April 20, 2016
Recently we were contacted by Victoire Touton from Château Angélus, who informed us that proprietor Hubert de Boüard was scheduled to visit South Florida. When she asked if we would be interested in helping coordinating a tasting, obviously we agreed without hesitation. Monsieur de Boüard is one of the most iconic and recognizable figures from Saint-Émilion, also serving as a winemaking consultant to numerous producers throughout Bordeaux (such as Château Siran and Château de Fieuzal). Tasting multiple vintages of Château Angélus, while discussing the wines with him, would certainly be an opportunity not to miss.
The event was held at Café Maxx in Pompano Beach, and was coordinated by Wine Watch. There were eight vintages of Angélus included in the tasting: 1994, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2010, and 2011. Two vintages of the second wine Carillon d’Angélus, 2009 and 2012, were also included. Elevated to Premier Grand Cru Classé (A) in 2012, Château Angélus has consistently produced some of the best wines in Saint-Émilion over the past twenty-five years. After Hubert de Boüard took the reigns at Angélus in 1985, the vintages of 1988, 1989, and 1990 brought life back into the château and placed it back into the Bordeaux elite. And over the next couple of decades, Angélus produced wines that were consistently among the best in the right bank of Bordeaux. Angélus is known for its appearances in James Bond films, which certainly helped raise global awareness of their wines.
Humility and passion. This is how I would sum up Hubert de Boüard after speaking with him about his wines. He was extremely nice and forthcoming, engaging every person throughout the evening. But what is most striking is his unyielding passion for winemaking and his wines. He considers himself a farmer, who is quite proud of his family heritage. The legacy of the Angélus estate spans eight generations, which is quite a rare feat among the top properties in Bordeaux. M. de Boüard emphatically stated that he considers his greatest success to be the love and knowledge of winemaking that he passes on to the next generation, rather than his own successes in winemaking. While he still serves as the technical director at Angélus, his daughter Stéphanie has assumed more responsibilities in running the estate. This is a man who puts his heart and soul into producing the best wines possible every vintage.
What truly makes nights like this special is the opportunity to get to know the personal side of the winemaker. Certainly we talked about wine, such as the underrated reputation of the 2001 vintage for the right bank. When I asked to name one of his favorite wines (other than his own), he mentioned the 1989 Haut-Brion without hesitation. We discussed the 2015 vintage at length; he drew similarities to 1998, but suggested the character of 2015 is somewhere in the middle of 1998 and 2005 (perhaps structurally as well). When discussing his wines, he commonly reminded me how important the Cabernet Franc is in the blend, and how it gives the wine longevity. His goal is to produce a wine that can span three decades, if not more, and the Cabernet Franc is the key. You will know what he is referring to if you have ever tasted the 1990 Angélus. And finally, he had an interesting anecdote about his dogs. Apparently, his labrador only likes to eat grapes in the vineyard when they are ripe; he joked that the dog knows when the right time is to harvest.
Regarding the wines themselves, this was clearly a night of consistent excellence. All of the nights showed well, but perhaps the surprise of the evening were the two vintages of Carillon d’Angélus (2009 and 2012). These showed great complexity and drinkability, especially considering Carillon is the second wine of Angélus. Most of the vintages of Château Angélus were quite young, but there was great potential shown in most of the wines. It is always a good sign when no one can agree of their favorite vintages, and on this night, everyone seemed to indicate a different vintage to be their favorite. But on the this night, it certainly appeared that vintages like 2001, 2004, and 2010 stood out. The 2010 is an impressive effort, and should evolve into one of the greatest wines in the history of the estate; the complexity and mouthfeel are stunning. And despite the 15.5% alcohol level, there is no detection of heat at all. The 2001 and 2004 continue to show why they are among the best Bordeaux wines of their respective vintages. The 2005, on the other hand, appeared to be in a shy, shut-down phase on this evening. But the conclusion drawn from this tasting is that Angélus has produced impressive wines throughout the past 15 years, irrespective of vintage. Much of this could be attributed to advances in modern winemaking, but you cannot deny the influence of terroir and a passionate winemaker as well.
Overall, this was an evening of great company and great wines. We learned not only about the wines, but about the history of Saint-Émilion and Angélus. And as the night was closing, M. de Boüard told a story of his young grandson who is already learning to taste the grapes in the vineyard. The ninth generation is already learning to become a winemaker, which should ensure that the family lineage continues.
