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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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Short notes from Saint-Emilion 2019

July 6, 2019

The Jürade de Saint-Emilion du Singapour descended on the commune itself during the last week of June 2019 to partake in the festivities marking 20 years of Saint-Emilion as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Apart from château visits, there was plenty of wining and dining, as expected. There are always plenty of new wines to discover in Saint-Emilion that would not be found outside of the commune due to highly limited production. In particular, thanks to his acute business acumen, the wines of Jean-Luc Thunevin are highly visible in several retail stores where we got to taste some uncommon stuff, including an unexpected vertical of Ch Valandraud. Even within such a large commune, one can find plenty of excellent burgundy in restaurant lists in Saint-Emilion, contrary to popular belief. After a long hard day of tasting, it’s always a pleasure to dive back into burgundy for dinner.

20190625_123146.jpg2010 Axelle de Valandraud, tasted at Thunevin Girondins on 24 Jun 2019. Only one of its kind. Dull opaque purple, exuding dark fruits and mulberries with a hint of rye. Big, taut and concentrated with ample swathes of raspberries, mulberries and currants, imbued with a fabulous controlled acidity amidst further notes of mahogany, only revealing just a bit of early evolution. Excellent. This is only the second vintage of this wine after the inaugural 2000. Made from a blend of two plots totaling 1.5 ha that was part of the overall blend for 2010 Ch Valandraud.

2014 Ch Valandraud, tasted at Thunevin Girondins on 24 Jun 2019. Quiet on the nose, while violets and dark currants dominate on the palate with lovely suave acidity. Big, concentrated and intense but not overdone. Persistent finish.

2011 Ch Valandraud, tasted at Thunevin Girondins on 24 Jun 2019. Deep impenetrable purple. Big and concentrated with  tight acidity, ample in fresh raspberries and wild berries. Excellent ripeness, just a tad short.

2009 Ch Valandraud, tasted at Thunevin Girondins on 24 Jun 2019. Great colour. Exudes gentle delicious fragrance with fruit of excellent ripeness, resulting in a wine of compelling intensity and presence, imbued with superb acidity amid svelte velvety melted tannins. Outstanding.

2007 Valandraud Blanc, tasted at Thunevin Girondins on 24 Jun 2019. Delicate tropical fruits on the nose. Minerally and expressive on the palate with clear citrus that is a little more recessed, displaying very good definition and superb acidity. Excellent.

2012 Ch Moulin Saint-Georges, tasted at Thunevin Girondins on 24 Jun 2019. Medium-bodied. Open and fleshy with a minerally earthiness amidst a generous spread of mulberries and ripe wild berries. Good finish. Still needs time.

2008 Ch Mangot, tasted at Thunevin Girondins on 24 Jun 2019. Big but rounded. Deeply layered and dark fruits and currants. Structured with svelte exciting tannins that impart fabulous acidity and intensity.

2010 Ch Le Clos Du Beau-Pere, tasted at Thunevin Girondins on 24 Jun 2019. This full-bodied Pomerol carries an abundance of ripe red fruits and dark currants cloaked within rich creamy textures, nicely rounded, layered with stern earthy minerals. Perhaps a tad too much of extraction. Still highly youthful.

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2008 Ch Grand Puy Lacoste, at Le Tertre on 24 Jun 2019. Decanted on-site. Some early complexity is discernible on the nose whilst the palate is layered with red fruits, delicious currants and tangerines, darkly textured with good depth and quiet intensity, finishing well with traces of sweet.

Jacques Selosse Brut, at L’Envers du Decor, 25 Jun 2019. Deep golden lustre, proffering a generous lift of apricot and tangerines, imbued with lovely oxidative characters amid some yeasty tones on a minerally base. Quite smooth and even. Drinking well.

2013 Ch Monbousquet Blanc, at L’Envers du Decor, 25 Jun 2019. Luscious with a gentle floral fragrance along with traces of nectarine. Medium-bodied, displaying a lovely lightness with an overlay of creme amid delicate ferrous minerals, finishing well.

