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Clos Fourtet, Saint-Emilion 2017

Red Wine from France - Bordeaux
Our very first visit on this year's trip and a lovely way to start at this delightful setting in Saint-Emilion. Mathieu Cuvelier’s wine has all the right elements, richness, ripe tannins, oak and the trademark 2017 freshness which combine to produce a claret which will give enormous pleasure throughout its life. A delightfully polished blend of 86% ripe merlot with 10% cabernet sauvignon and 4% petit verdot, this is one of our favourite Saint-Emilions. .
Price: £94.00 Bottle
Price: £564.00 Case of 6 (out of stock)
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Code: CS10751

Wine characteristics

  • Red Wine
  • Medium-bodied
  • Merlot
  • 14% Alcohol
  • Oak used but not v. noticeable
  • 2023 to 2037
  • 75cl
  • Cork, natural

St Emilion, Pomerol

Saint-Emilion

There is an ancient history of wine making in the area of St Emilion, with Roman viticulture attested to in the poetry of Ausonius after whom the Première Grand Cru Château Ausone is named. The vineyards and much visited town have been awarded UNESCO world heritage List status as a cultural landscape and are enjoying a period of particular dynamism and prosperity.

Merlot is the dominant grape here with cabernet franc in earnest support and some supporters of the more difficult to ripen cabernet sauvignon. The soils, damper and cooler than those of the Médoc, are responsible for this and merlot performs beautifully in the clay, limestone, gravel and other alluvial deposits that make up the vineyard soils. Much is made of the clay based soils of the area but the picture is a broader than that.

If we ignore the areas down by the river and on its flood plain and the satellites that we discuss elsewhere, there remain two main areas where the quality of the wines speaks for the...
Saint-Emilion

There is an ancient history of wine making in the area of St Emilion, with Roman viticulture attested to in the poetry of Ausonius after whom the Première Grand Cru Château Ausone is named. The vineyards and much visited town have been awarded UNESCO world heritage List status as a cultural landscape and are enjoying a period of particular dynamism and prosperity.

Merlot is the dominant grape here with cabernet franc in earnest support and some supporters of the more difficult to ripen cabernet sauvignon. The soils, damper and cooler than those of the Médoc, are responsible for this and merlot performs beautifully in the clay, limestone, gravel and other alluvial deposits that make up the vineyard soils. Much is made of the clay based soils of the area but the picture is a broader than that.

If we ignore the areas down by the river and on its flood plain and the satellites that we discuss elsewhere, there remain two main areas where the quality of the wines speaks for the terroir.

The first is up on the plateau that abuts the border with Pomerol. A continuation of the plateau of sand and gravel that defines the best wines of Pomerol, this area is home to the most sought after of all Saint-Emilions, Château Cheval Blanc. The second group of properties are to be found on an escarpment east of the town of Saint-Emilion, where a thin layer of topsoil overlays a bedrock of sandstone on south-facing slopes that end suddenly and precipitously. Though the best wines of the second group are less highly regarded than the best of the first group there are superb wines in both.

Unlike its Pomerol next door, the wines of Saint-Emilion have access to a classification system akin to that of the 1855 Médoc version. Established in 1955, the Saint-Emilion classification is redrawn every ten years, which always causes a legal rumpus as demoted properties seek redress for the insult. Wines are assessed on several criteria such as soils, aspect and vine age and are tasted for typicity. Once accepted at one of the three levels the wines are required to adhere to stricter appellation rules than their supposedly lesser fellow estates with regard to yields and ageing.

The levels of the classification begin with the Grand Cru Classé properties of which there are several hundred (there are 800 or so estates in Saint-Emilion in total). Above this is Première Grand Cru, with 18 member currently, and at the top the Premières Grands Crus (A) which consists of the Châteaux Cheval Blanc, Ausone, Angelus and Pavie, the latter two having been promoted in 2012.

At its best Saint-Emilion should be should be rich, full-coloured, spicy and apparently sweet, and the best properties balance these qualities with finesse length. No white wines are made.

Pomerol

Despite not having a classification system like the Médoc and Saint-Emilion, Pomerol has an enviable reputation for some of the very best Bordeaux wines that can fetch eye-watering prices. However, at its best Pomerol produces sublime wines with a rich, almost fleshy, velvety flavour. It's worth buying the best which are never cheap.

