Exploring Bordeaux Second Wines – Part 9: Le Petit Ducru de Ducru-Beaucailloux 2018…

This juicy little newcomer to the world of Bordeaux second wines is a selection derived from the Saint Julien vineyards of Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou. Le Petit Ducru portends an introduction to the Borie signature style, lending qualities from its elder siblings, the Ducru-Beaucaillou and the La Croix Ducru-Beaucaillou, of plushness, balance and Cabernet Sauvignon elegance and power.

The Petit Ducru sees an equally rigorous grape selection and attention to detail winemaking before being aged in barrel for 12 months with one-third new oak. A traditional Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot blend, and depending on the vintage, occasionally with a hint of Petit Verdot, this is an appealing addition to the Bordeaux drinkers’ landscape. Le Petit Ducru aims to be a wine of balance and harmony that is enjoyable in its youth while also possessing enough “stuffing” for moderate beneficial ageing.

Le Petit Ducru de Ducru-Beaucailloux 2018, Saint Julien, Bordeaux, 14.5% Abv.

A new wine in the Ducru-Beaucaillou portfolio launched with the 2018 vintage, Le Petit Ducru wine was formerly called Lalande-Borie. This can loosely be considered the Chateau’s second wine as the La Croix du Beaucaillou, like examples such as Clos du Marquis and Les Forts de Latour, is not a second wine as such, because it comes from a specifically dedicated part of the Ducru-Beaucaillou vineyard located on the south bank of La Mouline. The Le Petit Ducru grapes are all sourced from vineyards of Ducru-Beaucaillou and the maiden 2018 vintage is a blend of 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine possesses an impressively deep dark broody opaque colour and shows seductively opulent aromatics of stewed black berries, black currant compote, sweet mulberries, black liquorice, cherry tobacco, grilled herbs and subtle notes of graphite and freshly tilled earth. The palate is plush, bold and opulent with an imposing mouth-filling texture packed with sweet black berry fruits, hints of hoisin plum sauce, burnt brown toast crusts and vanilla pod spice. An impressively opulent and fleshy expression that is kept in check by fresh integrated acids and sweet, creamy tannins which finish with a spicy, dried baking herb piquant twist. Arguably a wine that shows its pedigree and over-delivers for the price. Drink on release and comfortably over the next 8 to 10+ years.

(Wine Safari Score: 91+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Margaux Excels Once Again – Tasting the New Margaux du Chateau Margaux 2015 Release…

The third wine of the legendary Chateau Margaux, the Margaux du Chateau Margaux 2015 arrives on the market with great expectations for a wine from a highly lauded, ripe, warm Bordeaux vintage. The Margaux du Château Margaux 2015 is the result of the most rigorous selection ever made on their 3rd wine with almost a quarter of the production relegated to a 4th wine sold in bulk. Because of this selection, Chateau Margaux probably have today the most charming and open Margaux du Château Margaux that they have ever produced.

The 2015 winter, which was appreciably colder than those of the previous years, caused a late, but perfectly regular blossoming. Dry and sunny weather in the spring made for optimal conditions, so flowering took place very quickly and homogeneously. The hot, dry weather persisted throughout the months of June and July, to a point where Margaux was afraid there could be water stress, or at least in the most sensitive plots. Fortunately a little rain in August arrived just in time to ensure a quick and regular veraison. The drought, which arrived again in September, together with very warm days and cool nights, enabled the grapes to balance their richness in sugar with good acidity, to render their tannins more silky and to make their aromatic potential more complex.

The harvest of the reds took place from September 18th to October 6th. The small size of the grapes and their thicker skins indicated a very high concentration of tannins and the 2015 weather conditions are in fact the feature of very great vintages, like 2005, 2009 and 2010.

Margaux du Chateau Margaux 2015, AOC Margaux, 14% Abv.

The 2015 Margaux du Chateau Margaux red is a splendid garnet-purple coloured creation with an incredibly inviting aromatics bursting with seductive notes of black berries, crème de cassis, pressed rose petals, lavender, sappy sandalwood and hints of sweet Cohiba cigar tobacco spice. This vintage has got to be the ripest and most opulent expression of this Margaux Bordeaux since the maiden 2009 release, showing a medium to full–bodied flavour packed mouthful, delivering a lush black berry seduction, hints of black forest gateau and a tight knit vein of finely polished spicy tannins which melt away into a fresh, inviting acidity that somewhat reins in the warm 2015 fruit exuberance. But this wine is certainly not lacking in backbone or classicism, revealing plenty of mid-palate concentration and focused precision as you would expect from one of the greatest Chateau in Bordeaux. Drink now on release and over 10 to 15+ years.

