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Bordeaux - Top Producers of the Right Bank

DK PublishingDK Publishing 2/07/2014 DKBooks
Photo: Barrel storage in the wine cellar at La Mondotte © Provided by DKBooks Barrel storage in the wine cellar at La Mondotte

Vieux Château Certan

Clos Fourtet

Barrel storage in the wine cellar at La Mondotte

Château Beau-Séjour Bécot

Top Producers of the Right Bank

Château Angélus - St-Émilion Grand Cru

location: St-Émilion
telephone number: 05 57 24 71 39
website: www.chateau-angelus.com
winery open to public: by appt
wine styles: red
best vintages: 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1997, 1996, 1995, 1994, 1990

Château Angélus has been a catalyst for improvement in St-Émilion since the mid-1980s, and it was justly promoted to premier grand cru classé in 1996. Better management, strict grape selection, and skilled cellar techniques have been the stamp of owner Hubert de Boüard. The wines, a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc, display a contemporary style of St-Émilion: deep in color, aromatic, rich, and concentrated, with an overlay of new oak.


Château Ausone - St-Émilion Grand Cru

location: St-Émilion
telephone number: 05 57 24 68 88
wine styles: red
best vintages: 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1997, 1996, 1995, 1990

Although one of two A-status St-Émilion premiers grands crus classés, there is still an air of exclusivity about Ausone due to its limited production: only 2,000 cases per year from the 7-ha vineyard. Those who have the privilege of tasting the wines find a freshness and elegance that persists with time. Under the aegis of owner Alain Vauthier, vintages since 1995 have been exemplary, with great aromatic complexity and a polished texture.


Château Beau-Séjour Bécot - St-Émilion Grand Cru

location: St-Émilion
telephone number: 05 57 74 46 87
website: www.beausejour-becot.com
winery open to public: by appt
wine styles: red
best vintages: 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1996, 1995, 1990

Château beau-séjour Bécot suffered the ignominy of being demoted from premier grand cru classé in 1986, but was reinstated 10 years later. Brothers Gérard and Dominique Bécot worked hard to regain the status and now maintain a high-level estate. The vineyard is on St-Émilion limestone plateau and côtes. The wines have structure and balance for long aging, complemented by a rich, ripe texture. The Bécots also produce tiny amounts of hand-tailored garage wine La Gomerie.


Château Belair - St-Émilion Grand Cru

location: St-Émilion
telephone number: 05 57 24 70 94
website: www.chateaubelair.com
winery open to public: by appt
wine styles: red
best vintages: 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1996, 1995, 1994, 1990

The style of Château Belair’s wine is elegant, even delicate, and respectful of the limestone terroir from which it hails. It will never be a hit with those who like big, concentrated wines, but its track record shows that it ages gracefully. Owner and winemaker Pascal Delbeck pursues his own philosophy at this premier grand cru classé estate regardless of changing trends. In 1998, he converted the 12-ha vineyard to the biodynamic system of cultivation.


Château Cheval Blanc - St-Émilion Grand Cru

location: St-Émilion
telephone number: 05 57 55 55 55
website: www.chateau-chevalblanc.com
wine styles: red
best vintages: 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1996, 1995, 1994, 1990

An a status premier grand cru classé, Château Cheval Blanc has the deceptive quality of being both flatteringly alluring when young and also capable of long aging. There is more than a hint of neighboring district Pomerol’s unctuous character, but Merlot is not the main variety at this 37-ha estate. The wine’s originality is achieved with 60 percent Cabernet Franc, which gives aromatic complexity and balance. The second wine, Le Petit Cheval, is also good.


Château de Valandraud - St-Émilion Grand Cru

location: St-Émilion
telephone number: 05 57 55 09 13
website: www.thunevin.com
wine styles: red
best vintages: 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1997, 1996, 1995, 1994

Jean-luc Thunevin is the father of the garage movement, and Château de Valandraud is his pièce de résistance. Originally produced in 1991 from three small parcels of vines located predominantly on the less favored Dordogne plain, Valandraud has always been made in fastidious fashion—low yields, strict selection, the best equipment, only new oak barrels. The wines are big, dark, spicy, and richly concentrated. The prices attained have enabled Thunevin to buy other plots, so the composition of the wine has changed from the early days.


Château Figeac - St-Émilion Grand Cru

location: St-Émilion
telephone number: 05 57 24 72 26
website: www.chateau-figeac.com
winery open to public: by appt
wine styles: red
best vintages: 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1996, 1995, 1990

In the 18th century, Figeac comprised 200 ha including what is now Château Cheval Blanc. Reduced to 40 ha, it is still one of the largest premiers grands crus classés. The gravel soils in this area have led to a vineyard planting of one-third each Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine is fragrant, well structured, and almost Médoc in style, with a deceptive ability to age.


