After another night ending at 2am pulling corks in my dear chum, Martin Krajewski’s Chateau de Sours wine cellar, it was yet another early start to day three of my en primeur marathon.
CHATEAU GUADET, St Emilion
Fortunately, the drive to my first appointment at Chateau Gaudet
in St Emilion is quick and easy. This tiny property is owned by Guy Petrus Lignac
and, remarkably, they have made wine here since before the French Revolution - as a tour of their splendid underground cellars reveals. (It also reveals some splendid older vintages of their wine and some of the cru-classes dating back to the nineteenth century. In other words, it is a real wine lovers treasure trove.)
The estate may be small, with just a few hectares, but the wine has superb provenance – not least because Guy’s ancestors used to own Chateau Petrus many years ago, hence the name. I’ve known Guy and his family for years and I think this is a very special St Emilion, which very few people know about.
This year, they have made less wine than normal because a plot of Cabernet Franc was directly in the line of fire of the hail which hit St Emilion in May. Apparently, it wasn’t just the crop which suffered. The hail stones were so big that they even smashed the shells of the snails!
According to Guy’s well-travelled son, Vincent
, ‘we still had a good quality crop though without any problems. ‘But like everyone else, we had to wait for the Merlot to ripen. So for us it is quite high alcohol at 14%. But it was an incredible year. We haven’t seen this level of ripeness since 1947. Even 2003 wasn’t like this.’ Once again, it is an impressive wine made in a more traditional style. I gave it 15/20
Then it was off to Cheval Blanc
, where it felt like the entire wine world was beating a path to Pierre Lurton’s door. As ever, Pierre was on terrific form and looking as relaxed as usual. ‘This year, it is a cashmere vintage,’ he told me. ‘But not cashmere prices…’, he joked.
The first wine we tried was the La Tour du Pin
which LVMH have just purchased from Christian Moueix and used to be known as La Tour du Pin Figeac. It’s good in 2009, but is a wine for fairly early drinking. Much more serious was Cheval’s second wine Petit Cheval
. Counter-intuitively, this contains 65% Cabernet Franc and only 35% Merlot. The result was fleshy, round and ripe with attractive mulberry fruit. I gave it 15/20.
The 2009 Cheval Blanc is another prodigious wine.
Once again, Pierre has delivered the goods with a surprising blend of 65% Merlot and 35% Cabernet Franc. Normally, it is 50:50. I found it voluptuous, soft, silky and wonderfully integrated. The fruit is full of damson, black cherry with a whiff of spice and tobacco. The oak is 100% new but such is the concentration, it only comes through on the texture and doesn’t intrude on the flavour. The ensemble is elegant, refined and long. For sure, this will be a vin de garde. I rate it 19 points.
Then just as we were leaving, Pierre quietly asked if we wanted to taste the 2009 Yquem
. So he personally led us into the chateau and poured the wine. This is show-stoppingly good and will rank as another great Yquem vintage. For Pierre, it was a combination of 2001’s complexity and 2005’s power.
Best of all, the acidity and sweetness (150g/L) is so exquisitely balanced that the wine finishes almost dry. The other good news is that this is a big crop at Yquem in 2009 which combines quantity with quality. According to Pierre they made approximately the same number of barrels as in the 1893 vintage
, a wine which Pierre reminded me we tasted together in London two years ago.
From Yquem to Angelus
Our next appointment was at Angelus, where Hubert de Bouard continues to impress year in year out. Here the blend was 50%, 47% Cabernet Franc and a soupcon of Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine is big, bold and deeply coloured. On the nose it is rich and powerful. On the palate, it is densely packed with morello cherry fruit, tobacco and smoke. A little on the austere side, this is another ‘keeper’ for the long haul. 18 points.
Whilst at Angelus
I also tried some other wines on show which Hubert consults at. But to me, some of these wines showed the shortcomings of lesser terroirs. For instance, Chateau Adaugusta was disappointingly tough. However, Clos La Madeleine
was much more successful. This little known property could be a good value wine. Chateau La Pointe had also produced a sweetly fruited wine with nice notes of damsons and plums.
So my advice is to pick and choose with considerable care and attention. The press may well go crazy about 2009, saying that this is a good vintage across the board. But in my book, that simply isn’t the case.
Well, that’s it for now. But do tune in for my next blog which will take a look at the 2009s of Gerard Perse at Pavie
. Will they be as controversial as they have been in the past? We’ll have to wait and see….