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Chateau Margaux’s ‘On-Trade Exclusive’ Third Wine Continues to Make Waves in the Premium Restaurant Trade…

I have always been a big fan of Bordeaux second and third wines because of the pedigree and excellent value for money they normally offer. At the 2010 En-primeur tastings, I remember tasting with Chateau Margaux’s Paul Pontallier when he revealed the 2009 maiden release of the Margaux du Chateau Margaux, a wine that had yet to be named. In following years when this 2009 vintage finally arrived onto the market, it was decided that distribution would be exclusively through the on-trade and restaurant trade. This was of course a time when Bordeaux prices were running riot in the open market making it incredibly difficult for restaurants to list quality Bordeaux wines at affordable prices.

The third wine of the legendary Chateau Margaux, the Margaux du Chateau Margaux 2014 benefited enormously from the outstanding selection made in this vintage. The Pavillon Rouge and Chateau Margaux assemblages made up just 60% of the harvest in 2014 which allowed the Margaux du Chateau Margaux cuvee to be enhanced with multiple parcels previously destined for Chateau Margaux’s Pavillon Rouge, a wine that regularly sells for over £250+ retail per bottle and double or triple that amount in premium restaurants. The result is one of the finest vintages of this third wine to date composed in equal parts of Cabernet Sauvignon (49%) and Merlot (49%) with a small percentage of Petit Verdot. If you see it on a restaurant list at circa £100 per bottle, buy it with confidence.

Margaux du Chateau Margaux 2014, Bordeaux, 13% Abv.

This pretty wine displays a wonderfully inviting perfumed nose of pressed violets, grilled coffee beans, black cherry and buttered brown breakfast toast. Even for a 2014, this seven-year-old wine shows lashings of blackcurrant and black plum fruit with the extra years in bottle giving the wine some glorious complexing notes of tannery leather, tobacco and wood smoke. Close your eyes and it`s like sitting back in a comfy old leather armchair in the library of a grand old London private members club. In the mouth, it reveals plush reassuring nuances of black berry fruits, hints of autumnal foresty bramble berries and a seductive touch of cocoa bean and milk chocolate. The length is long and impressive with fine ripe fleshy tannins and an elegant harmonious texture that screams classy Margaux terroir. A truly impressive wine conceived and blended for relatively early consumption in a restaurant environment but packs more than enough punch to accompany the heartiest of cuisine. Drink now and over the next 6 to 8+ years.

(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Thelema Mountain Vineyards Releases Another Very Impressive Merlot Reserve 2019…

It is kind of ironic that while single varietal Merlot wines are by no means my favourite red expressions, I do get very excited for three new releases every year. One is Masseto from Bolgheri, one of my all time favourite red wines, another is Chateau Petrus, though it might be more sensible and affordable to broaden this group to top-end Pomerols. The final Merlot release that is always highly anticipated, if indeed it is even produced in a certain year, is the Thelema Merlot Reserve.

A limited release wine using only the finest Merlot grapes of the vintage from the best parcels on the Thelema estate. Normally a straight Merlot release will be produced if the quality of the vintage does not merit the Reserve selection. Whether it is the use of the Clone 102 Merlot grown on Richter 99 rootstocks in Hutton and decomposed granite soils or perhaps the age of the vines, planted in 1988, this is certainly a Stellenbosch wine that really impresses and with a cooler vintage producing smaller more concentrated berries, the finished expression possesses great natural acidity and an array of intense berry fruit flavours. The grapes were destalked, hand sorted and fermented in stainless steel before being aged for 18 months in 100% new French oak barrels.

Thelema Estate Merlot Reserve 2019, WO Stellenbosch, 13.64% Abv.

2.4 g/l RS | 3.68 pH | 5.3 g/l TA

It always amazes me how Thelema manages to coax such an incredible amount of complexity out of their Merlot Reserve wine. This 2019 is certainly a coin with two sides though. On one hand, the aromatics are super cool, restrained and classical with text book right bank Bordeaux notes of violets, sweet piquant plummy black fruits, sandalwood, rose hip, bramble berries, coffee beans and a wonderful undertone of graphite. On the palate, all caution and classicism is thrown to the wind to reveal a bold, fleshy, dense unctuous wine with an incredibly textural harmonious mouthfeel. There are layers upon layers of black and blue berry fruits, hoisin plum sauce, brûléed espresso notes and fabulous depth. Think 2017 vintage’s weightless concentration and balance combined with 2015s dry extract, flesh and muscle. Like any great Merlot should be, this wine is eminently drinkable in its youth but should age gracefully for at least 10-15+ years. The world of fine Merlot has another exciting wine to seduce drinkers.

