Day 2 - Pontet Canet, Montrose and Leoville-las-Cases
Perhaps, not surprisingly, Pontet Canet can’t reach the heights of the Lafite we tasted just before lunch yesterday. Nonetheless, there’s no question that this is a rising star in Bordeaux. Moreover, Alfred Tesseron and his team have produced another good wine in 2009 but which perhaps lacked a bit of depth and was just a touch austere on the finish. 15 points.
Of course, Pontet-Canet is the only classed growth to have been certified as biodynamic and whilst there isn’t time to go into that here, I will delve into it for sure on a podcast at some future point.
And like Latour, they are using horsepower to work the soil rather than tractors, said their chef de cave Jeanne-Michel Comme who I talked to at length about the benefits of this natural approach to vine growing.
‘We have three horses. But I think we will have more. They are only a brick in the wall we want to build. Because to improve the wines, we have to take care of the soil. When we started to farm biodynamically, we noticed that the soils were in bad shape because of damaging pesticides and heavy tractors which compacted it and prevented oxygen from getting to the natural microbes in the soil. So we have to get the soil in the right condition for the microbes to return. Then the soil will be in better health which we hope and expect that will improve condition of the and ultimately the fruit and the wine. But this will take years. It is a long process.’
Our next stop was Montrose in St Estephe. It too has ambitions under its relatively new owner Martin Bougyes and Technical Director Nicholas Glumineau – not least because of the number of building projects on the go at this second growth, including plans to generate all their own electricity using solar panels.
However, they’re not just expanding their capacity in the cellar,they have recently bought 22ha of vineyards from Phelan-Segur. According to Glumineau what is so exciting about this is that is a very good terroir. ‘It is the same kind of soil at the top of the hill abutting the estate and used to be owned by Montrose a long time ago. So we are very happy to get it. The vines are not too old or too young vines and I think it was the best part of Phelan Segur.’
Glumineau showed us four wines including the first and second wines of Tronquoy Lalande. Both had a lot more Merlot because of the terroir – it has more clay and less gravel. But I preferred the Montrose wines – particularly the Grand Vin.
72% of production has gone into the wine with Cabernet at 65% and 29% being Merlot. To me this is very pure, polished and fairly monumental but it’s also surprisingly approachable now. I am sure it will be a vin de garde because of its sheer concentration and fresh acidity. The tannins are also powerful but ripe and the fruit is terrific. So the balance is good and there’s no hint of heaviness. 18 points.
Last but by no means least is Las-Cases in St Julien, which remains one of the leading performers of all the classified growths. More often than not, it’s First Growth quality and the rumours that are ricocheting around Bordeaux are that M Delon has produced something special in 2009.
Apparently, 300 visitors showed up on Monday and Tuesday was just as busy, according to chef de Cave Bruno Rolland whose family have been at Las-Cases for the last three generations.
The Nenin was good from Pomerol but I preferred the Potensac from the left bank, which I thought was really impressive this year and will be a great value wine for drinkers. Also impressive was the debut vintage of Le Petit Lion, Las-Cases’ brand new second wine. It had excellent jammy fruit with a hint of tobacco. Also on top form was Clos du Marquis which was very well made and I gave it 18. To me it was a velvet glove in an iron fist.
But the Las-cases simply blows you away. It is the complete package – sweet, cedary, very ripe, creamy tannins. And there’s an awesome black fruit sweetness with a savoury character. The colour is opaque and there’s a fat texture full of glycerine without being over extracted. And it has wonderful length and balance. To me this is vinous perfection again and I have no hesitation in giving it a perfect 20.
On a final note, what I also like about the Las-Cases is the alcohol level at just 13.4%. My view so far is that the very best wines of 2009 are at or around this level and the common thread which links them is Cabernet Sauvignon. Similarly, the least successful wines that I have tasted with higher alcohol of over 14% are from the Right bank with higher percentages of Merlot.
So the conclusion I am reaching is that this is shaping up to be more of a left bank vintage – and here’s why. Essentially, the left bank chateaux could pick the ripe cabernet at the right time when it was ripe and not too alcoholic. But on the Right bank, many chateaux have had to wait for their Merlot grapes to achieve full phenolic ripeness. And, of course, that has meant a big build up of sugar and has resulted in some wines being overextracted or just too alcoholic for their own good.
However, today I’ll get a much clearer picture of the Right bank as my itinerary today includes the likes of Cheval Blanc and Petrus. So tune in later for the latest news on this exciting vintage.