Château Le Tertre Roteboeuf - St-Émilion Grand Cru

location: St-Émilion
telephone number: 05 57 74 42 11
wine styles: red
best vintages: 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1997, 1996, 1995, 1994, 1990

Since taking over this 6-ha estate in 1977, François Mitjavile has propelled it to the top of the appellation. The wines are not classified (a personal choice) but sell at the same price as the premiers grands crus classés. They are ripe in style, even exotic, and the warmer vintages have a southern, Mediterranean character. Very ripe grapes and astute barrel-aging are part of the secret of this estate’s success.


Château Pavie Macquin - St-Émilion Grand Cru

location: St-Émilion
telephone number: 05 57 24 74 23
winery open to public: by appt
wine styles: red
best vintages: 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1997, 1996, 1995, 1994, 1990

One of the top grands crus classés, Château Pavie Macquin will clearly be a favorite for promotion to premier grand cru classé in the next classification. The vineyard is superbly located in a single parcel on St-Émilion’s limestone plateau and the property is astutely managed by Nicolas Thienpont and winemaker Stéphane Derenoncourt. The wines are deep, dark, and firmly structured with a minerally core, and they need at least seven or eight years’ bottle age.


Château Pavie - St-Émilion Grand Cru

location: St-Émilion
telephone number: 05 57 55 43 43
website: www.vignoblesperse.com
wine styles: red
best vintages: 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1996, 1995, 1990

This magnificent premier grand cru classé situated on St-Émilion’s clay-and-limestone côtes has been revitalized since its purchase by Gérard Perse in 1998. The yields have been dramatically reduced, a program of replanting introduced, and a new winery and barrel cellars built. The wines now have enormous weight, power, and concentration, but are just a little too excessive for some. Only time will tell.


Clos Fourtet - St-Émilion Grand Cru

location: St-Émilion
telephone number: 05 57 24 70 90
website: www.closfourtet.com
winery open to public: by appt
wine styles: red
best vintages: 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1996, 1995, 1990

Ideally situated on the limestone plateau just outside St-Émilion, Clos Fourtet is the best value of the premiers grands crus classés. The wines are perhaps less fashionable than those from other top estates, but they are well defined, fresh, and structured for aging. They have also maintained a remarkable consistency in the past 10 years. The property was recently sold to French businessman Philippe Cuvelier, whose ambition is to maintain Clos Fourtet’s high level of winemaking.


La Mondotte - St-Émilion Grand Cru

location: St-Émilion
telephone number: 05 57 24 71 33
website: www.neipperg.com
winery open to public: by appt
wine styles: red
best vintages: 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1997, 1996

La mondotte was created in 1996 from a 4.5-ha parcel of vines located on St-Émilion’s limestone plateau. Owner Stephan von Neipperg’s request to have them integrated into his grand cru classé Château Canon-la-Gaffelière was refused by the authorities, so he created this garage wine. The Merlot-dominated blend shows expressive, succulent fruit, a density of extract, and powerful tannic structure. Every vintage has been a success from the outset.


Château La Conseillante - Pomerol

location: Pomerol
telephone number: 05 57 51 15 32
wine styles: red
best vintages: 2000, 1999, 1998, 1996, 1995, 1994, 1990

The 12-ha vineyard of La Conseillante is situated just opposite that of Château Cheval Blanc on a mix of clay, gravel, and sand soils. As with those of its close neighbor, the wines of this château have a smooth, velvety texture making them appealing when young but belying the fact that they age splendidly. A more rigorous approach in the vineyard and better grape selection would add even greater luster.


Château Lafleur - Pomerol

location: Grand Village, Mouillac
telephone number: 05 57 84 44 03
wine styles: red
best vintages: 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1996, 1995, 1990

This tiny jewel of a property is located on the Pomerol plateau next to Château Pétrus and Vieux Château Certan. The small vineyard is tended like a garden. The wine, a 50/50 blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot, is the most elegant in Pomerol, with voluptuous texture, rich fruit, fine tannins, and a minerally complexity. The second wine, Pensées de Lafleur, is also very fine and excellent value, given the price of the grand vin.


