We have been having fun expanding our wine palate over the last decade and recently got the chance to taste the 2010 vintage off-barrel in Bordeaux in the respective chateaux, writes Meenu Kohli, Director, Taste, for Winetage Investment Fund. Her advice for those interested in investing in wine is, go by the taste, as dictated by your own palate.
Thanks to the custodian of our Winetage Investment Fund, we had the opportunity on April 6th and 7th to complete our pilgrimage to most of the major chateaux in Bordeaux. For us, no white wine gets better than a good Bourgogne and no red is more fulfilling than a good Bordeaux. In our opinion, wine tasting is not about numbers/ scores/ stars or grades. We are not trying to rate one above the other. It is important to widen your taste palate and experience different flavours. The 2010 Bordeaux vintage is not as fruity as 2009 but it is clearly a great classic vintage in terms of balance.
We arrived late at night at Relais de Margaux, a beautiful hotel with an 18-hole golf course and the Garonne estuary in the background. We had breakfast with Charles Sichel (Maison Sichel, Chateau Palmer) to discuss the legalities of the Fund structure and additional paperwork before sign-off.
This was followed by lunch at the beautiful Lion d’or at Arcins. It is a pity not to give lunch its due time at such a restaurant. A succulent monk fish ended with a dessert of fresh juicy strawberries sprinkled with sugar. But we rushed through as we had an appointment to be at Chateau Margaux by 2 pm.
We started our day at Château Margaux, a mecca of elegance. The 2010 Margaux is feminine, with a very nice nose, fruity, balanced and a long after taste. Anyone who likes elegant wines will love this Margaux. “Quelle balance!” one of the other French tasters echoed. Since 2009, stricter quality controls meant reduced volumes of the first wine, down from about 16,000 cases to about 12,000, leaving enough volume to create a third wine, name still shrouded in secret, to be released next year with the bottling of the 2009 vintage. The quality of the second wine too has been pushed up. The white Margaux was superb: fresh, fruity and sharp with just the right balance of acidity.
This was followed by a visit to none other than Château Latour. What a contrast in winemaking style. Having had the opportunity to meet Jean Garandeau, the marketing director several times over last two years and having tasted more mature Latours, we found this to be a completely different beast. For people who like wines that fill their mouth with heavy structure and masculine nature, this is it! Starting with the third wine in Pauillac, a little harsh at the end with medium fruit but understanding the price point, we think it’s worth it. 2010 Les Fort de Latour has both acidity and fruit which is quite visible, which will hopefully get rounded as the wine matures. Latour the Grandvin, with deep dark purple colour and technical levels of alcohol not at all apparent in the taste was very fruity with rounded tannins, a monster. The flowery nose was ‘impeccable’.
We drove down to Saint Julien, stopping by the estate of Lilian Barton, a strategic advisor of the Fund where she proudly displayed her 2010 along with 2009 production. Excellent deep wine as usual. The hard work that she and her team have been doing at Langoa Barton is visible. The quality is moving up to catch up with the elder brother Leoville Barton. Both wines are a steal when it gets to quality for value. Excellent balance covered with tannins imply some wait time, but clearly it will be worth the wait.
Then it was Ducru Beaucaillou, a producer where we had to find parking amidst a caravan of Chinese visitors. Oh my god, what an entrance, the marketing background of Bruno Borie comes out loud and clear. Guided by neon signs and a pathway lit by candles we came into the tasting room which was set up beautifully. Starting with Lalande Borie, medium bodied, a bit of a harsh attack on the palate; followed by Croix de Beaucaillou which has nice body, alcohol showing on the nose and in the taste; and ending with Ducru Beaucaillou…. the colour is deeper, the freshness is evident on palate, nose a bit closed, good body and reasonable after taste.
We ended the tastings for the day at Leoville Las where Bruno Rolland and his ancestors have been providing excellent guidance over the last three generations. Amazing humility for a man of his talent, so passionate about the vineyard and with such a depth of knowledge, it was an absolute honor to interact with him. We had a special tasting here with Fugue des Nenin (Pomerol), Nenin (Pomerol), Chapelle de Potensac (Medoc), Potensac (Medoc), Clos de Marquis (Saint Julien), Grand vin de Leoville (Saint Julien). We found the Pomerols a bit difficult to taste. The Pomerols reflected the difference between right bank and left bank in this vintage, But then you get to the Grand vin and its amazing fruit and balance without a hint of alcohol. But it was not as voluptuous as some other top growths that we had tasted. The after taste leaves you longing for more.
