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The 12 Days of Christmas – inspiration for Bordeaux lovers

Short of seasonal gift ideas?  Money no object?  Bordeaux can help with that. Our Bordeaux correspondent Colin Hay chooses from amongst Bordeaux’s more exclusive new releases a dozen gift suggestions for the (affluent) ‘true-love’ short of seasonal vinous inspiration…

On the first day of Christmas…

The wine: Chateau Fleur Cardinale Édition Surf Session 2019

Format: a single limited edition magnum in its own ‘surf-motif’ individual wooden case (and matching label)

Unique selling point: a unique collectors piece that won’t break the bank and, at the same time, isn’t too expensive to imagine opening

Yours for: A comparative snip at c. €119 in bond ex negoce.

Tasting note: Fleur Cardinale 2019. Fresh, spicy and lifted on the nose, with an impressive sense of energy, elegance and hidden power on the palate.  La Fleur Cardinale has been on a steep upward trajectory in recent vintages and this is a delicious and engaging expression of an exceptional vintage. Full of pleasure already but with long-term aging potential for those with sufficient patience to defer gratification.

On the second day of Christmas…

The wine: Pavillon Blanc de Chateau Margaux 2020

Format: anniversary wooden cases of 3 or 6 bottles, individual wooden cases for magnums or double-magnums

Unique selling point: The exquisite centennial vintage of this iconic wine released in a unique, wax-sealed bottle personalised with the Chateau logo and presented in a specially designed new wooden case embossed with the epithet “A century of Pavillon Blanc 1920-2020”.

Yours for: c. £1100 in bond for 6 bottles

Tasting note: Pavillon Blanc de Chateau Margaux 2020 (100% Sauvignon Blanc; pH 3.10, the same as the 2019; tasted en primeur with Philippe Bascaules at the property, May 2021). Wonderfully ‘Chateau Margaux’ in style – if you’d never tasted it, this is somehow exactly how you would imagine the Sauvignon Blanc that Margaux would produce. Extremely complex and expressive aromatically. Calm, composed and supremely elegant with an utterly sublime nose of wild hedgerow spring flowers, passionfruit, elderflower and jasmine, confit grapefruit zest and confit melon, orange blossom, nettles and a slight hint of mint leaf. It feels very natural. On the palate this has a brilliant sense of lift, lightness and energy. It is, above all, luminous and radiant, brimming with vitality and with its considerable underlying power present more as a pronounced forward thrust across the palate than in any sense of weight or density. This is incredibly tense and vibrant and unlike any other wine of the vintage. I simply love the mineral-charged, sapid salinity on the finish and the little plume of saffron just at the vanishing point. Quite exquisite, beautifully integrated and the most fitting way in which celebrate 100 years of this exceptional and unique wine. 96-98+.

On the third day of Christmas…

The wine: Champagne Philipponnat’s Clos des Goisses 2012

Format: ‘just’ a bottle of Champagne in its individual ‘coffret’ (and very easy to wrap)

Unique selling point: OK.  This might seem like cheating – but what’s Christmas without great Champagne? … And this is, of course, the first single-vineyard Champagne to be released on la place de Bordeaux.  And fabulous it is too.

Yours for: c. €220 per bottle

Tasting note: Clos des Goisses 2012 (61% Pinot Noir; 39% Chardonnay; pH 3.08; 13% alcohol; no malolactic fermentation; blended and bottled in May 2013; disgorged in April 2021; 60% aged in Burgundian oak barrels; 40% in stainless steel; dosage 4.5 g/l; 13,296 bottles). An extraordinary Champagne crafted from an extraordinary wine. This, the most vinous of Champagnes, certainly lives up to its reputation in this near perfect vintage – a vintage Charles Philipponnat regards as the strongest and most complete in over twenty years as Director of Maison Philipponnat. The ripest vintage since 2000. An incredible wine of incredible complexity, even at this very early stage. One of the most structured Champagnes I have ever tasted with a wonderful evolution across the palate – a work of great architectural complexity forged from its the pure chalk terroir. On the nose a fabulous combination of primary, secondary and even tertiary notes – white truffles and the fleur de sel from the chalk alongside the bright, vibrant fresh plump raspberry fruit and beautiful, delicate, soft and gentle floral elements – elderflower above all and elderberry pressé too. This is intensely powerful but subtle and elegant, perfectly balanced, tense, poised and sapid. It glides and dances as it fans out over the palate, with a lovely hint of tannin that offers bite and grip in the mid-palate, bringing the wine back to its spine and preparing us for that very slow, tranquil tapering finish. Intensity without any hint of fatness. Restrained perfection; a wine of incredible potential.

