One of the most exciting Bordeaux finds over the past couple of years has been the wines of Julien Meyre who owns three Chateau in the Medoc. Of the three Chateau, his Chateau Cap Leon Veyrin is undoubtedly the flagship property boasting blends packed with dense, powerful Cabernet Sauvignon fruit supported by fleshy, opulent Merlot. Recent vintages have garnered impressive 90-plus point scores from Neal Martin at Vinous as well as from James Suckling.
But there is another more modest wine that has recently caught my attention and this is the Le Petit Leon that has been styled as a de-facto second wine of Chateau Cap Leon Veyrin even though some grapes are bought in for this wine. But the quality is outstanding and the presentation top drawer! Certainly one to look out for if you are on the hunt for quality at a great price. (Retail circa £15pb)
Le Petit Leon de Cap Leon Veyrin 2019, Bordeaux, 13.5% Abv.
This 50% Cabernet Sauvignon / 50% Merlot blend is a serious offering that shows intricate aromatics of damson plum, black currant, sweet cherry tobacco with underlying notes of sweet cedar oak, bramble berry and graphite spice. The palate strikes an excellent balance between silky black fruit depth, a creamy texture and broody red berry fruit power. Impressive balance and an all round generous personality with a vibrant fresh tangy persistence. A delicious wine from a block buster vintage. Drink on release and over 3 to 5+ years.
This juicy little newcomer to the world of Bordeaux second wines is a selection derived from the Saint Julien vineyards of Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou. Le Petit Ducru portends an introduction to the Borie signature style, lending qualities from its elder siblings, the Ducru-Beaucaillou and the La Croix Ducru-Beaucaillou, of plushness, balance and Cabernet Sauvignon elegance and power.
The Petit Ducru sees an equally rigorous grape selection and attention to detail winemaking before being aged in barrel for 12 months with one-third new oak. A traditional Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot blend, and depending on the vintage, occasionally with a hint of Petit Verdot, this is an appealing addition to the Bordeaux drinkers’ landscape. Le Petit Ducru aims to be a wine of balance and harmony that is enjoyable in its youth while also possessing enough “stuffing” for moderate beneficial ageing.
Le Petit Ducru de Ducru-Beaucailloux 2018, Saint Julien, Bordeaux, 14.5% Abv.
A new wine in the Ducru-Beaucaillou portfolio launched with the 2018 vintage, Le Petit Ducru wine was formerly called Lalande-Borie. This can loosely be considered the Chateau’s second wine as the La Croix du Beaucaillou, like examples such as Clos du Marquis and Les Forts de Latour, is not a second wine as such, because it comes from a specifically dedicated part of the Ducru-Beaucaillou vineyard located on the south bank of La Mouline. The Le Petit Ducru grapes are all sourced from vineyards of Ducru-Beaucaillou and the maiden 2018 vintage is a blend of 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine possesses an impressively deep dark broody opaque colour and shows seductively opulent aromatics of stewed black berries, black currant compote, sweet mulberries, black liquorice, cherry tobacco, grilled herbs and subtle notes of graphite and freshly tilled earth. The palate is plush, bold and opulent with an imposing mouth-filling texture packed with sweet black berry fruits, hints of hoisin plum sauce, burnt brown toast crusts and vanilla pod spice. An impressively opulent and fleshy expression that is kept in check by fresh integrated acids and sweet, creamy tannins which finish with a spicy, dried baking herb piquant twist. Arguably a wine that shows its pedigree and over-delivers for the price. Drink on release and comfortably over the next 8 to 10+ years.
The third wine of the legendary Chateau Margaux, the Margaux du Chateau Margaux 2015 arrives on the market with great expectations for a wine from a highly lauded, ripe, warm Bordeaux vintage. The Margaux du Château Margaux 2015 is the result of the most rigorous selection ever made on their 3rd wine with almost a quarter of the production relegated to a 4th wine sold in bulk. Because of this selection, Chateau Margaux probably have today the most charming and open Margaux du Château Margaux that they have ever produced.
