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Bordeaux 2023: Clos Fourtet

Written by JW. Posted in Bordeaux

It was great catching up with Matthieu Cuvelier at Clos Fourtet back in April. It’s now been twenty years since the Cuvelier family bought this stunning Premier Grand Cru Classé St Emilion property. It sits on exceptional terroir atop St Emilion’s limestone plateau just beside the town of St Emilion itself. It has gone from strength to strength under their management and recent vintages here have widely been seen as exceptional. It’s also been just over a decade since they purchased Grand Cru Classé, Château Côte de Baleau and sixteen years since they acquired Château Poujeaux, the jewel in the crown of left bank appellation Moulis. The Cuveliers have proved diligent custodians of these properties, fine tuning the approaches and getting the absolute best from these terroirs. These improvements have also been to the benefit of consumers as prices haven’t risen sharply in relation to quality. Clos Fourtet remains more reasonably priced than some other leading St Emilion properties and Châteaux Poujeaux remains one of Bordeaux’s great fine wine values. So how have all these properties faired in 2023?

Matthiew Cuvelier described the 2023 vintage as a generous harvest in St Emilion. “Flowering was good, early and quick. There was pressure from the humidity but the early summer temperatures were moderate which has helped preserve freshness and acidities.” Cuvelier explained that the two big heat spikes at the beginning and end of August helped with veraison and, in the end, despite the moderate early summer conditions, the harvest itself was the third earliest at Clos Fourtet [the earliest previous vintages being 2003 and 2022]. On the left bank at Château Poujeaux there were frost issues in early April and relatively wet and humid conditions in the early part of the growing season, although flowering was good. Then on 7 July hail took 25% of the crop. As the summer continued into August conditions were sunnier with several heat spikes as elsewhere. Harvest here started on 18 September with the Merlot and finished on 4 October with the Cabernet and Petit Verdot. The Merlot was round and juicy and the Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot were fresh and aromatic. For me Poujeaux is lifted and aromatic, with medium weight and an appetising finish. Matthieu Cuvelier believes it is not easy to compare the wine with other vintages, but “maybe a combination of 2001 and 2008 in terms of freshness and energy and 2016 in terms of structure.” It is certainly very drinkable.

I’ve been a fan of Château Côte de Baleau in good vintages and I’ve a case if the 2016 tucked away [which I probably should start drinking]. This is ripe and joyful in 2023 with plenty of black cherry and plum tones, with a fresh brambly finish. Cuvelier explains that the property neighbours the biodynamic Château Fonroque, run by Alain Moueix. Château Côte de Baleau’s terrior has all three of the appellations soil profiles – limestone, clay and sandy soils. The wine will see 25% new oak, 25% one year, 25% two year and the final 25% spend time in cuve.

La Closerie de Fourtet is the second wine of Clos Fourtet and typically comes from the more clay influenced terroirs on the property or from the younger vines from the limestone soils. This is plump and creamy in 2023 with lots of energy on the mid palate and a fresh finish. It is lively and sappy but with plenty of ripe fruit to still feel generous. It’s a good wine.

Clos Fourtet itself comes more exclusively from the limestone dominated soils on the property, limestone which is only 50cm beneath the soil in some parts of the vineyard. The grapes are whole berry fermented with pigeage to refine extraction. They don’t perform a cold soak either. The refinement comes through in the wine which is saline and fresh, marked by the limestone terroir which certainly shines through in 2023.

The following wines were tasted at Clos Fourtet on 19th April, 2024 with Matthieu Cuvelier. I hope you find the notes useful.

Château Poujeaux, Moulis-en-Medoc, Bordeaux 2023

Mid depth; heathy looking in the glass; juicy and lifted aromatics; quite pretty, nice delicacy; blackcurrants and some leaf; mineral on the palate with good grain and texture; pencil and blackcurrant finish. Very classic but not the weightiest Poujeaux by any means. Little more highly toned than usual. Fresh and lively on the finish. [55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot, 12.5% alc, pH 3.82, 30% new oak barriques, 70% one and two year oak]. Tasted April 2024. Drink 2028-2038. 88-90+

Château Côte de Baleau, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé, 2023

Lovely colour – deep and tight to rim; dense; ripe and joyful, ripe plums and cherry; black cherry; tightness and grip on the palate; freshness; lively. Gritty finish. Fresher vintage than ’22. Good length. Brambly/briary fruit here. [95% Merot, 5% Cab Franc, 25% new oak, 25% one yr, 25% two yrs and 25% in cuve. Fourteen months élevage overall, 17ha, 40hl/ha, 14% alc, 3.45 pH]. Tasted April 2024. Drink 2028-2038. 89-91+

La Closerie de Fourtet, St Emilion Grand Cru, 2023

Deep saturated; lively looking; deeper more saturated aromatics than the Cote de Baleau; deeper; plums; creamy cherry; some minerality; sappy but has lots in the middle; quite plump and satisfying; acidity; some chew; fresh mineral on the finish. Nice combination of ripe fruit and fresh acidities. Attractive. [85% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, 15% new oak, 83% one and two year oak, 2% jar, whole berry ferment with pigeage, 14-18 months élevage, 14% alc, pH 3.56, 46hl/ha]. Tasted April 2024. Drink 2028-2033. 90-92+

Clos Fourtet, St Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé, 2023

Mid depth; legs; fresh, juicy and pretty; saline and fresh; mid weight; has juice and lightness and delicacy; attractive and fresh; lighter vintage for sure but this is very nicely balanced. Some tightness on the palate with a limestone-influenced saline finish. This should age well and Cuvelier believes it’s closest perhaps to a modern day 2001. It is certainly refined and harmonious. [87% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, 6% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% new oak, 58% one and two year oak, 2% jar, 14-18 months élevage, 14.5% alc, pH 3.54, 46hl/ha]. Tasted April 2024. Drink 2030-2045. 94-96

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