1st Growth Wine Tasting

Chateau Puygueraud 2002 Bordeaux Cotes de Francs 87 points
Leconfield Coonawarra Cabernet 2004 83 points
Charles Melton Barossa Valley Cabernet 2002 87+ points
Chateau Lafite Rothschild 2002 Pauillac Bordeaux 95+ points
Chateau Mouton Rothschild 2002 Pauillac Bordeaux 93+ points
St Supery Cabernet 1999 Napa Valley 90 points

We started with the Puygueraud half bottle for context. A lovely fresh savoury light wine with some tannin. Should drink and age well over the next 5+ years. Lacks substantial concentration but is very food friendly still. Classic budget claret, excellent cafe/restaurant wine.

Leconfield Cabernet in comparision was all fresh sweet acidic fruit with considerable herbaceousness. Surprisingly approachable for such a young wine, very pleasant. Yet later when we came back to this wine it tasted green and unpleasant. Very interesting addition to the tasting.

Charles Melton’s 2002 Cabernet was another stark contrast. I thought the nose was a bit like some classic Aussie reds of the past (many Cabernet Shiraz blends) warm and with a touch of grease paint – personally I found this quite attractive though it won’t appeal to everyone. There was also quite a lot of other exotic oaky chocolate mocha aromas. Not a particularly varietal (cabernet) wine. A syrupy wine, like some South African wines. Pretty nice to drink even without food. Somewhat choclate milkshake in style. The alcohol is a bit hot and noticeable. Some poeple have used the word ‘elegance’ when describing Barossa cabernet from the cool balanced 2002 vintage – it’s a bit of a stretch. Certainly though there is far less evident added acidity, the wines are fresher and will be less leathery with age. Drink now to enjoy the modern winemaking or leave for a few years for it to settle down into maybe a slightly less sweet traditional Australian red.

The nose on the Lafite was quite a shock to me, so much power and concentration. It had the sort of lead pencil and blackcurrant aromas one should expect but the intensity was arresting. Without tasting this wine it is very obvious that it is extremely young, and is built to age. The colour, needless to say, was very dark and shiny. Very concentrated but not at all syrupy or hefty. Very savoury with plenty of fine tannin. The first taste wiped my mouth clean of flavour, not to suggest that the wine is ethereal, but very tightly bundled and tannic. This wine has real breed, power without weight, and great complexity. It should age superbly and for a long while.

The Mouton was more exotic, a bit more clumsy (hardly a criticism given it is only a baby – perhaps one year in bottle) with sweeter mocha tones of oak. There also seems to be more alcohol, certainly a bit more gylcerol weight and the heroic tannins are more chewy. Very rich and pretty exciting. A bit more showy than the Lafite, serious wine but less classic. With time I expect the differences between these two wines will narrow a tad. Personally I think the sheer style and restraint of the Lafite is more exciting but it is very much down to personal taste. Nice to see difference in style between these neighbours.

St Supery 1999 was a pleasant relief compared to all of the very young wines above. Closer to a bordeaux than to the Australian wines, not syrupy and less hefty than many Californian wines I have tried. 13.8% alcohol which is not bad relatively speaking. Reminded me of some good quality NZ cabernets with well handled french oak and classic tiny touch of herbaceousness, classic winemaking. There is cool climate fruit here. The extra 3+ years in bottle this wine had over the others made it much more drinkable. A nice food wine; less savoury than bordeaux and far less concentrated and complex than the first growths.


3 thoughts on “1st Growth Wine Tasting

  1. A great experiment! I have to keep on telling myself this as it is almost sacrilege to pop the cork on such babies.
    The key defining factor for me was the almonds/praline/coffee of the Mouton- in its slightly more boisterous style than that of the very delicate and Classic style of the Lafite. Having never drank wine built this way this early (to out-live your children!) I was most suprised by the difference that an hour in the glass made. One of our group had to leave early- they unfortunately only got to witness half of the potential of these wines. Like a new born, you do not always realize how quick kids grow up.
    I also found it amazing how quickly one adjusts to the extraordinary high levels of tannin of the dryest of Bordeaux. Like a good cigar, this experience almost becomes spiritual.
    These are indeed fine wines- ones that I almost regreat tasting. Once you have test driven a Maserati, your usual ride seems pretty mundane.
    With this said, the Ch. Peygueraud and wines like it will return fond memories of the day we drank like kings. This is an excellent bargain. It lacks the depth,concentration, finesse and legend but in the short term the savoryness, dried raisin like fruit at its core, and its ability to leave the dryness on the roof of your mouth like a good hand made havana make it refreshing- as a parochial Australian wine drinker. Although the cedar was not as sweet on the nose as the Lafite/Mouton, why pack a machine made smoke in the very best wood.
    Ah…the day we drank like kings. I can not wait to try these wines with 15+ years on them. Maybe by this time I will be able to afford doing so:) Pedro.

  2. p.s- one must note that the Coonawarra is a barrel sample. Under stelvin, you could still taste the wood- literally. Anyone who has fallen off of a swing at the playground to get a mouthful of wood chips after rain knows what I am talking about. Although I agree with the rating given at this point, this is a wine at birth- moreso than the 1st growths. This wine would usually be released 2 years after vintage. I believe that the current vintage in stores is 2002. I agree that it was very very herbaceousness- green pea, stem and moist lawn come to mind. It was unreal to have a wine so young- these sorts of levels of herbaceousness are what people love in a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.

  3. James Halliday gave the Charles Melton 95 pnts, that doesn’t leave a lot of room for other wines (like the Lafite) especially when Halliday seems to never give higher than 97.

    Perhaps he is saying that for the style (Barossa cabernet) it is 95 points. If he is it isn’t obvious for his readers.

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