So Satisfying Saint Emilion 2018

By Panos Kakaviatos for 

24 January 2021

The revolution towards freshness continues. Sure some wines recall the oaky tannic obsession of the mid-2000s. Not long ago, I recall tasting the Grand Cru Classés blind with too many wines, too hard, over extracted and/or finishing on drying oak tannins. Had the 2018 vintage happened 10 (or 15) years ago, the tasting would not have been as pleasant. Cooler limestone and deep clay soils proved how good the wine can be in a hot, dry vintage like 2018, when paired with judicious extraction in winemaking. The wines are listed in alphabetical order. Many tasted in Bordeaux, some onsite at Saint Emilion. Just for information, Saint Emilion boasts about 80 “Grand Cru Classés”, not including the “Premiers Grands Crus Classés”.

As usual, if bold, I liked in particular. If red and bold, even more. And if underlined, too, a kind of wine nirvana.

With Cabernet Franc aged in larger vessels, the sensation of oak derivation has been diminished and that is good news!

Château Angélus Saint Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé “A” – In bottle since September, this wine comes across very opulent, as if you had a dollop of fine vintage port in the blend, and yet much tannic edge to leave an impression of structure. lmpressive density! “Since this vintage we changed a bit the aging of some of the Cabernet Franc, and we now age some in foudres (larger, 3,000 liter barrels) rather than in (regular) barrel to reduce oak contact and to preserve more freshness”, remarked Emmanuel Fulchi, cellar master. A good move that has been further developed for the 2019, which is a vintage I prefer, as assessed in a vertical held at the estate. 96

Tasting Château Ausone with owners Pauline and Alain Vauthier, comme à la maison.

Château Ausone Saint Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé “A” * – Pauline Vauthier had opened the bottle at 11 am for the 4:30 pm tasting. Even so, with aromas started discrete if refined: wet stone mingling with violet, clean ripe red and black berry fruit and touches of fresh mint leaf. The power builds on the palate with juicy envelopment, never overbearing and exuding wet limestone freshness, deep and dense, a reflection of the grand terroir of Ausone – just seven hectares of vines – leading to a long finish and a sense of pristine, spherical balance. Loved it from barrel, love it from bottle! The limestone terroir lends needed freshness to the vintage. “We always have a pH of around 3.6”, Vauthier remarked. That certainly ensures freshness. And after about 30 minutes in glass, the nose gets more intense. A top ten wine of the vintage, but be patient and enjoy some of the other excellent Saint Emilion wines crafted by the Vauthier Family as even the excellent second wine needs some 10 years of cellaring before you can think of opening it. 100

Chapelle d’Ausone – The second wine of Château Ausone, made from younger vines up to 10 years old, is serious juice, with much vigor and energy, and it comes across like a caged lion, evidently powerful, with tight and mouth puckering tannin. I like its burgeoning minty freshness. It is a blend of 50% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Franc and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, having spent 20 months in 100% new oak. 94

Château Beau Séjour Becot Premier Grand Cru Classé “B” – As favorably experienced from barrel, this blend of 80% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc and the rest Cabernet Sauvignon was cropped at 46 hectoliters per hectare and has aged in less new oak than usual (65%), thanks to the sound advice of rising star wine consultant Thomas Duclos. There is ripe and bright fruit and lift on the finish, but – watch out! – the 2019 tasted from barrel is even better. 94

Château Belair-Monange Premier Grand Cru Classé “B” – If you could smell wet limestone, here it is. Elegant wet stone freshness. It was just at first difficult to appreciate, after having just tasted the mighty Château Trotanoy, as the wines are very different. While the Pomerol impresses with power and density this plays far more on refinement. The wine, a blend of 98% Merlot and (just) 2% Cabernet Franc, exudes ripe fruit, fresh and bright, with plenty of juiciness on the mid palate, leaving one with a sense of great balance between richness and especially elegance overall, along with much contour. Tasted with Jane Anson in Bordeaux. 97+

With a recent change in style for the better, this estate is making great wines for very good pricing. At about $50 a bottle, do not hesitate.

