Be adviced that these tastings are made by a wine-lover, not a critic, journalist or whatever. These notes match my palate, I hope they do match yours too.
Despite some serious family matters, I decided to travel to France and enjoy the sea, boulevard, nice food and company in Biarritz from 23-26th June. On the 26th I went to La Vigne Reine in Cérons (border of Barsac), a lovely Chambre d'Hotes owned by Claude and Michèle Bray and surounded by vines (appellation Cérons/Graves) all over the place.
A nice restaurant to visit is Restaurant/Pizzeria 'Les Rompards' in Cadillac (first left on junction after the 'iron bridge'). Despite some of the staff being a bit 'grumpy', the food was excellent and quite cheap. Some nice local wines offered. Another nice place to visit is Restaurant Tante Zene at the junction with the traffic lights in Cérons. Good fish dishes here.
My first visit was Château Doisy-Daëne on the 27th. It was extremely hot (almost 40 degress Celsius) and we were expected by Fabrice Dubourdieu, the 4th generation of Dubordieux at this 2nd Growth in Barsac.
We talked about everything in the nice airconditioned tasting room. About Japan, where women decide which wines are to be drunk and thus should be approached. About 'Sauternes' being more than just a dessert drink. About cryo-extraction, which even was used partly for the 2001-vintage (!) and we had some nice wines.
Château Cantegril Rouge AC Graves 2002
Also onwed by the family Dubourdieu. Nice, smokey nose with lots of juicy berries and mocha. On the palate quite modest, with red fruit, soft oak and tannins. Nice finish. Lovely, cheap red Graves. 85-86/100
Château Doisy-Daëne Blanc AC Bordeaux 2003
100% savignon blanc. One of the first châteaux in the region to make dry white wine (since 1949). A 'grassy', fruity nose with citrus and minerals. Some honey, exotic fruit and with a crisp structure and good balance. Good finish. Soft and elegant. 87/100
Château Cantegril Sauternes Cru Bourgeois 2002
Now we're talking. Lovely nose, with wax, honey and some orange. An elegant wine, not too complicated, but very attractive. Mocha, apricot, orangeskin, pineapple and a good acidity to make it interesting. Lovely finish. Great buy. 88-89/100
Château Doisy-Daëne Barsac 2me GCC 2002
Compared to the Cru Bourgeois, this was much more complex. Very intense and, already, with different 'layers' of fruit and some secondary tones. Subtle power. Long finish. Will improve for sure. Yum!! 92+/100
This ended my tour. Fabrice Dubourdieu is a humble, modest young man with a great passion for wines and Barsac/Sauternes. We took a quick look in the vineyards and we concluded that it was still very, very hot...
The next day we drove, through the beautiful 1er Cotes de Bordeaux-region, to Pomerol. Here I had an appointment with Alain Mouiex of Château Mazeyres.
We had a nice, personal tour. Alain liked it that people not always follow the big names, but are interested in the majority of the smaller wines in the region as well. These wines show their terroir (elegancy, silkyness, grace) better than some of the over-extracted wines made by some properties, as he stated quite clearly.
He is manager since 1992 and made some huge improvements. Even during our visit some work was done in the vineyards and near the chais. Alain Mouiex is manager at Mazeyres and he (partly) owns Ch. Fonroque and Ch. Moulin-du-Cadet in St.-Emilion as well, both being Grand Cru Classés. There he is in favour of a biological approach of managing the vineyards. At Mazeyres that is not done (yet).
In the brand new tasting room, I was able to taste some nice Pomerols on a hot day.