1998 Ch Gombaude-Guillot, at L’Envers du Decor, 25 Jun 2019. This Pomerol exudes dark roses and currants amid earthy textures, imbued with a gentle sweetness. Quite seamless and well-integrated. Subtly nuanced, finishing with good linearity.

2015 Ch De La Greniere, at La Maison du Vin., 25 Jun 2019. Comprising 70% merlot, 10% cabernet franc and 20% cabernet sauvignon. Displaying a deep garnet core, this wine from the satellite region of Lussac Saint-Emilion proffers an aromatic lift of violets, lilac and glycerin, highly supple and full on the palate with exciting acidity. Very well balanced. Almost lush with further emerging notes of dark plums and mocha. Quite fabulous in intensity, though finishing with bit of alcoholic trail.

2015 Ch Mauvinon, at La Maison du Vin, 25 Jun 2019. Quite a generous bouquet of mulberries and dark fruits laced with vanillin. More forward in fruit balance though slightly lighter in texture. Warm, ripe and supple but less developed towards the finish where some vegetal trace is evident. 75% merlot, 20% cabernet franc and 5% cabernet sauvignon. Annual production of 85,000 bottles.

2007 Ch Cadet-Bon, at La Maison du Vin, 25 Jun 2019. Deep garnet red. Comprising 85% merlot and 15% cabernet franc, this grand cru classé proffers a deep delicious bouquet of dark fruits and currants, quite open and lush on the palate with superb suppleness, displaying a certain cool ripeness with great acidity and integration. Gently structured with lovely balance, finishing well with good mouthfeel. Quite excellent.

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2011 Domaine Long-Depaquit Chablis Vaudesir Grand Cru, 25 Jun 2019 at Logis de la Cadene. Pale. Wonderfully delicate bouquet of light citrus and lime. Very lively, displaying seamless transition between its layers and its lengthy persistence of white flowers and nutmeg, gradually developing in expanse with glowing depth, power and fine intensity. Excellent.

2014 Domaine Henri Gouges Nuits-Saint-Georges Clos des Porrets Saints-Georges 1er, 25 Jun 2019 at Logis de la Cadene. Somewhat shy, though showing well on the palate with fine presence of gentle dark cherries and rose petals underscored with a dash of mild salinity. Fleshy, open and seamlessly integrated, developing a lovely subtle intensity over time, finishing well with great linearity.

2014 Domaine Trapet Pere et Fils Gevrey-Chambertin Clos Prieur 1er, 25 Jun 2019 at Logis de la Cadene. Darker in colour tone. Medium-full with a dominant dark plummy tone. Rounded but still tight. Subtly structured.

1999 Ch La Dominique, at La Terrasse Rouge, 26 Jun 2019. Still very darkly coloured. Generous bouquet of dark and red plums, red currants and dark fruits. Still beautifully fresh and delicious, displaying excellent concentration and depth with superb suppleness. Very subtly structured with svelte velvety tannins, evolving further notes of mocha and black currants, finishing with lovely charm and sophistication. Excellent!

Champagne Henriot Blanc de blancs NV. From the restaurant list of Hostellerie de Plaisance, 26 Jun 2019. Exciting lifted bouquet of clear citrus underscored by gentle yeasty overtones. More forwardly balanced with lovely depth and concentration, imbued with crisp intensity but not too dry. Became more delicate after some time, broadening with a creamy sweetness, finishing well.

2009 Domaine Francois Carillon Puligny-Montrachet Les Referts 1er. From the restaurant list of Hostellerie de Plaisance, 26 Jun 2019. Delicate bouquet. Decidedly more plump on the palate, imbued with excellent concentration and intensity of white flowers, clear citrus and chalk. Very ripe and full, showing good definition and linearity all through to its exciting finish.

2010 Domaine Francois Carillon Puligny-Montrachet Les Referts 1er. From the restaurant list of Hostellerie de Plaisance, 26 Jun 2019. Compared with the 2009, the 2010 is even more lifted and more delicate on the nose while the palate is imbued with excellent transparency and sublime acidity, yielding superb definition of elegant white fruits and complex minerals. Highly expressive and lively. Has tremendous verve. Fabulous.

