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1996 Bordeaux: A blinded trio

August 14, 2019

These are notes from a small blinded tasting organized by Benjamin after hours at his office on 04 July 2019. The theme was 1996 Bordeaux. Each of us, of course, knew what we’d brought but after the bottles were covered with identical socks and shuffled, we became none the wiser.  It was supposed to be a quartet but a 1996 Ch Palmer was unfortunately corked, leaving us with a trio that still provided plenty of intrigue and fun. Many thanks, everyone, for your contributions, especially to Benjamin for the immaculate preparation.

2017 Domaine Faiveley Batard-Bienvenues-Montrachet Grand Cru, courtesy of Benjamin. Cask sample, popped and poured. Effusive in delicate chalkiness underscored by a light creamy presence with  clear citrus some grassy elements, already good early complexity with excellent presence, transparency and definition on a base of graphite minerals. Very well-layered balanced, finishing well. Excellent but way too young.

Red #1. Darkly coloured. Distant aromas of sweet red fruits and currants, displaying an even richness on the medium-bodied palate. Fleshed out with attractive acidity and smoked characters with a tinge of dryness and burnt coal, just a tad short as it finished with ground minerals. A 1996 Clos du Marquis, courtesy of Benoit.

Red #2. Deeply coloured and savoury with a dominance of delicious dark currants and mocha on the nose, highly inviting. Quite full and fleshy, more minerally at first before giving way to dark plums and dark cherries with a bit of racy intensity, distinctly savoury and meaty amid traces of bellpepper though rather understated in acidity and finish. I thought a Saint-Emilion when, in fact, it was the 1996 Château Pontet-Canet that I’d brought. Most unusual, as I could not discern any of the expected Pauillac dryness.

Red #3. Raspberries, dark and red currants dominate on the nose with sweet delicious overtones. The palate was tinged with a touch of dryness amidst an abundance of earthy ferrous minerals that recalled cordite, concentrated in dark fruits with a certain sternness, turning more velvety with some lovely juicy sweetness as it gained further depth and intensity. Utterly delicious. Clearly not from the Left Bank. Kind of difficult to place, perhaps Pomerol. I thought it was La Conseillante. Instead, it was a 1996 Château Ausone….what a surprise! Merci Damien!

After the Bordeaux trio had been unblinded, Benjamin threw in a mystery red, tasted blind. The bottle shape gave it away as a Burgundy. Popped and poured, exuding a distinct earthy pungency on the nose, not unlike egg yolk. Some evolution has taken place, the wine delectably open, fleshy and highly supple with delicious red fruits and cherries that exude wonderful freshness and lift, very subtly structured with a deep core of tangerines that oozed with lovely sweetness. Carried great vigour and optimism all through to its minerally finish. All of us got it correctly: a 1996 Joseph Drouhin Beaune Clos des Mouches Rouge 1er. Excellent.

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July 2019: 1986 Chateau Leoville Las-Cases, 1998 Cheval Blanc, 1996 Mouton Rothschild

August 13, 2019

2016 Jim Barry Cover Drive, from the list of Wooloomooloo 05 Jul 2019. Clear purple. Fruit forward with good concentration of dark berries and raspberries, highly supple. Well balanced and lively. Opened up with good even intensity on a minerally floor, finishing on a slightly earthy spicy trace.

2016 Penfolds Bin 407, courtesy of Mr Thu at Restoran Public, Kota Tinggi, on 07 Jul 2019. Dense dark fruits and currants dominate amid traces of forest floor and dusty tannins, quite even in concentration. Finished with fine intensity of blackcurrants.

20190712_184452.jpg2015 Domaine Bruno Clair Chambolle-Musigny Les Veroilles, popped and poured at Otto Ristorante, 12 Jul 2019. Lovely deep pinot tint. Ample expanse of rose petals, red cherries, camphor and haw flakes on the nose and palate. Quite plump and fleshy, displaying good intensity and extraction with excellent ripeness. Highly supple. Snapped into focus after 30 minutes, becoming rounder and warmer and more seamless, layered with a deeper vein of fruit amid traces of saline minerals, finishing with a bit of coiled tension. Very fine. Great value.

