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Bordeaux 2021 tasting notes: St Emilion

There are few great surprises to be seen in the 2021 vintage in St Emilion, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t “pockets of excellence… that rise above the norm”.  This vintage is one which the terroir is very much on display, even more so perhaps than in other appellation, writes our Bordeaux correspondent Colin Hay. Here are his full tasting notes.

A note on the ratings

This year, for the first time, I have decided to provide an indicative rating for each wine alongside the published comment. All such comments and ratings are necessarily subjective (they cannot be anything else, when one thinks about it). I would urge you to look at the two together and, if anything, to privilege the comment over the rating. My aim is more to describe the wine in the context of the vintage, the appellation and recent vintages of the same and similar wines, rather than to judge the wine per se.

The ratings, of course, reflect my subjective relative preferences between wines. Your palate is likely differ from mine. I hope that my comments give you at least enough information to be able to recalibrate my ratings and, in so doing, to align them more closely to your palate. To give an example: if the idea of the ‘new classicism’ leaves you cold, you may well wish to discount the (typically high) ratings I have given to wines described in such terms.

2021 is, of course, a highly heterogenous vintage – and, consequently, my ratings span a considerable range (from the very high to the very low). I see little interest, either for the consumer or the producer, in publishing very low scores. Consequently, I have decided not to publish scores for wines that I have rated below 90 (here the range 89-91). Where no rating is published, the wine would have scored 88-90 or below.

Finally, élevage is likely to be very important in determining the quality in bottle of these wines (rather more so than in recent vintages). I am no soothsayer and cannot predict how that will turn out. All en primeur ratings should be treated with caution and taken with a certain pinch of salt. That is never more true than it is in this vintage.

Detailed tasting notes

  • Angélus (St Emilion; 60% Cabernet Franc). An important vintage for Angélus for obvious reasons. The en primeur label still proudly proclaims ‘Premier Grand Cru Classé A’, but it remains to be seen whether that appears on the bottled wine. Angélus is very much playing to its strengths with an assemblage that has Cabernet Franc as the dominant varietal. An ultra-strict selection too (helping, in the process, to create an excellent Carillon). This is incredibly impressive, archetypally Angélus and, certainly at the time I tasted it, by far the best wine of the appellation. It remains very close to being the right-bank wine of the vintage 300+ wines later. When I first tasted it, I had no idea a wine so good could be made in this vintage. A revelation – aromatically and texturally. It takes a little while to reveal itself, but when it does it is profoundly expressive aromatically and completely defined by the Cabernet Franc (it reminds me of Angelus’ 100% Cabernet Franc Hommage à Elisabeth Bouchet). We have graphite, blueberries and blueberry compote, black cherries and damson, violets and the parfumier’s essence of violet, rosewater and, perhaps more surprisingly, both coconut and walnut shell, presumably from the ripe pip tannins (not easy to achieve in this vintage). There’s a glorious natural sweetness on both the nose and the attack (again, very rare in the vintage), the most refined of cashmere tannins – the voluptuous velour of Angélus at its best – and an impressively broad, rolling, rich – if tender – mid-palate. This does not have the depth or density of the 2018-2020 trio, nor quite the length; but it has an exquisite elegance and a wonderfully refined glossy texture and sheen. It is also brilliantly bright, fresh and energetic; and it is so clearly Angélus – it could be nothing else. The little plume of blueberry skin on the sapid finish is sublime. 94-96+.
  • Arômes de Pavie (St Emilion; 50% Merlot; 50% Cabernet Franc; 14.4% alcohol; pH 3.53; a final yield of 34.7 hl/ha; tasted at the Chateau). Spicy, with cinnamon, nutmet and a range of Asiatic pepper corns and baies. Lovely, dark berry and stone fruit – black cherry and black berry, with a touch of cassis and a nice walnut oil element too. The cedar arrived with aeration. This has impressive complexity, and plenty of mid-palate energy and sapidity. There’s a reassuring saline presence, the signature of the limestone terroir. Less compact than either Pavie Decess or Belleveu Mondotte and the fruit feels just a little more stretched. But that gives this a certain fluidity over the palate that brings additional interest. Very fine in the context of the vintage. 91-93+.