The 2015 winter, which was appreciably colder than those of the previous years, caused a late, but perfectly regular blossoming. Dry and sunny weather in the spring made for optimal conditions, so flowering took place very quickly and homogeneously. The hot, dry weather persisted throughout the months of June and July, to a point where Margaux was afraid there could be water stress, or at least in the most sensitive plots. Fortunately a little rain in August arrived just in time to ensure a quick and regular veraison. The drought, which arrived again in September, together with very warm days and cool nights, enabled the grapes to balance their richness in sugar with good acidity, to render their tannins more silky and to make their aromatic potential more complex.
The harvest of the reds took place from September 18th to October 6th. The small size of the grapes and their thicker skins indicated a very high concentration of tannins and the 2015 weather conditions are in fact the feature of very great vintages, like 2005, 2009 and 2010.
Margaux du Chateau Margaux 2015, AOC Margaux, 14% Abv.
The 2015 Margaux du Chateau Margaux red is a splendid garnet-purple coloured creation with an incredibly inviting aromatics bursting with seductive notes of black berries, crème de cassis, pressed rose petals, lavender, sappy sandalwood and hints of sweet Cohiba cigar tobacco spice. This vintage has got to be the ripest and most opulent expression of this Margaux Bordeaux since the maiden 2009 release, showing a medium to full–bodied flavour packed mouthful, delivering a lush black berry seduction, hints of black forest gateau and a tight knit vein of finely polished spicy tannins which melt away into a fresh, inviting acidity that somewhat reins in the warm 2015 fruit exuberance. But this wine is certainly not lacking in backbone or classicism, revealing plenty of mid-palate concentration and focused precision as you would expect from one of the greatest Chateau in Bordeaux. Drink now on release and over 10 to 15+ years.
I have always been a big fan of Bordeaux second and third wines because of the pedigree and excellent value for money they normally offer. At the 2010 En-primeur tastings, I remember tasting with Chateau Margaux’s Paul Pontallier when he revealed the 2009 maiden release of the Margaux du Chateau Margaux, a wine that had yet to be named. In following years when this 2009 vintage finally arrived onto the market, it was decided that distribution would be exclusively through the on-trade and restaurant trade. This was of course a time when Bordeaux prices were running riot in the open market making it incredibly difficult for restaurants to list quality Bordeaux wines at affordable prices.
The third wine of the legendary Chateau Margaux, the Margaux du Chateau Margaux 2014 benefited enormously from the outstanding selection made in this vintage. The Pavillon Rouge and Chateau Margaux assemblages made up just 60% of the harvest in 2014 which allowed the Margaux du Chateau Margaux cuvee to be enhanced with multiple parcels previously destined for Chateau Margaux’s Pavillon Rouge, a wine that regularly sells for over £250+ retail per bottle and double or triple that amount in premium restaurants. The result is one of the finest vintages of this third wine to date composed in equal parts of Cabernet Sauvignon (49%) and Merlot (49%) with a small percentage of Petit Verdot. If you see it on a restaurant list at circa £100 per bottle, buy it with confidence.
Margaux du Chateau Margaux 2014, Bordeaux, 13% Abv.
This pretty wine displays a wonderfully inviting perfumed nose of pressed violets, grilled coffee beans, black cherry and buttered brown breakfast toast. Even for a 2014, this seven-year-old wine shows lashings of blackcurrant and black plum fruit with the extra years in bottle giving the wine some glorious complexing notes of tannery leather, tobacco and wood smoke. Close your eyes and it`s like sitting back in a comfy old leather armchair in the library of a grand old London private members club. In the mouth, it reveals plush reassuring nuances of black berry fruits, hints of autumnal foresty bramble berries and a seductive touch of cocoa bean and milk chocolate. The length is long and impressive with fine ripe fleshy tannins and an elegant harmonious texture that screams classy Margaux terroir. A truly impressive wine conceived and blended for relatively early consumption in a restaurant environment but packs more than enough punch to accompany the heartiest of cuisine. Drink now and over the next 6 to 8+ years.
