaffeliere at which property the La Grape tasting is now held annually at this time. This is a showcase for the wines of Stefan Derononcourt and boy, are there a lot of them. I stayed focussed and tasted perhaps 12 wines only.

And then I took a punt. I had been meaning to visit Chateau Teyssier all day and was starting to think that I had better give it a miss. They had requested that I specify a time and I had abjectly failed to do so, what with all the other stuff going on (see above). However, I found myself tasting with a friend of Jonathan Malthus (owner of Teyssier and much else besides) who said, "Stuff it. Get down there," or words to that effect, so I stuffed it and did.

Jonathan's been steadily buying up some prime vineyards in and around St Emilion for some time and now boasts a fabulous range of wines, including some excellent and fine value drinkers right up to some stunning - and rather stunningly priced - collectables.

We tasted; we talked. Jonathan grew up in Africa, where his father was working for Standard Chartered Bank. He subsequently started his own engineering firm in the oil industry and has now given it up to sink his fortune into Bordeaux. His wines have won accolades from many, many quarters and, to Jonathan's credit, he avoids the main en primeur market, prefering to deal with his clients directly. What a breath of fresh air! These wines will appear on Bowes Wine offers going forward.

On my way back from dinner I heard a pitter patter and a beautiful striped tabby fell into step with me. I thought she might accompany me all the way back to my hotel, that I might end up taking her to Bergerac airport with me tomorrow. As it was, I was quite glad that she fell behind and eventually lost interest. I never know whether one should check a cat or whether it's possible to carry it on.

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