(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

A Decade on From the Iconic 2008 Vintage, Bruwer Raats Releases the Impressive MR de Compostella 2018…

It seems quite fortuitous that the very week Bruwer Raats and Mzokhona Mvemve choose to release their new vintage of MR de Compostella 2018, the most famous and influential wine reviewer in the world, Neal Martin chose their MR de Compostella 2008 as his Vinous Cellar Selection and scored it 96/100, matching the original rating he gave this iconic wine exactly 10 years ago.

I was of course lucky enough to host Bruwer Raats in London in October 2019 when we tasted through the first ever complete vertical of MR vintages from the maiden 2004 until the 2017. Then, when I managed to visit Bruwer at the winery in Feb 2020, long before the pandemic struck, he was already talking about another exceptional vintage that was different to many of the others but was perhaps one that clearly reminded him of the famed 2008 vintage. As it turned out, the 2018 ended up spending approximately 27 months in barrel compared to the usual 22 to 24 months for an MR de Compostella, creating another similarity with the famed 2008 vintage.

Whether this extended ageing enhanced the 2008 or whether it was just an exceptional vintage to start with, what I do see are the clear similarities between the 2018 and the 2008 vintages. This is sure to be a very stable, slow burning vintage and undoubtedly, a release you are going to want to have in your cellar.

MR de Compostella 2018, WO Stellenbosch, 14.5% Abv.

The 2018 MR de Compostella is a blend of 54% Cabernet Franc, 23% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Malbec, 5% Merlot and 3% Petit Verdot. Deep garnet-purple in colour, one sniff of the bouquet reveals another truly towering effort with incredible perfume lift, a complex melange of red and black berry fruits and the most fabulously integrated oaking imaginable. The nose is loaded with black cherry kirsch liquor, black truffle, crushed violets, crème de cassis, mulberries, graphite and freshly tilled earth nuances. Despite an extensive elevage in French oak barriques, the sweet cedary wood spice and vanilla pod notes play very much a subtle supporting role allowing the bold multi-dimensional fruit intensity to take centre stage. While only medium-bodied, the palate is super sleek, laser focused and intense, washing over the senses in energetic waves of saline cassis, black cherries, black plum and baked blueberries. This is classical winemaking at its very best where a harmonious freshness combines with beautifully silky poised tannins to deliver a wine with not only overt mouth-watering appeal but also plenty of latent structural depth. Undoubtedly another individually monumental wine that displays the brilliance of the special Mvemve-Raats winemaking partnership clearly for all to see. Old School and New World all at the same time, this is a wine that will appeal to the classicists as much as to the New World connoisseurs. Drink it on release or bury it in your cellar for 25+ years for further rewards.

(Wine Safari Score: 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Chateau Tour Baladoz Produces Another Stand-Out Saint Emilion Grand Cru in 2018…

Château “Valados” first appeared in “Le Producteur” in 1841, and was included in the first edition of “Cocks and Feret” (Bordeaux and its Wines) in 1850 under the name of “Baladoz”. From 1874 to 1922, the estate was known as Château Baladoz until a tower was erected and adopted into the name.

In certain parts, vines are grown at an altitude of up to ninety metres, almost the highest in the appellation, with more vines planted on the clay and limestone plateau that dominates the estate. Originally categorised as between the first and second crus of St Emilion, the estate later settled in the Grand Cru category.

Anthony Crameri from Chateau Tour Baladoz alongside the Chateau’s ancient limestone cliffs.

The property, located in Saint-Laurent-des-Combes, was purchased by Belgian wine trader Emile De Schepper in May 1950 and included 5.56 hectares of vines. The new owner spent his first year renovating the cellars and making improvements to the vineyard. In the early years, the wine was exclusively exported to Belgium, in barrel, where it was bottled in the owner’s cellars in Ghent. The current cellar master and manager is the ultra talented Jean-Michel Garcion, who was appointed in 1992 and now also overseas production at sister estates Chateau La Croizille next door and Chateau Haut Breton Larigaudiere in Margaux.

The 2018 is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.