We were running late for the Dinner hosted by Commanderie du Bontemps, where Council of Sauternes, Barsac, Medoc and Graves hosts around 600 guests from all over the world with some fabulous wines. These included Palmer 1998, Angludet 1989, Rieussec 2005. I had an interesting discussion with the Dutch traders on my right and the Chinese traders on my left. A late dinner pushed the bedtime to beyond midnight.
Run-Run-Run – we were late for Château Montrose the next day, so decided to go there at the end of the day and were off to Cos d’Estournel. First time here after Cos has refurbished its cellars. Someone told us that the entrance and interiors were done in India as is evident from the folk designs carved on the massive doors and the beautiful stone elephants at the entrance. We started with Goulee – hmmm, an acidic attack and alcohol on the nose supported by medium fruit. Pagode de Cos was next – with good balance of alcohol and fruit, medium body with a nose of fresh acidity and a hint of alcohol. Cos d’Estournel was just perfect, soft, smooth, quite rounded tannins already, fruit and alcohol in perfect harmony but lacking intensity, technically speaking – too perfect a wine? Maybe.
This was followed by our visit to Montrose, where we were greeted by very friendly typically Bordeaux humble staff. We started with Tronquoy de Saint-Anne. There was alcohol on the nose, tannic, low fruit, not my kind of wine. Tronquoy Lalande had a good balance and fruity smell, not muscular enough. Dame de Montrose was elegant, medium bodied, tannins rounded but alcohol not visible. Montrose, very fruity good balance but an abrupt end that led to an anti-climax on the palate.
And then we visited the pair of world famous vineyards Mouton Rothschild and Lafite Rothschild with adjoining parcels of land. Interesting fact that owner of Mouton is a Capricorn and hence all the furniture and fixtures resembles the sign of Capricorn (the Ram) including the lights. ‘Mouton’ means ‘little hill’ which is where the vines are located. On a scale of masculine to feminine, Latour is on one side and Margaux on the other. Mouton this time is somewhere in the middle skewed towards Margaux. We started with Petit Mouton, impressive nose of fruit, medium body and good balance – amongst the second wines, my favourite.
We followed it by d’Armailhac, a value for money wine, sharp freshness with fruit, overt tannins, which will take some time to reach its drinking window. Clerc Milon was astounding, deep colour and good body filled with well-rounded tannins supporting the balance of fruit and acidity. The grand wine Mouton Rothschild is nothing but fruit, fruit, fruit, from nose to taste… all is fabulous and well balanced, an easy to drink wine. Alcohol that I saw on the technical sheet was just not visible to my nose or taste buds, very well integrated.
And then off we were to Château Lafite Rothschild where we were presented with Carruades, Duhart Milon and Lafite. We spoke at length to Charles Chevalier the winemaker, who explained how the style of wine is something that stays constant over centuries at each château, how even if he were making wine at another Château it may change a bit but within two years it would get back to the ‘file rouge’ or the consistency of style that defines the core of the château.
We started with Carruades, full bodied, bright purple, fruit evident on the nose along with freshness. Next was Duhart Milon, clearly this wine is being handled with more seriousness than ever before. It reminded me of Petit Mouton at Mouton Rothschild, lovely after taste. The climax of the trip was Lafite, elegant with measured finesse, I felt the nose was a bit closed or perhaps I was already tired. A brilliant balance, a nice finish with a full body, a bit on the feminine side. A great wine as always.
What with all the talking at the châteaux and not wanting to leave Bordeaux, we ended up missing our train. But here we have tried to share our experience to encourage Sommelier India readers to think beyond the ratings.
Although ratings make the job easier in selecting high-end wines, finally it’s your palate that needs to be pleased. Having spent our lives around ‘garam masala‘ and ‘chunky chaat masala’, the journey in search of the right wine for you will be an exciting endeavour. As I often say, wine tasting is as quantitative as Science and as subjective as Art…because taste lies in the palate of the taster.
For more information, contact Meenu Kohli, DIRECTOR,Taste,Winetage Investments Ltd, 25, Rue de la Raffiere; 78112 Fourqueux, France,+33 677893952, winetageinvestments.com