Old Vine Bordeaux at Its Very Best – Tasting the Ancient Vine Chateau Tour Baladoz Cuvee Le Centenaire 2010…

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.

While one of the great wines of the neighbourhood is certainly the Chateau Tour Baladoz, they also produce miniscule amounts (1,000 bottles) of a special cuvee called Le Centenaire St. Emilion Grand Cru from vines over 100 years old on average. But the great rarity is the cepage with this incredible wine being made up of a blend of 60% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Malbec, 3% Saint Macaire and 2% Bouchales, the later two varieties being incredibly rare ancient Bordeaux varieties. After fermentation, the wine is aged for 24 months in 100% new French oak barriques.

Chateau Tour Baladoz Cuvee Le Centenaire 2010, St Emilion Grand Cru

A wine of such rarity and corresponding cost (circa £325 per bottle) always commands respect before the cork is even drawn. Coming from probably the greatest modern red wine vintage in Bordeaux’s history, certainly since 1982 though many argue since 1959 and 1961, this wine automatically had a lot of expectation thrust upon it. Already 8 years old, it has a bright ruby garnet rim and a slightly opaque earthy red black plum coloured core. Tasted from Bordeaux Riedel glasses, the nose was initially reticent as many youthful 2010 reds still are, but in true right bank style, was quicker to reveal its charms than perhaps some left bank Cabernet Sauvignon dominated blends. The aromatics are very precise showing beautiful cherry blossom, parma violets, red cherry sherbet and subtle exotic earthy notes of mechanic’s diesel rag. Super complex, noticeably different but thoroughly spell binding. The palate is cool, ultra sleek and beautifully polished but like the nose, has an exotic twist of Caribbean red berry fruits, red cherry, purple rock candy, tart cassis and a Fanta grape twist. Texturally, it’s as fine as it gets with classical old vine power and concentration twinned with dense satin soft tannins and Bordeaux first growth balance. But this wine represents a whole that is clearly much greater than the sum of its parts and a lot of this must surely be attributed to the noteworthy ancient, and now almost extinct, Bordeaux varieties in the blend. A privilege to taste a rarity like this. Drinking now to 2045+

(Wine Safari Score: 98/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Exploring Bordeaux Second Wines – Part 6: Petit-Figeac de Château Figeac 2014, Saint Emilion Grand Cru…

The latest edition to the Wine Safari Bordeaux second wine series features a wine from one of my favourite Saint Emilion Grand Cru estates, Château Figeac owned by the Manoncourt family. Only the third vintage of this new second wine produced, Petit-Figeac de Château Figeac was created starting with the 2012 vintage.

Figeac is the largest estate in Saint-Émilion with 40 hectares (99 acres) of vineyards. Due to its soil, which is dominated by gravel, the estate is planted with grape varieties more reminiscent of the left bank, including 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Cabernet Franc and only 30% Merlot. Most other Saint-Émilion wines are dominated by Merlot, and Figeac therefore bears a certain resemblance to the wines of the Medoc and Graves despite being situated on Bordeaux’s right bank.

From 1945 to 2011, the estate produced a second wine called La Grange Neuve de Figeac and since 2006 a ‘special wine’ named Petit-Figeac. From the 2012 vintage, Petit-Figeac became the single official second wine of Chateau Figeac.

Petit-Figeac de Château Figeac 2014, Saint Emilion Grand Cru, 13 Abv.

A blend of 50% Merlot, 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Cabernet Franc, the aromatics reveal a real melange of plush ripe black fruits tinged with graphite spice. There are layers of cassis, blueberry, black bramble berries and black plum. As the wine unfurls in the glass, distinct notes of black cherry, mocha, espresso, sweet tobacco and milk chocolate become more pronounced. The palate texture is ultra soft and seductive, super supple with beautifully plush powdery tannins, vibrant cherry pith, hints of cola and liquorice and a subtle saline finish. A thoroughly charming high quality effort that Claret lovers can drink now or cellar for another 5 to 8+ years.

(Wine Safari Score: 92/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

The Rising Star of Saint Emilion – Tasting a Vertical of Chateau La Croizille…

La Croizille is a wonderfully situated St 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 head winemaker, Jean-Michel Garcion.

This winery is a real rising star in St Emilion which you will almost certainly read a lot more about in years to come.

