The St Emilion Grand Cru Classé that were tasted bling at the Grand Cercle press tasting at Château de la Dauphine back in April were sensational. They stood out along with the wines from Fronsac [more on these shortly]. I’ve already published posts individually on a number of top chateaux in St Emilion in 2022. I’m including these tasting notes again in this post, but I’m majoring on notes and analysis on a further sixteen cru classé and a handful of grand cru tasted with the Grand Cercle. There is usually some degree of variation between properties in any given year. The particular challenges of ’22, in terms of heat spikes and near continuous drought, would also have varied depending on terroir, viticulture and winemaking approaches. That being said, the astonishing thing about the wines tasted at the Grand Cercle was the high consistency. Many of the best wines are weighing in at fourteen to fifteen degrees alcohol [and, yes, it does now seem possible for a wine to achieve balance and weigh in at fifteen degrees] but there is surprising freshness in the wines, delicacy even. And the textures are sublime. So, what were the highlights at the Grand Cercle tasting?
Posts Tagged ‘Virginie de Valandraud’
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.
This post is taken from tastings earlier in the year and compiles notes and scores on nearly thirty white wines from the 2019 Bordeaux vintage. There were considerable variations in styles, across a variety of terroirs. The hot and dry conditions were a challenge for some producers. Sometimes the structure and body that a warm vintage can bring is at the expense of aromatic complexity. Picking dates are also important. Harvest needs to be early enough to retain sufficient acidity and freshness. The danger of harvesting a little late is the wines can feel fat, low in acidity and lack focus. At the top level in 2019, I was especially impressed with Château Smith Haut Lafitte, which has produced another knockout white in Léognan. Château Pape Clément also impressed in Pessac. At the other end of the compass [geographically speaking] were impressive whites from Château Cos d’Estournel [Cos blanc and Pagodes de Cos], drawn from fruit adjacent to the Gironde in the Médoc. I also enjoyed Jean-Luc Thunevin’s rich Château Valandraud Blanc from vineyards in St Emilion. These were the absolute highlights of the whites I tasted.
There is no doubt that 2019 is an excellent vintage in St Emilion. There are many fabulous wines displaying beautiful fruit, concentration and supple tannins. Alcohols are high – fifteen degrees is not uncommon – but many wines still retain surprising freshness. With potentially high tannin levels, the foot has been held off the gas in the cellar by many properties, showing a more nuanced approach to winemaking here than perhaps a decade ago. It shows how the heady days of over-extraction appear to be behind us in the appellation. If 2019 doesn’t quite have the exuberance of 2018, or the heavenly balance of 2016, it could be seen as a hypothetical blend of the two, or a combination of 2009 and 2010, but without the late picking and extractive practices that characterized that period.