  • Ausone (St Emilion; 65% Cabernet Franc; 35% Merlot; tasted at the property). A staggeringly impressive and opulent wine that seems to have transcended the difficulties of the vintage. The nose is utterly sublime and provokes (in me at least) a very rare palpably physical reaction – goosepimples. We have a beautiful, cool, cedar and graphite richly cloaking and enrobing the intensely dark cherry and blackberry, mulberry and bramble fruit; there are sloes too and fresh rose petals and violets, even a hint of lavender. There’s white pepper and assorted exotic spices, a subtle ferrous mineral note and crushed rock. In the mouth, this is incredibly soft and yet so broad on the attack. Texturally, this is velvet rather than silk with the density, gravitas and opulence to match. Massive, like no other wine of the vintage, but also tender and gentle, with a slight austerity that comes from the cool vintage Cabernet Franc (here 65% of the final blend). The acidity and natural freshness of the vintage is beautifully disguised (the fruit again a shade lighter on the palate than the nose because of it – with raspberry and a little wild strawberry joining the darker berry and stone fruit). Amazingly layered, staggeringly complex and yet exuding balance and harmony. 96-98+.
  • Balestard La Tonnelle (St Emilion;82% Merlot; 11% Cabernet Franc; 7% Cabernet Sauvignon; 13.3% alcohol; a final yield of 32.6 hl/ha; tasted at the UGCB press tasting). Dark, glossily-textured and quite extracted. Sweetly spiced, too, with dark cherries and a little cassis on the bright, if decidedly sweet, nose – there’s quite a lot of vanilla and more than a suggestion of wood smoke too. On the palate, this is dense though actually quite open-textured. The crumbly limestone tannins nicely structure the fruit and, overall, this exceeds my expectations. Whilst the oak is a little prominent this speaks quite eloquently of its plateau terroir. 90-92.
  • Beau-Sejour Bécot (St Emilion; 87% Merlot; 13% Cabernet Franc; a final yield of 32 hl/ha; tasted at the property). The vineyard here is very well ventilated so there was little loss to mildew and no frost. Blueberry, blackberry and a little black cherry; a little (gently) roasted coffee bean and a fascinating touch of apricot skin and blood orange; a little fresh new season white almond too. This is naturally spicy and with lots of salinity, all coming from the terroir. There’s a lovely subtle violet florality too, that builds gradually at first. Lots of crushed peppercorns (white, green and red) and softly caressing cedar and graphite elements, with a little freshly grated cinnamon stick. The composure and harmony is miraculous. This was picked over a month and it shows – the fruit is perfectly à point, with all of its natural freshness maintained and locked in. There is impressive density and compactness here, when one thinks about it; but the fruit is so fluid, lithe and sinuous that one has the impression of something somehow lighter and more insubstantial than it is. As that perhaps already suggests, the texture in the mouth is fabulous and there is a lovely fresh mint and spearmint note on the fresh. Sublimely integrated; total wine! 94-96. 
  • Beauséjour Duffau-Lagarrosse (St Emilion; 63% Merlot; 27% Cabernet Franc; a fantastically well-situated vineyard of 6.8 hectares on the argilo-calcaire côtes and plateau neighbouring Angélus and Beauséjour Bécot; aging in oak barrels, 68% of which are new; from a sample very kindly dropped off by Joséphine Duffau-Lagarrosse). I was a bit worried that I wasn’t going to get to taste this; and deeply relieved to find that Josephine Duffau-Lagarrosse has hand-delivered a sample. A brilliant wine from a truly top terroir. Cassis, a little red cherry; mulberries and that wonderful cold vintage Cabernet Franc. This is beautifully precise, pure, lifted and focussed – almost crystalline (more 2019 than 2021). It has lovely quite crumbly limestone tannins, just a touch of oak influence at this stage (reinforcing the slight natural spiciness and white pepper notes of the terroir). The combination of cool cedar with the dark, almost herbal, leafy, purple Cabernet Franc fruit is exquisite. Elegant, gracious and beautifully sculpted by the grain of the chalky tannins, this is an object lesson in terroir and Cabernet Franc. 93-95.
