It’s really not that hard to find great wines: go for a prestigious region, select one of the big names, just check that it has a good score from an international critic or two and bingo! As long as of course you don’t mind paying through the nose…… And in Bordeaux the wines have steadily been extracting larger and larger amounts through said nasal passage to the point at which they are now truly eye watering.
Which is why I have been a fan of Chateau Rollan de By for many years, it is a reliably delicious Cru Bourgeois from the Medoc, worthy of aging for a few years and sold at a very fair price. So I was intrigued to hear that proprietor Jean Guyon (who also owns Chateau Greysac & a few others) also makes a more ambitious wine at Chateau Haut Condissas with the aim of rivalling the classified growths.
Arriving at a recent vertical tasting of the wines the very air in the room was scented with plums, cigar box and coco powder, a very promising start and the wines did not disappoint.
Wine maker Olivier Dauga (who used to work at Sociando de Mallet another of my favourite Medoc producers) explained that his goal is to achieve fine tannins by avoiding too much extraction, the fruit should be in the fore with the wood in a supporting role & not the other way around. His philosophy is that good grapes make good wine very good grapes make very good wines. The vineyards of Haut Condissas are to the very north of the Medoc near the Atlantic on the plateau de By close to the river bar.
These are rich merlot driven wines but have an unusually high proportion of around 20 % Petit Verdot. This gives the wines colour & spice and extra freshness but they have to be careful as PV can give green tannins. Made without aeration or filtration in a very pure way with 100% new oak of which 10% American. The chateaux believe that affordability is important for high quality wines in the Medoc.
Haut Condissas 1999. Nice cigar box nose with red fruit berries. In the mouth medium body, fresh, light red fruit, more cedar, soft slightly powdery tannins & medium length. At its peak I would have thought but still full of life. Lifted & Refined. Very good. Returning later vegetal notes had developed.
Haut Condissas 2009. A hot year. Ripe plums, red fruit, faint cloves and smoke on the nose. Full body, medium + acid, more plums, cooked red fruit, some more cloves, coco powder, toasty, ripe soft tannin, and a long finish. 14% alcohol so a big wine but finely balanced. Excellent.
Haut Condissas 2010. Beautiful scented nose of red fruit, cedar and smoke, clove. On the palate: lovely & cool balanced, medium body, good fruit, lifted, tasty lashings of toast and spice. Very long. Excellent. Returning later ground coffee & forest fruit compote.
Haut Condissas 2013. A Kosher wine – This is made in a different way observing the Sabbath & according to Judaism’s dietary laws.
There was a lot of rain in 2013 the wine is light in colour and intensity. More fruit driven nose with black plum & coco. Lighter body fruit, some toast and vanilla, slightly more angular tannin. Very drinkable. Very good.
Haut Condissas 2014. On the nose red fruit, some black berries, spice, smoke. In the mouth great balance, lifted and fresh, full fruit, nice spice, ripe tannin. Long a Lovely wine. Excellent.
Haut Condissas 2005.60% Merlot, 20% Petit Verdot,10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc. On the nose rich ripe fruit, smoky, coco & vanilla, forest floor an intense & complex nose. On the palate: lovely texture, medium plus body, more opulent than others, developed with mature flavours, leather, loam etc. with a lovely fruit core, holt chocolate. Very complex & vibrant. Great length and good freshness. Gorgeous! An outstanding wine.
The chateau bottled a small quantity of single varietal wines from each of the grape varieties in the 2005 blend and in a brilliant twist to the normal wine tasting invited us to produce our own blend.
2005 100% Merlot. Dusty coco and plum nose, not particularly intense. Gorgeous fruit pie and chocolate shake, full body, powdery coating tannins. Medium acid.
2005 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Clove, indistinct fruit on nose. Cool, refined great structure, high acid, full body, long.
2005 100% Cabernet Franc. More delicate fruit raspberries etc. Bit of smoke. Beautiful fruit, fresh, refined, long & lifted wow! Light tannin and light structure.
2005 100% Petit Verdot. Spicy slightly funky with dark and stewed intense fruit, clove & lots of tannin.
My blend: 25% Merlot 25% CS, 40% CF, 10% PV. Slightly less open than actual blend, showing the austerity of CS and lighter fruit & high notes of CF.
It was fascinating to taste each varietal in its mature state and experiment with how each component adds to the blend. Interestingly the only wine which really stood on its own two was the Cabernet Franc & the 2005 blend was far and away greater than the sum of its parts.
The 2005 and 2010 are still available at around £30- £35 per bottle by the case which for back vintages of an outstanding wine is great value!