Château Bellefont Belcier Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé – This blend of 75% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon that had been aged in 30% new oak clocks in at 14.5% alcohol. It comes across very juicy and opulent, with fine structure. I used to approach this estate with apprehension as it used to make wines that had too much drying oak tannin but how times have changed in recent years. The fresh floral aromas combined with ripe fruit in its nuanced palate, polished tannins and freshness on the finish make this one of the best wines in terms of price/quality ratios in 2018. “We understand now the very real potential of over-ripeness”, remarked general manager Jean-Christophe Meyrou, as I tasted this both with Jane Anson and at the estate on separate occasions with positive results both times. And I like a certain tannic edge for cellaring that makes you feel like you are getting (more) than your money’s worth! 94+

Château Berliquet Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé – Ripe fruit, some opulence and tannic edge, this is a frank success in 2018. It is the first vintage under the team at Château Canon, an estate encompassing 10 hectares in a one block vineyard whose terroir I always have admired: half plateau and half slope. Less than 50% new oak used for aging and with a low enough pH (3.79) to ensure freshness. But look out! Like other estates, I did try the 2019 side-by-side, and the more recent vintage seems even better! 94

Château Cadet Bon Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé – This starts out nicely with pleasing fruit basket aromas. The attack and mid palate come along nice and juicy, but there is a certain astringency to the finish that disappoints. A blend of 75% Merlot and 25% the wine aged in 35% new oak and 10% in concrete amphorae. Alcohol is 14.4% 89

Château Canon Saint Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé “B”* – The limestone terroir here lends much needed freshness to this blend of 72% Merlot and 28% Cabernet Franc. There is opulence too: the word “exciting” comes to mind. The irrestitable floral perfume of the nose combined with more “serious” wet stone terroir-driven appeal precedes a palate of subtle power that envelopes with ultra smooth yet never glossy tannin leading to a long, lifting finish again marked by floral aromatics. 14% alcohol and a rather low pH of 3.69 ensures balance. Aged in just over 50% new oak. I bought a case. 97

Château Canon La Gaffelière Premier Grand Cru Classé “B” – Tasted at the estate with owner Stephan Von Neipperg, and I was very happy with the zesty tasty natures of the wine! Sure, there is richness and – as understood from barrel – a somewhat “thickly laid out” aspect, but c’est du 2018!  I clearly prefer the 2016. But this estate does a great job of managing the oak well. Indeed, I like both the elegance on the finish, which is long, too. It does not reach the sublime quality of Château Canon, just above, but a lovely wine. 94+

All smiles with Pierre Olivier Clouet and Jane Anson at Cheval Blanc

Château Cheval Blanc 2018* – Here a case where 2018 surpasses 2016. The Saint-Émilion Premier Grand Cru Classé A Château Cheval Blanc elicits complex aromas from rose stem and violet, to ripe, red fruit and fine cocoa powder. The 54 percent Merlot, 40 percent Cabernet Franc and 6% Cabernet Sauvignon blend has impressive and suave density and depth with elegance and freshness, which director Pierre Olivier Clouet attributes in part to earlier picking and higher yields (about 45 hectolitres per hectare). The tannins may be silky but prominent, providing structure for cellaring. A long finish is marked by floral freshness. Clouet compares 2018 to both 1990 and 1998. For me this is easily in the top three wines of the vintage. The tannin index is fairly low, at 64 IPT, and alcohol just over 14.5% with a solid 3.77 pH for acidity (the Graves are warmer so you get a higher pH, but it all comes together amazingly, consistent from barrel and from bottle!). 100

Clos des Jacobins Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé – Now, this blend of 80% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Franc and 2% Cabernet Sauvignon has an initially closed nose and the palate leaving an initial impression of firm structure. But there is richness too, and a big aspect that thankfully combines with succulence. OK, a bit of heat on the finish prevents me from giving a higher score. 14.5% alcohol. Aged in 75% new oak. 92

Clos la Madeleine Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé – I like the ripe, scrumptious red and black fruit from this blend of 95% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc. Made from grapes grown on vines on cool clay-limestone soils. The wine also has a certain weighty depth with tannins refined and suave, albeit just a touch of heat from the vintage. But, overall, a fine wine. 92+

Clos de Sarpe Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé – This blend of 85% Merlot and the rest Cabernet Franc clocks in at 15% alcohol, having aged in 70% new oak. I like the fruit forward nose and the palate communicates some succulence albeit it is a bit hard on the finish. 91

Château Clos Fourtet Saint Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé “B” Tasted at the estate, where co-owner Mathieu Cuvelier explained how they were hit by mildew, reducing yields to this blend of 90% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon and the rest Cabernet Franc, which had aged in 60% new oak. Clocking in at under 14.5% alcohol, I love its violet floral notes. The pH is a healthy 3.6, and the palate has very sap-driven juiciness with balance, even if I detect less excitement here when compared to the 2019 from barrel. Emmanuel de Saint-Salvy, who recently joined the team at the estate with Mathieu says that it was easier to maintain an airy (aérien) aspect in 2019. But for this vintage, the wine is simply delicious! 95

Château Commanderie Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé – Sadly the overall impression is a wine that lacks excitement. Yes, it is tannic, but where is the fruit? The nose is rather closed. And the palate is rather tight. Maybe this just needs more time, but I’ll keep my note reserved for now. 75% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Franc, the wine aged in 50% new oak for 16 months. About 14.5% alcohol.

