Way back in early September the Association de Grands Crus Classés de Saint-Emilion put on a tasting high up above London at Landing Forty Two in the remarkable Leadenhall Building. The views were impressive. So were many of the wines. Ostensibly it was an opportunity to taste the joyful 2018 vintage, but each producer also offered an additional, older vintage. This was fascinating. For me it also confirmed the superlative quality of the 2016 vintage in St Emilion, but also the quality of some of the rather unsung 2017s. In fact, there were quite a few properties to my mind that performed better in ’17 than they did in ’18 – and that was no mean feat given the challenges of the frost that so badly affected the former vintage. Given that some 45 different chateau were represented at the tasting, I’m dividing my report into two parts. This one contains notes and thoughts on some twenty-four properties [and forty-seven wines], starting with Château Barde-Haut and ending with Château Franc-Mayne [essentially half of them alphabetically].
Posts Tagged ‘St Emilion’
It’s always difficult to generalise about the wines in St Emilion, such are the complexities of terroir and the variations of winemaking and viticultural approaches. Still, I think it’s pretty safe to say that 2020 is another exciting vintage here in the heart of the right bank. In terms of the broader overview, alcohols are down slightly on the heady numbers in 2019, and it feels as if there is greater freshness in the 2020s than in the last couple of years. These wines feel well balanced and delicious in this vintage, with attractive textures and supple creamy tannins. On the best limestone and clay-limestone terroirs the wines are fabulous. The summer was dry, and conditions were even drier here than on the left bank. Some properties on sandier soils may have run into trouble with vine stress but generally I was very impressed by the wines here at this early stage. The following post contains notes on forty châteaux. It’s slightly less comprehensive than usual and I hope to fill in some of the gaps with further tastings over the coming months.
There are a number of properties in Bordeaux which offer striking value for the quality. St Emilion Grand Cru Classé Château Laroque is most definitely one of them. It has heritage and fabulous limestone terroir high up in St Emilion. It is also a substantial property with over 61 hectares planted. It has been well looked after by the Beaumartin family since the 1930s. So far, so good. But it has been the arrival of winemaker David Suire that has been the catalyst for this property to hit the big time, qualitatively speaking. Fortunately, the prices have still yet to catch up. While Château Laroque is perhaps no longer an insider’s secret, thanks to sensible pricing here this certainly remains a property to follow. The 2020 is another significant wine. Qualitatively it is up there with the impressive wines fashioned in 2019 and 2018. Laroque is an exciting 2020 indeed.
The Nicolas Thienpont range looks excellent in 2020. The jewels in the line up here are Château Pavie Macquin and Château Larcis Ducasse, two super impressive St Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé. Stylistically these are always chalk and cheese. The former is usually super powerful and bold, the latter is as pure and beautiful as St Emilion gets. The emphasis of Nicolas Thienpont and his son Cyrille, along with winemaking colleague David Suire, is always on the purity of expression of the terroir and not on turbocharged hijinks in the cellar. It is a shame that this team are no longer involved with making Château Beauséjour [HDL], but that’s another story. In the Côtes de Francs, the well-known Château Puygueraud looks very good and their Castillon, Château Alcée, is knockout [as are a number of wines in this appellation in 2020].