1994 Château Angélus. Medium ruby color, mild bricking at edges. A very complex nose, with bright red fruits, tobacco, herbs, cedar, Asian spices, and violets. Lacks the charming earthiness of the 1989 and 1990, but has more of a spice element to it. Medium weight. Still has very fine tannins to resolve. This beauty is still in its drinking window, and there is enough fruit and remaining structure to take this at this five more years. In comparison to other vintages, this is not not as round and structured as the 1995; it is much more evolved than the still youthful 1995. This is more of an understated charmer than the bigger and more complex 1989, 1990, and 1990. For a so-so vintage, this is a success.
2001 Château Angélus. Deep, dark purple color. One of the more open and intoxicating noses of the night, with ripe plum, damson, licorice, mineral, barnyard, and espresso. Caressing on the palate, with soft, round tannins. Impressively structured. A long, lingering finish. There is always a lot of life with this wine. This is a vintage to follow. This wine showed extremely well tonight.
2004 Château Angélus. Dark purple color. Another fragrant, open nose of dark and red fruits, violets, sous bois, and chocolate. Impressive concentration. The palate seems to have layers, with a very pleasant mouthfeel. Tannins a bit firm and in need of more integration. Nice acidity on the medium-plus length finish. Optimistic of a long future.
2005 Château Angélus. A shy nose. Not really showing its stuff right now. The nose is still quite primary, with dark fruits, spice, and vanilla. Dense and concentrated. A full-bodied mouthfeel, with serious backbone and structure. Fairly tannic right now. Lengthy finish. This is obviously an excellent wine, but this is nowhere near maturation. That said, with enough air, this is still very enjoyable and should start to nudge at its drinking window in the near future. This should easily eclipse three decades.
2006 Château Angélus. Dark purple color. This one is pretty tight right now. Probably needs a lot of aeration. Nice is fairly open, with black cherry, blackberry, herbs, and dark chocolate. Tannic and not quite balanced right now. Lots of acidity on the finish. Hasn’t quite entered its drinking window. If you’re planning to open this now, I would probably save most of it for the next day.
2008 Château Angélus. Nose somewhat subdued, but very floral. Lots of plum, black cherry, truffle, licorice, and violets. Really like the complexity on the nose and palate. A really silky mouthfeel, with nicely integrated tannins. A long, smooth finish with lots of balanced acidity.
2010 Château Angélus. Deep inky purple, almost black in color. A seriously densely aromatic nose of black fruits, licorice, truffle, and dark chocolate. Incredible concentration. Very tannic at this stage, but they are still surprisingly soft. A full-bodied affair, with so much intensity on the palate. Very impressive length on the finish. While this wine clocks in at 15.5% alcohol, there was absolutely no detection of heat at all. The most impressive wine of the evening. This wine deserves cellaring for at least 10 years, though it may become more approachable sooner.
2011 Château Angélus. Deep purple color. A bright, lively nose of red fruits, cherry, herbs, and vanilla. Full-bodied mouthfeel. Good concentration. Has that tannic edge that is characteristic of so many wines from ’11. Average acidity on the finish. This wine needs more time to come together and integrate. Still, this is a smooth drinker that just needs lots of aeration right now. I was able to try this on the following day, and it had shed some of its sharp edges and was even smoother on the palate. The nose was a bit shy, however. Should reach its prime drinking window within five years but expect nice longevity.
2009 Le Carillon de l’Angélus. The second wines were quite good. This had lots of ripe red fruits, black cherry, spice, and vanilla. Soft tannins with no astringency. Smooth finish. While lacking the concentration of the Château Angélus wines, this is so drinkable right now. A really great food wine, but could stand on its own as well.
2012 Le Carillon d’Angélus. Initially, this seemed to be pretty simple. Red currant, cherry, with a bit of licorice and spice. It was pretty straightforward on the palate, but with a nice medium weight and smooth delivery. I was fortunate enough to save some and drink it over the next two days. The improvement was quite impressive, with a much more open, lively nose. The balance was better. There was some earthiness that wasn’t apparent on the first day. This wine obviously has a pretty nice future, especially for a second wine. It’s a testament to the fact that the top producers take their second wines quite seriously.