Bordeaux 07: stereo

(by peter & susie)

How about this, then: tasting notes on the Bordeaux 2007 vintage in glorious stereo!

For the first time in a few years, Susie and I weren’t personally involved in the Institute of Masters of Wine (IMW) reception following the annual Bordeaux tasting – meaning we could merrily stain our gums and devote an exhaustive focus to almost all the wines on show (87 in total).

This year, the IMW had not only included some sweet wines, but had also (laudably, in our view) given tasters the option of trying the wines blind or open label. Same wines; different order; bags obscuring the identity of the blind wines. (The only exceptions being the first growths, which were only available to taste open label.)

From what we could gather, most people chose to taste open label. But we had the luxury of doing it both ways, so we did – Susie gamely taking a walk on the blind side and Peter tasting normally.

This was a fascinating exercise. Not just to taste through the 2007 vintage comprehensively, the wines having had time to settle in bottle (and following on from our recent insight into the vintage here). But also to see what happens when you take the factor of image and associated prowess – arguably more important in Bordeaux than any other wine region on the planet – out of the equation. And to put two MWs, with differing tastes but similar outlooks on wine, on the case.

The tasting notes (below) speak for themselves.

As might be expected, on some wines we diverged quite significantly in our ultimate assessment (witness the scores of 5.5/10 versus 8/10 for the Haut Batailley…or 7/10 versus 9/10 for Château Haut-Brion.) Some notes are very similar between us on the same wines – yet the scores may be different, for reasons outlined. And of course on some wines we had pretty much the same opinion.

We wanted to present these notes and results in their raw form because we feel it’s important to recognise the fact that scores such as these are never definitive, merely a guide (both for us and you). The idea is that the dual note approach gives a different perspective and overview from the norm – hopefully balanced and nuanced, as well as instructive and provocative.

We’re not trying to issue a definitive pronouncement – merely offering our perspective, from two different points of view.

As a result of doing this exercise, we do wonder whether tasting significant amounts of wines blind means you end up preferring the drinkable, refreshing styles over the top-heavy ones. (I’m not sure we buy into the oft-repeated notion that showy wines are more impressive in this context.) There’s also the issue that, while the wines we tasted were the same, the actual bottles were different – and variation between bottles is not unknown. It’s also undoubtedly the case that, not tasting blind, you can (despite good intentions) give a slight benefit of the doubt to a vaunted label that might not be showing well on the day…

And what of our conclusions on vintage 2007?

This was a vintage – featuring a cool, rainy summer and warm, dry autumn – which sorted the wheat from the chaff. A drinkers’ vintage – but only inasmuch as these are generally early-drinking, fruit-forward wines of moderate tannic weight. And caveat emptor when it comes to the more pricey stuff.

Many of the wines showed an inherent dilution. Many were culpable of trying to do too much with lacklustre raw materials. Low alcohols, green notes and watery finishes were all common features.

That said, there were few disastrous wines. The general quality of winemaking in Bordeaux is such now that the basic standard is decent even in an insipid vintage. The problem comes when those wines of decidedly moderate dimensions have price aspirations that leave an unpleasant taste in the mouth.

On the positive side, the wines which did do well – the good vineyards, with good winemakers – stood out like Belisha beacons as a result. The best styles do have concentration, layers and persistence. It’s not the most perfumed (think 2004, 2001) or powerful (eg 2005, 2009, 2010) vintage, but with the best wines at least there’s something to get your teeth stuck into.

Pomerol seemed stronger than St Emilion. Margaux was very variable, with some thundering lows. Pessac was better, with decent showings from St Julien and St Estephe, while Pauillac was probably the strongest commune overall.

For the reds, that is. The Sauternes (prefaced by the fact that there were only seven on show) showed magnificently – the sweets being a real upside of this vintage.

The first growths put in a solid showing but were pretty variable. Given the price differential between them and some of the other top performers, with the possible exception of Margaux and Mouton, drinking money would be best spent elsewhere.

(It’s important to note at this juncture that there was no Petrus, Latour, Cheval Blanc or Ausone to taste – though you can read Peter’s note on the latter from his Bordeaux 2007-2010 tasting. You can also access our overviews of the 2006 vintage and 2005 vintages.)

