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Tim York

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Which St.Émilion estates still make harmonious wine?

by Tim York » Thu Apr 04, 2013 7:11 am

The disappointing news, for me, that Michel Rolland has been appointed consultant at Château Figeac, up to now one of the top standard bearers of the traditionally harmonious style of St.Émilion, reminds me that I saw an article by Franck Dubourdieu, the brother of Denis, which was very critical of the new classification and particularly of its favouring the “modern” spoofulated style in its promotion choices. He goes on to give a list of St.Émilion châteaux, which in his view still uphold Bordelais honour.

Here, for those who can read French, is a link to the whole article http://www.franckdubourdieu.com/pdf/244.pdf . I regret that, not being a professional translator, it would take me an enormous amount of time to do a proper translation job of the whole article, but here is my attempt at translating the passage of interest which mostly consists of names. (Those who scroll down though this newsletter will also discover very comprehensive vertical tasting notes on Ducru-Beaucaillou and a brief impression of the 2012 vintage.)

The following list gives the wine lover an idea of which estates in the new classification want to make terroir wines which are authentic and capable of harmonious ageing. Recent tastings which have given rise to this compilation covered the vintages 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005 and much further back in some cases. This list makes no presumptions about more recent vintages (2010, 2011) since an owner can at any time change direction, consultant and deviate from his original intentions.
(La liste ci-après donne à l’amateur une idée des crus du nouveau classement qui ont la volonté d’élaborer un vin de terroir, authentique, apte à un vieillissement harmonieux. Les dégustations récentes qui ont présidé à ce recueil ont porté sur les millésimes 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005 ou beaucoup plus loin pour certains. Cette liste ne présume pas des millésimes récents (2010, 2011) car, à tout moment un propriétaire, peut changer de cap, de consultant, et dévier de son projet initial.)


*PREMIERS GRANDS CRUS CLASSES
Château Cheval Blanc (A)
Château Canon (B)
Château Beau-Séjour-Bécot (B)
Château Bélair-Monange (B)
Château Figeac (B)
Clos Fourtet (B)
Château La Gaffelière (B)
Château Trottevieille (B)

*GRANDS CRUS CLASSES
Château Balestard la Tonnelle
Château Berliquet
Château Cadet-Bon
Château Capdemourlin
Château Chauvin
Clos des Jacobins
Château Corbin
Château Couvent des Jacobins
Château Côte de Baleau
Château Dassault
Château de Ferrand
Château de Pressac
Faurie de Souchard
Château Fonroque
Château Grand Corbin-Despagne
Château Grand Mayne
Château Grand-Pontet
Château Guadet
Château Haut-Sarpe
Château la Clotte
Château la Marzelle
Château la Serre
Château Laniote
Château Laroque
Château Laroze
Château les Grandes Murailles
Château Moulin du Cadet
Petit Faurie de Soutard
Château Ripeau
Château Saint-Georges-Côte-Pavie
Clos Saint-Martin
Château Tertre Daugay
Château Villemaurine
Château Yon-Figeac



No one’s list can please everybody so there will clearly be dissent about several estates’ presence or absence here but the most glaring omission from the above list is Château Ausone. The last vintage of this which I have tasted was 1959 (superb) at a millennium tasting, so I have no currently relevant tasting input to make here.

Any views?
Last edited by Tim York on Thu Apr 04, 2013 3:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Which St.Émilion estates still make harmonious wine?

by Mark Lipton » Thu Apr 04, 2013 11:50 am

Tim,
I too am shocked at the omission of Ausone, almost as much as if it had been demoted to just GCC. While I have not had any recent vintages of Ausone, both Chris Kissack and John Gilman seem to think that it's still making wine in a fairly traditional mold (though Gilman has recently expressed some concern about the '09 and '10 Ausones).

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Re: Which St.Émilion estates still make harmonious wine?

by Patrick Martin » Thu Apr 04, 2013 12:45 pm

Overall, seems pretty reasonable though I would quibble with Château Grand-Pontet as a traditional style (though I can like the wine). Sorry to see La Dominique isn't there as that used to be one of my favorite St. Emilion's from the 80's and early 90's, but I haven't had a more recent vintage so I've no idea of its recent style.
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Re: Which St.Émilion estates still make harmonious wine?

by Otto » Thu Apr 04, 2013 1:21 pm

Vieux Pourret is great (though I thought it was a GC so I don't understand why it's not on your list).
I don't drink wine because of religious reasons ... only for other reasons.
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Re: Which St.Émilion estates still make harmonious wine?

by Tim York » Thu Apr 04, 2013 1:37 pm

Otto wrote:Vieux Pourret is great (though I thought it was a GC so I don't understand why it's not on your list).


Otto, I can't find Vieux Pourret in the list of Grands Crus Classés. It is probably allowed the call itself Grand Cru, though. This is a perfect illustration of how the St.E categories are difficult to understand. I had to look it up again to remind myself of the difference between GCC and GC.

BTW, it's not my list, it's Franck Dubourdieu's. I don't have any pretensions of being a St.E expert.
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Re: Which St.Émilion estates still make harmonious wine?

by Dale Williams » Thu Apr 04, 2013 9:21 pm

Otto, almost every St Emilion exported is St Emilion Grand Cru AC (I think the only requirements are something like hitting 11.5 percent alcohol and an extra month or two in barrel), this list is of Grand Cru Classe wines. I know it's confusing.

We all will have our quibbles. I love old school Ausone, but don't think I've had in last decade. There are a couple of GCC listed that I think of as "midmodern" (Dassault, Grand Corbin Despagne) but neither is extreme, and my tastings were more concentrated on 1998-2001 period. The one notable absence I thought of was Soutard, famously old school (and hated by Parker). But I just looked up recent notes and Gilman and others think it is definitely modern now.
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Re: Which St.Émilion estates still make harmonious wine?

by Tim York » Fri Apr 05, 2013 6:30 am

Dale Williams wrote:Otto, almost every St Emilion exported is St Emilion Grand Cru AC (I think the only requirements are something like hitting 11.5 percent alcohol and an extra month or two in barrel), this list is of Grand Cru Classe wines. I know it's confusing.



Just as with the German system (1971 legal categories + VDP competitive overlay), understanding the St.Émilion classification is a real test of advanced wine geekery :roll: .

My guess is that 99%+ of wine buyers, even in France, do not appreciate the difference between GCC and GC, if indeed there is any in the bottle :? .
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