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Tasting notes: Haut-Médoc, Listrac-Médoc, Médoc, & Moulis-en-Médoc

Bordeaux Correspondent Colin Hay conclude his  review of the left-bank in this intriguingly complex vintage with a selection of the wines of the appellations of Haut-Médoc, Listrac-Médoc, Médoc and Moulis-en-Médoc.

The stars here are, perhaps unremarkably, the brilliant duo of rather Margellais Haut-Médoc classed growths that are La Lagune and Cantemerle, a fabulous pair of northern Medocain superstars that both merit more attention than they receive, in Clos Manou and Sociando Mallet and the now invariably transcendent Branas Grand Poujeaux.

Highlights in 2023

Best of the appellation:

  • La Lagune (Haut-Médoc) (93-95)
  • Clarke (Listrac-Médoc) (90-92+)
  • Clos Manou (Médoc) (91-93+)
  • Branas Grand-Poujeaux (Moulis-en-Médoc) (93-95)

Value picks:

  • Cantemerle (Haut-Médoc) (92-94)
  • Sociando Mallet (Haut-Médoc) (92-94)
  • Belgrave (Haut-Médoc) (91-93)
  • Fourças-Dupré (Listrac-Médoc) (89-91)
  • Lestage (Listrac-Médoc) (89-91)
  • G de Goulée (Médoc) (90-92)
  • Loudenne (Médoc) (89-91)
  • Potensac (Médoc) (89-91+)
  • Granins Grand Poujeaux (Moulis-en-Médoc) (91-93+)
  • Poujeaux (Moulis-en-Médoc) (91-93)

A note on the ratings

There is an indicative rating for each wine alongside the published comment, which are, necessarily subjective – 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 comments should give you enough information to align the ratings more closely to your own palate – if the idea of the ‘new classicism’ leaves you cold for example, you may well wish to discount the (typically high) ratings I have given to wines described in such terms.

The 2023 vintage is from homogeneous, so my ratings span a considerable range – I see little point in publishing very low scores, so I have not publish scores for classed growths (or equivalent wines) that I have rated below 90 (range 89-91) or below 89 (88-90) for crus bourgeois (or equivalent wines).  Where my written assessment of the wine might proved unflattering to the property, I have simply not published either the commentary or the rating.

Finally, élevage is likely to be very important in determining the quality in bottle of these wines so all en primeur ratings should be treated with caution and taken with a certain pinch of salt.

Detailed tasting notes (alphabetically, by appellation)

Haut Médoc

D’Agassac (Haut-Médoc). Pretty aromatically, with a dusty earthy note, quite a distinct red and darker berry fruit with a little cassis and a few wild herbs thrown in for good measure. A touch of cedar too. Nice juicy and quite fine-grained tannins chisel a well-formed mid-palate towards a slowly tapering finish. Really very good. 88-90.


Arnauld (Haut-Médoc). A lovely nose – creamy fruits of the forest, black cherry, a little cedar, some walnut and pencil shavings. Soft and supple on the finish, with very soft and gracious tannins and a nice sense of fluidity. Decent density as well for a wine at this level. 88-90.


Beaumont (Haut-Médoc; tasted at the UGC press tasting at the Cité du Vin). As ever, there’s is something very Beychevelle about the presentation of this. Soft, caressing, gentle with very well-managed fine-grained tannins. A raspberry and loganberry fruit, a little red cherry too. A hint of frangipane. Texturally this is very impressive for a wine at this price point and it’s also bright and crunchy in its fruit presentation. 88-90.


Belgrave (Haut-Médoc; 60% Cabernet Sauvignon; 40% Merlot; 13% alcohol; tasted at the UGC press tasting at the Cité du Vin and again at the Château). A little closed the first time but with a quite gracious hint of leafiness to the Cabernet fruit that comes through nicely with aeration. Sapid and juicy from the get-go with nice fluidity and evolution over the palate. Quite crystalline, not too extracted and almost sinuous as a consequence. There’s been a notable (and noted) upwards trajectory here in recent vintages. The appellation is becoming again quite competitive. 91-93.


Cantemerle (Haut-Médoc; tasted at the UGC press tasting at the Cité du Vin). One feels the evolution in the quality of both the selection for the grand vin here and its vinification, with more precision and detail. Quite a Margellais Haut-Médoc with a gracious and elegant florality. A lovely cedary-encased dark berry and stone fruit. A great success. One of the greatest wines of the appellation as it should be and once again a challenger to the classed growths of other perhaps more prestigious appellations. The most Margellais wine of the appellation. 92-94.


