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Bordeaux 2022 en primeur: Pessac-Leognan & Graves (rouge) 

Colin Hay concludes his appellation profiles of the Bordeaux 2022 vintage in the Graves – here, first, with the reds and, in a separate and subsequent piece, with the whites. 

We tend already to think of 2022 as a vintage for the reds and not really for the whites and we are certainly not entirely wrong to do so. But what is interesting is that both of these, my final pieces on the vintage, have a common theme. That theme is the recalibration of the expectations that I had formed before I had tasted a single wine. And, to be clear from the outset, in both cases my expectations have been exceeded. 

If I am honest, as I left Paris at très grand vitesse for Bordeaux almost six weeks ago, I was more than a little worried about Pessac-Léognan, as I was about Pomerol too. 

That anxiety was based on my reading – too superficial, it turns out – of the meteorological charts and a certain misunderstanding too. It is good to learn from one’s mistakes and sometimes good, too, to share the lessons one learns. 

It is not difficult to see where the anxiety came from. Just cast your eyes over Table 1.

Pre-budburst (Nov-March) Budburst to véraison (April-mid-August) Véraison to harvest (mid August-October) Total
Margaux 381 (-22.8%) 362.3 (+14.9%) 58.5 (-53.0%) 802 (-12.3%)
St Julien 364 (-25.0%) 354.7 (+12.3%) 61.3 (-47.7%) 780 (-12.2%)
Pauillac 364 (-25.0%) 354.7 (+12.3%) 61.3 (-47.7%) 780 (-12.2%)
St Estèphe 415 (-14.6%) 399.9 (+38.7%) 74.4 (-40.3%) 889 (-1.1%)
Pessac-Léognan 445 (-8.4%) 261.5 (-10.9%) 57.7 (-50.7%) 764 (-14.6%)
St Emilion 558 (+14.8%) 260.0 (-12.9%) 67.7 (-44.0%) 886 (-1.9%)
Pomerol 541 (+9.7%) 278.6 (-7.9%) 51.2 (-57.5%) 871 (-3.9%)

Table 1: Rainfall during the vintage (relative to 10-year average, mms) Source: calculated from Saturnalia’s Bordeaux 2022 Harvest report

It breaks down rainfall volumes by appellation for the vintage for the three crucial periods: first, prior to bud-burst (in which the water table on which the vines would need to draw was either depleted or replenished); second, from budburst to véraison (colour-change); and, third, from véraison to the harvest itself. It shows the total rainfall (in millimetres) recorded in each period and (in brackets) the comparison with the 10-year average for the same period. 

It paints an interesting and complex picture. The first thing that it reveals is that the water table in the right-bank appellations (Pomerol and, above all, St Emilion) was replenished during the winter, whilst on the left-bank (in the Médoc and, crucially here, the Graves) it was further depleted. In short, the right-bank appellations (most notably St Emilion) were better placed to endure what nature would throw their way because there they simply had more water ‘in reserve’. 

But what it also reveals is that no appellation suffered more than Pessac-Léognan after budburst. Indeed, at every key stage in the making of the vintage, Pessac-Léognan was amongst the group of appellations that was suffering the most. It was with the Médoc appellations over the winter months in having less rainfall; it was with the right-bank appellations following budburst in having less rainfall; and it was alone, with Margaux and Pomerol, in receiving less than half of 10-year-average rainfall following véraison

It is hardly surprising, then, that 2022 was drier overall in Pessac-Léognan than in any other leading appellation (with irrigation of individual plants authorised, exceptionally, in the revised cahier des charges of the appellation). And, alongside Pomerol, Pessac-Léognan also suffered the hottest days, many of the hottest nights and the highest average temperatures of this long and intense summer. In short, in a vintage that was very hot and very dry, Pessac-Léognan was very, very hot and very, very dry. 

How does that turn out well, you might well ask? That is exactly the question I started to pose myself as I began to taste these wines which, time and again, I found characterised by a remarkable and extraordinary freshness and sapidity. 