70% of the Tour Baladoz vineyard is planted on the plateau, with the remaining 30 % situated on the slopes of the valley over deeply submerged rocks. Here, the challenge lies in making a wine that is as mineral as the geological environment in which the vines grow. The soil base varies from pure chalk and marl, which reminiscent of certain terroirs in the Champagne region, to freestone that appears occasionally and is noticed because of the colour variation in the clay. Here, the Merlot grape thrives and comprises 70% of the vineyard planting with Cabernet Franc (20%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (10%) making up the remainder.

Chateau Tour Baladoz 2018 Saint Emilion Grand Cru, 14.5% Abv.

A beautiful vineyard with a few pre-phylloxera vines, a collection of ancient Bordeaux varieties and spectacular limestone caves with vine roots growing through the ceilings. This 2018 is garnet purple and already quite explosive in the glass revealing waves of violets and lilac, black plum, mulberry, salty black currant and buttered brown toast nuances. On the palate it shows an accessible opulence of red and black berry fruits, fine chalky mineral tannins and a steely vein of acidity that guides you to a long, fresh, nervy finish with further notes of vanilla spice, graphite and crème de cassis. A really wonderful, high quality expression of Saint Emilion that will seduce a legion of Bordeaux lovers. Drink now and over the next 10 to 15+ years.

(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Another Surprise From the De Schepper Family – Tasting Chateau Lacombe Cadiot Bordeaux Superieur 2019…

I generally don’t review that many small, petit Chateau wines from Bordeaux unless they are second wines from larger, more well-known Grand Cru Classe estates that hold a lot of interest and intrigue for consumers, whether they are a straight second wine selection from left-over off cuts or “made” second wines from specific vineyards. The key point of interest for the reviewer and the consumer is of course trying to find the holy grail of classy wine that punches way above its price or reputational weight.

But here I am looking at a petit chateau wine produced by one of the most talented winemakers in Bordeaux at the moment. This wine, made by Jean-Michel Garcion, is sourced from a 13 hectare vineyard blend of 70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Petit Verdot from vines that are on average 15 years old and grown on classic loam and clay soils just down the road from the famous Chateau Cantemerle Haut Medoc estate.

It has to be said, my interest was slightly more piqued for this wine after it received a 97/100 Best In Show score at the recent Decanter World Wine Awards 2020. Some might raise eyebrows at the score but as a Decanter World Wine Awards Panel Chair for South Africa, I know exactly how difficult tasting blind can be. But for Bordeaux, it’s extra complicated as so much rests on the Chateau name and brand tasted, not the actual terroir of the grapes or the name and skill of the winemaker. But this one’s a cracker no doubt!

Chateau Lacombe Cadiot 2019, Bordeaux Superieur, 14% Abv.

An attractive deep dark garnet colour, the 2019 Lacombe Cadiot is a wonderfully precise expression with crisp, fresh, pure notes of black currants, blueberries, buttered brown toast, graphite and gravelly mineral nuances. Medium-bodied, the wine’s palate shows a crunchy vibrancy, a strict line of crisp acidity, blueberry, black cherry and smoky crème de cassis with an exotic note of hoisin plum sauce, wood spice, cloves and hints of Chinese five spice. What makes this wine a real head turner is the exceptional balance, suave cool elegance, attractive blackberry fruit concentration with a most attractive powdery, grippy, mineral tannin note on the finish. A wine that certainly punches way above its reputation, whatever your expectations from a Bordeaux red. Drink now to 2025+.

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Chateau Haut-Breton Larigaudieres – Tasting the 2018 Vintage From this Margaux Chateau on the Rise…

I first visited this Chateau in September 2014 in what seems an absolute age away now. Tucked away on the D2 main road in Soussans, I must have driven past this sleepy little Chateau on the bend in the road over 100 times over the years. But to finally visit and taste their wines made by the talented winemaker Jean Michel Garcion was a revelation.

In the UK, merchants are always on the lookout for new, exciting but affordable Bordeaux wines that show ambition and quality but also a pronounced degree of classicism together with supreme drink ability. Haut Breton is just such a Chateau and with its extensive 15 hectares of vineyards planted on sandy gravelly clay soils with an average age of 20 years old, Jean Michel crafts blends dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon with supporting roles played by Merlot and Petit Verdot.

I recently re-tasted the 2018 vintage in bottle ahead of its arrival in the UK market and I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

Chateau Haut-Breton Larigaudieres 2018 Cru Bourgeois, Margaux, Bordeaux, 13.5 Abv.

