Three St Emilion mavericks
I call this a story about mavericks. I could have heeded my thesaurus and used nonconformists, eccentrics, individualists or even rebels, as I feel it fair to label the mentioned winemakers any of these. They are all forward-thinking, highly talented individuals.
Let's start with “The Bad Boy of Bordeaux” who was christened thusly by none other than Robert Parker, who also dubbed him the “Black Sheep”.
It all started back in 1989 when Jean-Luc Thunevin and his wife Murielle Andraud purchased a minuscule vineyard in St Emilion and made their first wine, Valandraud. As it was literally made in their garage it created the term “garagiste”; a means of describing tiny volume, concentrated and deliciously complex wines.
When even the great first growths of Bordeaux churn out 15,000 to 22,000 cases each year, Valandraud stays at about 400. In 2012 it was elevated to a St Emilion premier grand cru classé but I do not intend this to be about a rather costly wine, I want to tell you about the bottle with a black sheep on the label and this is their Bad Boy 2015.
Well known Canadian critic Natalie Maclean just gave the 2015 Bad Boy — that we sell for $31.95 — a most credible 92/100 and she writes of “aromas of fleshy ripe blueberry and blackberry with anise on the finish that is robust and delicious”.
Typical of the St Emilion appellation, merlot dominates at 95 per cent with a tiny amount of cabernet franc. James Suckling also awards it 92/100 and says: “A bold and brash style with a wealth of rich blackberries and mulberries. The palate adds chocolate to the mix, and it's all delivered on smooth, ripe and supple tannins. Silky finish.”
And now for “Le Englishman” as the French called Jonathan Maltus when he moved to St Emilion in the early ‘90s. He bought Chateau Teyssier because it was “pretty” and a place to raise a family and of course this resulted in him producing wine.
His idea was to sell it directly rather than through the traditional négociant channels. One morning, many years ago, my phone rang and when I answered it Jonathan introduced himself and asked if I knew who he was. As politely as I could I said that I had no idea, but it was the start of a relationship between himself, his wines and our firm.
During my first visit to Teyssier, Jonathan pointed to one wine and explained that with it his garagiste method was to use 200 per cent new oak. When I enquired how could this be, he said that the wine spent six months in brand new oak and was then transferred to spend another six in brand new oak.
Let's just go back to the 2010 vintage when Parker awarded him 100/100 for his top wine, a Saint Emilion Grand Cru called La Dome. This is now considered to be one of the finest wines in all of Bordeaux and his other properties are also very highly sought after. Their volume puts them solidly in the garagiste category as it varies from 250 to about 1,600 cases.
At 10,000 cases Chateau Teyssier is the workhorse that helps support the overall operation and so I will ask Parker to review our Chateau Teyssier 2015 St Emilion Grand Cru: “The 2015 Teyssier is a blend of 70 per cent merlot and 30 per cent cabernet franc picked from September 21 until October 8; the cabernet picked from October 9 to 15. Matured in 20 per cent new oak, it has a sweet red cherry and blueberry-scented bouquet that is lifted nicely by the new oak. The palate is medium-bodied with sweet red and black fruit on the entry. There is a pastille-like purity here, nicely balanced with a smooth and seductive finish. You can really see the wide commercial appeal of this well-crafted St Emilion. It will drink earlier than others but should give ten years of drinking pleasure. 90/100.” $42.15.
James Suckling gives it 92/100 and writes: “A balanced and pretty red with walnut and berry aromas and flavours. Medium to full body.”
I have followed Chateau La Confession St Emilion since its very first release in 2001 and I am a very big fan and respect the talents of young winemaker Jean-Philippe Janoueix. At Chateau La Confession, Jean Philippe uses a combination of different shaped oak barrels. Fifty per cent of the barrels are in the traditional shape and the other 50 per cent are in the shape of a cigar.
Janoueix likes the cigar-shaped barrels because they offer a better digestion of the lees by the wine, owing to a wider surface of exchange brought by their shape. The wine is aged in 100 per cent new French oak barrels for between 15 and 19 months, depending on the vintage.
One site called Great Wines from Bordeaux rates our 2012 La Confession 92/100 and says: “Tasted in April 2018. Very fruity and aromatic, soft texture, very approachable, round and tasty, really fine minerality and acidity. Heartbreaker wine.”
Total yearly production is about 1,000 cases of this wine that I hope you will excuse me for calling “consistently yummy”. $58.15.
• This column is an advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. E-mail email@example.com or 295-0176. Burrows Lightbourn has stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554), Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355) and St George's (York Street, 297-0409). Visit www.wineonline.bm