2000 Champagne Henriot Cuvee des Enchanteleurs, popped and poured at Jade Palace, 13 Jul 2019. Deep lustre with a deep yeasty pungency. Medium-bodied, fleshy and dry. Lightly layered with crisp clear citrus, lime and green melons. Better developed with more presence and depth but this is never the most profound of champagne.

2014 Domaine Bernard Moreau Chassagne-Montrachet, popped and poured at Jade Palace, 13 Jul 2019. Superbly layered with chalky creaminess, not apparent at first but it gradually opened up to reveal some early complexity amidst a light minerally tone, developing further depth and richness with a lovely transparency and roundedness, finishing with wonderful length.

1986 Ch Leoville Las-Cases, popped and poured at Jade Palace, 13 Jul 2019. Deep garnet red. Powerful developed bouquet of Chinese tea leaves, deep currants and violets. Highly supple with great sublime acidity, still imbued with superb presence and layering that exuded great precision with a fabulous controlled intensity, developing a sweet velvety tannin structure over time as it finished with a wonderful hallowed glow amid traces of mint. At its peak but still amazingly youthful, this wine can easily last another few more decades.

1996 Ch Mouton Rothschild, courtesy of Meng, popped and poured at Jade Palace, 13 Jul 2019. Deep garnet core with a trace of vermilion at the rim. Highly supple, fleshy and open. Deeply layered with cool ripe fruit and dark currants amid overtones of dried mushrooms and tea leaves that underscores its terroir. Understated in complexity, it displayed great linearity as it finished with growing power in that unmistakable Pauillac signature tone.

1998 Ch Cheval Blanc, courtesy of WKW, popped and poured at Jade Palace, 13 Jul 2019. Deep crimson. Imbued with slightly darker shades dark plums and soy that caressed the palate with a lovely velvety richness. Open and highly supple, fleshing out with further notes of tea leaves as it exuded a lovely youthfulness that lasted the whole night. However, knowing the potential greatness of mature cabernet franc, I’d say this wine is still far from peaking.

2000 Ch D’Aiguilhe, popped and poured at Tunglok Signatures, 15 Jul 2019. Deep purple, exuding powerful aromas of dark currants, cherries and dark plums on the nose and palate with great concentration. Still tannic with taut tension underscored by ferrous undertones, culminating in a spicy lengthy finish.

Veuve Cliquot Brut, popped and poured at Tunglok Signatures, 15 Jul 2019. Dense bouquet of green citrus with a gentle yeasty pungency, dry and bright with good concentration lime and pomelo that imparted a slightly stern minerally tone.

Veuve Fourny et Fils Oertus Premier Cru Brut, popped and poured at Tunglok Signatures, 15 Jul 2019. Toasty yeasty characters dominate amid layers of fig, pine, green melons and lime, displaying excellent depth and concentration. Excellent.

2009 Ch Le Doyenne, popped and poured at Ka Soh, 21 Jul 2019. Early evolution, proffering dense aromas of blueberries and violets with excellent fullness, presence and layering on the palate, slightly dryish. Developed a persistent sandy earthy tone over time, rather unlike the graphite intensity previously encountered with this wine, fleshing out very well with an almost Pauillac-like character with a lovely biting open intensity that conferred superb mouthfeel.

2017 Domaine Chanson Bourgogne Rouge, from the list of Taratata Brasserie, 26 Jul 2019. Rosy hues, dark cherries and wild berries dominate on the nose beneath a sheen of paraffin. The palate is marked by prominent salinity and dry crisp acidity, showing good concentration of dark plummy fruit, developing some biting intensity over time but still generally undistinguished.

2003 Ch Lagrange, popped and poured, 28 Jul 2019. Clear purple, exuding notes of capsicum and austere green elements on the nose. Good intensity of ripe wild berries, mulberries and currants on the palate, grippy with tight acidity. Opened up very well to reveal a great fleshy presence with a delicious core. Perennially under-rated but this Saint-Julien is good value if you can find it below SGD100.