The appellation is tiny, only 785 hectares, but within this flat but bijou acreage there are a great number of small estates with few of the grand châteaux that crop up throughout other Bordeaux districts. The land is effectively a great bank rising in gentle terraces from the Dordogne and Isle rivers, consisting of a good deal of clay leavened by gravel and sand in varying quantities depending on where you stand. The sandiest slopes, making the lightest wines, are on the lower slopes close to the Dordogne, and the best terroir is considered to be up in the north-eastern corner where the clay is at its thickest. Here you will find the big names of the appellation such Châteaux Pétrus, La Fleur Pétrus, Lafleur and Vieux Château Certan. Nowhere is more than 40 metres above sea level.

Merlot is at least 80% of planting and is similarly represented in any blended wines, though many are pure merlot. Cabernet franc is runner up here, with cabernet sauvignon and malbec also permitted.

The influential Moueix family have been incredibly important in the development of Pomerol’s reputation as a fine wine appellation, both as négociants and as owners of some of the finest properties. Pétrus, Lafleur Pétrus, Hosanna and Providence are all under their ownership.
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Clos Fourtet

This worthy premier grand cru estate has one of Saint-Emilion’s most celebrated terroirs. It is situated on top of the famous limestone plateau right next to Saint-Emilion itself – its single 18.5-hectare block of vines acting almost as a path into the village – and the property’s stunning cellars are carved into the limestone beneath.

Nevertheless, while it was owned by Bordeaux négociants during much of the last century, it did not really live up to its potential. In 2001 Clos Fourtet was bought by a businessman, Philippe Cuvelier, who provided much-needed investment and direction, replanting an important part of the vineyard the following year. The two hectare vineyard of Château Les Grandes Murailles, with its iconic Benedictine abbey ruins from which the property took its name and which abutted the Clos Fourtet vineyard, was purchased in 2013 and has subsequently been incorporated into Clos Fourtet. The Cuvelier family also now owns Château Poujeaux in the Médoc, and both properties are now managed by Philippe's son Matthieu.

As the vines grow older, this has become very much a wine to watch, with full, spicy flavour and considerable complexity. The vineyard is planted 85% merlot, 10% cabernet sauvignon and 5% cabernet franc, the wine ages for 16 to 18 months with around 65% new oak, and can age comfortably for between eight and 20 years.

Bordeaux Vintage 2017

Beautifully balanced claret that’s fragrant and intense yet fresh
In the many years that we have been visiting Bordeaux to taste the new vintage we have never encountered a year quite like 2017. The vintage will forever be associated with the frost of 27th and 28th April, the most destructive in more than a quarter of a century, which ravaged some fine vineyards. Angludet, Grand Corbin Despagne, La Pointe and Climens, for example, heartbreakingly for them, have produced no 2017 wine. In complete contrast all the classic Médoc vineyards that sit on gravel slopes beside the Gironde have made a full crop of marvellous wine, benefitting from the precocity of vine growth which made many others vulnerable. Top châteaux of the Pomerol plateau and on the limestone ridge beside the town of Saint-Emilion were similarly largely untouched by frost damage, and produced beautifully ripe grapes.

It was a roller coaster of a year. A hot June was punctuated by a heavy dose of rain which helped the...
Beautifully balanced claret that’s fragrant and intense yet fresh
In the many years that we have been visiting Bordeaux to taste the new vintage we have never encountered a year quite like 2017. The vintage will forever be associated with the frost of 27th and 28th April, the most destructive in more than a quarter of a century, which ravaged some fine vineyards. Angludet, Grand Corbin Despagne, La Pointe and Climens, for example, heartbreakingly for them, have produced no 2017 wine. In complete contrast all the classic Médoc vineyards that sit on gravel slopes beside the Gironde have made a full crop of marvellous wine, benefitting from the precocity of vine growth which made many others vulnerable. Top châteaux of the Pomerol plateau and on the limestone ridge beside the town of Saint-Emilion were similarly largely untouched by frost damage, and produced beautifully ripe grapes.

It was a roller coaster of a year. A hot June was punctuated by a heavy dose of rain which helped the vines to endure one of the driest July and August periods ever, although, paradoxically, temperatures were below the seasonal average. More rain in September helped and enhanced maturation of cabernet sauvignon, though some earlier picked merlot was diluted. On the right bank, merlots were splendid but cabernet franc tended to suffer, and the less-planted cabernet sauvignon came into its own.

The result is that we found some wonderfully fragrant wines with beautiful balance, displaying intensity and fresh, long-lasting flavour. They have the structure to ensure long life, but tannins are soft and silky, so some will be approachable relatively young. Top Médocs are completely dominated by cabernet sauvignon, which is their trump card in great years. Pomerol produced glorious full fragrant but fresh merlot.

All in all 2017 was a vintage which demanded close observation, good decision making, hard work and the luck to have frost-free vines. But the happy result is a group of lovely fragrant clarets with depth of flavour and class, and a very promising future.
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2017 vintage reviews

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