2010 Domaine Georges Noellät Nuits-Saint-Georges Les Boudots 1er. From the restaurant list of Hostellerie de Plaisance, 26 Jun 2019. Deep colour. Exudes lovely rosy hues. Medium-full. Superbly open with lovely intensity and purity of red fruits. Very subtly layered with transparent textures amid distinct ferrous elements and traces of earth. Excellent.

2010 Domaine Henri Gouges Nuits-Saint-Georges Les Vaucrains 1er. From the restaurant list of Hostellerie de Plaisance, 26 Jun 2019. Deep colour, exuding fragrant red fruits and roses. Highly open and supple, displaying excellent concentration and depth marked by a subtle saline sharpness. Developed a distinct NSG character of soil and earthy minerals along with a silky intensity. Excellent.

2000 L’Interdit de Valandraud, tasted at Maison des Vins du Libournais on 28 Jun 2019. Deeply layered on the nose, exuding lovely aromas of dark roses and red currants. Softly rounded and open, imbued with fine concentration of delicate red fruits and haw flakes that tapered to a gentle finish. Almost burgundian in character. Caught at its best. Made from 100% merlot without quite adhering to strict A.O.C. regulations (plastic sheets were used to drain off excess water during viticulture), hence its unique name.

2016 L’Interdit de V……..d, tasted at Maison des Vins du Libournais on 28 Jun 2019. Deep garnet red. Deeply aromatic with notes of green pepper, Asian spices, savoury cold cuts and ripe cherries. Medium-full and fleshy, showing good transparency through its placid but lifted mid-body. Understated in character and balance. From 100% merlot.

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2010 Ch Valandraud, tasted at Maison des Vins du Libournais on 28 Jun 2019. Deep garnet red. Lovely deep aromas of dark plums and currants. Dense and fleshy. Beautifully layered and structured with great acidity, finishing with wonderful length and linearity.

2016 Ch Valandraud, tasted at Maison des Vins du Libournais on 28 Jun 2019. Deep impenetrable purple. Highly aromatic, densely layered with raspberries, mulberrries, dark cherries and currants, still shrouded in overtones of vanilla and creme from the new oak. A huge wine, fleshy and highly supple with a very clean feel through its striking acidity, perhaps a tad too much of that as the fruit is somewhat obscured.

2001 Ch Beausejour Duffau Lagarosse, from the excellent list of Cafe Saigon, 28 Jun 2019. Significantly evolved with a rusty tone, exuding lifted aromas of earth, herbal and medicinal flavors along with that of seasoned red fruits and tangerines, imbued with striking acidity through its seamless body, supported by saline minerals on a cedary floor. Drinking well but I wouldn’t keep any longer.

20190628_204246.jpg2010 Ch La Rose Cotes Rol, tasted at the chateau’s open house hosted by Pierre Mirande, 28 Jun 2019. Poured from magnum with its caves. Deep garnet red, exuding a sweet savoury nose. Medium-full. Excellent in concentration, weight and depth with plump savoury characters, finishing with a slight acidic trace, slightly short.

2005 Ch La Rose Cotes Rol, tasted at the chateau’s open house hosted by Pierre Mirande, 28 Jun 2019. Poured from magnum with its caves. Well-defined bouquet of rose petals, raspberries and red fruits. Softly rounded and fleshy, excellent in concentration with expressive purity amid ferrous minerals. Highly supple and flavorful. Good finish. Quite excellent.

1985 Ch La Rose Cotes Rol, tasted at the chateau’s open house hosted by Pierre Mirande, 28 Jun 2019. Poured from magnum with its caves. Open with some mild bottle stink that blew off, giving way to effusive notes of red currants and dark roses though the fruit is surprisingly recessed on the medium-bodied palate, showing more of ferrous dominance. Doesn’t quite have the depth and layering, short as well. Past its best.

2015 Ch La Rose Cotes Rol, 28 Jun 2019. Closed, proffering only glimpses of violets and raspberries. Good concentration with sleek acidity and graphite overtones, structured with dusty tannins. Fleshed out better with good intensity after some time. Lively finish.

