It’s usually a treat in Jean-Luc Thunevin’s speakeasy cellars, a kind of laid-back hedonistic chaos in St Emilion’s backstreets. Not this year. I was late. My fault trying to cram in too many wines into a shorter schedule. And that evening Jean-Luc seemed in no mood for latecomers. So far, not so good. I quickly worked through the wines. They display his typical brilliance. Thunevin’s pulled a rabbit out of a hat in the last few vintages [including some of the very best 2013s] but give him an exciting year like 2015 on the right bank and he hits the ball out of the park. Château Valandraud is epic this year – it is a wine of extraordinary depth and richness. Do also check out his St Emilion Grand Crus Clos Badon and Château Le Bel Air Ouÿ – the former lush and concentrated, the latter fresh and bright.
Posts Tagged ‘St Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé’
I’m a great fan of Château Figeac. The finesse here can be exceptional, akin to neighbour Château Cheval Blanc. I loved the wines produced in 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2014. 2015 is amongst the best of these, if not perhaps the very best in this set of vintages. There is terrific purity here, akin to 2014, but with even more texture perhaps. As a lover of Cabernet the wine is thrilling. The typical blend over the years has been roughly equal portions of Merlot, Cab Franc and Cab Sauvignon. It’s a field blend that matches Figeac’s gravelly terroir. In 2015 that proportion rises to 43% Cabernet Sauvignon with roughly equal proportions of the other grapes. It accounts for the wonderful blackcurrant aromatics and the strength and length of the wine. It is knockout.
There is usually a silky quality to Count Stephan von Neipperg’s St Emilions. This quality is really underscored in the 2015 vintage. These are beautiful wines, deceptively easy but with wonderful beauty. Clos de L’Oratoire is seductive and ripe; Château Canon-la-Gaffelière more substantial [45% Cabernets] but with remarkably supple, glossy fruit. La Mondotte is heavenly. Again these are amongst some of the finest wines I have yet tried from these Neipperg-owned properties. There is a delicacy in 2015 not found in either the powerful 2010s or the opulent 2009s here.
It is always a pleasure to taste the Thienpont wines each year at Château Pavie-Macquin. Not only does the property have an excellent tasting room that looks back towards the town of St Emilion, but there’s always an intelligent discussion of the vintage to be had with Cyrille Thienpont and winemaker David Suire. This year I also had the chance to discuss the vintage with Nicolas Thienpont himself. They are understandably positive about the growing season, the quality and homogeneity in the wines in 2015. They are amongst the purest and most harmonious you will come across in St Emilion. The emphasis is on work in the vineyard ‘winegrowing’ and getting the best expression of the contrasting terroirs they consult for at Château Berliquet, Château Larcis Ducasse and Château Beauséjour.
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 Cheval Blanc is cool and pure in 2014. There is no doubt that the Indian summer favoured the later ripening Cabernet Franc here, which is such an important constituent in the grand vin [it represents 45% of the blend]. The resulting wine is aromatic and elegant, the palate beautifully sophisticated with plenty of extract and purity. All the elements are held in proportion and there is impressive length on the finish. Cheval Blanc doesn’t usually come out of the starting gate first during primeurs, so expect this to gain further weight and depth during elévage. While vintage comparisons may often be erroneous [but fun] I reckon we are perhaps looking at something similar to 2001 or 1985 here in Cheval Blanc 2014.