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Bordeaux Primeurs 2022: Château Valandraud and Jean-Luc Thunevin

Written by JW. Posted in Bordeaux

Be and think otherwise, that’s the Jean-Luc Thunevin motto. A trip to his cellars is always a thrill. The slight, cheeky, prodigiously talented iconoclast always seems to have a playful trick or two up his sleeve and you never feel quite sure what might happen next. In the past we used to cram into his garage cellars in St Emilion to taste the latest vintage – his own wines as well as dozens and dozens he consults for. Now that Château Valandraud has its cellars completed and front-of-house set up, the tastings are a slightly more sanitised affair, but that’s a measure of his success. In fact, this year St Emilion’s ‘Bad Boy’ even hosted the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux at Valandraud itself, the property he created and runs with his wife Murielle Andraud, now regularly one of the top Premier Grand Cru Classé in St Emilion. The revolutionary now has the establishment eating from his hands. So, what of the magician’s 2022s? Well, they are quite simply magical.

The line-up starts with a layered and creamy Bad Boy, which was followed by pretty, violet scented Domaine Virginie Thunevin, the Bordeaux Superiéux from the Lalande de Fronsac. Next up was a schisty, saline Domaine de Sabines from Lalande de Pomerol. I’m a great fan of Thunevin’s Pomerol Clos du Beau Père and the 2022 here doesn’t disappoint. The aromatics are loaded with black cherry and plum fruits with a lovely texture on the palate and a little eau de vie on the finish. St Emilion Grand Cru Classé Clos Badon is a beauty. Lashings of creamy black fruits here but this shows focus and refinement too.

Of the wines that come from the Valandraud terroir, the 3 de Valandraud shows earthy, mineral notes and nice texture. It’s a good glass of Bordeaux. Virginie de Valandraud is definitely a gear change up. This second wine is coquettish stuff – lots of ripe perfumed fruit. This is cool and attractive. Château Valandraud itself is fabulous in 2022. It has a super saturated colour and the aromatics show depth and precision. The palate is wonderful, with layers of fruit and exceptional length. It’s dazzling.

Amongst the whites, the Virginie Valandraud is salty and spicy, the Blanc de Clos Badon has zap and freshness and lots of candy and peardrop notes. The Valandraud Blanc is the usual show stopper. It manages to be both steely and rich, with plenty of texture on the palate.

We went on to taste quite a few wines that Jean-Luc Thunevin consults for. Château Moulin du Cadet was ripe and concentrated, Château Soutard de Cadet was schist and mineral but also showed plenty of fruitcake and spice notes. Château Sansonnet was opaque and showed a boatload of fruit, but the finish was refined and complete. Château Villemaurine was concentrated but not at all leaden on the palate. Château La Couspaude felt correct, if not as flamboyant as some. Finally Château Fleur Cardinale was as hedonistic as it gets, wonderfully seductive stuff.

The following notes were taken on the wines tasted with Jean-Luc Thunevin and Xavier Serin on 22nd April, 2023 at Château Valandraud.

Bad Boy, Bordeaux, 2022

Deep and saturated look; ripe and unctuous; layered; textured and creamy; some spice on the palate; textured and fresh on the finish. Great stuff. Drink 2024-2026. 88-90

Domaine Virginie Thunevin, Bordeaux, 2022

Deep; colour close to the edge; pretty edge; violets and red fruits; vivid; layered; textured and nicely handled. Purposeful. This comes from fruit grown in the Lalande de Fronsac. [100% Merlot]. Drink 2025-2030. 90-91

Domaine de Sabines, Lalande de Pomerol, 2022

Deep and saturated colour close to edge; saline, schist and mineral; quite tight and compact but will unfurl. Small 4 hectare property. [85% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc]. Drink 2026-2032. 90-92

Le Clos du Beau Père, Pomerol, 2022

Deep and saturated; tight to the edge; nice blue fruits and black cherry and plum; fresh – summer compote; nice texture; pretty; textured; bright on the palate; bright and fresh – joyful. Bit of alcohol on the finish but this is an absolute joy. [95% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 15% alc]. Drink 2028-2035. 92-94+

