Well, well, well, what a real beauty Chateau St Pierre 2009 has turned out to be. I must confess that when I’d first tasted it, admittedly on a rather wet and windy Tuesday morning in late March earlier this year on the opening day of the ’09 primeurs tastings, it wasn’t the most expressive of the wines shown from St Julien. Mind you, given how spectacular this appellation has been in 2009, rising above the likes of Chateau Léoville Barton and Chateau Léoville Poyferré would have been tricky. I had the opportunity of tasting St Pierre ‘09 again this month, now two thirds of the way through its elevage and the wine is simply fantastic. So if you bought this wine en primeur then well done. I wish I had!
Tasting St Pierre again was something of a bonus. I’d arranged a trip to Chateau Gloria, its stable mate, to taste Gloria’s wines, both Gloria and St Pierre being raised in the same cellars in Beychevelle-St Julien. I’ve been a great fan of Gloria for a while but was not that up-to-date with recent vintages, hence the visit. But rather than just taste the last three vintages of Gloria, Jean Triaud also lined up St Pierre to taste too. Jean is the enthusiastic and down-to-earth son of Jean-Louis Triaud. His father runs both properties with his wife Francoise, the daughter of the late Henri Martin with whom Triaud had worked since 1974. Triaud the elder is also well-known for being the chairman of the Girondins de Bordeaux football club.
Henri Martin himself was famous for being one of Bordeaux’s great characters. Formerly a barrel maker, he came to establish what was to become Chateau Gloria in the 1940s by purchasing parcels of cru classe vineyard in St Julien. Over a forty year period he built up a property of 44 hectares across three plots, one in the centre of Beychevelle, and the others on the northern and western edges of St Julien, on the Pauillac border. Today the vineyard comprises 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot with the remainder equal proportions Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. The wine reflects these proportions and receives 12-14 months in oak, approximately 40% of which is new. The 2001 and 2005 which I’ve had in the past were delightfully supple wines but with all the qualities of a fine St Julien.
Martin bought Chateau St Pierre in 1981 and in 1982 reunited the estate with the vineyards which had been in separate ownership since 1922. St Pierre, classified a 4th growth in 1855, is one of the oldest Medoc estates with a wine making history that stretches back to the 16th century. At just 17 hectares located in the heart of Beychevelle, St Pierre’s not an especially large estate compared to near neighbour Chateau Beychevelle or other big St Julien properties such as Lagrange, Talbot or Gruaud Larose – St Pierre is only making around 5000 cases of the grand vin each vintage – but the wine is just as impressive as these estates, perhaps even more so. It is more serious than Gloria, partly due to the terrior, but mainly I expect due to the higher percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon in the vineyard [75%] which is closer to 80% in the finished wine in the last few vintages. The remainder of the vineyards are planted with Merlot [15%] and Cabernet Franc [10%]. The wine spends 14 to 16 months in oak barrels, 60% new.
The mini Gloria/St Pierre vertical was informative in many ways. First it confirmed the excellent value that Chateau Gloria represents. Nothing new to you there I’m sure but in an appellation that has seen some pretty hefty price hikes this past year, and where the most expensive wines in St Julien trade at four to five times the price, this value will be increasingly important to those of us who also want to drink Bordeaux not just invest in it. While Gloria doesn’t possess the sheer sophistication and class of St Pierre, it is wonderfully enjoyable and forward St Julien and the 2009 is a real joy.
The tasting also emphasized what a seriously good wine Chateau St Pierre is, the charms of which have become increasingly clear to me having separately had the 2008 and 2006 vintages recently in London in the past month and St Pierre performed well alongside its peers. It also demonstrates that it needs a bit of time to settle. The other interesting lesson is how the 2007 vintage is starting to come round. Both Gloria and St Pierre are looking very harmonious and round now after eighteen months or so in bottle and if the price is right then these may be worth considering. I’d previously written off the 2007 vintage wholesale as meagre, austere and pricey. 2008 is undoubtedly a better bet of course but now, after some time in bottle to settle, it looks like some estates may have actually produced reasonably successful, forward wines for early drinking in 2007. Later on a different visit I had a similar mini-vertical at Chateau Meyney and was surprised by how approachable their 2007 was too. More of that later…
Tags: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, Beychevelle-St Julien, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chateau Gloria, Chateau Léoville Barton, Chateau St Pierre, en primeur, Girondins de Bordeaux, Henri Martin, Jean Triaud, Jean-Louis Triaud, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Remi di Constanzo, St Julien