2015 Ch Mangot, 28 Jun 2019. Deep purple. Closed. Imbued with abundant dark fruits, showing very good presence and depth. Cloaked in dusty tannins and a tad stern.

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Ric re-visits Château Ausone

July 3, 2019

I had the distinct privilege of visiting Château Ausone again on the very warm afternoon of 24 June 2019 where Saint-Emilion was bathed in glaring sunshine with ambient temperatures exceeding 30 degrees Celsius. For many, Chateau Ausone is the Premier Grand Cru Classé “A” even though there are three other illustrious estates bearing the same exalted status. Consider this: which chateau is perched at the highest point of Saint-Emilion right within the core limestone terroir, and which chateau produces only 15,000 bottles of its grand vin per annum with even less numbers of its second wine (only up to 9,000 bottles)? No prizes for guessing. Memories of my previous visit in 2016 came flooding back as K and myself pulled in to its gravelly driveway. The greyhound (there were two previously) was still there but looking considerably older and far quieter, no longer its boisterous self. We thought we were a good half hour ahead of our appointment but a young gentleman approached us right away, exchanging warm greetings in excellent English as he verified that we were, indeed, the expected guests. “Have you met my sister Pauline?”, he asked. I was stunned: he was none other than Edouard Vauthier! Working together with Pauline Vauthier, they have taken over the reins from their father Alain, overseeing the entire winemaking business from viticulture to vinification to marketing. Of course, Pauline had hosted my visit back in 2016 but, this time, it was Edouard’s turn although his sister could be seen busy tending to the vines in the punishing heat. Is this sudden spike in temperature this week worrying, for we have not even gone into July? Will 2019 prove to be the hottest since 2003? Edouard, however, was not worried, for the climate trend so far has been par for the course. Reassuringly, the nights were still cool. The 40-50 year-old vines at Chateau Ausone are amongst the few which are planted on a steep slope on what is probably the loveliest part of Saint-Emilion, overlooking the more extensive vines of Ch Moulin Saint-Georges and Ch Simard beyond the road, both also under the Vauthier portfolio, with the King’s Tower a little yonder. Chateau Ausone has been certified biodynamic for some time and the team is dead serious about doing things according to the moon phases. A simple row of wooden vats complete the functional-looking chai for these are all that are needed to vinify the seven hectares of vines.

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Stepping into the familiar rococo-styled tasting room, Edouard had prepared a couple of wines for us. The 2016 Chapelle d’Ausone, displaying a brilliant purple, was  still cloaked in vanillin although this cannot hide the rich layering of raspberries and red fruits on the palate, still tightly coiled with a healthy tone of earthy minerals, very finely nuanced with excellent acidity, just a tad stern at the finish. In contrast, the 2008 Ch Ausone, which had been considerably aired in bottle prior to our arrival, exuded generous tones of red fruits, red plums and gentle cherries from its ruby depths, displaying some early complexity with smoked characters, fleshy and rounded with good inner detail and fine balance, distinctly feminine. Here, Edouard shared that the style of Ausone has shifted into a more feminine expression since Pauline became involved in the winemaking in 2005, with the fabulous 2010 being her formal inaugural vintage.

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We then trooped over to the estate’s cavernous cellars, bumping into M. Alain Vauthier himself on the way, a mellow courteous gentleman who prefers to let his children run the show. I have always marvelled at how the whole thing had been hewn out of solid limestone by stonemasons of yesteryears. A blast of cold air greeted us as we stepped in, a most welcome relief from the scorching heat outside. In here, the temperature is always consistently between 11-14 degree Celsius. The few rows of vines for Chapelle d’Ausone are grown right above these cellars, and I’m amazed that the roots do not penetrate through the roof of the caves, meaning the roots must have spread laterally in search of nutrients. In this vast space, the limited number of barrels resting there drove home the highly-limited quantity of grand vin available. Nevertheless, Edouard proceeded to aspirate a generous dollop of the 2018 Ch Ausone (we even had second helpings!). Showing a brilliant deep purple, this unfinished wine proffered a distinct note of rye that imparted a feel of dry heated gravel on the nose, richly layered with raspberries, dark cherries and red currants that imparted wonderful ripeness and purity of fruit, rounded with striking acidity and beautifully integrated and balanced, never for once yielding its subtle power as it finished with excellent lineraity and persistence. Most lovely. When it is already so complete barely six months in barrel, the bottled result in 2021 will be even more stunning. Outstanding!

