St Estèphe is one of Bordeaux’s great value appellations. The wines are noted for their flavour, depth and chew. Vineyard work over the last decade allied to later picking has yielded greater tannin ripeness in the wines and, combined with modern winemaking techniques, this has made St Estèphe overall a much more attractive prospect than maybe it used to be. Nevertheless the wines still have the guts and material to maintain the district’s reputation for producing long-lived reds. A major tasting at Vinexpo back in the summer focused on the 2010 vintage. There is no doubt that this is a very strong year for St Estèphe.
Posts Tagged ‘Chateau Montrose’
Hervé Berland, Château Montrose’s new managing director, is rightly proud of the wine here in 2012. Alongside Mouton and Léoville-Las-Cases this is one of the most powerful wines of the Médoc. It was also amongst the very last picked, a risky business enabled only by the terroir of Montrose. The soils here, gravel with a clay base, were sufficiently well draining for the rain that arrived at vintage time, but water retentive enough to resist the very dry period between August and late September. This dry period created fruit with especially thick skins, helping the grapes [Cabernet especially] resist the threat of botrytis that accompanied the late October wet weather. It was this that let Montrose snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
I was very impressed with Chateau Calon-Ségur and Chateau Cos d’Estournel in the St Estèphe appellation at the MW 2008 tasting last month. Calon was really fragrant and charming and looks like a good buy. Cos was full and rich and for young St Estèphe, it was pretty open and approachable already. There is a lot of fat fruit in the wine which made it feel generous, almost supple, by comparison with others in the appellation.
The MW Institute’s Annual Claret Tasting is almost too much of a good thing. Tasting all one hundred and twenty wines from Bordeaux’s finest districts requires steely determination, nifty footwork and a healthy dollop of over-ambition. You’ll also need to keep an eye on your watch as you’ve only a few hours. Then, just as you think you’ve licked it, tasting St Estèphe, Pauillac, St Julien, Margaux, Haut-Médoc and Pessac-Léognan back-to-back in the grand Vintners Hall, up come the wines of St Emilion and Pomerol, lying in wait in an adjoining room. Talk about kicking a man when he’s down. Fortunately, since last year, you can perk up with some fine Sauternes and Barsac at the very end before hailing a taxi cab and finding somewhere to lie down.
Twenty-minutes isn’t a long time, but it’s a lifetime if, on the eve of harvest, your vineyard is sat beneath a storm producing hail the size of golf balls. As extreme vineyard events go the St Estèphe hail storm that struck on September 1st 2011 was a dramatic as they come. Not every producer was mind you. It was highly localised, passing some vineyards, clipping others but decimating quite a few. Basil Tesseron, owner of Chateau Lafon-Rochet, who made good wine in the end, described it as the viticultural equivalent of falling off the Empire State Building – a microscopically short event ending in oblivion. The immediate fear, apart from the reduction in yield and damage to those vines physically stripped of their leaves, branches and fruit, would have then been the secondary threat of rot on the remaining bunches. This fear would have been made more complex by the fact that the vineyards were approaching maturity but not quite ready to pick. Do you wait and get proper phenolic ripeness or risk losing the lot to rot? Or do you pick quickly but end up with green wines and unripe tannins? Add all this to a vintage that had seen conditions see-saw and which overall was pitifully dry. Pouring over meteorological charts at that few days of harvest was probably all you could do – that and having a stiff gin and tonic and go with your instinct. Close your eyes and feel the force Luke.
Only four wines were shown from the St Estèphe appellation at the MW Institute tasting but Chateau Cos d’Estournel has turned in an excellent effort in 2007. Chateau Montrose meanwhile felt much more backward and Chateau Cos Labory and Chateau Lafon Rochet both felt light and lacking in depth. It’s really worth searching out their 2006s, 2008s and 2009s instead.