Unclassed Bordeaux Offering Solid Value in the 2014 Vintage

Today’s Story: Château Gloria

Château Gloria is a “relatively” young Bordeaux wine estate, established piecemeal during the mid-1900s by Bordeaux native Henri Martin. Situated in the Left Bank appellation of Saint-Julien, Château Gloria today consists of 50 hectares (124 acres) and is planted to roughly 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Petit Verdot. Henri purchased his first six hectares (15 acres) in 1942, and expanded the estate over time by purchasing holdings from the likes of Beychevelle, Léoville-Poyferré, Gruaud-Larose, Léoville-Barton, and Ducru-Beaucaillou amongst others. Though Château Gloria is an unclassed estate thanks to its founding roughly a century after the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855, it is widely considered to be on par with classed growths today thanks to its quality and representation of the Saint-Julien appellation.

From a winemaking perspective, all fruit at Château Gloria is harvested by hand. Vinification occurs in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks, which range in size from 50hl to 178hl. Once primary fermentation is complete, the wines are barreled down into French oak barrels of which 40% are new and malolactic fermentation occurs in barrel. After 14 months of aging, the wines are bottled and production of the Grand Vin is typically around 20,000 cases per vintage. Château Gloria also produces a second wine named Esprit de Gloria, which was previously known as Peymartin.

Today’s Wine: 2014 Château Gloria

Cabernet Sauvignon dominant Bordeaux blend; 13.5% ABV

The 2014 Château Gloria is deep garnet in color, almost deep ruby. I decanted this for about three hours though sampled it along the way. The aromas are of medium (+) intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of redcurrant, muddled strawberry, black cherry, blackcurrant, anise, rose, cigar box, forest floor, truffle, graphite, gravel, cedar spill, and vanilla. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium (+) intensity, with a palate of blackberry, plum, blackcurrant, black cherry, licorice, tobacco, violet, charred green herbs, chocolate, vanilla, and baking spice. This dry red blend is medium- to full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (+) tannins, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish. Pretty good quality and a solid wine for the 2014 Bordeaux vintage.

Price: $50. This is a pretty fair price-point and offers decent value for dipping one’s toes into Bordeaux. I’ve been a huge fan of the 2014 Bordeaux vintage lately and this is no different, offering great balance and solid complexity after a bit of a decant. Should age nicely as well for at least another 5-7 years.

If this wine seems like something you might enjoy, you may find this link helpful in locating it.

Bordeaux Blanc of Exceptional Value From the Family Behind Domaine de Chevalier

Today’s Story: Clos des Lunes

Clos des Lunes is a relatively new venture, established in 2011 by Olivier Bernard and the team behind Domaine de Chevalier. The 2012 vintage was their first at this property. Clos des Lunes is situated on ancient terroir in the Sauternes appellation of Bordeaux, and its neighbors include the likes of Château d’Yquem and Château Guiraud. Contrary to their neighbors who are known for sweet wines, however, Clos des Lunes focuses on making dry white wines from about 70% Sémillon and 30% Sauvignon Blanc. The estate today consists of about 45 hectares (111 acres) on sloping hills composed of coarse gravel over a bed of clay and limestone, and the vines average about 30 years old. Winemaking here follows the practices of Domaine de Chevalier, and all harvesting is accomplished by hand with multiple passes through the vineyards. Vinification occurs in small thermo-regulated 50 hectoliter vats or in barrels following a light and gentle pressing, with vessel type, new oak percentage, lees exposure, and aging timeline specifically designed for each wine. The Clos des Lunes portfolio consists of three wines, including its entry-level Lune Blanche, flagship Lune d’Argent, and top-end Lune d’Or.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Lune Blanche

70% Sémillon, 30% Sauvignon Blanc; 12.5% ABV

The 2016 Lune Blanche is pale yellow in color and completely transparent. Aromas are of medium intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of lemon peel, white peach, white lily, grass, gravel, a hint of petrol (interesting), and saline minerality. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium intensity, while the palate offers up notes of lemon pith, peach, chamomile, chopped grass, beeswax, wet stone, and saline. This dry white blend is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium alcohol, and a medium length finish. Quality level is good, with this providing excellent drinkability and enjoyment.

Price: $19. I think this is a great value wine, especially since I found my bottle for less than the average for $17.50. While it’s not the most intense or complex wine, it offers up a delicious and delicate profile while the acid bodes well for its lifetime. This bottling is meant to be consumed young, and I think it’s in a great spot right now.

