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.
Posts Tagged ‘St Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé’
The wines of Nicolas Thienpont are always amongst the purest and most impressive I taste each year in Bordeaux. This purity comes across in their own wines – the seriously good value Château Puygueraud and Château La Prade in Francs and Château Alcée in Castillon. But it is his tending to the wines and winegrowing of the St Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classés, Château Larcis Ducasse, Château Pavie Macquin and Château Beauséjour [Héritiers Duffau-Lagarrosse], with his son Cyrille Thienpont and winemaker David Suire that perhaps, understandably, commands the most attention. The wines here have been wonderfully impressive in the 2014, 2015 and 2016 trio of vintages in St Emilion. In 2018, they are knockout.
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.”
The 2017 vintage was a difficult one for Stephan von Neipperg and his team. In the frost of April 27-28 they lost much of the crop at Clos Marsalette in Pessac-Léognan, half of the crop in both his Castillon estate Château d’Aiguihle and St Emilion property Clos de l’Oratoire. At Château Canon-la-Gaffelière frost reduced the harvest by 40%. Only the prized La Mondotte vineyard was spared. That’s the bad news. The good news is that team Neipperg have succeeded in making impressive wines, very much against these odds. This is partly thanks to the quality of the remaining crop, a huge amount of work in the vineyard but also a determination to encourage a useful harvest from second generation grapes. It is also says much about Stephan von Neipperg’s own strength of character. Determined not to be despondent, he encouraged his team in the face of adversity. When the going gets tough, as Billy Ocean famously noted, the tough get going.
There is excitement about the quality of the 2017 vintage at Château Canon. They reckon the vintage is a combination of the 2015 and the 2016 and a notch up from 2014. They argue this is partly the good fortune of Canon’s great terroir atop the St Emilion plateau next to the town itself. The estate was not affected by the frost and in a precocious harvest on a precocious terroir, much of the Merlot on the St Emilion plateau was picked before the September rain. Certainly there is a perfumed and mineral note to Canon this year with the emphasis on the purity of the fruit and elegance. The recently acquired Château Berliquet also shows floral tones and refinement in the first vintage here under Nicolas Audebert.
My primeur visits to Château Pavie Macquin are really rewarding. There is so much to learn from the collective wisdom of Nicolas and Cyrille Thienpont and David Suire about wine growing on the right bank. Last year there was an excellent technical presentation about the 2016 vintage, this year a convivial lunch after tasting the 2017s. The lunch underscored a need to polish my St Emilion blind tasting skills [and improve my French] but also gave me the opportunity to consider the many virtues of the 2011 Château Beauséjour hDL [spot on right now], the 2004 Château Pavie Macquin [don’t underrate this vintage here] as well as two bottles of Château Larcis Ducasse, the 2009 [a forward beauty] and a spectacular bottle of the 1964, [fresh as a daisy]. With previous vintages evidently in great shape, how did the Thienpont’s portfolio fair in 2017?