ARVI SA - Bordeaux Chronicles

A SURPRISING VINTAGE


Follow our journey through Bordeaux during this year’s En Primeur barrel tastings. ARVI’s team will be touring, tasting, and exploring the greatest producers to get a first-hand look at the 2017 vintage. Throughout the second week of April, 2018 we will be updating our webpage each day to give you an inside-look at the most chaotic, but nonetheless celebratory time for this fine-wine capital.

DAY ONE

Saint-Estèphe

Château Calon Ségur

Château Ormes de Pez

Château Montrose

Château Cos d’Estournel

Pauillac

Château Lafite Rothschild

Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste

Château Pontet-Canet

Château Pichon Longueville Baron

Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande

Château Mouton Rothschild

Château Latour


Today marks the first day of the En Primeurs 2017 barrel tastings - one of the most exciting and yet hectic times for the world’s most famed wine region. We arrived in Bordeaux yesterday, and starting tasting right away with a large organized tasting of this year’s best selections. Our Head Sommelier, Davide Vaccarini has a tough week ahead of him, as this 2017 vintage has its ups and downs. We are all looking forward to discover all the amazing surprises that this vintage has in store.

For the first official day of the 2017 En Primeur campaign, we will be tasting our way through the leading estates of Saint-Estèphe and Pauillac. As many of you know, Bordeaux was hit by its worst frost in 25 years, making this a very variable vintage that’ll have to be carefully tasted. Our first official tasting this week was at Château Calon Ségur, where we were greeted by the Director of the estate, Mr. Laurent Dufau. As our first look at the 2017 vintage - were hoping to reveal the “heart” of this vintage early on – if you get my gist! Davide states “this is a genuinely elegant Calon Ségur”. We also got to check out their new vat room that allows for plot by plot vinification.

Driving along the Left Bank of the Gironde, our next stop was Château Ormes de Pez. Similarly owned by the Cazes family, we had a tasting of Château Lynch-Bages due to the ongoing renovations at Lynch, as well as a tasting of the family’s newest estate, Château Haut-Batailley. Meeting with the owner, Jean-Charles Cazes and Commercial Director, Malou Sommer for the tasting, they explained that luckily, they were able to escape the frost due to the vineyards close vicinity to the estuary.

We crossed over quickly to Pauillac to have a tasting of Château Lafite Rothschild, that in Davide’s opinion is shaping up well, mentioning “this year, the 2017 Lafite wines are showing a wonderful elegance.” Our next stop was back in Saint-Estèphe at the always impressive Château Cos d’Estournel where owner Michel Reybier, along with Brand Ambassador Dimitri Augenblick, led us through the tasting. Like many in the Northern Médoc, the vineyards were not affected by April’s frost. The fifth appointment of the day led us to Château Montrose, which Davide states, “What an outstanding quality for Montrose!”

The rest of our day was spent in Pauillac, where we visited Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste. Welcomed by the owners, Mr. and Mrs. Borie, they explained that the 2017 wines are showing an incredible freshness, with a fruitful elegance, making these some of the best value wines we tasted today. Our final tasting before lunch was with the owner Alfred Tesseron himself, of Château Pontet-Canet. This Château is as cutting-edge as it gets in Bordeaux, dedicated to organic and biodynamic agriculture, this estate exceeds at echoing the soul of their terroir. After filling up on French cheeses, we headed to Château Pichon Longueville Baron, which is home to the most striking architecture in Bordeaux. CEO of AXA Millesimes – Christan Seely led us through this year’s vintage. The wines were astonishing, despite the frost, it’s a great vintage for Pichon Logueville Baron. The wines are not as fleshy as last year’s, but they’re fresh – moving towards a classic Pauillac style.

Just neighboring Pichon Longueville Baron and Latour, we tasted Château Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande and wow, they’ve done it again! This is the fourth vintage is a row, that in Davide’s words, is “absolutely remarkable.” Sales Director, Charles Fournier, explained that “the estuary was their ally” in the war against the frost – I’m starting to sense a pattern here!