Citran (Haut-Médoc; tasted at the UGC press tasting at the Cité du Vin). This tends now to impress even in the august company of the other UGC wines of the appellation; it does so here. Very classic, with Médocain cassis and cedar. No great complexity, but a lovely, quaffable and well-made expression of the vintage, even if the fruit is perhaps just a little finely stretched. 88-90.


Clément-Pichon (Haut-Médoc). This is very fine. Rose petals and violets interweave themselves with the dark berry and stone fruit – brambles and damsons. This is creamily textured, quite ample for the vintage and the central spine well covered with crunchy berry and strong fruit. Very impressive. Soft, even luscious – not a descriptor that appears much in these notes. 89-91+.


Haut-Médoc de Giscours (Haut-Médoc; 56% Cabernet Sauvignon; 34% Merlot; 10% Cabernet Franc; 13% alcohol; all from Giscours’ own estates across the appellation boundary, though originally some of these plots were classified for inclusion in the grand vin). Plush. Bold. Dark-fruited. Intense. Lovely, in short. Juicy, sapid and inherently fresh and vibrant. There’s a pleasing walnut nutty element here too. Crumbly tannins on the finish. Bright and luminous. 89-91.


La Lagune (Haut-Médoc; 65% Cabernet Sauvignon; 35% Merlot; strong mildew pressure was well-managed, the team now highly experienced in an all too familiar fight; a final yield of 30 hl/ha; 13.5% alcohol; tasted at the UGC press tasting at the Cité du Vin and with Caroline and Delphine Frey at the property; certified organic and biodynamic). There is no Petit Verdot in the grand vin this year, giving this perhaps an additional harmony at this nascent stage. We could easily be in Margaux as this has a lovely highly expressive but still delicate and refined wild florality to it. Beautifully expressive and vivid aromatically, even when tasted under leaden skies. Lovely white almond and frangipane notes, walnut shell too. Silky and creamily textured. We are not so much in the parfumier’s boudoir as in the field from which the flowers themselves were sourced. Damson and bramble too. Autumnal fruits. This has quite a tight frame accentuating the impact on the attack and the density and concentration of the mid-palate. Well-structured and with significant aging potential despite the elegance that is already present. Impressive stuff. The wine of the appellation, as it so often is. 93-95.


Lanessan (Haut-Médoc; Boissenot consulting, but now, of course, a Penfolds wine). Excellent. Intensely fresh and juicy though the acidity is never distracting or too elevated, there’s a lovely bright crisp crunchiness to this that really speaks of the vintage. But at the same time we have much more density than, say, in 2021. Tense, long and the fruit very well dispersed over the palate – revealing a finely-chiselled central spine. Cylindrical and rather racy. Bravo. 89-91.


De Malleret (cru bourgeois exceptionnel; Haut-Medoc). Rosemary, thyme, leafy cassis and mulberry fruit. Nice mouthfeel, with fine-grained though far from insubstantial tannins. Cool and compact in the mid-palate, with good density and intensity. Well-sustained. Sapid and juicy. 88-90.


Moutte Blanc Marguerite (Haut-Médoc; Boissenot consulting). Tiny production, great value and always worth seeking out. Pure, bright, crunchy and very dark berry fruited. Quite intense, with a lovely crystalline quality to the mid-palate and finish. Sapid and juicy. Just a hint of spice, the wood very restrained. Impressive. 88-90.


Peyrabon (Haut-Médoc; 56% Cabernet Sauvignon; 41% Merlot; 3% Petit Verdot). Purple berry fruits, blueberries. A little black cherry. Nice and plump and plush and well-made. A fine-grained trace of tannin on the finish. Nicely done. 88-90.


Sociando-Mallet (Haut-Médoc; 50 % Merlot; 47 % Cabernet Sauvignon; 3 % Cabernet Franc; tasted twice, the second time at Belgrave). Only an accident of history prevented this from being a classed growth, I always say to myself, and one wonders how one might view this wine differently now if it had been classified in 1855. This is great both in general terms and in the context of the vintage. A lovely gracious damson berry fruit, blueberries too, brambles and loganberries. Graphite and a hint of cedar. All very lovely and very classic too. So soft and caressing on the attack, the vintage’s acidity nicely disguised at first and released only in the mid-palate where it brings lift and added sapidity. A very pure and focussed wine, with a lovely fantail finish and a supremely joyous juicy quality. Excellent. Stiff competition for the Haut-Médoc classed growths as, of course, it should be! 92-94.


