Sat 19 Sep 2015

Bordeaux 2015: The Right Bank

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Head of Buying, Tim Sykes, continues his whistle-stop tour of Bordeaux to assess the 2015 vintage. After the Médoc yesterday, he heads for the right bank.

A damp start to Thursday in central Bordeaux, and noticeably cooler than yesterday.

Chateau de Pitray

Grape test at Chateau de Pitray

First stop is Château de Pitray in the Côtes de Castillon (an hour’s drive east of Bordeaux, beyond Saint-Emilion), which is owned and run by the very able Jean de Boigne. Pulling up in front of the imposing château I notice that the temperature gauge on the car reads just 13?C. Such low temperatures would be worrying if the grapes were a long way from reaching full ripeness. However, Pitray’s grapes are almost ready to pick, and the cool weather wards off the possible onset of rot which can attack the grapes in damp conditions.

On the dining room table Jean has lined up three plates, each bearing a bunch of healthy looking grapes. He invites me to guess which variety is lying on each plate.

I didn’t exactly cover myself in glory, managing to identify the cabernet franc (the right-hand bunch), but getting the merlot (middle) and malbec (left) the wrong way round.

All three bunches were picked first thing this morning by Jean, and they all tasted delicious.

Next stop Pomerol, and a first tasting from the 2015 harvest with Edouard Moueix at Château La Fleur Pétrus. The wine (or more accurately young-vine merlot grape juice) had deep colour and tasted lush and vibrant.

As we sat down to the traditional Moueix pickers’ lunch (thankfully indoors) the heavens opened and an unscheduled 15-minute deluge ensued. Christian Moueix, attending his 45th consecutive harvest lunch, immediately got up and announced to a euphoric group of 75 pickers not only that there would be no harvesting this afternoon, but also that the entire team was invited to attend today’s matinée performance of Marguerite at the local cinema.

Harvest lunch at Le Fleur Petrus

Harvest lunch at Le Fleur Petrus

I made my excuses and then headed off to Saint-Emilion to drop in on François Despagne at Château Grand Corbin Despagne. François, much like his neighbours in Pomerol, could barely contain his excitement at the quality of merlot grapes arriving in his cellar. The grape sorters (human not mechanical) were having to discard just a tiny fraction of the grapes, so healthy were the berries, picked just a few minutes earlier.

Having never had an opportunity to look around the cellars at Grand Corbin Despagne, François gave me a quick guided tour, including a peek inside the ‘Réserve de la famille’ – dusty bottles of vintages such as 1929, 1949 and 1961 lay enticingly in the wine bins.

1929 Grand Corbin Despagne

So tempting…the 1929 Grand Corbin Despagne

My last visit of the trip before heading back to the UK was to Domaine de Chevalier in Pessac-Léognan, where ever-lively winemaker Rémi Edange updated me on the latest news from the Château. ‘Le potentiel est incroyable’ were his exact words – I don’t believe that I need to include a translation!

Categories : Bordeaux

Comments

  1. Simon Carter says:

    Having discovered the right bank last year, (Blaye & Bourg) and having returned there again this year, it is a revelation. The right bank is beautiful, friendly, and the wines are great and considerably cheaper than Medoc. I particularly love the fact that calling into smaller vineyards, you are invariably treated extremely well, usually by the owner or their immediate family, who are only too pleased to share their enthusiasm, knowledge and wines.
    If there is one wine that I would love the society to stock it is Roland Lagarde Prestige, which hugely impressed us last year, and this year, returning with 14 friends, was voted most impressive wine of the week…so please, buyers, call in and have a chat with them, as the only way to get it in UK is to ship directly…

    • Tim Sykes says:

      Many thanks for your comments. Some of the so-called ‘satellite’ appellations of the Right Bank do offer tremendous quality at relatively modest prices (certainly in comparison with their more illustrious neighbours). We have tasted the Roland La Garde Tradition in the past but not, I think, the Prestige Cuvée – we will keep a lookout for it.

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