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Bordeaux 2016: Château Valandraud et al

Written by JW. Posted in Bordeaux

There’s no more enjoyable tasting to be had in Bordeaux than in the cellars of Jean-Luc Thunevin. The wines are packed with joy and expression [almost to a fault] and with the mischievous Thunevin knocking about the cuves, there’s a certain electricity in the air. You are never quite sure what is going to happen next! His playfulness comes across in the wines. They are full of surprises and beautiful contradictions. Château Valandraud looks to be every bit as epic in 2016 as it was in 2015. It has volume and concentration. Virginie de Valandraud is vivid and vivacious. Interdit de Valandraud is muscular and solid. It is made from plots that formerly made their way into Valandraud grand vin before its elevation to premier grand cru status. For those without the financial wherewithal for Thunevin’s top grog, St Emilion Grand Crus Clos Badon-Thunevin and Château Bel Air Ouÿ look very good in 2016 and will be affordable.

There is no doubting the flamboyance here, both in the wines and in Jean-Luc himself. The joie de vivre starts with the entry point Bad Boy Bordeaux blend. It is jam packed with lifted black fruits and spices. Along with Domaine Virginie Thunevin, it is great value Bordeaux. In earlier 2016 posts you’ll see I’ve already reflected on the quality of his Le Clos du Beau-Père in Pomerol and Domaine des Sabines in Lalande de Pomerol.

The whites, Virginie de Valandraud Blanc and Valandraud Blanc, both look good in 2016. They had surprising zap and zest given the vintage conditions and hold their own with recent vintages.

2016 is obviously a great red wine vintage that has succeeded on Bordeaux’s left bank in particular, but it is really is no slouch here on the right bank. Clos Badon has excellent depth, with layer upon layer of fruit. Despite the ripeness and extractive techniques there is still considerable freshness to this St Emilion Grand Cru. Château Bel Air Ouÿ is more vigorous with attractive spice and sap.

Virginie de Valandraud, as described earlier, is seductively perfumed and coquettish. There is plenty of meat on the fine bones here too, and the whole experience adds up to an extremely decadent glass of St Emilion. Château Valandraud itself is profound. Arterially deep, with extraordinary depth and purity, this is a wine that is flirting with its own form of perfection. The palate is wonderful. It has great texture, body and Rolls-Royce tannins. Fabulous 2016.

Other highlights in the cellars included a dazzling Château Fleur Cardinale, a sexy Château La Marzelle and a wonderfully impressive Château Sansonnet. I’ll dwell more on these beauties in a bigger post covering all of the St Emilions shortly. In the meantime here are the notes from my tastings back in April.

Château Bel Air Ouÿ, St Emilion Grand Cru, 2016

Mid depth; some lightness at the rim; some stalk; sour cherry; little spice; spicy fruit; elegance; fresh acidity; will be well balanced and sappy [in a good way]. Tasted 1/4/17. Drink 2019-2026. 88-90

Clos Badon-Thunevin, St Emilion Grand Cru, 2016

Deep and saturated look; very dark; clearly lots of depth; lots of fruit; very bold; some tar; little menthol; layers quite tightly packed together; sappy palate; dips away a fraction at the end; second glass – some fruitcake and molasses; structured with lots of flesh; good acidity and freshness; certain sap to the wines; chewy but with a moreish element; finishes in an attractive way; balanced with freshness – emphasis on the sap and vigour in this vintage evident. Tasted 1/4/14. Drink 2020-2028. 91-93

Virginie de Valandraud, St Emilion Grand Cru, 2016

Very deep and saturated looking; colour tight to rim; legs; attractive fruit; very pure; layers again; plummy; freshness; not at all tired or fatigued; pretty vivid; lovely fruit tones in fact; very attractive fruit; has sap; nice texture; plenty of extract and ‘grit’ too, but sappy quality; freshness and definition on the finish. Nice texture. Good length. Like this very much. [65% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon/Carménère/Malbec]. Tasted 1/4/17. Drink 2020-2030. 93-95

Château Valandraud, St Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé, 2016

Very saturated looking; colour tight to the rim; deep; integrated new oak; resin; black fruits; some liquorice; mocha and coffee notes; black cherry and dark chocolate with aromatic black fruit notes; little lift; very enticing; first growth equivalent; cool palate; layers of fruit and depth here; tannins considerable but ripe; there is a lot of ‘matter’ here; gravity; excellent length. Very long palate expression. Real length and impressive depth. Great quality to the tannins. [90% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, 3% Cabernet Sauvignon]. Tasted 1/4/17. Drink 2023-2035. 96-98+

Interdit de Valandraud, St Emilion Grand Cru, 2016

Deep and saturated; colour tight to the rim; full; layered; tight; chocolate and mocha notes; this 100% Merlot blend is from the parcels that aren’t included in the the Premier Grand Cru Classé classification but which previously made it into Valandraud. Palate quite muscular; solid; some chew and coffee on the finish. Tasted 1/4/17. Drink 2022-2028. 91-93+

