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BI 10 Years On Tasting: 2008

by Michael Schuster


Tasting Summary – Michael Schuster

Class, Classicism, Claret Value, Maturity.

A Very Great Deal to Enjoy Now

I find it difficult not to go overboard in my praise for this vintage as it approaches its tenth birthday. There were good and less good wines for their price and label claims, that’s always the case, but of the seventy wines I tasted, across the region, up and down the hierarchy, there were very few real disappointments. Indeed, there were so many first rate wines, from every commune, at every level, that I also found it impossible to really narrow down my personal selection of ‘Drinking Values’ – at the end. There are two dozen of them!

No one commune or grape stands out, you will see there are delights across the board.

These are ‘classic’ clarets in the most positive sense of the word: ‘dry’ but ripe fruited, subtly gravelly in underlying aromas, lightly tannic, elegant, even, medium weight wines, the very image of good red Bordeaux. They are for the most part delicious beverage table wines. Good wines, I would say, with which to introduce the virtues of claret at table, to those who don’t know them.

Not particularly ‘structured’ (an advantage!), but complete and without weakness, the majority are ready to drink, though there is no hurry either. Accessible now, even the least of them will still improve in bouquet and texture for several years, the best for decades. For the most part they have no strongly marked vintage ‘feature’ which needs ‘managing’ – alcohol, tannin, acid – and it is exactly this which makes them so accessible, so satisfying, so appealing. There are, of course, a few quite powerful and fairly tannic wines, from St Emilion in particular, but these are the result of winemaking choices: picking dates, vinification practices, oak regimes. Good wines too, if you like the style, and there are clearly drinkers who enjoy and admire them, though they are not my personal choice.

You will see from my inability to ‘limit’ my choice, that there are attractively mature wines from all the major communes, and my notes will situate them in terms of style and quality, to help you choose. I said very few real disappointments, but there was one such small group, the second wines of top properties. Whilst these are no longer the value for money they used to be, they can still make for a good introduction to the virtues of the Grand Vin, at a third, or less, of the price, for three quarters of the experience if you like. At the expensive price they sell for, they should be special. Of Petit Cheval, Petit Mouton, Pavillon Rouge and Les Forts de Latour, only the latter stood out such. I have no idea why, they all tasted well enough en primeur.

I have divided my favourite current drinking values into three groups – per dozen, ex VAT: under £350, under £500 and under £1000. Ten particular favourites are in italics. And if I had to choose just one wine, irrespective of price, from the Right Bank, and one from the Left Bank from what we tasted, and for sheer pleasure, they would be Angelus, and Mouton Rothschild.

A personal selection of 2008 ‘Drinking Values’:

At under £350 duty paid:

Château Potensac, Cru Bourgeois, Medoc                                 

Château Tronquoy Lalande, St Estèphe                                      

Château Poujeaux, Cru Bourgeois, Moulis                                 

Château Belgrave, 5th Growth, St Laurent                                  

Château Gloria, Cru Bourgeois, St Julien                                   

At under £500 duty paid:

Clos du Marquis, St Julien                                                         

Château Lagrange, 3rd Growth, St Julien                                   

Château Branaire-Ducru, 4th Growth, St Julien                                    

Domaine de Chevalier, Cru Classé, Pessac-Léognan                 

Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste, 5th Growth, Pauillac                      

At under £1000 duty paid:

Château Canon-La-Gaffelière, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé        

Château Rauzan-Ségla, 2nd Growth, Margaux                            

Château Gazin, Pomerol                                                         

Château Haut-Bailly, Cru Classé, Pessac-Léognan                      

Château Léoville Poyferré, 2nd Growth, St Julien

Château Lascombes, 2nd Growth, Margaux                               

Château Smith Haut Lafitte, Cru Classé, Pessac-Léognan            

Château Clerc Milon, 5th Growth, Pauillac                                  

Château Beychevelle, 4th Growth, St Julien                            

Château Hosanna, Pomerol                                                       

Château La Conseillante, Pomerol                                             

Château Bélair-Monange, Saint-Emilion 1er Grand Cru                       

Château Pape Clément, Cru Classé, Pessac-Léognan                 

Château Cos d’Estournel, 2nd Growth, St Estèphe

Château Pichon-Longueville Baron, 2nd Growth, Pauillac       


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