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Lovely, rich well-delineated palate and real class confirming that the Moueix family have raised the level of this outstanding property. Sadly, however only a tiny crop.
Product Code: CS7661
Saint-EmilionThere 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.PomerolDespite 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.
It was immediately clear on tasting the first samples of the wines that 2009 was a thrilling vintage. At the time of our opening offer for 2009 claret we headed our assessment of the vintage with the simple statement: ‘A must-buy vintage’. The statement holds good and will for some time to come.Growers were delighted and there was excitement all round as it became clear that the vintage had been a huge success. Comparisons with previous great years were happily made and the quality of the wines stood those comparisons very well indeed. The link with the successful vintages of 1989, 1990 and even 1947 is great charm, depth of flavour and structure, excellent balance and natural sweetness, and the bloom of healthy, ripe fruit. 2009 has all the virtues of such great vintages in abundance.Comparisons with earlier vintages can mislead of course. The best growers these days take greater care in their vineyards to produce less volume but finer quality. They select more rigorously at harvest, and in the cellar, and they understand much better than they did 20 years ago how to vinify such wonderful material. It is clear, even now, that the ‘personality’ of 2009 differs from the firm, classic 2000 or bright, fresh attack of the 2005s, fabulous though those vintages are proving to be. The charm, balance and seductiveness of the 2009s is expected to make them taste good at all stages of their development.In vintages such as 2009 it is extremely rewarding to find outstanding quality in less well-known districts and properties. There is terrific value to be had here and much that will provide generous and sweet-fruited earlier drinking. The best wines, of course, will have great longevity.In many ways 2009 was a perfect summer for growing grapes in Bordeaux. The even heat was different to the long, torrid, high temperatures of 2003 or the days of excessive heat in 2005, 1989 or 1990. A drop of rain was welcomed in August and apart from a short downpour on 19th and 20th September the harvest took place in ideal weather. The light throughout the year was excellent and helps to explain the high levels of sugar and ripeness in the grapes. A particularly rewarding and exciting aspect of 2009 is the outstanding quality that can be found in less well-known districts and properties. It is these wines, which will give best value and the most pleasure to wine drinkers.The only blot on the climatic copybook was a series of hailstorms in May which scythed through parts of Saint-Emilion, Entre-Deux-Mers and Margaux, in some cases drastically reducing the potential crop.The onset of pourriture noble, which is key to greatness in Barsac and Sauternes, was rapid and abundant, and some great sweet wines were made.
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