  • Bélair-Monange (St Emilion; 99% Merlot; 1% Cabernet Franc; tasted at JP Moueix in Libourne and then again from a sample sent to Paris). Surely a wine of potential Premier Grand Cru Classé A quality in the context of the vintage. Beautifully refined and elegant on the nose. A lovely blend of cedar and graphite – both in moderation – and sandalwood, all wrapped around the plum skin, damson flesh, blueberry, raspberry and blackberry fruit. There’s a little hint of peony too when re-tasted two weeks later. Ultra-elegant, pure and focussed with a wonderfully silky mouthfeel, this is beautiful in a cool and refined way. Elegant, relaxed and composed – almost a St Emilion variant of VCC (though in this vintage the mid-palate is more dense and compact). The texture is incredible and highly complex, with sapidity from the start and a kind of saline-sapidity too that seems to come from the distinct iodine and ferrous minerality of the terroir. Viscous and limpid, this glides across the palate. Very talented viticulture and wine-making is evident here in both the respect for the ingredients and the immense work in the vineyard to produce that quality in the first place. A considerable achievement in this of all vintages. 95-97.
  • Bellefont Belcier (St Emilion; 70% Merlot; 25% Cabernet Franc; 5% Cabernet Sauvignon; 13.75% alcohol; a final yield of 34 hl/ha; pH 3.54; tasted at the property). It’s perhaps not surprising that this is so good in 2021 – as it comes from the southern-facing slopes of the Côte de Pavie next to Larcis-Ducasse and a stone’s throw from Pavie itself. This has great limpidity and impressive viscosity in the glass with a very aromatically expressive nose. It is complex, densely crammed and fully charged, with rich, plump, dark berry fruit – crushed berries of all shades and varieties, black cherries and dark stone fruit – damsons and sloes. And it’s all cloaked in layers of cedar and graphite. On the palate, this is all about the cool tranquillity of the vintage at its best. Luminous yet ample, with great clarity and precision and with a visceral feeling of tension – and the sense that there is still much to come. This finishes with a lovely reminder of the grape skins themselves. 92-94.
  • Bellevue (St Emilion; 100% Merlot; tasted at the Association des Grands Crus Classés de St Emilion’s tasting at Chateau Dassault). Black cherries, with a touch of wood and a little spice from the wood. Cinnamon and cracked Asiatic peppercorns. A gentle natural sweetness. This is creamy, rich, round and broad on the attack, but the expansive frame rather exposes the slight lack of concentration. The tannins are a little coarse on the finish, though nicely crumbly and there’s a bit of dip in the mid-palate. 89-91.
  • Bellevue Mondotte (St Emilion; from Perse Latitudes; 100% Merlot; a final yield of 25.6 hl/ha; 13.95% alcohol; pH 3.62; tasted at Chateau Pavie). Tasted just after Pavie Decesse, this is oakier and, as ever, with rather more cedar and graphite too. It’s just a little more accessible though at this stage still rather elemental – one has more of a sense of the ingredients than what they will ultimately turn out to become. Black cherry and black berry fruit with crushed violet and dark chocolate-coated violet, with a little roasted coffee bean. Very compact and dense at the core, impressively so. The tannins are soft and svelte at first, but they’re quite considerable and this is a wine built to go the distance. A bit of a bruiser and a vin de garde in a vintage where there are relatively few. 91-93.
  •  Berliquet (St Emilion; 61% Merlot; 39% Cabernet Franc; a final yield of 30hl/ha; pH3.41; 13.5% alcohol; tasted first at the UGCB press tasting and then again at Chateau Canon). A great success in the vintage and I wine I almost prefer to Canon itself. That it not to say that’s it’s a better wine, but I do think that it’s an even finer expression of its terroir in this vintage. On the nose, this is very lifted and vertical, with a deep, dark, concentrated damson, cherry, sloe and blackcurrant fruit. There’s lots of graphite too and a little whiff of acacia wood. It is naturally sweet on the attack and initially quite broad-shouldered. But that breadth is immediately reined in by the calcaire tannins which are incredibly suave and soft and yet very tightly and precisely structuring of the flow of the fruit across the palate. Rich and intense, long and accessible already but with a super precise long fresh tapering finish – the mouth former into the shape of whistle. Cool, refined and very expressive of its terroir. 92-94+.
  • Bien-aimée de Fleur de Lisse (St Emilion; 92% Merlot; 8% Cabernet Franc; the second wine of Fleur de Lisse; from 8.65 hectares on silt-limestone soils; around 10k bottle – just over a third of the total production). From Vignobles Jade – and hand delivered by the delightful Catherine Teycheney! Even more lightly extracted than La Loubière tasted immediately before. Somewhat less expressive, too, on the nose, at least at first. Red berry fruit – loganberries and cranberries, even pink gooseberries. This is fresh and bright with a very vertical, crunchy and quite tense and taut red berry fruit – again, cranberries and pink gooseberries, one could even imagine a little pink grapefruit accompanied by fresh wild herbs and gorse. Wild and untamed, very natural and again perhaps hinting a little towards greenness. But crisp, bright, sapid and extremely refreshing. For early drinking and could benefit from being served lightly chilled, like a Loire Cabernet Franc.
