We were drinking a Rauzan-Segla 2000 one time when someone said, "you know, Bordeaux is a terrible place to grow grapes". And it's true, for decades half the vintages were too cold and wet and perfect growing seasons could be destroyed by a few days of rain. Bordeaux wouldn't even exist as a wine region if the Dutch hadn't drained the swamps centuries ago. But the same cold weather made Bordeaux the first great wine region because it ensured the grapes didn't spoil on their way to the winery and made it easier to control the pace of the fermentation, in the centuries before refrigeration was invented. Bordeaux has kept its place at the top of the heap ever since and when you get right down to it, they really do make some of the best wines in the world and the ones that mature in the most graceful manner.
Domaine de Chevalier, Pessac-Leognan, Blanc, 2001
Well, this certainly didn't mature gracefully. There's a nice backdrop of minerals and mushrooms, but it's at least slightly oxidized. I know 2001 was good for white Bordeaux, but this should have been drunk years ago. Still, an interesting experience.
Cos d’Estournel, Goulee, 2015
Melon, minerals, good structure and grip - not profound but very nice. There are better Bordeaux whites around, and better priced ones too. I think the Goulee's redeeming feature is that it comes from d'Estournel, if you're in need of a famous name at your table.
Chateau Peybonhomme-les-Tours, Le Blanc Bonhomme, Les Tours Blanc, 2016
This is a blanc de noirs made of Cabernet Franc and Malbes, from a 'natural wine' producer from the Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux appellation. Useful as joker in a blind cidre tasting.
Chateau Beychevelle, Saint-Julien 4me Cru, 1980
I'm a little bit surprised to find out this is the first time I've ever drunk Beychevelle. The Meyney just below was also a first time for me, but Beychevelle is much better known. Anyway, 1980 is far from being a great vintage and although the wine faded after a few minutes, the glass was pretty good while it lasted, showing iron, earth, good acidity and flavorsome black fruit. Not very complex or persistent even while it lasted, just clean and savory.
Chateau Lafon-Rochet, Saint-Estephe 4me Cru, 1995
Just about the best wine of the evening, a classic showcase of pedigree Left Bank at robust maturity, with a perfume of currants and iron and an elegant structure that doesn’t impinge on the soft core of the fruit.
Chateau Meyney, Saint-Estephe,1986
An over-achieving unclassified estate. While not as structured as the Lafon-Rochet, it, too, shows excellent acidity and is perhaps the most nuanced wine of the lineup. Both are typical of the more reserved style of Saint-Estephe, with aromas of iron and a suggestion of muscularity. The Meyney is in an especially good place, totally ready and with enough vigor that it improved and evolved over the course of the evening.
Chateau Leoville-Poyferre, Saint-Julien 2me Cru,1999
Another classic claret, notable in this case for breaking the glass ceiling of the gloomy 1999 vintage and provide beautiful, mellow fruit that makes up for any lack of depth or complexity.
Chateau Leoville-Poyferre, Saint-Julien 2me Cru, 2003
If the 1999 raised hopes that team Poyferre was capable of dealing with any adversity, along comes a bottle that proves that the awful heat of 2003 was more than they could overcome. Blasting at you with hyper-extracted black fruit, this is one of the most off putting Bordeaux ever.
Chateau Sociando Malet, Haut-Medoc Cru Bourgeois, 2000
The tannins and fruit are a little greener than I'd expect in 2000 - not under-ripe, just sort of green-tinted, think of the savory and herbaceous notes people label as tobacco leaves. Like the best wines of the night, it too shows iron and good acidity.
Clos du Marquis, Saint Julien, 2016
Naturally, this is still in a very primary and forward phase and will probably shut down within months. I doubt anyone inclined to read my notes will buy a bottle for consumption before it turns eight, at least, which kind of voids any need for detailed notes.