The answer is just a little complex and, paradoxically, if one knows how to read the data, it is already clear to see in Table 1. Vital here is that, in the Médoc and the Graves, the drought conditions that were to characterise the growing season began very early. This turned out to be a strange and paradoxically serendipitous blessing. For, with little winter or spring rainfall (March and April saw around 70% of average rainfall in Mérignac after a dry winter), the vines began their growing season in search of water.

And in the absence of rain from above, they looked inevitably to the water table below. In the process, the vines built smaller canopies and established deeper root systems than they would otherwise have done (had the drought conditions been established only later in the summer as they were in Pomerol, for instance). This undoubtedly helped them adapt to the drought-induced hydric stress of the summer months. They were, in effect, better prepared for it and it came as less of a shock to them. Similarly, the grapes themselves were formed physiologically in drought conditions and under hydric stress. They were, accordingly, small from the outset. This undoubtedly contributed to their quality, above all their tannic quality.

But that makes this sound all just a little pre-determined – as if things were always going to turn out well. And that is not quite right either. This was a stressful vintage for wine-makers, above all in the Graves. They might have had little to do in the vineyard, but they paced, they worried and at least some of them prayed. And, for those that did, it was as if their prayers were answered (you will detect, no doubt, the subtle theological evasion in the formulation of the phrase!). 

For what is clear is that the rain, when it came, came just at the right time. As Véronique Sanders explained to me at Haut Bailly, the 40 millimetres of rain that fell in August was very, very timely as was the 100 millimetres of rain that fell in June (even if its violence and intensity ensured that quite a lot of it was lost as run-off). Similarly, whilst Saturnalia reports that diurnal temperature variation was relatively low in Pessac-Léognan over the ripening season, it was higher in August and early September just when it mattered most.

In the final analysis, then, these little details were probably just as important when it comes to explaining the remarkable freshness of many of these wines than the more general meteorological trends. 

The end result, as Table 2 shows, are yields that are on average, well … average (at 35.7 hl/ha). Indeed, at less than 10 per down relative to the 10-year average, they actually look better in comparative terms than those of any other leading left or right-bank appellation. That is much better than had been feared at the start of August.

2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 10-year average Relative to 10-year average (% change)
Margaux 37.4 49.2 36.3 38.6 31.3 39.7 -21.2
St Julien 42.6 45.5 34.3 35.2 34.3 40.1 -14.5
Pauillac 38.5 46.7 37.4 35.1 34.8 39.7 -12.3
St Estèphe 44.6 49.7 41.2 40.7 31.5 43.4 -27.4
Pessac-Léognan 36.9 47.2 34.6 30.7 35.7 38.5 -7.3
St Emilion (GC) 39.7 43.0 36.7 27.5 41.2 37.2 +10.7
Pomerol 36.2 43.0 39.8 28.9 32.3 36.1 -10.5

Table 2: Average vineyard yield by appellation (hl/ha)

Source: calculated from Duanes data compiled by the CIVB Service Economie et Etudes

It is interesting also to see in 2022 the consolidation of the growing turn to Cabernet Sauvignon (and to a somewhat lesser extent, Cabernet Franc) in the blends of the grands vins of many of the leading crus. In 2021, of course, Merlot suffered. In 2022 that is much less the case. But, as Table 3 shows, many of the great wines of the appellation are now staunchly Cabernet-dominated.

% Merlot % Cabernets
2020 2021 2022 2020 2021 2022
Carmes Haut-Brion 26 25 26 74 75 74
Domaine de Chevalier 27 10 30 67 85 67
Haut Bailly 42 22 37 55 68 58
Larrivet Haut-Brion 52 0 18 48 100 82
Malartic-Lagravière 48 32 43 52 68 54.5
Smith Haut Lafitte 30 33 32 69 66 64

Table 3: Percentage of Merlot and Cabernet (Sauvignon + Franc), 2020-2022

The wines themselves

These may well be surprisingly fresh, lithe and sapid wines, but they are undoubtedly voluminous and substantial. The reds of Pessac-Léognan and the Graves in 2022 reveal perhaps a little more of the hot and dry character of the vintage than most of their Médoc and right-bank counterparts (the exception here perhaps being Pomerol once again).

