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 ‘St Emilion Grand Cru Classé’
It was an exciting start to the Bordeaux primeurs week over in St Emilion on Sunday. By the looks of things so far, St Emilion was as good a place as any to start tasting Bordeaux 2015. All vintages have their complexities but perhaps ‘15 seems to favour the right bank over the left in many respects at this early stage. At the Grand Cercle tastings held at Château Bellefont Belcier there were a number of wines from the various Côtes de Bordeaux appellations, especially the Côtes de Castillon, the Côtes de Francs and Fronsac that impressed. It looks like there are many excellent St Emilions to be had in 2015 too. The St Emilion Grand Crus and the St Emilion Grand Cru Classés showed very well indeed. Pomerol showed slightly less well but I will look in more detail at the appellation Wednesday. I also had the opportunity on Sunday to taste the range of right bank estates run by Nicolas Thienpont. They have produced a very exciting St Emilion at Château Berliquet, Château Larcis Ducasse, Château Pavie-Maquin and Château Beauséjour. These are a very harmonious set of wines indeed.
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.
Château Angélus is magnificent in 2014. The wine is very pent up and tightly packed with fruit but it has wonderful precision and focus on the palate. The tasting experience comes together beautifully on the finish. It is a seamless narrative, if that doesn’t sound woefully pretentious, and it makes Angélus one of the most impressive wines from the right bank in 2014. It also represents the thirtieth vintage of Hubert de Boüard de Laforest, who, despite this achievement, still looks youthful in his distinctive flowing silver locks. The quality of La Fleur de Boüard in Lalande de Pomerol is also excellent in 2014. Good wines also produced at Château Bellevue and Château Daugay in St Emilion.
Gérald Perse spares no expense on the making of his wines in St Emilion, nor has there been any penny pinching on the recent renovations and redevelopment of the buildings at Château Pavie. The combination of the Côte de Pavie’s remarkable aspect – the vineyards sloping down from exposed limestone outcrops above – with the newly minted stone buildings that form the offices, tasting rooms and chais lined below, is very impressive indeed. It’s a statement about ambition and seriousness of purpose, traits apparent in the Vignobles Perse range. There’s a masculine quality to Château Pavie in 2014. There is a lot of extract, weight and matter that makes this a formidable and dense wine, but there is also beautiful quality to the fruit. Château Bellevue Mondotte displays considerable gravity and Château Pavie-Decesse shows super concentration. Certainly these are not wines for the faint of heart.
There is no more informal, carefree primeurs tasting to be had than the one on offer in the speakeasy St Emilion cellars of Jean-Luc Thunevin. ‘JLT’s own range of properties is laid out on a bench before you, followed by those he consults for and distributes [and there’s a multitude of these]. You’re given a set of large glasses, a table between some stainless steel tanks and it’s time to help yourself. If the approach is refreshing, the wines are even more so – glass after glass of provocative, exotic, remarkable Bordeaux passes nose and lips. It’s a purists nightmare but a hedonists dream. And sat at the top of the Thunevin tree is Château Valandraud itself. The wine is as much a statement about the man and his ambitions as it is an expression of terroir, [though that is perhaps true of all great wine] and, frankly, who cares when the stuff tastes so damn good. And Valandraud 2014 is damn good in my book.