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Bordeaux’s best value red: Château Meyney?

Written by JW. Posted in Bordeaux

St Estèphe is awash with good value Bordeaux. This most northerly appellation in the Haut-Médoc produces firm yet fleshy reds with lots of extract and tannin. Modern methods of vinification combined with the picking of tannin ripe grapes have reduced the coarseness that characterised some of the wines here a decade or so ago. Full-throttle St Estèphe always was but now there’s much more finesse to be found here. A list of affordable, good quality wines from this appellation would certainly include Château Capbern, Château Le Crock, Château Le Boscq, Château Tronquoy-Lalande and Château Beau-Site. In very top vintages these wines are of classed growth quality. There’s another tier above which includes Château Haut-Marbuzet, Château Lafon-Rochet, Château Cos Labory, Château Phélan-Ségur, Château Ormes de Pez, Château de Pez and Château Meyney. At the top of the tree, classed growths Château Calon Ségur, Château Cos d’Estournel and Château Montrose often make wine of equivalent quality [in very different ways] to the neighbouring Pauillac first growths.

I’ve few regrets in life. Two relate to wine. The first, parting with a case of Montrose 2003 to help finance a new kitchen. The second, discovering last week how much cash I’d missed out on by drinking my remaining bottle Sassicaia 1985. [Currently Harvey Nichols are flogging it for a cool £2600]. While prices for the world’s top reds have gone crazy, and Bordeaux prices are once again up after a dip, St Estèphe still proves you don’t need a premier league bank account or Silicon Valley salary to afford really fine, quality Bordeaux. And, out of all of the great value wines in the appellation, the smartest insiders tip in St Estèphe remains Château Meyney.

Meyney’s main strategic advantage is geographical. It shares the same terroir as immediate neighbour Château Montrose. The vineyards are extremely well located and well drained, falling away gently towards the Gironde. Its position reflects many of the very best vineyard spots in the Haut-Médoc, not just Montrose but similar geographical positions can be found at Château Latour, Château Léoville-Las-Cases and Château Ducru Beaucaillou. Still to wring the most out of your spot of land requires human talent and endeavour [and deep pockets].

Anne Le Naour [right]

I’ve been following developments at Château Meyney closely over the past decade. Firstly, Meyney has benefitted greatly from its purchase by Crédit Agricole Grand Crus in 2004. There has been significant investment in this property that produced extraordinarily long-lived wines in the 1960s and 1970s. Secondly, credit must be given to the winemaking nouse of leading oenologist Anne Le Naour, whose New World experience as well as that with Michel Rolland, gives her an open-minded and unashamedly twenty-first century approach to vinification in Bordeaux, which she has brought to Meyney. There has also been a third recent ingredient since 2014 that has received relatively little attention: the consultancy of Hubert de Boüard, of Château Angélus right bank fame.

This combination hasn’t turbocharged things in the cellar so much as added depth and refinement to the wine. There has been continuous improvement here over the last half-dozen vintages. There is more volume here now, and more ambition too. Yet, and here’s the important bit, prices haven’t really risen much. We’re still talking about wine that can be picked up for £15-20 en primeur and recent vintages can be found on the shelf for well under £30, even if you include the recent slide in the value of Sterling versus the Euro.

Recently I opened two bottles of Meyney made ten years apart that made for an interesting ‘before’ and ‘after’ comparison. The 2000, itself a very fine vintage in Bordeaux, was made under the old Cordier administration at Meyney. The second bottle, from 2010, was the first vintage in which Anne Le Naour was fully at the controls from start to finish. Chalk and cheese? To an extent, yes. Obviously there was a resemblance in terms of structure and sinew between the two vintages, but the 2010 offers much greater depth and evident fruit than the 2000 does now [and presumably did]. The most obvious difference is the greater tannin refinement in the wine now. Even in a year that is pretty tannic [owing to drought and the cool maturity of 2010] there is a remarkably supple quality to the tannic profile in Meyney 2010 which is enticing. By contrast the tannic structure in Meyney 2000 is much firmer and drier. To a considerable degree it is more angular and the tannin profile tougher. My full notes are at the end of this post.

Interestingly the 2014 Bordeaux vintage, with its fascinating late Indian summer, really favoured the northern Haut-Médoc and St Estèphe especially. Within the appellation both Meyney and Montrose were amongst the last to finish picking in the whole of Bordeaux. During the 2014 primeurs tastings Montose and Calon Ségur were amongst my wines of the vintage. Yet Meyney, at a fraction of the price, really impressed. [I bought Calon, Capbern, Meyney, Le Boscq and Le Crock en primeur in that good value vintage]. With the dry and sunny conditions of 2016 it will be interesting to look at this appellation in April during the annual primeurs shindig. James Suckling has already rated the vintage as good as 2015 on the left bank I see, if not better. I’ll let you know what I think after I’ve tasted the wines in Bordeaux soon.

Here are the notes on the two vintages of Meyney I opened over the festive period in late 2016.

Château Meyney, St Estèphe, Cru Bourgeois, 2000

Brick red at edge; still dark at core; impressively coloured for 16 years of age; some blackcurrants, earth and dusty tannic notes; some liquorice; palate mid-weight with some chew to the tannins; palate a little old fashioned; well structured with some extract but tannins rather dusty. Fresh acidity. Overall lacks flesh in comparison to current vintages. Tasted Dec ’16. Drink now-2020. 86+

Château Meyney, St Estèphe, 2010

Deeply coloured; earthy red/purple still at edge; sweet blackcurrant fruit; ripe plum notes; quite modern but still very St Estèphe; step change qualitatively over the 2000 vintage; certain plushness to the fruit; very nicely composed; oak nicely integrated; this is a serious effort with the fruit and structure to age [and further improve] over the next decade. Some graphite notes on the finish. Opened up well in the decanter, revealing further layers of spicy blackcurrant and plum fruit. Top class St Estèphe. Needs 5 years to be at its best but will last for decades with this balance. Tasted Dec ’16. Drink now-2035. 92+

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