And that means that, brilliant though at their best these wines undoubtedly are, they may not always be especially expressive of and even in keeping with the style, identity and personality of the property from which they hail. 

In blind tastings a decade from now (and perhaps even at Southwold in a few year’s time), wines like Carbonnieux, Couhins and Picque Caillou might easily be mis-identified. But, in each case one suspects, for something, shall we say, more expensive!

That notwithstanding, the top wines of the appellation are truly stunning and, in fact, very true to their appellation, their terroir and the personality of the property in question. Carmes Haut-Brion for me leads the way, with a wine that quite simply surpasses all else that has ever been produced here. It is the culmination of an incredible ascent to the summit achieved at breath-taking pace over the last decade by Guillaume Pouthier.

Haut-Bailly, Smith Haut Lafitte and Domaine de Chevalier have produced wines that in any other recent vintage would be candidates for wine of the vintage – each wonderfully true to and consistent with the identity and personality of their terroirs and the property. 

Malartic-Lagravière continues its sublime form in the last five or so vintages and it is wonderful, too, to taste the best Pape Clément in many a vintage.

And it would be remiss to finish this review without pointing out the truly exceptional value for money to be found in many of the now usual suspects: Couhins-Lurton, Latour Martillac, Olivier, Larrivet Haut-Brion and Picque Caillou (the latter two, above all, properties transformed in recent vintages). Quite honestly, I struggle to think of wines with a better quality-to-price ratio anywhere in the world today.

Highlights in 2022

Best of the appellation:

  • Carmes Haut-Brion (98-100)

Truly great:

  • Haut Bailly (96-98+)
  • Smith Haut-Lafitte (96-98+)
  • Domaine de Chevalier (96-98)
  • Malartic-Lagravière (95-97)
  • Pape Clément (95-97)

Value picks:

  • C de Carmes Haut-Brion (93-95)
  • Couhins-Lurton (93-95)
  • Latour Martillac (93-95)
  • Olivier (93-95)
  • Larrivet Haut-Brion (92-94+)
  • La Louvière (92-94)
  • Picque Caillou (92-94)
  • La Garde (91-93)

Not yet tasted:

  • Haut-Brion
  • La Mission Haut-Brion

Please click link for db’s 2022 en primeur vintage report, along with appellation-by-appellation reviews on PomerolSaint-Émilion,  St EstèphePauillacSt JulienMargauxHaut-Médoc, Listrac-Médoc, Médoc, & Moulis-en-MédocSauternes & Barsac and the satellite right-bank appellations, Pessac-Leognan & Graves (rouge) and Pessac Leognan, Graves & Bordeaux (blanc sec).

A note on the ratings

This year, as for the 2021 vintage before it, I have decided to provide an indicative rating for each wine alongside the published comment. All such comments and ratings are necessarily subjective (they cannot be anything else, when one thinks about it). I would urge you to look at the two together and, if anything, to privilege the comment over the rating. My aim is more to describe the wine in the context of the vintage, the appellation and recent vintages of the same and similar wines, rather than to judge the wine per se.

The ratings, of course, reflect my subjective evaluations and relative preferences between wines. Your palate is likely differ from mine. I hope that my comments give you at least enough information to be able to recalibrate my ratings and, in so doing, to align them more closely to your palate. To give an example: if the idea of the ‘new classicism’ leaves you cold, you may well wish to discount the (typically high) ratings I have given to wines described in such terms.

2022 is, of course, a far from entirely homogeneous vintage – and, consequently, my ratings span a considerable range (from the very top of the scale downwards). I see little interest, either for the consumer or the producer, in publishing very low scores. Consequently, I have decided not to publish scores for wines that I have rated below 90 (here the range 89-91). Where no rating is published, the wine would have scored 88-90 or below.

