My top 10 Bordeaux wines of all time

Chateau Haut-Bailly, Pessac-Leognan CC 2009

The front cover of Decanter’s June issue, which featured those 2009 Bordeaux En Primeur tastings, featured an inscription from me: “The most outstanding vintage of my life’. The vintage brought ripeness and aplomb to the Cabernets, which allowed them to be blended with more earthy Merlots and produce wines that are full of grace and power.

Haut-Bailly is one my top clarets in part due to its charm as the owner initially Daniel Sanders, then from 1979, his son Jean and most notably his granddaughter Veronique Sanders, who is the current CEO is under the management of Robert G Wilmers. I remember the year 1955 in London during the 1960s, and Haut-Bailly was always in the shop I worked in Paris during the 1970s and 1980s.

There are wines from my Dorset cellar that date from 2012 to 1998. One of them is this stunning 2009 vintage, which I put 3rd in my en-primeur wine tastings held in Pessac-Leognan. It was ranked second, right after Haut as well as La Mission, noting its “unquestionable beauty and elegance.”

Château d’Yquem, Sauternes 1CS 1988 in jeroboam

It was served during lunchtime to inaugurate the stunning newly constructed Cheval Blanc cellar that was designed by the Pritzker Architecture Prize winner Christian de Portzamparc in 2011. Dom Perignon flowed as we arrived, and the red wines were the 1990 and 2000 Cheval Blanc.

As perfect as that Yquem did, I declined another glass and, after coffee, hopped into my car to drive towards Bordeaux. In no way was I detained by the officers, and they asked me if I’d been drinking. The breath test resulted in me exceeding 50mg/l, and they brought me to the Libourne police station to take an official test that was 54mg/l. An excess of 10% was permitted, and I was able to leave.

The following evening, I went to an elegant dinner at Haut-Brion. I was secure knowing that when you are able to taste a great wine, there is no need for another glass.

Domaine de Chevalier, Graves 1941*

The meal was prepared at lunch hosted by Olivier Bernard of Domaine de Chevalier. He was unaware of the year I was born, which is why he provided me with an unusual pleasure, as 1941 was as bad a year as my wife’s 1946.

Bernard said that the wine was part of a set purchased from a relative of the estate’s previous owner. And was re-corked at the chateau in 1994.

I can remember it as being fresh in color, without any oxidation in the nose or on the palate. It was a full-bodied wine with a good balance and length despite being acidic. However, it was Bernard’s trust in such a bleak vintage to condition it again and then release this wine at its (and mine) sixtieth anniversary that I am most fond of.

Château Margaux, Margaux 1GCC 1985

Serving from magnums to celebrate the official opening of Lord Foster-designed Chais located at Chateau Margaux at the end of 2015. this is by far the best claret I’ve drunk in recent times.

While the 1982s brought Bordeaux into the world of modern times and are still outstanding, the 1985 was nearly the same (but not as well-known), and I’ve not had a poor bottle that was straight across the Gironde.

But the main memory here is Chateau Margaux itself. Self it’s awe-inspiring grandeur Chateau Margaux in the vineyards, its old and the new Chais, and vintages from the past like 1953 and 1961.

In particular, beginning in 1977, the commitment to the Mentzelopoulous family for three generations – the widow of Andre Laure and her child Corinne have been Decanter Women of the Year in 1985. Then there was the charm and skills that were displayed by the Late Paul Pontallier, head winemaker from 1985 until the year 2015. When it comes to art and wine, then it’s Chateau Margaux.

Château Léoville Barton, St-Julien 2CC 1989

Bordeaux is not separate from Barton. Barton family. Langoa, as well as Leoville Barton, belong to the sole chateaux of the 1855 Classification, as well as Mouton-Rothschild who are under the control of the Barton family.

I was able to visit many times during an era of elegance during the 1970s, particularly during the reign of Ronald Barton, many more under his nephew Anthony, and in the future under Anthony’s child Lilian.

