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Bordeaux 2022 tasting notes: Left Bank part I

Simon Field MW's notes and scores from St-Estèphe, Pauillac, St-Julien, and Margaux.

By Simon Field MW

Simon Field MW’s tasting notes from the Bordeaux 2022 en primeur tastings begin with wines from St-Estèphe, Pauillac, St-Julien, and Margaux.

Bordeaux 2022: Something new under the sun—Catch 22

ST-ESTÈPHE

Château Le Boscq Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel
(47% CS, 47% M, 4% PV, 2% CF)Located close to Calon Ségur on an outcrop of deep Garonne clay and gravel, Le Boscq has performed exceptionally well in 2022. The nose is complex: dark tobacco, pencil lead, vine smoke, and even a hint of truffle. Very appealing; very St-Estèphe. The palate continues in the same vein; with solid but not astringent tannins and a real depth of fruit, Sichuan pepper and licorice in support. A good example of what I might again dare to call enlightened austerity. 92

Château Calon-Ségur 3ème Cru
(70% CS, 24% M, 5% CF, 1% PV)
The investment by owner Suravenir Insurance has been significant, with a focus on bolstering the Cabernet Sauvignon quota, and, if this Calon is anything to go by, on bolstering the wine itself. The 2022 is muscular, opulent, and hedonistic, each epithet chosen deliberately, and all three necessary to rehearse the character in play. 100% new oak and 15% ABV underline the direction of travel, and this is certainly a style that will please those who like their St-Estèphe dense, layered, and toasty. Some may feel, however, that the tannins are a little too strident and, maybe paradoxically, that their thrust serves to divert from the norm for this commune. Dark fruit, toasty oak, then hints of tapenade, sandalwood, and tree bark; a sturdy effort, a study in brooding power. 93–94

Bordeaux 2022 Field notes: St-Estèphe’s northern belles

Le Marquis de Calon Ségur
(58% M, 38% CS, 2% CF, 2% PV)
Merlot has traditionally dominated the Marquis, but maybe less than of old, especially as some of the Merlot parcels are being replaced, gradually, by Cabernet Sauvignon. Dense but pleasingly sapid, and with a gravelly grip, this is a slightly heady Marquis, the positive descriptors of crystalized violets and roasted plum a little compromised by the high level of alcohol (15%), the presence of which threatens to overwhelm the structure, though only 30% new oak has been employed. 90–91

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Château Cos d’Estournel 2ème Cru
(61% CS, 37% M, 1% CF, 1% PV)
The accomplished technical director, Dominique Arangoïts, advises that the growing season was ideal at Cos, although the extremely early harvest (all of the fruit was brought in by September 23) was fundamental to ensure that the acids were not degraded to excess. Graphite, black pepper, iris, tobacco leaf, and crushed plum inform the profile here (none of these terms, I hope, inflected by autosuggestion in the exoticism of the architectural surroundings). The Cos ’22 is initially almost overwhelming, such is the cornucopia of sensory indulgence on display; black tea and gunpowder vie with black cherry and plum. Dense and powerful, yet with close-knit and finely grained tannins and a captivating, uplifting finish, the wine builds a crescendo of willful intent. This is a big beast, for sure, but not as alcoholic as some of its forebears (14.04%) and benefiting, Dominique says with a degree of prescience, from the fact that the proportion of new oak is only 50%. A monumental edifice; one had better take a little time to finalize a judgment! 96–97

Château Cos d'Estournel in St-Estèphe Bordeaux
Château Cos d’Estournel. “A monumental edifice” in 2022. Photography by Shutterstock.

Les Pagodes de Cos
(50% CS, 49% M, 1% CF)
Licorice, Asian spice, and dark fruit (black cherry and a little raspberry). Racy, exuberant, and ripe. A mere 20% of new wood is all that is required here texturally, and the purity of the tannins assumes a silky resonance, with a generous lift at the finish. Highly accomplished. 93–94

Cos d’Estournel Blanc
(74% SB, 26% SM)
An attractive green-gold. Beeswax, poached pear, and pumice stone dominate the aromatics, with acacia blossom, hazelnut, mint, and chamomile loading up the descriptors, and a flinty, gunpowder character which draws this apart from the crowd. The Sauvignon, unusually, is very evident at the back of the palate, both refreshing and intellectual, the twist of verbena calming the nerves and adding drama and interest to an already fascinating white from Cos vines located close to the Gironde Estuary. 91–92

G d’Estournel
(67% M, 29% CS, 3.6% CF, 0.4% PV)
A silky, expressive, Merlot-dominant wine, less plush than its cousins on the other side of the estuary but with a pure and poised fruit character (raspberry, cassis, loganberry, and plum, inter alia) as well as a fine, lifted, tannic backbone. An accessible and comely illustration of the potential of the vines in the northern Médoc in a generous vintage. 92

Cos Labory 5ème Cru
(65% CS, 30% M, 5% CF)
Recently acquired by Cos d’Estournel, the Cos Labory vines are in effect contiguous with those of its larger neighbor. Owner Michel Reybier affirms that it will eventually serve as another jewel in the Cos crown; work in progress, I suspect, as this recalls an example of a good St-Estèphe from an excellent vintage 20 or more years ago. The tannins are almost abrasive, therefore, the structure somewhat clumsy and raw. A dazzling and daunting insight, demonstrating what can be done and what remains to be done with this excellent terroir. 89–90

Château Le Crock Cru Bourgeois
(44% CS, 40% M, 11% CF, 5% PV)
Frost and hail have conspired to lower yields (20.7hl/ha) but not to compromise quality, which is impressive by all measures. Inky and rich of hue, then complex aromatics of juniper and mint, licorice and plum, remind us of the virtues of challenged, low-yielding vines. Long, chewy, and complex, this wine reminds managing director Sara Lecompte Cuvelier of 2018, although this one, she concedes, is better still. 92–93

Château Lafon-Rochet 4ème Cru
(65% CS, 31% M, 4% CF)
“We don’t want to be known as just the yellow Château,” jokes director-winemaker Christophe Congé. There are only five crus classés in St-Estèphe, and Lafon Rochet is an increasingly worthy member of this exclusive brotherhood. The wine has a bold color, aubergine-rich, then a classic St-Estèphe nose, which marries plum, cedar, eucalypt, and loam. The wine assures us that the concept of lovely austerity is not necessarily an oxymoron. The dark fruit is persistent and rewarding, the tannins very St-Estèphe, weaned from only 45% new wood, the acidity (despite the relatively high pH of 3.77) correct and upstanding. 93–94

