THE SENIOR WINE LIST
It appears I could write about Bordeaux forever. Eventually however one has to press publish. Here I've somehow ended up touching upon random horse racing knowledge, classical architecture and more besides. Who knew that such information would one day come in useful.
The Senior wine list continues...
Château Poujeaux is from the lesser known appellation of Moulis and is therefore often overlooked. In Clive Coates wonderful book on Bordeaux he recounts the legend that Baron Elie de Rothschild himself mistook 1953 Château Poujeaux for his own 1953 Château Lafite. Given that Lafite is considered by some to be the foremost wine of the 1855 Classification and Poujeaux doesn’t even feature — and is therefore priced as such — this tale alone should have wine lovers stocking up on Poujeaux by the case. Drinking Poujeaux often makes you feel the same elation that you might have had if you backed Sassafras over the heavy-favourite Nijinsky in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe of 1970. With each pleasurable sip and with your wallet still bulging in your pocket you can feel that the whole system has been bested. Poujeaux is the oenophilic equivalent of David’s bloodying of Goliath and who doesn’t love hearing a good underdog story recounted over a meal – Poujeaux represents both a perfect accompaniment to the tale and to the meal too. I’ve tried many, many vintages of Poujeaux and have found it remarkable consistent and of good quality – with food even more so.
Whilst Poujeaux can age well it is typically a wine I like to drink in the mid-term. Ideally, unless sometimes forced to do so by circumstance, I wouldn't aim to drink any good claret before its ten year birthday. I've always enjoyed both 1999 and 2001 as Bordeaux vintages. Both sit either side of the Nijinsky-esque sucess of 2000 (which I've personally always considered overrated). If I could choose any bottle to enjoy now then I'd choose the 1999. I'd pair this with a home-cooked Sunday roast lunch at home. Whilst I can't cook as well as the world's best chefs, sometimes, just sometimes, when it all goes well and I've consumed plenty of Poujeaux with my roast beef I can easily convince myself I can. If you've enjoyed enough of the Poujeaux then you may even find yourself in agreement.
LEOVILLE LAS CASES AND CLOS DU MARQUIS
If wine is the fruit of civilisation then the wine estates of Bordeaux adorn the banks of the Gironde as both testament and monument to human progress. If each great estate were a peak on the landscape then the Medoc, extending north into the ocean from Bordeaux, would resemble a man-made mountain range without equal. Acknowledged for their solid, powerful structure, polish and longevity, the best wines of the Medoc can themselves seem reminiscent of the finest stone. Like the buildings and sculpture of classical civilisations such as Rome, Greece and Egypt the wines are built to endure. The eventual age-softened sediment at the bottom of old bottles a glass-trapped reminder of the passage of time on solidity. This is especially true in Pauillac home to three-of-the-five first growths; if Lafite, Latour and Mouton are the equivalent of the Great Pyramids of Giza, reaching toward the heavens whilst solidly footed on the land from which they ascend, it is Leoville-Las Cases, next to Latour and in the neighbouring appellation of Saint-Julien that sits no less impressively alongside them as the Great Sphinx. The wines from Saint-Julien temper the solidity of Pauillac with a lither femininity found in appellations further south. As a result Las Cases takes a more chiselled form than it’s northern neighbours. Compared to the the first growths, if those of Pauillac offer the palate Doric columns, Margaux offers up Ionic feminity and Haut Brion provides an acanthus-leafed Corinthian structure, then Las Cases offers a wine of Composite Order build — an oenological Arch of Titus carefully integrating elements of each into an honed, well-crafted but no less classical whole.
In addition to Las Cases itself which was both the first truly great aged-claret I ever tried (the 1985), and the best birth year vintage (1979) wine I’ve ever had, I’ve been a regular imbiber of Clos du Marquis from the same estate too. Clos du Marquis was reputedly the first second wine of Bordeaux (originally offered in 1902) which speaks volumes about Las Cases’ endless pursuit for improvement. A second wine (which most Bordeaux producers now offer too) is made up of fruit from lesser portions of the estate and younger vines not considered good enough for the Grand Vin. In Clos du Marquis this encompasses western vineyards further inland from the Gironde and outside what Las Cases considers as the original core of the estate. As an extension of the sorting table — where poor quality grapes are removed after harvesting — downgrading a portion of your efforts and therefore reducing the amount of Grand Vin produced means that, whilst the estate’s potential profits might be seen to be reduced, the quality of the Grand Vin is obviously increased as a result. The practice can lead to you reasonably charging more for the Grand Vin counteracting any potential loss — Bordeaux’s history and success let us not forget is solidly mercantile. The steady improvement and ascendancy of Bordeaux wine could therefore be seen as both testament to and a result of wider global capitalism — indeed the latest form of human civilisation.
Clos du Marquis is one of my regular favourite wines. As one would expect, it is extremely well made and provides all the Saint-Julien character one might reasonably hope for. Like Poujeaux above, it has always been extremely well priced given its quality too. Given this quality, its own proud and long history, and fact that it itself shares the same terroir as many other estate's Grand Vin it is now no longer being made as a second wine proper and is instead being produced and offered as a distinct Grand Vin itself. As a result since 2007 a new second wine "Le Petit Lion" has been made at the estate. From the few bottles I have enjoyed this too is excellent and befitting the reputation of Domaines Delon - Las Cases owners. Those intrigued by Leoville Las Cases but who have suffered large financial losses backing favourites can look to Domaines Delon's estate Château Potensac mentioned in the previous article. This is solid well made Medoc. They also offer a second wine Chapelle de Potensac too (both Senior household favourites too).
Chateau Poujeaux's website can be found here: www.chateaupoujeaux.com
Domaines Delon's website can be found here: www.domaines-delon.com