There are a number of properties in Bordeaux which offer striking value for the quality. St Emilion Grand Cru Classé Château Laroque is most definitely one of them. It has heritage and fabulous limestone terroir high up in St Emilion. It is also a substantial property with over 61 hectares planted. It has been well looked after by the Beaumartin family since the 1930s. So far, so good. But it has been the arrival of winemaker David Suire that has been the catalyst for this property to hit the big time, qualitatively speaking. Fortunately, the prices have still yet to catch up. While Château Laroque is perhaps no longer an insider’s secret, thanks to sensible pricing here this certainly remains a property to follow. The 2020 is another significant wine. Qualitatively it is up there with the impressive wines fashioned in 2019 and 2018. Laroque is an exciting 2020 indeed.
David Suire sees 2020, overall, as a more heterogeneous year than 2019 or 2018 in general. There were significant climatic and rainfall differences between the right bank and the left, and then within the right bank there were also complexities. The hot and dry summer conditions favoured those terroirs with the limestone and clay, less so the sandy soils.
“The big difference on the right bank is when we got rain at the end of August we were looking at 25mm in Fronsac, St Emilion and Pomerol, whereas there was 100mm of rainfall on the left bank in some places” David Suire says. “Then when you look on the right bank, 25mm was really small and just enough for the clay and limestone terroirs but not enough for the sandy soils.”
That said the 2020s show freshness, richness and glossy tannins. “Laroque has a cool aspect because of the elevation, one of the highest vineyards in St Emilion, so 2020 was another chance for us to make a good wine,” Suire says over Zoom. The tannins are lush and velvety. This Suire thinks has been helped by some rain during September which has added a creamy note to the tannins. In terms of vintage comparisons, it is difficult. “2020 is not easy to characterise on the right bank. We have this creamy quality in the middle of the palate, and this long, very classic finish. It’s fresh at the end but creamy in the middle. It’s not 19. It’s not 18. It’s not ‘16. It’s not ’15. It’s not a vintage impacted by the sun, not when you taste the freshness in the wines, but the creamy texture is not of a cool vintage.”
I was certainly impressed with this 2020. It doesn’t have the aromatic qualities of the 2019 or the knockout attraction of 2018, but it has wonderful depth and fruit and undoubtedly voluptuous, creamy tannins. At the same time there is also freshness. It’s certainly another impressive wine from Château Laroque, clearly now on great form under the management of David Suire. It is a lesson in how terroir needs talent to be able to truly speak.
The following sample was tasted in early May from a full bottle air freighted to the UK. 2020 marks the third vintage on the trot that I’ve bought this wine for my own cellar.
Château Laroque, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé, 2020
Great depth; opaque at centre; colour tight to the edge; creamy brambly fruit with briary notes; black cherries too; sweet entry; good purity; quite savoury – it’s the style; has texture and depth; really polished palate; nicely balanced but has plenty of extract and matter; doesn’t have the coquettishness of 2018 or the fabulous balance of 2019 but it has power; impressive stuff again from this property with fantastic terroir, revitalised under the talented direction of David Suire. Texture to the tannins which provide wonderful punctuation at the end. Long finish. Two hours later this remains intense and inky; there are savoury notes and menthol tones; it is rich; still with plenty of extract and matter; works well; harmony; lasts well in the glass; has lots of guts; tannin ripe on the finish. [99% Merlot, 1% Cabernet Franc, alc 14.5, pH 3.44, 34hl/ha]. Drink 2026-2040. 93-94+