BFWE 2010: Crus Classés de Graves

Decanter Bordeaux Fine Wine Encounter Masterclasses - 4: Crus Classés de Graves

Decanter Bordeaux Fine Wine Encounter

Speakers:
Eric Perrin, Ch Carbonnieux
Gilles Maligne, Ch Fieuzal
Clément Bouriez, Ch Couhins
Karim Nasser, Ch Malartic-Lagravière
David Ornon, Ch Smith Haut Lafite
Andrée Ebersole, Ch Couhins-Lurton
Laurent Lebrun, Ch Olivier

You know you have a strong masterclass line-up when there isn’t enough room on stage for all the representatives of the châteaux involved: this stunning line-up of 2003 reds and 2007 whites displayed the strength in depth of the Graves, Bordeaux’s oldest winemaking region, and also its incredible diversity.

Much of this is owed to the different soils to be found in the area. ‘Each of us will have some gravelly soils, limestone, clay, sand,’ Laurent Lebrun of Château Olivier told the audience. ‘What we have in common is this diversity.’

And what they also have in common are some surprisingly fresh and palatable 2003s, given the extreme heat experienced during that record-breaking summer.

Clément Bouriez of Château Couhins had the explanation. ‘Clay and limestone are fresher soils than the typical gravelly areas, and allowed the maturation to continue and not stop because of the heatwave,’ he said. ‘There was only one problem: we had a very low yield.’

For the whites, the 2007 vintage was the perfect showcase for their purity of fruit and structured elegance. ‘For me, 2007 for the whites is like 2005 for the reds,’ said Laurent Lebrun. ‘They have everything – the complexity, the richness and the finesse.’

It was a view shared by an enthralled masterclass audience, with the only reservation the extreme youth of the wines. ‘We are drinking them as babies – it’s almost infanticide,’ said one audience member.

Best audience question: Why did we start with the reds and then move onto the whites?

Answer (Laurent Lebrun): We had a long discussion about that and I will let Sarah answer…

(Decanter publishing director Sarah Kemp): I seem to remember that it was felt that the acidity in the whites would affect the tasting of the reds. Thank you Laurent, and I will get you later!

Best panel comment: Laurent Lebrun on Latour-Martillac’s owners, the Kressmann family: ‘It’s a very traditional story of a typical Bordeaux family, so they are not from Bordeaux at all. They came from Germany in the 19th century.’

Tasting highlight: (2003 reds): A strong line-up divided the audience, with plenty of hands in the air for La Mission Haut-Brion, Pape-Clément and Domaine de Chevalier.

Hot topic: It’s fair to say that La Mission Haut-Brion 2003 polarised audience opinion, with more than one person expressing disappointment, saying that it ‘came up short’ or that they were perhaps ‘expecting a little too much’ from it. But others were more positive, with one audience member leaping to its defence to say that ‘it absolutely delivered’.

Richard Woodard