Les Pélerins de Lafon-Rochet
(47% M, 44% CS, 9% PV)Given that it lies on one of the pilgrimage routes to Compostella, Les Pélerins is a more than fitting name for the second wine at Lafon Rochet. This is the first vintage made in its entirety under the new regime (the Lorenzetti family) and with Lafite alumnus Christophe Congé at the helm. And a very impressive effort it is, too. Given that the vineyards border the northern edges of Pauillac, it is not unreasonable to identify Pauillac power and precision here, with sturdy yet far from rustic St-Estèphe tannins scaling a thrilling peroration. Figs and blueberries dominate the mid-palate, with violets and cassis lending support. Highly successful. 91-92

Château Lilian Ladouys Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel
(52% CS, 40% M, 8% PV)
Vincent describes 2022 as a “Zen” vintage, the extreme weather events posing challenges for the future but somehow failing to derail the potential of the current vintage. The more northerly slopes, made up of gravel principally, struggled with the combination of frost and then hail. The remaining vines, with clay and limestone at their core, fared better, even if the harvest was brought in relatively early (“al dente,” Vincent jests) to avoid the threat of mildew. Leathery and flowery, tight and coiled, its tannic structure is very St-Estèphe, giving little away at the moment and shrouding the fruit, at least for the time being. 90–91

Château Meyney
(58% CS, 29% M, 13% PV)With the modest Anne Le Naour now in her second decade making the wine at Meyney and the possibly marginally less modest Hubert de Boüard as the consultant, what could possibly go wrong at the still-underrated Meyney? Answer: nothing. Rolling vines down to the river (next door to Montrose) lend a welcome corridor of ventilation, and there is a significant amount of clay in the soil; both facets are welcome in such a hot and dry vintage. Crushed raspberry, cigar box, and a whiff of black pepper. The palate is unexpectedly ripe, the sweet clasp of tannins building with great elegance; I especially liked the finish, a study in enlightened austerity, which could only come from St-Estèphe. 93

Château Montrose 2ème Cru
(66% CS, 25% M, 8% CF, 1% PV)“Le diable niche dans le détail,” says longstanding technical director, Vincent Decup, and I like the idea of the devil nesting in the detail—so much more poetic than the dull Anglo-Saxon version. Attention to detail is key here; the fruit is actually denser in the center of the palate than expected (dark fruit, blueberries and cassis), but the deep clay, which runs all the way down the Gironde Estuary, has also bequeathed very fine, pixelated tannins and an elegant, tapered finish. The wine is both muscular and balletic, the choreography of this beguiling contradiction played out with high drama. Spoiler alert: It finishes extremely well for all concerned. 96–97

Bordeaux 2022 Field notes: Epoustouflant (adj)—staggering, mind-blowing

La Dame de Montrose
(71% M, 23% CS, 5% PV, 1% CF)
The average daytime temperature of the quartet of 2022 heat spikes was 12.5oF (7oC) cooler at Montrose than in the center of Bordeaux—a mere 98.5oF (37oC), according to technical director Vincent Decup. The vines did not shut down, but neither were they allowed to lose too much acidity. The harvest was brought forward and the treatment in the winery was gentle. The result: a wonderful, Merlot-dominated gem; plenty of matière, dark fruit, ripe, powdery tannins, then spice and a refreshing eucalypt flourish on the finish. Profoundly satisfying and complex in a modern old-fashioned way. 94–95

Château Ormes de Pez Cru Bourgeois
(39% CS, 51% M, 8% CF, 2% PV)
Graphite, smoke, malt, and figs; a layered and linear Ormes, with suitably powerful tannins and a clearly delineated shard of acidity, its texture spicy and rich, its personality, so we are told, informed by the relatively low levels of malic acid (less to “lose,” therefore, during the malolactic fermentation) and a significant undertow of tartaric acidity, which offers freshness and a deft, linear finish. A valiant effort, given that yields were down more than 30%, after the double trouble visited by the frost and then the localized hail. 91–92

Château de Pez Cru Bourgeois
(59% M, 38% CS, 2% CF, 1% PV)A purple-garnet color, then aromatics dominated by crushed plum and smoke; the palate is wonderfully broad, with expressive tannins at the end to underline provenance. More refined and delicate than old, with mid-palate elegance and even a hint of red fruit. Nicolas Glumineau, general manager and winemaker, advises that he plans to extend the élevage by three months to ensure perfect integration of the tannins. The wine is already well on its way to achieve this aim. Impressive. 92–93

Château Phélan Ségur
(56% M, 40% CS, 2% CF, 2% PV)
Monumental but not massive, we are told, and this is certainly a conspicuous success for Phélan—a ripe, rich, bombastic homage to the potential of this great commune, not for a moment underplaying its reputation for assertive tannins and fruit of a dark and cerebral nature, but at the same time rejoicing in a ripeness seldom encountered and an exceptional tannic precision. This, of course, is all the more impressive given that some of the key Cabernet Sauvignon vines were ravaged by frost and, as a result, Merlot, for the first time in living memory, makes up the majority of the blend. The chance has not been squandered, and the Médocain character is further enhanced by the use (50%) of indigenous yeast; there is a floral character here, with roasted plum and tree bark behind it, and finally hints of camphor and graphite. 93–94

Frank Phélan
(58% CS, 39% M, 1.5% PV, 1.5% CF)
It took only 20 minutes for the hail to decimate the northern sector of Phélan Ségur’s broad spread of vines; the approach thereafter ran on two tracks, one fundamentally devoted to reconstitution, the other to the careful nurturing of the vines, mainly those with more limestone under them. The fact that the assemblage reunited both sectors underscores the confidence as well as the ability of the winemaking team. Frank Phélan has succeeded admirably; it is forward and crunchy, red-berried fruit to the fore, with chalky tannins and a soft, spicy finish. A wine to approach in relative youth, gastronomically versatile and deceptively powerful. 92–93

PAUILLAC

Château d’Armailhac 5ème Cru
(60% CS, 22% M, 16% CF, 2% PV)A glorious nose of graphite, eucalypt, and patchouli; Pauillac heaven, with a suitably intense palate to follow, the tannins finely etched and precise. Wood spice and a hint of black tea; a generous wine, but with plenty of powerful restraint, therefore faithful to vintage and commune alike. Also to a well-deserved reputation in the making. 94–95

Château Clerc Milon 5ème Cru
(59% CS, 28% M, 19% CF, 1% CARM)
Dark, brooding, and slightly reduced on the day; Jean-Emmanuel Danjoy advises that we are tasting during a noeud de lune (lunar node), which is, apparently, about as tricky as it gets in pure biodynamic terms. A little patience, a little air, and the wine opens up, with increasing generosity; dark fruit emerges from the shadows and a firm structure from the miasma. It must be the Carmenère! Give it time. 93–94

