Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Mastering the Medoc and Graves: Tasting the Medoc Wines

A total of 10 wines were tasted at the Steven Spurrier Mastering the Medoc and Graves course which was held at Decanter HQ on October 8th, 2010.  Eight of the wines were red and two white.  The whites were both Graves AOC -- the only dry white AOC in Bordeaux other than Pessac-Leognan -- while the reds were drawn from St. Estephe (2), Pauillac (1), St. Julien (2), Margaux (2) and Pessac-Leognan (1).  In terms of vintage, three of the wines were from 2005 (an exceptional vintage, according to Decanter), two were from 2003 ("Expect wines of finesse and structure with some ageing potential" -- Decanter), and one each from 2008, 2007, 2006, 2001, and 1998.  In this post I will report on the Medoc wines tasted and will reserve the Graves wines for a future post.

The first Medoc wine tasted was the 2006 Amiral de Beychevelle, the second wine of Chateau Beychevelle.  Annual production of this label is around 12,500 cases, approximately 1/3 of the Chateau's total production.  The grapes for this wine are picked from vines averaging 25 years of age and were picked earlier than were grapes designated for the flagship wine.  The wine is 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc, and 4% Petit Verdot.  The wine was aged in 50% new oak after fermentation in temperature-controlled vats.  The wine had a full, young color in the glass and black olives, mushrooms, and vanilla on the nose.  It exhibited a hint of spiciness and great balance.

The second Medoc wine tasted was the 2005 Chateau d" Angludet from Margaux.  The estate encompasses 32 hectares on sandy-gravelly soil and is planted to 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, and 10% Petit Verdot.  The fruit is machine-harvested and fermented in concrete vats.  The wine is aged for 12 months in 33% new oak and egg-white-fined before bottling.  Annual production is 10,000 cases.  The Angludet had a more intense color than did the Amiral de Beychevelle and appeared somewhat concentrated.  Red and black fruits on the nose as well as some vegetality.  Rich on the palate with blackcurrants and a definitive earthiness.

We next tasted the 2005 Pauillac (ex Chateau Latour).  This wine, Chateau Latour's third label, is a blend of 73% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 27% Merlot.  It had great color and concentrated red berry fruit , iron, and graphite on the nose.  On the palate some greenness, a metallic tone, and medium plus acid.  Steven Spurrier saw this wine as "balanced" and "classy" and indicated that it should be drunk over the next 2-3 years.

The next Medoc wine tasted was the 2005 Chateau de Pez from St. Estephe.  This wine was a blend of 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 44% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Petit Verdot and had been matured in 40% new French oak barrels for 16-18 months.  The wine had good color but a diffuse rim.  On the nose it exhibited raw meat, steel and black fruit.  On the palate, a good round mouthfeel, vanilla notes, and good acidity.  A balanced wine that is approachable now.

The Chateau Branaire-Ducru was from the heat-wave vintage of 2003.  This estate is set on 60 hectares which are planted with 35-year-old vines.  The blend is 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Petit Verdot.  The wine was aged for 16-20 months in 60-65% new oak barrels.  The nose showed green notes, stewed red fruits and baking spices while the palate exhibited a green note and an overarching richness.  A beautifully balanced wine which can be drunk over the next three years.

The Chateau Rauzan-Segla (Margaux) was drawn from the oft-overlooked 2001 vintage.  The blend -- 63.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33.5% Merlot, and 3% Cabernet Franc -- has been aged in 55% new oak barrels.  The wine showed maturity in the glass while the nose showed red fruit, a fragrant elegance, cassis, dark chocolate, vanilla, and lacquer.  The wine had a good round mouth feel and a fairly long finish.

The final Medoc wine was the Chateau Calon-Segur (St. Estephe),  drawn from a vintage (1998) which was, according to Steven, more of a right-bank vintage than a left.  The grapes for the wine had been sourced from 35-year-old vines planted on the estate's 55 hectares.  The wine was aged for 18 months in oak barriques after fermentation.  The wine had a fragrant florality, red fruit, and spices on the nose and harmony, sweetness of fruit, and length of fruit on the palate. This was clearly the most elegant of the Medoc wines that we had tasted.

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