Virginie de Valandraud Blanc, Bordeaux Blanc 2016

Pale silver; some peardrop and oyster shell; mango; grapefruit citrus comes to the fore; perhaps limes more than anything; nice acid; zesty; lees notes; bit of soap; nicely done. Finishes fresh. Lacks a bit of depth. Good stuff though for a drought vintage. [45% Sémillon, 40% Sauvignon Blanc, 15% Sauvignon Gris]. Tasted 1/4/17. Drink 2019-2024. 91-93

Valandraud Blanc, Bordeaux Blanc, 2016

Pale silver; salty tone; mineral quality with oyster tones; some lanolin; zesty wine; with depth; has race and freshness; less full than other years perhaps; emphasis on the minerality and zest. Nice minerality actually. Very moreish. Nice balance between the zap and the zest and minerality. Very good length. [50% Sauvignon Gris, 40% Sauvignon Blanc, 10% Sémillon]. Tasted 1/4/17. Drink 2020-2025. 93-95

Other St Emilion [listed in the order tasted]:

Clos Romanile, St Emilion Grand Cru, 2016

Deep and saturated look; forward; fruitcake spices; deep; attractive; menthol; molasses; deep; almost southern France; some spicy notes; quite seductive; lots of fruit and spice; liquorice; slight rusticity to the tannins. [90% Merlot & 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8 barrels made by Thunevin’s maitre de chais]. Tasted 1/4/17. Drink 2019-2026. 88-90

Château Croix Cardinale, St Emilion Grand Cru, 2016

Deep and saturated look; deep and plummy; enticing St Emilion; ripe plums; easy; palate has sweetness; some oak; nicely integrated; sappy; nice fruit qualities; nice chew; texture. Pretty good stuff! Tasted 1/4/17. Drink 2020-2028. 90-91+

Château Fleur Cardinale, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé, 2016

Bold earthy purple at edge; saturated; intense; focused; tight; quite sublimated but attractive; glossy; sweet entry to the fruit; very enveloping; works nicely; oak here obviously but nicely integrated; lots to it; matter and extract. Intense and focused – inky but will work well with a bit of age. Nicely done. Tasted 1/4/17. Drink 2020-2030. 93-94+

Château Soutard Cadet, St Emilion Grand Cru, 2016

Deepish; opaque at core; salty mineral tone to the fruit; intense but has nice purity; attractive; glossy start; quite medium weight; not pushed in the middle; has drinkability. Finishes little short currently but will doubtless fill out. Pure St Emilion. [90% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc]. Tasted 1/4/17. Drink 2020-2028. 90-92+

Château Sansonnet, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé, 2016

Similarly dark; perhaps the darkest of these three; intense; some chocolate; quite pent up; black cherry notes; little menthol; more depth here than on the Soutard Cadet; ripe entry; attractive; still with sappy freshness but also flesh; tannins supple; acidity is what gives the ‘grip’ for me [but not overly so]. Black cherry on the finish. Some zap. Good length. Like this. Has an appetizing quality. Lovely stuff actually. Tasted 1/4/17. Drink 2022-2032. 93-94+

Château Moulin du Cadet, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé, 2016

Deep and saturated; opaque at centre; little reductive but good fruit here; will work well; plum, sour cherry; fruit bright and bouncy; has sap and life; works well in a vigorous style; nicely fresh on the finish. [100% Merlot]. Tasted 1/4/17. Drink 2020-2030. 90-91+

Château Harmonie, St Emilion Grand Cru, 2016

Deepish; earthy red at edge; sappy cherry fruit; some earth; simple but enticing; attractive palate; simple but with some bite; sappy. Earthy, sappy finish. Tasted 1/4/17. Drink 2020-2026. 89-91+

Château La Marzelle, St Emilion Cru Classé, 2016

Saturated; black purple at edge; tight to the rim; more unctuously styled; ripe qualities; intense and with gloss; some ink; ripe red fruit elements; sweet fruit; quite red fruit tones; open fruit style; exotic Côtes de Nuits grand cru almost; sexy – red fruits and forest floor. Tasted 1/4/17. Drink 2020-2030. 91-93+

Other wines of interest [listed in the order tasted]:

Château Michel Montaigne, Bergerac, 2016

Deeply coloured; sat black; cherry and black fruits; forward and deep; little prune at the edge; attractively chocolate; earthy tones; lots of matter; nice texture; pretty epic Bergerac. Lovely. Tasted 1/4/17. Drink 2019-2025. 89-91+

Bad Boy, Bordeaux, 2016

Deep and saturated look; colour tight to the rim; bold style; plenty of ripe fruit; some jam; sweet entry; lots of depth; some Bordeaux notes; good stuff; plenty of boldness; full; great with steak frites I’d expect! Drink 2018-2023. 89-91+

Château Subilaux, Bordeaux 2016

Pretty; some cherry; spices; red fruit tones; attractive notes; feels Bordeaux; has freshness; sweet entry; nicely fresh style; Bordeaux; does what it says on the tin but with verve. Nice zap and freshness. Has genuine bounce. Drink 2018-2023. 88-90.

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