Bordeaux 2022 Field notes: Fear no more the heat o’ the sun

Château Grand-Puy Ducasse 5ème Cru
(58% CS, 40% M, 2% PV)
A cathedral-like build of dark fruit and buttressing tannin, almost overstretched, Babelish, in that it feels a little overextracted on the finish, just at the point where one would hope to sense the proximity of the home key. A dense and matted example, maybe a little lacking in terms of definition and textural harmony. 90–91

Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste 5ème Cru
(79% CS, 21% M)
Generous and intense of color, with an almost-luminous purple halo. Benchmark GPL elegance and generosity; loganberry, violets, and rose petals, with pink peppercorns adorning the backdrop. Once again, a refreshing lift informs the back-palate, with both graphite and roses coming to mind. The tannins are mouth-coating, youthful indulgence set far for a long and harmonious development. 94–95

Lacoste-Borie
(56% CS, 35% M, 9% CF)
A deep robe of color and an immediate raspberry lift informing the aromatic. The palate is equally seductive, rounded off by a hint of graphite. Digeste and richly rewarding, this is an exceptional Lacoste Borie. 92–93

Château Haut-Bages Libéral 5ème Cru
(87% CS, 13% M)
A very impressive Haut-Bages Libéral this year. The gravel is shallow, the chalk never far from the surface, and, as a result, the acidity is firm, and both the energy and tension crystalline of definition. Aromatics of damask rose, blood orange, and peat, then a precise, gently persuasive discourse between tannin and acidity, and a balanced and harmonious finish. With Lynch-Bages and Pichon Baron as neighbors, one might have excepted more power, and more stentorian tannins. This is not the case, but the wine stands up to all scrutiny and has, over the years, forged a reputation that continues, deservedly, to grow. 92–93

Château Haut-Batailley 5ème Cru
(70% CS, 30% M)
On the edge of St-Julien, Haut-Batailley is, as usual, more understated, more elegant than some of its Pauillac peers. There is a leafy charm here, no shortage of dark fruit and mouth-coating tannin. In this early stage of its development, however, it lacks a little for mid-palate harmony; not exactly hollow, but maybe lacking a little generosity, or maybe conversely, a little overworked, trying perhaps to emulate its ur-sibling, Lynch-Bages, which is maybe not the best way forward. 90–91

Château Latour 1er Cru
(92.45% CS, 7.4% M, 0.15% PV)
As if the vintage had not thrown up enough by way of enigma, here we have a Latour that appears at first blush to be leaner of structure than its junior sibling, and yet that, with aeration, metamorphosizes into something with far more concentration and intensity of flavor. The nose boasts blackberry, cassis, slate, camphor, and woodsmoke; then the palate redoubles on each of these and dresses them up with the most beguiling of tannic structures; a powdery yet muscular backdrop, with familiar descriptors of iron, menthol, and sandalwood all entering the fray. Dexterous and lively, too, the wine has benefited from a near-perfect growing season, the key episode of which, according to Hélène, was the 4 inches (105mm) of rain in June, its timing primed to ensure that the technological and phenological maturity achieved thereafter a perfect coincidence, with the small berries failing to sacrifice too much acidity while at the same time accumulating color and tannins in a ratio that it was easy to exploit with a careful extraction regime in the winery. 98–99

Château Latour, Bordeaux, and vineyards
Château Latour. Photography by Shutterstock.

Les Forts de Latour
(59% CS, 38% M, 3% PV)
Both the alcohol level and the tannin content (as measured by the IPT) are higher for Les Forts than for the grand vin—the first as anticipated, given that it contains appreciably more Merlot, the second less expected and offering a fascinating comparison between the two wines. Technical director Hélène Génin concedes that this is a little surprising, all the more so given that there is less press-wine in Les Forts (4% versus 8%). Surprises notwithstanding, this is a generous and almost flamboyant Forts. We discuss for a while whether it is fair to describe it as opulent (a word not normally used at this particular address), finally deciding that yes, it is fair to describe it as opulent. Fair enough. There is a rich cassis compote backdrop to the more usual descriptors, which marry dark fruit and savory interplay, the darkly spicy backdrop only underwriting the potential of this magnificent thoroughbred. 95–96

Pauillac de Latour
(49% CS, 46% M, 5% PV)
Saturated purple, then a nose that marries graphite, plums, and hints of briary; one senses that the Gironde Estuary is not too far away, its moderating influence not only compromising the more pernicious intent of the sun, but also, seemingly, adding a line of salinity, which freshens the back-palate. Plenty of backbone, in other words, without losing the succulence that has also come courtesy of the unusually small berries. Excellent. 92–93

Bordeaux 2022 Field Notes: Carmes before the storm

Château Lynch-Bages 5ème Cru
(66% CS, 28% M, 3% CF, 3% PV)
Deep purple, dense rim, promising a lot. Chocolate, cassis, camphor, vine smoke, and mint leaf; then refined powdery tannins and a finish marked by notes of eucalypt, thyme, and crème de cassis. A powerful and frighteningly focused Lynch, tension across the piece, and a long, cascading, succulent finish. Juicy, sappy, almost arrogant, holding a lot back with muscular indolence. 94–95

Echo de Lynch-Bages
(64% CS, 31% M, 5% CF)
A second wine, albeit one based on specific parcels rather than selection at assemblage. Having said that, stylistically this is close to its senior sibling, and therefore a little stern of temperament. Licorice, fig, and dark chocolate, grippy, serious tannins, and an oak-stained finish. The echo is loud. 92–93

Blanc de Lynch-Bages
(67% SB, 22% SM, 11% MUS)
Bâtonnage was restricted in 2022, the aim to keep the acidity and to avoid any excessive oxygenation. There was, in addition, no malolactic fermentation. The result is harmonious and aromatically complex, even if these aromatics are primarily derived from the Sauvignon (agrumes, nettles), while the palate appears to owe more to the more textured varieties—lemongrass and wax from the Semillon, and hints of mandarin and orange pith, courtesy of the Muscadelle. 91–92