Château La Couspaude Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé – This is a style from the mid 2000s. It starts out with pleasing espresso notes, with ripe fruit aromatics, but you quickly realize that there are too many oak-derived tannins and the finish is hard and dries out. The wine blends 75% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon and was aged in … 100% new oak. If you like this style, you’ll love this wine!

Couvent des Jacobins Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé – I like the no nonsense, straightforward aspect to this wine, which now reflects more structure than succulence and with fine tannins. Like some other 2018s with mostly Merlot, there is Pauillac like power here, although the attack is supple, or perhaps “supple muscle”. No doubt the 7% Petit Verdot in the blend contributes to some of the structure, with the rest 82% Merlot and 11% Cabernet Franc. The 45% new barrels for the aging ensures not too much leeching of oak tannin from a high alcohol vintage like 2018. Nice job! 93+

Château Corbin Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé – While note as succulent as Grandes Murailles, tasted just before, I like this wine’s wet stone aromatics. It is a blend of 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc, having aged in 50% new oak. The palate elicits poise and definition. Some jammy aspects from the vintage can be detected, but this is a frank success. Cropped at 48 hectoliters per hectare – but given the need for selection – the yield was in fact 42 hectoliteres per hectare: a fine yield! 92+

Château Dassault Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé – I want to like this wine more! The nose entices with jammy black fruit, and even though the palate seems initially closed, time in glass reveals fine tannic edge, a seriousness that appeals, along with ripe fruit aspects. But the sense of extraction is a bit on the limit, with the finish marked by a hint of drying. Maybe less time in 70% new oak? Maybe less new oak? The blend is 75% Merlot, 22% Cabernet Franc, 3% Cabernet Sauvignon and the alcohol 14.5% 91+

Château Destieux Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé – Initially nice and juicy, but then it dries up on the finish… And please lower the new oak tannin-leaching component please. It seems very much a “modern” style from the mid-2000s. Not my style. 14.5% alcohol. Having aged in 100% new oak.

Château Faurie de Souchard Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé – Smoky nose, but the palate from this blend of 86% Merlot and 14% Cabernet Franc seems just a bit hard and even disjointed. It was aged in 50% new oak. 87

Châtaeu de Ferrand Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé – Blending 73% Merlot and 27% Cabernet Franc, the wine clocks in at 14.5% alcohol. A solid wine, pleasant, but just somewhat lacking in succulence. 90

It will be great to compare the 18s and 19s down the road, but for now, I tip my hat to the 2019.

Château Figeac 2018 – The wine proves its promise from barrel. Indeed, back then Frederic Faye had explained that picking was done partly “Al Dente” to ensure freshness. And then gentle extraction carried out for this blend of 37% Merlot, 33% Cabernet Sauvignon and the rest Cabernet Franc. The result is a wine of charm, of opulence, and freshness. It clocks in at just over 14% alcohol with a pH of 3.7, with 30% of the crop going into the second wine. As ever, it had aged in 100% new oak but well integrated. Consultant Michel Rolland focuses on the blends and Thomas Duclos on research such as working on to what extent press wines are put into new oak. Did I mention the excellent finesse of the tannin?  Bottled on 15 July 2020, and a great Figeac. But I also tasted the 2019 from barrel, and I think it is even better! 96+

Château Fleur Cardinale Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé – What a wonderful experience to taste this blend of 74% Merlot, 22% Cabernet Franc and the rest Cabernet Sauvignon! It clocks in at 14.5% alcohol but exudes fresh floral and ripe red and dark fruit aromatics that precede a palate both suave and dense, leading to a long finish. Excellent integration of oak tannin, and a healthy yield of 45 hectoliters per hectare. And the price? About $40 a bottle. Bravo! 94

Yet another wine of both value and excellence, just under $40 retail.