2009 Carpineto Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva, popped and poured at Crab At Bay, 31 Jul 2019. Deep garnet red. Shy, not revealing much on the nose though the palate is concentrated with ripe dark berries and dark plums amid ferrous elements, open with supple intensity. Still youthful.

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1969 Ch Lafite Rothschild

August 8, 2019

20190718_202307.jpgAnother casual dinner on 18 July 2019 threw up a wonderful line-up given that no theme had been set. The Imperial Treasure Super Peking Duck at Paragon Singapore is truly an outstanding venue for refined Cantonese cuisine. Try ordering some off-the-menu items (very nicely arranged for this occasion by LF): glutinous duck rice, salted fish tofu in claypot, and the razor clam cooked side-table in superior broth (pictured left).

2005 Domaine Roulot Meursault Les Luchets. Light golden lustre. Rather shy, proffering only white fruits and floral mint with some mild salinity. Rapidly gained depth and body as it warmed up, developing lightly peppery tones with traces of nutmeg as it gradually blossomed with fine detail and delicate intensity, taking on a more distinct saline minerality whilst maintaining its subtle richness as it tapered to an open minerally finish. This is Meursault at its finest, amazingly from a village.

2014 Peter Michael Belle Cote, courtesy of Kieron. Lovely luminosity. There is an attractive hint of oiliness on the nose matched by lifted tones of bell pepper and dense morning dew from the solid concentration and depth of fruit, revealing excellent sophistication and detail as it stretched over time to an extended chalky finish before receding beneath a waxy sheen. Excellent.

20190718_195834.jpg2014 DuMOL Finn Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, courtesy of LF. Deep ruby. There is a faint trace of paraffin amid the delicious expanse of red cherries on the nose. The palate is rounded and open, revealing a deep intense core of ripe fruit that exuded lovely charm and elegance with excellent linearity. Very well-balanced and integrated, finishing with youthful vigour and richness.

2009 Domaine Armand Rousseau Mazy-Chambertin, courtesy of Kieron. Glowing irresistibly with glorious red fruits, rosy hues and ripe strawberries, this wine is superbly open with great inner definition, revealing shades of gravelly minerals and sweet structured tannins that impart great feminine charm with fine subtle intensity, fleshing out very well with great roundedness and sophistication. Excellent.

1969 Ch Lafite Rothschild, courtesy of Vic. Displaying an almost pinot tint, this Lafite is still imbued with excellent fullness in spite of its rounded mellowed softness, yielding a lovely lifted pungency from its core of aged plummy fruit and sweet melted tannins. What a wonderful surprise for a casual dinner! One cannot ask for more from this wine nor from its generous owner.

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1990 Ch Montelena Estate, 1982 Ch Talbot, 1982 Ch Cos D’Estournel, 2000 “Y” Ygrec, 2005 Domaine de Chevalier Blanc, 2004 Clinet

August 5, 2019

August kicked off with a wonderful dinner organised by K at Origin Grill, Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore, on 01 August 2019 where Sir Robert was in a particularly generous mood, especially given that no specific wine theme had been set. Head sommelier Britt Ng saw to it that we were properly looked after with fresh stemware for each wine. I was particularly impressed by the Montelena Estate, given that I just had the 1991 just two months earlier. The 1990 here was equally stunning. When properly blinded, there was nothing to give it away as a Napa. Many thanks guys, for your friendship and generosity.

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2000 Ch d’Yquem “Y” Ygrec, courtesy of Robert Kwok. Light luminous golden hue. Reticent at first, only proffering traces of icing, vanilla and paraffin. Much more forthcoming on the palate where tropical fruits and notes of honeysuckle dominate with very fine body and layering, laced with understated acidity. It took on a gentle rounded complexity over time, developing further tones of eau de cologne, slightly minty, never at all heavy as it tapered to a gentle glowing finish. Excellent.

2005 Domaine de Chevalier Blanc, a bottle personally autographed by proprietor Olivier Bernard in Singapore many years ago. Very shy on the nose. Very delicate and lightly shaded with a bright minerally shine, revealing great clarity and transparency as it developed lovely acidity and rounded intensity against a backdrop of understated minerals. Superb refined elegance.

