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Bordeaux 2017: Château Valandraud et al

Written by JW. Posted in Bordeaux


I used to save the best to last. When I first started visiting the cellars of Jean-Luc Thunevin I’d turn up at the end of primeurs week. What a fool I was. Now it’s the first place I head to in St Emilion. It was interesting hearing Jean-Luc’s thoughts on the 2017 vintage. In places unaffected by frost, on the best terroirs he reckons it’s the equivalent to 2014 and even 2015 in places. Importantly Château Valandraud itself was not affected by the late April freeze. Other properties that Thunevin advises were, including some of his own properties such as Clos Badon in St Emilion and Le Clos du Beau Père in Pomerol. If volumes are down, in many cases quality is good to very good, judging from the wines tasted in Thunevin’s cellars. I love the energy that he manages to generate in his own wines and for Valandraud fans [read Jean-Luc fans] his 2017s do not disappoint. 

There are always myriad bottles to taste chez Thunevin so I’ll start with those properties that he is most closely connected to. Firstly, there’s the eponymous Bad Boy Bordeaux which shows glossy ripe plum characters with plenty of flesh and texture in 2017. Good stuff. Clos Badon in St Emilion is jam packed with beautiful fruit and plenty of extract. It is powerful even if not much has been made. Still in St Emilion, Château Sannonset looks nicely judged, with plenty of flesh and nice acidity. Château Fleur Cardinale is very attractive as usual but only eight barrels were made owing to frost damage devastating the crop. Château La Marzelle is enjoyable, nicely layered and has a zappy finish. Château Bellefont-Belcier looked wonderful. It is caressing and pure on the palate. Other St Emilion that especially impressed in Jean-Luc’s cellars included Château de Pressac, Château Le Prieuré, Château Fombrauge and Château Magrez-Fombrauge. I’ll cover these in more detail in a larger post on St Emilion but I’ve also included their notes and scores below.

In terms of the Château Valandraud bottlings, the whites look wonderful. Virginie de Valandraud has very attractive citrus tones and a salty finish. It is really moreish. Château Valandraud Blanc itself is tighter and more evidently mineral, with great texture on the palate and marvellous length. These two wines once again underscore the terrific quality of white wine in 2017 where unaffected by frost damage.

I’d certainly agree with Jean-Luc Thunevin’s own assessment of the vintage when it comes to Château Valandraud, insofar as it is on par with 2014. There is nothing in the glass itself that suggests anything other than a great vintage. This is a dazzling effort in the context of 2017’s somewhat complex growing season. The precision here is terrific. The wine has layers of perfumed fruit on the nose and plenty of depth on the palate. The mouthfeel is a beautiful and the length is impressive. Overall Valandraud 2017 is a cracker!

Château Valandraud: Seriously impressive

The following wines were tasted on Saturday 7th April, 2018. Many thanks to Jean-Luc Thunevin and Murielle Andraud for their hospitality. As usual the words are more important than the numbers…

Virginie de Valandraud Blanc, Bordeaux Blanc, 2017

Washed silver with hints of green; grapefruit and citrus notes; some oyster shell; candied peel; has texture; lees notes; grapefruit. Fresh and salty finish. Moreish. Tasted 7.4.18. Drink 2019-2023. 90-92+

Château Valandraud Blanc, Bordeaux Blanc 2017

Steely looking; brilliant; quite composed; lees and citrus fruit; limes; tight; mineral and oyster shell; palate has texture; fresh and lively; will work very well. Nice salty mineral finish. Tasted 7.4.18. Drink 2019-2025. 93-95+

Virginie de Valandraud, St Emilion Grand Cru, 2017

Deep and saturated; opaque; less tight to rim than the grand vin; lovely pure fruit; really pretty seam of fruit here; some mocha tones; opens up; lovely and unctuous; really sexy in the glass; sweet entry; not quite as big as the nose suggests; quite supple texture; works a treat; has a certain elegance; nice length on the finish. Works well. Lots of red fruits [strawberry] along with some black fruits. Tasted 7.4.18. Drink 2020-2025. 90-92+

Château Valandraud, St Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé, 2017

