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A Fabulous Tasting of Ducru Beaucaillou with Bruno Borie

Thursday, 15th September 2016 by Stephen Browett

I was very privileged to be invited by proprietor Bruno Borie to a magnificent tasting of Ducru Beaucaillou in which every year that he has made was shown -  as well as some examples of older vintages of this great 2nd growth Saint Julien. This is a property that has made consistently good wines for decades but under Bruno’s leadership the quality here now often touches that of the First Growths.

On January 3rd 2003 Bruno was put in charge of the Estate by his mother, whilst his brother Xavier moved to Pauillac to manage Grand Puy Lacoste and Haut Batailley. One of his early decisions was to massively reduce the production of the grand vin from 15-20,000 cases down to well under 10,000 cases per annum. Only fruit from the core vineyard, on the best soils close to the Gironde estuary, is now used for Ducru with the second level fruit going into La Croix de Beaucaillou and vines further inland being used for the production of Lalande Borie.

Bruno Borie

2003 – 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot. Elevage 18 months in 100% new oak. Harvest 15-27 September.

Bruno says that an important factor in 2003 was to do none of the usual leaf thinning so that the grapes were protected from – rather than exposed to – the heat of the sun. This still has a deep colour with just a little fade. Many 2003 clarets look much more developed than this. There is a rich nose of plums and spices. The palate is full bodied and ripe with lovely opulence and plushness. It is quite sweet but not too hot and blousy. Unlike many a 2003 Bordeaux, this could not be mistaken for a new world wine as it has good structure despite the sexy richness, glycerin and sweet ripe fruit. One of the best wines of the vintage. 17

2004 – 77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot. Elevage 18 months in 100% new oak. Harvest 27 September-11 October.

This has a similar colour to the 2003 but is very different on the nose with a more reserved aroma but some nice touches of spice. On the palate this has classic structure and is maybe a little lean when compared to the 2003. Medium weight with good flesh and a firm backbone. Good for drinking now and a very good effort for the vintage. 16

2005 – 67% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot. Elevage 18 months in 100% new oak. Harvest 21 September to 6 October.

A solid red with only a little fade. A classic cassis nose with graphite and tar. Very good density with a solid core of ripe, black fruit. Still tannic and tight. This had not been decanted and on this showing it still needs a couple of years to blossom. A serious wine that needs to emerge from its shell and show its full potential. 17.5+

2006 – 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot.  Elevage 18 months in 100% new oak. Harvest 18 September – 7 October.

A good deep colour with only a little fade. Hints of tar and spice on the attractive nose. There is plenty of depth here and a touch of licorice. Masculine and strong. Very solid and impressive for the vintage. Chunky and serious. Whilst this is just ready to drink, it will last for a long time. Clearly one of the best successes of the vintage. 16.5+

Ducru Beaucaillou 2003-2015

2007 – 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot. Elevage 18 months in 100% new oak. Harvest 24 September – 1 October.

Showing a little fade at the rim. This has a sexy nose with vanilla and toasted brioche. The new oak quite evident. The palate is very supple and open-knit with lots of spice, a silky texture and soft tannins. Ripe, inviting, charming and easy to enjoy. This is a precocious easy-going Ducru to drink now. The finish is a little short but it’s a lovely wine. 16

2008 – 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot. Elevage 18 months in 100% new oak. Harvest 2 – 16 October.

A similar colour to the 2007 and a bit more concentration. This, however, is also leaner and tighter with a more solid structure. A wine that has grip and a touch of austerity. Maybe more serious than the 2007 but less charm and (as we were about to find out) far inferior to the 2009 and 2010. Decent claret, but this is not as good a vintage as it was touted to be originally and it is a good Ducru rather than a great one. 16+

2009 – 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot. Elevage 18 months in 100% new oak. Harvest 23 September – 9 October.

This wine has an amazing dark colour. It is black in the middle with very little fade at the rim. Just by looking at it you can see that it is a massive step-up from the 2008. A huge, soaring nose of black fruit, barbequed meat and road tar. A real fruitbomb. Huge and mouth-filling, dense, opulent and super-sexy. Flashy and fleshy, really opulent wine with sweet black fruit, ripe tannins and a long, rich finish. It is so smooth and polished that you could drink it now but it will of course develop for decades. Fabulous. Great length. 19

2010 – 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot. Elevage 18 months in 100% new oak. Harvest 29 September – 14 October.