If this wine seems like something you might enjoy, you may find this link helpful in locating it.

Screaming Value From Bordeaux’s Côtes de Francs

Today’s Story: Château Marsau

Château Marsau is a family owned and operated wine estate located in Bordeaux’s Côtes de Francs, purchased by the Chadronnier family (who are principals in the large négociant CVGB) in 1994. Today the property consists of 14 hectares (34 acres) on red and grey clay soils, with the vineyards planted to Merlot which excels here. Anne-Laurence and Mathieu Chadronnier run the estate today, with Ann-Laurence spearheading winemaking and Mathieu overseeing sales. Meticulous attention to detail is the name of the game in both vineyards and cellar, with each vine and plot carefully managed individually throughout the growing season. In the cellar, each plot receives its own attention and ages in French oak separately, ensuring the identity of each unique plot is maintained. New oak percentage varies by vintage, though often hovers around the 25% mark, and a small percentage of the vintage matures in amphora for a year before bottling. The Château Marsau portfolio consists of three wines, the Grand Vin which I am reviewing today, their second wine named Prélude, and an additional bottling named Prairie.

Today’s Wine: 2018 Château Marsau

100% Merlot; 14.5% ABV

The 2018 Château Marsau is deep ruby in color. I decanted this for two hours and drank it over the following two hours or so. The aromas are of medium (+) intensity, offering up gorgeous notes of blackberry, redcurrant, cherry, red plum, blueberry, licorice, clay, charred green herbs, cedar spill, chocolate, and coffee beans. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium (+) intensity, with the palate showcasing notes of black cherry, blackcurrant, blueberry, redcurrant, sweet tobacco, anise, fennel, iron, charred green peppercorn, mocha, and mild baking spice. This dry red is medium- to full-bodied with medium acidity, medium (+) and grippy tannins, high alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish. Very good quality and has the structure to age well for another five to ten years.

Price: $36. This is a great value for Bordeaux, particularly given its balance and complexity at such a young age. Château Marsau also only produced 20% of their normal yield during 2018, unfortunately due to disease as they shifted to organic farming.

If this wine seems like something you might enjoy, you may find this link helpful in locating it. If you’re lucky, you could even find this closer to $30.

Historic Bordeaux From the Iconic 1982 Vintage

Today’s Story: Château Margaux

Château Margaux is an incredibly historic wine estate located in the Margaux appellation of Bordeaux’s Left Bank. It is also one of the original four properties ranked as a First Growth (Premier Cru) in the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855 (with Château Mouton Rothschild being added as the fifth First Growth in 1973). Château Margaux traces its roots back to the 12th century with a name of La Mothe de Margaux, though there weren’t any vines planted on the property at that time. Throughout the property’s first several centuries, it was reserved for Lords and royalty. Margaux as we know it today, however, started to take shape in the late 16th century when Pierre de Lestonnac spent the years 1572 to 1582 completely restructuring the property to wine production. By the end of the 17th century, Château Margaux consisted of 265 hectares (655 acres) with about one-third of that area planted to vine. It remains largely in this same format to this day.

The 18th century brought great growth to both Château Margaux and the world of wine as we know it from a quality perspective. At this time, most of the wine made in Bordeaux was low quality and somewhat watery which didn’t bode well for aging ability. At Margaux, Berlon became the first to vinify red and white grapes separately while vine stocks were mixed throughout the vineyards. He also decided to delay harvest time from dawn to later in the day so dew would dry up and not dilute the juice. Thanks to the improved quality, Margaux’s 1771 vintage became the first “claret” to be sold through Christie’s and, during Thomas Jefferson’s trip to Bordeaux in 1787, became noted as one of the top four properties by the statesman.

The fortune of the 18th century died down unfortunately, thanks to the French Revolution that saw Elie du Barry (owner of Château Margaux at the time) sent to the guillotine. The estate was auctioned to the revolutionaries and its new owner, citizen Miqueau, let the property fall into a horribly dilapidated state. In 1801, Bertrand Douat, Marquis de la Colonilla, purchased Château Margaux and set about building a new mansion in 1810. This was the château that still stands today and adorns the Margaux labels, though Douat died before ever living at the property. His children had very little interest in the property, ultimately selling it to a wealthy banker named Alexandre Aguado in 1830. Margaux trudged onward until the financial troubles and phylloxera of the late 19th century, with the estate sold to Count Pillet-Will in 1879. The estate bounced back with a great 1893 vintage, though the young vines of phylloxera-resistant rootstock didn’t produce at a high enough quality and a second wine named Pavillon Rouge du Château Margaux was born.

