Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Bibendum in Bordeaux - Day Two

After a couple of tours of Bordeaux’s more colourfully graffiti’d neighbourhoods and several industrial parks, the trusty Zafira managed to guess its way onto the road to the Medoc. Spirits were high as vineyards started to flash by on either side and it was nearly time to leave the hype behind and taste our first 2006 wines.

The first two stops came in close succession, at Leoville Las Cases and Barton. Tough start with Chappelle de Potensac and Potensac stripping the bejaysus out of our mouths. Clos de Marquis was a big improvement and Leoville Las Cases was immensely popular with half the group and just ‘very good’ for the others. After the traditionally cold reception from Las Cases, rolling into Barton was like returning home to see old friends and family. Anthony and Lilian are always the most genial of hosts and the seemed genuinely pleased to see Messrs Collins and gang. Langoa and Leoville were good though when we tasted them the following day at a UGC, they were positively charming (was it a fruit day?). In the rest of their imported line-up, Haut Marbuzet and Feytit Clinet also impressed. When pushed, Anthony declared that 2006 was “…definitely much better than ’04. I’ll see what the market’s doing and say to hell with everyone else,” meaning that he wasn’t about to follow others in their price-hiking strategies.

Despite being tasted in a new and utterly characterless tasting room, Palmer looked very promising; and from there to Chateau Margaux. Majestic in its setting, the welcome was as polished and gilt-edged as ever. And the wine? Again it split the group, Pavillon Rouge and Margaux elicited mixed hot and lukewarm comments. Pavillon Blanc got everyone back on the same page though – a sensational wine, sadly only half the normal production thanks to frost.

Then up north to one of our perennial favourites, Sociando Mallet, where we caught up with negociant Pierre-Michel for the first time. He quickly tested out the group on their French-speaking skills, a topic close to Ben’s heart. “Il est un Kiwi! He doesn’t speak anything, not even English!” The formalities out of the way, we were marched up to the swanky new tasting room where the wines were as smart as their new surroundings. Lots of spice, fruit and salt from the air of the Haut-Medoc. We were also treated to a carcass feast there which consisted of pate, terrine, jambon persille, blood sausage, roast beef and pork, and daube de boeuf. In short, not a vegetable in sight, unless you count pickles…which you kinda have to here.
All you needed in the background was the M&S music. There’s lunch…and then there’s a Bordelais lunch.

Off to Pichon Lalande where the wines were pretty tough to taste, but the Louis XVI chairs and modern art foibles were quite exquisite. Haut-Batailley looked pretty good, and we tasted it with someone who looked remarkably like Rumpole of the Bailey. They’ve upgraded the tasting experience at Montrose with a very posh seating arrangement but the wines were quite awkward to taste at the moment. Our second 1st growth of the day saw us get ferried completely unnecessarily around Mouton by Valkyrie warriors in wonderful golf buggies. D’Armailhac and Clerc Milon were looking great and Mouton is a monster. Impressive but very brooding and backward. Top stop of the day was at Latour where all 3 wines were quite sensational. At Ducru, rich Bruno explained his fascination with bizarre cat art everywhere. It actually made sense in kind of kooky way…still a bit ‘Eerie Indiana’ though.


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