In 2017 the vineyards of Bordeaux suffered due to frost, heat and hail resulting in a much diminished yield that culminated in one of the most lacklustre en primeur campaigns in memory. Happily, 2018 saw far more favourable growing conditions giving a more abundant harvest of healthy grapes that should produce some terrific wines. While we await that outcome, we should enjoy the wines of the excellent 2015 and 2016 vintages that could rival the stellar 2009s and 2010s.
Château d'Abzac, whose 35 hectares of vineyards lie on gravelly soil 10 kilometres northeast of Pomerol, is an excellent source of well-made, keenly-priced, forward-drinking red Bordeaux. The château is classified as a historic monument and has been home to the D'Anglade family since 1796. Their popular 'Bordeaux Supérieur' is produced from pure Merlot that is vinified in stainless steel vats and matured for 2 years prior to bottling. It is effectively our 'House' Claret and has gained a loyal following for its bright red fruit scents and flavours plus supple tannins. It drinks wonderfully well from release and will readily support 3-5 years bottle age. In 2014 the D'Anglades bought a 1.5 hectare parcel of vines in Lussac-Saint-Émilion from which they produce their 'Château Milonblanc'. It is made from a blend of 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon that is racked and raised in French oak barrels prior to bottling. It has a similar core of cassis fruit to the principal bottling but a little more weight and concentration and a firmer tannic grip. It merits decanting and makes an excellent partner to grilled red meat or mushroom dishes.
Denis Durantou, patron of Pomerol's acclaimed Château L'Eglise Clinet, also has vineholdings in neighbouring Lalande de Pomerol from which he produces his 'La Chenade' bottling that has long been considered a Bordelais bon marché by wine trade cognoscenti. Made from 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc it has classic 'pencil shaving' and black berry notes and a rounded palate of dark autumnal fruit over a background of fine-grained tannins. It will cellar well for a decade and longer still in superior vintages.
Buying mature classed-growth claret that isn't ruinously expensive is not easy, but we were pleased to procure a parcel of 'Château Batailley' Pauillac in the diminutive 2012 vintage for your (and our) delectation. Made from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot in descending proportions it has attractive cedar scents and a smoothly-delineated black fruit palate supported by tannins that are beginning to sweeten and soften with age. Already drinking well, it should age gracefully for a further 10-15 years.