Next, we moved to taste at the prestigious - Château Mouton Rothschild – where we were able to speak with Philippe Sereys de Rothschild who has succeeded his late mother – Baroness Philippine de Rothschild - as the Chairman of the family. He works closely with his sister, Camille Sereys de Rothschild and his brother, Julien de Beaumarchais de Rothschild – whom we were also able to speak with. Together, the three proudly united to present the En Primeur 2017 vintage, keeping with their mother’s wishes. We also met with the Managing Director of the Rothschild estates, Philippe Dhalluin and the Commercial Director, Hervé Gouin. The 2017 vintage here is quite muscular, the strong consistency makes for a great complexity. The last tasting of the day was at the stunning Château Latour where we were greeted by the Commercial Director, Jean Garandeau and General Manager, Frédéric Engerer. Unfortunately for us does, Latour does not participate in En Primeur, but rather waits until the wine is ready to be released (which could be years). With the greatness of this Latour, Davide says it’s going to be a long wait, he adds “Try to be patient, because this 2017 Latour is well worth the wait!”

What a busy first day, even though the weather didn’t seem to cooperate, the wines of the Northern Médoc are shaping up well. The 2017 vintage, for those properties along the Left Bank of the Gironde, is looking very promising. The Saint-Estèphe appellation seems to be extremely blessed. This vintage depends heavily on the terroir, for Saint-Estèphe the power is definitely in the soil. Overall, Davide sums up his first impressions, “2017 seems to be a cool, fresh vintage, and above all elegant vintage, which also explains the general low alcohol content”.





DAY TWO

Saint-Julien

Château Léoville Barton

Château Ducru-Beaucaillou

Château Léoville Poyferré

Château Léoville Las Cases

Margaux

Château Rauzan-Ségla

Château Palmer

Château Brane-Cantenac

Château Margaux

Up and early for our second day of En Primeurs tastings, our first appointment was in Saint-Julien, at the great Château Léoville Barton estate. We met with the owner, Lillian Barton-Sartorius and her son, Damien to discuss the irregular weather conditions of the 2017 vintage. Lillian told us, “This is what I like about Bordeaux, that each vintage is unique, as opposed to other regions where the weather is very predictable and each vintage is the small.” Davide comments that this year’s Léoville Barton is “a big and spicy wine, with persistent tannins”.

Our second stop along the Left Bank, was to the beautiful Château Ducru-Beaucaillou, which has a picturesque view of the estuary. The owner, Bruno Borie walked us through the 2017 vintage, explaining “What is interesting about this year is the jump back to a more academic approach, with a long maturation period. The harvest occurred 110 days after flowering.” This “classic” approach has led to elegant, yet fresh wines – the Merlot in particularly has a good grip. Mr. Borie continues, that the 2017 vintage seems to have more power than ’16, more elegance than ’14 and more freshness than ’15. From Ducru we made our way back to the famed trio of Léoville estates, visiting Château Léoville Poyferré where we were able to speak with owner, Didier Cuvelier about his wines. If he had to compare this vintage, he said that the 2017 has the charm of ’12, the elegance and finesse of ’15 and the power of ’14. Within a short few minutes, we were at Château Léoville Las Cases for our final tasting of the Saint-Julien appellation.

At Château Rauzan-Ségla we had the pleasure of meeting with the General Director, Nicolas Audebert, as well as Alice Biscarrat who heads the Communications and PR at the estate. Our Head Sommelier, Davide was thrilled to taste directly from several barrels in their cellar, which in his opinion, this 2017 Rauzan-Ségla displays just the right amount of body, which is complemented by an elegant freshness.

In the afternoon we continued our journey through the most name worthy châteaux in the Margaux appellation. Starting with Château Palmer, where “the great terroirs overlook the water” – winemaker, Thomas Duroux explained that the estuary saved this year’s vintage. Alter-Ego, Palmer’s second wine is getting better and better year after year Davide comments, “each year the profile of this wine grows stronger”. The Grand Vin for Davide is “This year’s greatest example of a biodynamic wines, it is clean, precise and elegant.”