La Croizille is a wonderfully situated Saint Emilion Grand Cru Chateau that was acquired by the Belgian De Schepper – De Mour family in 1996 and whose wines are sold mostly in the Benelux. The 5 hectares of vines belonging to the Château benefit from the same remarkable soils, on the borders of the clay-limestone plateau of Saint-Emilion in the commune of Saint-Laurent des Combes, as Chateaux such as Tetre Roteboeuf and Troplong Mondot.
After 1996, the De Schepper family commenced on a large investment spree, bringing the estate into the modern winemaking era, combining its sought after terroir with high-end technology and traditional know-how to create a wine with great opulence, finesse, modernity and personality under the watchful eye of respected head winemaker, Jean-Michel Garcion.
Chateau La Croizille Saint Emilion Grand Cru 2018, 14.5% Abv.
This is an impressive effort that shows just why so many 2018 right bank Bordeaux wines are being fawned over at the moment. It displays a deep purple-black colour and offers up exotic, hedonistic notes of black currant compote, liquorice, caramelised black cherries, creme brûlée and stewed winter plums. On the palate the texture is silky, soft and sensual with an impressive fleshy depth of fruit, smoky graphite mocha notes, pithy plum stone minerality and a long, fresh, well honed finish. The subtle drying grip from the velvety tannins are reminiscent of a well brewed cup of raspberry and black currant herbal tea. It possesses a simply magical harmony and a wonderful balance making this another standout effort from Chateau La Croizille. Drink from 2022 to 2034+
Château “Valados” first appeared in “Le Producteur” in 1841, and was included in the first edition of “Cocks and Feret” (Bordeaux and its Wines) in 1850 under the name of “Baladoz”. From 1874 to 1922, the estate was known as Château Baladoz until a tower was erected and adopted into the name.
In certain parts, vines are grown at an altitude of up to ninety metres, almost the highest in the appellation, with more vines planted on the clay and limestone plateau that dominates the estate. Originally categorised as between the first and second crus of St Emilion, the estate later settled in the Grand Cru category.
The property, located in Saint-Laurent-des-Combes, was purchased by Belgian wine trader Emile De Schepper in May 1950 and included 5.56 hectares of vines. The new owner spent his first year renovating the cellars and making improvements to the vineyard. In the early years, the wine was exclusively exported to Belgium, in barrel, where it was bottled in the owner’s cellars in Ghent. The current cellar master and manager is the ultra talented Jean-Michel Garcion, who was appointed in 1992 and now also overseas production at sister estates Chateau La Croizille next door and Chateau Haut Breton Larigaudiere in Margaux.
70% of the Tour Baladoz vineyard is planted on the plateau, with the remaining 30 % situated on the slopes of the valley over deeply submerged rocks. Here, the challenge lies in making a wine that is as mineral as the geological environment in which the vines grow. The soil base varies from pure chalk and marl, which reminiscent of certain terroirs in the Champagne region, to freestone that appears occasionally and is noticed because of the colour variation in the clay. Here, the Merlot grape thrives and comprises 70% of the vineyard planting with Cabernet Franc (20%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (10%) making up the remainder.
Chateau Tour Baladoz 2018 Saint Emilion Grand Cru, 14.5% Abv.
A beautiful vineyard with a few pre-phylloxera vines, a collection of ancient Bordeaux varieties and spectacular limestone caves with vine roots growing through the ceilings. This 2018 is garnet purple and already quite explosive in the glass revealing waves of violets and lilac, black plum, mulberry, salty black currant and buttered brown toast nuances. On the palate it shows an accessible opulence of red and black berry fruits, fine chalky mineral tannins and a steely vein of acidity that guides you to a long, fresh, nervy finish with further notes of vanilla spice, graphite and crème de cassis. A really wonderful, high quality expression of Saint Emilion that will seduce a legion of Bordeaux lovers. Drink now and over the next 10 to 15+ years.
I generally don’t review that many small, petit Chateau wines from Bordeaux unless they are second wines from larger, more well-known Grand Cru Classe estates that hold a lot of interest and intrigue for consumers, whether they are a straight second wine selection from left-over off cuts or “made” second wines from specific vineyards. The key point of interest for the reviewer and the consumer is of course trying to find the holy grail of classy wine that punches way above its price or reputational weight.