Château Fombrauge Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé – As usual I prefer the regular cuvée to the higher end one. And this wine is very pleasant, even if just a bit heavy headed on the finish. Still, it is smooth and – especially – invites drinkability. It is a blend of 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc, having aged in 40% new oak and reaching14.5% alcohol. 91

Château de Fonbel Saint Emilion Grand – Another excellent wine – robust, structured and tasty – crafted by the Vauthier Family of Château Ausone, it blends 70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Carmenère, which lends a certain spicy (white pepper) aspect to the finish that makes it extra savory. It has 14% alcohol. 92+

Château Fonroque Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé – This wine leaves me somewhat perplexed. There is ripe fruit but an almost lactic aroma, as well, along with some fresh cut herbs such as sage and rosemary. It starts out rather well, but you get hit by a bit of astringency on the finish. Clocks in at 14.5% alcohol and blends 82% Merlot and the rest Cabernet Franc, having aged in 30% new oak. Note reserved.

Château Franc Mayne Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé – More closed and initially a bit austere, this wine blends 90% Merlot and the rest Cabernet Franc, clocking in at 14.1% alcohol. The nose has wet stone “minerality” however, which is pleasing. On the palate, underlying power, but kind of austere although you get some juiciness on the mid palate. Give it time. Healthy yields at over 40 hectoliters per hectare. 92

Château Grand Barrail Lamarzelle Figeac Grand Cru – Fairly straightforward. Not bad. Actually, fairly subtle. Balance is there, even though not particularly exciting, either. A solid wine. Juicy. 13.5% alcohol. 91

Château Grand Corbin Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé – Fruit and juice on the nose. Coffee aspects. Tight and a bit closed in, but will benefit from aging. Blends 75% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc and the rest Cabernet Sauvignon, having aged in 40% new oak and clocking in at 14.5% alcohol. 92

Château Grand Corbin d’Espagne Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé – Smooth and refined, but I wouldn’t call it lightweight, either. Not as “warm” as Rochebelle, tasted just before this blend of 75% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Franc and 1% Cabernet Sauvignon, which had aged in 50% new oak and clocks in at 14.5% alcohol. 93

You want excellent Saint Emilion from 2018 at an excellent price?

Château Grandes Murailles Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé – One of the best mid-range priced Saint Emilions, as it exudes plum, cherry, fresh fruit red and black. Succulent and tasty with tannic structure for another 10 years of aging before really hitting its cylinders. 14.5% alcohol. And the price is right, at about $40 a bottle and I’m a buyer. Bravo Philippe Cuvelier! 94+

Château Grand Pontet Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé – This blend of 44% Merlot, 39% Cabernet Franc, 17%Malbec and the rest Cabernet Sauvignon seems structured than succulent, albeit with freshness, and even if at 14.5% alcohol, a cool blue fruit aspect. Having aged in 90% new oak, there is some hard tannin felt on the finish – just a bit. Overall, quite unique in expression (maybe the high percentage of Malbec?) and in a good way. 92

Château Haut Brisson Saint Emilion Grand Cru – Located in the zone of Graves of Monbousquet, the vineyards are planted over graves and limestone, not far from Bellefont Belcier. The wine exudes freshness, like a fruit basket. The purpose indeed for this wine is to convey both a sense of gourmand and ease, general manager Jean-Christophe Meyrou says. It lacks the depth of a great wine, but for about €25 retail, a darn nice drink! Aged in 40% new oak, in clocks in at just above 14% alcohol. 91

Château Haut Sarpe Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé – Big nose with all too evident oak extraction and the finish dries out, with some bitterness. 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Franc, with close to 15% alcohol having aged in 30% new oak. Not my style.

Château Haut Simard Saint Emilion Grand Cru – Bright fruit aromatics are engaging. The mid palate of this blend of 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Franc is juicy, although there is a bit of mouth puckering on the finish. 91

Château Jean Faure Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé – Here an example of the need to appreciate wine in bottle… over time! My initial feeling was that the wine suffered from overly stiff tannins. And that is the impression left if you open the bottle and taste it for about 30 minutes. The owner sent me another bottle, which I assessed over a few days at home. And while I do not think it is a “great wine” (just after, I tasted the May de Certan Pomerol, which is twice as good – and twice the price), it communicates succulence on the mid palate with engaging aromas of kirsch, crushed mint (the blend is 60% Cabernet Franc, 35% Merlot and 5% Malbec). Sure, the structure on the palate is very obvious, but I suspect that you need to cellar this at least five years before opening it. 92+

