Tastings of fine French wines have become very rare so there was a full house recently when Gerard Blanloeil, MD of Clarence Dillon wines, came to town. The lure, of course, was that Clarence Dillon is the proprietor of Bordeaux First Growth estate, Haut Brion, and some of those legendary wines were to be tasted.
However,the main focus of the tasting was reserved for a new branded wine from Clarence Dillon, called Clarendelle. These are not estate wines but AC Bordeaux, made mainly from bought in grapes grown across the region and there’s a white, red, rose and dessert. The red and white cost €15.75 trade price per bottle, which, for cash strapped Ireland, and also the UK, means well over the €20 mark at independents, and at least double that at a restaurant.
The current white is 2007. It’s pleasant, with slightly neutral aromas, crisp on the palate with a citrus streak. The red is 2004, similarly agreeable, with berry fruit character on nose and palate, while the rosé (€12.75 trade) has light strawberry and redcurrant flavours and is a decent summer quaffer. The dessert wine, called Amberwine, is actually a Montbazillac, with 80% semillon, and 10% each of sauvignon blanc and muscadelle. There’s some minerality on the nose leading to soft honey and orange flavours with decent acid balance and moderate length. Trade price is €25.50.
Finally we moved to what, for most of the tasters, were the main attractions. First up was La Mission Haut Brion 2001. Light, ripe berries characterised the nose, along with a touch of cedar; on the palate it’s slightly warm with soft tannins and smooth plum and blackcurrant fruit. On then, to Chateau Haut Brion 1999. This was a very sound year in Bordeaux and wines have worn pretty well. This had some creamy, toasted aromas along with hints of lead pencil and lightly evolved plum fruits; the pleasantly lingering flavours were of soft plum, with hints of cassis, supported by soft, supple tannins.
Importers Febvre have put together some tasting cases of the premium wines and they could be appealing Christmas gifts for those with cash to spend. There’s a vertical case of six Haut Brion, with vintages 1994-1999, costing €2,195 for the case and one with two bottles each of 1995, 2000 and 2005; this costs €4,300. The same vintage selection from La Mission Haut Brion costs €3,300. A case of 6 Haut Brions from the noughties costs €2,995. There’s a case of La Haut Brion La Mission, featuring two each from 1995, 2001 and 2004 for €800. Prices are net and exclude VAT; officially these offers, were to finish by the end of September but should still be available. For details contact Lorna Rouse or Monica Murphy at Febvre.