Château Mouton Rothschild 1er Cru
(92% CS, 8% M)
After a somewhat lackluster Petit Mouton (an imperfect sample, so not reviewed), it is all change for a fabulous Mouton, lacking for nothing in terms of luster and plenty of other characteristics. Jean-Emmanuel advises that Petit Verdot was tried out but was just so far behind the Cabernet Sauvignon in terms of aromatic intensity and purity, that it did not make the final blend. Cabernet Sauvignon is king of the gravel—hardly the most original of statements—but what a statement this wine makes. Darkness and reticence quickly cede to generosity and eloquence; fruit that appears to be dried and ripe at the same time, then signature cigar-box spice, powerful yet finely grained tannins, and a broad, capacious mouthfeel. Most impressive is the crescendo of flavor and sensation; think Bruckner, or, if you dare, Die Liebestod. Or perhaps Ravel’s Boléro would be a better bet. 97–98

Aile d’Argent Bordeaux Blanc
(52% SB, 39% SM, 9% SG and MUS)
An attractive nose of white flowers, beeswax, and poached pear, with a hint of teasing exoticism, too. The 45% of new barrel prompts an elegant build over the palate, the tension ensured by the eschewing of the malolactic and restraint in the lees-stirring. A deft, delicate, and quietly persuasive wine, careless of the heat of the vintage. 91–92

Château Pédesclaux 5ème Cru
(68% CS, 22% M, 7% CF, 3% PV)
Pédesclaux ’22 is the first wine made here under full organic certification; it is an assemblage of most of the property’s mosaic of 19 parcels, some closer to the estuary, some set well back, all united in gifting aromatic complexity and a distinctive eucalypt freshness. If the Fleur is accessible and generous, this is cerebral, floral, and complex, with hints of juniper and mimosa to keep us guessing. Some 65% of the wine was aged in new barriques, the rest in oval-shaped Stockinger casks. 93–94

Bordeaux 2022 Field notes: St-Emilion—the view from Clos Fourtet

Fleur de Pédesclaux
(49% M, 46% CS, 5% PV)
Violets, blueberries, and a hint of bitter chocolate. A forward and attractive style, digeste and soft, its tannins powdery and refined. There is a sweet simplicity here, not lacking in depth, for sure, but already accessible. 91–92

Château Pibran Cru Bourgeois
(54% M, 45% CS)
The combination of limestone terroir—a real boon in 2022—and stricter selection, has bequeathed a very attractive Pibran, cold pre-fermentation maceration and soft extraction ensuring a floral aromatic and a deftly textured palate that majors on red fruit and soft spice; the 40% of new oak lends support but does so with discretion. Pleasingly harmonious. 91–92

Château Pichon Baron 2ème Cru
(81% CS, 19% M)
Citing 2019 as a role model, managing director Christian Seely explains why and how Pichon Baron, known for power above all, has, in a hot season, made one of its most elegant and subtle wines—so much so that one might almost mistake it for the Comtesse over the road, a mistake that is seldom made. A smaller, key pool (the older vines in front of the château principally), a very precise picking regime, and lower-than-usual maceration temperatures, have all played their part. The power has not disappeared, of course, in this of all years, but it appears, even in extreme youth, to be more intelligently managed, allowing a flourishing of nuance, precise and pure fruit, for example, from beyond the tannic veil. This is the first full vintage from the new technical director, Pierre Montégut, and it is promising indeed. 96–97

Les Griffons de Pichon Baron
(50% M, 46% CS, 4% PV)
A second second wine, although on this form, some might say a first second wine. An impressive effort, and all the more so given that the fruit is mainly sourced from the gravelly, therefore fast-draining, soils, that run parallel to the river. Creamy, complex, and long, the Griffons do more than scratch the surface, qualitatively speaking; muscular and dark, this has an imposing, ripe mid-palate, a poised and complex tannin structure, and harmonious, metronomic integration of all the proud components. 93–94

Les Tourelles de Longueville
(65% M, 26% CS, 9% CF)
From the vineyards to the west of the château itself, this is a powerful, appreciably tannic Tourelles, maybe sulking a little now that it has been joined by Les Griffons in the Pichon stable. For all that, the purity and intensity of the dark fruit is impressive, and the grip of the tannin at the back of the palate, while appreciable, does not preclude anything other than a lengthy and highly satisfactory development. 92–93

Château Pichon Lalande 2ème Cru
(78% CS, 17% M, 5% CF)
Managing director and winemaker Nicolas Glumineau has no hesitation in revealing that this is the best Merlot he has ever tasted at Pichon Lalande—a compliment that one may presume to extend to the entire wine. A more concentrated version of the Comtesse, with maybe even more expressive fruit in the middle of the palate; crushed cassis, boysenberry, Morello cherry, and bilberry, all deftly entwined with a broad and powerful mid-palate reverberation. Provençal herbs and then a touch of chocolate, only marginally bitter, layered yet precise. Deft winemaking (minimal pump-over once the alcoholic fermentation had taken hold, for example) and modest alcohol of 13.65%. It is a surprise, given the equilibrium encountered, to learn that the pH is a relatively high 3.8. 95–96

Réserve de la Comtesse
(54% CS, 34% M, 10% PV, 2% CF)
A superb Réserve de Comtesse. Its secret? Well, Nicolas Glumineau advises that he doesn’t really need to make a second wine in this fabulous vintage and, in a sense, doesn’t really want one. Fortunately, this is mere intellectual speculation, and he stuck with it! The result is outstanding, far more cerebral and subtle of texture than many a second wine. The tannic weave is magisterial, the palate broad and quietly challenging behind the fruit, which does not lack for generosity; plums, blackberry, a hint of mocha, maybe, forest floor and a touch of spice. Lifted and harmonious. 93–94

Château Pontet-Canet 5ème Cru
(57% CS, 35% M, 4% CF, 4% PV)
The combination of an average vine-age of 55 years and a decade of Demeter (biodymanic) accreditation have both left their mark on this intriguing wine, sui generis in the sense that one really feels the presence of the soil in its sapidity, its dried fruit, and its almost-meaty character. Tobacco leaf and crushed rock, tisane and even a touch of mushroom; time and air are both required to understand it fully. Purity is all, with very poised and ripe tannins and a firm, confident finish (20% of press-wine included). The best parcels are aged in amphorae, counterintuitively, maybe, but to highlight both the purity and the intensity of the fruit; new oak coaxes the balance into this, a definitive statement of a biodynamic wine made in a generous if dry vintage. 93–94

Bordeaux 2022 Field notes: Heightened expectations

MARGAUX

Château Angludet
(46% M, 41% CS, 13% PV)
The soft come-hither summer pudding appeal of the 2021 is all but unrecognizable in this, its deeply pigmented, sturdy and finely balanced successor. Crushed raspberry and, courtesy the Petit Verdot, a hint of crushed pepper. The resilience to the elements has come from the biodiversity evidenced all around this Edenic setting; the texture from the use of 50% of amphorae, respectful of the dangers of overindulging a feast of plenty. 91–92

