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Lost in Cazes

An airport delay caused Jean Michel Cazes to miss a recent tasting of his own wines; but the mishap failed to cast a dampener over the proceedings, with the quality of the wines more than holding their own.

A shortage of exit steps at Dublin airport meant than Jean Michel Cazes didn’t actually make it to a recent tasting of his own wines, but the assembled wine journos, to put it frankly, managed fine in his absence. Michael Barry, of Cazes’ distributor, Barry & Fitzwilliam, played a blinder in his stead, with an extemporised romp through the labels, such that the tasters were congenially sipping from the top offering when M. Cazes finally made it through the door.

A lively session, and like the curate’s egg, good in parts, or rather, better value in some parts than others. The entry point wines have been the target of a real quality drive in recent years and it shows. In Michel Lynch Blanc 2007 (€12.99 retail) sauvignon blanc is the dominant force in the blend but not in an over the top way; apple fruit is integrated into some juicy, riper fruits and there is a lovely, fresh finish. The Reserve Blanc (€16.99) is a Graves AC and it is decent but not half so interesting as the Chateau Villa Bel Air Graves 2004 (€17.99) which has gorgeously subtle, semillon-derived toast and dry lemon flavours, and a lovely hint of nuts. For just one euro more, it seems to me there’s no debate as to which wine to pick.

The reds brought the same conclusion. There was the slightly rustic but very pleasant smokey plum style Michel Lynch Rouge which delivered nicely on its €12.99 price tag, and then came the Reserve 2006 Medoc AC (€16.49). Quite soft, with easy plum and cherry flavours, it was fine but not nearly so good as the Ch Villa Bel Air 2004 (€19.99). Even at three or so euro more, this was still worth the trade up, with hints of leather and lead pencils to the soft plum nose, with a palate of juicy cherry and blackcurrant leading to an elegant finish. Classic claret, drinking well at a fair price.

Cazes was also showing several trophy-style reds. This is a section of the market bound to come under pressure now, as trendy and expensive bottlings encounter more rigorous consumer judgement, so that some are certain to fall through the wayside. Not L’Ostal Cazes Minervois 2004 (€19.99), a south of France blend of syrah, grenache, mourvedre and carignan, which, to my mind, delivered the soundest value of this part of the line-up. It scored very well on flavour, with ripe but restrained plum and berry, interestingly laced with leathery notes.

All wines are available from Barry & Fitzwilliam.

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