This morning saw my second visit to Chateau du Cedre for a meeting with Pascal Verhaeghe, winemaker extraordinaire. Pascal is extremely charming and clearly loves his work; it was a joy to be in his company, even more so because we had some truly great wines to taste. I came away wondering why anyone would want to spend £180 on a dozen bottles of, say, Chateau Le Crock, when the same money will buy "Le Cedre", let alone over £700 on, for example, Rauzan-Segla when "GC" costs under £400. No accounting for taste it seems, unless depth of pocket has anything to do with it, of course.
It was a fascinating tasting: the regular cuvee is superb with the 5% each of Merlot and Tannat contributing well without detracting from the overall impression of the Malbec as Merlot, in particular, can.
My memory of the other two wines is extremely clear:"Le Cedre" is stored as "LC1" and "LC2" from different plots and stored in a mixture of barrels from Burgundy and around the Cognac region. Some barrels are 225 litres but Pascal, clearly aware of some of the criticisms from the international press, has moved towards using more 500 litre barrels. The differences were surprisingly marked with LC2 more pronounced and LC1 giving a touch more acidity and tannin. Pascal also has a new large foudre which he is very pleased with - the wine from here is slightly reductive so more muted at this time with some CO2 but, obviously, this will come together soon enough and, for now at least, this wine forms only a small part of the whole. Pascal hopes to install more of these foudres in years to come which will further reduce the oak flavour in the finished wine.
"GC" is similar in style (there is clearly a house style: very ripe, sweet fruit but not over-extracted, approachable relatively young but with plenty of life ahead - in other words, everything you would want from a top winemaker working with a superb terroir in a profound vintage). It is fermented in open-top barrels which are then sealed for the storage. Pascal enthusiasm for this was very apparent, so much so that it was difficult to understand exactly what is the benefit of this method. I assume, having tasted the wines, that it helps extract the fruit over and above the tannins as the wine is already very smooth. I regretted having to spit!