Hopefully you weren’t holding your breath. The delay in getting Part 2 of my review of the Grands Crus Classés of St Emilion up and published was due to a combination of COVID over the winter break and then the volume of other work in January which blew me off track. Anyhow, finally here is my summary of the second tranche of twenty-one 2018s St Emilion classed growths tasted last September. Again, these are a generally rich and ripe set of wines, some quite precocious, and many already a joyful drink. Alongside these, properties also showed one other vintage. As in my earlier piece, the 2016s really impressed, but so too did many 2017s. So what are the picks?
Posts Tagged ‘St Emilion’
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].
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.