By Monday night I was wishing I could go back in time and start the weekend and the week over again. A kitchen accident that led to stitches. A migrane. Followed by a touch of the stomach flu. It hasn’t been a good couple of days. But I was starting to feel better and my finger was on the mend. There was mood to be improved, a day off and estates to be visited.
So we piled in a car and headed out to Bordeaux’ Left Bank. Our first stop: Chateau Lascombes, a Second Growth in the Margaux appellation.
I could go into the very complex and long history of this estate, as like all Bordeaux estates there is a lot of history, but as far as I am concerned the important date is 2001. This year marked the sale of the estate to an American investment group and the start of it’s current revival. Prior to this time, the estate had fallen into a state of decline and was no longer worthy of its Second Growth status. But as the group took over they invested in soil analysis, followed by strategic vineyard replantings, developed a relationship with famed consultant Michel Rolland and invested in the renovating the facilities. All the hard work paid off and today the wine is once again of high quality.
Unusually for the Cabernet Sauvignon centered Left Bank, the wines are made with a majority of Merlot. The 2001 soil analysis proved that Lascombes vineyards benefit from a high percentage of clay, in which Merlot grapes thrive, as opposed to area’s gravel. After the manual harvest, the grapes are sorted three times (twice by hand and once using an optical sorting machine). Following fermentation the wines are aged in 80% new oak barrels resting on the Oxoline system – which allows battonage (or stirring) without oxygenation. Rather than open the barrels, they are spun in place to mix the lees and the wine.
I particularly liked this visit as our guide acknowledged that we were wine students and skipped over the standard spiel in favor of the good details. She was willing to engage with us on a more intimate and professional level. In addition to our tour of the vineyards and the cellars (both the vinification cellars and the barrel cellars), we also got to visit the wine library. I’ve decided this is one of my favorite things about Bordeaux estates. As I peer through the bars or glass at old bottles dating to the 1800’s (in this case 1881) and have dreams of one day getting to take part in the opening of a bottle, I am touched by history and the uniting force that is a love of good wine. There is also something comforting about knowing that I am not the only wine nerd out there. That for generations people have treasured the same things I have.
But now on to the good part: the tasting. Hosted in a beautiful airy room on the ground floor of the 16th Century castle, we started our tasting with the estate’s second wine Chevalier Lascombs and then moved on to the estate’s first wine. I was still a bit congested and the wines were served a touch cold (it’s been freezing in Bordeaux of late) I can’t promise the best ever tasting notes, but nonetheless here are my thoughts.
Chevalier Lascombes 2008: An equal blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, this wine was soft in body and somewhat approachable. I would say easy to drink but despite the fruit character and the complexity of the spice the tannins had a bit of bite. The estate recommends serving it with a salmon tartare, but I’ll leave that adventure to those who can actually eat fish. Notes of cherry and oak, pencil shavings and wet wood, licorice and clove.
Chateau Lascombes 2007: While 2007 was not a great vintage in Bordeaux, this blend of 50% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Petit Verdot delivers on a bold bouquet and smooth elegance. Ripe with notes of grilled hazelnuts, vanilla and brioche, hints of green pepper and clove underline the bold nose. The finish is almost sticky and the tannins remained a bit sharp.
With both bottles coming in under 50 years, they are great value for Bordeaux. Approachable and complex, they will pair well with food and continue to age well for a few years.
Of course the day didn’t end there, but I won’t spoil the surprise. Stay tuned for more to come. And as always there are photos to explore in the meantime.