Being more southerly in the Médoc both St. Julien and Margaux saw less of the autumnal rains that St. Estèphe and Pauillac experienced; this translated into wines with great uniformity of quality. The Margaux tastings were held at Château du Tertre complete with a particularly impressive bull and his equally polished girlfriend on the front lawn. Having seen some rain, the parking area had reduced in parts to what we would call a ‘hint’ of mud, the French were treating it like a catastrophe and had installed shoe shiners at the front of the Château, a nice touch. Our Margaux tasting notes are peppered with words like succulent, berried, perfumed, expressive and elegant. Tannins are well integrated throughout but show enough depth and grip to suggest the wines while approachable now, will hold as well as other great vintages.
After our ‘baptism with Margaux’ on the first morning Nigel proudly directed us to his favourite Château: Leoville-Barton where Lillian Barton had the 2014 and 2015 vintages to taste. This was our first introduction to the St. Julien 2015s and they showed exceptionally well. Ch. Leoville-Barton 2015 is immensely rich with dark, dark fruit over silky integrated tannins, the finish stayed with us all the way to Lafon-Rochet! The main UGC tastings for St. Julien were held at Gruaud-Larose that afternoon. The Château is magnificent; an imposing square structure steeped in history. The winery and cellars, whilst commanding magnificent views of the surrounding countryside and property, did prompt one Asian visitor to ask if they ‘erected the tower especially for primeurs week’!
Wines that showed especially well are listed below.
- Ch. Angludet – Berried slightly perfumed nose over silky elegant mid-palate, tight integrated tannins supporting a toasty, richer finish. 17
- Ch. Brane-Cantenac – Concentrated berried nose leading to dense vanilla scented clove spiced mid palate with the riper tones of liquorice root. Outstanding balance leaving a seamless finish behind. 17
- Ch. Kirwan – A powerful wine from here. Vibrant blackberry tones over a textured condensed full mid-palate. Reserved and poised, full of promise. 17
- Ch. Lascombes – Tight black fruit nose that belies the feminine elegance of the palate. Silky, perfumed and long. 18
- Ch. Monbrison – Expressive, perfumed, almost fruit-forward nose. Lifted fresh mid-palate fruit ending on a succulent sweet note. 17+
- Ch. Prieuré-Lichine – An impressive surprise to all of us. This less publicised Château showed great appeal with a vanilla sheen on ripe fruit leading to an understated lingering almost rounded fruit finish. 17.5
- Ch. Beychevelle – Only 42% Cabernet Sauvignon with 47% Merlot giving a greater richness and warmth of fruit to the wine. Very elegant; taut and focussed. 18
- Ch. Gloria – Dark toasty notes, more traditional. Mineral depth and a phenolic savoury bite make this one of the more powerful examples from here. 18
- Ch. Gruaud Larose – Unusually for this Chateau the nose is sweet and defined. A weighty mid palate is more in keeping with the norm. Great sheen on the fruit. 17.5
- Ch. Langoa Barton – Restrained yet complex toasty nose. Vibrant fruit with phenolic edge and long powerful finish. 17
- Ch. Léoville Barton – Very dark, rich fruit leading to a toasted relatively concentrated mid palate held together with silky yet purposeful tannins carrying the complex savoury tones on and on and on. 19
- Ch. Saint-Pierre – 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc. Cabernet black fruit shows great ripeness yet manages to integrate complex box tree notes adding layers to the palate. An interesting wine. 18+