St Estèphe is one of Bordeaux’s great value appellations. The wines are noted for their flavour, depth and chew. Vineyard work over the last decade allied to later picking has yielded greater tannin ripeness in the wines and, combined with modern winemaking techniques, this has made St Estèphe overall a much more attractive prospect than maybe it used to be. Nevertheless the wines still have the guts and material to maintain the district’s reputation for producing long-lived reds. A major tasting at Vinexpo back in the summer focused on the 2010 vintage. There is no doubt that this is a very strong year for St Estèphe.
Posts Tagged ‘Chateau Tronquoy-Lalande’
Despite the vagaries of the vintage it would be a mistake to overlook St Estèphe in 2012. At the top end excellent wines have been made at Chateau Calon-Ségur, Chateau Cos d’Estournel and Chateau Montrose especially. Further down the chain there are values to be had if you pick carefully. I’ve written about the excellent effort at Chateau Meyney, but very fine wine has been made at Chateau Phélan-Ségur and there is a surprisingly good Chateau de Pez. The vintage can’t be compared to 2009 and 2010 but it’s probably better than the 2011 vintage here at least. Where the price is right, and in a few cases it is, you could consider some of these wines en primeur.
Hervé Berland, Château Montrose’s new managing director, is rightly proud of the wine here in 2012. Alongside Mouton and Léoville-Las-Cases this is one of the most powerful wines of the Médoc. It was also amongst the very last picked, a risky business enabled only by the terroir of Montrose. The soils here, gravel with a clay base, were sufficiently well draining for the rain that arrived at vintage time, but water retentive enough to resist the very dry period between August and late September. This dry period created fruit with especially thick skins, helping the grapes [Cabernet especially] resist the threat of botrytis that accompanied the late October wet weather. It was this that let Montrose snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
Twenty-minutes isn’t a long time, but it’s a lifetime if, on the eve of harvest, your vineyard is sat beneath a storm producing hail the size of golf balls. As extreme vineyard events go the St Estèphe hail storm that struck on September 1st 2011 was a dramatic as they come. Not every producer was mind you. It was highly localised, passing some vineyards, clipping others but decimating quite a few. Basil Tesseron, owner of Chateau Lafon-Rochet, who made good wine in the end, described it as the viticultural equivalent of falling off the Empire State Building – a microscopically short event ending in oblivion. The immediate fear, apart from the reduction in yield and damage to those vines physically stripped of their leaves, branches and fruit, would have then been the secondary threat of rot on the remaining bunches. This fear would have been made more complex by the fact that the vineyards were approaching maturity but not quite ready to pick. Do you wait and get proper phenolic ripeness or risk losing the lot to rot? Or do you pick quickly but end up with green wines and unripe tannins? Add all this to a vintage that had seen conditions see-saw and which overall was pitifully dry. Pouring over meteorological charts at that few days of harvest was probably all you could do – that and having a stiff gin and tonic and go with your instinct. Close your eyes and feel the force Luke.