On the fourth day of Christmas

The wine: Chateau des Laurets cuvée Baron Edmond 2016 (Sélection Parcellaire)

Format: magnums or double-magnums in individual wooden case

Unique selling point: scarcity – to own one of just 36 of each format released; each bottles is an individual and unique work of art, hand crafted with the wine in bottle by the engraver and etcher, Gilles Chabrier

Yours for: €900 for a magnum; €1800 for a double-magnum in bond (release price)

Tasting note: Chateau des Laurets Sélection Parcellaire Baron Edmond 2016 (tasted from magnum).  100% Merlot.  14.5% alcohol.  Wondrously limpid and inviting in the glass with great natural viscosity and luminosity.  Serious and a little closed at first, but still the star of this impressive line-up.  Taut, tense and with the least notable oak influence of any vintage of this wine.  Lovely grip from the filigree tannins, which impart a wave-like quality to the rippling, rolling, juicy and finely-delineated mid-palate and the long tapering finish, evidencing the exceptional argilo-calcaire terroir.  Pure, focused and precise, this shimmers and dances on the palate.  Very much a wine of its calcaire terroir, with all that saline minerality and a gentle soft spiciness, it is rich and powerful but deceptively lithe and aerial.  This has decades of glacial evolution ahead of it, especially in magnum, but is also one of those wines that simply exudes confidence, quality and accessibility from the start.

On the fifth day of Christmas…

The case: Chateau Lagrange Collection Remarquable

Format: a beautiful limited edition collectors case of 6 bottles from the 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 vintages

Unique selling point: each bottle comes from a special barrel constructed from a three-hundred year old oak from a different forest sustainably maintained by l’Office National des Forêts and is presented in a beautifully crafted case made from a single piece of wood. 250 cases were produced; 200 have been released via la place de Bordeaux to selected negociants

Yours for: this was released at €600 in bond ex negoce. but your true-love might need to search long and hard to find one at that price now.

On the sixth day of Christmas…

HyperFocal: 0

The case: Chateau Croix de Labrie collection case

Format: a limited edition cases of 6 bottles, 1 each of the 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 vintages of La Croix de Labrie and Stella Solare Croix de Labrie blanc 2018

Unique selling point: there are just 30 numbered limited edition cases of this kind and the 2015, 2016 and 2017 vintages are now otherwise unavailable.  This is, then, a unique celebration of the extraordinary wine-making at this rising superstar of St Emilion.

Yours for: €990 in bond ex negoce. for a case of 6 bottles

Tasting note: La Croix de Labrie 2019 (91% Merlot; 9% Cabernet Sauvignon; 14.5% alcohol; 100% new oak).  From parcels in Rocheyron/Puymouton and Badon (at the foot of the Pavie Côte).  Very dark.  Garnet/black.  Almost opaque.  Sleek and stylish.  Creamy.  Big.  Soft.  Seductive.  Blueberries, raspberry compote, with touch of white pepper, quite herby too – and a hint of thyme.  Racy.  Super soft tannins.  Great persistence.  Plush, plump and profound.  Great intensity on the mid-palate.  Nice chewy plateau tannins; impressive structure, giving a good evolution of texture and flavour over the palate.  Glossy.  Black cherries and raspberries on the palate – nice freshness and definition.  Nothing out of place.  Layered and focussed; manages the difficult trick of being broad yet precise.  This is exceptional.

On the seventh day of Christmas…

The wine: Chateau La Grace Dieu des Prieurs 2016

Format: a luxurious red leather-clad case of three bottles of your preferred vintage (here, the 2016)

Unique selling point: like the wine, this is chic, ultra-stylish and utterly unique (each bottle beautifully clad in a piece of Russian art)

Yours for: only available directly from the Chateau, this will set your true-love back €1070 in bond for the case of three bottles (the 2014 and 2015 are a little cheaper and I suspect it might be possible to have a mixed case)

Tasting note: Grace Dieu des Prieurs 2016. Limpid and luminous.  Dense, rich, glossy and quite viscous.  Very floral – purple flowers fill the room. Cedary too – and, despite the Radoux blend barrels, surprisingly classic.  The least influenced of these wines by the singularity of the oak used.  Spice and cedar and purple flowers.  Mineral-charged.  Cracked black peppercorns.  Dense and compact.  This has the most lovely svelte texture – so enticing and luxuriant.  Fabulous.  Rich and tender, floaty and translucent.  Levity and yet density and concentration too.  Shows off the excellence of the vintage.  Peppery on the finish.  Chewy, long and opulent, with a great sense of harmony.  The characteristics of the vintage win out over the barriques used.  Great wine-making.