Throughout the second quarter of the 20th century, wealthy wine trader Fernand Ginestet purchased shares in Margaux until ultimately purchasing the entire estate around 1950. Fernand and his son Pierre reorganized the vineyards and guided the estate through several successful vintages, though they were unfortunately no match for the financial crisis of the 1970s and the horrible vintages of 1972, 1973, and 1974. The Ginestet family, due to these struggles, had to sell Château Margaux and it was purchased by André Mentzelopoulos in 1977. André made his fortune trading cereals and through his ownership of a grocery chain, so he was able to invest heavily in Château Margaux during this trying time without the need for immediate financial gains. Though André passed away far too soon in 1980, during his short ownership of Château Margaux he completed drastic renovations to both the buildings and vineyards of the estate and set the property on a renewed path to greatness. André’s daughter Corinne adeptly took over in her father’s footsteps, guiding the estate through the incredible growing demand for Bordeaux wines following the 1982 vintage and into the 21st century. She remains CEO to this day.

Switching gears, as I mentioned before the size and format of Château Margaux hasn’t really changed since the end of the 17th century. Today the property consists of 262 hectares (647 acres) with only a third of that planted to vine. Vine density is fairly high but typical of Bordeaux, with 10,000 vines per hectare (2.5 acres) of land. For the red wines, 75% of this land is planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% to Merlot, and the balance to Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. They also have 12 hectares (30 acres) planted to Sauvignon Blanc. With this Château Margaux makes four wines including the Grand Vin, Pavillon Rouge du Château Margaux, and Margaux du Château Margaux for their reds and the Pavillon Blanc du Château Margaux for the white.

From a winemaking standpoint, Margaux is fairly traditional for the realm of Bordeaux. The red wines ferment in a combination of oak and stainless steel vats ranging in size from 5 hectoliters up to 180 hectoliters. The reds also go through malolactic fermentation in vats, however the press wines complete their malolactic fermentation in barrel. Aging is accomplished in 100% new oak for 18-24 months, with many of these barrels coming from Margaux’s own in-house cooperage. The white wine, on the other hand, is whole cluster pressed with no skin contact and ferments partially in stainless steel before wrapping up in 33% new French oak barrels. This wine is aged on its lees but forgoes malolactic fermentation while aging for 7-8 months before bottling.

Today’s Wine: 1982 Château Margaux

Cabernet Sauvignon dominant Bordeaux blend; 12% ABV

The 1982 Château Margaux is deep garnet in color, showing no signs of bricking. I decanted this for sediment, but there really wasn’t any and this seemed ready to go after a short while. The aromas are of pronounced intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of redcurrant, blackcurrant, red plum, dried violet, tobacco, pencil shavings, graphite, smoked meat, forest floor, black truffle, eucalyptus, and cedar. Flavors are also of pronounced intensity, while the palate offers up notes of redcurrant, blackberry, cassis, stale licorice, violet, cigar tobacco, scorched earth, crushed gravel, charred green herbs, green peppercorn, and a touch of smoke. This dry red is medium-bodied with medium acidity, medium but perfectly integrated and silky tannin, medium alcohol, and a long finish. This is an outstanding bottle with exceptional balance, and it’s drinking perfectly right now.

Price: $1,200 (we paid $980). At this price-point I can’t really discuss the value proposition because, let’s be honest, nobody can argue it. However, this was an ethereal bottle that I am very happy and lucky to have enjoyed and it was firing on all cylinders. This showed intensity, complexity, and incredible balance that will be memorable for a long time. I would love to find a 1983 for comparison.