Finally, élevage is likely to be very important in determining the quality in bottle of these wines (like 2021 and rather more so than in other recent vintages). I am no soothsayer and cannot predict how that will turn out. All en primeur ratings should be treated with caution and taken with a certain pinch of salt. 

Detailed tasting notes by appellation

Pessac-Léognan (rouge)

  • Bouscaut 2022 (Pessac-Léognan; 56% Merlot; 29% Cabernet Sauvignon; 15% Malbec; tasted at the UGC press tasting). Black/purple at the core and limpid and glossy in the glass. Cassis, bramble, mulberry, a little blackcurrant leaf too. Very pure, precise, tight and focussed on the palate and much bigger and more powerful than it usually is. This still has considerable tannins to resolve but they are finely-textured. Possibly a little monotonic, but a success in the vintage; rather less oak presence than usual, reinforcing the purity of the fruit expression. 91-93


  • Brown 2022 (Pessac-Léognan; tasted at Ripeau). Another lovely wine from this up and coming estate,now just as comfortable in red as in white. Smoky on the nose, with charcuterie and gamey notes intermingling with the dark berry fruit. A lot of impact on the attack, a narrow frame but beautifully packed with, again, dark berry and a little stone fruit – notably plums and plum skin. Tender with nice grippy tannins, releasing additional freshness and sapidity. 91-93+.


  • C de Carmes Haut-Brion 2022 (Pessac-Léognan; tasted with Guillaume Pouthier). Immediately bright, aerial and highly expressive aromatically. Lots of wild herbal notes and lots of freshness with a vibrant and crunchy mixed of red and darker berry fruits – redcurrant, raspberry and cassis leaf. Lovely graphite and pencil-shavings too, cracked red and black peppercorns and a subtle loamy earthiness. In the mouth this is vivid, energetic and extremely dynamic with lots of forward momentum and pick up leading to a long, intense and slowly tapering finish. Very pure and with lovely precision. Very impressive indeed. 93-95


  • Carbonnieux 2022 (Pessac-Léognan; 50% Cabernet Sauvignon; 40% Merlot; 5% Cabernet Franc; 5% Petit Verdot; a final yield of 32 hl/ha; 15% alcohol; tasted at the UGC press tasting). Cedar-encrusted blackcurrant and brambles with great precision and that lovely hint of blackcurrant leaf too bringing natural freshness. Powerful in its density, but with finer tannins than Bouscaut and more supple and lithe in the mid-palate as a consequence. Quite gracious actually, though again just a little monotonic – it’s all about the purity of the fruit, with just a little hint of graphite as well. 92-94


  • Carmes Haut-Brion 2022 (Pessac-Léognan; 40% Cabernet Franc; 34% Cabernet Sauvignon; 26% Merlot; a final yield of 41 hl/ha; pH 3.64; 70% whole bunch fermentation, reducing the potential alcohol from 14.4 to 13.5%; aging in a mixed of new oak, larger format wood and amphora; tasted with Guillaume Pouthier). So gracious, so profound and so beautiful. This is intensely expressive aromatically from the very first encounter, but it still builds and builds in depth and complexity in the glass with every passing second. First to express itself is the most lovely note of cedar, generously enrobing the red cherry and bright, crunchy berry fruit, both red and darker – redcurrant, bramble, cassis and cassis leaf. There’s a little leaf tobacco and wood smoke too and, above all with more aeration, lovely gracious floral highlights – lilacs and lily of the valley, peony and a little hint of wild rosemary and lavender. With more time, a little violet too. Indeed, as this opens in the glass it’s as if the share of Cabernet Franc in the blend grows. But one notices also the undertones of Cabernet Sauvignon – especially with that subtle hint of blackcurrant leafiness. Rich, bold, broad and quite ample on the attack but so silkily textured and soft and caressing despite the incredibly densely pack and compact mid-palate. So precise and focussed too and, just as you think you’ve experienced all it has to offer the sapid breakers of fresh juice pound the shore to build the cool finale. The tannins are incredibly and gloriously pixilating, reminiscent in texture of those from plateau of St Emilion (the terroir is, of course, argilo-calcaire here). They seem to illuminate every fine detail. A staggering achievement and a quite monumental wine but with incredible finesse and deftness of touch. The culmination of the fabulous work here over the last decade or so. A wine of incredible technical accomplishment that tastes so natural. 98-100.


