The Seductive Power of Appellation Margaux ~ Tasting the Over-Performing Chateau Haut Breton Larigaudieres…

End September sees the Bordeaux Cru Bourgeois Trade Tasting return to London. Last year’s tasting was described by the Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin as a very fertile hunting ground for great value, affordable quality, drinking red Bordeaux. 


If the region of Bordeaux is to retain its admired status as the most collectable wine by connoisseur’s, it is crucial that smaller, lesser classifications are bought and drunk by regular consumers. The love affair with Bordeaux has to start somewhere, and for many wine enthusiasts, it starts with drinking tantalising Cru Bourgeois wines. So tonight I’m getting into training for the tasting by drinking a delicious bottle of appellation Margaux Cru Bourgeois. 


Chateau Haut Breton Larigaudiere 2012 Margaux, 13 Abv.

A blend of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot, this is an absolute cracker from the Margaux appellation. Sweet red plum and blueberry fragrance lift effortlessly out of the glass. Violets, jasmine, dried mint leaf, pot pourri herbs and seductive musk notes add massive complexity. There is also plenty of rich earthy cassis and lush red cherry exotism to excite even the most reluctant Bordeaux connoisseur. Palate concentration is very impressive yet you never lose sight of the wine’s Margaux’esque elegance, allure, perfume and seductive beauty. Creamy, powdery tannins are the order of the day making this a top notch Margaux that is both precise and pretty, yet deceptively powerful and intense. True to the vintage, there is ample accessible upfront fruit, fine balance and harmony and bright pure freshness. This is a fantastic offering that cannot fail to excite. Drink now to 2030.

(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Peter “Pingus” Sisseck Crafting Magic at Chateau Rocheyron in St Emilion…

Château Rocheyron takes its name from its location, Rocheyron. Sharing a boundary with Château Laroque along one side of the estate, its history is linked with that of the neighbouring vineyard, classed as a Grand Cru Classé.


In 2010 Silvio Denz, a co-owner of Clos d’Agon in Spain (Catalonia) and Peter Sisseck, the oenologist of Clos d’Agon, indicated their interest in buying Château Rocheyron under the AOC Saint-Emilion Grand Cru.

Peter Sisseck is off course a native of Denmark, who came to the Bordeaux winegrowing region to spend some time with his uncle Peter Vinding-Diers (of Rustenberg fame), an oenologist working in Bordeaux at the time. Peter then settled in the Spanish Ribera del Duero region in 1990, acting as a consultant oenologist to a major winegrowing estate. In 1995 he created the estate Dominio de Pingus and his first wine, Pingus.


Château Rocheyron now gives Peter the opportunity to rediscover the characteristics of the great wines and terroirs of Bordeaux. Every vintage shows improvements as Peter slowly masters his new Rocheyron terroir and the 2016 probably represents his finest, most complete Bordeaux expression to date.

Chateau Rocheyron 2016 St. Emilion Grand Cru, Bordeaux (En-primeur Cask Sample)

The fabulous 2016 is comprised of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc. This embryonic red, tasted as a barrel sample, is beautifully cool and focused with a fine creamy suave texture and plush, concentrated fruit intensity. Impressive breadth and balance showing tart black cherries, kirsch liquor, red currants and a blue berry opulence. There is very fine clarity and purity and everything about this wine exudes classical precision and finesse. Peter himself regards this as his best effort to date, even surpassing his mighty impressive Rocheyron 2015. A legendary wine in the making. 

(Wine Safari Score: 96-97+/100 Greg Sherwood MW) 

Bordeaux Babble in a Nutshell… The Antidote to Bordeaux En-primeur…

It’s old but it’s still very very funny at this time of year, doing the annual pilgrimage to Bordeaux. So, having spent a week in Bordeaux, having gums assailed by giant tannins, somebody has finally got to grips with some basic French…. enjoy! 