Beautifully Aged Bordeaux in a Sweet Spot Right Now

Today’s Story: Château Léoville Las Cases

Château Léoville Las Cases is a historical Bordeaux estate ranked as a Second Growth (Deuxième Cru) in the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855. It is located in the appellation of Saint-Julien on the Left Bank. Though the estate used to be much larger and is one of the oldest in the Médoc, it was split up between 1826 and 1840 as a result of the French Revolution and came into the Las Cases family as 3/5 the size of the original estate. Luckily for the family, however, their land made up the heart of the domain and therefore consists of the original terroir back to the 17th century. Las Cases was managed by the same family through the 19th century, moving by inheritance through Pierre Jean, Adolphe, and Gabriel de Las Cases until Théophile Skawinski bought a stake in 1900 to become the manager. Today, Jean-Hubert Delon is the sole owner with the family coming in during the mid-20th century.

The estate today consists of 98 hectares (242 acres) of vineyards planted to roughly 66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Petit Verdot. The soil is classic Left Bank, made up of gravel over gravelly sand and gravelly clay subsoils. The heart of the property is the 55 hectare (136 acre) Grand Clos, where vines average an age of 52 years and farming is nearly 100% organic. The Grand Clos is walled-in and borders Château Latour to the north as well.

Winemaking is largely traditional at Léoville Las Cases, beginning with manual harvest and moving to fermentation in temperature-controlled wood, concrete, or stainless steel vats of varying size and age. Malolactic fermentation occurs in vat, and then the wines are blended before moving into French oak barrels for 18-20 months of aging. Come bottling, the wines are fined using egg whites and production of the Grand Vin is around 15,000 to 16,700 cases depending on vintage.

I previously wrote about the 1961, 1986, and 1990 (which I’ll be revisiting today) Château Leoville-Las Cases.

Today’s Wine: 1990 Château Leoville Las Cases

43% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot, 21% Cabernet Franc, 7% Petit Verdot; 13.25% ABV

The 1990 Château Leoville-Las Cases is deep garnet in color. I decanted this for an hour, both for some mild sediment and per the winery’s recommended time. The aromas are of pronounced intensity and the complex nose showcases notes of redcurrant, black cherry, cassis, graphite, cigar box, pencil shavings, smoked meat, forest floor, truffle, green bell pepper, underbrush, eucalyptus, and clove. Flavors are also of pronounced intensity, with an equally complex palate of black cherry, redcurrant, blueberry, cigar tobacco, leather, gravel, forest floor, earthy mushroom, charred green herbs, green peppercorn, and a touch of cinnamon. This dry red is medium- to full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (+) but super fine-grained tannin, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish. Superb.

Price: $475 (we paid $340). The going market rate on this wine is tougher to discuss on a value perspective, though I think the price we paid is well worth it. I reviewed this same wine two years ago, with this bottle showing more complexity but equally great balance. For the depth, balance, and complexity of this wine at its age it is truly a memorable bottle.

Beautifully Mature Bordeaux

Today’s Story: Château Léoville Las Cases

Château Léoville Las Cases is a historical Bordeaux estate ranked as a Second Growth (Deuxième Cru) in the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855. It is located in the appellation of Saint-Julien on the Left Bank. Though the estate used to be much larger and is one of the oldest in the Médoc, it was split up between 1826 and 1840 as a result of the French Revolution and came into the Las Cases family as 3/5 the size of the original estate. Luckily for the family, however, their land made up the heart of the domain and therefore consists of the original terroir back to the 17th century. Las Cases was managed by the same family through the 19th century, moving by inheritance through Pierre Jean, Adolphe, and Gabriel de Las Cases until Théophile Skawinski bought a stake in 1900 to become the manager. Today, Jean-Hubert Delon is the sole owner with the family coming in during the mid-20th century.

The estate today consists of 98 hectares (242 acres) of vineyards planted to roughly 66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Petit Verdot. The soil is classic Left Bank, made up of gravel over gravelly sand and gravelly clay subsoils. The heart of the property is the 55 hectare (136 acre) Grand Clos, where vines average an age of 52 years and farming is nearly 100% organic. The Grand Clos is walled-in and borders Château Latour to the north as well.

Winemaking is largely traditional at Léoville Las Cases, beginning with manual harvest and moving to fermentation in temperature-controlled wood, concrete, or stainless steel vats of varying size and age. Malolactic fermentation occurs in vat, and then the wines are blended before moving into French oak barrels for 18-20 months of aging. Come bottling, the wines are fined using egg whites and production of the Grand Vin is around 15,000 to 16,700 cases depending on vintage.

I previously wrote about two wines from Léoville Las Cases, first the 1986 vintage in a side-by-side with a 1986 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande and then the 1990 vintage in early 2020.