1982 Ch Talbot, courtesy of Robert Kwok. Tasted blind. Deep garnet red, exuding a great deep earthy pungency that immediately called to mind the terroir of Pessac-Leognan. Medium-bodied. Softly rounded, fleshy and open, filled with an ample expanse of mature red fruits and cherries, beautifully integrated with understated depth and intensity. Gained lovely purity as the initial pungency receded after some time but, still, there’s no way one would have imagined this to be a Saint-Julien. Excellent.

1990 Ch Montelena Estate, courtesy of Robert Kwok. Tasted blind. Still amazingly dark and youthful. I thought this showed a classic Saint-Julien nose of heated gravel with delicate graphite tones amid a superb deep fragrance of cool ripe blueberries and dark currants. Open with great suppleness and quiet intensity, very subtly structured. Can easily last another couple of decades. Superb.

1982 Ch Cos D’Estournel, courtesy of Kieron. Gentle but pronounced earthy pungency on the nose. The palate is slightly austere with a predominance of very fine graphite elements within mature tones of dark berries, violets and blueberries. Beautifully rounded, developing a rich complex of cedary notes, cinnamon, plums and tangerines at its core. Quite glorious, at its absolute best.

2004 Ch Clinet, courtesy of Vic. Violets and blueberries dominate with a lovely fragrance, fairly dense and deep, quite full but not overwhelming, opening up well  with a fleshy biting intensity before settling into a more gentle seductive tone on an understated graphite base.

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June 2019: 1991 Ch Montelena Estate

July 27, 2019

2000 Dom Perignon Second Plenitude, courtesy of CW over lunch with Frederic Faye of Ch Figeac and Marielle Cazaux (Ch La Conseillante) at Shinzo, 01 Jun 2019. Quiet on the nose. Even gentle minerally tone with a smooth dryness, exuding lovely charm and transparency. Not the most profound of Dom but its balance is impeccable, developing superb presence of delicate green fruits and citrus over time.

2015 Domaine Thibert Saint-Verain Champ Rond, over lunch with Frederic Faye of Ch Figeac and Marielle Cazaux (Ch La Conseillante) at Shinzo, 01 Jun 2019. Bit closed on the nose though the palate is imbued with a generous expanse of delicate white fruits and citrus that teased with fleeting concentration and intensity. Rounded and smooth. Very well balanced with understated charm, energy and sleek controlled acidity, developing wonderful depth with a gentle open intensity over time. Excellent.

1991 Ch Montelena Estate, courtesy of CW over lunch with Frederic Faye of Ch Figeac and Marielle Cazaux (Ch La Conseillante) at Shinzo, 01 Jun 2019. Deep garnet red. Intense bouquet of briar, bramble, raspberries and delicious currants. Still amazingly fresh on the palate, displaying superb concentration and ripeness with smooth velvety tannins. Sublime in acidity, integration and balance with an understated red plummy tone, slightly earthy. An absolute winner, very much on par with any Bordeaux premier cru. Outstanding.

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2005 Ch D’Aiguilhe. Popped and poured at Crab At Bay, 02 Jun 2019. Deep dark impenetrable red. Abundant dark fruits, blackberries and blackcurrants on the nose with a sweet plummy tone. Open with excellent fullness and suppleness. Ample in rich ripe fruit laid on an earthy floor with dusty textures. Very fine acidity. Rather understated in structure for its proportions. Austere ferrous finish. Decent length. Still youthful.

20190604_125030-1.jpg2003 Pavillon Rouge du Margaux, popped and poured over lunch at Otto Ristorante, 04 Jun 2019. Deep garnet red. Delicious bouquet, leading to very good concentration of black fruits and red currants, slightly earthy, within a very well-defined slim profile. Lively acidity. Mellowed quite quickly with relaxed charm, developing exciting tertiary nuances with open biting intensity amid soft velvety textures. Still youthful. On par with a classified growth. Excellent.

2004 Domaine Vincent Girardin Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru, courtesy of Vic at Summer Pavilion, 04 Jun 2019. Gentle sleek white floral tone with light citrus on the nose and palate, showing superb integration, balance and precision with sublime acidity. Fine open intensity, fleshing out very well with a lovely transparent chalky tone, finishing with overtones of walnuts. Excellent.

