For a full analysis of the growing season and my first thoughts on 2017 St Emilion during primeurs week in April 2018 you can click through to the full report here. As is well known, the devastating frosts of April 2017 sealed the fate of some producers in St Emilion entirely. They were a few unable to make wine at all. For others it substantially reduced yields and affected their blends. Some were left unscathed. Nature can be cruel and unfair, though not obviously in an intentional way [just leave that to us!]. Given this, you’d expect there to be considerable variation in quality in St Emilion. Ironically, judging from the wines lined up by the Union des Grands Cru de Bordeaux last October, the appellation has produced some of the most appealing Bordeaux in the region with a reasonable degree of consistency. The notes below are limited to those who are members of the UGCB so this is a comparatively small snapshot clearly. In this case, a dozen wines. The stand outs for me were Clos Fourtet, Château Figeac, Château Larcis Ducasse, Château Pavie Macquin and Château Valandraud which have all produced superlative St Emilion. Just a notch below these are Château La Gaffelière, Château Troplong Mondot and Château Trotte Vieille who also impressed with complex and satisfying wine.
Posts Tagged ‘Chateau Valandraud’
2017’s a funny old vintage in Bordeaux. It feels to me like this year is the least successful of the past decade, assuming we forget about the washout 2013 vintage. That’s not to say that there aren’t a number wines that are really impressive now that the 2017s are in bottle. Last October’s annual Union des Grand Crus de Bordeaux tasting in London showed some excellent wines in Pomerol and St Emilion, perhaps more so than in the other communes, but there were fine wines to be found in all the appellations. That said many lacked a bit of charm, seemed somewhat austere and lacked mid-palate concentration. Yes, they are fresh. Yes, the acidity is bright and some have a decent zap about them, but, overall, it’s hardly a vintage that sets the pulse racing. The same couldn’t be said for the experience that the vignerons themselves faced in the early part of the growing season in 2017 when devastating frosts wiped out entire crops in St Emilion and Pomerol and did much damage elsewhere, notably in parts of Pessac-Léognan and the Haut-Médoc. Some properties didn’t make any wine at all. It was certainly a nerve-jangling time for growers. Looked in that light, perhaps we must actually see 2017 as something of a success.
Many delicious wines have been made in St Emilion in 2018. This is a vintage with the most sumptuous, sublime fruit. While the wines do not have the magical balance of 2016 or 2015, with their fresher acidities, on the best terroirs there are a range of wines here that rival 2009 in character for sheer exotic ripeness and joy, but without the evident over-extraction that characterised the appellation a decade ago. Yes, these are wines with plenty of tannin, enviably ripe tannin, and in all but a few cases I would confidently expect the wines to settle by bottling. As in 2009 this will be a vintage that will drink well from the very beginning, but that has the evident structure to last.
There was a slightly mournful note last year in the cellars of Jean-Luc Thunevin. The frosts of 2017 had robbed many properties that Jean-Luc consults for on the right bank of much, if not all their crop. This year during primeurs, the mood was jubilant. 2018 is evidently a lovely vintage in St Emilion on the best terroirs. Yes, there might be more noise emanating elsewhere in Bordeaux in 2018 [in St Estèphe especially] but believe me there is an army of seductive reds on the right bank too. As ever there is so much to enjoy in the wines Jean-Luc consultants for and he’s pulled out all the stops in his own wines. Château Valandraud is always pretty remarkable stuff. This year it is a wonder.
First stop last Saturday was to Château Pavie Macquin in St Emilion. The winegrowing judgement here of Nicolas Thienpont, Cyrille Thienpont and David Suire is second to none. There aren’t any state secrets. Here gentle extraction of wonderfully ripe fruit, the result of meticulous work in the vineyards from beautiful terroir, always yields some of Bordeaux’s most appealing wine. In 2018 Château Pavie Macquin, Château Larcis Ducasse and Château Beauséjour [HdL] are exceptional. Larcis has typically satin-y, caressing fruit, and fabulous length. Pavie-Macquin has great depth with remarkable power under the hood while Château Beauséjour displays some of the most exceptionally pure, beautiful fruit I’ve come across. All are stunning. The real steals I imagine, will be the Thienpont’s own wines from the Côtes de Francs – Château Puygueraud and Château La Prade are lovely.
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.”