A massive black colour with no fade at all. A brooding aroma, powerful licorice and concentrated cassis notes. This is a huge wine that is dense and stacked with layers of blackcurrant fruit. Intense and dense. A firm tannic backbone keeps it in check and - whilst it is not ready to drink - it is all in balance and not too hard. This is going to develop into a truly great wine as it matures. A classic. 19+

2011 – 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot. Elevage 18 months in 100% new oak. Harvest 5 - 18 September.

This is bright red with a spicy nose. Forward and charming. A complete contrast to the two previous vintages. Reminds me of the 2007 but a bit tighter at this stage. Ready to drink but may be better when the tannins soften. Good for the vintage. 16

2012 – 91% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot. Elevage 18 months in 100% new oak. Harvest 3 – 10 October.

A medium-deep colour with only a little fade. The sexy new oak is very dominant. This is really creamy and plush on the palate. A real charmer. Smooth, silky, plump and soft. Easy-going, ready to drink as the tannins are fine, soft and ripe. No need to wait. Maybe not very serious but delicious. A flattering and friendly Ducru. 16.5

London and Bordeaux merchants at work

2013 – 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot. Elevage 18 months in 100% new oak. Harvest 26 September – 9 October.

Already a fading colour and despite being one of the youngest wines on show it is one of the lightest. This has flavours of raspberries and red fruits. For Ducru it is a bit thin and weak. It’s probably one of the better wine of this disappointing vintage, but in comparison to other wines served today, it is comfortably in last place.  I’m sure that the second wine would be better than this from 2009 or 2010. One for the label drinker and the duty free shop shelves. Maybe, in hindsight, the 100% new oak was a bit too much for it? 14.5 (by chance we tasted 2010 Lalande Borie in the office the next day. It was so good that we bought all that we had been offered. I think it's better than the grand vin in 2013).

2014 – 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot. Elevage 18 months in 100% new oak. Harvest 25 September – 15 October.

An impressive deep colour. Not far behind the 2009 and 2010 and totally eclipsing the 2013. A sexy nose full of cigar box and Asian spice notes. There is lots of sweet flesh on the palate here. Lovely balance and lots of sweetness with creamy tannins and balancing fresh acidity. These have all combined to produce a lovely wine that, for me, is certainly potentially ahead of the 2013, 2012, 2011, 2008, 2007 and 2006. A really impressive Ducru that is not far behind the superstar vintages. 17

2015 – 95% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot. Elevage 18 months in new oak. Harvest 21 September – 6 October.

This has a deep crimson (rather than black) colour. Certainly not as dark as the 2009 and 2010. There is gorgeous, ripe red fruit here. Very succulent, creamy and seductive with spicy vanilla oak. Plums and strawberries, it is opulent, sexy and plush but will never rival the 2009 and 2010 for intensity and power. Very good if not quite in the same league as the 09/10 twins. 18

3 flights of 4 vintages

After the tasting of 2003 to 2015 we drank some older vintages with lunch that were made by Bruno’s brother and father :-

2000 – a maturing colour and now fully evolved. Beginning to show some secondary flavours. Earthy, complex and now mature. This is a classic Saint Julien that has finally come out of its tannic shell. 17+

1995 – showing some brown at the edges. Solid and well structured. Forest floor aromas and a hint of earth and iodine. Good classic claret. 16.5

1989 – a very mature colour. Slightly acetic on the nose but no hint of the TCA that can sometimes be present in this vintage. Mature flavours, a bit lean despite the sweetness of the vintage. Nice enough but not one of the greats of 1989. 15.5

1986 – a mature mahogany colour. Dry with forest floor flavours. Medium weight. A bit lean. Complex and earthy. Fully mature. 16

1982 – a mature colour but still deep at the centre. A fabulous smoky, tarry cigar box nose. Sweet and intense on the palate. Cedar and tar. Multi-complex. Long, complex and lingering. A great wine at its peak. 19

1970 – mature colour, soaring cigar box nose. This is classic old school claret. Cabernet Sauvignon at its finest. Has impressive sweetness at 46 years of age and good grip. Proper and serious. One of the very best wines of the vintage. 18.5

Mature vintages served with lunch
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