Another wonderful Margaux estate is Château Brane-Cantenac, which was our second to last appointment of the day and actually ARVI’s first visit to the property. We were generously greeted by the owner, Henri Lurton and Commercial Director, Marie Hélèn Dussech. This estate continues to produce the appellation’s greatest price-quality wines.

We ended our long day of touring and tasting at the heavenly Château Margaux, where we were able to say hello to the owner’s daughter, Alexandra Petit-Mentzelopoulous and Thibailt Pontallier who is the son of the late Paul Pontallier, and acting Ambassador for Margaux in Asia. Driving up the tree-lined drive way, with a straight view of the famed pearly white Château is almost as good as tasting this year’s line-up. The Grand Vin was “elegant as always” Davide remarks, “revealing some of the finest tannins of this 2017 vintage”. Their white wine this year also deserves some attention, with Davide writing that “The 2017 Pavillon Blanc de Margaux is absolutely stunning. A true bombshell – attractive and amazing.”

Working our way down the Left Bank over these past two days, Davide comments that “In general, this year is one of the most complex vintages to taste En Primeurs. You have to be well-trained to be able to decipher the gems of this vintage.” The appellations in the Northern Médoc, like Saint-Estèphe, Pauillac and Saint-Julien are rather homogenous, with good results across the board. We also tasted some top wines in Margaux.





DAY THREE

Saint-Émilion

Château Pavie

Château Angélus

Château Canon La Gaffelière

Château Pavie Macquin

Château Cheval Blanc

Château Ausone

Château-Figeac

Pomerol

Château Le Pin

Château Clinet

Château La Conseillante

Château Le Gay

Château La Violette

Château l'Eglise-Clinet

Vieux Château Certan

Crossing over the Gironde Estuary, we made our way to the Right Bank for a full day of tasting. Our first stop was at the most petit property in Pomerol, if not in all of Bordeaux - Château Le Pin. It was actually our first time visiting the estate, and we were more than grateful to meet with the owner, Jacques Thienpont. Davide commented that this year’s vintage has “an incredible fruit” and “the terroir is perfectly reflected in their tiny production”. Bordering the Pomerol appellation, we moved to Saint-Émilion, to ironically the appellation’s largest Premier Grand Cru Classé estate – Château Pavie. We met with the owner of this lush château, Gerard Perse, and his son-in-law, Henrique Da Costa. Their General Director, Philippe Develay led us through the tasting and Davide remarked it is a “Lovely new style of Pavie! The nose is absolutely amazing.”

Less than a kilometer from the memorable Saint-Émilion bell tower, Château Angélus welcomed us for the En Primeurs tastings. Speaking with the Commercial Director of Europe, Anna Tkachenko-Marie, we found that the Grand Vin was impressively fresh, it was vibrant and bursting with fruit flavors. Just a short drive away, lying to the south of the medieval village of Saint-Émilion, we visited Count Stephan von Neipperg at his Château Canon La Gaffelière estate. Davide described the Grand Vin as “a savory wine, with lots of cherry notes and a lovely acidity”.

With vineyards neighboring three Premiers Grands Crus Classés, Château Pavie-Macquin is home to a 15-hectare vineyard. We were able to meet with Right Bank visionary and owner, Nicolas Thienpont and his son Cyril, for a tasting of this year’s vintage. We also tasted those wines from their other estates, including châteaux Beauséjour-Duffau, Larcis-Ducasse, Puygueraud, La Prade and Berliquet. Their wines, in general, are looking promising, displaying elegance, freshness and concentration.

For lunch we sat down for a wonderful meal at the Terrasse Rouge restaurant of Château La Dominique. Our next appointment was at the famed property Château Cheval Blanc, which you could see from the windows of La Dominique. We were more excited to meet with the CEO, Pierre Lurton and Technical Director, Pierre-Olivier Clouet to hear their stories about this 2017 vintage. Their Grand Vin this year is an untypical blend, using more Cabernet Sauvignon than ever before. Pierre commented that this is a “more of a Left Bank styled Cheval Blanc” but nonetheless, “a kind of vintage we love – 2017 is precise, clean and long”.

