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Bordeaux 2004 - Part II

by Tom Cannavan

Haut-Médoc, St-Julien, Pauillac and St-Estèphe

The start of today's tasting of the Médoc communes of St-Estephe, Pauillac and St Julien worried me a little, as with one or two exceptions there was an aggressive edge to several of the wines, with rather rustic, gripping tannins that somewhat overpowered the fruit.

But as the tasting progressed, leading from the Crus Bourgeois of the Haut-Médoc to the Grands Vins, the wines became (generally) more and more impressive. Whether this was because the terroir expressed itself better, or simply that the estates could practice - and did practice - better winemaking, is hard to say. Probably it is a combination of both, with the grand estates having the resources, equipment and money to select very carefully and to take steps during fermentation to control and monitor extraction.

There are some really great wines in 2004 on the Left Bank, and many very good ones. I chatted to other very experienced international tasters who made it along to Latour and Las-Cases today, and they agreed that Latour is a classic and that Las-Cases has also made a great 2004.

Haut-Médoc

Château Beaumont 2004
Very vibrant Magenta colour. Vinous, cherry and dry, polished wood on nose. Nice sweet fruit, with bold cherry and slightly lip-sticky, dry notes. Mouth-coating tannins, with a lot of dry extract and slightly inky feel. Good acidity and quite good length, though perhaps lacks a touch of elegance. 86-87/100

Château Belgrave 2004
Much blacker, more solid colour. Beautifully sweet, deep, ripe cassis and black plum nose; really quite aromatic with floral and cedary notes and a real suggestion of sweetness. The palate is smooth and quite full and flattering, with plenty of sweet fruit butting up against firm, dry, quite polished tannins that have a chocolaty feel, and plenty of bold, chewy acidity. Lots of weight and texture here, and an underpinning of oak, in a powerful, deep wine. 90/100

Château Camensac 2004
A very deep, saturated purple. Sweet cherry fruit on the nose, with a little sense of rose-hip and fragrant raspberry. On the palate this has a sweetness and quite a silky texture, but really dry, sweeping tannins overtake quickly, leaving the mouth dried and slightly inky, though the lingering impression of fruit is ripe and juicy. Acidity tingles on the tongue, and it has some richness, but again the dry extract is slightly overwhelming at this stage. 87/100

Château Cantemerle 5th Growth 2004
Deep and vivid purple colour. Bold, slightly inky cherry fruit on the nose, with hints of watercolour paint-box and some briary notes. Equally bold and fully extracted on the palate, with a big, grippy, cherry and plum-skin darkness of fruit, but there is a sweet element in there too, and an underpinning spice and cedaryness. This is quite massively dry, but has really good length and is full, spicy and resonant. 89/100

Château Citran 2004
Vivid, deep purple colour. Darker, less brightly-focused fruit qualities here, with a tobacco edge to plummy, warm berry fruits. There is a vanillin creaminess that is flattering. On the palate there is quite bold, dark, vivid cherry and plum fruit, wrapped in well-managed, chocolaty tannins and with a good plum-skin acidity. This has lots of richness and warmth, and is more approachable than some at this stage certainly. 88-89/100

Château Coufran 2004
A very deep, dark blackish crimson. Inky cherry fruited qualities, though this is quite closed, with a deep-set, muscular quality. Tannins have a rustic edge on the palate; a touch rough but ripe and powerful. There is a good quality of fruit again, and through the mid-palate some sweetness emerges. Spice and a brisk cherry acidity shows through on the finish, in a slightly less elegant, but powerful wine 87/100

Château Lamarque 2004
Intense, very opaque crimson/black. Bold and quite deep and resonant cherry fruit, with a little hint of a creamier, blackcurrant beneath. On the palate there's a very nice coffee-infused, dark-roasted warmth to this, with obviously ripe fruit and plenty of body and suppleness through the mid-palate. Tannins are chocolaty and quite ripe and deep, with a punch of dry, cherry-skin acidity but also that warmth re-emerging with lots of spicy, toasty oak notes. 90/100

