Wed 25 Feb 2015

One foot in the Graves

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Little did I know how spoiled we would be when I jumped at the chance to attend a tasting of Graves wines in London just before Christmas tutored by The Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin.

Neal chose two fine vintages as the focus for this tasting: 2007 whites and 1998 reds, cleverly bringing in themes as varied as vintage variability across Bordeaux’s different communes (1998 was excellent in the Graves, not as good in reputation-determining Médoc) and wine styles (2007 much less good for reds than for dry & sweet whites), the cellaring potential of Bordeaux’s great dry whites, premature oxidation, consultants Dubourdieu vs. Rolland, and many more.

If you are a real enthusiast, attend a Neal Martin tasting some time if you can.

Graves tasting with Neal Martin

The Graves is an historic region though its properties were classified a century after the Médoc. Perhaps the unromantic name of the appellation, ‘Graves’, has not helped in English-speaking markets, and the more premium Pessac-Léognan, introduced later, is something of a tongue-twister.

Yet quality has come on in leaps and bounds even at more modest levels and it does include some of Bordeaux’s greatest estates, not least Château Haut-Brion whose still vigorous 1998 served as the climax of a fine tasting. Eric Perrin, joint owner of Château Carbonnieux and head of the appellation for the last three years commented on Haut-Brion ‘can we talk about perfection?’.

Other highlights for me were Château Bouscaut Blanc 2007 (a rich yet fresh classic), Domaine de Chevalier rouge 1998 (proving it is not just the superlative whites from this vineyard which rank among the very best of Bordeaux), and my personal favourite on the day Château Haut-Bailly 1998: a very lovely wine, complex & very fine, more cerebral than generous, yet beautifully textured and still with life ahead.

Jo Locke MW
Society Buyer

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