It all ends here - the last day of the 2013 primeurs. An exciting start as we were off to Clinet followed by Eglise Clinet, both purveyors of an exceptional grand vin in addition to some of our favourite, and best selling, value wines. A major shift in the weather meant the rain had been coming down in biblical proportions since about 10pm yesterday, and the resulting change in pressure seemed to take the edge off the wines and bring out more fruit characters. That, in combination with the terroir, hard work and intelligence of Ronan Laborde and Denis Durantou meant we started the day on a (relative) high. Clinet has managed to achieve ripe dark fruit flavours without pushing the extract levels into dryness, and Denis' wines are a triumph from bottom to top. Eglise Clinet is perhaps the wine of the vintage but Cruzelles might be the bargain of the vintage.
After this we visited the effervescent Helene Garcin Leveque and the reinvented Figeac, both of whom made charming wines this year (the Cabernet Sauvignon at Figeac, which makes up 50% of the blend, is really quite something under the circumstances) before heading to taste the remaining St Emilions at La Dominique. Unlike the challenging wines from yesterday, these were showing quite nicely with some lovely drinkers from Beausejour Becot, La Gaffelière and La Dominique. Clos Fourtet and Troplong Mondotwere also stylistically bold but worked well within the confines of the vintage.
The wines at Moueix were a stable of softly extracted, charming wines for early consumption with the seriously stylish trio of La Fleur Petrus, Belair Monange and Trotanoy promising longer-term pleasure from the vintage; these boasted pretty fruit and a glossy feel, the sign of the all-important light touch in the winery.
Almost the end of the day, and the trip, and there were just a couple of Chateau visits to go: Haut Brion and La Mission Haut Brion followed by Haut Bailly. There’s something about the monastic nature of La Mission that makes you come over all catholic – so here goes, confession time: we weren’t completely blown away by these wines, as we were in ‘12. The Haut Brion is the pick of the bunch, with beautifully textured, delicate fruit which pushed just out of the boundaries of red fruit and into a little black cherry and even plum – with enough depth and structure to convince that it has a happy life ahead of it – if not in the spotlight. The whites? Well, perhaps our expectations were a little too high, given what we had heard about the dry whites in this vintage. Both the HB and LMHB were pretty damn good, but lacked a little of that magical ‘zip’ that characterises them in really, really great years.
Haut Bailly would have been a very pleasant way to end – if we didn’t still have to visit the UGC tasting for the remainder of the Graves/Pessacs; they have produced a pretty wine but there’s no hiding the struggle they went through to get here. The 60 unused barrels, still in their wrapping in the chai, tell the story of how small the vintage turned out to be. As ever Veronique was charming and full of insight and we will explore her thoughts and experience further in our full report.
The benefit of ending with the UGC Pessac/Graves is the chance to taste some of the vintage’s lovely dry whites. Domaine de Chevalier, Pape Clement and Smith Haut Lafitte have all turned in great efforts, with real elegance and restraint on the nose and some almost painful intensity of citrus fruit, wet stone, and in the case of Pape Clement, some well-handled and balanced tropical fruit elements. These will turn out to be very, very lovely wines. A fresh, funky, fruity way to end a pretty tough old week.
Now we’ve had a chance to taste pretty much everything of significance from the region, we will take some time to absorb and give our full, considered view. There’s no doubt there are two stories here: the wines themselves and the EP campaign as a separate entity. Watch this space...