This week we held a tasting of second wines from six Super Second estates in the lovely surroundings of Boisdale, Belgravia, (one of our favourite haunts!) in partnership with Duncan Lawrie, Private Bank.
In 1855 Napoleon III decided that the greatest wines of Bordeaux should be showcased to the rest of the world. He requested that the Bordeaux brokers draw up a list of chateaux using quality as the indicator of ranking, including only ones from the Left Bank. However, the brokers kept with tradition and ranked the estates by price. The classification was decreed solely for the purpose of the great exhibition of Paris, but has been immutable ever since, recording 58 red and 21 white wine producing properties of the Medoc ranked from First Growths to Fifth Growths.
The Super Seconds are chateaux whose quality is on par with First Growths, but belong to Second to Fifth Growth status. They offer value for money, demanding much lower prices than that of the First Growths.
The second wine of an estate, also known as their second label, is the cuvee which does not go into an estate’s first wine, also known as their Grands Vin.
We tasted a selection of wines from 2008, 2006, 2005 and 2000, of which the 2005s shone the brightest. The overall conclusion is if you cannot afford the sometimes eye watering prices of a chateau’s first wine, their second wines are a great alternative.
1. Alter Ego de Palmer 2008 – £36
Margaux, second wine of Palmer (Third Growth)
52% Merlot and 48% Cabernet Sauvignon
Purely seductive in its personality, this blend of 52% Merlot and 48% Cabernet Sauvignon displays silky tannins and a medium to full-bodied mouthfeel, with plenty of wood smoke, creme de cassis, and sweet, foresty notes. It is round, generous and irresistible. Drink it over the next decade. 89 points Antonio Galloni
Our verdict: The smoke was a little over powering. Semi closed, this needs more time to show its potential. 87-88 points
2. La Dame de Montrose 2008 – £26
Saint Estephe, second wine of Montrose (Second Growth)
56% Merlot and 44% Cabernet Sauvignon
More classic with noticeable tannins and higher acidity, this medium-bodied, elegant effort offers notes of earthy, loamy soil intermixed with black and red currant fruit. Drink this medium-bodied 2008 over the next 7-8 years. 89 points Neal Martin
Our verdict: Angular and muscular. This was a little tight. Concentrated fruit and pronounced tannin. Needs 3-4 more years before it should be touched. Montrose is known in the Medic as one if the longest aging wines. 88-89 points
3. Clos du Marquis 2006 – £39
Saint Julien, second wine of Leoville Las Cases (Second Growth)
13% Cabernet Franc, 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 41% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot
As usual, the second wine, the 2006 Clos du Marquis, exhibits a character similar to the grand vin, but it is a more fruit-forward effort with sweeter tannins, and a more precocious, evolved personality. With super intense black cherry and cedary notes intermixed with hints of licorice and barrique, this deep, medium to full-bodied, velvety-textured wine is ideal for consumption over the next 15+ years. 90 points Neal Martin
Our verdict: Noticeable warmth despite being 13% abv. Medium acidity, not as refreshing as thought. Tannins are ripe and round, good fruit. 89 points
4. Les Pagodes de Cos 2005 – £41
Saint Estephe, second wine of Cos d’Estournel (Second Growth)
50% Merlot and 50% Cabernet Sauvignon
The second wine, the 2005 Les Pagodes de Cos, is already delicious. Offering plenty of cedar, cappuccino, and black cherry notes in a medium-bodied, seamless style with no hard edges, it will provide plenty of pleasure over the next decade. 90 points Neal Martin
Our verdict: This was well balanced with fresh acidity and ripe tannins. Lots of fruit though still youthful. 2005 known for its great balance. Approachable in 2-3 years time, showing its best in 7-8 years. 90 points
5. La Croix de Beaucaillou 2005 – £37
Saint Julien, second wine of Ducru Beaucaillou (Second Growth)
50% Merlot and 50% Cabernet Sauvignon
The second wine, the sensational 2005 Croix de Beaucaillou, is the finest example of this cuvee I have ever tasted. Sweet black raspberry and black cherry fruit aromas soar from the glass of this open-knit seductress. A dense ruby/purple color, beautiful full-bodied, lush, expansive flavors, low acidity, and sweet tannin suggest this lovely cuvee should be drunk over the next 12-13 years. It is an amazing sleeper of the vintage! 91 points Neal Martin
Our verdict: This was singing! Open and fragrant with pronounced complex flavours. This is rich and round. Already showing tertiary flavours including chocolate. Approachable now though will be even better in a 6/7 years. Very long finish. Wine of the night. 91-92 points
6. Les Haut de Pontet 2000 – £32
Pauillac, second wine of Pontet Canet (Fifth Growth)
1% Cabernet Franc, 53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 46% Merlot
85-87 Parker Points
Our Verdict: A pronounced nose with fruits still showing and lovely pencil shaving. Starting to show tertiary notes such as meaty and farmyard aromas. On the palate this was round and well balanced. Complex with flavours interchanging on the palate. There was a slight greenness on the nose which should disappear in time. 90 points
Vintages we tasted
2008 – a good vintage – rather wet summer which was salvaged by a good autumn
2006 – a good vintage – shadowed by 2005 (like 2001 and 1983). Frost, hot and dry summer, recovered in Autumn – right bank produced better wines
2005 – exceptional vintage – hot days and cool nights. Brilliant fruit, great balance of tannins and acidity, produced harmonious wines
2000 – perfect growing season – hot, dry summer producing fine reds and full bodied whites