Château Fontenil 1994 Fronsac (Bordeaux) — I expected tired, tannic, and woody. It’s certainly not in the prime of its life, and there’s some woodsmoke (more with a half-dozen hours’ air), but otherwise this — even with Rolland’s name scribbled all over the label — tastes reasonably traditional, leaning heavily on tar and decayed leaves. Drink up, though. (9/16)
Calon-Ségur 1993 Saint-Estèphe (Bordeaux) — Leather-textured, with fine-grit graphite soaked into the tanned flesh. Fully mature, leaning a bit hard and wizened, but as it airs it lengthens and gains dried-herb complexities. Finally, though, it finishes in a summer-breeze dusting of black pepper powder. (5/16)
Borie “Château Ducru-Beaucaillou” 1995 Saint-Julien (Bordeaux) — Something is off with this bottle. Like razors in an field of herbs, it’s nothing but anger and pyrazines. (4/16)
Barrault “Château Tire Pé” 2010 Bordeaux “Diem” (Bordeaux) – Such a pretty, elegant interpretation of Bordeaux. Not, I think, one you’d want to age (but who knows?), but it manages the trick that so few early-drinking Bordeaux manage: a perfect poise between cedary dark fruit and just enough structure. I could drink this by the case while I wait for my (diminishing) stocks of more aspirational Bordeaux on their long journey towards maturity), and am beginning to wonder why I don’t. (8/12)
Just in Cases
Léoville Las Cases 1975 Saint-Julien (Bordeaux) – Cedar leaves (I know, I know) and silk. Beautiful, elegant, and long. Magisterial. Bordeaux’s actual soul, rather than the all-too-common Las Vegas version, on display. This is a very short note for a truly beautiful wine, but I don’t think an avalanche of verbiage is needed. (7/12)
Tire Pé? It’s me, Margaret.
Barrault “Château Tire Pé” 2010 Bordeaux “DieM” (Bordeaux) – Mostly merlot, with the cabernets each playing a 10% role. As many wine folk long lost in geekery tend to do, I spend a lot of time in stores spinning bottles to find the importer strip for stylistic clues to wines I don’t know. Pre-culling, so to speak. So I was surprised when, having noted the identity of a well-known natural-focused importer, I re-spun the bottle to find that I was holding a Bordeaux. You don’t see that combination every day.
Anyway, the wine. Yes, it’s Bordeaux. There’s classicism (tobacco-tinged fruit, fuzzy/leathery-textured tannin, a hint of graphite, dark fruit that’s more skin than juice), for sure, though its of the type more typically expressed – at least in theory – by the lower end of the spectrum rather than the showy classed growths, the sort of wine that purchasers of generic Bordeaux all over France think they’re drinking with their daily meal. But aren’t, because those wines aren’t this good. While it’s not organoleptically flexible enough to be a constant companion at the global American table, perhaps, with the right food I could very happily own and then consume a lot of this wine. In fact, I think I will. (3/12)
Nony “Château Grand Mayne” 2001 Saint-Émilion (Bordeaux) – Quite aggressive, already significantly herbal (both green tobacco and crisp brown leaves), black pepper dust, and blackened bell pepper skin, with a headiness that hovers but doesn’t, in the end, amount to much more than velocity. I actually like much of what this wine offers, but it’s certainly far from great; that I purchased it for $30 rather than the regular price (double that) makes me feel much better about the outcome and the assessment. It is, at least, recognizably Bordeaux, and that’s not something one can say about far too many of the region’s wines these days. (9/11)
Château Graville-Lacoste 2009 Graves (Bordeaux) – So reliably solid, greens and whites atop a bed of hay. A little dash of salt, a little sprinkle of white pepper, and a lot of good clean fun. (8/11)
Château Guiraud 2001 Sauternes (Bordeaux) – Extremely advance, to a point that I can’t believe this bottle is intact. Already here are the bronze, caramelized, slightly oxidized brown sugar elements of mature Sauternes, and that’s just extremely unlikely after only ten years. (8/11)
Just a Rieussec
Rieussec 2002 Sauternes (Bordeaux) – If I remember correctly, Rieussec was my first “good” Sauternes. I’d had a few cheapies as a run-up, but this was the one that lit the bulb over my palate; “oh, I get it now!” Since those exploratory days I’ve learned that the botrytized and wooded style is far from my favorite way to consume liquid sugar, and so I mostly drink other things. In a way, then, this was as much a Proustian pleasure as it was an actual pleasure…though it was that, too. Good? Yes. I wouldn’t call it great, though, and that may well be the aforementioned stylistic preference at work (which is why I mentioned it in the first place). All the expected elements – bronzed and preserved fruit, caramelized apples, toasted spices, a warming mélange of bakery aromas – are in place and in balance. There is acidity, but as my preferences run towards sweet wines with a lot more of it, it seems slightly insufficient to me. And it’s not particularly deft with food, either; it can wage (and may win) a battle of richness, but it does not envelop nor allow itself to be enveloped. Still, I don’t want to over-criticize; there is almost no situation in which I would turn a wine of this quality down. (9/10)