In April I ran a Bordeaux Left Bank fine wine tasting with dinner at Le Salon Privé in St Margarets. It was a great opportunity to explore just how different the wines are from different AOCs within the Médoc region.
The famous 1855 classification ‘set in stone’ a five level hierarchy of the best châteaux which remains to this day (only one wine has been reclassified since 1855, with Mouton Rothschild being elevated to the status of first growth). The classification largely reflected the luck or otherwise of where vines grew. The Médoc peninsular was drained by the Dutch in the 17th century, prior to which the best wines mainly came from Graves, closer to the city of Bordeaux. Once the ground was claimed, and vines planted, it was discovered that some sites, particularly those with more gravel and less clay, and with more slope (all the vineyards are on the left banks of the Gironde river), produced wines of significantly greater elegance and interest than other sites, which might only be a few metres away. These differences were already reflected in the prices producers received for their grapes (in the 19th century it was the négociants who were making the wine), which largely informed the classification.
Since then the fortunes of the different classed growths have varied, with some now felt to be significantly higher in quality than their peers who in 1855 received a higher rating, but nothing has fundamentally challenged the system. I wasn’t charging enough for the evening for us to drink just classed growths, but we were still able to explore some fascinating differences between the individual appellations.
In general the finest wines come from Haut Médoc appellations, most of which are taken up by the famous four: Saint-Estèphe, Pauillac, Saint-Julien and Margaux.
We kicked off with four wines from Médoc appellations (Médoc, Listrac and Moulis). All were Merlot dominated, reflecting the greater amount of clay in their soils, and we explored the impact of some bottle age, and a bit more Cabernet Sauvignon particularly in the Chappelle de Potensac 2010.
Five wines from the Haut Médoc followed, with Cabernet Sauvignon becoming more prominent. The fifth growth Château Batailley 2009 was very good but for most of us the 2013 Moulin Riche (from Saint-Julien) was tasting beautiful and most people’s favourite. Its sister wine ‘M de Moulin Riche’ also from 2013, made from younger vines with less time spent in oak, was also drinking well, but very much lighter in style.
The oldest wine we tasted was the 2005 Château Citran which demonstrated some lovely mature claret characteristics, and at £25/bottle was something of a bargain! However, there isn’t much of it about, and sadly I don’t have any to sell.
We finished the evening with a Chateau Laville Sauternes, which complemented the tarte tatin beautifully. As always Le Salon Privé provided a fabulous meal, and one of the biggest hits of the night was their Boeuf en Daube, which was splendid with our dinner wine, the Cru Bourgeois Haut Médoc Château Larose-Trintaudon 2014 – which I do have some bottles of….
All the wines are listed on the Wines we have tasted page.