A Major Blind Tasting - The top 100 wines of Bordeaux 2007
Monday, 16 March 2015 by Stephen Browett
Once a year Farr Vintners hosts a comprehensive blind tasting of a mature Bordeaux vintage. This is normally held 10 years after the vintage, but this year we decided to hold off tasting the 2005’s as, in our opinion, the top wines from this magnificent year are not quite ready for drinking. On the contrary, every wine that we have tried recently from 2007 has been drinking well so we decided that the time was ripe for a serious look at these wines, now that they are 8 years old.
We assembled a distinguished panel of experts to join us for this tasting including wine writers Steven Spurrier, Jancis Robinson and Neal Martin and several vastly experienced wine merchants such as Derek Smedley MW and Barry Phillips. 17 of us sat down last Friday in the Farr Vintners tasting room to taste our way through a marathon line-up of the top 100 red wines of the vintage. The wines were tasted blind in peer groups of 12 per flight. Scores were taken before the wines were discussed or their identities revealed and averages calculated for each wine.
We kicked off in Saint Emilion. As usual this was an “up and down” flight thanks to the different wine-making styles that exist here. The winner of the flight was an impressively endowed bottle of La Mondotte. It was full-bodied and serious but at a market price of around £1300 per dozen it would be hard to recommend this wine as representing good value for money. Just behind it, in second place, was Chateau Canon. This was very much a wine made in a different style – smooth, harmonious, unforced, elegant and classy. Lovely to drink tonight. At £340 per dozen you won’t find a cheaper vintage of Canon – even the 2013 en primeur was more than this!
The second flight was Pomerol. Overall, this was a more consistent and less irregular flight than St Emilion. The wines showed lovely flesh and silk. They are all drinking very nicely and the pick of the bunch was a gorgeous bottle of Le Gay. This was a beautiful example of a mature Pomerol –although I’m sure that it would still provide lovely drinking for another 5 years or more. It has a soaring, sexy nose of vanilla oak and Asian spices. The palate is opulent with rich, plummy fruit , roasted meat and an exotic edge. Plump, smooth and long. It would be hard to resist the charms of this seductive beauty. There was a dead heat for second place between L’Eglise Clinet and La Conseillante – 2 more top quality wines with the Eglise Clinet a bit more backward and youthful. Long-term it will be the best but the Conseillante is charming now. There were good efforts too from Clinet, la Fleur Petrus and, at a much more modest price, La Grave a Pomerol.
We then moved on to Pessac-Leognan. The odds-on favourite in this race was La Mission Haut Brion but on the day it was comfortably beaten by a superb performance from Domaine de Chevalier. This is a wonderful wine that is certainly one of the very best of the vintage. It’s still available at around a quarter of the price of the La Mission and I’ve already ordered 3 cases for my cellar! A gamey, tarry, smoky nose with a hint of gunflint is followed by a classic Graves palate with notes of tanned leather, spice and earth with cigar box notes. This really was lovely and like the Le Gay it would be perfect tonight, but would last at its peak for several years. A real bargain. There were also commendable efforts for a close bunch that came in together behind our winner – Pape Clement, Smith Haut Lafitte and Malartic Lagraviere are all very attractive wines for current drinking.
Our next flight was probably the weakest of the day. There were plenty of perfectly pleasant wines in the Margaux flight but these are wines that need drinking fairly soon. It’s amazing that, even in blind tastings, the two top Chateaux of the appellation (apart from Chateau Margaux itself of course) consistently deliver the goods. Amazingly, we had a dead heat here between Rauzan Segla and Palmer. With Rauzan Segla selling at less than a third of the price of Palmer you’d have to say that it was a moral victory for the Rauzan. In the runners up spots were a toasty effort from Lascombes and a charming Prieuré Lichine.
We then moved up the Medoc to Saint Estephe where we had the only real shock of the day. With Cos d’Estournel eliminated by an unfortunate faulty bottle, you’d think that Montrose would have strolled to victory. But it didn’t. On the day it was beaten into third place by an amazing performance from plucky little Meyney (an absolute steal at £145 per dozen!) and the winner Calon Segur. The Meyney is a dense, black-coloured, muscular wine with impressive concentration, in fact very Montrose-like really, whereas the Calon was forward, spicy and seductive.
The flight of the day came next. I think that everyone who was present would agree that the best commune in 2007 turned out to be Saint Julien. This was a really consistent flight with barely a point separating the highest and lowest rated wines. So tight was the scoring that 4 wines scored between 16.17 and 16.33 – these being Saint Pierre, Ducru Beaucaillou, Lagrange and Leoville Poyferré. Taking price into account you’d have to award it to Saint Pierre or Lagrange. However there were some really excellent performances from the even more modestly priced Gloria and Langoa Barton. All of these wines were excellent and I’d highly recommend them for drinking now and over the next few years.
The final commune to be tasted was Pauillac. The winner here (as it so often is in our blind tastings) was Pichon Baron with the highest score of the day for a left bank non-First Growth. It was closely followed by Les Forts de Latour and Grand Puy Lacoste. This was an excellent showing by GPL as this wine is a snip at £295 per case and yet it beat more expensive names such as Pichon Lalande, Lynch Bages and Pontet Canet. There was a good showing also by Batailley (another modestly priced wine).
And finally we came to the First Growths. As Pavie and Angelus have now officially joined Cheval Blanc and Ausone in the St Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé “A” classification, we thought that we would also promote our own favourite – Le Tertre Roteboeuf - along with the 2 superstars of Pomerol – Petrus and Le Pin. Apart from a rather disappointing performance from Ausone, these right bank big names all showed really well but the runaway winner was our “ringer” Tertre Roteboeuf– the only non-First Growth to average over 17 points.
The 5 left bank First Growths showed their class and there was little to choose between them. The winner by a fraction was Mouton Rothschild followed by Latour.
The wine writers will, no doubt, publish their tasting notes soon, so look out for those on their web sites. Meanwhile, my personal recommendations from the 100 wines tasted would be as follows:
My Top Ten Best Wines (with group average scores out of 20)
My Top Ten Best Value Wines (group average scores out of 20)
My conclusions from this tasting are that 2007 is the perfect Bordeaux vintage to drink right now at modest prices. The best wines will continue to provide good drinking for several more years but, in general, I would categorise this vintage as a “drinker” not a “keeper” . I would rate the wines slightly higher than 2004, 2003 (on the right bank) 2002, 1999 and 1998 (on the left bank). It’s much better than 1997. Those in my “Best Value” section are available at between £12 and £35 per bottle excluding taxes. You won’t go wrong with any of them. Pull the corks and enjoy tonight!