Seeing purple, we had our second tasting after lunch at Château La Conseillante. As one of the most emblematic properties in the Pomerol, we met with Managing Director, Marielle Cazaux, who lightheartedly comments that this 2017 is “A great baby!” she adds, “We are proud of our baby.” There is a great length to this year’s Conseillante that is perfectly complemented by elegant fruit flavors and precise textures. From purple violets to red carpets, Château Clinet was our next stop in Pomerol. The CEO and proprietor, Ronan Laborde and his wife, Monique Bailly led us through a tasting of their 2017 vintage. After an extra careful selection of grapes and blending this year, Monique said that the first time she tasted it she thought “Yeah, this is definitely a Clinet.”

Continuing with our Right Bank tastings, we visited owner, Henri Parent and Commercial Director, Mathieu Depercenaire at Château Le Gay. We had a tasting of their 2017 Le Gay but also Parent’s other Pomerol property, Château La Violette. While tasting Le Gay, Davide said enthusiastically, “It’s like drinking silk! Remarkable!” And just a stone’s throw away, we made our way to Château L’Eglise-Clinet. As always, it was a pleasure to meet with owner, Denis Durantou and taste through his wines, he confirmed that this year has brought some lovely surprises.

Next up on our list was Vieux Château Certan, with one wine, we met with owner Alexandre Thienpont and his son Guillaume, who graciously walked us through the 2017 vintage. Its high-class ranking year after year is more than upheld with this production, Davide comments “It’s very elegant, perhaps even more than the 2016.” We ended our day at the top of the picturesque town, Saint-Émilion at Château Ausone. Speaking with the Vauthier family, Alain and his daughter, Pauline, we found this 2017 Ausone very elegant and ranking amongst the top of the wines we tasted today.

Our Head Sommelier was lucky enough to attend an incredible dinner at Château-Figeac celebrating the beginning of the construction of their new cellar. They pulled out all the stops, opening several large formats and rare older vintages. We love the atmosphere that large formats create, they are dramatic and impressive, making every event more exciting. The wine list included Château-Figeac 2009 which in Davide’s opinion was “ever so charming”; the beautiful fruit-driven and ready to drink Impériale Château-Figeac 1990; Davide’s favorite of the night “in terms of fruit, balance and elegance” was the Impériale Château-Figeac 1998; “a textbook claret” the Jéroboam Château-Figeac 1970; the well-known 1982 vintage in Impériale which for Davide “still holds a wonderful youthful style”; and the oldest vintage of the night was the 1949 Château-Figeac Jéroboam which for Davide exemplifies the everlasting potential of Bordeaux as the best winemaking region. What an evening! Davide was also able to taste their newest vintage, the 2017, the blend this year is slightly different, “due to the vintage, this Figeac has more Merlot and Cabernet, therefore it displays a unique balance and elegance”.



DAY FOUR

Pessac-Léognan

Château Haut-Brion

Château La Mission Haut-Brion

Les Carmes Haut-Brion

Château Pape Clément

Château Haut-Bailly

Domaine de Chevalier

Château Smith Haut Lafitte

Our fourth day of tasting was dedicated to the Pessac-Léognan appellation which lies the closest to the Bordeaux city center. We started our day with a delightful tasting of Château Haut-Brion at the similarly owned La Mission Haut-Brion. As a couple of the leading producers in the region, Davide was especially impressed by both Haut-Brion’s, but also La Mission Haut-Brion’s white, which he says are in strong competition this year, they are explosive dry 2017 whites.

And moving on to the only château with a Bordeaux city address - Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion - we were pleased to meet with Guillaume Pouthier, who is the estate’s General Manager and Head Winemaker. The always charismatic Guillaume described this vintage as “the perfection that is the sum of tiny details” referring to both the meticulous work in the cellar, but more importantly the work in the vineyard. Davide exclaimed, “Les Carmes Haut-Brion 2017 is a complete stunner, it’s long, deep, multidimensional with a ton of aging potential.”