Château Brane-Cantenac 2ème Cru
(74% CS, 23% M, 1% CF, 1% PV, 1% CARM)
An outstanding Brane, which owner-winemaker Henri Lurton is proud to dedicate to his late father. The élevage is discreet, with only the mildest kiss to the side of the mouth; the tannins are ripe, without being overweaning, firm, without jeopardizing the structure. Cabernet authority, with dark fruit and hints of chocolate evidenced, but nothing out of place, challenging the balanced texture; this is second growth Margaux elegance, all encompassing, already, so early in its evolution. 94–95

Baron de Brane
(65% M, 30% CS, 4% CF, 1% PV)
Generous, deep ruby color, Margaux Merlot assuming a joie de vivre normally associated with the other side of the river; plum, loganberry, and cherry aplenty, the soft spice and tannins ripe and almost playful. After the challenges of 2021, the Merlot takes back control of this cuvée, which will spend 12 months in wood. 91–92

Château Cantenac Brown 3ème Cru
(69% CS, 31% M)
José Sanfins advises that this is by far the best grand vin he has made. We taste, we think for a moment (only a moment), and then we agree. The ambition and self-confidence evidenced by the major building works (a new winery and chai, both built within strict environmental criteria) are echoed by the wine itself, deft of structure, resplendent in its inner harmony and generous of expression. The damson, plum, and raspberry fruit billows against the fine-grained tannins, silky and powerful; the framework is precisely delineated and firm of purpose, a gentle eucalypt lift on the finish confirming one’s hopes, qualitatively speaking. Exciting times at Cantenac Brown. 94–95

Brio de Cantenac Brown
(54% M, 35% CS, 11% CF)
Deep color with a violet rim, and come-hither aromatics of summer pudding and ripe blackberry. The palate adds restraint and length to the repertoire, finishing with a flourish of bitter chocolate and spice, the chalky tannins vigilant to the last. 92–93

Alto de Cantenac Brown
(90% SB, 10% SM)
Threatening at times to descant in a mezzo voice, this Alto is ripe and generous; barrel-fermentation and 10% new barrels for the aging have seen to that. White peach and grapefruit, then floral notes and hints of beeswax from the Semillon. Nothing shrill or flat here; the wine is in good voice, with firm stone-fruit foundations and measured Sauvignon aromatics conspiring to please. 92–93

Château Durfort-Vivens 2ème Cru
(84% CS, 16% M)A refined, linear, and very classical Durfort. Owner-winemaker Gonzague Lurton, usually one of the first to harvest, was, in 2022, one of the last. The intrigue is heightened by the fact that the alcohol is relatively low (13.5%) but the tannin ratio relatively high (an IPT of 85). The explanation centers on the biodynamic influences and the care taken in the winery; 30% of amphorae play their part, too. A floral character, with eucalyptus in the background, fennel and a hint of mint leaf, plums and blueberries, too. The tannins are deft and precise. 94–95

Bordeaux 2022 Field notes: Château Cheval Blanc—odds-on favorite

Château Ferrière 3ème Cru
(67% CS, 27% M, 5% PV, 1% CF)
Claire Villars-Lurton continues to plow these particular (and well-located) furrows with great skill, the biodynamic approach evidenced in the persuasive purity of the fruit; sous-bois, too, and even hints of black truffle and incense. Vibrant and vital, a distinctive and exciting voice in the heart of a famous appellation. 94–95

Château Giscours 3ème Cru
(64% CS, 30% M, 3% PV, 3% CF)
There is no Sirène de Giscours, the second wine, this year, such was the quality of the fruit. The average age of the vines here is impressive, and qualitative initiatives include the use of the optical sorter and minutely precise harvesting, identifying ripeness on a plot-by-plot basis (drones have been used for this!) and staggering the picking accordingly. The fruit was in such fine fettle when it arrived in the winery that a generous maceration in terms of both temperature (82oF [28oC]) and length was carried out without risk of overindulgence. The result is an excellent Giscours, which recalls halcyon days of four or five decades ago, but now, of course, with a plush modern twist, the sinewy coiling tannins in no way domineering the fruit which is both plush and generous on the one hand, refined and cerebrally challenging on the other. Despite the craftsmanship on display, one does not lose sight of the generosity of the vintage. 95–96

Château La Gurgue
(53% CS, 30% M, 17% PV)
An eloquent homage to the potential of Petit Verdot, sometimes somewhat temperamental, in a warm vintage. Black fruit and sous-bois, hints of black pepper and a firm, building finish. Cover crops were essential in 2022, according to co-owner-winemaker Gonzague Lurton, relieving the hot soils a little, especially important on this particular terroir, which contains significant proportions of sand and gravel. A challenge well met. 92–93

Château d’Issan 3ème Cru
(66% CS, 31% M, 2% CF, 1% PV)
With its signature splash of Malbec, d’Issan plows the furrow of a richer, more full-bodied Margaux. Coffee beans and chocolate vie with the dark fruit, the aromatics recalling damask roses and roasted plum. The alcohol is relatively high (14.64) and will need time to integrate. “Refined power” is the phrase we were given; the grip of the latter will no doubt gradually cede to the courteous request of the former. 92–93

Blason d’Issan
(44% CS, 55% M, 1% PV)
An impressive, biodiverse thread of activity (wheat, soya, barley, you name it) separates the vines from the river, itself a moderating influence. The Blason is forward, expressive, and gourmand, with black and blue fruit, a soft, spicy texture, and even a hint of almond on the finish. Croquant, for sure! 91–92

Château Malescot St-Exupéry 3ème Cru
(55% CS, 40% M, 5% PV)
Sales director Léa Zuger tells me that the Cabernet Franc (often up to 10% of the blend) has been uprooted, so as to make way for more Cabernet Sauvignon. The quality of this Cabernet in 2022 seems to justify the decision, although even without frost, the yields were down by 40%, quite a significant drop. No frost, but very little June rain on this part of the plateau of Margaux either, so a long and hot summer. The wine has a dense color and dark, rich fruit aromatic, loam and tapenade behind it. Malescot was the last property in the region to harvest—“as usual,” says Léa. The wine does have an almost-chocolatey richness, and yet it wears its 14.5 % very well, the tannins powdery rather than overly ripe, and the finish finely etched and refreshing. 92–93

Château Margaux 1er Cru
(92% CS, 6% M, 2% CF)
Running along the same line as the Pavillon—a line of beauty—the ’22 Margaux is a dazzling jewel, wonderfully aromatic (peony, plum, strawberry, clove, tree bark, and mandarin inter alia), with more volume than its sibling and, if anything, more precision in the tannins, despite their greater intensity. Very Margaux, and therefore very Margaux; a floral tribute to the most elegant of appellations, ethereal, but not without gravitas, as its fine and persistent finish demonstrates. The alcohol and the tannins scale the heights as never before, but such is the Socratic equilibrium here that everything is in place and nothing, the shout of youth notwithstanding, set to overwhelm the ensemble. It is surely not overly courageous, on this showing, to predict an exceptionally bright future for this wine. 97–98

Château Margaux
Chateau Margaux. Photography by Shutterstock.

