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Saint Emilion ‘A’s not on the same level?

A blind tasting of the Saint Emilion grands crus classés A across several vintages saw Angelus and Pavie lag behind fellow “A”s Cheval Blanc and Ausone, leading one critic to suggest they are “not on the same level”.

Image credit: Jonathan Warrender
Cheval Blanc – Image credit: Jonathan Warrender

The comparative tasting of the grand cru classé A estates by Bordeaux critic Jean-Marc Quarin saw Cheval Blanc take pole position followed by Ausone.

Quarin and a small panel lined up the four estates: long-standing Saint Emilion cru classé A’s Cheval Blanc and Ausone and newly elevated Angélus and Pavie from the 1998, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008 and 2009 vintages.

The wines had all been bought en primeur and stored in Switzerland until the tasting when they were tried blind.

Quarin had conducted a similar tasting in 2011 before the Saint Emilion classification in 2012 which saw Cheval Blanc and Ausone come first and second, followed by Angélus and Troplong Mondot.

The most recent tasting “arrived at the same sort of result”, with Cheval Blanc and Ausone again taking the first two positions, then Angélus and then Pavie.

However, the latest arrivals not only lagged behind their equals in the scores and results but apparently were a “long way” behind, Pavie in particular.

As Quarin noted in his tasting report: “The two legacy premiers crus were both first three times and dominated the tasting. They were both distinctively vibrant in their taste and aroma.

“Angélus also stands out for its ability to offer a real vibrancy in its taste, but less often. Pavie regularly fails to do this. So my tasting tends to demonstrate that these four Saint-Emilion premiers grands crus classés A are not exactly on the same level.”

Cheval Blanc took first place in the 2009, 2008 and 2006 vintages, Quarin noting that this is “probably a sign of new effort deployed on the property”.

However, even if Cheval Blanc came out on top in the overall ratings, with its “unwaveringly excellent positions in terms of quality,” it was Ausone that apparently, “delighted the tasters the most, because they did not expect it to do so well.”

It came first three times – the 2005, 2004 and 2003 vintages – and second four times. Angélus came first only once, for the 1998 vintage, Pavie was most consistently the worst performer taking fourth place four times (the 2009, 2008, 2003 and 1998 vintages), third once (2004) and second twice (2006 and 2005).

The full report and all the scores are available on Quarin’s website here, a free 48 hour pass has been granted to readers of this article from today (Thursday 26 March) until Friday 27 March.

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