With very few exceptions, this is not a vintage to lay down and age either for drinking in posterity or as a financial nest egg.

Susie and Peter’s tasting notes on Bordeaux 2007

  • Wines are listed roughly in descending order of preference.
  • To understand more about how we score, please click here.
  • Peter’s notes (and marks) are preceded by (P); Susie’s by (S). Susie’s notes are in italics.
  • Not all wines were double tasted.
  • Titles of all Sauternes wines are in gold. All other wines are reds.

Château Margaux 2007, Margaux, 13%

(P) Scented. Charcoal, gravel, ripe cassis. Elegant, attractive, engaging, not OTT. On the palate, roasted green pepper, fluid, graceful. Good focus and core. Has a more filigree and convincing finish than the Lafite. Beautiful texture. Savoury, refreshing, balletic. Mid-weight but resonant, beautiful claret. 9/10

(S) Blackberry, damp leaf aromas. Savoury, dark, a little peppery. Lusher than the Lafite, the palate is really attractive. Benchmark stuff with good perfume but also structure and fine tannin. 8.5/10

Château Mouton Rothschild 2007, Pauillac, 13%

(P) Exotic, engaging, plush. Toasty, creamy. Glossy dark fruit and spice, earthy. Opulent but still classic claret – lovely. Asian spice. Palate is layered, savoury, replete but balanced. Grounded. Lovely wine. Again, not a top vintage (lacks a touch of depth and concentration on the finish). But very good – up there with the best. 8.5-9/10

(S) Masculine, meaty, structured. Palate is similar and very engaging. Peaty, dense but fresh and dark. Still very young. 8-8.5/10

Château d’Yquem 2007, Sauternes

(S) Such intense orange peel aromas. Also damp wool botrytis. Palate is creamy and smooth. Very well balance but quite a light style Lacks the intensity of a great vintage. Very creamy and smooth, apricot. 8.5/10

Château Léoville-Las-Cases 2007, St Julien, 13.5%

(P) Toasty creamy roasted dark fruit. Lots of oak. Power: muscular beefiness. Layered. Elegantly austere. Wow. Mineral, but open. Will age very well. Good mix of raw power and classicism. Real expression. 8.5/10

Château Lafite-Rothschild 2007, Pauillac, 12.5%

(P) Mid ruby. Elegant smoky, roasted tobacco, savoury cassis. Ripe plum, not overbearing, not too young. Toasted red fruit and green leafy hints. On the palate, it’s fluid and focused initially. Fine texture, good juice and earthy hints. Lovely harmony, grace and resonance. Just a touch dilute on the finish. Lovely persistence even so. Just a bit hollow – sign of not a great vintage. 8.5/10

(S) Young, savoury, intense. Cedar wood, smoky, meaty, compelling aromas. Palate is smooth, silky, lacks some depth but an elegant and stylish wine. Traditional Bordeaux. Austere and cedary. Needs time. Ultimately, nose more attractive than palate, which is just a touch mean. 7.5-8/10

Château Climens 2007, Sauternes

(P) Burnt sugar and apricot. Lovely acidity; ageworthy, dense, really good. Will go far. 8/10

 (S) Really orangey and apricot, smooth and silky. Really classic. 8/10

Château Cos d’Estournel 2007, St Estephe, 13.5%

 (P) Smoky, baked herbs, roasted fruit. Expressive, opulent. Hint of all-spice. Palate is super firm, fine and weighty. Layered and compelling. Young. Bodes well. 8-8.5/10

(S) Again, really good. Such an appealing savoury wine. 7.5/10

Château Haut-Brion 2007, Pessac-Léognan, 13%

(P) Warm earth and ginger notes, creamy, roasted plum. Different aromatic register to the other first growths – fern, moist earth, root veg. Touch of smoke. Not for everyone! Palate has a graphite and red fruit lift. Refreshing, elegant. Savoury finish. Tobacco and roasted herbs. A bit open-knit on the finish, broad. Won’t be to everyone’s taste, but I’d back it. 9/10

(S) Less expressive and impressive nose than the other first growths. Palate is dark fruited with fine tannin and length but the fruit is a little obvious and it fails to excite as the other firsts do. 7/10