Deep and saturated; opaque at centre; lovely legs; really polished and precise on the nose; deep, almost profoundly so; seems like a great vintage here judging from this glass; perfume; violets; lovely layered aromatics; seam of beautiful fruit; excellent stuff; palate has real creamy mouth feel with evident structure and supple tannins; plenty of middle here; quite caressing at the back end; lovely texture overall; excellent stuff. Lovely length. A beauty. Tasted 7.4.18. Drink 2022-2035 94-96+

Other wine that impressed in Jean-Luc Thunevin’s cellars [not alphabetical]:

Bad Boy, Bordeaux 2017

Deep and attractive colour; tight to rim; glossy; ripe plum and fig notes; nice chew and sap; texture here; some spices; quite a lot of flesh. Good stuff. Textured finish; tannins a bit furry but attractive mouthfeel. Tasted 7.4.18. Drink 2019-2022. 86-88

Château Subilaux, Bordeaux, 2017

Big colour; depth; earthy red at edge; nice aromatics; some violet lift; perfumed; quite Bordeaux in style; has freshness; sappy red; nice tension; mid weight style. Tasted 7.4.18. Drink 2019-2023. 87-89+

Château de La Cour Argent, Bordeaux Supérieur, 2017

Deep and saturated looking; legs; sexy aromatics; oak influences pain grillé tones; black fruits beneath; some gloss; strawberry and red fruit notes; sexy; palate has a earthy note; quite nice tension between the acid and the flesh; gives it texture; mid weight on the palate; works,. Sappy finish with some chew. Good stuff! Tasted 7.4.18. Drink 2020-2023. 87-89

Clos Badon, St Emilion Grand Cru, 2017

Lovely colours; lots of depth; saturated style; jam packed with fruit; saturated; lovely fruit and lots of it; nicely done with the ok; plenty of guts and chew; lots of extract to settle. Powerful stuff. Volume seriously affected by frost but the quality looks good. Tasted 7.4.18. Drink 2022-2027. 90-91

Château Sansonnet, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé, 2017

Deep and saturated look; lovely fruit; like the fruitcake and spicy plum style; quite concentrated but this looks good; nice sweet entry; plenty of flesh – but good acidity and structure. Nice sap at the end of the palate. Works very well. Tasted 7.4.18. Drink 2023-2030. 91-93+

Château Soutard-Cadet, St Emilion Grand Cru, 2017

Bold colour; opaque at centre; ripe black fruits; plums; little fig; some spice but very layered and pent up; nice sweet entry; fruit is really engaging; mid weight and nicely judged; little drying on the end but should round out. Tasted 7.4.18. Drink 2022-2027. 89-91+

Château Moulin du Cadet, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé, 2017

Bold colour; more raspberry, strawberry and unctuous notes; some jam; more lifted; nice fruit; plenty of it; needs to integrated with the wood but all there; like this; will be forward and lush; needs to fill out the end; nice tension and grip on the finish. Tasted 7.4.18. Drink 2023-2028. 88-90+

Château Fleur Cardinale, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé, 2017

Deep and saturated; colour tight to the rim; lovely liquorice; lots of black fruit; intense; nice mouthful; really well balanced on the mid palate; lacks a little depth on the end. Nicely balanced though. Tiny production [1000 magnums to be sold en primeur as frost affected]. Tasted 7.4.18. Drink 2023-2030. 90-91+

Château La Marzelle, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé, 2017

Bold and arterial; really deep and dense; tight to rim; attractive fruit; lovely layers; really nice fruit; good sap; nicely done; needs to settle a little; lacks some stuffing on the end but I’d expect this to fill out nicely. Tasted 7.4.18. Drink 2023-2030. 90-92+

Château Haut-Brisson, St Emilion Grand Cru, 2017

Deep and dark; opaque at centre; legs; chocolate; black fruits; jam beneath; saturated; creamy entry; little lacking in complexity; full; little undergrowth; little short on the finish but should fill out. Tasted 7.4.18. Drink 2021-2027. 88-90

Château Bellefont Belcier, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé, 2017

Deep and attractive; tight to edge; polished; lovely intense aromatics; layered and impressive; black fruits; plums; nice purity; attractive; lots of flesh in the middle; will work very well. Real mouthful but caressing and pure. Nice twist at the end. Good length. Some espresso on finish. Tasted 7.4.18. Drink 2022-2035. 92-94+

