There is no more informal, carefree primeurs tasting to be had than the one on offer in the speakeasy St Emilion cellars of Jean-Luc Thunevin. ‘JLT’s own range of properties is laid out on a bench before you, followed by those he consults for and distributes [and there’s a multitude of these]. You’re given a set of large glasses, a table between some stainless steel tanks and it’s time to help yourself. If the approach is refreshing, the wines are even more so – glass after glass of provocative, exotic, remarkable Bordeaux passes nose and lips. It’s a purists nightmare but a hedonists dream. And sat at the top of the Thunevin tree is Château Valandraud itself. The wine is as much a statement about the man and his ambitions as it is an expression of terroir, [though that is perhaps true of all great wine] and, frankly, who cares when the stuff tastes so damn good. And Valandraud 2014 is damn good in my book.
If the list below is eclectic, there are very few misfires amongst them. Thunevin even manages to pull off Syrah and Chardonnay in Bordeaux [but necessarily labeled as Vin de France] with some aplomb. The real picks though are amongst those properties that Jean-Luc owns with Murielle Andraud and Virginie Thunevin. Once again Clos Badon shines for me, the over-performing St Emilion Grand Cru. There is plenty of extract and matter here but the tannins are supple and well-managed. Château Bel Air Ouÿ is new to me and enjoyable. Domaine des Sabines in Lalande de Pomerol is sexy, enticing and impressive, as is a plump and plummy Le Clos du Beau Père from Pomerol – and all this before we get to the Valandraud line-up [red and white].
Bringing up the rear is 3 de Valandraud, which has spice and satin fruit on the nose, but needs to infill a little on the palate. The volume starts to turn up with Virginie de Valandraud, which has beautiful glossy fruit tones and a creamy, textured palate. This is seriously good stuff. If the musical score is rising, Thunevin’s orchestra is at full tilt when you hit Château Valandraud. There is phenomenal concentration to the wine in 2014 but also freshness and no hint of heaviness, despite the depth and texture. Sublimated black cherry tones dominate the aromatics and there are layers of saturated black fruit on the palate. Despite the scale and the weight the wine manages to comes together nicely on the finish, with considerable ripe tannic clout but also degree of freshness. 2014 Valandraud looks an excellent effort to me.
Thunevin also turns his hand very nicely to white wines and both Virginie de Valandraud Blanc and Valandraud Blanc [with a fraction more weight] are both impressive.
The following sixteen wines were tasted in Jean-Luc Thunevin’s cellars on Friday April 3, 2015. I hope the notes are useful.
Bad Boy Syrah, Vin de France, 2014
Deep and sat colour; earth purple at edge; sexy; perfumed; liquorice; black fruits; forward; soft entry; perfume; some charred wood and chocolate; black fruits; earth and spice; very glossy and creamy palate; hedonistic Bad Boy! Soft finish; black chocolate; soft tannins. Drink 2017-2023. 86-88+
Domaine Virginie Thunevin, Bordeaux 2014
Deep and sat colour; opaque at centre; tight to rim; redder; spicy plum; creamy fruit; lighter and fresher more mid-weight but with that creamy imprint; freshness; spicy plum tones; nice grit and texture; some chew on the finish. Good. Drink 2018-2022. 85-87+
Bad Boy, Bordeaux 2014
Deep and saturated look; earth red purple; cake spices; tar; spicy plum; ripe and lifted; sweet and ripe; full and easy; plenty of matter; some fig, ripe plum and prune but very soft. Easy and full. Soft tannins. Chocolate on the finish. Chew and extract on the end. Fun though. Drink 2017-2023. 86-88
Domaine des Sabines, Lalande de Pomerol, 2014
Deep and saturated; brighter purple at edge; exotic spices; ripe plums; attractive concentration; sexy; freshness too; ripe fruit; some oak to meld on the palate; plenty of sweet plummy fruit though; like a junior version of Le Bon Pasteur; good depth and sweet fruit. Very enjoyable. Lots of texture but ripeness to the tannins. Excellent effort. Drink 2018-2025. 89-91+
Le Clos du Beau Père, Pomerol, 2014