Pavillon Rouge
(64% CS, 24% M, 7% PV, 5% CF)
Technical Director Sébastien Vergne advises that this is the most intense Pavillon he has ever encountered at the property. Modest of disposition, we have to press him to replace the word “intense” with “best”—brilliant, in other words. The long-standing debate as to whether to include Petit Verdot in the grand vin meets a negative response this time, much to the benefit of the Pavillon, which has an accomplished, spicy sub-plot to add yet more layers of intrigue to the central conceit of superb balance, pure, elegant fruit, and perfectly controlled tannins. If there is debate, contrived or otherwise, as to whether or not Palmer shows Margaux typicity, there is no doubt at all at the even more famous eponymous address, which is probably just as well. The apogee of elegance and pedigree. 94–95

Pavillon Blanc
(100% SB)
There is to be a second white wine from Margaux this year, details and name hitherto undisclosed. A shame only in the sense that the Pavillon is so good, but in such scarce supply, the latter not helped by minuscule yields of 14hl/ha. The sine qua non of southern Sauvignon Blanc, this wine has been handled with great care, oxidation avoided at every step after the early picking window (exceptionally, August 18–24!). A magnificent aromatic of nutmeg, slate, lemon posset, and white peach, with only the faintest whisper of pineapple exoticism in deference to the hot year, then a layered, finely textured palate. Soft spices and gentle phenolics underline the burgeoning shape of the wine, but, for all that, the emphasis is on precision and detail, aided by an admirably low pH level (3.18). 94–95

Château Palmer 3ème Cru
(51% CS, 45% M, 4% PV)
The intensity and power evidenced in the Alter Ego are even more pronounced in the grand vin; the concept of an Alter Ego somewhat out of place for once, such is the singularity of message proffered by Thomas Duroux. And that message is to go with the character of the vintage, and only compensate, for want of a better word, in the winery, with delicate extraction and the use of larger format oak for the second year of development. A singular wine, therefore, a confident wine and most certainly a powerful wine, which somewhat ironically shouts terroir (biodynamic precision has helped) but does not, to me at least, shout Margaux, such is its density and musculature. There is a block of dense, dark fruit beyond the brooding aromatic (fireworks and crushed plum, forest floor and incense) and even something a little exotic (figs, cloves), too, all enshrouded by magisterial tannins, harmony writ large and heavy, ermine in the sunshine. 96–97

Alter Ego
(51% M, 43% CS, 6% PV)
A wine full of Margelais spirit, according to winemaker Thomas Duroux. The Alter Ego has a little more gravel and sand, the grand vin a little more clay, most of its vines located in the immediate vicinity of the château itself. The impulse at Palmer in 2022, unusual if not completely contrarian, has been to harvest relatively late (September 7 to October 5) and also to extract with a degree of vigor. All possible, it seems, because of the biodynamic philosophy now embedded in the vineyard and the precision in picking parcel by parcel. The wine has density and backbone, the imprimatur of the vintage maybe, but also a generous texture, the dark fruit ceding to a sapidity at the back, a savory mid-palate, and the promise of development from beneath the powdery tannins. To what does it serve to defy the inclination of the vintage, we are told, by attempting to suppress the power or to dim the light. None of that here; luminous power is our benevolent guide. The wine will spend the second year of its aging in foudre, to avoid gratuitous wood tannins. Médocain Merlot from the more intense end of the spectrum—impressive, for what some might, by way of shorthand, describe as a second wine, though the team here insists that that is a misnomer for a wine with its own distinct identity. 94–95

Château Rauzan-Ségla 2ème Cru
(72% CS, 26% M, 2% PV)
Managing director Nicolas Audebert has upped the proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon in the first wine, defiant of its more modest yields and smaller berries. The quality is just so good, and the result, almost paradoxically, given the potential power thereby unleashed, can be described as a quintessential Margaux; floral, generous, subtle, and oh so silky, careless in fact of the heat and dryness of the vintage which should, in theory, have compromised all of these characteristics. Not here. Here is a tale of luminosity and energy, perfume, and discreet power…. a tale with an engaging beginning and, surely, a beguiling thread toward resolution. There is a lift on the finish, which is both transporting and ethereal. A tale well told. 95–96

Ségla
(58% M, 42% CS)
A pretty Ségla, floral and charming, the aromatics of roses, raspberries, and Bigarreau cherry filling the tasting room. Only 15% of new wood here, allowing the fruit a full and glorious expression. There is a pleasing chalky note on the back, however, signaling both intent and quality. 94–95

Château du Tertre 5ème Cru
(57% CS, 23% CF, 15% M, 5% PV)
An astonishing purple color betrays a high anthocyanin index. The structure is equally imposing, with fruit notes dominated by plum and prune, chalky, firm tannins, which do not lack for ripeness, and an earthy sous-bois subplot, which resonates with the purity of a bedrock of natural acidity. The Cabernet Franc component has increased once again, working even better than in the cooler 2021, this time preserving a leafy freshness at the same time as caressing with a biodynamic weave of silk. The yields in 2022 were only 28hl/ha. 94–95

Bordeaux 2022 Field notes: Sauternes—ripeness is all

Château du Tertre Les Hauts du Tertre
(65% CS, 18% PV, 17% M)
Velvet and roses, the 40% of new wood hardly perceptible given the balance of the structure and the poise of the tannins. The Petit Verdot, 18% of the blend, lends spice, acidity, and freshness on the finish. There are hints of thyme and bay leaf, white tobacco and, at the other end of the scale, mandarin, all of which serve to add to the attraction. Very approachable already, but in no way lacking in potential. 92

Château du Tertre Blanc
(39% GMSG, 23% CH, 19% SB, 19% VIOR)
Only 5,000 bottles of this little gem are made; a second plot was deemed to be of insufficient quality and has been forsaken. The wine should not be forgotten; however. There has been neither aspiration nor intention for it to taste like Burgundy, despite the new wood and the Chardonnay; no inclination at all to be like a Graves Blanc, despite the Sauvignon Blanc. And certainly, no aspiration to mimic Condrieu. Sui generis, in other words, and entirely fascinating; tangy and spicy, this is a composed and assured example, the citric fruit complemented by moderate vanillin notes, the aromatics recalling fennel, verbena, and dill. Almost Italian, temperamentally—were that there were more! 94

