Visiting Ch. Lascombes and a sneak peek at ’09 and ’10
En primeur is coming up fast in Bordeaux. I don’t know a lot about en primeur, I must confess. I knew of en primeur but it’s only recently that I was able to actually visit Bordeaux and taste en primeur. You’re probably thinking, hang on a minute Denise, how did you taste en primeur 2010? It’s not 2010 en primeur week yet. At least, I think that’s how it works, I’m still a bit hazy on all that en primeur stuff, really need to brush up (read: learn) French. Well, I was able to jump the gun a bit while visiting Chateau Lascombes, a Grand Cru Classe, 2nd growth in Margaux, a few weeks ago on my trip to Bordeaux with Richard Bampfield, MW.
A quick primer on en primeur if your unfamiliar, or, if you know all about it, just skip this paragraph. Basically, en primeur is the practice of wine futures. The wine is sampled in barrel roughly 6 months after going in and based on the tasting, a price is set and sold for the wine before bottling. Bordeux is usually a blend although some Right Bank chateau do make 100% varietals, so the winemakers set out samples of what they believe will be the final blend but it can change depending on how the wine matures in barrel. Every year in March, the Bordelais invite the wine trade and press to taste the en primeur wines.
Prior to the tasting,we got a grand tour of the chateau, complete with their gravity flow fermentation tanks, their uber-cool cellar with neon blue lights and we even got a peek at the steam cleaning process used to clean out used barrels. The chateau was bought in 2001 by an investment fund, Colony Capital, which enabled the chateau to modernize, replant and generally improved the quality of the wine. Michel Rolland is their wine consultant and Delphine Barboux is the winemaker or officially titled, Quality Control Manager. It was she who tasted the 2010’s and the 2009 finished blend, which had just been bottled, with us. As a special treat, we got to taste the 2009 and the (having recently finished malolactic fermentation) 2010 component wines before there were blended together.
So, what’s it like to taste a fine wine when it’s in it’s infancy? We tasted merlot, cabernet and petit verdot just after they had finished malo and they were rather closed on the nose, most likely because they have not been in barrel long. My notes on the cabernet and merlot show both to have rich, ripe fruit notes, excellent acidity and firm tannic structure. I asked Richard for his comments and he noted that they have a great purity of fruit and compared to the 2009, are much crisper.
The 2009, well here are my notes on the components and then the finished blend, which was blended on 25th January 2011.
Merlot –spicy, fruit not as sweet but nicely balanced, great acidity,
Cab – fruity nose, cassis, rich, vanilla, again lots of fruit on the palate, sweet spice, very rich and full, supple and silky, med finish
Petite verdot – never more than 5% , between 2 and 5%, only goes into the Grand Vin, tannins stick to your mouth, fruit not very evident
Ch. Lascombes 2009 – bottled 25 jan 2010, tasted Jan 27 2010
Very aromatic, floral, violet, sweet ripe fruit – can feel the structure,plummy, blackcurrant, powerful but elegant, round full tannins but packs a punch, acidity excellent, full of life, the texture of the wine is not so rich as I would have thought judging from the component tasting, goes to show the skill of the blend, a complex wine, med body, but long lasting, the fruit just hangs there, an excellent marriage of the wine, 48% merlot/48%cabernet, 4% petit verdot, oak not as evident as in the individual component wines.
Richard noted that,” the two Petit Verdot’s showed why this grape is used in small quantities for blending. Huge colour and structure, but little actual flavour or finesse. 2009’s showing very sumptuous fruit, great flavour and genuine sweetness on the palate. Alcohol quite high on the Merlot, the Cabernet had astonishing flavour”.
Delphine, the winemaker thought that “the main difference between the two vintages was the freshness / acidity (being higher in 2010) rather than the tannin levels”.
All in all, a very interesting exercise for a Bordeaux novice like me. I’m looking forward to learning more in two weeks time when I’m heading back for more en primeur.