  • Clos Marsalette 2022 (Pessac-Léognan; 50% Cabernet Sauvignon; 49% Merlot; 1% Petit Verdot; a final yield of 34 hl/ha; 12.8% alcohol; tasted at Canon-La-Gaffelière with Stephan von Neipperg). Bright, red-fruited, slightly smoky, with an enticing notes of lièvre royale around the plum and fark berry fruit. A little more structure than d’Aiguilhe (tasted just before) and pleasing limpidity, even if this lacks a little mid-palate delineation. Big, punchy, and just a little burly. 90-92.



  • Couhins 2022 (Pessac-Léognan; 54% Merlot; 38% Cabernet Sauvignon; 5% Petit Verdot; 3% Cabernet Franc). Quite sweet-scented on the nose, especially at first, with baked and fresh plums, damson and black cherry, a little spice, a touch of wood smoke and a dusty sun-baked clay path. With more aeration more of the cassis and fresher, more sapid, berry fruit notes come through bringing complexity with them. Lithe and lively on the palate with quite a lot of energy, a sparking freshness to the fruit, though at the same time that same natural sweetness from the nose. Big and punchy for Couhins but well-balanced until the finish, where I sense just a little the alcohol. 91-93+.


  • Couhins-Lurton 2022 (Pessac-Léognan; 85% Merlot; 15% Cabernet Sauvignon; from 14 hectares on gravel, sandy clay and clay; a final yield of 36 hl/ha; 15% alcohol; pH 3.45; 8% amphora; Eric Boissenot is the consultant; tasted at the property with Jacques Lurton). The significant amount of clay here is important. Purple/black at the core with enticing crimson highlight. Even more radiant than a very impressive La Louvière. There’s more Cabernet Sauvignon here than usual due to its perfect maturity. Graphite. Walnut shell. Expresso. Dark cherry. Mulberry. Bramble. A little blackcurrant leaf. So bright, fresh and lively with a very vertical feel to it. Offering silk to La Louvière’s velvet. Fluid. Rolling. Grippy, slightly chewy, but the tannins are so soft and caressing. A pleasing natural sweetness; but this is cool and fresh, dense and compact. It’s also long and slowly tapering before the pinch and crescendo to form a fantail on the finish. Fine, refined, not showy with glorious precise pixilated fruit – the epitome of the vintage. And with lovely salinity too. This has more depth and gravitas than in any previous vintage and it also more layered, with the Cabernet Sauvignon accentuating the sense of a spinal column. 93-95.


  • De Cruzeau 2022 (Pessac-Léognan; 65% Merlot; 35% Cabernet Sauvignon; from a vineyard of 45 hectares on deep gravel; a final yield of 47 hl/ha; 13.5% alcohol; tasted with Jacques Lurton at Couhins-Lurton). Wow. Walnut shell and almond skin. Deep dark berry fruit and damsons, just a hint. Very pure, a little black cherry too. Chocolate and mocha. Powerful and extremely expressive. Tender and taut on the attack. Fluid and quite dynamic but with a very intense core. Dense and compact. Lovely cool tannins, very fine-grained. Chewy tannins on the finish, quite considerable, but incredibly fine-grained for a wine at this price point. Very pure; very grippy. 90-92.