Château La Lagune 2004
Very dark and opaque, but vivid crimson/black. There's a creaminess and sense of plushness here, with juicy cherry fruit and a suggestion of a creamy blackcurrant component. A little espresso coffee note in the mouth, with plummy fruit and plenty of dry extract, as ripe, quite sweet tannins coat the teeth. Cherry-skin acidity adds to that drying impression, with quite a full-textured finish where the fruit quality reasserts, layered in coffeeish, toasty oak. 90/100

Château La Tour Carnet 2004
Extremely dark black/crimson. Really quite closed, with a solid, tightly-wound depth that reveals little. Some glimpses of black plum and cherry fruit. Quite a profound, deep, solid character in the mouth, with full body and a huge, if rather monolithic core of dark fruit and coffeeish, warm and dark oak. This does have balance and lots of power and compact muscularity. 88/100

Château Malescasse 2004
Moderately dark and opaque purple/crimson. Quite earthy, smoky and toasty on the nose, with oak and earthier fruit suggesting berries and plum. Brighter on the palate, with a slick of vanillin over bold redcurrant and cherry. Big, dry tannic extract coats the mouth, and tingles with spice on the finish. Powerful, if a little rustic. 88/100

St-Julien

Château Beychevelle, 4th growth 2004
Moderately deep and very vibrant crimson. There's a depth and solidity here, with hints of chocolate and espresso bean, and a warming core of autumnal berry fruits and spices. Very harmonious palate; the texture is quite silky, and there's a sweet depth of fruit with cherry and deeper, juicy plum notes. Tannins here are fine and well-controlled, with a polished quality though plenty of grippy power. Acidity seems quite gentle, but it is sufficient and balances well with re-emerging coffee and toasty oak and spice in the finish. 90-91/100

Château Branaire-Ducru, 4th growth 2004
A very dark and solid crimson/black. Quite a powerful, dark edge of charcoally, black plum and plumskin fruit, quite resonant with cassis sweetness beneath and a spicy overlay. On the palate the texture is quite creamy and there is a mouthfilling rich sweetness to the fruit. There's a solidity here, but very good ripeness. Coffee and chocolaty notes from wood and supple tannins provide powerful but not aggressive support, and a big spicy finish is matched by a seam of good acidity. Very harmonious. 92/100

Château Gruaud-Larose, 2nd growth 2004
A very, very dark blackish crimson. Very deep, resonant plum and blackcurrant fruit. There is a charcoally depth and edge and lots of cherry brightness too. Touches of black chocolate. Really sweet on the palate. Lovely rounded, supple, sweet berry fruit of great ripeness and quality. A slick of creamy-textured, supple tannins melds with the dramatically dark fruit and bold blackcuranty acidity in a long, very composed and elegant finish. Very complete and fruit well up to tannins. 94/100

Château Lagrange, 3rd growth 2004
Solid, opaque black/crimson. This is very tight, giving little beyond a sheen of composed, muscular, tightly-wound black fruit. On the palate there is a slightly inky, dry, charcoally concentration of tannins and plummy black fruit that is very drying and mouth-coating. Rich in texture, the depth and suppleness of fruit is submerged at present but it is there, and there is a pure core of cassis that is promising. 91/100

Château Langoa-Barton, 2nd growth 2004
Extremely dense and black colour. Correspondingly dense and dark nose, with blue/black fruit quality, a charcoally darkness and dryness and a touch of Indian ink. A lovely sweetness of fruit emerges on the palate; very supple, rounded, wrapped in a polished oaky quality but with deep black fruit at the core. The tannins here are very sweet and ripe, with a great chocolaty depth to them, in a balanced wine with real structure and length. 94/100

