Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Tasting 2009 and 2010 Saint-Emilion Grands Crus Classés


Created in 1955, the Saint-Emilion classification doesn't quite project the same gravitas as the 1855 Medoc classification. The problem I believe is the classification aims ambitiously to be inclusive and egalitarian. There are over 200 chateaux classified Saint-Emilion or Saint-Emilion Grand Cru, 58 Grands Crus Classés, and and 18 Premiers Grands Crus Classés. And every ten years the classification is updated to much gnashing of teeth and law suits from those excluded and demoted.

Contrast the Saint-Emilion classification to the 1855 Medoc classification in which only 62 red Bordeaux producers are included and, except for one change, has never been updated.

Despite the controversies the 58-strong Saint-Emilion Grands Crus Classés chateaux represent the sweet spot in top Bordeaux values today. For the most part their wines sell for under $50 in the highly desirable 2009 and 2010 vintages. Yesterday's tasting in San Francisco hosted by the Association of Grands Crus Classés of Saint-Emilion featuring these two vintages attested to the overachieving quality of the wines. But the tasting went beyond showing what everyone already knows. Less expected, perhaps, was the diverse quality from one producer to another and the interesting contrast between the 2009 and 2010 vintages.


Gwendeline Lucas pouring La Dominique, with the 2009 showing a soft, seductive style, whilst the 2010 is fresher though I noted a particular hardness.


I felt Jean Faure with up to 60% Cabernet Franc in the blend excelled in both 2009 and 2010 vintages. Here poured by Fanny de Kepper.


I caught the popular Bay Area-based wine video blogger, Monique Soltani, covering the event, fresh from recent stints in Tuscany and Bordeaux. I can't forget the time she visited Vineyard Gate to do a video blog about the store. It was a lot of fun being interviewed by her.


Tasters crowded the table of Destieux, where I met with Nicolas Dauriac, Anne Marie's son. I was introduced to Anne Marie by a mutual friend during her visit to the Bay Area several years ago. I took us all to a favorite neighborhood northern Chinese restaurant in Burlingame, CA, where we drank her Bordeaux with the Chinese cuisine. The pairing was a hit. The family also owns Montlisse in Saint-Emilion and La Clemence in Pomerol. I like their style, they go more for elegance, instead of power. Nicolas was thrilled to mention to me that at a recent blind tasting Destieux topped both Canon-la-Gaffeliere and Pavie!


Next to Destieux's table was another popular stop for tasters, the wines of Faugeres and Peby Faugeres. This wine-critic-favorite producer not surprisingly makes a modern style Saint-Emilion that tends to be bigger and riper tasting than most. The 2010 Peby, the all Merlot flagship wine from Faugere's oldest vines, clocks in with an alcohol of at least 15%.


Right next to the Faugeres table was another proponent of modern style Saint-Emilion, Fleur Cardinale. Both Faugeres and Fleur Cardinale pay for the consulting services of Michel Rolland. However, for my taste, Fleur Cardinale handles this bigger, riper style much better, particularly in the 2010 vintage. 2010 Bordeaux shows freshness and good acidity but also elevated alcohol. 2009 wines taste softer and sweeter by comparison. From what I've tasted of both 2009 and 2010 Bordeaux, it is not easy to make vintage generalizations. You have to go producer by producer, wine by wine. While many Bordeaux experts and fans have praised the fresh acidity and structured quality of 2010s, and I won't disagree, many of the wines are a touch hard and the ripeness seems forced. I would still put my money on many 2009s over the long run.


One of my favorite wines of the tasting was poured by Virginie Larramona from the Association de Grands Crus Classés de Saint-Emilion. It is the much overlooked Chateau Dassault, which is still owned by the Dassault family. Michel Rolland has also been its consulting oenologist of late. Yet, the wines are a marked contrast in taste and style to those of Faugeres and Fleur Cardinale. They evoke a more classic Saint-Emilion. In both 2009 and 2010 vintage, the balance in concentration, elegance, and structure is really beautiful.

2 comments:

  1. What a wonderful event! Loved seeing you. Can't wait to visit Vineyard Gate in Millbrae again soon:) Monique

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  2. Great to see you at the tasting, Monique, working hard as usual! I look forward to you gracing one of our store events soon.

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