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.
Posts Tagged ‘Jean-Luc Thunevin’
My primeurs visit this year [my first since 2019] was limited to a four-day long weekend of tastings on Bordeaux’s right bank in and around St Emilion. I hope to have an in-depth look at the left bank at a later date. Despite the brevity of the trip I looked at hundred plus wines and on the basis of those, 2022 certainly looks to be an exciting vintage for many. It was a hot and dry year, with real heat spikes. Challenging? Yes in some cases but if anything, part of the new normal in Bordeaux in climate and meteorological terms. Stylistically what’s the vintage like in terms of other recent vintages? 2018? 2009? 2003? Any declaration on style is affected by the fact that Bordeaux has evolved considerably over the last decade in winemaking and viticultural terms. In warm years, of which there are now many, picking is less super late, winemaking is generally less extractive and oak handling less obvious. Everyone, it seems, is searching for greater freshness and balance. The comparison most frequently offered by winemakers and proprietors in describing 2022, usually after some procrastination and umpteen caveats, was 2010. Not necessarily in terms of the precise weather conditions. 2010 was a vintage of so-called ‘cool’ maturity, which is not evidently the case in 2022. But there is certainly that level of concentration in the wines, and with much less evident extraction than a decade earlier. I certainly found the tannins in 2022 to be like satin. So, what are the highlights?
It is always a joy tasting through a range of wines that Jean-Luc Thunevin is involved with. The famous iconoclast of St Emilion has a hand in a large range of properties on both the right and left bank in Bordeaux as a consultant. His flagship wine is his own Château Valandraud and evidently Thunevin has pulled out all the stops again in 2019. This is powerful St Emilion with wonderfully lush fruit tones and extract that is simply knockout. This year I was also struck by his juicy Clos Badon which was looks fruit packed and joyful. The white Valandraud is also worth a special mention. This is usually a remarkably intense and concentrated white. It is once again bold and weighty in 2019 and also has good zap and energy.
There was a slightly mournful note last year in the cellars of Jean-Luc Thunevin. The frosts of 2017 had robbed many properties that Jean-Luc consults for on the right bank of much, if not all their crop. This year during primeurs, the mood was jubilant. 2018 is evidently a lovely vintage in St Emilion on the best terroirs. Yes, there might be more noise emanating elsewhere in Bordeaux in 2018 [in St Estèphe especially] but believe me there is an army of seductive reds on the right bank too. As ever there is so much to enjoy in the wines Jean-Luc consultants for and he’s pulled out all the stops in his own wines. Château Valandraud is always pretty remarkable stuff. This year it is a wonder.