Tasting Claret in London. Something Special

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TastingThe English have had a long love affair with Bordeaux’s red wines, which they call Claret, (the anglicized version of the French term ‘clairet’ which described the pink-coloured rosé wines that the Bordeaux reds originally were) and London still remains the best place outside France to drink these wines, writes Gaurav Anand.


Even by its celebrity standards, Bordeaux has been attracting a lot of attention lately. Speculation, demand from China, and the stellar 2009 vintage have sent prices of Bordeaux’s classed-growths soaring. It is against this backdrop that I went to a tasting of Bordeaux reds, mostly Grand Crus, of the 2006 vintage in London on November 3, 2010.
The tasting, hosted by the Institute of Masters of Wine, was held in the historic Vintners Hall with 95 wines of the 2006 vintage available for tasting. The wines included four of the five First Growths – only Château Latour was missing. 2006 is considered a variable but excellent vintage which, as the introductory booklet noted, “will remain in the shadow of 2005 for a long time”. I found the 2006s of a very high standard overall with several excellent wines.
DSC02705.jpgI started my tasting with Saint-Estèphe, moving on to Pauillac and Saint Julien. I then took a detour to taste the First Growths – placed reverentially on a separate table. Continuing with the wines of Pessac Leognan/Graves, Haut Medoc and Margaux, I finished with the Merlot-dominated wines of Pomerol and Saint Emilion.
The Saint-Estèphe wines displayed characteristic raw power. I liked the Château Cos d’Estournel – a delightful wine with great concentration of fruit, seductive minerality, a firm structure with very well-integrated tannins and loads of spice on the mid-palate and the finish. Château de Pez, a Cru Bourgeois, was another delightful wine, demonstrating that great wines are not restricted to the Grand Crus.
DSC02706.jpgI found wines to admire in each commune. There were very consistently high-standards in Pauillac with some especially likeable wines – Pontet-Canet and the two Pichons besides a host of others. Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste, a fifth-growth, was excellent – brimming with fruit, minerality, spice with a very firm structure and a long, lingering finish.
My personal favourite among the communes was Margaux. Endlessly enticing, the wines displayed great delicacy, and balance. With vibrant acidity and generally moderate alcohol levels (usually around 13%), the wines were fresh and refreshing. There were too many delightful wines to list here but Château Desmirail, a third-growth, stands out – wonderful lift and concentration on the palate, delicacy, soft, well-integrated tannins, sweet, succulent fruit and a complex, lingering finish.
In Pomerol and Saint Emilion, I found the wines to be somewhat fuller-bodied with lower acidity and tannin than their left-bank counterparts. The wines of Pomerol were excellent – fleshy, with succulent fruit, great concentration a firm structure and definite long-term potential.

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