BORDEAUX - On the Left Bank of the Médoc region in Bordeaux, the finest wines are all about pebbles. The greatest soil, gravelly and stony, is near the Gironde river, and it is here that the Cabernet Sauvignon grape really comes into its own. Nowhere is this more in evidence than at Château Ducru Beaucaillou, the majestic Super Second from St. Julien.


CHÂTEAU DUCRU BEAUCAILLOU'S EXCEPTIONAL SITE BOASTS INCOMPARABLE VIEWS OVER THE GIRONDE ESTUARY.

This last weekend, as President Hollande opened Vinexpo in Bordeaux, I was tramping round the heartland of Ducru Beaucaillou, with the bright green of the vines’ flourishing vegetation all around me. Glancing down, prominent white pebbles covered the surface of the vineyard, not the huge slabs of stone, or “galets” that are found in Châteauneuf du Pape, but significant enough to make the soil underneath barely visible. It follows that the vines have to struggle to find nourishment, but they like it just so, driving their roots downwards to find vital trace elements, as well as water when the going gets dry up on the surface. The Cabernet Sauvignon, with its small berries and thick skins, loves this situation, especially in the maritime, luminous landscape of the Girondin vineyards. When you look from the château at Ducru Beaucaillou, across the park and down to the river, you can sometimes spot a ship gliding towards the city of Bordeaux, or up to the Atlantic, mysteriously seeming to float above the intervening trees.


DUCRU BEAUCAILLOU’S OWNER, BRUNO BORIE.

From one of the Médoc’s most magical chimera, to a great tasting experience, Ducru Beaucaillou’s owner, Bruno Borie, had put out a show-stopping array of his wines that left us in rapturous mood. Expectations are always high, of course, when a 2009 is poured and Ducru is opulent, generous and rich – no surprise there. However, the vivacity and black fruit sweetness of the 2008 is a vivid reminder that great Claret can also be made (from great terroir) in less vaunted years. There is attractive, perfumed, finesse on the 2007, which can be drunk quite soon in its life, while the 2006 really dances on the palate, with red fruit, freshness and a light coffee finish. The 2005 is truly top flight, complex and magnificent, luscious and long – I wrote “bingo” in my notes.



A FINE BOTTLE OF ST. JULIEN CABERNET SAUVIGNON FROM CHÂTEAU DUCRU BEAUCAILLOU.

Then came the smooth, silky, black fruit and velvet of the 2001, which should never be overlooked, even if followed by the 2000, which lived up to its reputation, with spiciness, classic volume, superb structure and myriad fruit flavour. Another vintage to ignore at your peril is 1998, which at Ducru, is a great gulp of vanillin, cocoa and aromatic St. Julien class. I was completely bowled over by the 1996, a superb year in the Médoc for Cabernet Sauvignon – if you like mocha and cassis, black pepper, glycerol and black cherries, this is the wine for you.


INSIDE THE CHÂTEAU DUCRU BEAUCAILLOU WINE CELLAR.

There are similarities between the 1996 and the 1986, although winemaking became more refined in the Nineties. Ducru’s 1986 is a big, inky wine, with elements of chocolate, leather and liquorice coating the entire mouth. And, if that does not tempt you, try a Rosé from Provence. Certainly, Ducru Beaucaillou of this stature is the ideal accompaniment to the game that Bruno Borie brings home for the pot – all I have to do is to be there at the right time of the year, notebook at the ready!