Bordeaux, French, Life in France, wine
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Review – Portes Ouvertes en Médoc – Part 2

My journey into the secrets and myths of Bordeaux wine has led me to many things about wine, technical as well as political. I started to feel a bit puzzled, after the visit to St-Emilion last week and the encounters with sommeliers, about the business side of wine industry and the pure love and passion for wine.

The more I discover about the politics and dirty deals going on in the wine industry, the less enthusiastic I become about studying. I’ve never been keen on St-Emilion from the beginning simply because it wasn’t complex or savoury for my taste. The wine tasting in St-Emilion last week and an agglomerated cork in  Château Cardinal-Villemaurine Grand Cru Classé, 2009 St.Emilion assured me to steer clear of St-Emilion.

Luckily, I have more much better choices from the Medoc and here is the review of “Open doors” tasting in the Medoc, Day 2, whether you want it or not. You might wonder how I chose which châteaux I would visit. I personally didn’t have much knowledge of châteaux – I don’t care about labels and big names, therefore I don’t search for famous bottles.

This list was made by my Bordeaux insider, whose philosophy and taste for wine is similar to mine and who wanted me to have the real first-hand experience in comparing the taste, quality and value, and vintages. He eliminated all the chateaux that offered 2007 vintage, which is regarded as a weak vintage, but I tasted some 2007s at two châteaux that offered all vintages out of curiosity and got assured that they all had a kind of wet mineral flavour without much complexity. So here is the list for Day 2.

Château de Camensac 2003, 2005 (G)
Château Cantemerle 2011 (G)
Château Paloumey
2007, 2010 (V)
Château Chasse spleen 2001 – 2009 (G)
Château Granins-Grand-Poujeaux
Château Desmirail 2010, 2011
Château Monbrison 2008 (G)
Château La Tour de Bessan 2009, 2010

This time I rated the chateaux as G (good) and V (value). Among the list, my favourites were Château de Camensac 2005, Château Monbrison 2008, Château Chasse spleen 2006. There was one more chateau, but it was so bad that I didn’t even bother ticking its name.

We started by tasting Chateau Monbrison 2008, Margaux & 2010 Haut-Medoc, Chateu Cordet 2010, Margaux in the elegantly decorated tasting room. All were really good, robust and elegant with fruit, tobacco, mint flavour, and the 2008 Margaux was the most complex and had the aroma of char and pencil shavings.

chateau monbrison

The next stop was Château Paloumey and it was an interesting place. For one, there was a huge crowd of young people firing questions about the wine making process and cepages to the woman in charge, and two, she was very lively, congenial and helpful and finally, their wines had Petit Verdot. Usually Bordeaux blends has 1 to 3 % of Petit Verdot, but Chateau La Garricq (seen in the photo below) had 13%!

And I later learned by visiting their site that they won the best tourism award 2011. The wines were not exceptional, however, they are very fruit-forward, medium-bodied, therefore pleasant to drink, and that is what the young want I guess.


When we were heading for Château Cantemerle, the clock just hit 12 o’clock and all the châteaux closed doors for lunch time, so we decided to have lunch as well. This time we took our own food because the sandwich we had the day before was so bad. Sandwich jambon beurre, where are the cheese nad tomatoes?


After the nice lunch in the sun with a lovely view over the opaque limestone lake, I was ready to drink the supposedly nice wine. What an impressive garden and a long drive-way the chateau has!

cantemerleAfter a brief guided tour to the cellar, we did some tastings. The wine was a bit on the lean side and the tannins were a bit too young. A bit disappointing after the trouble of finding the place and the waiting.


Château Cantemerle 2011 is currently sold at €30 and Château Lynch Bages 2011 is over €100. Both are Fifth Growth and have the same blending of Cabernet Sauvignon (72 vs 60%), Merlot (18 vs 20%), Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. What makes the 70 something euro difference in the price ? I wondered.

Lynch Bages was definitely more powerful, more masculine, and has a better ageing ability. But why?!


The terroir….. really? Let’s just compare the difference in the soil for a second. Which one would produce more robust, aromatic and delicious grapes?


Yes, the first one, gravelly clay soil, which is the secret of some of the rich and aromatic wines of Pauillac. But the soil can’t be the only answer in itself. Vine management and vinification techniques also count, as in cooking where people are given the same ingredients and the same recipe but the final taste of the dish made by different people taste different.

That is why wine is fascinating! I’m learning something new everyday; whole berry fermentation, no filteration, rolling the barrels, pumping over, gravity flow, new&old barrel influence, etc.

Anyway, the most interesting about being in the vineyards area is to check and compare different types of soil and vines.

Château Desmirail wasn’t worth a note. The wines, the reds and the roses, were not good and the servers weren’t trained well. They seem to be more interested in showing off their vintage cars, not the vintage bottles, to take people to other châteaux.


With the Margaux done,  we went straight to the Haut-Medoc but on the way as we saw the sign for Château Chasse spleen, we said, “Why not?” I liked the châteaux and was very surprised by the number of people there, the biggest crowd ever! Especially, there were many foreigners, especially the Japanese. Hm…


They had a wide range of vintages from 2001 to 2010 and the second wine, l’Oratoire de Chasse Spleen 2006, and Gressier Grand Poujeaux 2009 and Blanc de Chasse Spleen 2007, which I tipped straight into the bucket. My mentor said Gressier Grand Poujeaux 2006 was good so I tried it and compared the color next to Chasse Spleen 2009.


Everyone seems to be enjoying the lively and relaxing atmosphere with a generous amount of wine and cheese on offer. As much as I felt like to end my day there amongst the crowd, we need to get to the last stop to accomplish our mission. When we got to Château de Camensac, the drizzle of rain started and a lovely view of the vineyard with a rainbow was waiting for us when we got out after the tasting.


As it was our last stop, I took time to take pictures and take a closer look at the vines, and I just got the feeling that the vineyard was looked after well. According to the note slips I took from the châteaux, they seem to focus a lot on the harvest date. vine-2


For the tasting, we tasted 2003, 2005, 2012, and the Second wine, Closerie de Camensac 2005, and, though the wines were impressive, especially the 2005, I had a little problem with the vintage 2003, and I am not sure if I should say what I thought.

In the 2003, I had a smell of cooked asparagus or Brussels sprout and a bit of goaty smell, and the words came out unconsciously and passed my glass to my mentor, who smelt and gave me the “not sure” shrug. I mean it wasn’t off-putting because I liked the wine but it bothered me when I started to review my trip. It’s just perhaps one of the characteristics of aged wine.


The wines were very floral and aromatic with a good balance and a deliciously long finish. That is why my mentor bought their 2009 for his cellar without even tasting it. He reckons 2009 and 2010 are a safe bet for ageing.


Though it is not related to wine tasting, I really liked the interior of the château and how they presented the wine tasting and the description slips; quite modern yet elegant. However, they might need to upgrade their website. It is NOT attractive at all and can mislead people about their wines, especially ignorant and shallow foreigner like me. I didn’t like the design of the new vintages, either.
Well, wine is wine in the end…..but it is a pleasure to hold a bottle that looks nice, too, non?

Finally, I’m done with the Medoc for now, and I will be reviewing my trip to the St-Emilion, including Château Canon. Big names attract people these days, don’t they? I don’t care, but a lot of people seem to. Anyway, I will talk about my impression of the wines on the right bank in the next post. Until then, ciao!

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