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mid-priced clarets

by Tom Cannavan, 05/02

I belong to the Wine Advisory Group for a large Scottish institution, and this was a tasting on their behalf of mid-priced clarets from UK wholesaler Wine Importers. My task was to spend someone else's money on good quality clarets in the £10-£20 bracket ($15-£30) for drinking and cellaring over the next years or so. The wines are for use in formal banquets and when entertaining VIP guests.

This was part two of the tasting: please also see New and Old World stars.

This tasting was not conducted blind, and I have quoted approximate prices in pounds sterling, including VAT. I have also marked those wines we chose to purchase with an asterisk.

tasting notes

Château La Haye, Cru Bourgeois, St-Estèphe 1998 - £11.85 *
I have never tasted this Château before. Good depth of colour, with a lovely sweet nose showing fine, yet dense, juicy black fruit. Quite full and plummy on the palate, with silky texture and lingering, cedary-plum fruit. Decent acid/tannin balance and length. Very good indeed.

Château Mayne-Lalande, Cru Bourgeois, Listrac 1997 - £10.85
Mid crimson/ruby colour. Very nice nose; lots of cedar and tobacco over soft, plummy fruit. Gentle palate with decent balance, but drying slightly and finishes rather weakly with soft acidity. Very good.

Château Grand-Puy-Ducasse, 5th Growth, Pauillac 1997 - £16.60
Unfortunately corked. Colour depth was good.

Château Pichon-Clemont, Cru Bourgeois, Haut-Médoc 1996 - £11.95 *
Good depth of colour at core, just browning at rim. Fine classic claret nose of tobacco, smoke and blackcurrant fruit. Quite cedary. The palate has plenty of juicy cassis fruit, a hint of chocolate and a long plummy finish. Very nice and well-balanced. Very good indeed.

Lacoste-Borie, 2nd wine, Pauillac 1995 - £17.00 *
Second wine of fifth growth Grand-Puy-Lacoste. Mellow ruby colour, just browning to rim. Quite ripe and jammy in style at first, with deeper, cedary scents emerging and a black cherry fruit quality. The palate is medium-bodied and shows lovely finesse, though the fruit doesn't quite push through to the finish. Tannins and acids are moderate. Very good/very good indeed.

Les Hauts de Pontet, 2nd wine, Pauillac 1995 - £12.70
Second wine of third growth Pontet-Canet. Good, solid, dark ruby colour. Subtle, spicy, cherry-fruited nose with redcurrant and a hint of minerality. The palate is medium-bodied and quite fine, but perhaps spicy oak is dominating the fruit somewhat. Good tannins and fresh acidity. Quite stylish. Very good/very good indeed.