Through many years of collecting wine, I have been intrigued how much my palate has changed over the years. Thinking back to when I began in the mid-1980’s, I was a mere novice.
It was a time of inquisitiveness and endless discovery, as I began to discern the styles that I enjoyed.
That’s all turned over hundreds of times now. Having tasted and collected wines of many varieties from all over the world, even now, styles that I once enjoyed the most I no longer do. Such as it has been with Bordeaux.
My first foray into wine was the discovery of an unlabelled Merlot blend from St. Emilion, on Bordeaux’s famed Right Bank, in 1985. There was no Cellar Door, just a small garage where the experimental winemaker produced his third vintage of a yet unlabelled wine. This wine of no name was the one that began my personal odyssey into wine which continues unabated today. I can still taste what a spectacular drop it was, the very first to awaken my taste buds to a whole new world of possibility and enjoyment.
So it was natural for me to try and find more examples of that French style that blew me away that day. Over the ensuing years I never really did. I found good ones, some great ones, but none quite like that. I wasn’t earning enough to be able to afford the exalted premier and grand crus, but I knew that one day, they would be waiting for me to discover them.
Over the years, right up to and including now, the red wines of Bordeaux, from Grand Cru right through to Village appellations, have never been my favourites. Growing up in Australia, I enjoyed the ripe, full-fruited varietals that led my palate to seek those wines with big, bursting juicy flavours. As time went on and my wine knowledge and discovery exploded, the structured wines of Europe and the clean, more pristine wines of the New World became my staples. They very much remain so today.
It has been sometime since I went into my cellar for some Bordeaux. Recently, I decided to try several of the top estates second, fourth and fifth growths, from Margaux in the Haut-Medoc and from Pauillac on the Left Bank, from two very good vintages, 2004 and 2005. I chose to taste for two reasons, the first to see the development of these wines that had only just begun their long drinking window, the second, to see if I had come full circle and was able to enjoy these wines again after such a long hiatus preferring dramatically different, more savoury and structured styles.
It was an enlightening tasting. I had only tasted these wines once, at the time of purchase, I remember thinking “so these are obviously not ready yet, but, as in all good Bordeaux, with time they will blossom”. So – did they?
Wines Tasted JUNE 2019
The Estate: CHATEAU DU TERTRE - Margaux
Chateau du Tertre is a thousand-year-old estate whose 52-hectare vineyard remains unchanged since 1855. During the 19th Century, the wines of Chateau de Tertre became famous around the world due to the 1855 Classification which established the Chateau as a Margaux Grand Cru Classe. 1n 1997, a Dutch businessman bought the estate and heavily invested in overall restructuring, returning its original noble personality to the estate.
The Wine : CHATEAU DU TERTRE, Fifth Growth. 5me Grand Cru Classe - Vintage 2005
13% Alc / Medium Bodied
Deep saturated crimson in the glass, the immediate aromas are of blackberry, cassis, cocoa and truffle.
On the palate, there is a luxurious power to the fruit, it has an intensity across the mid-palate which is striking.
It’s mellow and creamy with washes of chocolate. It has an almost port like viscosity, being quite full and rich. The flavours are consistent, they remained at a balanced plateau after several tastings.
There is lovely silky tannins on the finish which are long without being exceptional.
Verdict : The wine is seductive and full of personality. I am left believing there is still promise for further improvement, just how much though, I am unsure. It is very much on song right now and is a joy to drink. The tannins need a little further integration, just how soon that will happen and how much of a difference it will make with this wine remains to be seen. My guess is a peak of 5 more years to show its very best.
The Estate: CHATEAU LATOUR - Pauillac
Chateau Latour is in a unique class of its own in Bordeaux. It has been the most consistent of the First Growth chateaux from the Medoc for over 100 years, and produces one of the world’s greatest wines, Chateau Latour, a first growth masterpiece. Chateau Latour is one of the oldest Bordeaux wine producing properties in the Pauillac appellation with a history dating all the way back to 14th century.
There is a second wine, Les Forts de Latour, which comes from the young vines of the Grand Enclos. The vines used to produce Les Forts de Latour are around 12 years of age. The wine made its debut in 1966. It was made in only a few vintages up until 1990, from which it has been produced in every vintage. The wine is considered by many to be equally as impressive as its elder brother.
The Wine : LES FORTS DE LATOUR, Second Growth. 2me Grand Cru Classe - Vintage 2005
13% Alc / Medium Bodied / 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot
Dense ruby, purple, staining the glass.
A whiff of this transports you on flight across European forests and over fields of wild strawberries and exotic flowers.
A mouthful of gorgeous blackcurrant, sexy spices and turned earth, this is alive and kicking with everything in full throttle first gear. It is a beautiful wine, no other way to describe it. The fruit fully integrated with ultra-fine tannins licking across the tongue at every moment. This is sex in a glass. Gorgeous.
Verdict : Close to perfect for me, undoubtedly the best Bordeaux I have tasted in a decade. This must be one of the very best wines of the 2005 Vintage in the Medoc. Stunning. The beguiling thing is that I figure there’s 10-20 years ahead of this. It is going to be even more sublime in time. I seriously doubt I will have the patience to wait.
The Estate: CHATEAU PRIEURE-LICHINE - Margaux
Château Prieuré-Lichine is one of the most fragmented estates in the Médoc with as many as 40 separate parcels of vines scattered throughout the Margaux appellation. The estate was purchased in 1951 by the great Bordeaux visionary Alexis Lichine, who improved the quality of the wines through investing heavily in new vineyards and by modernising the vinification techniques.
The Wine: CHATEAU PRIEURE-LICHINE, Fourth Growth. 4me Grand Cru Classe – Vintage 2005
13.5% Alc / Medium-Full Bodied / 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot
Deep crimson / ruby, very pretty in the glass.
The aromas begin with dark cherry and blackberry, then the florals come through. Lovely notes of rose and violet, with sweet spices also evolving. A fabulous aromatic profile.
On the palate, be ready for an initial savoury attack followed by astringent opulence. the tannins are very prominent and yet to integrate completely. Beautifully pure with a lovely broad mouthfeel. It has considerable power and vibrancy. The finish is a little short, this is all about front and middle attack.
Verdict: Perhaps the 2005 Vintage has turned out even better wines than I first expected! This was a surprise, the fact that it opened up in the glass at a fairly slow rate and the level of structure really impressed me. This is quite excellent and yet another wine whose best is to come, there is some time to go! 10years+
The Estate: CHATEAU LASCOMBES – Margaux
A Second Growth cru classe property, Lascombes is one of the largest estates in the Médoc.
The Wine : CHATEAU LASCOMBES, Second Growth. 2me Grand Cru Classe – Vintage 2004
13.5% Alc / Medium-Bodied / 52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot
The dark purple colour here could almost be mistaken for black. It’s a dark beauty.
A full nose of bountiful black and blueberries, licorice and coffee, with lovely notes of cedar.
On the palate it’s immediately apparent how opulent this is. The oak has integrated very well but it’s still a powerful, dominant wine that needs some coming together. Its silkiness is striking, all of the elements have come together to soften this powerhouse into something smoother and more well-rounded. With a lush creaminess, the fruit is at the front now and presents itself as the feature from the 100% new oak it was encased in upon release. It’s wild and has a defined structure, still dancing to find a common ground and settle in for a cosy rest of its life.
Verdict : This is still sorting itself out, but it’s a very impressive wine. I need a big juicy steak with this one. My next tasting will include that! Drinkable now but 3-5 years more should put it in the sweet spot. Impressive.