Tuesday was devoted to the right bank, with a tasting at Cheval Blanc from 9am.
By 9.05 the tasting room already busy, with visitors sampling this wonderfully opulent but finely balanced wine. I hurried on to the blind tasting of the Premiers Crus Classés of St Emilion.
To my irritation, and to others’ as well, one third of the properties had chosen not to show their wines. The opportunity to taste the top wines of the appellation side by side is enthralling.
Admittedly, Cheval Blanc and Ausone have never participated, but all the other first growths had, although Angélus dropped out last year. This year BélAir and Magdelaine withdrew. There seems little point organizing or attending a tasting if one third of the wines are not present.
On through wind and rain to taste St Emilion and Pomerol at Chateau Larmande. There was some discussion about whether the poor weather had an influence on the wines and our appreciation of them.
Those who had tasted some of the wines earlier in the week were certain they were showing less well today. It’s a plausible theory, based on atmospheric pressure, but hard to prove. If you accept it, it forms yet another argument against those addicted to scoring wines like exam papers. Wines, like us, live and breathe.
Again, it was ravishing to sample wines with such lush seamless fruit allied, in most cases, to subtle structure and refreshing acidity.
Midway through the tasting, at which journalists can set their own pace, there was a gust of cold air as the door flew open, as in Act 1 of Die Walküre, to admit the Ladies Who Taste, with Jancis Robinson first through the door, followed by Jane McQuitty, Fiona Morrison (chatelaine of Le Pin), and Jeannie Cho Lee from Hong Kong.
Stephen and Denise Adams, the American owners of Ch Fonplégade and other right bank properties, hosted a small lunch at the château. Philippe Etchebest, he of the Michelin-starred La Plaisance, had been drafted in to cook for us, so even those with 2pm appointments at Ausone let them slide.
British fine wine merchant Richard Brierley said the buzz among the trade right now was that the 2009 campaign would only begin in June after the Hong Kong Vinexpo, the idea being to allow time for the probable Asian response to the wines to manifest itself.
If he’s right, it will be a long boring wait for consumers before the wines are put on the market. Only Bordeaux producers spend months testing the waters before pricing their own wines, the idea being to make the most of what the market will bear.
I went off to Pomerol to taste more wines, before beginning the two-hour drive to Ch Greysac in the northern Médoc, where I am being lodged for two nights. The estate director Stéphane Pariaud tells me it is very calm and quiet here. That’s an understatement.
The other guests are Reva and Shiv Singh, the mother-and-son team who with great flair publish and edit India’s only wine magazine. Animated conversation around the dinner table inevitably honed in on the taxing topic of what, if anything, to drink with chilis.