Château Palmer 2007, Margaux, 13%

(P) Restrained earthy plum and cassis nose. Layered, dense, mineral. Young. Amazing power and grace. Layered and concentrated. Really stands out for it. Needs at least 2-3 more years to open. Very fine. 8/10

Château Pichon-Longueville ‘Baron’ 2007, Pauillac, 13%

(P) Bready, smoky, ripe plum and cassis. Roasted pepper notes. Classic, expressive: bold. Dense, fine palate, savoury. Serious, muscular, smoky. Very refined. Not the most attractive now but very young and compelling. 8/10

Château Suduiraut 2007, Sauternes, 14%

(P) Lovely rich creamy nose. Honeyed apricots. Dense, lush, hugely concentrated. Amazing power, grace and density. Wow. Just brilliant. 8.5-9/10

(S) Savoury aromas, apricot flavour, creamy texture. Good. 7/10

Château Gazin 2007, Pomerol, 13.5%

(P) Inscrutable, brooding dark nose. Juicy, fluid, dense. Fine textured. Elegant and persuasive, without being shouty. Young. Spicy on the finish. 7.5-8/10

(S) Dark and serious aromas. A big wine but with good complexity and great charm. Woody, harmonious. Very self-assured. 8/10

Château Pontet-Canet 2007, Pauillac, 13%

 (P) Creamy, inscrutable. Roasted leaf and fresh cassis. Dense, juicy, muscular palate. Young. Has a lift and vigour to it that bode very well. Not showing super well now – subdued power. But layered and refreshing despite weight. 7.5-8/10

(S) Very big dark silky style. Needs time but a very good wine! 8/10

Château du Tertre 2007, Margaux, 13%

(P) Elegant floral plummy smoky nose. Graphite. Harmonious palate, savoury. Meaty, leathery. Lovely density and finesse, spice. A stand-out. 7.5-8/10

(S) Lovely. Aromas are attractive, plummy, spicy. Engaging, seductive. 8/10

Château Doisy-Védrines 2007, Sauternes

 (P) Creamy, barley sugar, apricot. Lovely nose. Lovely structure too: bright acid, wonderfully blanced, elegant and expressive. 8/10

(S) A real classic, lots of sugar but a good Sauternes. 7.5/10

Château Trotanoy 2007, Pomerol, 13.5%

(P) Bready, roasted plum. Interesting. Not super expressive aromatically. But palate is juicy, compact. Seems different structurally to many of the others here – dense, inscrutable. Spicy. Keen acid and firm tannin. Sturdy for the vintage and appellation. Savoury too. Serious. To age. 8/10

(S) Lean bell pepper aromas. Really leafy and savoury. Fine tannin and a real graphite streak. Challenging but very interesting, maybe a touch bitter. 7-7.5/10

Château Batailley 2007, Pauillac, 13%

 (P) Toasty bready plum and cassis. Graphite, red and black fruit, elegant, not trying too hard, good density. 7.5-7/10

(S) Nice developed charry nose. Very good classic drinkable style. 8/10

Château Beychevelle 2007, St Julien, 13%

 (P) Chalky red fruit and cassis. Direct, pure. Juicy, layered palate, refined. Deceptively complex. Grows exponentially in the mouth. Fine tannin. But lots of it. Very good. 7.5-8/10

(S) Very good, smooth, silky, complex, plummy but also leathery. 7-7.5/10

Château Clinet 2007, Pomerol, 13.5%

(P) Wow. A really refined, classy nose: smoky oak, forest floor, warm earth, roasted cassis. Palate is concentrated yet elegant, with fine firm tannin. But the finish is just a bit too hot – shame! Was shaping up so well. 7.5-7/10

(S) Very silky, roasted plum. Nose is closed but the palate is woody and silky and plummy. 7.5-8/10

Château Léoville-Barton 2007, St Julien

(P) Funky dark fruit, roasted toacco. Emerges over time but a bit odd and awkward now. Dense, young, fine texture but firm. Will age. Not the power of some. But compact. Give it time. 7.5/10

Château Rauzan-Ségla 2007, Margaux

(P) Toasty cassis, earth, tobacco. Dense, savoury, good concentration and spice. Lovely stuff, real power and elegance. 7.5-8/10

(S) Lovely classic aromas and flavour. Smooth plummy leathery character. Leafy. Very good. Very elegant. Slightly weak finish. 7/10