  • Domaine de Chevalier 2022 (Pessac-Léognan; 65% Cabernet Sauvignon; 30% Merlot; 3% Petit Verdot; 2% Cabernet Franc; a final yield of 40 hl/ha; 14% alcohol; tasted at the UGC press tasting). Elegant, refined, ethereal, this has a gloriously caressing, soft and gentle dark core of crushed berries, damson skin and sloes; black cherries appear with more aeration. That beautiful wild herbal element too and graphite, shading towards cedar, as the wine relaxes and unfurls. On the palate, this is exquisitely soft, refined and elegant – gracious is again the word. Pure, crystalline, pixilated and wonderfully precise but also sinuous and dynamic despite the concentration and density – it’s like a super-charged version of the 2019. Sumptuous. 96-98


  • De Fieuzal 2022 (Pessac-Léognan; 50% Cabernet Sauvignon; 45% Merlot; 5% Petit Verdot; 13.5% alcohol; not presented at the UGC press tasting, the fiche technique alas being no substitute for the wine itself). I look forward to tasting this as soon as I can.


  • De France 2022 (Pessac-Léognan; 50% Merlot; 50% Cabernet Sauvignon; a final yield of 30 hl/ha; 14% alcohol; tasted at the UGC press tasting). Pure and clean, but rather monotonic and uni-dimensional in this company, the tannins just a little lacking in refinement on the finish. I find this not as delineated as many. Needs time.


  • La Garde 2022 (Pessac-Léognan; Dourthe). Smokey. A little tobacco. Mocha and expresso beans. Damson, mulberry and lovely deep, dark rich and crunchy berry fruit; a little black cherry too. Naturally sweet and well-focused, the fine-grain tannins reinforcing the sense of both interest and freshness. Very good in this vintage and exceeding my expectations. 91-93.


  • Haut Bailly 2022 (Pessac-Léognan; 56% Cabernet Sauvignon; 37% Merlot; 5% Petit Verdot; 2% Cabernet Franc; a final yield of 30 hl/ha; pH 3.92; 14.5% alcohol; Axel Marchal is the consultant here; tasted with Véronique Sanders). A fabulous and wonderfully balanced wine from Haut Bailly that is both so refined, so elegant and so delicate but also so impressively ample on the attack and so layered, compact and dense in and through the mid-palate. It’s immediately very fresh and floral aromatically with the flowers, cedar and graphite beautifully intermingling with the black cherry and cassis fruit. There are violets and a little hint of lavender, blood orange and satsuma and a very clean, crushed rock, slate and almost flinty minerality that turns a little more saline on the palate. The finest dark chocolate too. In the mouth this is velvety and opulent with an impressive sense of layered concentration and density sustained all the way to the finish. A fine equilibrium and a great success in this vintage. Massively accessible already but, as Michael Broadbent would have put it, this will make old bones. 96-98+.


  • Haut Bergey 2022 (Pessac-Léognan; 45% Merlot; 35% Cabernet Sauvignon; 12% Cabernet Franc; 8% Petit Verdot; 13.5% alcohol; certified biodynamic; tasted twice, the second time at the UGC press tasting). A little reductive at first, but a great success even in the context of t vihentage from Haut Bergey, this is quite distinctive on the nose with a hint of horse hair, a very pure loganberry and blackberry fruit, a little dark plum, hoisin, tobacco leaf and a wild herbal element too. On the palate this is bold, both broad-shouldered but at the same time tight and taut, the tannins dragging the dense fruit over the skeleton of the wine like flesh over the bones. Vibrant and racy on the long, sapid finish. 92-94.


  • Larrivet Haut-Brion 2022 (Pessac-Léognan; 61% Cabernet Sauvignon; 21% Cabernet Franc; 18% Merlot;  a final yield of 40 hl/ha; 14% alcohol; tasted at the UGC press tasting). Another very pure-fruited Pessac, though here with a pleasingly complex fruit profile which combines red and darker berry fruit, plums and a little red cherry; there’s a nice graphite undertone too. Super-juicy on the attack with refined fine-grained tannins that sculpt the wine over the palate giving impressive detail. A nice grip helps build the fantail finish. A property that is on something of a high. 92-94+.


