Beychevelle & Saint-Pierre : Vertical Tasting

IMG_6708In comparing the major Bordeaux wine appellations, it would be difficult to find more consistency than in Saint-Julien. Perhaps this is due to having over 90% of its vineyards owned by classified growth châteaux, but it is more likely due to the high quality of the producers found here. Located just south of the Pauillac appellation, Saint-Julien is the home to some of the most historic wine producers in Bordeaux, from Léoville Barton to Talbot and Ducru-Beaucaillou. The Saint-Julien châteaux consistently produce some of the best wines in Bordeaux in the stronger vintages, but some of the best wines of the Médoc are typically found here even in lesser vintages. And while there may not be a Latour or Lafite found here, the consistent excellence in Saint-Julien is unparalleled and is found nowhere else in the region.
We recently participated in a dinner that included vertical tastings of two excellent Saint-Julien properties, Château Beychevelle and Château Saint-Pierre. Both the wine styles and history of these properties are quite different, though both can claim significant improvements in their wines over the past decade. Situated at the southern end of Saint-Julien, Beychevelle is a large property that boasts both a classic old château and a new state-of-the-art winery. Classified as a fourth growth in the 1855 Médoc Classification, much of the improvements in their wines can be attributed to more strict selection of grapes to be included in their grand vin. Saint-Pierre is another fourth growth, but is situated on a much smaller property. Like Beychevelle, the wines have shown recent improvements and their facilities upgraded. While there are stylistic differences between the two estates, both wines exhibit a balance of power and elegance that is characteristic of Saint-Julien.
The dinner involved a vertical tasting of most of the important vintages from 2003 to 2010. A 2005 wine of another Saint-Julien producer, Château Branaire-Ducru, also found its way into the tasting. And finally, a number of dry and sweet Bordeaux white wines served as openers and closers to the evening. All in all, the wines showed well, but this tasting confirmed that these wines require a lot of aging. In fact, it could take well over a decade for most of these wines to reach their peak drinking potential. The tasting notes are all below.
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2003 Beychevelle – As the oldest Beychevelle in the tasting, it was not surprising that this was the most generous and enjoyable. Didn’t show any of the heat of the vintage. A very balanced wine. The aromas were fresh black currant, pencil lead, tobacco, violets, earth, and some barnyard seasoning. Soft and silky on the palate, with refined tannins. This is entering a good spot, and while it hasn’t peaked yet, you can definitely open this now. Needs at least an hour of aeration to show its stuff. – 94/100

2005 Beychevelle – Started out very shy and reticent, but the aromas amplified after a couple of hours. The nose showed black currant, green pepper, espresso, herbs, cedar, and dark chocolate. Showing very young right now, as it’s pretty tight and tannic. This is a pretty powerful vintage of Beychevelle. Needs more time to unwind. – 92/100

2007 Beychevelle – Yes, these 2007s are early drinkers, but this was clearly a step below the stronger vintages. The aromatics were fine, and kept things interesting. But this lacked the concentration and depth of the other wines. I would drink this sooner rather than later, as it will eventually dry out as the fruit fades. – 88/100

2009 Beychevelle – One of my favorite wines of the night. With two hours of air, this just blossomed. Very fruit-forward, but has already started to develop its interesting tertiary elements. Packed with concentrated fruit and a serious backbone. It’s amazing how much more open and accessible the 2009 is than the 2010. This is already starting to enter its early drinking window, but this still won’t peak for a very long time. If your preference is for more mature Bordeaux, however, I would still give this ten more years. – 93/100
2010 Beychevelle – Unlike the 2009 Beychevelle, this was very tight and not ready for drinking. It’s clearly not showing much right now. This needs a long time to unwind, and will need well over a decade to enter its prime drinking window. – 93/100
2003 St. Pierre Lighter than the 2003 Beychevelle, with a medium ruby color. The nose was very Burgundian, almost reminiscent of a Gevrey-Chambertin. It was all red cherry, spice, paper, and cigar tobacco. Fruit showed good purity. Had a nice elegant weight on the palate, but lacked some concentration. A straightforward finish with fresh acidity. A low sweetness factor. Very accessible, and likely getting close to its peak, but I’m a bit curious to see where this goes. – 91/100
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2003 St. Pierre – Very dark color. The nose was mostly dark fruits and oaky elements. I liked this, but it just never kicked it into high gear. Needs a lot more time to shed its oak. Should develop nicely, but I would give this at least five years in the cellar. – 92/100
2007 St. Pierre – Similar to the 2007 Beychevelle, this wasn’t as deep and complex as the stronger vintages at the tasting. It’s enjoyable nonetheless, but this is an early drinker. These should probably be opened within the next decade. – 89/100
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2009 St. Pierre Like the 2009 Beychevelle, this was also surprisingly very accessible. Dark fruits, vanilla, spice, and cigar tobacco on the nose. Deep concentration and very layered. Fruit-forward and sweet on the palate. Nicely structured with soft, round tannins. Needs more time to enter its prime drinking window (though it is accessible now), but this was an impressive wine. – 94/100
2010 St. Pierre – This is nowhere near ready for business. It has the stuffing to blossom into a really nice wine. Good complexity overall. The aromas are very dark and layered, with black currant, blackberry, cigar box, dark chocolate, spice, and vanilla. Tough and tannic on the palate. – 94/100
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IMG_66952005 Branaire-Ducru – A really nice showing for a consistent wine. This is always so approachable. The fruit is a very pure black currant and blackberry. The others aromas were very classic left bank, with pencil lead, cedar, and tobacco. A focused wine. Very fresh and finessed on the palate. Really nice balance. Excellent length on the finish with no heat and beautifully balanced acidity. – 94/100
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A Château Angélus evening with Hubert de Boüard de Laforest

April 20, 2016

L1020106bRecently 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 noP1060929b.jpgt 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. L1020104b.jpg

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.FullSizeRender 3.jpg

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. L1020094b.jpg

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.

Tasting Notes

IMG_05851994 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.


IMG_05842005 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.


IMG_0583.JPG2011 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.