On the eighth day of Christmas…

The case: Chateau Léoville-Las-Cases Miroir Collection “Millésimes Secrets”

Format: 6 bottles, 1 each of a series of the great lesser-known vintages of this iconic second growth St Julien – 1988; 1995; 1998; 2001; 2003 and 2008 – in a specially-designed one-off original wooden case

Unique selling point: one of just a very exclusive limited edition release, the wines having been stored in the Chateau itself prior to release.

Yours for: c. €1870 in bond for 6 bottles

On the ninth day of Christmas…

The wine: Chateau Palmer 2011 (new late release direct from the Chateau)

Format: available as a single bottle or in traditional wooden cases of 6 or 12 bottles

Unique selling point: the wine has perfect provenance, coming directly from the Chateau’s own cellars this year and is now (just about) ready to be appreciated

Yours for: this was released in September 2021 on la place de Bordeaux for an ex negoce. price of £2736 in bond for a full case of 12 bottles.

Tasting note: Palmer 2011 (55% Merlot; 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13.5% alcohol; final yield of 20 hl/ha; only 55% made it into the first wine). Utterly glorious and quite possibly the southern Médoc wine of the vintage.  Classic Palmer and now beginning to lose the slightly pinched, harsh and ungenerous character typical of this vintage in its early years. This has started to blossom and is now  beginning to reveal its full potential.  Plush, deep, rich, dense, compact and concentrated and yet with so much elegance and refinement – and that essential floral Margellais typicity that is the very heart and soul of great Palmer. A brilliant success in this vintage; a wine for an occasion.

On the tenth day of Christmas…

The wine: Chateau Angélus Hommage à Elisabeth Bouchet 2016

Format: available as a single bottle or single magnum in individual wooden case, each numbered

Unique selling point: the first and, as yet only, release of an 100% Cabernet Franc cuvée from Chateau Angélus in the fabulous 2106 vintage.

Yours for: this was released at €650 in bond per bottle ex negoc. and it instantly sold out – so this might take a little sourcing and your true-love might have to be prepared to pay rather more for it now!

Tasting note: Chateau Angélus Hommage à Elisabeth Bouchet 2016 (100% Cabernet Franc).  It’s a shame that covetousness is a deadly sin.  For this is a wine that I covet.  It is simply spectacular.  There is so much to admire here and so much to enjoy – the signature of the vintage and of this specific terroir; the crystalline beauty and focus of the fruit; the quality, subtlety and precision of the wine-making; the breath-taking elegance, finesse and sheer beauty of the texture; the very concept of the wine itself; and the perfect sense of harmony that arises from the interaction of all of these elements.  This is the first vintage of this extraordinary wine and it is a complete and absolute triumph.  Plump, fresh, crunchy blueberries, wild strawberries, a touch of mint, tapenade and a hint of truffle, Asiatic spices and a gorgeous saline minerality – and with so much more to come.  There is wonderful focus, precision and direction to this wine.  It engages immediately, captivates the palate, demands focus and attention and holds that attention literally for minutes as it very gradually tapers to an asymptotic finish.  It is incredibly young, but already intensely beautiful.  It is difficult to resist already, it will definitely outlive me and I suspect the 60-80 year old vines have produced a wine that will age for at least that long.  A magical experience, a privilege and a perfect homage.

On the eleventh day of Christmas…

The case: Chateau Pavie’s limited edition ‘Aliénor Collection’ case based on the exceptional 2016 vintage

Format: the specially-designed case contains 1 bottle, 1 magnum, 1 double-magnum and 1 impériale … it’s quite a piece of furniture in itself and you might need a little space to accommodate it (and your true-love quite a lot of wrapping paper)

Unique selling point: One of only 100 limited edition cases of the almost mythic 100-point scoring 2016 vintage

Yours for: This one’s going to set your true-love back a bit … c. £6250 in bond for the case ex negoce.

On the twelfth day of Christmas….

The case: Chateau Montrose Bicentenary Case

Format: a very limited edition case of three rare 200-cl format bottles, 1 each of the 2014, 205 and 2016 vintages

Unique selling point: there are just 200 of these specially hand-crafted and extremely exclusive cases.  Each contains one 200-cl format bottle of Chateau Montrose in the 2014, 2015 and 2016 vintages – the 2015, of course, being Montrose’s bicentenary year

Yours for: … do you really want to know …?  If you need to ask, your true-love probably can’t afford one!  The first of these cases (number 1 of 200) was sold at auction in the US for a bidding price of $24,000 (before commission and tax). The current market price is around €14,300 for the case. Each purchase comes with the offer of a private reception at the property for 4 people.


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