  • Latour-Martillac 2022 (Pessac-Léognan; 50% Cabernet Sauvignon Blanc; 42% Merlot; 8% Petit Verdot; a final yield of 42 hl/ha; 14.5% alcohol; tasted a second time at the UGC press tasting). This, too, is nicely constructed and has the most beautifully polished velvet tannins. Perfectly ripe damsons, sloes, raspberries and mulberries, graphite, a little inkling of cedar and wild rosemary and thyme on the aromatically expressive nose. On the palate this is luminous and crystalline, the tannins fine-grained and gently supportive of the fruit. Increasingly fresh and juicy towards the sapid finish, this is another great success from a now very reliable property and likely to prove excellent value. 93-95.


  • La Louvière 2022 (Pessac-Léognan; 70% Merlot; 30% Cabernet Sauvignon; from an expansive vineyard of 70 hectares on deep gravel; a final yield of 31 hl/ha; 14% alcohol; Michel Rolland is the consultant; tasted at Couhins-Lurton and a second time at the UGC press tasting). 30% less fruit due to the small size of grapes. Black/purple at the core with a radiant lilac/purple rim. Almost opaque. Limpid and gloriously so. Crushed cloves and green Szechuan peppercorns enrobe the blue and purple, dark berry fruit. A little expresso coffee. A hint of dark chocolate lightly scented with violet. Gracious in its softness. Ample but so much forward momentum and density that it’s not quite as ample as you think – it’s too structured for the wine to spread too widely before the energy propels it forward in the mouth. Tense. Cool. Incredibly dense and just gravity-defying dark and graphitic at the core. Super-svelte. Cool. Tender. Very pure cassis. Grippy tannins at the finish bringing with them a little iron minerality. Velvety. Very impressive. 92-94


  • Malartic-Lagravière 2022 (Pessac-Léognan; 53% Cabernet Sauvignon; 43% Merlot; 3.5% Petit Verdot; 1.5% Cabernet Franc; a final yield of 27 hl/ha; tasted at the UGC press tasting). Gorgeous with brilliant ripe black cherry interwoven with cedar and graphite. There’s a little wild heather, wild thyme and rosemary. On the palate the tannins are so wonderfully soft and polished giving a gentle silky texture to the mid-palate which is lithe, sinuous (a little like Domaine de Chevalier) and incredibly fresh. This is fabulously bright, radiant and yet so elegant, fine and almost delicate. Very tense and, as it relaxes, more and more of the beautiful cedar shines through. Excellent. One that is difficult to spit. 95-97.


  • Olivier 2022 (Pessac-Léognan; 49% Merlot; 42% Cabernet Sauvignon; 6% Petit Verdot; a final yield of 34 hl/ha; 14.5% alcohol; tasted at the UGC press tasting). This has never been so good. Very pretty with a lovely pure cassis and blackcurrant nose, supported by the freshness of black and redcurrant leaf and cedar. Not unlike Malartic in its fruit profile (even though there’s quite a lot more Merlot in the vineyard), nor in the quality of the tannins, which set this apart from many of its ostensible peers. The progression in recent years here is remarkable. Highly recommended. Quite gracious. 93-95.


  • Pape Clément 2022 (Pessac-Léognan; 60% Cabernet Sauvignon; 40% Merlot; a final yield of 35 hl/ha; tasted a second time at the UGC press tasting). Extremely expressive and aromatically complex, with classic cedar, graphite and pencil-shavings generously enrobing the black cherry and damson fruit. Strikingly sweet on the palate, but entirely naturally so, we have black cherries, again, fruits of the forest (bringing some of their acidity) and black forest gateau with a generous sprinkling of the finest grated dark chocolate. Big, deep, rich and bold with a sumptuous dense mid-palate and yet sparkling energy and freshness. This is very fine indeed and the best Pape Clément in many a vintage. 95-97.


  • Picque Caillou 2022 (Pessac-Léognan; 50% Cabernet Sauvignon; 40% Merlot; 10% Petit Verdot; 14% alcohol; tasted at the UGC press tasting). Another wine that seems to get better with each vintage. A little reductive at first, but once it gets into its stride this is fabulously intense on the nose – with crushed and concentrated red and blackcurrant fruit generously enrobed in graphite. A twist of black pepper too, walnut oil and just a suggestion of the cedar to come. A dense, compact, intense yet plunge-pool cool mid palate and the most gracious tannins I’ve tasted from this up-and-coming property. Best ever from here. 92-94.