  • Calicem (St Emilion; 100% Merlot from 60 year-old vines planted in 1961 next to Angélus and Le Dome at Mazerat; Thomas Duclos is the consultant). Lovely. Smoky. Gamey. Rich. Bright, lithe and energetic, with pleasing nutty notes too from the ripe pips. Raspberry purée, with plum skins and a hint of damson. Very fine, very refined and very attractive. The tannins have been beautifully managed and this is another 100% Merlot wine that really shines in an ostensibly Cabernet vintage! 92-94.
  • Canon (St Emilion; 71% Merlot; 29% Cabernet Franc; a final yield of 40hl/ha; pH 3.37; 13.5% alcohol; tasted first at the UGCB tasting and then at the property). This has a supremely classy plateau St Emilion nose of gently crushed black cherries and damsons, a little less cassis than Berliquet perhaps, and a subtle if complex floral element – peonies and crushed rose petals. On the palate this is rich, round, rolling and at the same time bright, vibrant, energetic and charged with fresh crunchy fruit note. It is richly layered but not quite the mille feuilles of the 2019 – and here the layers intermingle rather more. There seems to be graphite everywhere – from the nose to the finish. This is succulent and electric, but certainly less opulent and sumptuous than the trio of 2018-20. We have black and white pixilation rather than the multi-coloured variant we find in the 2019. But this is very fine indeed. 94-96
  • Canon La Gaffelière (St Emilion; 45% Cabernet Franc, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon; 35% Merlot; a final yield of 30 hl/ha; tasted at Canon La Gaffelière with Stephan von Neipperg). With the yield a little reduced, the proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon rises a little. Creamy, with a searingly pure cassis and bramble fruit and plenty of plump blueberries too. Loads of graphite, white and green peppercorns and a touch of redcurrant leaf and there is even a little suggestion of Asiatic plums. The juicy fruit is gorgeously limpid and sinuous in the mouth creating a lovely tension with the strict and grainy tannins that seek to straighten it out. There’s a little spice and nuttiness from the oak, but just a suggestion. Above all this has a lovely fluidity and yet an impressive degree of concentration too that is almost deceptive. There’s great minerality here too – slate and flint and crushed rocks. Long and tapering, the salinity building as the fruit descends and the tannins line the cheeks. 93-95+.
  • Cap de Mourlin (St Emilion; 82% Merlot; 16% Cabernet Franc; 2% Cabernet Sauvignon; tasted at the UGCB press tasting). Soft, rich but delicate. The nose is distinctive and a little unusual but attractive – with a touch of fleur d’oranger alongside the dark stone and berry fruit. A bit blended and lacking some mid-palate delineation and density, but the crumbly calcaire tannins structure the finish rather nicely. This is long and quite refined. 90-92.
  • Cardinal Villemaurine (St Emilion; 75% Merlot; 25% Cabernet Franc; a final yield of 30 hl/ha; 14% alcohol; purchased in 2018 and from a vineyard of 4 ha, 2.80 ha of which are in current production on a combination of plateau limestone, clay-limestone and sand-clay terroirs; tasted in Paris from a sample sent by the property). Light and translucent at the core. A bright and lifted leafy cassis, raspberry and redcurrant fruit; nice purity; a gentle sweetness on the front of the palate, but this is just a little tart if never actually threatening to become aggressive on the finish and there is a little dip in the mid-palate. That said, there is good progress here and a nice delicate balance. Easy-drinking, accessible and with both an impressive purity and a bright zingy-ness to it.
  • Carillon d’Angélus (St Emilion; the second label of Chateau Angélus which comes from 18 hectares split over three similarly sized parcels on rather different terroirs – the first is next to Angélus itself, the second between Cheval Blanc and Figeac, and the third near Laroque on the limestone plateau; a final yield of just 16 hl/ha). A little more austere and sombre at first than No. 3, less floral too; herbal, too, where No. 3 is more mocha and dark chocolate. There’s more complexity too – red fruit alongside the same dark berry fruit (here, brambles as well as blueberries). With air, a lovely graphite-cedar element starts to build in the glass, reminding you very much of the grand vin itself. And the more Cabernet component become more present with aeration – the flowers start to bloom and the fruit darkens. On the palate this is pure, precise, quite linear but with a lovely clarity and translucence. It’s nicely structured, with ultra-soft tannins; the acidity is very present but never distracting and, of course, that gives great sapidity and freshness. It’s not massively dense, but very well balanced, the wood almost perfectly integrated already. A fine, early-drinking ringer for the grand vin (until you taste it!), with a lovely saline finish. 91-93. 
