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St Julien siblings: Gloria and St Pierre

Written by JW. Posted in Bordeaux


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!

The beautiful St Pierre 2009

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.

Barrel cellars at Chateau Gloria and Chateau St Pierre

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.

2009 Gloria: pretty, perfumed and classy

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…

2010 Cabernet Sauvignon destined for St Pierre

As elsewhere there is also much excitement at Gloria/St Pierre about the 2010 vintage. I had the chance to taste a glass of 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon which will make its way into the St Pierre blend. The wine, pre-malolactic, showed great definition and concentration and points to another excellent vintage here, though maybe less flashy I imagine than the 2009. The technical director here for both properties is Remi di Constanzo. He was formerly at Chateau Cos d’Estournel, and there is increasingly something of Cos ‘precision’ in Chateau St Pierre recently. I’ll be updating the Chateau Gloria and Chateau St Pierre profiles shortly on this site but in the meantime here are my tasting notes on the comparative tasting of Gloria v St Pierre 2007-2009 in the second week of November. Chateau Gloria 2007 Mid red, some depth; very flattering nose, fruit, roses and blackcurrants, some green coffee beans, some tobacco, good layers, still a little pent up; elegant and harmonious, slightly leafy note arrived later; harmonious with some coffee/mocha notes at the back; balancing acid and soft. Finishes a little short but not that bad considering the vintage. 86/100 Chateau St Pierre 2007 Mid red, slightly greater depth; blackcurrants, cassis, quite round, some tobacco, layered and good; more structured on the palate with some grip and more extract here. Pretty good. 88+/100 Chateau Gloria 2008 Mid red, some purple at edge; quite fresh with strawberries and redcurrants, stones and minerals; with tobacco and coffee bean notes too; good life and acid on the palate; grip and flesh here, structured wine on the grippy side with acid and tannin. Needs five years but good and with good length 88-90/100 Chateau St Pierre 2008 Deep red, blacker at core; legs; some purple at edge; very classy nose, strong blackcurrants and cassis, very pretty, quite pent up and lots of layers and attractive too; some mocha at the back; real ripeness here on the palate, very layered and lots of flesh and material, very well done. Pretty big wine actually with lots of extract and tannin, but fine and not at all dry. Should develop well. Maybe a trifle short at the end but otherwise excellent and I think this will fill out in bottle. 90-92/100 Chateau Gloria 2009 Deep saturated colour and purple at the rim; fabulously ripe, sweet nose; roses, red fruits and very attractive; palate very dense but supple and ripe; very pure with a little wood tannin present now but overall a very pretty and perfumed palate; grip and acid too. Density and chew here with real length and class. 90-92+/100 Chateau St Pierre 2009 Deep, dark, plummy purple colour, tight to the rim; legs; really opulent cassis blackcurrant notes on the nose; deep and intense, wonderful ripeness and purity here; really this has put on weight since I first tasted it; real density and ripeness and class now; lots of layers and density. Deep and rich – almost cake-like with spices. This promises to be a tremendous wine. Knocking on the door of the Leovilles Barton and Poyferre in 2009 I reckon, though less overtly powerful. 94-96+/100

Jean Triaud outside Chateau St Pierre

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