Exploring Bordeaux Second Wines – Part 3: Chateau Duhart Milon Moulin de Duhart 2012, Pauillac, 12.5 Abv.

Chateau Duhart Milon has long been overshadowed by its bigger Pauillac brothers Carruades de Lafite and Lafite Rothschild. But circa 2005, the tide began to turn and Duhart Milon started to command the prices of a proper top quality Pauillac Cru Classe. Much of this was certainly thanks to China’s love affair with the Rothschild brand Portfolio, but quality advancements at the estate were also clearly evident.

Château Duhart Milon’s second wine is selected on the same basis as the “Grand Vin”. In general, the grapes are from the younger plots in the vineyards and Moulin de Duhart has therefore several characteristics similar to the grand vin, but with less potential for ageing due to its shorter barrel ageing period, and as such, should be consumed younger than its more robust big brother. The origin of the name comes from the former presence of a windmill on the Carruades plateau, next to the Duhart-Milon vineyard.

The cepage in 2012 consists of 53% Cabernet Sauvignon and 47%Merlot, which is aged in 2 year old French oak barrels for 10 months, producing 7,000 to 12,000 cases per annum. 

The 2012 vintage was characterized by difficult weather conditions in the Bordeaux region. After a relatively mild winter, the spring was mostly wet and rainy, especially April, which brought a violent hail storm on the 24th. Such conditions hampered fertilization, leading to fears of reduced yields. Work in the vineyard was as vital as ever. June and July alternated heat and humidity. The weather became more stable from the beginning of August, enabling the grapes to finish ripening in good conditions. 
Nevertheless, there was considerable variation in their degrees of ripeness and a great deal of sorting work was carried out by the Chateau’s teams from the end September.

Tasting Note: Lovely, classical expressive Pauillac nose that’s superbly fresh and vibrant, bristling with notes of black currant, black cherry, baked black plums, roasted caramelised almonds, blue berry crumble and buttered white toast. The oak is seamless and beautifully integrated, just melting into the dark fruit nuances. The palate entry is light and effortless, with the fruit rolling around on the palate like a wine tasting in zero gravity. There is seamless cherry and black berry complexity, a pithy spicy vanilla pod lick and a very elegant, fine, focused finish. This is the consummate second wine… earlier drinking, fresh, vibrant, lighter textured and a positively quaffable vin de soif with bells and whistles. Drink now to 2020.

Second Wine Rating: Beautifully expressive wine with a light touch. Buy!

(Wine Safari Score: 88+/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)

Chateau Pichon Comtesse de Lalande Bordeaux Masterclass ~ 1985 to 2012 with Winemaker Nicolas Glumineau…

Another wonderful masterclass today tasting over four decades of Chateau Pichon Lalande, a Chateau that has only had four owners since its establishment in 1850. The estate consists of 89 hectares of vines with an average age of 35 years old, planted at a density of 9000 vines per hectare with a mix of 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, Cabernet Franc 7% and Petit Verdot 3%. 

The Chateau is currently experimenting with organic and biodynamic viticulture and with detailed top soil and sub-soil mapping, which they hope will help increase the Grand Vin quality even further.

Flight 1 – Reserve de la Comtesse (First vintage produced in 1973)

Reserve de la Comtesse 2012 – 90+/100

64cs, 35m, 5cf

Piercing sweet rich nose shows black berry, espresso, buttered brown toast, bruleed oak spice with vanilla pod spice. Soft textured palate with plenty of spice, pithy black currant, black cherry and soft accessible acids. Plush, gentle, suave tannins carry to an elegant lacy finish. 

Reserve de la Comtesse 2011 – 91/100

43cs, 49m, 8pv

Big concentrated dry vintage to follow the block buster 2010s, but not without its difficulties. Plenty of dusty, leafy cassis fruit with pronounced coffee bean spice. Dark, deep core with black chocolate, violets and wood spice. Dense, masculine palate, power with elegance, tannin frame and dry extract concentration with fine, fresh integrated acids on the finish. Still young and worth cellaring further.

Reserve de la Comtesse 2009 – 92+/100

53cs, 38m, 9cf

Soft sweet, perfumed seductive nose of violets, black berry confit, kirsch liquor, and earthy, savoury foresty red currant fruits. Palate is soft, suave, fleshy, and accessible, ready now and showing a lot of charm and finesse for the price. Sweet ripe tannins and an elegant finish. Lovely Pauillac expression.

Flight 2 – The Grand Vin Selection

Chateau Pichon Longueville 2012 – 93+/100

59cs, 28m, 8cf, 5pv

Similar to the 2012 Comtesse, but chock full of bruleed black berry, espresso, mocha spice and plump caramelised plums. Suave, broad, and oh so elegant and fine. Almost like draping silk over your tongue. Accessible, seductive and seamlessly balanced finish. Beautiful lighter style vintage.