But here I am looking at a petit chateau wine produced by one of the most talented winemakers in Bordeaux at the moment. This wine, made by Jean-Michel Garcion, is sourced from a 13 hectare vineyard blend of 70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Petit Verdot from vines that are on average 15 years old and grown on classic loam and clay soils just down the road from the famous Chateau Cantemerle Haut Medoc estate.
It has to be said, my interest was slightly more piqued for this wine after it received a 97/100 Best In Show score at the recent Decanter World Wine Awards 2020. Some might raise eyebrows at the score but as a Decanter World Wine Awards Panel Chair for South Africa, I know exactly how difficult tasting blind can be. But for Bordeaux, it’s extra complicated as so much rests on the Chateau name and brand tasted, not the actual terroir of the grapes or the name and skill of the winemaker. But this one’s a cracker no doubt!
An attractive deep dark garnet colour, the 2019 Lacombe Cadiot is a wonderfully precise expression with crisp, fresh, pure notes of black currants, blueberries, buttered brown toast, graphite and gravelly mineral nuances. Medium-bodied, the wine’s palate shows a crunchy vibrancy, a strict line of crisp acidity, blueberry, black cherry and smoky crème de cassis with an exotic note of hoisin plum sauce, wood spice, cloves and hints of Chinese five spice. What makes this wine a real head turner is the exceptional balance, suave cool elegance, attractive blackberry fruit concentration with a most attractive powdery, grippy, mineral tannin note on the finish. A wine that certainly punches way above its reputation, whatever your expectations from a Bordeaux red. Drink now to 2025+.
I first visited this Chateau in September 2014 in what seems an absolute age away now. Tucked away on the D2 main road in Soussans, I must have driven past this sleepy little Chateau on the bend in the road over 100 times over the years. But to finally visit and taste their wines made by the talented winemaker Jean Michel Garcion was a revelation.
In the UK, merchants are always on the lookout for new, exciting but affordable Bordeaux wines that show ambition and quality but also a pronounced degree of classicism together with supreme drink ability. Haut Breton is just such a Chateau and with its extensive 15 hectares of vineyards planted on sandy gravelly clay soils with an average age of 20 years old, Jean Michel crafts blends dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon with supporting roles played by Merlot and Petit Verdot.
I recently re-tasted the 2018 vintage in bottle ahead of its arrival in the UK market and I certainly wasn’t disappointed.
The 2018 Margaux from Chateau Haut Breton is a really seductive temptress encompassing a blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Merlot and 8% Petit Verdot aged for between 15-20 months in 70% new French oak barriques. Full of intrigue and complexity, this wine has classic Margaux elegance written all over it. The aromatics boast notes of warm plums, exotic Christmas pudding, creme de cassis and delicate notes of crushed violets, vanilla and freshly tilled earth. The palate shows all the subtlety and elegance you’d expect with smooth, suave silky tannins, a pronounced “light on its feet” concentration, piquant notes of brûléed coffee beans, buttered brown toast and a long, cool, fresh spicy graphite laden blueberry finish. This wine just keeps growing in the glass and suggests the best glory years are still to come! Drink now to 2030+.
Amiral de Cadiot is produced by Château Tayet which has been owned by the de Schepper family since 1994, the former owner, Mr. Marc Raymond, was director at de Schepper’s Chateau Haut-Breton-Larigaudière until 1993, selling his own estate to his previous employer when he retired. Tayet has an excellent terroir in Macau, very close to the AOC Margaux, which has grown by the acquisition of further high quality plots with a high plant density and today consists of 10 hectares of vines.
The “Amiral de Cadiot” by Château Tayet is considered to be one of the best Bordeaux Superieur and is one of the few wines of this class that ages 12 months in 20% new and 50% second fill barriques. The vines for this particular selection are at least 25 years old.
The Château Tayet Cuvée Amiral de Cadiot offers a whole lot of red Bordeaux magic at a truly excellent price point, something often sorely missing in these days of over ambitious, stratospherically priced icon Cru Classe wines. Wines like this in many ways represent the true heart and soul of authentic, consumer orientated classical Bordeaux. In the post Covid-19 lockdown era, wines like this are going to take on a much greater significance in the market place.
