I’ve been nursing a dilemma these past few months. Shouldn’t I really be keeping quiet about Château Laroque? This impressive St Emilion property, situated on some of the highest limestone terroir of the appellation, has been run since 2015 by David Suire, the talented winemaker who, with Nicolas Thienpont, crafts the beautiful Premier Grand Cru Classé Château Beauséjour. For me, Château Laroque 2018 was one of the best buys on the Right Bank I tasted this year. The quality was knockout for the price. I nabbed a couple of cases for my own cellar. Just don’t tell anyone. If your experience is anything like mine, increasingly I’m having trouble affording my favourite Bordeaux. Expect Laroque’s prices to rise over the next few years, so if you can find any remaining 2018, I’d nab it quick! If not the 2016 looks good too.
There are a number of younger winemakers to watch in Bordeaux. David Suire [pictured below] is one of them. Anyone who works so closely with Nicolas Thienpont and who has been involved in such a fabulous run of vintages at Château Beauséjour, Château Pavie Macquin and Château Larcis Ducasse gets a considerable stamp of approval as a winemaker. Clearly David is a man knows how to tap the potential of great terroir. Talking to him at Château Laroque in April, running the property is evidently a dream job.
The estate, which has been in the Beaumartin family since 1935, has fabulous potential and a grand history dating back to the 12th century. With 61 hectares in production, Laroque is the largest property under vine in St Emilion. Since he took over, David commissioned a comprehensive analysis of the soils on the estate which has helped identify three distinct sectors which helps inform viticultural and winemaking choices moving forward. In managerial terms Suire has also broken down the distinction between the cellar and the vineyard teams, getting them to work more broadly across the estate’s entire work. The winemaking philosophy too now reflects that which David Suire has been involved with at the Thienpont managed properties, with the emphasis on working gently with the fruit and using small plot vinifications and harvesting at appropriate [but not excessive] levels of ripeness.
The results speak for themselves. A mini-vertical this spring revealed the increasing sophistication of the wines since Suire took the helm here. 2016 was his first full year in charge of the property, having arrived shortly before the 2015 vintage. The 2015 Laroque itself is attractive and polished with a savoury finish. The 2016 has all the freshness and texture of that beautiful vintage. It is linear and really nicely balanced and is certainly a shift up in gear. The 2018 sample had the most enticing, beautiful fruit. It has the finesse and sophistication of the other vintages but with a fuller, more velvety mid palate. As I said at the top, it is a great buy. Château Laroque is definitely a property to watch.
The following notes were taken earlier this year during a visit in April.
Château Laroque, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé, 2018
Lovely deep and healthy colour; tight to the rim; beautifully pure fruit; really enticing perfumed aromatics; lovely and not at all jammy; fresh fruit on the palate with a savoury finish; black cherry; red fruits – very well-mannered overall; lovely texture to the tannins throughout. This is a beautiful wine with impressive length. [97% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc, 14.5% alc, pH 3.48]. Tasted April 2019. Drink from 2022-2035. 93-95+
Château Laroque, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé, 2016
Fresh; nice depth; purple at edge; attractive fruit; really nicely judged; emphasis on the perfume; and the red fruits raspberry and strawberry; layered; nicely done; good entry on the palate; full fruit; nicely cool and good acidity; nicely balanced and elegant. Really linear. [95% Merlot, 4.5% Cabernet Franc 0.5% Cabernet Sauvignon]. Tasted April 2019. Drink 2020-2035. 92+
Château Laroque, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé, 2015
Mid depth; attractive aromatics; ripe, layered fruit on the nose; quite sophicated; nice palate; red fruits; nicely polished; nice texture; mid weight. Fresh on the palate. Savoury finish. [50% new oak, 18 months. 94% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 1% Cabernet Sauvignon]. Tasted April 2019. Drink 2019-2032. 90
The beautiful Château Laroque in St Christophe de Bardes