Château Léoville-Barton, 2nd growth 2004
Very deep, opaque crimson/black. Dark and sonorous nose, with lots of creaminess of blackcurrant, and a polished, slightly cedary old polished wood note. The palate displays very good sweetness of fruit. A deep, sweet, core of pure cassis drives through the mid-palate, with a medium-bodied but quite robust and full texture. That creaminess persists, and the polished tannins and very pure, clean acidity give a crispness to the finish. Spice and a touch of polished, coffeeish oak support. 93/100

Château Léoville-Poyferré, 2nd growth 2004
Almost black, with touch of crimson on rim. Similarly dark and creamy to Barton, with a core of black plum and blackcurrant fruit. There is a chocolaty quality on the nose here, that is seductive. Pure and dark, black fruits on the palate, with a big grip of dry tannin but obvious sweetness and ripeness beneath. This has a stylish, creaminess to the tannins, with plenty of spice and espresso richness, but with lovely cassis acidity and that chocolaty character, quite sumptuous. 94/100

Château Talbot, 4th growth 2004 Dark but quite vibrant crimson. Fragrant, much brighter cherry and raspberry character here. A nice creamy oak quality and plushness of fruit does give depth though. Wood is perhaps slightly more raw at this stage, with the fruit rather dominated and appearing lighter and less profound on the palate. With a lighter-toned but still powerful tannic structure, and a very dry cherry acidity, it doesn't have the weight or richness of some, but has finesse. 90-91/100

Pauillac

Château Batailley 2004
Deep, glossy purple/black. A smoky warmth, almost nuttiness on the nose. Fruit is quite subdued. The palate is mellow and quite dark and composed, with a cherry and plumskin quality of bittersweet fruit, and a very dry tannic extract. There's a juiciness about the cherry acidity, and it is quite harmonious, but the dryness of tannins and spicy, mellow oak on the finish rather dominate for now. 89-90/100.

Château Clerc-Milon 2004
Crimson/black and vivid colour. Quite a glossy, black, shiny quality of blackcurrant and ripe, black plum fruit on the nose, with just nuances of espresso bean and a tiny violetty hint. On the palate it is composed and pure, with masses of dark, slick, cherry and blackcurrant fruit sweetness and chocolaty, ripe tannins that stay supple and full through the mid-palate despite a mouth-coating quality. The quality of oak is lovely too, with more coffee and a toasty warmth and spice integrating well with the tannins and luxurious fruit. 92-93/100

Château Croizet-Bages, 5th growth 2004
Very solid blackish colour. Slightly Porty nose, with just a suggestion of volatility, but then a good quality of cherry and black fruits does emerge with some slightly vegetal nuances. On the palate it is rather dry, with a slightly meat-stocky character and very dry fruit that does emerge with more sweetness in the finish. The acidity is quite good, and it is not unbalanced, but somehow seems rather spiky and lacking a bit of cohesion at this stage. 88-89/100

Château d'Armailhac 2004
Intense deep crimson. Very fragrant; cherry and blackcurrant, with a lightness and floral edge, over some plummier notes and an almost kirsch-like ripeness. The palate is full, sweet and harmonious, with quite a fat, ripe red fruit quality and a smooth, silky texture. There's a warmth to the oak and the polished, very refined tannins, which with a coffee note and quite a generous plumskin acidity gives a very inviting, approachable profile. There is good depth though, in a delicious style. 91/100

Château Grand-Puy-Ducasse, 5th growth 2004
Intense deep crimson. Cherry and raspberry qualities, with nuances of rose-hip and a leathery but very refined (not rustic) note. Lots of polish and aromatics. The palate is quite seamless and approachable, with a lovely core of sweet cherry and pure cassis fruit, and a mellow, chocolaty layering of oak. The tannins here are really supple and support without any aggressive tendency. Along with juicy, quite generous cherry acidity, this is a very successful G-P-D. 92/100