French: A good year

Translation: a bad year


French: A classic year 

Translation: most of the wines are undrinkable


French: A Parker wine

Translation: lucky bastards


French: an elegant wine

Translation: a wine with no fruit


French: a wine with great structure

Translation: a wine with ferocious (probably unripe) tannins

French: A vintage for the purist

Translation: please buy my wine – somebody, anybody…


French: prices will be the same as last year

Translation: make me an offer


French: It is a Cabernet vintage

Translation: My winery is in the Médoc


French: It is a right bank vintage

Translation: My winery is in St Emilion / Pomerol


French: It is impossible to generalise

Translation: It was crap everywhere.

Tasting Chateau La Croizille Saint Emilion Grand Cru, the New Kid on the Cote…

I first visited the impressively modern Château La Croizille winery in St Emilion at En-primeur time in 2015. Prior to that, I’d only ever cast a curious eye over its large, orange, modern-art tasting room that protrudes from the limestone cote, across the way from Chateau Tetre Roteboeuf. I had never tasted the wines and had never seen them in the UK market, the Claret capital of Europe.


The reason for this relative obscurity perhaps lies in the fact that La Croizille is a St Emilion Grand Cru estate that originally was acquired by the Belgian De Schepper – De Mour family in 1996 and is sold mostly in the Benelux. The 5 hectares of vines belonging to the Château benefit from the same remarkable soils, on the borders of the clay-limestone plateau of Saint-Emilion in the commune of Saint-Laurent des Combes, as Chateaux such as Tetre Roteboeuf and Troplong Mondot.


After 1996, the De Schepper family commenced on a large investment spree, bringing the estate into the modern winemaking era, combining its sought after terroir with high-end technology and traditional know-how to create a wine with great opulence, finesse, modernity and personality.


This winery is a rising Saint Emilion star which you’ll read a lot more about in years to come. Already, the winery’s more recent vintages have garnered several 90 plus point scores from international critics including James Suckling and Decanter Magazine. Buying a few cases of the opulent 2015 or intense 2016 could be a very smart choice.


Tasting Note: Chateau La Croizille Saint Emilion Grand Cru 2012, 13 Abv. ~ A dark cherry black opaque colour greets the drinker. Initially, the nose is broody and closed. But a little glass swirling and coaxing starts to elicit some of the more classical elements of the bouquet… black berry, black cherry pith, cassis, dusty limestone minerality, hints of graphite and a gloss of buttered brown toast. The oaking is almost imperceptible, revealing a very restrained and quite classical expression from this “drinking” Bordeaux vintage. The palate has all the sleekness, suppleness and accessibility that you’d expect from a 2012. A soft fine grained texture, polished powdery tannins, chalky grip and spicy, plummy, peppery black cherry and black berry fruit. It’s all packed into a very classical, medium bodied parcel, that delivers pleasure now but also suggest it is structured enough to be holding back a few surprises in reserve for drinkers in 5 to 8 years time.

(Wine Safari Score: 92/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Exploring Bordeaux Second Wines – Part 2: Pastourelle de Clerc Milon 2009, Pauillac, 13.5 Abv.

As the Burgundy En-primeur campaign starts to fizzle out after a fantastically successful vintage for merchants and retailers, attention starts once more to turn to the grand region of Bordeaux.


Continuing my new series of tastings reviewing a selection of Bordeaux second wines, today I’m looking at a relatively unknown entity… the second wine of Chateau Clerc Milon, which forms part of the Domaines Baron Rothschild portfolio.

Nature was particularly kind in 2009, providing conditions that favoured an optimal growing cycle which helped the grapes of Bordeaux to reach full maturity. The very fine weather and high level of hydric stress, alleviated by a few well timed showers, enabled the grapes to ripen slowly to full maturity.


Temperatures in August 2009 were 1.4 °C higher than the average. This ideal weather continued into September as cool nights alternated with hot days, encouraging the concentration of aromas and flavours and the accumulation of anthocyanins in a perfectly ripe crop. 2009 will undoubtedly go down as a vintage to match the finest in history.