To claim the fact that Leoville Barton is a ‘benchmark St-Julien is not enough because it is the expression of the Barton family of their vineyards through thick and thin since 1826, and that is what they show. The 1989 wine was served at a meal I hosted in March 2004 for 40 guests to mark 40 years of the wine industry.

I have the wines of 1986, 1988, 1989, and 1986 in my cellar – I’d finished 1985, and I asked Anthony Barton which vintage he would recommend. He decided to go with the 1989, a vintage from the year of heatwaves, and a wine that was a warm welcome to us then and is still warming our hearts today.

Château Figeac, St-Emilion 1GCC 1970

Figeac is now joined by Haut-Bailly as well as Leoville Barton in my top three most-loved Bordeaux chateaux for their buildings that include Langoa’s iconic 18th-century chartreuse as well as Figeac’s original manoir from the 18th century, Figeac’s manoir and Haut-Bailly’s mansion for the 19th century and also for families that is, in this instance, the Manoncourts who own Figeac since 1892.

Thierry Manoncourt, one of Bordeaux’s most admired heroes, took over Chateau Latour in 1947. Manoncourt produced more than 60 vintages, the most notable of the best being 1970.

Then, at L’Academie du Vin, we held the tasting of a comparison with Figeac along with Cheval Blanc from 1966 until 1971. For me, the Smoky 1970 and the vibrant 1971 won the day.

For Michael Broadbent, it is a ‘glorious 1970’. I am a fan of Figeac because it’s distinct from its neighbor (and was once an estate) across the road. It is constructed with 35 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, which is 35% of Cabernet Franc that is grown over its fine gravel Croupes (banks). Much like the chateau itself, it is an amazing model of power in a subtle way.

One of the longest-running Figeac that I have in the cellar is 2001, however, the 1970 is still a constant in my thoughts.

Château Latour, Pauillac 1CC 1964

In my first year in the world of wine in the year I was born, I came to know Latour as “the English chateau’ following the sale of the de Beaumont family to the Pearson Group and Harveys of Bristol in the year 1962.

President Charles de Gaulle was asked to stop this prestigious estate from being sold to Le Perfide Albion. However, he only said that ‘they cannot take the land’.

Replanting was needed, and the fermenters made of stainless steel were put in place to prepare for the vintage of 1964. The harvest began on the 25th of September and lasted until the end of the day before the rains started to ruin the vintage for the more northern Pauillacs.

The Decanter’s Stephen Brook states that “no other Medoc wine is as good as Latour in terms of power flavor, intensity of flavor, and grandeur. The wine is easy to concur.

My connection with Latour started with the management of Jean-Paul Gardere in the 1970s, Then Hugh Johnson as a director, David Orr as the final manager before the estate was transferred to Francois Pinault, and the time of Frederic Engerer kept the chateau in my life, even inside my basement. This is an important memorial.

Vieux Château Certan, Pomerol 1961

Looking through my memories, there are two wines that have stood out due to family connections. The first one is Chateau Pape Clement, the wine that I purchased out of the cellar of my London cellar to accompany the meal my mom had cooked for Bella and me to savor during our Golden Arrow train to Paris at the time of our wedding. This was before the beginning of our first day in France.

The other wine is Vieux Chateau Certan 1961, of which Bella’s father who was living at our house in Paris in the early 1970s and remarked that “I didn’t know wine could be this delicious’. This is VCC is what it is – one I’ve known throughout the generations of the Thienpont family, with the 1961 was created by the exuberant Georges Thienpont, who thought that a magnum of claret is the perfect wine for two gentlemen who dine with each other, if they’ve consumed a bottle of champagne before’.

VCC is my preferred Pomerol, with the 1998 the star of my Dorset cellar. The 1961 comes from the cellars that were held by Nicolas, the most prominent Parisian wine retailer, at an affordable cost, and is a stunning blend of power and elegance like the magnificent VCCs remain today.


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