For the past three years the Certified Dipsos have tasted wines from a reputed Bordeaux vintage, beginning with the 1995 vintage in November 2008, the 1996 vintage in November 2009 and then the 1998 vintage last year. This year we looked at 2001 Right and Left Bank wines ten years on from the vintage, with the critical consensus being that this vintage has remained unfairly in the shadow of the 2000, particularly in the case of the Right Bank wines.
The tasting was presented by Pat Carroll and Sandra Mooney, who assembled an exciting range of ten wines. Pat advised us that David Peppercorn MW picked four particular wines which he thought fared very well, namely Ch. Fieuzal, Ch. Beychevelle, Ch. Léoville-Barton and Ch. du Tetre, which was also a selection of Jancis Robinson MW. We were therefore fortunate to be tasting all four of those mentioned above and the full list was as follows:
(1) Chateau du Terte 5ème Grand Cru Classé Margaux €35
The assemblage in 2001 was 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc grown on a gravelly mound, hence the name ‘du Tetre’, which means ‘knoll’. The château is located quite a distance away from the other Margaux châteaux, which are all fairly close to each other The vines are green harvested and selected grapes are macerated for up to three weeks. Up to 2008 fermentation was in temperature-controlled old wooden vats, but now they use egg-shaped concrete vats. The wines are then aged for up to 18 months in 45% new French oak.
For a Left Bank Ch. Palmer has an unusually high proportion of Merlot planted and generally there is about 40% of it in the assemblage. The grapes are hand harvested and vinified in stainless steel and aged in up to 45% new oak for up to 21 months. It is racked four times in the first year and assemblage takes place after around 12 months. It is later egg-white fined and bottled unfiltered.
This wine has a particular Irish interest, as it is owned by Lochlann Quinn, the former chairman of AIB Bank, director of Glen Dimplex and of course older brother of our current Minister for Education, Rurai Quinn. Mr Quinn purchased the property in 2001 and has made some substantial improvements since then. The vineyard follows lutte raisonée (sustainable vineyard practices) and harvesting is done by hand. They produce both red and white wines here and the wines are aged in 50% new oak for 16–24 months and egg-white fined. The Oxford Companion to Wine says it is ‘an over-achiever’.
(4) Ch. Beychevelle 4ème Grand Cru Classé St-Julien 13% €69
This one was 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 39% Merlot and 7% Petit Verdot in 2001 and production was approx 25,000 cases. Apparently this is very popular in China, as the label has a boat on it and the Chinese name is not Beychevelle but ‘great boat’ or something like that.
(5) Ch. Léoville-Barton 2ème Grand Cru Classé St-Julien 12.5% €85
Another one with an Irish connection which has been run for many years by Irishman Anthony Barton, who also owns Langoa-Barton. The Bartons have a long history in Bordeaux and part of the family set up the well-known wine merchants Barton & Guestier. The amazing thing about Chateau Léoville-Barton is that there is no Ch. Leoville-Barton . . . the wines are actually made at nearby Langoa-Barton!
(6) Ch. Grand-Puy-Lacoste 5ème Grand Cru Classé Pauillac 13% €40
This was the only Pauillac of the tasting and stood out a little, especially when compared in this flight of wines, as it has a lot more Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend.We didn’t have exact figures for the 2001 but apparently the planting figures are 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon and up to 70% new oak is used every year.
(7) Ch. Belair St-Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé (B) €78
This château is now called Ch. Belair-Monange (since 2008). The suffix of Monange was added by the new owners, the Mouiex family (Monange being the maiden name of the matriarch of the J.P. Mouiex empire). They bought the estate from Pascal Delbeck, who had worked the estate for many years and was bequeathed it but couldn’t hold on to it due to heavy French inheritance taxes, so the 2001 was a Delbeck-made wine which came from manually harvested 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc aged in 100% new oak. Many commentators say that Delbeck operated under lutte raisonée and indeed almost biodynamic principles, but the new owners are now following a ‘modern’ Bordeaux winemaking style, i.e. manual harvest with very low yields (18 hl per hectare!), fermentation in concrete and stainless steel, ageing in a high percentage of new oak, racking every three months or so and egg-white fining.
(8) Ch. La Conseillante Pomerol 13.5% €105
This château consists of 12 ha of vines and this particular vintage had 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc and was aged in 80–100% new oak. Only about 4,000 cases are produced each year.
The assemblage here was 75% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon and approx. 5,000 cases are produced per annum.
(10) Ch. Cheval Blanc St-Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé (A) 13.5% €399
For many this was to be the highlight of the evening, being one of the duo of châteaux awarded the coveted Classé A, the other being Ch. Ausone. It is owned by LVMH, who also own Moët et Chandon and Yquem. Cheval Blanc is famously Cabernet Franc dominated The vines here are 60% Cabernet Franc, 37% Merlot, 2% Malbec and 1% Cabernet Sauvignon. The wines here are aged for 18 months in 100% new oak made by five different coopers.