2014 Domaine Faiveley Clos des Cortons Faiveley Grand Cru, at Summer Pavilion, 04 Jun 2019. Silky tangerines and light rose petals dominate with gentle presence, slightly more minerally and stern. Opened up well with some lovely intensity but still a little tight. Fine balance. Distinctly feminine without the lush succulence and velvety plushness of the 2016.

1990 Domaine Drouhin-Laroze Chambertin Clos de Beze Grand Cru, courtesy of LF. Good colour. Imbued with good concentration of warm ripe fruit and dark plums amid well-developed characters of cedar and cinnamon, exuding fine intensity, slightly earthy and stern with overarching acidity.

2015 Katgully Cabernet Sauvignon, at Dorothy’s place 09 Jun 2019. Softly focused aromas of gentle red plums on the nose. The medium-full palate features ample warm ripe fruit with a deeper vein of dark currants, undergrowth and mocha with traces of marmite in its minerality, more forwardly balanced. Rounded with controlled intensity and understated acidity. Very fine. From Margaret River, Western Australia.

1998 Krug, popped and poured at Saint-Pierre on 11 Jun 2019 to mark our Silver Jubilee. Gently perfumed. Very subtly suffused with characters of toast and yeasty, exuding a lovely delicate fragrance. Suitably dry with a sheen of very fine bubbles, the perfect counterfoil for the layers of intense citrus, bitter lemon and grapefruit though it doesn’t quite truly plumb the depths. Finished with lasting persistence.

1990 Ch Lafite Rothschild, decanted on-site at Saint-Pierre on 11 Jun 2019, our Silver Jubilee. Deep purple with only slightest hint of evolution. Enticing complex bouquet, a hallowed deep glow of ripe red plums, soy and black cherries with a hint of smouldering ember. Beautifully open with velvety textures amid sublime acidity, seamlessly layered, exuding great charm and feminine elegance as it stretched out with superb definition and intensity. Just like an earlier bottle from the same case tasted in March 2019, this wine has been caught at its peak and will last. Outstanding.

2011 Pierre Peters Cuvee Speciale Les Chetillons Brut, popped and poured to mark the clinic re-opening, 13 Jun 2019. This blanc de blancs is considerably lighter in texture, distinctly delicate and feminine, an impression reinforced by its very fine gentle bubbles. Ample in pomelo and lime amid traces of bitter lemon, layered with gentle yeasty tones. Lively presence though somewhat narrow in spectrum. Doesn’t quite plumb the depths.

2002 Ch Cos D’Estournel, popped and poured to mark the clinic re-opening, 13 Jun 2019. Raspberries, mulberries and wild berries dominate with good density, slightly cedary and earthy, distinctly darkish in tone and demeanour. Supple with fine transparency and rounded tannins but it lacks real distinction, missing in charm and succulence.

2012 Domaine William Fevre Chablis Les Preuses Grand Cru, popped and poured at Ming Kee Live Seafood, 15 Jun 2019. Excellent presence. Notes of tangy citrus and nutmeg. Good transparency, suffused with saline minerals amid ferrous elements. Creamer over time with a gentle presence of green apples along with some chalkiness, laced with fine subtle acidity. Drinking well. Alas, Ming Kee has ceased its business after 25 June 2019.

2008 Lucien de Moine Richebourg Grand Cru, courtesy of John Law, 18 Jun 2019 at restaurant Ibid. Darker tint of pinot. Rather shut, hinting at only dark currants with some fragrance. Far more powerful on the palate, exuding an intense plummy tone with notes of forest floor, cranberries and bramble. Taut with quite an acidic spine, yielding raw intensity of fruit. MIssing true pinot character.

2014 Domaine Dominique Mugneret Vosne-Romanee Cuvee Alliance des Terroirs, courtesy of Edmund Wong at Otto Ristorante, 19 Jun 2019. Good color. Quite ample in ripe raspberries and red fruits with a tight plummy tone, exuding lovely fragrance. Slightly acidic.