ST-JULIEN

Château Beychevelle 4ème Cru
(54% CS, 42% M, 4% PV)
An uplifting wine (the sails of the famous ship are billowing confidently), light on its feet yet wearing its 70% of oak with aplomb. An encyclopedic fruit character, damson, myrtle, and crushed blueberry to the fore, then finely delineated tannins and an elegant finish, with a touch of salinity. A charmer for sure, but with real depth, which exploits the heat of the year rather than vice versa. A great success. 94–95

Amiral de Beychevelle
(65% CS, 35% M)
Described to me by veteran director Philippe Blanc as “a bloody good wine” (pardon his French), the Amiral contains a large swathe of well-located younger Cabernet Sauvignon from vines planted more than a decade ago, which have certainly now come of age. Thus, exceptional value, genuine concentration, and the rare scenario of a second wine that contains more Cabernet Sauvignon than the first. Peppery black fruits to the fore, a croquant style, with plenty of bite and energy, all undersigned by typical Beychevelle generosity. 93–94

Château Branaire-Ducru 4ème Cru
(60.5% CS, 31.5% M, 5.5% CF, 2.5% PV)
Deep, welcoming crimson, then equally friendly aromatics of crushed raspberry, pepper, and mint leaf. Cellarmaster Jean-Dominique Videau feels that the quality of the Merlot is the distinguishing feature that lifts the 2022 above its immediate forebears, adding an element of mid-palate texture that may not have been evidenced before. This, allied to the purity, ripeness, yet restraint, of the tannins and elegant, harnessing acidity, plot a conspiracy of excellence. And one should not forget the new gravity-fed winery, which allows vinification by plot for the first time. The château itself, beautifully harmonious and elegant, but actually lacking architectural depth, despite its ornate interior, should therefore lend only a limited symbolism. This wine certainly does not lack for depth! A credit to all concerned. 95–96

Château Charmail Cru Bourgeois
(45% M, 37% CS, 13% CF, 5% PV)
The Merlot bounces back this year, almost literally. Owner Bernard d’Halluin describes the wine as “un gigot de sept heures” (seven-hour lamb), by which I presume he means that it is exceptionally tender (charnu) and succulent. And so it is. 30% of amphorae have been used (I learn all about Brownian motion), adding sapidity, salinity almost. Of the balance, 30% of the barrels are new; 500-liter barrels, mind, so closer to demi-muids. The result is attractive, not lacking a whisper of Haut-Mdoc rusticity, but also much more than a whisper of sheer class. And potential. 91–92

Château Ducru-Beaucaillou 2ème Cru
(82% CS, 18% M)
Smoky and seductive, creamy and velvety, this appears to personify the face of Ducru these days, 100% new oak and 100% satisfaction for those who like their St-Julien to be richly and immediately rewarding; coulis, compote, and cassis, and all permutations thereof, but also cigar box, peat, loam, and a hint of incense. There is real depth here, in other words, and if one may baulk at the concept of “smart vats” to control the precision of the extraction and the timetable of the pump-overs with scientific rigor, one cannot fail to be impressed by the result. Indeed, there is little reason to doubt that this wine, for all its approachability, will hold for several decades. Bruno has covered all the bases skillfully, and, as always, with no lack of style. 94–95

Croix Ducru-Beaucaillou
(66% M, 32% CS, 2% CF)
Sourced from a specific site between Léoville Barton and Gloria, Croix Ducru-Beaucaillou (as we should now call it) is a plush, powerful, and resonant wine, this year with more Merlot than usual. It is aged in 80% new oak, which some may perceive to be ambitious. Be that as it may, beyond the velvet and vanilla, there is a pleasing interplay between spice and fruit, and a mid-palate generosity that plays to the strength of the vintage. 92–93

Château Gloria Cru Bourgeois
(50% CS, 35% M, 9% PV, 6% CF)
Petit Verdot, an increasingly significant part of Gloria, almost defines the style, which is rich, phenolic, and distinctly bitter on the finish, graphite and petrichor poised in counterpoint to the darker fruit descriptors. Jean Triaud says that the grapes were cognizant of the potentially late harvest, so shored up acidity and structural potential in anticipation of the long haul, thereby ensuring an architectural integrity and impressive potential for development. The mid-palate needs to open up a little, matching the generosity of the periphery. This should take place over the next two to five years; thereafter, everything is possible. 93–94

Château Gruaud-Larose 2ème Cru
(83% CS, 14% M, 3% CF)
A higher proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon than previously (the Merlot loses out): “This is Cabernet Savignon terroir, first and foremost,” says CEO Nicolas Sinoquet, and it is hard to argue with him. This focus, allied to the organic approach, has yielded a deeply colored, powerful wine, its nose marrying fruit and flowers, something approaching sapidity (not grassy) evidenced, too. The purity and power carry us through the drama of the palate, with acidity and tannin respectively underscoring the metonyms. The wine will stay in 95% new oak for 18 months. A compelling wine, a new benchmark for this celebrated St-Julien estate. 95–96

Sarget de Gruaud-Larose
(49% CS, 44% M, 4% PV, 3% CF)
Nicolas Sinoquet confirms that the Château gained organic accreditation in 2022, with a significant tilt toward biodynamic practices; a tilt toward the moon, too, come to think of it. He is equally proud that the surface area of the property, at 202 acres (82ha), has hardly changed since the 1855 classification. The Sarget impresses, its color deep, its aromatic plush and generous; hints of black tea and cigar box rejoin the dark-fruit descriptors. The texture is generous, richly upholstered yet not overblown; the finish is clean and satisfying. 15% new wood for 12 months. 94–95

Château Lagrange 3ème Cru
(86% CS, 12% M, 2% PV)
2023 will mark 40 years of the Suntory ownership at Lagrange, and the extent of their ongoing investment is evidenced all around when one visits. The same punctilious attention to detail informs the wine, the shrewd hand of consultant Eric Boissenot evidenced in the style, which is whistle-clean, very pure, and bestowed with a charming, gently gregarious, red-fruit personality. The interface between the acidity and the tannins is more successful than with Les Fiefs, the intensity of fruit maintaining archetypal St-Julien elegance and offering, teasingly, the faintest whiff of cigar box on the finish to gauge what is to come. Very accomplished. 93–94

