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Ending Wednesday evening with a tasting at the most consistent First Growth of recent times, Ch. Latour, was a great experience in their modern tasting facility – a stark contrast to many of the other more traditional rooms we had experienced earlier in the day. Very much within the context of 2011, the Les Forts De Latour was a joyful wine to taste. A wonderfully perfumed nose, opulent fruit, power and silky interwoven tannins. 2011 Ch. Latour is very precise, elegant and focussed, a result of careful vinification and extraction. The wine also shows layered complexity which has been missing in all but a few wines this week.
The evening tasting set us up nicely for the tasting of two other First Growths and many Super-Seconds on Thursday Morning and we started at Ch. Lafite Rothschild (which is typically very difficult to taste En Primeur – Mr Chevalier often mentions that he would prefer to show his wines in June when they have begun to flourish and this is perhaps even more relevant this year). Ch. Duhart-Millon shone, with an abundance of juice on offer. Ch. Montrose was next up and we were particularly impressed by the second wine, La Dame which showed lovely fruit (72% Merlot and 50% of the crop this year, usually just 38% – much stricter selections having taken place). The Grand Vin yield is 10 hectare liters per hectare down this year, at 35 hectare litres, and it is very well integrated with oak, fruit, silky tannins and overall elegance. It is perhaps one of the most harmonious wines yet.
The quality of wines on display this morning was further enhanced by those at Cos d’Estournel (attractive berry fruit perfume on the nose of the Les Pagodes, with seemless tannins and good fruit on the finish – pretty serious for a second wine. Only 30% of the crop went into the first wine this year and it is the smallest production in terms of cases since 1991. It is very serious, fulsome and brooding). Ch. Pontet-Canet have excelled with a crop which is 25% down on last year (a wonderfully perfumed nose, beautiful integrated tannins, nice ripe and pure fruit), whilst Ch. Mouton Rothschild was rich, decadent, sweet and generous with extraordinary length -a very good wine, which achieves a layered complexity that one would expect from a First Growth wine.
A pleasing morning was rounded off in some style by the wines of Ch. Ducru-Beaucaillou, where the La Croix was showing nicely, perhaps the best ever according to our Fine Wine Director Simon Staples. Ducru itself was incredibly delicious, aged for 18 months in 100% new oak, it’s wonderfully fresh and beautifully constructed. Simply a joy to taste.
In the afternoon we were treated to superb tastings at Ch. Haut-Bages Libéral (25% reduced yield in 2011, it is full and juicy with substance and body, lots of black fruit – a very tasty wine), Ch. Léoville and Langoa-Barton (both very much on form and likely to be in our buying lists) and Ch. Léoville-Poyferré (generous fruit, extremely fine tannins and a promising weight on the palate). Ch. Pichon-Baron has also created a super wine in 2011 (perfumed nose, lots of fruit on the palate and a good balancing acidity/level of tannin on the finish) and this completed our portfolio of perfect wines, confirming to us that despite the obvious difficulties, and unfair benchmarking against 2009 and 2010, this vintage has produced some really good wines too this year.
Tonight we spend the evening tasting at Ch. Léoville Las Cases, one of the largest and oldest classified Growths in the Médoc and another 2ème Cru Classé in name who regularly produce 1er Cru Classé quality wines. Look out for our comments about the wines and the experience in tomorrow’s blog.
Our last daily blog will be live this afternoon and for up-to-the-minute tasting snippets and thoughts from the team, follow Simon Staples, our Fine Wine Director, on Twitter @BigSiTheWineGuy.