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I must thank Edouard for generously spending so much time with us and to FICOFI too for the impeccable arrangements.

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Very old vines of Ch Ausone located above the caves

Ric arrives at Tertre Roteboeuf

June 28, 2019

One of my very best winery visits ever took place on the very hot afternoon of 27 June 2019 when temperatures soared to 39 degrees Celsius at Saint-Emilion. Air-conditioning in Europe is notoriously under-powered, even on board the coach we were traveling, and we were severely cooked as we desperately searched for this elusive tiny non-classified property of just 5.7 ha known to be sited atop a steep hill. GPS was absolutely correct about the location. It was just that we had driven too fast past the almost inconspicuous pair of stone pillars where the words TERTRE ROTEBOEUF were etched in red. It was way past the appointed hour of 2.30 PM by the time we drew up to its short narrow driveway. The man himself, M. Francois Mitjavile, was on hand to receive us as we knocked on the door of the very modest building that is also his residence. Thankfully, Francois was in a kind forgiving mood as he welcomed us into his naturally-cooled living room where we gratefully sank onto the sofa and extra chairs that he’d drawn up.

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Francois Mitjavile

The whole room was strewn with books of all sorts that cover a wide range of subjects, particularly in music, the arts and literature. Even his coffee table is made up of dozens of hardcover books piled up to knee height.

Bearing more than a passing resemblance to a slimmed-down Yvés Montand, Francois Mitjavile clearly is a man who has absorbed everything that the university of life has taught him and he has learnt well. Having distilled the essence of his winemaking philosophy since he started Chateau Le Tertre Roteboeuf in 1978 (he had spent 1975-76 making the wines of Ch Figeac!), Francois began to expound his thoughts to us over the next 20 minutes in excellent elegant English just lightly tinted with the French accent. In order for wine to fulfil the ideals of Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée, Francois feels that the flavours of a wine produced from a particular location must reflect the originality of that location. To do so, it must be related to local civilisation (the agricultural and food habits of people there past and present), the soils and terroir (largely limestone and clay in one single block) and whatever each vintage brings. He notes that meats, cheeses and domestic produce in the region since the Roman times have been imbued with a natural richness. As such, the wines produced must have the savouriness to digest the richness of foods, particularly during cold winters. To achieve this, Francois feels the wine he makes need to be wines of maceration. Technically, it means the grapes have to be in a state of slight degradation at the time of harvest, having absorbed more moisture such that the skins are slightly fragile. You can tell he is against early harvesting to “secure the vintage”. Francois is not looking for power or structure or great acidity. His wines must achieve depth, freshness, elegance and grace in a harmonious dynamic balance. There must be flavour of structure, not aggression of structure. The aromas and flavours must evoke an emotional response, just as in great music, rather than impress upon the mind. When asked what would be his hallmark signature, he replies: “You do not make what you want. You express the situation. Therefore, you do not own it.” There is no sorting or selection of grapes. There is no second label. Francois produces whatever the vintage conditions allow him to. And unlike most other estates, Francois uses only one and the same cooper all the time – Radoux – which understands him well. Listening to him, one is left in no doubt that Francois has been transfigured through a lifelong process of intellectual rigour.