Clos Badon, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé, 2022

Deep and saturated; legs; satin notes; deep and dreamy; creamy and attractive:, sweet black fruits but nicely refined; lovely palate; really creamy and attractive; full but really focused. Seamless. Lots of finesse. Nicely done. [65% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Franc, 50hl/ha]. Drink 2027-2035. 93-95

3 de Valandraud, St Emilion Grand Cru, 2022

Vibrant in the glass; legs: texture; earth; mineral; nice texture; Bordeaux. Works well. Good texture on the finish. [85% Merlot and 7.5% Cabernet Franc and 7.5 Cabernet Sauvignon]. Drink 2025-2030. 88-90

Virginie de Valandraud, St Emilion Grand Cru, 2022

Deep and attractive looking: lots here; ripe black fruits; sexy; Christmas pudding; fresh and cool entry on the palate; fresh and clean; attractive. Nicely done. Good length and texture. Second wine of Valandraud. [80% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc 5% Cabernet Sauvignon]. Drink 2026-2033. 91-93

Château Valandraud, St Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé, 2022

Deep and saturated; colour tight to the edge; layered aromatics; new oak nicely integrated; precise seam of black fruits; firm and well handled; very nicely focused and real seam of fruit; super nice core. Plenty of extract and depth. Excellent. Great length and chew on the finish. This is an amazing glass of wine. One of the finest here yet I reckon. [88% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc 6% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15.5% alc, ph 3.55, 3000 cases produced from the 6.6ha property]. Drink 2028-2050. 97-99+


Virginie Valandraud, Bordeaux Blanc, 2022

Silver and gold; spicy; salty notes; ripe and salty; textured and zappy. [45% Sauvignon Blanc, 55% Sémillon, 6000 bottles made]. Drink now-2025. 90-91

Blanc de Clos Badon, Bordeaux Blanc, 2022

Pale straw with some silver notes; candy pear drop; zappy and lively on the palate; zippy. Lovely. [60% Sauvignon Blanc, 40% Sauvignon Gris second vintage here – vines are in Pomerol]. Drink 2024-2028. 92-93+

Blanc de Valandraud, Bordeaux Blanc, 2022

Saline and attractive; steely; rich on the palate and real texture here; gorgeous stuff. The Haut-Brion Blanc of the right bank! [45% Sauvignon Gris, 45% Sauvignon Blanc, 10% Sémillon, 50% oak [60% Austrian oak] and 50% stainless, 1.5 ha]. Drink 2025-2030. 94-96

Properties that Jean-Luc Thunevin consults for:

Château Moulin du Cadet, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé, 2022

Deep and arterial: tight to rim, ripe black fruits; tarry; intense; menthol; ripe and thick; concentrated; layered; deep and textured. Good stuff. [100% Merlot, 15% alc, 2.85ha vineyard]. Drink 2028-2043. 92-93+

Château Soutard de Cadet, Grand Cru, 2022

Deep and dark; tight to the edge; ripe and deep; some schist and mineral but also fruitcake spice; ripe and deep; quite solid; tannins at the end; rich wine. [85% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc Petit Verdot 5%, 15% alc, 2.5 ha estate]. Drink 2028-2038. 90-92+

Château Sansonnet, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé, 2022

Deep and saturated; opaque at centre; fruitcake spice; some marzipan; ripe and rich; intense; nice entry; sweet initially; ripe and full; fruitcake spice and schist; freshness on the end. Punctuation on the end. [85% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7ha estate]. Drink 2028-2045. 93-95+

Château Villemaurine, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé, 2022

Deep and dark; opaque at centre; ripe; prunes; schist; mineral; palate is concentrated; sweet entry; attractive; nicely done; quite fleet of foot; has delicacy. Textured but delicate. Really good. [85% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% alc]. Drink 2028-2045. 93-95+

Château La Couspaude, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé, 2022

Deep and saturated; fresh merlot; nice texture; quite fresh and correct; textured; little less expressive than the last few but all there. [75% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon]. Drink 2028-2038. 90-92+

Château Fleur Cardinale, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé, 2022

Deep and dark; some ripe fruit and jam; red fruits and lifted; sweet and perfumed palate; seductive and texture; satiny; soft and easy: attractive and sweet ripe fruit on the palate; really lush and decadent. [70% Merlot, then split between Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc]. Drink 2029-2043. 95-97+

Clos Badon – excellent in 2022

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