Wine snapshot: Château Corbin
Sure-to-enjoy from Saint Emilion, with a good price/quality ratio
By Panos Kakaviatos for wine-chronicles.com
4 June 2020
Ripe plum, red berry and floral aromas beckon drinking from the get go. The bottle was pretty much “popped and poured” but it opened up more in glass. After nearly 10 years in bottle the Château Corbin Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé 2009 vintage is drinking quite nicely.
The juicy palate is both full bodied and fresh. The 14% alcohol from this warm vintage is well balanced by acidity. The flavor profile just begins to suggest tertiary elements, with the primary fruit character dominates. I like the depth and impressive length coming from this blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc, ending with crushed mint notes.
While mostly resolved, albeit still youthful, evident tannins lend structure for the longer haul. Because of its tannic edge, the wine paired very well with lip smacking, skewered lamb.
Upon release, critic John Gilman went to 2060 for the maximum drinking window. That could well be, but I would say that it is just showing its charms now and will become more complex over the next 15 years as it reaches a plateau of sorts. And all that for about $35 a bottle shelf price in initial offerings back in 2012.
I have always enjoyed the wines of this estate, in part because of the friendly pricing, which continues to this day. Prices for current releases are closer to $45 a bottle, but this remains a very good price for the quality.
Just a stone’s throw away from Pomerol, the elegant Château Corbin draws your attention with two pillars framing a tree-lined drive leading to the estate. The elegance of the architecture reflects what I like most about the wines here: they never fell into the “modernist” trap of over extraction or heavy use of oak. Year in, year out, the wines exude ripe fruit but also vivacity and energy.
Planted in one single block, the 13-hectare Corbin vineyard is situated in the north-west of the Saint- Emilion appellation, with two main types of soil: (1) sands surrounding the château over an iron-rich clay subsoil, which give the wine its delicacy and finesse and (2) clay on the Pomerol side of the estate, which brings the wine more of its richness.
Back in 2004, a soil study at Château Corbin led to the implementation of a drainage system as well as the renewal of 35% of the plots for a better adaptation of grape varieties and rootstocks. This work was beginning to bear fruit by 2009 and continues to do so today. The wine can be particularly delicious in cooler vintages, too. The average age of the vines is 30 years, and the density of plantation ranges from 6,666 to 8,333 vines per hectare for the young plots.
By increasing this density, owner Anabelle Cruse Bardinet has been producing fewer bunches per vine for higher quality. The vines are pruned using the Single Guyot technique. Before fermentation, grapes are sorted three times, once before the bunches are de-stemmed, and twice after, before the berries are crushed. Aging in no more than 50% new oak. For more about the methodology, here a useful technical link.
About the estate
Neo-classical in style and adjoining the original part of the property, the château was built in the 18th century, but elements of 16th century architecture remain at Corbin, including a tower containing a stone spiral staircase, a dovecote, a guest house along with farm buildings and a tasting room dating back from the same period. Indeed, the origins of Corbin date as far back to the 15th century.
Since 1924, Château Corbin has been in the hands of the same family. Passed down from generation to generation by female heirs, it is today the property of Anabelle Cruse, the fourth generation, and her husband Sébastien Bardinet.
Having trained as an œnologist and managed the estate since 1999, Anabelle Cruse Bardinet has been the owner of the property since 2007. She has been replanting plots, restructuring the site and creating a new plot-by-plot managed vat room.
It is one of my “go-to” Saint Emilions.
Previous wine snapshots:
Domaine Marquis d’Angerville Volnay Champans AOC Volnay Premier Cru 2010 (25 May)
Terreno Chianti Classico (18 May)
Château Sociando Mallet 2003 (11 May)
Panos, as you probably know, this is one of my favorite properties in Saint Emilion, and one of the few remaining budget Saint Emilions made in the traditional style. Interesting that if you look at the specs, you will see that the consultant is Michel Rolland. My understanding is that Annabelle only uses one of his guys in the vineyards, where apparently he adds a lot of value, but nowhere else, and definitely not pushing those insane late harvest picking times.
Yes as Izak wrote, Jean-Philippe Fort. And I agree: never pushing things here. Thanks for chiming in 😊.
It is not Michel Rolland, but Jean-Philippe Fort, who consults Corbin. He and Anabelle did some new things during vinification in 2019 vintage .
Interesting; it has been some time since I was there, and Rolland was definitely the consultant although he had one of his employees doing the work. I remember Annabelle talking about it at the time.