It’s usually a treat in Jean-Luc Thunevin’s speakeasy cellars, a kind of laid-back hedonistic chaos in St Emilion’s backstreets. Not this year. I was late. My fault trying to cram in too many wines into a shorter schedule. And that evening Jean-Luc seemed in no mood for latecomers. So far, not so good. I quickly worked through the wines. They display his typical brilliance. Thunevin’s pulled a rabbit out of a hat in the last few vintages [including some of the very best 2013s] but give him an exciting year like 2015 on the right bank and he hits the ball out of the park. Château Valandraud is epic this year – it is a wine of extraordinary depth and richness. Do also check out his St Emilion Grand Crus Clos Badon and Château Le Bel Air Ouÿ – the former lush and concentrated, the latter fresh and bright.
Not that 2015 was a vintage without concerns for Thunevin. He explained that the stratospheric temperatures in June and July and the drought conditions would have been very problematic without the late July rain and cool August that followed. These conditions saved the vintage. It allowed for consistent grape ripening, and helped retain acidity in the fruit. Had the extremely hot and dry conditions continued, there would have been real problems. With maturity blocked there would be inconsistent ripening, as in 2003, and potentially ballooning alcohols and evaporating acidity might have forced a harvest before the grapes were phenolically ripe.
Such problems never presented themselves because of the cooler late July and August weather with some rain. September was also significant – largely dry [without the damaging harvest rain in parts of the left bank] with some cloud and sun. Temperatures were moderate, in fact slightly cooler than average for September here in St Emilion. The result in 2015, Jean-Luc Thunevin feels, is a stylistic combination of 2009 and 2010. And perhaps he’s not wrong….
The following wines were tasted on Wednesday 6th April, 2016. I’ll report separately on Thunevin’s wines from Pomerol and Lalande de Pomerol in separate posts.
Château Le Bel Air Ouÿ, St Emilion Grand Cru
Deep and dark; more red at edge; little fresh and reductive; has bitter cherry notes; dark chocolate; fresh quite fresh and spicy; nice Bordeaux flavours; nice sap and freshness; has good acidity and feels like St Emilion. Good – if less lush – more spicy style. Drink 2020-2028. 90-92+
3 de Valandraud, St Emilion Grand Cru
Deep at centre; attractive fruit; some lift; plum; some fruit cake; layered; lighter and less lush than Badon [tasted at the same time]; fresh fruit and quite lively; has attractive Bordeaux qualities here; some texture in the mid palate; fleshy for a 3rd wine. Nice chew and extract on the back. Good effort – and bodes well for the quality of the grand vin. Drink 2019-2025. 89-91+
Clos Badon, St Emilion Grand Cru
Deep and saturated colour; lovely lush aromatics; layers here; nicely integrated oak; plums, dark chocolate; spices; full certainly; ripe; full and quite concentrated on the palate; though the tannins are quite soft there are a great many of them; chewy on the finish but there is plenty of matter so this should work well. Satisfying and pretty jam-packed with fruit. Big. Impressive Clos Badon. Drink 2022-2030. 92-94+
Virginie de Valandraud, St Emilion Grand Cru
Deep and saturated; opaque at centre; satiny fruit; layered and sexy; quite sublimated in style but I like this; some coffee and mocha tones integrated into the fruit; ripe entry; full; satiny aspect again – which makes it quite a contrast to the grand vin; attractive and no hard edges or drying aspect on the palate; freshness on the finish – though the alcohol is clearly considerable [I forgot to ask]. Chalk v cheese with the grand vin. A beauty versus the grand vin’s power. Drink 2020-2030 93-95+
Château Valandraud, St Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé
Arterial; colour right up to the edge; doesn’t get any denser or more viscous than this; tears slowly creep down the glass; lovely aromatics; very sexy and very full – could a wine be fuller, more pent up and lush I wonder? This wine is from another planet – Planet Hedonist; but there is real precision here – a wonderful seam of concentrated fruit on the nose; full attack on the palate with layers of ripe plummy, concentrated sweet fruit but not jammy in the slightest; concentrated and phenomenal; weight and extract are really considerable but the tannins so soft and the extraction expert; lots of coffee and mocha tones on the finish; very big but somehow defies the gravity of its own proportions. Remarkable effort. Drink 2022-2035. 96-100
Virginie Valandraud Blanc, Bordeaux Blanc
Pale silver/straw; grapefruit, zest and lees notes; full but zesty; some saline notes at the edge; more saline and salt than the VB; broad palate which has attractive tightness; grapefruit qualities; zest at the end; some candy and pear drop note on the finish. Very alive. Drink 2017-2020. 90-92+
Valandraud Blanc, Bordeaux Blanc
Washed silver; palest gold; brilliant; deep – almost has the character and weight of top notch Pessac-Léognan [Haut-Brion eat your heart out!); grapefruit but also mineral quality; saline edge; bold palate; lots of zest and life; full with lovely zip and freshness; fills the mouth with flavour but very zesty; great stuff. Nice freshenss and length. Really good length. Exciting white. 2017-2025. 92-94+
Tags: 3 de Valandraud, bdx15, Bordeaux, Bordeaux 2015, Cabernet Franc, Château Le Bel Air Ouÿ, Chateau Valandraud, Clos Badon, Jean-Luc Thunevin, Merlot, St Emilion Grand Cru, St Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé, vin, Virginie de Valandraud, wine