Clarke (Listrac-Médoc; 60% Cabernet Sauvignon; 40% Merlot; 14% alcohol; a vineyard of 56 hectares on limestone and clay; Boissenot consulting; tasted twice, the second time at the UGCB press tasting at the Cité du Vin). Even in an excellent little flight of Listracs this shines. Light on its feet, very nicely judged, with energy and lift from its limestone-clay soils and a crystalline quality to the mid-palate reflecting the very careful management of the tannins. A lovely glossy blue-purple berry fruit, joined by a little cherry on the palate. Classy, sleek, elegant, sapid and in the end quite racy too, Clarke is a great success in this vintage. Evident ambition but great restraint too producing a very balanced wine. 90-92+.


Fonréaud (Listrac-Médoc; 50% Cabernet Sauvignon; 45% Merlot; 5% Petit Verdot; a final yield of 32 hl/ha; 13.5% alcohol; tasted twice, the second time at the UGCB press tasting at the Cité du Vin). Dusty, earthy, quite intense and compact, with a fair bit of spice – nutmeg and even a little curry leaf. A pronounced salinity too. There’s good depth to this and nicely fine-grained, juicy tannins, but the finish shades just a little towards the dry side, a little less so at the UGCB tasting (and I nudge up my rating). 88-90.


Fourças-Dupré (Listrac-Médoc; Boissenot consulting; tasted twice, the second time at the UGCB press tasting at the Cité du Vin). Immediately darker in the glass than its near namesake neighbour. A tad more serious, a little more austere and with more extraction and a little more spice too. A dark berry and plum fruit, quite a pronounced saline minerality and, in the mouth, a lot more weight, heft and growl. Impressive. Quite serious but the not inconsiderable tannins have been very well managed and this is very sapid and lifted on the finish which is not what you expect given the density of the mid-palate. 89-91.


Fourças-Hosten (Listrac-Médoc; 76% Cabernet Sauvignon; 24% Merlot; a final yield of 30 hl/ha; 14.5% alcohol; Boissenot consulting; tasted twice, the second time at the UGCB press tasting at the Cité du Vin). Something of a contrast to Fourças Dupré. Pure loganberry and black raspberry, cracked green and red peppercorns, a little twist of the pencil in the sharpener and a sprinkling of sweet spices. Graphite. Not overly extracted, not pushed too far, and just as well as the tannins are a shade dry (the impression reinforced by the sensation of alcohol). But there’s a freshness and directness to this that compensates for a lot. High-toned on the finish. It’s light, but light on its feet too and I like that. 88-90.


Lestage (cru bourgeois exceptionnel; Listrac-Médoc). Reliably excellent and richly deserving its place in the upper echelons of the cru bourgeois classification once again. Spicy, with a pleasing natural sweetness. Not unlike Fonréaud in fruit profile and intensity, but with greater depth and yet greater clarity too in the mid-palate. There’s a little more cassis too. Impressive. 89-91.


Clos Manou (Médoc; 70% Cabernet Sauvignon; 22% Merlot; 8% Petit Verdot; 13.2% alcohol). Tasted twice with very consistent notes. As you might expect it to be, this is excellent, rising above almost every other wine in the appellation. The signature of Medoc Cabernet Sauvignon is strong, but also that wild peppery note from the Petit Verdot. This is so soft and caressing in the mouth, with a supple and subtle evolution over the palate, the most crystalline and fluid mid-palate, a very pure dark berry and, increasingly, cassis fruit, considerable length and lots of poise. Very impressive and definitely worth seeking out. I love the Médocain hint of cedar on the finish. 91-93+.


Fleur La Mothe (cru bourgeois supérieur; Médoc). I liked this a lot in 2022 and it’s good again in 2023. Wild, almost savage, with lots of wild herbs, a delicate florality and an intense crushed black berry fruit, a little cherry too, more so in fact on the palate. Poise and depth, good concentration and nicely grainy tannins. Well done. 88-90.