1999 Phillipponnat Clos des Goisses Brut, popped and poured at Otto Ristorante, 19 Jun 2019. Deep complex bouquet of white flowers, vanilla, creme and minerals. Opened with a rich minerally glow amidst deep toasty nutty overtones, supported by crisp intense citrus with acidity that’s still remarkably fresh and lively, finishing with traces of green pepper.

2010 Domaine Jacques Prieur Volnay Clos des Santenots 1er, courtesy of Vincent at Otto Ristorante, 19 Jun 2019. Good color. Gentle rosy hues with undertones of dark cherries. Medium-full, supple and fleshy, displaying superb ripeness, succulence and length with excellent subtle acidity, finishing with traces of snuff.

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2005 Ch Rauzan-Gassies, popped and poured at Wah Lok, 21 Jun 2019. Deep impenetrable purple. Displays a certain richness and fullness of fruit and dark currants against plush cushioned velvety textures with traces of sweet. Still incredibly infantile and barely evolved. Opened up more over time with further notes of smoke, cedar and soy, highly supple, coming together at the last pour with stunning intensity. Excellent.

2006 Piper Heidsieck Millesime Rare, tasted at the Krisflyer First Class Lounge of Changi Airport T3, 23 Jun 2019. Light golden hue. Deep toasty nutty complex with yeasty tones on the nose. Generous expanse and concentration of pomelo and yellow citrus amidst very fine gentle bubbles. Excellent vigour and intensity, finishing with gentle graphite minerals.

2016 M Chapoutier Les Meysonnieres Crozes-Hermitage, tasted at the Krisflyer First Class Lounge of Changi Airport T3, 23 Jun 2019. Notes of forest floor and dark fruits dominate within a light-medium lean profile. Well balanced with fine acidity but not distinctive.

2009 Dom Perignon, tasted at the Krisflyer First Class Lounge of Changi Airport T3, 23 Jun 2019. Lighter-textured with a gentle perfumed fragrance of clear citrus, showing great clarity though within a rather narrow spectrum. Distinctly feminine. Short.

2006 Ch Rauzan-Segla, on board Singapore Airlines SQ336 from SIN-CDG, 24 Jun 2019. Very shy on the nose, just able to discern some dark currants. Equally introverted on the slim palate, hinting at dark fruits and blackberries beneath rather than outright opulence although its concentration and fine acidity is beyond reproach, tinged with ferrous minerals.

2008 Louis Latour Corton Grand Cru, on board Singapore Airlines SQ336 from SIN-CDG, 24 Jun 2019. Good concentration of wild berries and plums. Medium-bodied. Very fine acidity, showing good integration and balance with a slightly vegetal tone that conferred a certain rusticity, finishing with traces of incense.

LaCheteau Cremant de Loire Brut, at the Star Alliance lounge of CDG, 29 Jun 2019. Gentle floral aromas with yeasty tones, slightly toasty with a broad expanse of intense clear citrus and lime. Suitably dry.

2016 La Maqueline, at the Star Alliance lounge of CDG, 29 Jun 2019. Dark currants, raspberries and plums dominate with a distinct ferrous minerality on the mid-palate, displaying decent fullness, depth and length.

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Creation of restaurant Saint-Pierre, Singapore.

Ric re-visits Château Cheval Blanc

July 11, 2019

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Château Cheval Blanc is, perhaps, best known for espousing the virtues of cabernet franc as the main grape varietal in its blend although it is, by no means, the only chateau to do so. Ch Ausone has a similar blend but whereas it only produces 15,000 bottles annually, the output for Ch Cheval Blanc is far greater at 100,000 bottles, laying claim to pole position as far as its association with cabernet franc goes. Comprising 39 hectares in one single block (subdivided into 45 plots), Ch Cheval Blanc is planted with 60% cabernet franc, 35% merlot and 5% cabernet sauvignon, the latter on exactly the same sort of pebbly soil as neighbouring Ch Figeac with which it abuts. The soil is a mixture of gravel and clay. Apart from the grand vin, another 20,000 bottles of the second label Le Petit-Cheval are produced. 20190626_164930.jpgSince 2014, this estate has also begun producing a dry white, a classic blend of semillon and sauvignon blanc from 6 hectares of vines that is most appropriately and confusingly named Petit-Cheval Blanc. The stylish low-lying futuristic-looking chai, just a stone’s throw away from the purple monobloc of Ch La Dominique, was built in 2011.