The 2018 Margaux from Chateau Haut Breton is a really seductive temptress encompassing a blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Merlot and 8% Petit Verdot aged for between 15-20 months in 70% new French oak barriques. Full of intrigue and complexity, this wine has classic Margaux elegance written all over it. The aromatics boast notes of warm plums, exotic Christmas pudding, creme de cassis and delicate notes of crushed violets, vanilla and freshly tilled earth. The palate shows all the subtlety and elegance you’d expect with smooth, suave silky tannins, a pronounced “light on its feet” concentration, piquant notes of brûléed coffee beans, buttered brown toast and a long, cool, fresh spicy graphite laden blueberry finish. This wine just keeps growing in the glass and suggests the best glory years are still to come! Drink now to 2030+.

(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

A Petit Chateau Bordeaux That Impresses – Tasting Château Tayet’s Cuvée Amiral de Cadiot 2011 Bordeaux Superieur…

Amiral de Cadiot is produced by Château Tayet which has been owned by the de Schepper family since 1994, the former owner, Mr. Marc Raymond, was director at de Schepper’s Chateau Haut-Breton-Larigaudière until 1993, selling his own estate to his previous employer when he retired. Tayet has an excellent terroir in Macau, very close to the AOC Margaux, which has grown by the acquisition of further high quality plots with a high plant density and today consists of 10 hectares of vines.

Chateau Tayet located near Soussans where the wines are bottled – Chateau Tayet, 3 Rue des Anciens Combattants, 33460 Soussans.

The “Amiral de Cadiot” by Château Tayet is considered to be one of the best Bordeaux Superieur and is one of the few wines of this class that ages 12 months in 20% new and 50% second fill barriques. The vines for this particular selection are at least 25 years old.

Chateau Tayet and De Mour Group winemaker Jean-Michel Garcion.

The Château Tayet Cuvée Amiral de Cadiot offers a whole lot of red Bordeaux magic at a truly excellent price point, something often sorely missing in these days of over ambitious, stratospherically priced icon Cru Classe wines. Wines like this in many ways represent the true heart and soul of authentic, consumer orientated classical Bordeaux. In the post Covid-19 lockdown era, wines like this are going to take on a much greater significance in the market place.

Château Tayet Cuvée Amiral de Cadiot 2011, Bordeaux Superieur, 14 Abv.

A wonderfully classical blend of 60% Merlot, 37% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Petit Verdot, this wine has the most intricate textured layers of blueberry and cassis fruit, mocha, brown toast, vanilla pod spice and a supple, plush, sweet fruited core with bright refreshing acids, ripe fine grained tannins and complexing peripheral notes of tannery leather, cigar box and graphite spice. A whole lot of wine that will impress the staunchest of discerning wine connoisseurs. Drink now to 2024+

(Wine Safari Score: 88+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

De Mour Group owned by the de Schepper family.

The End of a Golden Era in Wine – Goodbye Michael Broadbent MW 1927-2020…

Very sad to hear of the passing of the legend Michael Broadbent MW. One of the people who put fine wine on the global map when wine was an unknown niche category. Feel so privileged to have know him. RIP Michael Broadbent 1927-2020 🍷🙏🏼

Born in Yorkshire in 1927, Michael studied architecture at Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London before joining the Royal Artillery where he was 2nd Lieutenant from 1945 to 1948. He joined Laytons Wine Merchants as a trainee in 1952 where his wine career started. After a two year stint at Saccone & Speed Michael joined John Harvey & Sons Ltd Bristol in 1955. He was initially in charge of the North region both in shops and marketing, before becoming a director and finally the UK sales director.

Michael passed the MW exam in 1960, and a few years later he joined Christie’s in July 1966 where he created their first specialised wine department. He was responsible for starting Christie’s wine auctions, which he conducted worldwide. Until 1992 he was the senior director of Christie’s wine department, and he remained a senior consultant with the firm until 2009.

A wine writer and critic, Michael produced an extraordinary amount of tasting notes from his life in wine which are widely available to read. He published many books, including Michael Broadbent’s Wine Tasting and The Great Vintage Wine Book.

I had the pleasure of celebrating Michael’s 90th birthday with him at the new IMW office opening and again at a private celebration at Vintners’ Hall while many industry friends and colleagues also joined him last year at Vintners’ Hall for the launch of his last book.

With Michael at Vintners Hall to celebrate his 90th Birthday in London.