Glossy and deep with liqourice note; plums, very glossy and concentrated; fruitcake and spices; creamy fruit; plums, black cherry; oak; nicely integrated; glossy and creamy mouthfeel; nice balance at the back end; not over extracted or dry; fruit completes the circle. Another excellent effort. Black chocolate on the finish. Drink 2019-2027. 90-92+
Château Bel Air Ouÿ, St Emilion Grand Cru, 2014
Mid depth; less depth than some; earthy purple red at edge; spicy, plum fruit; some fresh cherry; stone fruit too; ripe attack; sweet ripe fruit; plums and cherry; medium weight but nice sap and freshness. Pretty good. Nice sap and vigour. Drink 2019-2025. 87-89+
Clos Badon-Thunevin, St Emilion Grand Cru, 2014
Deep and saturated style; opaque at centre; colour tight to rim; earthy purple; lovely plummy fruit; very ripe but not jammy; cake spices; fruit cake notes; creamy; some liquorice notes from the oak; ripe entry; sweet; spicy; very full and ripe; spices and plums. Great effort. Nice finish. Creamy. Satisfying. Little chew perhaps on the end. Drink 2019-2025. 90-92+
3 de Valandraud, St Emilion, 2014
Mid depth; dark core; earthy purple at edge; black cherry and spice on the nose; little satin; fresh; vigorous; some acidity; lacks a little middle; should infill; grip and vigour; fresh and vigorous finish. Some spices. Drink 2018-2023. 85-87
Virginie de Valandraud, St Emilion Grand Cru, 2014
Deep and dark looking; tight to the edge; earthy blackcurrant; cool black cherry; plummy fruit; very nice seam of layered glossy fruit on the nose; ripe entry; creamy; integrated; textured and complete; creamy; ripe and creamy mid palate; tannins considerable but well managed. Chew on the finish but also freshness. Chocolate notes. Drink 2019-2025. 91-93
Château Valandraud, St Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé, 2014
Deep and saturated; opaque; very dark and saturated; tight to rim; layered and tight – but a ball of the glossiest fruit; seam of sublimated black cherry and ripe plums; quite tight; layers here; fruit so glossy; creamy; pure; saturated; but not over extracted; black fruits; plums; very glossy and sexy indeed; chewy and dense but with very ripe tannins; not at all dry; full and extract on the finish. Brillant effort in the Valandraud style. Drink 2019-2030. 94-96
Bad Boy Chardonnay, Vin de France, 2014
Pale silver; brilliant gold; some mineral; butter; little white melon; lees; some weight but freshness; mid weight. Good effort. Lees notes. Drink 2015-2019. 87-88+
Virginie de Valandraud Blanc, Bordeaux Blanc, 2014
Pale straw; spicy grapefruit, wax and ginger; full; real zest and lees notes; nice palate; breadth; soapy notes from the sémillon; ginger and citrus tones on the finish; nice end; some lees and candy/peardrop pith notes. [50% Sauvignon Blanc, 50% Sémillon]. Drink 2015-2021. 90-92
Valandraud Blanc, Bordeaux Blanc, 2014
Pale silver gold; lees; grapefruit; real zest; ginger notes; tight; very coiled palate; with concentration; full; spices and ginger; full palate; nice acidity and breadth. Great stuff. [33% Sémillon 33% Sauvignon Blanc 33% Sauvignon Gris]. Drink 2016-2023. 92-94+
Other St Emilion:
Château La Marzelle, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé, 2014
Deep and saturated look; spicy liquorice; black fruits; oak on the palate; creamy fruit little dominated by the oak. Plenty of extract and sweetness; fruit is good. Oak needs to settle. Chewy finish. Drink 2019-2024. 85-87+
Château Croix Cardinale, St Emilion Grand Cru, 2014
Deep and saturated look; full; textured; freshness; ripe fruit; black cherry; very saturated style; ripe and gutsy fruit; very creamy notes; nice purity; good chew. Drink 2019-2025. 87-89+
Clos Romanile & Galaxies 2 Romanile, St Emilion Grand Cru, 2014
Deep and saturated; perfumed; black cherry; lifted oak; very overt; mocha and chocolate; sweet entry; black cherry; some cassis; freshness here too [somehow]; saturation but creamy feel; weighty feel and chewy but very full and tannins sweet. Big. Drink 2019-2025. 87-89+
Tags: Bad Boy, Bad Boy Chardonnay, Bad Boy Syrah, Bordeaux, Bordeaux 2014, Château Bel-Air-Ouy, Chateau Valandraud, Chateau Valandraud Blanc, Clos Badon, Clos de le Beau Père, Clos Romanile, Domaine des Sabines, Domaine Virginie Thunevin, Lalande de Pomerol, Pomerol, St Emilion, St Emilion Grand Cru, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé, St Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé, Virginie de Valandraud Blanc