G de Goulée (Medoc; 64% Merlot; 26% Cabernet Sauvignon; 7% Cabernet Franc; 3% Petit Verdot). This is the 20th vintage of this wine, with the vineyard recently expanded to incorporate an additional 4 hectares on clay and limestone. Crunchy berries, very pure, quite lively and aerial. That touch of sea-spray indicating giving away the extreme northern Médoc location. Sage and wild herb, but spicy too. Very cool and lithe and intense, with a well-integrated acidity that helps, with the tannins to focus, and delineate the wine. Glacial. Cool. Quaffably fresh. Very clean on the finish. 90-92.


Loudenne (Médoc; 60% Cabernet Sauvignon; 35% Merlot; 5% Petit Verdot; 14.5% alcohol). The first property in the Medoc that I set foot in, at least once I was over drinking age! This is a very different wine from the 1995 half bottle we drunk then. A bright, crisp and fresh blue-purple berry fruit, with lots of precision and energy too (reinforced by the limestone sous sol here). There’s a little touch of graphite and that helps bring out a generous dark cherry undernote. Excellent at this level and yet also very classic, but with a good dose of technical precision evident too. The product of an evidently strict selection, as Merlot is planted at almost 60% here. 89-91.


Potensac (Medoc; 48% Cabernet Sauvignon; 35% Merlot; 17% Cabernet Franc; 13.4% alcohol; tasted at Nénin). Nice Cabernet cassis and redcurrant leaf. Plush but with no great depth. Crystalline and quite limpid but with sufficient tannins to sustain it. Cool and fresh but the acidity very well managed and distributed. Quite bold. This is likely to provide good competition for wines like Poujeaux and Chasse Spleen. 89-91+.


Branas Grand Poujeaux (Moulis-en-Médoc; 35% Merlot; 50% Cabernet Sauvignon; 15% Petit Verdot ; tasted twice, the second time at the UGC press tasting at the Cité du Vin). A glorious success in the context of the vintage, indeed this or any vintage. The essence of black cherry and black forest gateau, with that lovely deep dark chocolate note, maybe a little mocha too and the finest dark roasted coffee beans. Incredibly soft and caressing on the palate, with ultra-fine grained but still grippy tannins that structure the extremities of the wine over the palate, more like a 2020 or 2022 in form. This seems to have risen above the challenges of the vintage. Excellent. 93-95.


Chasse Spleen (Moulis-en-Médoc; 57% Cabernet Sauvignon; 30% Merlot; 19% Petit Verdot; 3% Cabernet Franc; a final yield of 34 hl/ha; tasted three times, most recently at the UGC press tasting at the Cité du Vin; 13% alcohol). A lovely fresh and slightly leafy purple berry fruit, joined in the mid-palate by some black cherry, spice and graphite. Cedar too. There’s an impressive quality to the refined and ultra fine-grained tannins here. Lithe and limpid. Fresh and quite juicy on the finish. 89-91+.


Granins Grand Poujeaux (Moulis-en-Médoc; a sister wine to Branas Grand Poujeaux). A lovely wine, exuding a kind of springtime hedgerow florality. A little jasmine too and green tea alongside the dark and red berry fruits; Griotte cherry too. There’s a pleasing natural sweetness to this on the palate too which is nutty and nicely charged with sapid yet intense fruit juice. Nicely persistent and very clean and precise on the focused finish. 91-93+.


Malmaison (Moulis-en-Médoc; tasted from a sample sent to me in Paris). A bright, crisp and engaging aromatic profile, with dark berry fruits and wild herbal elements the most prominent notes. In the mouth this is soft on the attack, forthright and pure in its sapid and plump berry fruitedness and quite well-sustained on the finish. Similar in style to its sister property, Chateau Clarke, this is fine, elegant and charming. 89-91.


Poujeaux (Moulis-en-Médoc; 55% Cabernet Sauvignon; 35% Merlot; 10% Petit Verdot; a final yield of 38 hl/ha; pH 3.82; 12.5% alcohol; tasted first at the UGC press tasting at the Cité du Vin after then at Clos Fourtet with Matthieu Cuvelier). There was some hail damage here which in part explains the higher than usual proportion of Petit Verdot. Decent weight, depth and substance, with good fruit density and concentration, the freshness nicely distributed over the palate. The fruit is well enrobed in graphite. However, though svelte and limpid, it lacks the delineation, definition and pixilation of the very best – though better when tasted at Clos Fourtet, where I notch upwards the rating. But I like the freshness and the sapidity that picks this up just before the lifted finish. Stylish and quite sleek. Just a touch of dryness on the finish. 91-93.

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