Les Fiefs de Lagrange
(48% CS, 41% M, 11% PV)
Les Fiefs comprises 60% of the Lagrange production in 2022, only a little down on the trickier 2021. Specific plots are earmarked for Les Fiefs, younger vines prevalent, but there are also several parcels where the year itself dictates the selection. The wine is a rich ruby purple, with expressive dark fruit and spice; generous and warming. The palate holds this theme, but there is notable grip at the back, almost to the point of being a little stewed. Growing pains, no doubt, as the overall impression is favorable. 90

Château Langoa Barton 3ème Cru
(56.5% CS, 41% M, 2.5% CF)
Quintessential Langoa; an unabashed hymn of fresh and pure fruit, its forward character belying a more serious subplot, built around finely sculpted tannins and a line of acidity that is very pure. Morello cherries and blueberries, hints of summer pudding and cinnamon, a very gourmand character, but certainly not without the capacity to evolve gracefully. 94–95

Château Léoville Barton 2ème Cru
(83% CS, 11.5% M, 5.5% CF)
A breathtakingly brilliant Léoville Barton, with all the pedigree that one associates with top-drawer St-Julien—viz, refined, subtle, chalky tannins, very classic, then a slow build on the palate, with bright and distinguished fruit; discreet yet poised, hints of cigar box and incense, then an apotheosis of a finish, the metaphor coming to mind as I taste it on Ascension Day… Bravo! A magnificent start for the new winery, which has taken three years to complete. 97–98

Château Léoville-Las-Cases 2ème Cru
(83.5% CS, 10.5% CF, 6% M)
Since 2018, the proportion of new barrels employed has come down from 90% to 84 %, all the more interesting in a vintage where the Cabernet Sauvignon rules near-supreme. The grain is seamless, the texture betraying a density that is lightly born, such is the quality of tannin and fruit alike. Dark fruit to the fore, cassis in particular, then loam, tobacco, and dried figs; then violets, sous-bois and plum pudding… I could go on. As indeed can the wine. And so it will, gloriously. A triumph foretold. 96–97

Clos du Marquis
(45.5% M, 44.5% CS, 10% CF)
Dark of hue, with an imposing nose; please don’t mistake me for a second wine, it says. It never has been and it never will be. The autonomous plots are located close to Léoville Poyferré and the soil, gravel over limestone, is an archetype of St-Julien. Cigar boxes, loamy earth, and blackcurrant leaf ensue, with tapenade and incense in the background. And let us not forget the foundation of dark fruit; boysenberry, cherry, and plum. These characteristics betray the fact that there is more Merlot in the blend than sometimes, not that this in any way undermines the firm tannic clasp and the mid-palate intensity, which strays all the way down the throat. 94–95

Le Petit Lion
(57% M, 40% CS, 3% CF)
The Petite Marquise is no more; the Petit Lion has gobbled it up. The focus remains on Merlot, however, but with even more rigorous fruit selection. The result complements the senior partner, just as intended, its more approachable fruit tinted with a damson crush; a debonair charm ensues; ludic, self-assured, and unassailably delicious. 92–93

Château Léoville Poyferré 2ème Cru
(58% CS, 34% M, 4% CF, 4% PV)
Plush purple of color and plush of intent, that intent, demonstrably, to charm and then to seduce. The texture here is broad, rich, and yet svelte and linear, a hint of savory complementing the blue and red fruit. Tannins are ripe and yet powdery, and acidity underpins classic St-Julien elegance, albeit from the more flamboyant end of the spectrum of this dignified appellation. 80% of new oak has given a spicy backdrop. Clever winemaking from Sara Lecompte Cuvelier and her team. 94–95

Pavillon de Léoville Poyferré
(65% CS, 18% M, 12% CF, 5% PV)
A ludic nose of summer pudding and crushed raspberry, then a broad, indulgent palate that recalls, in no particular order, coffee, violet crèmes, and myrtle. The finish is elegantly tapered; the attack impressive. The wine will spend a total of 18 months in two-year-old barrels. 91–92

Moulin Riche
(65% CS, 25% M, 10% PV)
There is a little more sand on the soil to the west of the main Poyferré holdings, although one might be hard pressed to identify it; more clay, too, which may come closer to explaining the dense color and incredible richness in play here. Camphor, juniper, and vine smoke sit comfortably next to the dense fruit, with counterpoint offered by notes of bitter chocolate and an almost disarming hint of salinity on the finish. 92–93

Château Potensac
(43% CS, 36.5% M, 19.5% CF, 1% PV)
The Léoville-Las-Cases stewardship of this northerly estate has not in any way compromised the firm Médocain tannins, the almost-austere first impression and then the joyful recognition of the cerebral complexity lurking beneath—all brought to bear with great aplomb in 2022. Bright acidity, purity of fruit, and a limestone-induced linearity, which will evolve with great dignity. 92

Château Poujeaux
(46% M, 43% CS, 11% CF)
A perennially overperforming Moulis, owned by the Cuvelier family of Clos Fourtet in St-Emilion. A particularly successful year, it seems, for the Petit Verdot and the Merlot, both pushing the yield up to a highly respectable 40hl/ha. Concentration is not lost, however, nor is the impressive aromatic harmony; cassis and gunflint, an impressive spicy backdrop, too. All in all, an outstanding Poujeux, its reputation more than safe. 93

Château St-Pierre 4ème Cru
(80% CS, 12% M, 6% CF, 2% PV)
A fascinating St-Pierre, big-boned and rejoicing in a linear structure. The oldest Cabernet Sauvignon vines are located on the gravel plateau next to Branaire-Ducru. With an IPT of 92, this wine is fuller, richer, more linear than its sibling (Gloria), with chocolate, cassis, and mulberry to the fore. Chalky tannins intercede thereafter. 55% new wood is used for the élevage. 92–93

Château Talbot 4ème Cru
(70% CS, 25% M, 5% PV)
The significant proportion of clay in the soil has contributed here; a classic Talbot, focused more on the linear, on the measured intensity on the finish and, equally important, on the beguiling attack, which combines notes of juniper and pencil-lead with red and, more significantly, black fruits. The tannic weave is impressive, and there is a little gentle bitterness (noble bitterness, as they like to say in Champagne) on the finish. Understated but structurally robust and sure to please over the longer term. Please don’t overlook the unshowy Talbot. It is a classic and delicious St-Julien. 95–96

Connétable Talbot
(56% CS, 44% M)
A firm and somewhat foursquare Connétable, not for those who like their wines to be racy and hedonistic. That said, there is a leafy, almost lyrical, quality at work here, an impressive backbone, and good length. Sapidity and salinity are both evident on the finish, and the alcohol is a modest 13%—modest in contemporary terms, that is! 92–93

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