  • De Rochemorin 2022 (Pessac-Léognan; 60% Merlot; 30% Cabernet Sauvignon; 8% Petit Verdot; 2% Cabernet Franc; from a vineyard of 53 hectares on deep gravel; a final yield of 33 hl/ha; 14% alcohol; tasted at Couhins-Lurton with Jacques Lurton). Cloves. Crushed and pounded black pepper. Dark berry and stone fruit – sloes, brambles. Very cool with menthol really breaking up the exterior core of the wine. A third of the crop was lost due to the severe hydric stress, yet this is a wine of great freshness and again a laser-like core that is very dense and compact. Long and rapier-like on the finish. Like the white, the acidity breaks up the textural edges imparting textural complexity in the mouth. Very long consistent across the well-sustained finish. 91-93.



  • Smith Haut-Lafitte 2022 (Pessac-Léognan; 65% Cabernet Sauvignon; 32% Merlot; 3% Cabernet Franc; 1% Petit Verdot; a final yield of 29 hl/ha; pH 3.70; 14.5% alcohol). Another brilliant wine from Smith Haut-Lafitte that is very true to itself and at the same time very expressive of the vintage. Fragrant and aromatically effusive on the nose with a pronounced dark berry and cherry fruit, a little touch of cedar, freshly cracked walnuts, a little red liquorice and fresh leaf tobacco. On the palate, this is opulent and seductive yet incredibly dense, compact and concentrated, layered like a sky-scraper and fabulously well-sustained on the finish. The oak presence is discernible but already so well integrated – and with aeration it is quickly replaced by a lovely note of violet and lavender oil. Another great vintage from this property, though a wine that will need at least a decade in the cellar. 96-98+.


Graves (rouge)

  • De Chantegrive 2022 (Graves; 60% Cabernet sauvignon; 40% Merlot; a final yield of 34 hl/ha; 14.5% alcohol; tasted at the UGC press tasting). Impressive. Bright. Crunchy. Dark plum and baked plum, bramble, with sweet spices, notably clove and nutmeg. Pure but dense and compact, quite broad with crumbly yet fine-grained tannins. A big wine but with plenty of energy. 90-92.


  • Ferrande 2022 (Graves; 52% Merlot; 48% Cabernet Sauvignon; 14% alcohol; tasted at the UGC press tasting). Intense dark berry fruit – mulberries and brambles – with generous spicing from the clove and cinnamon notes. Full, cool at the compact core and impressive if perhaps somewhat monolithic, the tannins just a little abrasive on the finish.


  • De Portets 2022 (Graves). Lovely dark briary fruit – mulberry, blackberry and bramble – with a hint of heather too and a scratch of graphite. Gracious and very svelte on the entry, cool and with considerable freshness, the mulberries, blackberries and brambles joined on the palate by blackcurrant leaf notes. I like this as I have done before. Very pure, very limpid, very nicely focused. 90-92.


  • Rahoul 2022 (Graves; 59% Merlot; 36% Cabernet Sauvignon; 5% Petit Verdot; 14.6% alcohol; tasted twice, the second time at the UGC press tasting). Dark fruited; plummy – with damsons, plum skin, a little red cherry and sloes. Pure, with a nice focus; quite bright and crunchy too with a dusty earthiness. Robust but fine-grained tannins and impressive density and indeed length. Not especially complex but an attractive bottle and likely to represent excellent value. Just a shade dry on the finish; indeed, a little coarse when re-tasted. 

Please click link for db’s 2022 en primeur vintage report, along with appellation-by-appellation reviews on PomerolSaint-Émilion,  St EstèphePauillacSt JulienMargauxHaut-Médoc, Listrac-Médoc, Médoc, & Moulis-en-MédocSauternes & Barsac and the satellite right-bank appellations, Pessac-Leognan & Graves (rouge) and Pessac Leognan, Graves & Bordeaux (blanc sec).

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