Bad Boy equals delightful wines
As a boy, he moved from Algeria to France with his family and attended ?a private school that he dropped out of at age 15.
He still maintains that he does not know a word of English, as he is “not smart enough for that”.
Some years go by and Jean-Luc Thunévin and his wife Murielle now own a small restaurant and they became interested in wine.
They poured their entire savings into the purchase of a tiny half-hectare vineyard in St Emilion and, as they had no money for a tractor, they cared for the earth themselves, picked the grapes and carried them to the garage that was their winery building.
Their first vintage of a wine was in 1991. They called it “Val” for the place and “Andraud” for Murielle’s family name and so Chateau Valandraud was born, with a mere 125 cases.
US critic Robert Parker rated it 91/100; by the 1995 vintage, it garnered 95/100. Since 2012, it has been designated as one of the few St Emilion premier grand cru classé. Jean-Luc has been dubbed by Parker, because of his unconventional methods, as “the bad boy of Bordeaux” and also “the black sheep of Bordeaux”. The term “garagiste” winemaker came into being because of Jean-Luc and his wife and their tiny production of exceptional wines.
We have just added a few new wines from Chateau Valandraud and I will share what the critics say about them, and the ones that we already had in stock.
The label on Bad Boy 2015 shows it all, with a black sheep leaning on a sign that reads “garagiste”.
Canadian critic Natalie MacLean rates it a fine 92/100 and writes: “A terrific bordeaux red wine blend of cabernet sauvignon and merlot grapes from winemaker Jean-Luc Thunévin. Aromas of fleshy ripe blueberry and blackberry with anise on the finish. Robust and delicious. Decant for one hour and pair with a rare steak. Food pairings: roast pheasant, grilled tenderloin steak, bison burgers.” $31.95.
Here is Parker on our 3 de Valandraud 2003: “This wine, conceived in a period when this property was not as well known as it is today, is strutting its stuff. Proprietors Jean-Luc Thunévin and Murielle Andraud should be pleased. The colour is a healthy dense plum/ruby. Aromas of sweet liquorice, black currants and tobacco leaf are followed by a full-bodied opulent wine without a trace of oxidation or fatigue. This beauty is a true success for a 2003 Right Bank offering. 93/100.” $60.65.
From their venture into the Margaux commune we have Marojallia 2003 that rates 95/100 from a 2009 posting of CellarBlog that reads: “The 2003 vintage is 76 per cent cabernet sauvignon and 24 per cent merlot. The wine has a deep purple colour and an aroma that contained hints of smoke, blueberries and vanilla. It has a medium body with some tannins, but not overly so. The wine was a little young, but with a couple more years, it will reach full maturity and should be even better.” $157.95.
Virginie de Valandraud 2014 (named for their daughter) is not a second wine, but from a separate parcel of land on their estate and it gets a fine 93/100 from Wine Enthusiast Magazine that writes of “dark chocolate and tannins with great fruit and acidity”. The price is $66.
A few years ago, on my birthday, my wife arranged a very special dinner for a few dozen friends in our home. They were asked to bring an appropriate magnum of red, and some cellars were raided for very special treasures. When the dust settled, I felt that a magnum of 1999 Virginie de Valandraud excelled above all others. It was almost too perfect for this world.
The logo or label of a Bordeaux wine bottle can tell you a lot about the wine, and Clos Badon uses the image of a chicken on the label because Jean-Luc and Murielle raise beautiful, exotic Chinese chickens as pets. Wine Enthusiast scores our Clos Badon 2014 St Emilion 92/100 and comments: “This wine that comes from vines close to Château Pavie, is ripe with fine tannins and a generous structure. It is fruity with red-berry fruits and a crisp texture.” $66.
In 2006 Jean Luc purchased a small and little-known property in Pomerol and renamed it in honour of his father-in-law. We have 2014 Le Clos du Beau Pere that is silky smooth with plums, liquorice, chocolate-covered black cherries and espresso. $66.
Parker rates Domaine des Sabines 2014 Lalande de Pomerol 92/100 and writes: “From the hand of Jean-Luc Thunévin, this has a captivating nose: very well defined and tensile with animated black cherries and raspberry fruit that is beautifully interwoven with the new oak. The palate is medium-bodied with succulent ripe tannin, a keen line of acidity and a concentrated but very balanced, pure bouquet that is silky smooth and persistent. This might not be one of Jean-Luc’s most famous crus, but it is well worth your attention, a modern Right Bank wine that is deftly executed.” $49.45.
Then, of course, we must mention the one that started it all — Chateau Valandraud 2014 St Emilion premier grand cru classe. It stands among the finest few wines of Bordeaux and this 2014 come from a vintage that rates a classic 95 on vintage charts for the appellation.
The wine itself gets 96/100 from Wine Enthusiast that comments: “Impressive, so ripe and with great structure.” $230.
You can see from this article that Jean-Luc and Murielle have been very busy and successful. On the occasions that I have met him I suspect from the twinkle in his eyes that he does understand English; he just keeps it a secret.
* This column is an advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or 295-0176. Burrows Lightbourn has stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554), Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355) and St George (York Street, 297-0409).Visit www.wineonline.bm</i>
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