  • Chapelle d’Ausone (St Emilion; 75% Cabernet Franc; 25% Merlot; tasted at the property). If Ausone is the wine of the appellation then, for me at least, Chapelle d’Ausone gets the honours for the second wine in this vintage. There is, presumably, very little of it; but it’s spectacular and a step up in quality even from the already impressive La Clotte. And, as in the first wine, it is the Cabernet Franc that steels the show. Cooler and more sombre than La Clotte, this is even deeper and darker with an incredibly soft, pulpy berry and stone fruit – black cherries and blueberries – all enrobed in cedar. This exudes class but with absolutely no flashiness. It is, though, quite sumptuous and opulent for the vintage, with impressive density, and fine grippy tannins that build towards the fresh and glacially tapering finish. 92-94.
  • Le Châtelet (St Emilion; 80% Merlot; 20% Cabernet Franc; tasted at the Association des Grands Crus Classés de St Emilion’s tasting at Chateau Dassault). Silky, glossy, dark concentrated red and black cherry fruit – with their skins too. This has a nice natural gentle sweetness to it and is pure and fresh, with nice lift. But it fades and dips a little through the mid-palate and it finishes with just a touch of dryness. It’s one of those wines where, although you crave a little more substance, you that would only have exposed more the difficulties of the vintage. 
  • Chauvin (St Emilion; 75% Merlot; 25% Cabernet Franc; from a vineyard of 15 hectares between Cheval Blanc and la Butte de Roi on the Pomerol border and on a terroir of sandy-clay over crasse de fer; tasted at the Association des Grands Crus Classés de St Emilion’s tasting at Chateau Dassault). Pure, lifted and quite organic in feel. Cassis and redcurrant with a nice leafiness (here in the most positive sense). Herbal, bright and nicely composed with fine-grained reassuringly crumbly, chalky tannins. The acidity is well-managed. Unpretentious, relatively simple and likely to prove excellent value. 89-91.

  • Cheval Blanc (St Emilion; 43% Merlot; 52% Cabernet Franc; 5% Cabernet Sauvignon; a final yield of 28 hl/ha; tasted with Pierre-Olivier Clouet at the property). This is now very close to the historical blend of the grand vin – the culmination of a decade-long project. It’s exciting to taste again a Cheval Blanc with over 50% Cabernet Franc (the last vintage where this was so was the excellent 2011). And it is, of course, the cool summer Cabernet Franc that dominates the aromatics. There’s a lovely walnut nuttiness alongside the Cheval cedar and graphite. The fruit is a shade lighter than in the 2019 or 2020 (as I recall), with blueberries, raspberries, mulberries and even a hint of redcurrant. Vibrant, bright, very dynamic and almost explosive in the mid-palate – with a lift, energy and dynamism that can only come from the natural vibrancy of the vineyard and the way it is managed. This has none of the hollowness of some and the mid-palate is fantastically detailed. The texture is gorgeous, too. It is deep, round, ample, and with plenty of width on the attack, but the salinity, the acidity and the tannins work together to provide the structural architecture that is very evident here. This has a precise, pure core and the fruit is strapped ever more tightly to the spine as its intensity builds across the palate. And as a crescendo, the refreshing juiciness seems to form the mouth into a gentle whistle on the seemingly endless finish. 96-98.
  • Clos Cantenac (St Emilion; 95% Merlot; 5% Cabernet Franc; tasted at Chateau Séraphine in Pomerol). A little more serious, less burly and less ferrous in its minerality than Petit Cantenac. This has a lovely almost luminous texture and feels altogether more subtle and more harmonious. It is lithe and fluid, with fine-grained tannins and a nice grip towards the end that helps build the elegant, sapid finish. 90-92.