Château Haut-Bages-Libéral, 5th growth 2004
Very opaque crimson/black. Dark, polished, a touch cedary, with creamy black fruits and a core of supple plum. There is good fruit and fruit sweetness on the palate, with a rather dry tannic structure and orangy, drying acidity rather cutting it short at present. Oak is very lightly handled, and there is some elegance to this medium-bodied wine, but it lacks a little fruit depth in face of all that extraction. 89/100

Château Lynch-Bages, 5th growth 2004
Very deep crimson/black. Deep, sonorous, very composed nose with plummy fruit and a polished character. Lots of very black, plummy fruit with a supple, dark oak overlay. On the palate the oak is slightly raw at present, with a vanillin layer over cool, composed, very tight and shiny black fruit. Lovely sweetness and depth here, and the suppleness of tannins and bittersweet plumskin acidity gives depth and harmony. 93/100

Château Lynch-Moussas, 5th growth 2004
Rather dry on the nose, with a touch of inkiness to cherry skin fruit. There is a chocolate note and some cherry brightness. On the palate quite cool and classy, with nice sweetness of fruit, but also a toasty, rich underpinning. Chocolate and creamy bittersweetness rounds out the finish and there is good, spicy length. 90/100

Château Pichon-Longueville (Baron), 2nd growth 2004
Very dark, shiny crimson. There is an earthiness and dark, plummy quality here, with quite a nutty quality of fruit and some minerality. The palate has that same nutty character and a supple roundness of fruit. There is a bit of fruit sweetness lacking here, but I also suspect this sample is not the best. It has very dry structure and a sweetness does emerge. This has harmony without doubt but also quite a robust character that will become more supple. Second sample much sweeter and great length. Tentative score: 92-93/100

Château Pontet-Canet, 5th growth 2004
Very even, intense black colour. Muscular, solid, very dense nose. Rounded and very deep plummy fruit with a berry character and sweetness. Polished and deep wood notes add to a sense of darkness and richness. On the palate this has a delightful sweetness emerging. There is a really pure core of cassis and black cherry, and a mouthfilling weight of sweet, ripe tannins. Tannins here are beautifully managed, and the bite of cherry skin acidity adds lovely texture and clean grip. Long and harmonious, this is a little star. 93-94/100

St-Estèphe

Château Cos-Labory, 5th growth 2004
Vivid dark crimson. There is a little dry, inky charcoal note here, and very restrained, dry vinous fruit qualities. On the palate it has quite good, supple tannins that dry the mouth although the cherry and plum quality of fruit does have a sweetness. It has a slightly roughening, rustic quality to the tannins that is not unpleasant, and with cherry acidity the picture is quite grippy and robust. 88/100

Château Lafon-Rochet, 4th growth 2004
Very dense and deep colour. Lots of earthy, deep, sonorous fruit here, with an almost gamy quality that always shows through in this wine. Coffee and plummy fruit notes add lots of plumpness and weight. Creamy textured, this has a fine, bold and sweet fruit quality on the palate. There is depth and bittersweet stuffing, and with a bold, powerful, very grippy tannic quality pushing through against ripe blackberry-skin acidity, Lafon-Rochet has huge appeal this vintage. 94/100

Château Ormes de Pez, Cru Bourgeois 2004
Saturated, dense crimson. Bright cherry fruit, quite vinous with a dark, slightly inky quality. Bold fruit. There is a sweetness on the palate, and a harmonious sense of cherry fruit melding with generous cherry acidity and the tannins are very supple and polished. This is stylish and smooth-textured, with a very focused core of fruit, though perhaps is lacks just a touch of potential for real complexity at this stage. 90/100

Château Phélan-Ségur, Cru Bourgeois 2004
Very dense crimson. There are notes of espresso coffee and deep-set blackcurrant and plum fruit, with a certain composed, dark, muscularity. On the palate this is rich and chewy, with a dense texture and very muscular appeal; there is bite and a certain bittersweet roughness to the texture and the quality of bold, confident fruit. It is harmonious too, and the tannins have depth and a certain plush quality despite their power, in a long, balanced wine. A very good, powerful effort. 91/100.

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