Today’s Wine: 1961 Château Léoville Las Cases

Cabernet Sauvignon dominant Bordeaux blend; I presume around 12-13% ABV

The 1961 Château Léoville Las Cases is medium garnet in color and not really showing any signs of bricking. We served this as a pop-and-pour, and it really only took 10 minutes or so in the glass to open up and show beautifully. The aromas are of medium (+) intensity, with the gorgeous nose showcasing notes of dried cherry, dried cranberry, pencil shavings, dried violet, graphite, cigar box, forest floor, truffle, eucalyptus, and a hint of cinnamon. Meanwhile the flavors are of medium intensity and the palate displays notes of baked black cherry, dried plum, prune, cigar tobacco, truffle, graphite, and charred green herbs. This dry red is medium-bodied with medium acidity, light and fully matured tannins, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish. The wine is in remarkable shape given its age and quite honestly there seems to be a window of a few more years to drink this.

Price: $800. This is more of an experience wine than anything, as I’ve never had a 1961 Bordeaux and neither had my tasting companions. So while I don’t want to discuss “value” because it seems subjective for a wine like this, I will state the obvious that provenance is key here and this bottle was superb while making for an incredible tasting experience.

Historic Pomerol Estate Showcasing the Promise of the Underrated 2014 Vintage

Today’s Story: Château L’Évangile

Château L’Évangile is a historic Bordeaux wine estate located in the appellation of Pomerol on the Right Bank of Bordeaux. L’Évangile traces its roots back to the year 1741 when it first popped up in the land registry under the name Fazilleau, and it was owned by the Léglise family from Libourne. By the turn of the 19th century, the estate was fairly close to its current configuration and consisted of 13 hectares (32 acres) of vineyards. In 1862, Paul Chaperon purchased L’Évangile (as it was known by this time) and he built the reputation of the estate to greater heights and constructed the château in 1874. By 1900, L’Évangile was widely considered the third-best wine of Pomerol behind Vieux Château Certan and Château Pétrus. Chaperon’s descendants, the powerful Ducasse family, continued to run the estate until 1990 when it was purchased by Domaines Barons de Rothschild who own Château Lafite Rothschild on the Left Bank amongst other highly-regarded properties.

Today Château L’Évangile consists of 22 hectares of vineyards planted in prime sandy clay and gravel soils on the plateau of Pomerol. The property borders Château Pétrus to the north and Château Cheval Blanc to the south, so one can say they are in good company. L’Évangile’s vineyards are planted to about 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc, though there is now a small plot of Cabernet Sauvignon that was blended into the wine for the first time in 2019. The vines at L’Évangile average about 30 years of age, and the estate started shifting to organic viticulture in 2018 before ultimately becoming certified organic in 2021.

In the cellar, all plots are vinified separately in vats with traditional pump overs and controlled maceration. The goal by the end of fermentation is to try to determine which plots/vats ultimately make it into the Grand Vin and which may end up in the second wine called Blason de L’Évangile. The Grand Vin ages for 18 months in 70% new French oak barrels, and total production of the Grand Vin and Blason de L’Évangile averages about 5,000 cases per vintage.

Today’s Wine: 2014 Château L’Évangile

82% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Franc; 14% ABV

The 2014 Château L’Évangile is deep ruby in color. Given my first taste and a check-in after 2 hours, I decided to decant this for a full 4-5 hours as it was rather shy. Once it opens up, the aromas are of medium intensity and the nose showcases notes of black cherry, spiced plum, cigar box, new leather, black truffle, clay, cinnamon, and toasted oak. The flavors are also of medium intensity, and the palate displays notes of blackberry, cassis, plum, black licorice, tobacco, scorched earth, sage, chocolate, and oaky spice. This dry red is medium- to full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (+) but refined tannins, high alcohol, and a long finish.

Price: $160 (I paid $143). On a relative basis, this wine offers considerable value compared to stronger vintages like 2015 and 2016 which for this bottling are priced closer to the $260-300 range. This wine also shows incredible promise for the future, as I think it needs probably 3-5 more years of cellaring and should drink well for a couple decades beyond that.