La Croizille Vertical Tasting 2007 – 2016

Chateau La Croizille St Emilion 2007, 13 Abv.

The vineyards on the clay-limestone plateau yielded a spectacularly good offering in 2007. Notes of polished mahogany, earth, tannery leather, cherry kirsch liquer and black current rise out of the glass. Wonderful berry concentration, elegance and subtle evolution are hallmarks on this expertly crafted wine. It will be hard not to finish the bottle once you open this beauty. Drink now to 2025+

(Wine Safari Score: 92/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Chateau La Croizille St Emilion 2010, 13 Abv.

From this epic vintage, notes of polished mahogany, boot polish, black cherry kirsch liquer and black current confit rise imperiously out of the glass. Wonderful concentration, elegance and freshness are all wrapped together with a most expertly integrated lick of new French oak. This is everything you would want from an iconic vintage and a real testament to winemaker Jean-Michel’s true skills. Drink now to 2035+

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Chateau La Croizille St Emilion 2011, 13 Abv.

The 2011 shows attractive floral perfume aromatics, polished oak, cherry confit, cherry liquer and saline black current leaf intensity. Superb concentration, sleek textured elegance and freshness and a smattering of the most attractive French oak vanilla spice notes. A noble and impressive follow up to the 2010 and a wine that will happily grace the tables of the most discerning connoisseurs. Drink now to 2029+

(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Chateau La Croizille St Emilion 2012, 13 Abv.

A dark cherry black opaque colour greets the drinker. Initially, the nose is broody and closed. But a little glass swirling and coaxing starts to elicit some of the more classical elements of the bouquet… black berry, black cherry pith, cassis, dusty limestone minerality, hints of graphite and a gloss of buttered brown toast. The oaking is almost imperceptible, revealing a very restrained and quite classical expression from this “drinking” Bordeaux vintage. The palate has all the sleekness, suppleness and accessibility that you’d expect from a 2012. A soft fine grained texture, polished powdery tannins, chalky grip and spicy, plummy, peppery black cherry and black berry fruit. It’s all packed into a very classical, medium bodied parcel, that delivers pleasure now but also suggest it is structured enough to be holding back a few surprises in reserve for drinkers in 5 to 8 years time.

(Wine Safari Score: 92/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Chateau La Croizille St Emilion 2014, 13 Abv.

This wine is ripe and rich with beautifully plush classical right bank allure and a soft textured, elegant cassis pastille fruit concentration. A complex wine already in its youth, the layers of mocha, cocoa powder spice and sweet damson plum coat the tongue and thrill the palate. This wine has real depth of fruit, vibrant freshness, and superb length. A class act from some of the best terroir in St Emilion.

(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Chateau La Croizille St Emilion 2015, 13 Abv.

The neighbour of Francois Mitjavile’s Chateau Tertre Roteboeuf, La Croizille is a blend of 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon. True to the vintage, this wine has a spectacularly profound quality, and indeed the 2015 La Croizille could be among their greatest ever vintages produced. Certainly on par with the epic 2005, 2009 and 2010, the 2015 has a nose that is seductively perfumed, lifted out of the ordinary by cherry blossoms and an exotic undertone of cherry kirsch liqueur. The caramelized oak notes tease like sprinkles on a chocolate cake! The palate too is dark, dense, powerful and packed full of opulent exotic flavours of Chinese plum sauce, tart cherry confit, sweet cassis and vanilla pod spice. The balance is exceptional, spreading broad and wide across the palate. This is right bank Bordeaux at its seductive, classical best. Plump yet fresh, dense, sweet fruited and gravelly, yet never losing focus. Oh, and the finish goes on and on like a Duracell bunny! Wow. What an impressive wine.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Chateau La Croizille St Emilion 2016, 13 Abv.

The 2016 Château La Croizille has a dense, opulent profuse blue berry fruited nose, high-toned and showy, with all the mineral limestone complexity of its prestigious neighbours such as Tertre Roteboeuf, Troplong Mondot and Rocheyron. The palate is showing some elegant restraint and class with sweet ripe tannins, surly brambly red and black fruits, and an earthy, foresty, rather masculine, slightly introspective finish. So seductive and noble, this wine speaks of great St Emilion terroir with very intelligent winemaking. Superb effort.

(Wine Safari Score: 93-95/100 Greg Sherwood MW, Tasted En-primeur in April 2017 from Barrel)