Château Figeac 2007, St Emilion, 13%

(P) Smoky, meaty, plum and graphite nose. Interesting. Chalky hints, blackberry leaf, fresh tobacco. Palate is gravelly, smoky and layered. Structured – proper wine, lovely density and poise. 8/10

(S) Dark, minty, oily, attractive aromas. Palate is smooth and silky, leathery, but ultimately lacks real complexity and appeal. 6.5/10

Château Trottevieille 2007, St Emilion, 13%

(P) Toasty plum – attractive. Grounded, fine savoury flavour profile. Persistent, balanced, very well crafted. Fine texture, could age well. Quite loose-knit but good intensity and spice, warmth. VG in context. 7.5-8/10

(S) Open plummy aromas. Palate shows leafiness, fine tannin, graphite and cedar. A touch bitter but quite complex. 6.5-7/10

Château Beauséjour-Bécot 2007, St Emilion

(P) smoky, funky, dark fruit. Big, bold style, open-knit, silky textured. Will appeal to some but quite hard work, even for this subdued vintage. 7-6.5/10

(S) Closed nose. Palate is rounded and ripe. Full and rich. Dark raisin fruit and cream. Not OTT but a bigger style. Good length. 7.5-8/10

Château Balestard la Tonelle 2007, St Emilion, 13%

(P) Scented caramel, roast plum. Expressive, toasty, engaging. Loose-knit palate, open and attractive. Pleasant. VG. 7-7.5/10

(S)A soft rounded wine, almost New Wold in style. Lovely peppery notes. Easy drinking but very attractive. Rich cassis flavours. 7.5/10

Château Beauregard 2007, Pomerol, 13%

(P) Toasty, grassy, plummy. Quite brisk acid, firm tannin, loose finish. Odd combination! Doesn’t quite hang together. But some vg elements and intentions. I like. 7.5/10

(S) A lovely rounded wine. Smooth, silky, harmonious, good complexity. Slightly bitter finish. 7/10

Château Lafon-Rochet 2007, St Estephe, 13%

 (P) Elegant chalky earthy cassis and red pepper nose. Juicy, fine textured, dense and persistent. Not top quality but very good. 7-7.5/10

(S) Lovely red berry, smooth, traditional style. Very drinkable. 7/10

Château Canon 2007, St Emilion, 14%

(P) Baked fruit and herbs. Big, impressive style. Hot and spicy. A bit ‘thick’for me. Still, grounded. But quite a modern style. Not the most drinkable. 7-6.5/10

(S) Stylish. More complexity here. Dark but nutty and rounded. Hint of exotic sice. Opulent but not OTT, lovely harmony and potential. 7.5/10

Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte 2007, Pessac-Léognan, 12.5%

(P) Toasty, leathery, meaty. A bit bretty? Roasted cassis. Lovely savoury meaty palate with roasted pepper and graphite notes. Fine and delicious – but edgy, so not for everyone. Also slight concerns over long-term ageing. 7.5-8/10

(S) – nice meaty, peaty, rustic aromas. At least it’s got some guts! Chunky: needs a big stew on a cold night… 6.5/10

Château la Couspaude 2007, St Emilion

(P) Graphite, toast, plum. Loose and open-knit palate, OK fine easy going. Hopefully not too expensive! 6.5/10

(S) Very sweaty, earthy, forest floor style. Leathery and savoury. Plum fruit. I really like this though I’m not sure it would suit everyone. Developed. Lovely smooth finish. 7.5-8/10

Château Rauzan-Gassies 2007, Margaux

(P) Plummy earthy graphite. Creamy plum palate, nice mid-weight density, not trying too hard. Harmonious and persistent, VG. 7.5-8/10

Château Talbot 2007, St Julien, 13%

 (P) Odd sulfury nose, creamy roasted plum. Dense peppery style – OK. Bit four-square, juicy. Will age OK. Good concentration, freshness. 7/10

(S) Lovely soft harmonious perfumed and cherried wine. Not complex but very drinkable. 7/10

Château Léoville-Poyferré 2007, St Julien, 13%

 (P) Elegant smoky roasted pepper nose. Meaty. Dense layered flavour profile, savoury, funky (bit bretty?). Powerful. Lovely! 8/10