Another Solid Value From the 2014 Vintage in Bordeaux

Today’s Story: Château La Conseillante

Château La Conseillante is a historical family-owned wine estate located in the Pomerol appellation on the Right Bank of Bordeaux. The estate traces its roots back to the mid-18th century under the management of Catherine Conseillan where it gets its name, and they produced wines at least as early as 1756 which makes Conseillante one of the oldest estates in Pomerol. Though ownership changed hands a couple times after the passing of Catherine Conseillan, the Nicolas family purchased the estate in 1871 and they run it to this day now in their fifth generation. The original label on the wines dates back to 1871 as well, and it showcases the iconic shield and silver border of the estate. The purple capsule even dates to 1871, when it was chosen to represent the color of the wine, aromas (namely violet) often found in the wine, and so the bottles would stand out in cellars.

Château La Conseillante consists of 12 hectares (30 acres), the same size as when the Nicolas family purchased it, and the vineyards are planted to about 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc. Though these vines are in a single vineyard block, they are broken up into 18 different parcels which are vinified separately in the modern winery. All fruit is harvested by hand from yield-controlled vines and then rigorously sorted to ensure only the highest quality fruit makes it into the winery. Once in vats, the fruit goes through cold pre-fermentation maceration for two to four days and then alcoholic fermentation for about a week and one to two weeks of maceration. Free-run wine is run off and any remaining fruit is gently pressed separately to produce “press wine” that is aged separately and only included in the final blend if of utmost quality standards. The Grand Vin ages in 50-80% new oak barrels depending on vintage and this typically lasts around 18 months. The wine is then bottled fined with egg whites but unfiltered.

In addition to the Grand Vin, Château La Conseillante released a second wine called Duo de Conseillante beginning with the 2007 vintage. Total production is about 4,500 cases of wine per vintage, with about 80% of that being the Grand Vin. To explore the estate further, you can visit their website here.

Today’s Wine: 2014 Château La Conseillante

78% Merlot, 22% Cabernet Franc; 13% ABV

The 2014 Château La Conseillante is deep ruby in color with hues of deep garnet. I decanted this for 3-4 hours which seemed to put it in a good spot at this point in its life. The aromas are of medium intensity but the nose is fairly complex, showcasing aromas of blackcurrant, black plum, black cherry, violet, cigar box, a hint of black truffle, grilled herbs, pepper, and a touch of oaky spice. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium intensity and the palate displays notes of plum, crème de cassis, black cherry, anise, tobacco, dried green herbs, coffee grounds, and chocolate. This dry red is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (+) but silky tannins, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $125 (I paid $107). While not the greatest 2014 Pomerol I’ve tried so far, this is certainly a solid value wine for Bordeaux. The “good not great” 2014 vintage proves once again that it deserves attention and considering the 2015 and 2016 vintages of this wine sell for closer to $200 and $250, respectively, this 2014 is certainly worth trying.

Beautiful but Youthful 2014 Bordeaux With Decades of Life Ahead

Today’s Story: Château Montrose

Château Montrose is a historical Bordeaux wine estate located in Saint-Estèphe on Bordeaux’s Left Bank. The estate was established in 1815 by Etienne Théodore Dumoulin on a patch of land his family purchased from Nicolas Alexandre de Ségur, but it was largely forgotten. At the time of Etienne’s death in 1861, the estate spanned 95 hectares though his heirs sold it in 1866 to factory owner Mathieu Dollfus who quickly redeveloped and modernized the buildings and winery with the best technology of the time. One of Mathieu’s most interesting achievements, in my opinion, was the construction of a windmill to pump water aboveground and flood the estate which ultimately saved much of the vineyards from phylloxera. After Mathieu passed away in 1886, the estate fell to the Charmolüe family who, from 1896 to 2006, guided Château Montrose through wars and financial crises while crafting some of the best vintages and providing stability. Martin and Olivier Bouygues acquired the estate in 2006 and engaged in a massive renovation project, propelling Château Montrose to ever increasing heights for decades down the road. Montrose, one of fourteen Deuxièmes Crus (Second Growths) in the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855, produces world-class wines and even placed third with their 1970 vintage in the Judgment of Paris in 1976.

I previously wrote about Château Montrose when I reviewed the 2016 La Dame de Montrose and the 2012 Château Montrose, so feel free to revisit those tasting notes if you would like to compare them to today’s wine.

