Last week, Bordeaux was buzzing with journalists, importers and wine professionals tasting the 2008 vintage on the Left and the Right banks of the Garonne River. It is always an exciting and fun time: when getting to a tasting room, one usually runs in a friend or a colleague not seen since the previous Futures week or can chat with a winemaker whose wines are tasting wonderfully or so different from the 2007 vintage. What happened? Why is it so different? Conversations are lenghthy and make everybody late for the next stop.
This year I limited my tasting to the Right bank and the Graves: along with my colleague Jean-Louis Carbonnier of Carbonnier Communications in New York, I went from L’Envers du Décor in Saint-Emilion (page in French), owned by François des Ligneris, former owner of Chateau Soutard and current owner of a very interesting range of wines to the tasting of La Grappe organization to the Biodynamic Wines Fair. The afternoon was devoted to the Classified Growths of Saint-Emilion and Pomerol before joining Michèle Piron-Soulat in Bordeaux for a tasting of the white wines of the Graves. A busy but great day!
“La Grappe” (the clutter) is an association of winemakers and vintners from all over France. They take advantage of the Futures Week to present their new vintage to the press and the trade. I had the pleasure of tasting the 2007 and 2008 vintages of Chateau Chambert in Cahors. Philippe Lejeune, new owner of this beautiful estate, managed his two new vintages with the help of consultant Stephane Derenoncourt. The wines taste almost like Bordeaux wines: smooth and rich in red fruit aromas. In spite of an obvious ageing potential, they drink very weel, even as young as they were. If you want a taste of the new style of Chambert without waiting too long, get the little brother of Chateau Chambert, the second wine. Before moving on to the next tasting, I “cleaned” my palate with a few extra-ordinary white wines: the libanese Château Marsyas and the 2006 Bargylus white from Syria (site in French). And then back to France with a wonderfully balanced Savennières Domaine FL wine (site in French).
Then on to the biodynamic wines. I was very curious about them having almost no experience in this field. Thanks to Jean-Louis who knew a lot more than I do, I was introduced to some famous (and famously good) biodynamic wines. I started with the Champagne of Françoise Bedel with nos sugar added: a real delight, moved on to Josmeyer‘s wines, stopped at Zind-Humbrecht‘s table and spent a little time with La Tour Grise’s vineyard manager. La Tour Grise produces traditional Cabernet Franc and Chenin blanc of exquisite quality. And then… surprise! I was invited to taste two bubblies: a rosé Cabernet Franc and a white Chenin, both fresh, fun and very low in alcohol (around 7%). They’re delightful and I strongly recommend them: they are unusual and their label is so much fun! The manager told me men consider those two wines as “feminine” and disdain them when women just fall for them. I must confess I was one of those!
After a delightful lunch at L’Envers du Décor and a tasting of François des Ligneris’s new range of wines (don’t worry, I’ll tell you everything about them very soon), we drove to the Union des Grands Crus Classés various tastings. In St Emilion and Pomerol, we were in the elegant world of the Classified Growths. The wines are of high quality, smooth and very good for such a difficult year. We now have to wait for the prices to come out. Yesterday Angelus opened fire by offering the 2008 vintage at 50 euros, the same price as the 2004 vintage and 40% lower than the 2007 vintage. We’ll see soon how the other Classified growths and famous estates are going to position their price.