There are some excellent wines in St Emilion this year. While the 2017 vintage will always be remembered for the severe April frost, unlike 1991, that other frost affected year, there are a great many impressive wines in the appellation [and the same could never be said for ‘91]. Still the frost has created inconsistency, affecting the blends of some, reducing the volumes for many, and wiping out vineyards for others. Interestingly critic Antonio Gallioni has called 2017 a right bank year. Certainly many of the top wines here are really good, friendlier perhaps that the correct reds on the left bank, even though the left bankers technically profited more from the growing season. Yet as Cyrille Thienpont at Pavie Macquin pondered, ‘It is not really a case of left bank versus right this year, or Merlot versus Cabernet, more a question of which terroirs performed best.”
Posts Tagged ‘Chateau Le Prieuré’
I used to save the best to last. When I first started visiting the cellars of Jean-Luc Thunevin I’d turn up at the end of primeurs week. What a fool I was. Now it’s the first place I head to in St Emilion. It was interesting hearing Jean-Luc’s thoughts on the 2017 vintage. In places unaffected by frost, on the best terroirs he reckons it’s the equivalent to 2014 and even 2015 in places. Importantly Château Valandraud itself was not affected by the late April freeze. Other properties that Thunevin advises were, including some of his own properties such as Clos Badon in St Emilion and Le Clos du Beau Père in Pomerol. If volumes are down, in many cases quality is good to very good, judging from the wines tasted in Thunevin’s cellars. I love the energy that he manages to generate in his own wines and for Valandraud fans [read Jean-Luc fans] his 2017s do not disappoint.
Saturday morning started in the cellars of Jean-Luc Thunevin. It’s always a tasting that I look forward to. Thunevin is candid about the late April 2017 frost which hit the right bank hard. Some of his properties and those he consults for were unscathed, some were left slightly affected, and others have been decimated. In some the effect is simply on volumes, in others it has also affected quality and style. I’ll write in more detail on St Emilion in a future post but the good news is that qualitatively Château Valandraud is excellent. It has wonderful perfume and layers of fruit. For me it is up there certainly with the 2012 and the 2014. St Emilion Grand Cru Clos Badon is in good shape [but very low production]. Jean-Luc’s Pomerol Le Clos du Beau Père also looks good.
Let’s not beat about the bush. St Emilion has had a glorious vintage in 2015. I think I’ve scored it even more highly than 2010 in many cases. It’s a different beast of course – in fact more of a beauty. There is a supple quality to the fruit, a seductive aspect. It makes so many of the wines delicious. If they don’t have the prodigious densities achieved in 2010, that’s not a bad thing. Many of these wines are caressing and voluptuous. There’s more apparent freshness too than in 2009. There are far fewer of the jammy over-ripe qualities that affected some wines here that year. I think I’m also detecting a perceptible shift in winemaking emphasis on the right bank too. This new paradigm hasn’t quite arrived everywhere, but I think we are starting to witness the positive results of changes in the approach and sophistication of vineyard management [and an increasing movement to organic methods], harvesting at better combined ripeness [not over-ripeness] and greater sensitivity in the cellar in terms of extraction. For me there is no doubt that these 2015 St Emilions are the most attractively styled primeur wines I’ve yet had from this varied and fascinating appellation.
Overall 2014 is an impressive vintage judging from what was in the glass in many of the St Emilion’s tasted during primeurs week last month. There is perhaps more weight and structure than 2012 [itself a very good vintage in St Emilion] and, overall, 2014 is probably the best since 2009 and 2010. It also has greater apparent acidity than in those two years. What’s exciting is the combination of the freshness, the aromatics and the depth in the best wines. There are also excellent wines at all levels, not just at the top echelons. That means there is value to be had in 2014, where the price is right. Overall it is undoubtedly an excellent year for Cabernet Franc here. The variety loved the Indian summer. Merlot is also impressive on the best terroirs. It’s a generalization, but the wines seemed less over-extracted than usual, with greater emphasis on proportionality and harmony. This may be the vintage speaking, but let’s hope it reflects more balanced, adaptive winemaking approaches. And even where properties have gone hell for leather, generally the ball stays in the air. The notes on the following 107 wines represents my most comprehensive primeurs tastings yet of the wines of St Emilion.
Overall St Emilion is something of a mixed bag in 2013. Quality is better than you might expect given the dreadful vintage, conditions that were especially tricky for Merlot, the district’s principal grape. It was badly affected by poor weather at flowering, which reduced yields and led to poor fruit set; later the humid conditions at vintage and the threat and rapid onset of rot [botrytis] also adversely affected the variety. Still St Emilion has made a number of attractive and well-made wines. But there are plenty of disappointments too. Some are thin and over-worked; others hollow. Quality follows terroir and those with cash. The best wines have forward and attractive fruit flavours and some are competitively priced. While it’s a complex picture, overall the wines of St Emilion are probably a more immediately appealing and joyous bunch than their left-bank counterparts in 2013.