Tasting Note: 2009 is the first vintage of Pastourelle de Clerc Milon, whose label shows the classic dancers of Château Clerc Milon. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon: 50%, Merlot: 36%, Cabernet Franc: 11%, Petit Verdot: 2% and Carmenère: 1%, the wine has a dense, deep colour with a crimson hue. The aromatics are refined, perfumed, and expressive with black fruits, cassis, kirsch cherry and dusty graphite nuances. There’s an attractive bruleed note showing espresso and mocha coffee bean complexity. The palate is sleek, medium to light weight and overtly polished. There’s an attractive sweet spot on the front of the palate and a pronounced red liquorice, black current and milk chocolate opulence underpinned by soft silky tannins and supple, soft toned acids. There is balance and a real feel of harmony, but the overall package does lack the overt fleshy depth so many other 2009 second wines possess. Eminently drinkable, this attractive Pauillac finishes with lovely bitter chocolate and vanilla wood spice length. Start drinking now and over the next 3 to 6 years.

Second Wine Rating: Attractive, light weight, mid-week Claret with polish. Buy if priced modestly.

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

Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron 2010 – Tasting Another of the Illustrious Bordeaux “Super Seconds”…

I recently had a fantastic opportunity to taste a mixed vertical of Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande with Nicolas Glumineau. Such finesse, elegance and balance, in youth and with age. But of course Pichon Lalande’s neighbour, Pichon Baron, makes some awesome wines as well. 


If Pichon Lalande is finesse and femininity personified, then the Cabernet Sauvignon based wines of Pichon-Longueville Baron are characteristically more muscular, tannic and full-bodied in general. Owned by the insurance giant AXA since 1987, and managed since 2000 by Christian Seely, this 73 hectare Pauillac estate lying on deep gravel soils consists of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, and 5% Cabernet Franc plantings.


I was very pleased to get the opportunity to taste and re-evaluate the impressive Pichon Baron 2010 recently, which is undoubtedly a great year for both of the Pichons. Only time will tell, but the suave, concentrated, fleshy elegance of the 2009 vintage may well serve the elegant style of Pichon Lalande better while the block buster 2010 vintage with its pure, ripe, dense fruit expressions, coupled with serious weight, power and structure will almost certainly compliment the masculine style of Pichon Baron better. Either way, it’s always thrilling to retaste epic vintages like 2009 and 2010.


Tasting Note: Beautifully bold and confident, this is a big dense, power packed expression. Brimming with dark fruits, licorice, black plums, black cherry, creme de cassis and subtle earthy forest fruits, there is still a fairly overt bruleed oak note with nuances of brown toast, espresso and sweet wet tobacco. Acids are fresh and linear, giving extra frame to the dense, ripe, powerful creamy tannins. Layer upon layer of unctuous black current and cassis roll off the tongue with a generous salt and pepper seasoning of spicy cedary oak and graphite lead pencil notes. This is a monumental wine from this Chateau that will undoubtedly continue to improve in bottle for 30 to 40 years.

(Wine Safari Score: 98/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Exploring Bordeaux Second Wines – Part 1: Les Clos des Carmes Haut Brion 2012, Pessac Leognan, Bordeaux, 13.5 Abv.

In the first part of a new series of posts evaluating Bordeaux second wines, I kick off with a little Graves red from Chateau Haut Brion’s near neighbour, Chateau Carmes Haut Brion. Due to recent changes in appellation laws, regarding the use of protected terms, in this case “Clos”, newer vintages of this wine will be known as Les C des Carmes Haut Brion. 


Tasting Note: The 2012 Le Clos des Carmes Haut Brion is beautifully rich, fragrant and expressive with plenty of potpourri, violets, coffee, mocha and buttered brown toast notes, integrating with lush, rich, creme de cassis, sweet black plum and tart red cherry. 


The palate is fleshy, open knit and very approachable, largely because of a 81% dollop of Merlot, with powerful backing vocals from 19% Cabernet Sauvignon. Such a wonderful complexity of black cherry, mocha, vanilla pod spice and new tannery leather. There are fresh acids but they are finely rounded and well woven into the harmonious texture of this wine. While a real joy to drink even in its youth, there would be no harm cellaring this gem for 8 to 12+ years. 

Second Wine Rating: Buy with confidence. 

(Wine Safari Score: 92/100 Greg Sherwood MW)