Château La Clotte Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé – Another fine Saint Emilion from the Vauthier Family of Château Ausone. The vineyard encompasses but four hectares. And while not as “scrummy” as their excellent Moulin Saint Georges, this blend of 85% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc conveys both the juicy and the serious, with better focus, perhaps from the Cabernet Sauvignon which exudes Médoc like graphite on the nose. Indeed, this is not an inexpensive wine, as it retails for about $95US. 93

Château La Gaffeliere Saint Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé “B” – I wish I could have spent more time with this blend of 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Franc,  and I may just try to do so if I get back to Bordeaux as of this writing. Indeed, I very much liked the overall sense of finesse and opulence, but with sculpted tannins: a statue like structure underneath the smoothness. And yes, a touch of 2018 headiness (14.5% alcohol), but overall you get a sense of fresh lift on the finish. Out of 38 hectares owned by this gorgeous estate looking up – literally – to the great Château Ausone, 22 are classified, with soils made from the famous limestone plateau, clay-limestone hillsides and more siliceous at the foot of the slope. I need to return a do a vertical, because the wines here in recent years are getting better, and even if there is just a touch of headiness, this is quite a success in 2018. 95

One of the best Saint Emilion wines in 2018, and I bought some!

Château Larcis Ducasse Saint Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé “B” – A great success in Saint Emilion with wet stone aspects, reflecting vines grown on limestone (and cold clay). I like the freshness on the finish, with a low pH of 3.56. But the blend of 89% Merlot and the rest Cabernet Franc boasts plenty opulence as well, clocking in at 14.5% alcohol. The overall impression left is of a nuanced wine, with vigor in its ripe fruit expressions and freshness on the long finish. 96

Château Larmande Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé – This blend of 80% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Franc and 2% Cabernet Sauvignon having aged in 60% new oak (plus 10% amphorae) is a fine example from bottle from this estate: aromas fresh and ripe, a palate of sap and succulence. Some oak-derived coffee, and it maybe dries just a tad but certainly better now than in some previous vintages. Clocks in at 14.6% alcohol. 92+

Great work from the team at Château Laroze: another fine price/quality ratio for 2018.

Château Laroze Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé – This blend of 59% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Franc and 6% Cabernet Sauvignon, having aged in 65% new oak and clocking in at 14% alcohol, is smooth and nuanced. Needs time to open up, but the tannins are very fine and the integration of oak tannin excellent. At about €30 retail, a no brainer. 93

Château Moulin du Cadet Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé – This 100% Merlot wine clocks in at 14.5% alcohol and there is a polished ripeness to the fruit that appeals on the mid palate, but it comes across somewhat heady and hard on the finish, and I wonder whether the 80% new oak may have been too much in terms of extraction of oak tannin. Yield of 45 hectoliters per hectare. 90+

One of my favorites for both excellent quality and value. About $35 retail tax included. Don’t hesitate!

Château Moulin Saint Georges Saint Emilion Grand Cru – Under the same ownership of Ausone, the Vauthier Family has crafted a rich, scrumptious wine, made from vines grown on clay over limestone. The blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc has a very low pH of 3.4 so fantastic freshness in 2018, and the wine has appealing wet stone on its palate along with rose stem. The tannin has power and structure and will need a few years cellaring for a proper drinking window. I’m buyer! 94

Château La Mondotte Saint Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé “B” – Superb density and depth, and I understand how great the limestone terroir, not far from Troplong Mondot, yields high quality. Concentrated and yet subtle in its expression of power, crafted from 70-year-old vines. Clocks in at 14.5% alcohol. 96

Love the information on the back label.

Château Pavie Macquin Saint Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé “B” – This blend of 78% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc and the rest Cabernet Sauvignon manages to be both fresh and bright and roasted (even a bit of confected) in its impression of fruit, with an initial appeal of being scrumptious. Time in glass reveals elegance and spice communicated in a palate both layered and contoured. I ended up with the impression of gorgeous balance and spherical elegance, although I tip my hat to Larcis Ducasse, under the same ownership. Vines on the cool limestone-clay plateau over asteriated limestone no doubt contribute to the wine’s finesse and power. 95+

Greetings with masks. Thanks to Matthieu Cuvelier at Clos Fourtet (at right), with Frédéric Casteja of Château Trotte Vieille for hosting a joint tasting of several great wines. Made life easier!