The 2012 Ch Cheval Blanc we tasted on the warm afternoon of 26 June 2019 was popped and poured. Displaying a beautiful deep ruby, this wine had not been afforded the time to blossom on the nose, just proffering a hint of dark plums. The palate, however, was layered with a wonderful depth of ripe dark fruits, earth and currants tinged with exotic spices and green pepper, quite sublime in acidity with a lovely glowing intensity, very elegantly integrated into the sheen of very fine soft silky tannins that tapered to a quiet finish. Accessible as it is, Cheval Blanc is not a wine to be drunk young. Made with substantial extraction, the wine is best drunk when the tannins have melted (at least 30 years post-vintage) whereupon the glorious rosy hues of its cabernet franc take on an almost Burgundian complex that gives Ch Cheval Blanc its deserved fame. No, I’ve never tasted (and probably will never ever have the chance) the 1947 nor 1961, but the glorious 1975 tasted twice (a standard bottling over lunch at the chateau itself in 2016, and a double magnum courtesy of Dr Ngoi in 2017) has been etched indelibly in my memory.

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See Ch L’Evangile just yonder?

Ric re-visits Château Figeac

July 8, 2019

Since 1892, Château Figeac has been owned by the Manoncourt family for four generations, with the fifth generation now ready to step up to the task. With 40.5 hectares under vines at the north-western tip of Saint-Emilion abutting on Ch Cheval Blanc, Ch Figeac has the second largest holdings in this commune after Ch Fombrauge. Nobody really knows why the pioneers at Ch Figeac opted to plant a substantial portion of vines with cabernet sauvignon but one of the reasons put forward is that the deep gravelly soils that originated from volcanic rocks offer excellent filtration for excess moisture, which suits this grape varietal very well. The current proportions are 35% cabernet sauvignon, 35% cabernet franc and 30% merlot. Whatever it is, this unusual make-up for a Right Bank property has contributed to a cult-like following for Ch Figeac which, surely, cannot be at all bad. The average age of the vines is about 40 years. About 100,000 bottles of the grand vin are produced annually while the declassified grapes make up another 40,000 bottles of the second label. The estate has also absorbed neighbouring La Grange Neve since 2012. The grapes are 100% de-stemmed during vinification. Cold maceration takes place over six days while alcoholic fermentation is kick-started with selected yeast. No pumping over is done. The wine is aged in 100% new French oak with a substantial amount of pressed wine added. Racking is carried out every five months with nitrogen gas. Fining with egg whites takes place before bottling.

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When we visited on the hot morning of 26 June 2019, a huge amount of construction work was being carried out next to the old chateau building. Due for completion in 2021, this modern structure will house the new chai, cellars, laboratories, offices and tasting facilities. For the time being, the barrels are all housed in a temporary above-ground air-conditioned shelter where we tasted both the 2011 grand vin and the second label.

2011 Petit-Figeac. Good colour. Lovely fragrance of red and dark fruits along with some gentle earthiness. Medium-bodied and fleshy, showing good presence and suppleness with very fine acidity, exuding relaxed charm through its seamless detailed tannins, just a tad dusty in texture. Good sophistication throughout, finishing with excellent lift and mouthfeel. Quite excellent in its own right.

2011 Ch Figeac. Appreciably darker and deeper on the nose, the grand vin exudes rich layers of dark fruits and dark cherries amid overtones of hot gravel. Nicely rounded, displaying very good definition of early cedary characters against dense dark plums and cassis of excellent concentration with seamless transparent textures. Distinctly feminine in its gentle length and finish, developing a lovely growing intensity over time. Highly consistent with a similar bottle also tasted at the chateau in September 2016. Excellent.

While this hasn’t been quite the ideal time to visit Ch Figeac, I can’t wait to return when the new building is up and running properly. Many thanks, Gwen, for your time and for your expert insight into one of my favourite estates.

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