20190627_154709We moved to the modest cellars which has not been renovated for decades but from which he creates his magic. Francois was obviously in a generous mood as he poured whatever was asked of him: “Is 2018 truly the best vintage yet?”; “A wine retailer was trying to sell me the 2003 Roc de Cambes but I thought the 1995 may be preferable. Is it true?”; “How is 2018 different from 2017?”; “1997 was an off-year…”. Francois doesn’t really answer your questions. He prefers that you discover the answers yourself. As to the most important question of why has Tertre Rotebouef eschewed the Saint-Emilion classification totally, it is simply because Francois has no use for that. Not for him the potential financial gains or power. He is happy doing what he feels is right. Even the word “Chateau” has been omitted on the label. Maverick or rebel? Genius or method? The answer, perhaps, is all of the above. His wines sing most naturally and effortlessly. They are beautiful without calling attention to themselves. Merci beaucoup Francois for your time, your brilliance and your hard work. This has been the masterclass of masterclasses.

2018 Tertre Roteboeuf. Tasted from barrel. Deeply coloured. Arresting aromas of dark roses and red currants with savoury overtones, yet with an expressive delicate fragrance. Explodes on the palate with a lovely layered depth, displaying great richness, concentration and sublime acidity with a savoury hint, superbly fresh and ripe, culminating in a lovely even persistence. One is never conscious of its understated structure. This is a wine of supreme feminine confidence. No wonder Francois feels the 2018 is his best ever. Outstanding.

2017 Tertre Roteboeuf. Tasted from vat. Darker with a more developed earthy dusty tone marked by thyme and Asian herbs, displaying very good level of fullness and concentration of ripe dark plums, cherries and dark currants on the medium-full palate. Highly supple, imbued with minerally elements and fine acidity that imparted some spiciness at the sides, structured with svelte understated tannins. Distinctly masculine.

2003 Roc de Cambes. Popped and poured. Lovely exuberance of ripe red fruits, currants and cherries on the nose that carried well onto the palate with great presence amid overtones of velvety sweet meat, yet very subtly structured with gentle elegance. Very fresh and fleshy, finishing well without any trace of heat stress. Excellent.

1995 Roc de Cambes. Popped and poured. Medium-bodied. Fleshy and relaxed, seamlessly layered with a wonderful complex of mature red fruits, cherries and redcurrants that proffer subtle seductive tertiary characters, gently effusive, displaying a certain cool ripeness with subdued acidity and tannins that are barely perceptible, finishing with a gentle glow. Most lovely. Caught at its absolute best.

1997 Tertre Roteboeuf. Absolutely glorious, fully developed with deep layers of red fruits, dark cherries, currants and savoury smoked meat that exude sensual complexity with rich elegance. Superbly integrated. A complete wine. So much for so-called “off” vintages. Outstanding.

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Ric visits Chateau Pavie

June 28, 2019

The success of Chateau Pavie would surely not have been possible without the brilliant entrepreneurship of M. Gerard Perse. Having successfully built up a supermarket chain (that became Carréfour after he had sold it), M. Perse turned his attention to wine, investing in Ch Monbousquet and then Ch Pavie in 1998. Continually re-investing to improve the estate’s image and facilities as well as quality and appeal of its wines, Ch Pavie finally attained its exalted status of Premier Grand Cru Classé “A” in 2012.

20190626_105711Named after a bygone era when peaches used to grow in its present grounds, Ch Pavie is a 37-hectare estate divided into 21 sub-plots, planted with 60% merlot, 25% cabernet franc and the remainder cabernet sauvignon on a lovely south-facing slope that facilitates even exposure to both the morning and afternoon sun. The top part of the slope is largely limestone while clay and pebbly soils dominate the lower reaches. The average age of the vines is 45 years. Parts of the higher slopes are naturally terraced which helps to shield the vines against extreme heat. Harvesting is usually completed within ten days. The grapes are sorted by hand with the aid of optical sorting as well. Pumping over takes place twice daily while the wine is sitting in vats for six weeks. Up to eighty percent new oak is utilised for ageing while five percent pressed wine is introduced to the second label. About 120,000 bottles are produced annually.

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Magnificent sculpture of Qin Shihuang’s chariot gifted by a wealthy admirer from Zhuhai, China.