Château de Pressac Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé – Fine aromas of red and dark fruit with hints of dried herbs lead to a succulent palate. The wine clocks in at 14.5% alcohol and is an impressive blend of 70% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Malbec and 1% Carmenere. It had been aged in 50% new oak. If it were just a bit juicier, I would have graded it higher, but I like it! 92+

Château Rochebelle Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé – This blend of 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc comes across very nicely balanced, albeit some warmth from the vintage, but there is freshness and even elegance as well. Clocking in at 14.5% alcohol, it was aged in 85% new oak, well integrated, leaving on the finish an impression of clean and bright ripe fruit. 93+

Château Saint Georges Côte Pavie Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé – This blend of 80% Merlot and 20% of Cabernet Franc lacks excitement for me. Indeed, there is a sense of hard tannins and disjointed elements, with a drying finish.

Château Sansonnet Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé – The terroir shines through yet again from this estate, with smooth and succulent tannins and no drying finish. There is a hint of “heady raisin” but that denotes more the vintage character. It clocks in at 15% alcohol… and blends 85% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc and 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, having aged in 80% new oak (and 2 amphorae of 7.5 hectoliters for Merlot). 93

Château Simard Saint Emilion Grand Cru – I love the red fruit freshness from this blend of 70% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc and the rest Cabernet Sauvignon. It has smooth tannin and freshness. 92

Château Tour Saint Christophe Saint Emilion Grand Cru – The other side of Troplong Mondot, with south exposure, but a cooler sector, because of the soils. Not as south, so you have south, southwest. The nose is already more interesting, deeper and even a bit floral. The palate is very pure and elegant. This is salivant indeed. 14.5% The pH 3.55, which helps balance the alcohol. 28 euro. 93+

Château La Tour Figeac Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé – Located between Château Cheval Blanc and Château Figeac on the Pomerol border, the estate has used organic and biodynamic viticulture. And this blend of 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Franc, clocking in at 14.5% alcohol offers up much ripe red and black fruit aromas. As much as I like the wine, it lacks enough palate depth to get a higher score. 92+

Château Troplong Mondot – Tasted at the estate with recently named director Aymeric de Gironde. Yields – 40 hectoliters per hectare – were healthy and extractions low, so the pH here was but 3.55 and yet the alcohol reached nearly 15% ! Good thing that the acidities were there to match. De Gironde stressed the challenges of the vintage, which he described as “harmony and balance coming from extremes”. The terroir at the estate is “a bit like a sugar machine that provides alcohol”, de Gironde said. From bottle, this blend of 85% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Cabernet Franc manages elegance but you do get a “big” sense from the vintage itself. But there is salinity and freshness on the finish and the wine is thus excellent. It aged in 60 percent new oak, which is well integrated and has indeed “filled out” the palate, which seemed rather tame by comparison from barrel. 95

Château Trotte Vieille Saint Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé “B”– This has a lively palate, very fresh, although quite rich and I wonder if one does get just a hint of extraction from the 100% new oak used in aging? In any case, the alcohol is rather high at 14.5% but the blend of 54% Cabernet Franc, 44% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Sauvignon exudes deep and impressive aromatics, as well as impressive palate depth and density! I love the crushed dried mint aspects on the finish, which shows off that Cabernet Franc. 95

Château Valandraud Saint Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé “B”– As I had experienced with the 2019, this vintage shows excellent density and impresses with opulent ripe fruit. The blend includes 90% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, 3% Cabernet Sauvignon and the rest Malbec. But as with the 2019, I do believe that the oak extraction (aged in 100% new oak) comes across a tad too much for my taste. If you love the style, you will love this wine. Having written all this, I recall how pleasantly surprised I was in tasting the 2000 vintage in a horizontal back in 2015, so let me just reserve any specific scores for now and revisit both vintages in about… 15 years 😉

Château Villemaurine Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé – Rich and intense, lots of ripe fruit, freshness, some hint of coffee. Opulent. Jammy. Smooth finish. Pleasing nose actually. Aged in 75% new oak, a blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc. Says 15% alcohol, but you do not really feel it. 93

Château Yon Figeac Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé – I recall how much Robert Parker praised this wine for the 2000 vintage, and I bought some. For the price, it is a good deal as the wine is “solid” with rather spicy in aromas leading to a palate that is succulent but lacks the depth of the upper echelons. Frank drinkability, and what’s wrong with that? The blend is 88% Merlot, and 6% each of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, having aged in 40% new oak and clocking in at about 14% alcohol. 92


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