Château Tour St Christophe, St Emilion Grand Cru, 2017

Very saturated; lovely lifted ripe raspberry jam; very seductive and upfront; unctuous by definition; lovely caressing fruit; quite elegant in the middle; not over done; quite dry on the finish. Palate needs to settle. Tasted 7.4.18. Drink 2021-2027. 87-89

Château Le Prieuré, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé, 2017

Deep and arterial; lovely pure cool fruit; seductive for me; nice schist and mineral notes; good fruit tones; attractive; needs to infill a little. There is sufficient extract at the back to suggest it will. Works very well overall. Tasted 7.4.18. Drink 2022-2030. 91-93+

Château Barrail Saint André, St Emilion Grand Cru, 2017

Deep and saturated looking; glossy; more vibrant purple at edge; nice purity; clean and attractive fruit flavours; quite Bordeaux; nicely done; nice stone fruits; good entry; pure fruit; some oak influence to meld; but I like the fruit here; little oak on the finish. Dries a bit. Needs to settle. Tasted 7.4.18. Drink 2022-2027. 87-88+

Château Patris, St Emilion Grand Cru, 2017

Deep and saturated core; earthy red; deeper; spicy; opens up with some jam beneath; spicy palate with some mint and menthol; this is the Cab influence; little earthy streak here; inky; not dry or seemingly over extracted. Tasted 7.4.18. Drink 2021-2025. 87-88

Château Les Gravières, St Emilion Grand Cru, 2017

Deep black; arterial; nice fruit; some undergrowth and pain grillé notes; plums and dark cherry; some black cherry; plum and dark chocolate; ripe fruit. Big. Easy. Works well. Tasted 7.4.18. Drink 2022-2025. 87-88+

Château de Pressac, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé, 2017

Deep and arterial; opaque at centre; ripe figs; super ripe plums; boatload of fruit on thenose; very full; palate sweet and ripe; very full; lots of fruit; quite supple tannin [plenty of it]; nice chew and extract; good finish. Good stuff. Tasted 7.4.18. Drink 2023-2030. 91-93+

Château Fombrauge, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé, 2017

Deep and saturated look; tight to edge; full; fruitcake spices; chocolate notes; intense and full; very good; nice entry; ripe fruit; sweet; some chocolate and plum tones; quite a lot of extract; some oak on the mid palate; chew on the finish but this will work nicely. Very good stuff. Tasted 7.4.18. Drink 2023-2028. 91-93+

Château Magrez-Fombrauge, St Emilion Grand Cru, 2017

Black and opaque at centre; tight to edge; very sublimated red fruits; some strawberry and raspberry; little dark chocolate; plenty of fruit; lashings of fruit and oak but also some life and texture on this; it’s a statement as always but works. Chocolate and mocha notes on the finish – along with a fair bit of alcohol. Tasted 7.4.18. Drink 2023-2030. 92-94+


Le Clos du Beau-Père, Pomerol, 2017

Very deep and inky looking; ripe and packed with fruit; real core of concentrated fruit; nicely integrated oak; will be big; violet lift; some liquorice notes; oak a little dominant on the palate but will come good; has plenty of matter and extract; lots of chew but also some freshness too which gives tension. Oaky finish. Tasted 7.4.18. Drink 2022-2027. 90-92+

Château Vray Croix de Gay, Pomerol, 2017

Deep and glossy looking; vibrant edge; very attractive black cherry and plum aromatics; nice entry; good texture; like the freshness; balanced and good; vivid flavours. Works for me. Tasted 7.4.18. Drink 2023-2030. 90-92+

Château Le Moulin, Pomerol, 2017

Mid depth; earthy purple; dark at core; very red fruit; strawberry jam; attractive and seductive; nicely lifted; unctuous; good texture; lacks a bit of middle; some undergrowth; goodish effort. Some oak to meld. Tasted 7.4.18. Drink 2022-2027. 90-91


Château La Vielle Cure, Fronsac, 2017

Deep and saturated look; black at centre; rich fruits on the nose; black fruits; plum; packed; sweetness; something Bordeaux behind it; creamy plum; this will work well when it settles. Like this. Some oak to integrate but pure and polished plummy fruit with some Cabernet influence. Good length on the end, Espresso finish. Tasted 7.4.18. Drink 2022-2030. 90-92

Jean-Luc Thunevin – St Emilion’s engaging troublemaker

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