Chateau Pichon Longueville 2009 – 98/100
75cs, 20m, 5pv

Sweet black berry, kirsch liquor, seductive fragrance and violet perfume. Oak is definitely receding revealing the most opulent, tantalising fruit purity, crisp acids and plenty of elegance. Sweet cassis, buttered brown toast, chalky, powdery marshmallow tannins. Massive full mouthfeel, reaching every corner of your palate. So impressive, so alluring, a real block buster. Leaves you weak at the knees. An icon vintage for sure.

Chateau Pichon Longueville 2003 -93/100
65cs, 31m, 4pv 

Rich, savoury, ripe, opulent nose with forest fruits, confit, stewed fruits and hints of Christmas cake. Some game meat notes developing, tannery leather, sweet tobacco and plush, sweet earthy red currant confit length. Soft opulent fleshy wine with mellow acids, slightly chalky tannins that are slightly drying on the finish. Holding up well but perhaps time to start drinking if you have in your cellar. 

Great tasting today with one of Bordeaux’s best, Nicolas Glumineau

Chateau Pichon Longueville 1996 – 97/100

75cs, 15m, 5cf, 5pv

Sweet classical nose that screams Cabernet Sauvignon expression. Violets, cedar, sandalwood spice, talc, sweet tobacco box, and mint / Eucalyptus leaf. Almost exotic in style. Palate is modern, almost new world, with hints of cinnamon spice, pithy cassis, spicy cherry skins, mineral tannins and hints of graphite. Youthful, dense and powerful. Such a beauty. Still masculine, foursquare but showing more generosity year by year. One to buy!

Chateau Pichon Longueville 1995 – 95/100

45cs, 40m, 15cf

Evolved nose of sweet herbs, earthy savoury leathery garrigue and tobacco. Cigar box, sandalwood, pencil spice, graphite and savoury red berry fruit. Big rich Cabernet cassis concentration, marshmallow powdery tannins, starting to resolve nicely, with fine balance and classical elegant cedary depth. 

Chateau Pichon Longueville 1985 – 96/100 

Beautiful lifted nose of cedar, stalk spice, dusty gravel and cassis leaf with just a hint of capsicum spice. Peppery and complex, this wine speaks of a different era in Bordeaux production. Palate treads lightly, showing plenty of mint leaf, cedar, black berry spice, grilled herbs, graphite minerality, and drying gravelly tannins. Still holding its shape beautifully, this is yet another 1985 that has turned out to have surprisingly impressive longevity with a classical framework. Just the right amount of chalk/stalk/capsicum savoury melange. Lovely food wine.

Fantastic Evening of Fine Wine at Home House…

Autumn is coming to an end and the Winter festive season is nearing. That means parties and of course plenty of corporate entertainment. Tonight myself and my colleague James were invited to Home House private members club to chat fine wine in a relaxed environment with 70 to 80 clients of one of our very good friends and leading fund manager, who has also been a loyal customer of ours for over 20 years. 

The wines to lubricate conversation? Three classic Cabernet Sauvignon based wines… Stags Leap Wine Cellars Cask 23 Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 from Napa Valley Stags Leap AVA at 13.5 Abv; Chateau Pontet Canet 2005 from Pauillac at 13 Abv; and Chateau Leoville Barton 2005 Saint Julien at 13 Abv. 

The great thing about these events, other than some very good banter, is hearing people’s previous experiences with the wines you’re tasting and seeing their preferences. Also, not only do you get to taste the same wine from 4 or 5 different bottles, but you get to drink glasses of a classic wine in a relaxed manner instead of speed tasting and judging the wine. 

The Stags Leap Cask 23 2009 was very popular as expected. Intensely satisfying layers of opulent black berry fruit, cassis and cherry spice, with gorgeous concentration and depth, and superbly integrated oak nuances. Impressive balance and textural harmony explains why this wine is described as the best Cask 23 since 1985 (95+/100). 

The Chateau Pontet Canet 2005 Pauillac made from 75% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Merlot, and was the first vintage fermented in small cement cuves. Such depth and intensity, creme de cassis, black and blue berry inky nobility, fresh taught vibrant acidity and massive, dense, sweet ripe tannin power. Also a lovely saline cassis finish on the wine. Just about approachable now but certainly a wine for 20 or 30 years plus (97/100). 

Lastly, the gentleman of the trio… the Leoville Barton 2005 from St Julien that was showing plenty of taught, fresh electric cassis fruit, oyster shell and salty black berries. Dramatic concentration and crunchy freshness, with a masculine texture, sweet ripe powerful tannins and massive persistent length. Enjoyable now but still way too youthful for real Bordeaux connoisseurs. But still fun to taste this wine in its adolescence. A real noble classic (96+/100).

Let the festive season descend!