As one of the oldest Grand Cru Classé vineyards in Bordeaux, our third and final stop with the entire ARVI tasting team was at the magnificent Château Pape Clément. Owned by wine enthusiast extraordinaire, Bernard Magrez, this year’s 2017 line-up confirms Pape Clément’s high-quality status once again. Davide was particularly blown away with their Pape Clément Blanc, which deserves a standing ovation. “Well done!” remarks Davide.

Next, the remaining Bordeaux tasting team visited a true Graves Cru Classé - Château Haut-Bailly. Welcomed by Véronique Sanders, the estate’s General Manager, we were more than happy to speak about the 2017 vintage first hand throughout the tasting and over a magnificent lunch. Ranking amongst the best in the appellation every year, this year’s collection is no different. The wines are fresh and terroir-driven.

Davide had the chance to taste through a large selection of wines at the leading Domaine de Chevalier estate. Speaking with the owner, Olivier Bernard and his son Adrien, Davide was floored by their Domaine de Chevalier Blanc. It is certainly shaping up to be a brilliant vintage for white wines.

Our final visit in Pessac-Léognan was at the most characteristic estate in the appellation – Château Smith Haut Lafitte. We met with the brilliant owners, Daniel Cathiard and his wife, Florence, as well as the estate’s General Director, Ludovic Fradin, to discuss this year’s wines. Davide comments, “Best white of 2017? Clean, full and perfectly balanced. A truly incredible wine!”

After tasting through the greatest châteaux in Pessac-Lèognan, one thing is clear, it is a fantastic year for whites. They white whites in this region really excelled. Davide comments “The reds are classically terroir-driven, and the whites are absolute stars - shining bright this year!”



DAY FIVE

Pomerol

Château L’Évangile

Saint-Émilion

Clos Fourtet
With the En Primeur 2017 marathon coming to an end, we confirm that Bordeaux’s newest vintage is, in fact, full of magnificent surprises. Our last day of tasting brought us back to the Right Bank, to the esteemed Pomerol Château L’Évangile and perennial Saint-Émilion superstar Clos Fourtet. Located on the southeast corner of the Pomerol plateau, bordering Pétrus and Cheval Blanc, Château L’Évangile was our first stop. This year L’Évangile produced a pure Merlot Grand Vin (which usually includes around 20% Cabernet Sauvignon). Davide states, “Despite not being able to use Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend, this pure Merlot 2017 succeeds in preserving the genuine L’Évangile character.” Our final château this year was at the Premier Grand Cru Classé – Clos Fourtet. With vineyards planted on the highest parts of Saint-Émilion plateau, Clos Fourtet is outrageously stunning this year. Davide comments, “It is impressive, explosive and powerful, yet at the same time characteristically elegant. It goes on for minutes.”

Taking advantage of our last day in Bordeaux we made two more stops to complete our En Primeurs tastings. Every year in Bordeaux during this week there are these fabulous organized tastings where wine experts and sommeliers can taste hundreds of wines in one place. Davide was able to taste and re-taste a large selection of wines from many producers and appellations to enhance and confirm his thoughts on this vintage.

After speaking directly with producers and visiting countless châteaux in Bordeaux over the week, there are certainly great wines to be had. This 2017 vintage has been quite generous to whites, producing super ripe and concentrated full wines that have surpassed many previous vintages. It has also been a superb year for sweet Sauternes wines. The reds this year are full of fresh fruity characters, very savory with the perfect subtle minerality. As it is not necessarily Right Bank or Left Bank year, there are appellations all over the region that stand out. On the Right Bank, Saint-Émilion and Pomerol have produced some brilliant wines, especially those producers with vineyards at higher elevations. As for the Left Bank, the appellations in the northern Médoc - Saint-Estéphe, Pauillac and Saint-Julien - have produced outstanding wines, not uniformly, but for the most part the key players have performed very well. The Pessac-Léognan appellation has reclaimed their status, like year after year. It’s important to remember that the terroir is key. This year, producers with exceptional terroir reign king.