Château Le Pin - Pomerol

location: Pomerol
telephone number: 05 57 51 33 99
wine styles: red
best vintages: 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1996, 1995, 1994, 1990

This small 2-ha property came to prominence with the 1979 vintage. It has since become one of Pomerol’s major sensations, the wines occasionally surpassing Château Pétrus in price and quality. Rich, fragrant, velvety, and with the allure of a top-class burgundy, Château Le Pin has instant appeal but also the structure to age. Production of this Merlot-dominated wine is low—another reason for the high price. Much to the (classically minded) owner’s chagrin, Le Pin is also often considered the precursor of the garage movement.


Château L’Église-Clinet - Pomerol

location: Pomerol
telephone number: 05 57 25 96 59
website: www.eglise-clinet.com
wine styles: red
best vintages: 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1997, 1996, 1995, 1994, 1990

Another tiny property on the Pomerol plateau, Château L’Église-Clinet has achieved star status over the past decade. The recipe for success has been a large portion of old vines (some dating back to the 1930s), an interesting proportion of Cabernet Franc (up to 30 per-cent) in the blend, and the winemaking skills of owner Denis Durantou. The results are rich and concentrated wines, with distinctive balance and refinement.


Garage wines

The so-called garage or cult wines of the Right Bank originally evolved as a way of bucking Bordeaux’s strict historical, hierarchical structure. How could producers make a top-quality wine, and have a decent return, when the Bordeaux market was reluctant to register their existence? Technically proficient, handcrafted wines of rich concentration made in tiny quantities from super-ripe grapes provided the formula.

A positive mention from American wine critic Robert Parker was all it took for rapid recognition on the world stage. The scarcity of the wine and the egos of wealthy collectors around the world have caused prices to rocket. Château Le Pin in Pomerol is often named as the catalyst for the movement, but the real instigator was Jean-Luc Thunevin with Château de Valandraud in St-Émilion. Thunevin made his first vintage, 1991, in his garage, hence the name. Among the best garage wines are: Le Dôme (www.teyssier.fr); Château Gracia (05 57 24 70 35); La Gomerie (www.beausejour-becot.com); Magrez Fombrauge (www.fombrauge.com); La Mondotte; Château Péby Faugères (www.chateau-faugeres.com); Château de Valandraud.


Château L’Évangile - Pomerol

location: Pomerol
telephone number: 05 57 55 45 55
website: www.lafite.com
winery open to public: by appt
wine styles: red
best vintages: 2000, 1999, 1998, 1997, 1995, 1994, 1990

The rothschilds of Lafite-Rothschild have been co-owners of L’Évangile since 1989 but only took on sole ownership in 1999. Since then, a heavy program of investment has been under way, including replanting vines and the construction of new cellars. The vineyard is located on the Pomerol plateau, with châteaux Pétrus and Cheval Blanc as neighbors. The wines—rich, powerful, and already impressive—can only improve further.


Château Pétrus - Pomerol

location: Pomerol
telephone number: 05 57 51 78 96
wine styles: red
best vintages: 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1997, 1996, 1995, 1994, 1990

Although virtually unknown in Britain and the US before the 1960s, Pétrus is one of Bordeaux’s legendary wines. Almost 100 percent Merlot is grown on a unique soil of heavy, blue clay that is known as the Pétrus “buttonhole,” producing wines of power, volume, and rich extract with firm but fine tannins. The technical expertise of négociant owner Jean-Pierre Moueix, and his ability to harvest at optimum ripeness in little more than a day, also count for a lot.


Château Trotanoy - Pomerol

location: Pomerol
telephone number: 05 57 51 78 96
wine styles: red
best vintages: 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1995, 1994, 1990

Purchased in 1953, Château Trotanoy, like Château Pétrus, is now part of négociant Jean-Pierre Moueix’s stable. It benefits from the same highly skilled technical team, and its vineyards, too, have a high percentage of Merlot, grown on clay-gravel soils. The red wines come closest to Pétrus in terms of their power and weight. Replanting of vines during the 1980s caused a slight dip in quality, but it is now back in top form.


Vieux Château Certan - Pomerol

location: Pomerol
telephone number: 05 57 51 17 33
website: www.vieux-chateau-certan.com
winery open to public: by appt
wine styles: red
best vintages: 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1996, 1995, 1990

Although a close neighbor of Château Pétrus, this estate makes a style of wine that is anything but similar. Vieux Château Certan is more svelte than fleshy, and its aromatic charm and firm, taut structure make it more characteristic of the Médoc than of Pomerol. The presence of Cabernet Franc (30 percent) and Cabernet Sauvignon (10 percent) explain why. The property has been owned by the Belgian Thienpont family since 1924.

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