(S) Closed nose. OK palate, quite a peaty style. 6/10

Château Marquis de Terme 2007, Margaux

(P) Green notes. Juicy, peppery, red fruit. OK. 6/10

(S) Good. Elegant, stylish, restrained leathery. Savoury, peaty, ripe red fruits. 8/10

Château Lynch-Moussas 2007, Pauillac, 13%

 (P) Green pepper and plum nose. Palate is zippy and refreshing, but a bit simplistic, if persistent. 6.5/10

(S) Cedar-wood nose, very attractive. Smooth, succulent, engaging. Forest floor. 7.5/10

Château La Tour Figeac 2007, St Emilion, 13%

(P) Minty eucalypt nose, smoky and leafy – not my favourite style. Better palate – juicy, toasty. But a bit mean. 6/10

(S) Deep colour. Darker, more bell  pepper and mint style. Very smooth dark and silky. Impressive. Fine tannin and real elegance. Great drinkability. 7.5-8/10

Château Pape-Clément 2007, Pessac-Léognan, 13%

(P) Heady, creamy nose. Some toast and cassis, warm earth. Palate is dense, smoky, young. Understated style. Harmonious. Graphite. Could be good in time – dense, with good concentration. 7.5/10

(S) Quite a traditional claret – it would work well in an everyday sense. 6/10

Château le Bon Pasteur 2007, Pomerol

(P) Baked fruit, grassy nose. OK fluid palate, fine, juicy. Bit simple in context. Should be cheap – but given the name, doubt it will be. 6.5/10

(S) Soft, plummy, spicy. A really attractive simpler wine, that delicious plum jam and spice style. A bit short but very drinkable. 7-7.5 /10

Château de Fieuzal 2007, Pessac-Léognan, 13%

(P) Watery, floral. Bit odd and confected – rose water hints. Graphite cassis palate. 6.5-6/10

(S) Nice! Graphitey aromas with a smooth succulent spiced red fruit palate. Very attractive and drinkable. 7-7.5/10

Château Haut-Batailley 2007, Pauillac, 13.5%

(P) good expressive muscular dark fruit, earthy, roasted pepper. Dense, refined, lovely texture. Rewarding and layered, spicy autumnal style. Very good. 8/10

(S) Smooth, attractive, plummy, woody. Just a little lean. 5.5/10

Château Croizet-Bages 2007, Pauillac

 (P) Floral, grassy, plum. Bit coarse. 5.5/10

(S) Good classic aromas. Followed by long smooth palate feel. Very good. 7.5-8/10

Château Bouscaut 2007, Pessac-Léognan, 12.5%

(P) – Elegant earthy woody nose, hints of bracken. Good compact fine tannin, tobacco hints. Lovely concentration, mid-weight. Long, harmonious, very pleasant. 7-7.5/10

(S) – floral, red berry, bit thin. 5/10

Château Lynch-Bages 2007, Pauillac, 13%

(P) Leafy red fruits. Bit stewy and simplistic on the nose. Palate is better: dense, fine tannin, juicy. Young, not showing v well, but has the concentration and elegance to pull through. A bit perplexing for now. 7/10

(S) Very nice classic Bordeaux. If a little simple. 6/10


Other wines

Château Cap de Mourlin 2007, St Emilion, 13% – (P) 7-7.5/10; (S) 7-7.5/10

Château Duhart-Milon 2007, Pauillac, 12.5% – (P) 7-7.5/10; (S) 7/10

Domaine de Chevalier 2007, Pessac-Léognan, 13% – (P) 7/10; (S) 7/10

Château Dassault 2007, St Emilion, 13.5% – (P) 6.5/10; (S) 7/10

Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste 2007, Pauillac, 13.5% – (P) 7/10; (S) 6.5/10

Château Malartic-Lagravière 2007, Pessac-Léognan, 13% – (P) 6.5/10; (S) 7/10

Château Petit Faurie de Soutard, St Emilion, 13% – (P) 6-6.5/10; (S) 7/10

Château Prieuré-Lichine 2007, Margaux, 13% – (P) 7/10; (S) 5/10

Château la Mission Haut Brion 2007, Pessac-Léognan, 13% – (P) 7/10; (S) 4/10