Day four on the primeurs trail saw me return to the right bank. There is no doubt that 2015 is at its most consistent and impressive in St Emilion. Arriving at Château Pavie, appropriately enough I thought in a Napa Valley-like fog, it was actually interesting to see how they had opted for comparatively modest extraction here this year. Yes there was substance and extract, but also composure across an exciting range. Pavie itself is genuinely impressive, as is Bellevue-Mondotte [quite ravishing], Pavie-Decesse and Monbousquet [much better than its 2014]. I was also struck by the quality of their Castillon, Clos Lunelles. Château Cheval Blanc was up next. Chalk and cheese of course with Pavie. There is wonderful beauty and elegance here in this 2015 offering from Cheval Blanc, which comes from its unique terrior that borders Pomerol. The wine reminds me of their 1985. Pierre Lurton is very excited by the quality. They are comparing to 2010 and 1998, in terms of the dry, yet cool maturity [more on this later].
Posts Tagged ‘La Mondotte’
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.
Very impressive wines have been made at the various estates that Stephan von Neipperg runs in St Emilion in 2014. Premier Grand Cru Classé Château Canon-la-Gaffelière is bold and concentrated with wonderful texture, Grand Cru Classé Clos de l’Oratoire is glossy and full flavoured, saturated with ripe fruit. The tiny Premier Grand Cru Classé La Mondotte vineyard has produced something typically voluptuous and caressing but also with deceptive power and concentration. For sheer value and immediacy, the over-achieving Château d’Aiguilhe in Castillion also delivers the goods in 2014 – a great introduction to the seductive charms common to the Neipperg wines.
The highlights from Wednesday’s 2014 tastings were the juicy, appetizing quality of the Pomerols shown at JP Moueix and the depth and breadth of the white wines in Pessac-Léognan. In St Emilion there are some impressive wines [Figeac, Cheval Blanc, Clos Fourtet] but there is some inconsistency – some reds are a little extracted relative to their fruit. The best had bright vivacious qualities, and there was certainly a voluptuous aspect to the set of Neipperg wines shown at Canon-la-Gaffelière. There was plenty of extract, matter and acidity on display amongst the reds at the UGC event held at Château Smith Haut Lafitte. I generally enjoyed the more composed and harmonious – Carbonnieux, Domaine de Chevalier, Olivier, Pape Clément and Smith Haut Lafitte were especially impressive.
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.
Good terroir and extremely low yields have enabled Stephan Von Neipperg’s St Emilion properties to turn in good performances in the challenging conditions that the 2013 vintage presented. There is gloss and plushness to the wines as well as attractive sap and freshness. They may not have the length or richness of the big years here but in the context they are impressive wines.