Château Tayet Cuvée Amiral de Cadiot 2011, Bordeaux Superieur, 14 Abv.
A wonderfully classical blend of 60% Merlot, 37% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Petit Verdot, this wine has the most intricate textured layers of blueberry and cassis fruit, mocha, brown toast, vanilla pod spice and a supple, plush, sweet fruited core with bright refreshing acids, ripe fine grained tannins and complexing peripheral notes of tannery leather, cigar box and graphite spice. A whole lot of wine that will impress the staunchest of discerning wine connoisseurs. Drink now to 2024+
With the Union des Grands Crus Bordeaux and its members deciding to suspend the 2019 En-Primeurs week that was scheduled to take place at the end of March in Bordeaux due to the coronavirus restrictions, I thought I would post these two wine reviews from the Grand Cercle des Vins de Bordeaux tasting in London yesterday, 12th March 2020.
Speaking to Gavin Quinney of Chateau Bauduc in the Entre-Deux-Mers, he states “’You’re joking – not another one?’ No, really, Bordeaux 2019 is a very good to excellent vintage. It wasn’t straightforward, with heat waves, drought and a rainy finish along the way, but Bordeaux enjoyed a long, dry summer and harvest with just enough rain, and no disasters like the late spring frost of 2017 or the significant losses to mildew that some growers experienced in 2018.”
At the top end, it’s becoming an embarrassment of riches. 2019 makes it six very good years in a row for the northern Haut-Médoc appellations of St-Julien, Pauillac and St-Estèphe, which were largely untouched by the 2017 frost and produced many fine 2014s, and likewise for the top estates on the plateau of Pomerol.
Bordeaux 2019 – 10 observations on the growing season: (Source: Gavin Quinney)
· A dry year with 25% less rain overall than the average up to the end of the harvest.
· A mild winter saw average rainfall in November, December and January, then a dry February and March.
· Spring rainfall (Q2) was close to the norm from April bud break through to June flowering.
· Some localised spring frosts and limited hail damage later on, though relatively small losses.
· Flowering in early June began well but a rainy, chilly spell led to uneven fruit set in many vineyards.
· No major disasters like the frost of April 2017 or the mildew that had a significant impact on multiple growers in 2018.
· A long, hot summer saw over three months of mostly fine weather from mid June to the fourth Sunday of September.
· Heat waves in late June and 40 ˚C (104 °F) in late July put some vines under pressure – though this was pre-ripening.
· Heavy rain on the last Friday in July, just after a heat wave, refreshed many vineyards just in time.
· Light rain in among the hot weather in August and mid September helped the vines.
Chateau La Croizille 2019, St Emilion Grand Cru
Plush, broadly aromatic but beautifully soft toned with dulcet notes pink musk, purple rock candy and black currant with a fabulously generous glycerol concentration, harmonious breadth and depth and a subtle, vanilla dusted, brûléed blueberry muffin finish. Delicious expression. Power with elegance.
(Wine Safari Score: 92-94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Chateau Cap Leon Veyrin Cru Bourgeois 2019, Listrac-Medoc
A complex nose layered with perfumed aromatics drifting from violets to cherry blossom, pink musk to cherry cola and dusty graphite minerality. Super focus and balance, this wine has beautiful Cabernet Sauvignon lines, a chiselled texture and fine mineral, gravelly tannins. The fruit concentration shows a seductive sweet sour mouth watering edge and fabulous black berry fruit persistence. Focused, intense and impressively linear. This should turn into an absolute star!
(Wine Safari Score: 92-93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Tasted along side the superb 2016 for added insight…
Chateau Cap Leon Veyrin Cru Bourgeois 2016, Listrac-Medoc
Beautifully deep dark broody nose with plenty of black cherry, black currant, earthy blueberry and hints of savoury, wild bramble berry fruits. Seamlessly plush concentration is lifted and electrified by bright, tangy acids before the finish melts away in the mouth to leave notes of sour plum, graphite, salty black liquorice and kirsch cherry liquor. Really very impressive wine that certainly lives up to this epic vintage’s top billing.