It must be great to have a business card with Clos Fourtet on one side and Château Poujeaux on the other. Matthieu Cuvelier has. He and his father Philippe clearly have an eye for smart purchases. The family bagged Clos Fourtet in 2001 and Poujeaux in 2008. Neither were exactly in the doldrums at the time but both properties have perhaps since produced some of their finest wines under their new ownership. A visit during primeurs week in early April to taste the 2013 vintage also provided the opportunity to taste the Cuvelier’s most recent acquisitions, Château Côte de Baleau and Château de Grandes Murailles, as well as Clos St Martin, all St Emilion Grand Crus Classé.
Clos Fourtet usually makes full and seductive St Emilion. The vineyard lies in a single bloc on the western edge of the town of St Emilion situated on the famous limestone côtes. It’s a great spot. So how has the property faired in 2013? Again the cool and wet weather during flowering reduced the crop considerably, Merlot especially suffering from coulure, where fruit fails to develop after flowering, and millerandage, where berries develop unevenly on the bunch. What crop remained was saved by a sunny and hot July and August, although the humid and wet conditions at harvest threatened rot, as elsewhere. Severe selection during picking was therefore necessary to eliminate any poor fruit.
In terms of what’s in the glass, Clos Fourtet has plenty of extract, intensity and good mid-palate richness compared to others in 2013. It’s not as impressive as 2011 and 2012 here but it’s obviously an excellent effort for the vintage. They are looking at a 15 months in oak, with only 60% new, both lower than normal, to preserve the fruit and elegance. Interestingly the property employs Stephane Derenoncourt as a consultant but also the legendary Jean-Claude Berrouet too. Matthieu Cuvelier explained it was interesting to see the two men take different routes to achieve similar results.
Château Côte de Baleau and Château de Grandes Murailles were acquired by the Cuvelier family in 2013. The latter is a small 2 hectare property in a single bloc directly adjacent to Clos Fourtet’s twenty hectare vineyard – obviously a very handy terroir for the property to acquire. Château Côtes du Baleau is bigger and runs to 15 hectares and is also situated not far from Château Fonroque. Both wines look elegant and well handled in 2013, Grandes Murailles being fuller with more plummy tones reflecting the blend [100% Merlot] and its terroir.
If I’ve understood it correctly, the purchase of these properties originally also involved Clos St Martin, a tiny 1.3 ha estate. All three properties were originally owned by the Reiffers family and part of the family wished to sell, but Sophie Fourcade [who previously managed the properties and who is also part of the family] didn’t wish to. Unable to afford to buy out the other shares of the family members [you need deep pockets in St Emilion, good terroir fetches upwards of 2 million euros a hectare], the three properties were sold to the Cuveliers but Fourcade has bought back a majority share in Clos St Martin since the sale. She manages the estate with the Cuveliers, and Michel Rolland, previously consultant, has been retained for this property.
Clos St Martin looks full and forward in 2013, partly because of the excellent position of the terroir [the small plot lies close to Canon, Beauséjour and Beau-Séjour-Bécot] but also because of the barrel fermenting techniques used which tends to emphasise the upfront characteristics of the fruit [though this process can also be rather extractive if not managed well].
I see that Clos Fourtet 2013 is now available at around £485 a case, which is marginally cheaper than 2012 and 2011. It is undoubtedly one of the best St Emilions in this vintage, but given the choice, I’d probably opt for the 2012 myself over both 2011 and 2013.
The following wines were tasted at Clos Fourtet on April 2, 2014. Clos Fourtet was also tasted separately at the UGCB event. I’ll include the notes on Château Poujeaux in later posts on Moulis and the left bank wines. Also included are notes on Château Pierre de Lune, the project of Clos Fourtet’s technical director Tony Ballu. He made only 1500 bottles in 2013.
Clos Fourtet, St Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé B
Deep and sense; vibrant edge; purity here, plums and black fruits; meaty note; good palate, very nice texture in the middle; nice elegance too. Nice length. Comparisons here with 2008. [87% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Cabernet Franc, 13.1% alc, 3.48pH 18hl/ha]. Tasted at Clos Fourtet April 2, 2014. Drink 2018-2030. 90-92 [Later note] Deep and saturated look; ripe and attractive aromatics; purity of fruit; unmasked and pure; very cool and attractive; some menthol and pretty intense for the vintage; palate has vibrancy and the fruit again feels pure; filled out in the middle with plenty of extract. Very good effort for the vintage and cleverly judged. Tasted April 2, 2014 UGC 90-92
Château Côte de Baleau, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé
Deepish; dark in the middle; full-ish with fruit, some oak; ripe; quite dense with some chew; little clipped but not dry or extracted. Works. [15ha of vineyard purchased 2013 on sand and limestone soils near Ch Fonroque, blend 80% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon]. Tasted at Clos Fourtet April 2, 2014. Drink 2018-2025. 86-88
Clos Saint Martin, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé
Deep colour; lots of cherry and jam notes; pretty thick palate, but still quite fresh and clean. Nice twist at the end. [1.3ha 75% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon – fermentation in barrel]. Tasted at Clos Fourtet April 2, 2014. Drink 2018-2025. 86-88
Château de Grandes Murailles, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé
Deep and saturated colour; vibrant edge; attractive plums and spices on the nose; feels deep aromatically; nice entry with some sap but good length. Fresh but not at all dry. Good effort.[2ha 100% Merlot just beneath Clos Fourtet purchased 2013]. Tasted at Clos Fourtet April 2, 2014. Drink 2018-2025. 87-89
Château Pierre de Lune, St Emilion Grand Cru
Deep and saturated; lifted aromatics, spices and black fruits; some menthol and ink; chewy palate with lots of material; not too pushed. [90% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon 1500 bottles]. Tasted at Clos Fourtet April 2, 2014. Drink 2018-2025 85-87
Tags: Bordeaux, Bordeaux 2013, Cabernet Franc, Chateau Côte de Baleau, Château de Grandes Murailles, Château Pierre de Lune, Clos Fourtet, Clos Saint Martin, Matthieu Cuvelier, Merlot, Philippe Cuvelier, St Emilion, St Emilion Grand Cru, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé, St Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé