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Bordeaux Primeurs 2013: St Estèphe

Written by JW. Posted in Bordeaux

IMG_5654Overall St Estèphe was a little more variable than I’d expected in 2013. The wines are fresh, vigorous and pretty high in acidity. Some lack charm and there’s not the full-fat quality of the good years here. There are successes. I’ve posted already on Calon-Ségur, Château Cos d’Estournel, Château Meyney and Château Montrose, but Château Phélan Ségur looks nicely polished, Château Capbern Gasqueton is very pretty and I was particularly struck by Château de Pez. There are also solid efforts from Château Haut-Marbuzet, Château Tronquoy-Lalande, Château Le Crock and Château Ormes de Pez, though they lack the flair of the best vintages.

It’s worth remembering that St Estèphe covers a wide area with diverse terroir. In any year that is bound to show up in considerable variation in both quality and style. Overall at the top of the scale is Château Calon Ségur with a [currently] rather serious Montrose just behind. There is then a very contrasting effort from Cos d’Estournel. For my money, there’s a lot of potential in Château Meyney once again, Montrose’s next-door neighbour.


Tasted at the UGCB, Château de Pez really sang on the two occasions I tasted it. This would provide excellent value St Estèphe down the line I’m sure. It was certainly in jubilant form during primeurs week. Château Phélan Ségur was also consistent in a typically elegant style with nice finesse. Ormes de Pez felt chunky, and, a little like stablemate Lynch-Bages, came across as quite extracted this year. I’d expect it to settle [like its Pauillac sibiling] but it’s shown far better during its early life.

I’d have to say the same about classed growths Château Lafon-Rochet and Château Cos Labory. I’m a fan of both properties. Cos Labory can provide good value, full St Estèphe at a reasonable price, while Lafon-Rochet makes serious wines as anyone whose tried their fabulous 2009 and a dense [and likely long-lived] 2010, will be able to attest. Neither of these wines looked at their best during primeurs. Lafon-Rochet 2013, is correct enough, but lacks charm and felt a little hard. Cos Labory was disjointed and masked by oak. I’d expect these to settle but it was a rather disappointing showing for both properties.

There are a number of other St Estèphes that have made good wines in 2013. Château Capbern Gasqueton has succeeded, producing a very pretty and attractive wine. It is very nicely judged for the vintage. Likewise Château Tronqouy-Lalande is a good effort in 2013, as is Château Le Crock. I had an interesting chat at Château Haut-Marbuzet with Henri Duboscq. His first vintages was 1952. Henri feels the fuss about 2013 being a ‘disaster vintage’ was overplayed. ‘I remember ’63, ’65, ’68, ’69, ’72 and ’73. Those were disasters! 2013 is not as bad as any one of them’, said Duboscq, ‘We need to embrace vintage variation. With an oceanic climate, it means we get some great years, some good and some difficult – it’s as simple as that.’ Haut-Marbuzet itself, whilst not exhibiting the sexy, exotic notes of the hot years, feels elegant and well-made in 2013.

Tasted at the Cru Bourgeois event at Château d’Arsac, Château Beau-Site looked elegant and probably charming enough, Château Clauzet decent but lacking flesh, while the sample of Château Le Boscq seemed vegetal and green. It was not anywhere close to the usually high standards of this property, so I imagine it was a bad sample bottle and I didn’t have time to re-taste.

The following twenty St Estèphe wines were tasted during primeurs week between March 31 and April 4, 2014. The are listed, broadly, in qualitative order. Notes more important than numbers, once again.

Château Calon-Ségur, Grand Cru Classé, St Estèphe

Deep and healthy colour; purple at edge; clean and pure blackcurrant aromas; elegant but fullish; real purity; great palate; layered with extract and sweet fruit; real character and surprising depth for the vintage; attractive sap and purity on the finish. Very good effort. [92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot, 13.1% alc, 3.7TA, 3.65 pH, IPT 62 36hl/ha, 20 day cuvaison, 100% new oak]. Drink 2018-2030+. 91-93

Château Montrose, Grand Cru Classé, St Estèphe

Deep and saturated; lively and vibrant at the edge; blackcurrants and expensive oak aromas; quite closed on the day but depth apparent; some cassis and clean, fresh blackcurrant tones on aeration; dense and chewy palate which needs to settle; boldly structured with lots of grip and acidity. Sappy finish with quite a bit of chew. Feels long term effort if rather serious and lacking in immediate charm. [68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot, 13% alc, 60% of production]. Drink 2020-2035. 90-92

Château Cos d’Estournel, Grand Cru Classé, St Estèphe

Deep and saturated look; vibrant at edge; cassis, some menthol and spices on the aromatics; blackcurrants; balanced and elegant palate; fresh and crisp with emphasis on delicacy. Stylistically very much in-line with the light vintage and a very different experience here. Expect this to fill out a little. [78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc, 12.7% Drink 2018-2030. 90-92

Château Meyney, St Estèphe

Deep and saturated look; purple at edge; toasty oak and material; lots of depth and sweetness; good palate with lots of chewy material and extract; quite chewy and needs to settle a bit but has good length. Good effort here once again.Very late harvesting on the Cabernet ending 19/10 has helped here. [45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 44% Merlot, 11% Petit Verdot, 37% new oak]. Drink 2020-2030. 87-89

Château de Pez, St Estèphe

Deep and saturated look; attractive red fruits; enticing; appealing palate – full, softish with a degree of generosity. Attractive wine and very good effort. Tasted UGC 1/4/14. 87-89 [later note] Deep and saturated in colour; tight to edge; creamy blackcurrant aromatics on the nose; good chew and sap on the palate – quite bright fruit. Elegant with some delicacy. Not forced. Quite impressive for the appellation and the vintage in 2013. [74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, alc 13%, 40% new oak]. Tasted UGC 3/4/14. 2018-2025. 86-88+

Château Capbern Gasqueton, St Estèphe

Mid depth; some purple at edge; charming aromatics; pretty fruit; very jolly; charming fruit; fresh and vibrant with good depth; very pure. Attractive. Gentle extraction and handled with real finesse. [91% Cabernets, 6% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot, 13% alc, 3.60 TA, 3.75 pH, 59 IPT, 65% new oak]. Drink 2018-2025. 86-88+

Marquis de Calon, St Estèphe

Mid depth; vivid at the edge; clean and correct; berry fruits; quite clean; palate fresh with elegance but nice tension; no puckering notes; reasonable density and nice chew. [60% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13.2 % alc, 3.70 TA, 3.6 pH, IPT 63, 36 hl/ha, 30% new oak]. Drink 2018-2025. 86-88

La Dame de Montrose, St Estèphe

Mid depth; little looser at the edge than Montrose itself; legs; lots of fruit on the nose, red fruits – raspberries and redcurrants – also some sweet cherry tones; warmer and more overt than Tronquoy-Lalande; lots of fruit and material; some sweetness; acidity and structure evident – structure more obvious than usual. Finishes with grip and chew. Strutured and grippy La Dame. [69% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Cabernet Franc, 13% alc, 28% of production]. Drink 2018-2028. 86-88

Les Pagodes de Cos, St Estèphe

Mid depth; vibrant edge; spicy, salty and mineral qualities; some smoked meats and blackcurrant tones beneath; attractive entry, good-ish depth, some cream; nicely measured with good grip and sap. Elegance. [64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, 4% Petit Verdot]. Drink 2018-2026. 87-88+

Château Phélan Ségur, St Estèphe

Deep core, purple at edge; pure and polished on the nose; sweetness; black fruits; quite sappy and chewy but the elements are there. Will be a gutsy effort. Tasted 1/4/14. 86-88 [later note] Deep at core; vibrant purple at edge; fresh; some graphite and blackcurrant notes; purity; grippy palate with evident extract and material. Nice grip and chew. [60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 50% new oak, 12.7% alc]. Tasted UGC 3/4/14. Drink 2018-2025. 86-88

Château Le Crock, Cru Bourgeois, St Estèphe

Good depth; vibrant edge; attractive cassis and blackcurrant fruit; nicely integrated and polished; perfume; layered and sturdy in feel; polished palate, lacks some intensity of a great year and a little loose perhaps on the finish but good substance and extract. All the elements [53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot, 7% Petit Verdot, 4% Cabernet Franc, 13.1% alc, TA 3.95, pH 3.57 34hl/ha, IPT 69, 25% new oak]. Drink 2017-2028. 85-87 [Second note] Mid depth; quite composed; some oak; tight; ripe fruit beneath; inky palate but good fruit; quite firm and sappy; fraction hardness on the end but should fill out. Drink 2017-2025. Tasted 3/4/14 Cru Bourgeois tasting at Chateau d’Arsac. 85-87

Château Haut-Marbuzet, St Estèphe

Mid depth; purple edge; fresh aromatics; blackcurrants and fruit pastel notes; fruity; sappy and fresh palate with quite cool [but not herbaceous] tones; elegant Haut-Marbuzet with good-ish length. [60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot]. Drink 2018-2025. Tasted 4/4/14 at Haut-Marbuzet. 85-87

Château Tronquoy-Lalande, St Estèphe

Deep colour; vibrant at edge; fresh looking; cassis, some cranberry and sweet cherry; attractive and perfumed aromas; little saline touch; spicy characters on the palate, full-ish with good tension; vibrant with zap at the end. Good effort. [52% Merlot, 38% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc, 13% alc, 89% of production]. Drink 2018-2028. 85-87+

Château Ormes de Pez, St Estèphe

Mid depth; some liquorice; little black fruit tones; palate chewy with a lot of sap and acidity. Overall chewy and grippy. Tasted UGC 1/4/14 84-86. [later note] Deep and saturated look; vibrant purple at edge; sturdy blackcurrant fruit on the nose; quite stalky fruit and hardish on the palate; chewy and dry on the end. Fresh but feels a bit over-extracted. [46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 42% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot 40hl/ha]. Tasted UGC 3/4/14. Drink 2018-2025. Drink 2018-2025. 84-86

Château Beau-Site, Cru Bourgeois, St Estèphe

Mid depth; some red fruits, jam and spice; light-ish; soft entry, sweetness with some material here; quite nicely extracted and not puckering. Elegant style and works well in the context. Drink 2018-2023. Cru Bourgeois tasting at Chateau d’Arsac. 84-86

Château Lafon-Rochet, Grand Cru Classé, St Estèphe

Mid depth; vibrant purple at edge; some plum fruit, graphite and stalky blackcurrants; chewy and sturdy palate. Little hard. Rather chewy finish. Tasted UGC 1/4/14 Tannic. 84-86 [later note] Mid depth; translucent core; vibrant, fresh, stalky blackcurrant Cabernet dominated aromatics; bit reductive and rather angular on the palate; tightness here; hardness almost alongside a dry finish. Finishes dry and chewy. [70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot 13% alc]. Drink 2018-2025. 84-86

Château Cos Labory, Grand Cru Classé, St Estèphe

Deepish; some creamy lift, red fruits and toasty oak; chewy wood tannins dominate the palate; extracted feel. Tasted UGC 1/4/14 83-85. [later note] Deepish but translucent centre; oak rather dominates the aromatics; palate dominated by oak too and structure poking out; fruit feels delicate and masked by oak and overall sense of dryness. Disappointing showing to be honest. [68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Merlot 12.5% alc, 50% new oak, harvest dates 7-17 October]. Tasted UGC 3/4/14. Drnk 2018-2023. 82-84

Château Lilian Ladouys, St Estèphe

Deepish colour, tight to rim; clean and pure on the nose; entry high toned with more obvious acidity; compact and sappy. Feels a little austere. [55% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot, 12.82% alc, TA 4, pH 3.46, IPT 72, 35 hl/ha]. Drink 2018-2024. 83-85

Château Clauzet, Cru Bourgeois, St Estèphe

Mid depth; sturdy, stalky aromatics; fresh and some spices; quite boney style and lacks flesh; stalky fruit. Still nothing green. May fill in. Light. Drink 2017-2023. Cru Bourgeois tasting at Chateau d’Arsac. 82-84

Château Le Boscq, Cru Bourgeois, St Estèphe

Deep and saturated look; black; vegetal notes; feels a bit green; inky palate; quite soft but rather vegetal streak for me. A disappointment. Bad sample? Drink 2016-2022. Cru Bourgeois tasting at Chateau d’Arsac. 80-83?

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