Château Mazeyres AC Pomerol 2003
Difficult year! Still, the wine was elegant, rather tight and with some nice berryfruit and oak. Maybe some burned fruit on the background? To young to tell, for me... 84+/100
Château Mazeyres AC Pomerol 2002
Another difficult vintage for the region. Better than the 2003, with more fruit, cinnamon and plum. Good finish. Not in balance right now, needs 2-3 years at least, according to Alain (who called it "rustic" at this stage). 85-86+/100
Château Mazeyres AC Pomerol 2001
Now we're talking! Having had the delicious 2000 at home recently, this one was a bit more restrained, but delicious. A delicate nose with plum, cherry and cinnamon. A 'creamy' wine, with a good depth and structure. Medium to long finish. Young but, IMO, ready! 88-89/100
Château Mazeyres AC Pomerol 1998
'The great vintage' on the right bank. In these days there was less green harvesting and leaves removal, so Alain rated it below the 2001 and 2000. I had to agree, although it still was a very good wine with more mature fruit (raisin came to mind), mocha, some oak (not noticable on the '00 and '01) and probably in need of a few more years to gain more balance. 87/100
I also tasted some Mazeyres 2004 from the barrel. Very nice! Lots of raspberry, delicate and sweet already and with a long finish. This may turn out in something very good! Thanks for offering these fine wines, Alain Moueix!
On the 29th I first went to Château Coutet in Barsac. The temperatures were a bit lower than before, but still, 27-28 degrees was quite on the high side of fun without an a/c in the car.
The cellarmaster's wife (forgot to write down her name, but she knew a lot) gave us a short tour. Here, cryo-extraction only was done for the second wine in 2000. NEVER in other vintages and NEVER ever for the first wine. Monsieur Bally, the onwer, believes in traditional winemaking based upon terroir and knowledge, although modern techniques can be found at Coutet as well.
A single, young wine was presented:
Château Coutet Barsac 1er GCC 2004
The nose was pure honey! Sweet, delicate... Everytime new flavours emerged from the glass. On the palate this wine was young and pure. Very good acidity. Honey, caramel, nuts, orangeskin and in need of a long development. But so delicate... 91+/100
Some 'fine dining & Sauternais tips':
* Crème Brileé
* Coulis Fruits Rouge
* Salmon avec Corotte et Poireaux
* Filet Sole / Foie Gras Frais
* Poulet / Veau
One is adviced!
Last visit on my trip was at Château La Tour Blanche, which is very close to Château d'Yquem and owned by the French state since 1909. Didier Frechinet gave an excellent and relaxed tour. We say some parts of the 'wineschool' ("Ecole de Viticulture et d'Oenologie"), vineyards and we talked about the cryo-extraction which is never used for the first wine here. And we tried some wines.
Les Charmilles de Tour Blanche 2001
A thick and juicy nose. Lots of botrytis, also on the palate. Honey, apricot, big and brutish at this stage and with a 'nutty background'. Not too deep, but from a great vintage and very pure. Nice price too. 88/100
Château La Tour Blanche Sauternes 1er GCC 2002
From the 'forgotten vintage' between 2001 and 2003. Still a great wine and one to look for! A bit closed now on the nose, showing a bit of rather fresh fruit and wax after some time. Very concentrated on the palate, elegant and with good acidity. All the works present and so delicate already! Needs time! 89-90+/100
But there are more wines to discover in Sauternes, Barsac, St.-Croix-du-Mont, Cadillac, Cérons and Loupiac... Go to the various tourist offices and let them advice you which winemakers are 'open'. You can taste, try and buy at various places!
Bordeaux is great!
To give you an idea what's possible to buy in the Carrefour Supermarchés near Bordeaux (exit 20 d'Arcins, exit 26 Lormont):
Léoville Las Cases 2001 68 Eur.
Léoville-Poyferré 2001 29 Eur.
Grand-Puy Lacoste 2001 25 Eur.
Lagrange St.-Julien 2001 22 Eur.
Clos Fourtet 2002 27 Eur.
Pichon Lala 2001 45 Eur.
Lynch-Bages 2001 35 Eur.
Calon-Ségur 2001 27 Eur.
Clerc-Milon 2001 25 Eur.
Pontet-Canet 2001 24 Eur.
Larcis-Ducasse 2000 & 2001 25 Eur.
Camensac 2000 & 2001 14 Eur (!)
Cantemerle 2002 15 Eur.
And many, many more. Seems the 2001s are still widely available. I've seen the same prices last year!