Today’s Wine: 2014 Château Montrose

61% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot; 13.5% ABV

The 2014 Château Montrose is deep ruby in color and completely opaque. This is incredibly tight, so I decanted it for 10 hours and drank it over the following two hours. Even when I checked in at the five hour mark it was still pretty tight. Aromas are of pronounced intensity and patience is rewarded, however, as the nose showcases aromas of crème de cassis, wild blackberry, spiced black plum, cigar box, pencil shavings, crushed violet and lavender, scorched earth, graphite, eucalyptus, cedar, and a touch of oaky spice. Flavors are also of pronounced intensity, with the palate displaying notes of blackberry, black plum, blackcurrant, tobacco, anise, graphite, iron, charred green herbs, chocolate, and vanilla. This dry red is full-bodied with high acidity, high but tightly-knit tannins, medium alcohol, and a long finish. I suggest cellaring this for another 5 years or so, then drink over the following two decades. Very tense and precise.

Price: $150. Though not inexpensive, this bottle offers solid value in my opinion especially compared to stronger vintages like 2015 and 2016 that push closer to or above $200. This is another example of the underrated 2014 vintage showing incredibly well, though patience will be strongly rewarded with this one.

You Win Some, You Lose Some

Today’s Story: Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande

Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande is a Second Growth (Deuxième Cru) estate based on the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855. Pichon Lalande is considered by many to be a classic example of Pauillac, known for its deep, concentrated layers of ripe fruit accompanied by notes of cassis, tobacco, and earth.

With nothing short of a somewhat tumultuous history, Pichon Lalande’s ownership changed hands over the years and earned its name when the founder’s daughter Therese received it as a dowry for her marriage to Jacques de Pichon Longueville. During the 18th century, the estate was dominated by women (Therese de Rauzan, Germaine de Lajus, and Marie Branda de Terrefort) throughout the winemaking process until Baron Joseph de Pichon Longueville took over for his mother. In 1850, with his death, the estate split between his two sons and three daughters and ultimately resulted in the division of Comtesse de Lalande and Pichon Baron.

With no familial heirs, Edouard Miailhe and Louis Miailhe purchased Pichon Lalande following WWI. Edouard’s daughter, May-Eliane de Lencquesaing, took over management in 1978 and became a prominent ambassador for Bordeaux wines while dramatically increasing quality of her estate. One of her major endeavors, and possibly most famous, was growing the size of Pichon Lalande from 40 hectares of vines to 89. In 2007, however, May-Eliane sold a majority stake of the estate to the Rouzaud family, owners of Roederer Champagne, and management changes as well as renovations took place.

I’ve written about Pichon Lalande several times before, with reviews on the 1966, 1986, 1989, 2003, and 2008 vintages.

Today’s Wine: 1982 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande

Bordeaux Blend (no tech sheet); 12.5% ABV

I must put a disclaimer on this bottle, as we learned only after pulling the cork this was recorked at the château in 1993. The bottle appears immaculate, fill level is into the neck, the cork is in perfect shape, and there are zero signs of seepage. However my tasting companions and I were disappointed in the wine and I think it might have something to do with the recorking…especially how recent it occurred after the vintage.

The 1982 Pichon Lalande is deep garnet in color. This was rather muted out of the bottle and after 30-45 minutes in the glass, so I decided to decant it. The aromas are of medium intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of blackcurrant, cigar box, scorched earth, graphite, eucalyptus, cinnamon, and creme brûlée. Meanwhile the palate is certainly better and flavors are pronounced, displaying notes of blackcurrant, dried black plum, tobacco, graphite, forest floor, truffle, and cedar. This dry red is medium- to full-bodied with high acidity, medium (+) but fine-grained tannins, medium alcohol, and a long finish. The structure is still very impressive, but the nose is quite lackluster and the palate is better but not at all complex. Overall this was very disappointing given the reputation of the wine, but I think it’s due to the bottle being recorked so early in its life.

Price: $1,000 (shared by a friend who paid $500). I would like to taste this wine again, preferably one with its original cork and strong provenance. This was supposed to be an ethereal wine, but unfortunately it had its issues that outweigh the incredible structure. Certainly not worth the price paid in this instance.

Recorked in 1993

As you can see on the cork, this bottle was rebottled at the château in 1993, per the phrase “rebouche au château en 1993.” I think this is why the bottle didn’t live up to our expectations, as this is certainly not ideal. What’s interesting and somewhat concerning is how short after the vintage this occurred (assuming this was bottled after two years that’s only nine years in bottle before being recorked). You win some, you lose some.