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Ch Pavie must be surely be one of the most striking estates in Saint-Emilion. Located about two kilometres from the touristy village, the extensive grounds comprise magnificent limestone buildings (erected in 2011) that house the chai as well as a luxurious 5-star hotel called the Residence Pavie (where I stayed), Ch Pavie oozes sheer opulence that, thankfully, has been translated into tasteful refinement, tremendous style and utter sophistication. The lobby of the main building is tiled with expensive glossy marble flooring while the Chanel-inspired curtain drapes are specially tailored to match seamlessly with the window frames. The colour hues, materials and furniture arrangement in the tasting annexe are carefully co-ordinated to exude relaxed elegance.

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2012 Ch Pavie

There is no place for vulgarity or obscene excesses. Such is the immediate appeal of the whole place that one simply surrenders to its disarming charms in spite of the obvious pervasive premium that comes with it.

That, in a nutshell, may also describe the style of its wines. Tasted at the estate on 26 June 2019, the 2012 Ch Pavie (70% merlot, 20% cabernet sauvignon and 10% cabernet franc), displaying a beautiful deep garnet red, was still somewhat closed even after having been double-decanted for 90 minutes prior though some eventual whiffs of dark plums, dark currants and redcurrants came through. The wine is distinctly masculine, structured with great acidity and deep layers of warm ripe plummy fruit on the medium-full palate, rounded with excellent concentration, very fine subtleties and inner definition in spite of its tremendous verve and energy, its detailed tannins imparting a superb sappy mouthfeel as it tapered towards a glowing finish amid traces of earth, already quite seamless even at this infantile stage. Since the Perse era, the modern style of Ch Pavie has polarised opinions but like the estate itself, it is easy to fall into its charms when such loveliness abounds.

Ric visits Chateau La Fleur-Pétrus

June 27, 2019

20190625_113043Chateau La Fleur-Pétrus used to be perennially under-rated and under-appreciated, with many thinking that it was trying to ride on the coat-tails of Ch Pétrus. However, a closer look at its history and make-up will reveal that this is an estate that fully merits its current status as a much sought-after Pomerol. When we arrived at 1030h on the cool overcast morning of 25 June 2019, we were welcomed by the estate’s ambassador Mme. Nathalie Millaire. Tracing its roots back to the 18th century under the Arnaud family, the modern history of Ch La Fleur-Pétrus only began in 1950 when Jean-Pierre Mouiex purchased the estate, comprising a solitary parcel of vines on the northern plateau of Pomerol, a choice plot immediately sandwiched between Ch Pétrus and Ch Lafleur. The terroir of this pioneering plot is noted for its rich layers of iron beneath the pebbly soils drained by a northerly slope, yielding notes of elegant black cherries in the wine. His son Christian then acquired a second parcel comprising gravelly clay located just in front of the current chateau building (an area known as Tropchaud), abutting the vines of Ch Lafleur and Ch Hosanna, that lends tremendous suppleness with a hint of plums. A third and final parcel was acquired by Edouard (Christian’s son) as recently as 2012, sandwiched between the vines of Ch Trotanoy and Ch Le Pin, comprising gravelly soils that lend structure and dense blackcurrants to the wine. Totaling just over 18 ha planted with 90% merlot (30 year-old vines) and 10% cabernet franc (50 years) at a density of 6,500 vines per ha, only some 60,000 bottles, at most, are produced annually. The vines are old, averaging 65 years. The grapes are handpicked and sorted with state-of-the-art optical sorting. Cold maceration takes place for 18-24 days in both concrete and temperature-controlled stainless steel vats, whilst aging takes place in 50% new oak over 18-22 months.

20190625_114101With such proximity to such illustrious neighbours, expectations are high for this estate. The 2016 Ch La Fleur-Pétrus, tasted from half-bottle, displayed distant aromas of cool fruit with some gentle earthiness whilst dark fruits, plums and currants dominate with lovely concentration and intensity on the palate, fleshy and highly supple, marked by lively acidity, well-managed tannins and excellent linearity throughout its length, just a tad short. I’d imagine a standard bottling or magnum would produce outstanding results. Prices for Ch La Fleur-Pétrus have already climbed significantly over the past decade, in part due to more aggressive promotion by those with vested interests, but the concomitant improvement in quality as well as huge potential of the wines may justify the premium. Merci, Nathalie, for your precious time and insight.