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I had the great pleasure of attending a tasting and dinner featuring these two glorious chateaux, hosted by one of my favourite wine merchants. There were only 20 people in total around 1 large table.

We were joined by Jean-Guillaume Prats, winemaker at Cos and Alexandre Thienpont, winemaker and owner of VCC. They say in the centre on either side of the table (left and right).

The night started with tastings of their '89s, and then the Cos 2003, and VCC '97 followed by dinner accompanied by more of their vintages. Tasting notes for all wines are below.

The wines were introduced and discussed sparking a lively debate about wine styles across the left and right banks. There was agreement that the right bank had pioneered many techniques that took a decade or more to catch on in the Medoc, but that the scale of production on the left bank required an industrialised approach to experiments that are often easier to adapt on the right.

JGP used the racing car analogy: to win an F1 race by a 1/2 second probably requires disproportional investment to secure this kind of margin when often 100's of seconds separate leaders and runners up. The analogy is whether the kind of investment poured into the tiny Pomerol estates can scale in the face of the size of the left bank chateaux (for instance, 81 hectares at Cos vs. 14 hectares at VCC).

After the first two flights ('89s then '03 Cos vs. '97 VCC), dinner was accompanied by several other wines as follows:

1) with a roasted foie gras in yorkshire pudding with red onion and balsamic reduction - 1985 Cos d'Estournel

2) with filet of beef served with mashed potatoes baby onions and red wine jus - 2000 Cos d'Estournel and 2000 Vieux Chateau Certan

3) with a variety of cheese - 2002 Cos and 2002 VCC.

Overall, I had a great time amongst excellent company. I thoroughly enjoyed the evening, and I hope you find the notes useful.


Cos d'Estournel 1989

A wine made up of 50% merlot. Some slight signs of ageing. Nose of wet earth, herbs, some chocolate and bell pepper. Some inital sweetness, very mouthfilling. Tannins evident and integrated with the overall experience. Some heat on the finish with delicious coating of the throat. Extra long finish. Interesting, complex, beautiful and balanced. A great wine yet only my 3rd favourite on the night. I would drink this anytime.

Vieux Chateau Certan 1989

1st bottle corked.

Bricking evident, much lighter in colour. Some hay, dried light candies fruit and some orange peel nose. Light caramel. In the mouth, light sweetness with slightly dry tannins. Developed into lovely long sweet fruit taste, almost candy. Long finish. Delightful. A very enjoyable wine.

Cos d'Estournel 2003

Described by JGP as one of the best Cos produced ever. He honestly said he did not know when this wine would enter its plateau. 70% Cab Sauvignon.

Very dark colour. Initial nose was strange: simple and fruity like a bottle of Cali cab, some oak, some bell pepper, spice, natural caramel. The nose developed as the wine opened, and with tasting to such a different wine exhibiting a refined classic Cos smell.

Mouthfeel was extraordinary. The wine had layers and layers of fat fruit, completely full bodied, soft yet with a spine of tannin. So mouthfilling. Such unbelievable strength and balance of fruit, tannin and acid - hard to really describe. Unbelievable length. I was gobsmacked. This wine is near perfect and absolutely stunning. My WOTN.

Vieux Chateau Certan 1997

Described as not a bad wine by Alexandre, better than expected. 80% merlot, 20% cab franc.

Medium red. Nose almost of en primeur red burgundy. Sweet cinnamon, burnt caramel nose. Soft mouthfeel but some dry tannins. Sweetness all around, medium length. An ok wine.

Cos d'Estournel 1985

Dark red. Soy sauce, spice, pepper nose. Green pepper and some chocolate on the nose.

Full bodied, mouth coating. Some heat evident. Great balance of tannin, spice and fruit. A complex and beautiful wine. Initially length was excellent but then suddenly fell off a cliff. Strange concatenated length. Great wine, but perplexing. Less mature than the '89?

Cos d'Estournel 2000

Dark colour. Very complete nose, soy sauce, spice, pepper, green pepper, enticing.

Interesting palate - tip of tongue tannins and throat but no middle. Length was excellent. with full throat feeling. Clearly a big wine yet mid palate missing.

My guess is that this wine is able to show some of its characteristics now but the fruit is locked up tight. I would give this wine 5-7 yrs to unfold and my guess is that it will be stunning for its balance and length and develop into a classic long-lived wine. I have faith.

Vieux Chateau Certan 2000

No stems were left during maceration and fermentation. 60% merlot, 30% cab franc and 10% cab sauvignon.

Dark colour. Sweet light brown sugar, lightly caramelised nosed, hint of anise. Again, very en primeur burgundy nose.

Lovely full mouth. Sweet red fruit, spice and some anise. Great length. A really elegant, full bodied, balanced wine. Fantastic. My second favourite on the night.

Cos d'Estournel 2002

Getting sloshed by this point, fewer notes...

Good nose, spice, bell pepper, earth and oak. Concentrated red fruit taste, with some real richness. Alcohol slightly evident. Rich and tannic not yet integrated with the oak. Medium length. A very nice wine and I think it will evolve quite well into a very good Cos.

Vieux Chateau Certan 2002

Some eucalyptus on the nose, black currant and anise. Not the typical nose at first but then the caramel, light brown sugar came out. Taste was ok, not sure this wine was made from fully ripe grapes. Middle length. Ok.

The hosts were very generous with topping up our glasses with the 2000's - I was delighted to have more of the 2000 VCC and the 2000 Cos. I am convinced the 2000 Cos will turn out stunningly.

All the best


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