  • Clos Dubreuil (St Emilion; from a vineyard of 6.6 hectares on the plateau on a limestone terroir at St Christophe des Bardes; 80% Merlot; 20% Cabernet Franc; aged in oak barrels, 50% of which are new; 13.5% alcohol; tasted from a sample sent to Paris). There’s actually less Cabernet Franc in this than the 2018. Very open and expressive on the nose and one of the sweeter scented samples. Damson skin, baked plum, the smoky Parisien tabac of the black and white film, sweet spice, cloves, vanilla pod, and a stony and slightly ferrous minerality too. Naturally sweet, plump and plush on the attack, with impressively broad-shoulders, good concentration for the vintage and nice fine-grained chalky tannins that are a dead giveaway for its location on the plateau. Not quite at the level of the last three vintages (the tannins just hint at a little dryness that foreshortens the finish), but very good nonetheless. 90-92+.
  • Clos Fourtet (St Emilion; 90% Merlot; 7% Cabernet Sauvignon; 3% Cabernet Franc; 13.5% alcohol; a final yield of 40 hl/ha; tasted at the UGCB press tasting and later at Clos Fourtet). A fascinating wine in 2021 that remains very true to its personality and style but that risks coming across as a little light and insubstantial in the vintage. I don’t mind that and I quite like its subtlety. The nose, more expressive at the property than in Bordeaux, is at first very floral, with dried lavender and irises, then one picks up the cedar and graphite that beautifully surrounds the soft dark berry fruit. But it is the palate that is perhaps a little more problematic. For the very open-texture makes this seem just a little slender, even hollow, and there is no compensating gain in detail, delineation or precision it seems. This may well build in volume during élevage – and it would benefit from so doing. At present it seems to be lacking something elemental. I look forward to retasting this. 92-94 (just).
  • Clos La Gaffelière. (St Emilion; 85% Merlot; 15% Cabernet Franc; 13.3% alcohol; tasted at the property). This is a second label and not a second wine and it is vinified entirely separately (some of the parcels are classified; others are not; and all are on the lower slopes below the plateau).This is limpid and lithe, pure and sinuous, with a pleasingly dark briary berry fruit which fills out the comparatively light structure very well (it’s much better that way around!). There is subtle and intelligent use of the oak too, with a little hint of spice bringing added interest. 89-91.
  • Clos des Jacobins (St Emilion; 80% Merlot; 18% Cabernet Franc; 2% Cabernet Sauvignon; 13.5% alcohol; a final yield of 32 hl/ha; from a 10.7-hectare vineyard encompassing the limestone plateau, sandy-clay over limestone, sandy-clay and clay and limestone; the second vintage certified organic). This is impressive, with a little hint of cedar and graphite, walnut shell and a deep, quite rich berry and stone fruit – raspberries, mulberries and brambles. Super-svelte tannins and, like La Commanderie, the oak is nicely absorbed already. The core is impressively dense and compact and there is nice potential here. Pure, precise and very well made. 90-92.
  • Clos de L’Oratoire (St Emilion; 80% Merlot; 20% Cabernet Franc; a final yield of 36 hl/ha; tasted at Canon La Gaffelière with Stephan von Neipperg). This is very good indeed, as it has become accustomed to being. There’s a lovely chalkiness here evident already on the nose. Very pure and lifted, finely structured, with a lovely saline minerality and the acidity hardly noticeable because it’s so well integrated. The Cabernet Franc is excellent; its proportion in the blend rises each year as the younger vines enter into the grand vin. Pure blueberry and black cherry fruit. A lovely chewy mouthful, if not as chewy and chalky as d’Aiguilhe (on its more pure calaire terroir). This is already accessible, tender and easy, but it is also impressively rich and full – and it will age gracefully. There’s a pleasing chalky granularity to the tannins on the finish. Excellent value. 91-93.
  • Clos de Sarpe (St Emilion; 85% Merlot; 15% Cabernet Franc; a final yield of 20 hl/ha; tasted at the Association des Grands Crus Classés de St Emilion’s tasting at Chateau Dassault). Plump and plush, with an intense black cherry and black forest fruit, slightly oxidative and quite oaky. This is not yet terribly well-integrated. It’s also atypically sweet on the palate for the vintage. Big, bold and burly, but I find the fruit a little blitzed and blended. This lacks shape and delineation on the mid-palate. Though the tannins are fine-grained, I find them a little dry on the finish. This seemed to have been pushed too far in a vintage where that doesn’t really work. I much preferred the 2018, which flatters the style a little more. 89-91.
  • Clos St Martin (St Emilion; 80% Merlot; 15% Cabernet Franc; 5% Cabernet Sauvignon; 14% alcohol; a final yield of 30 hl/ha; tasted at the Association des Grands Crus Classés de St Emilion’s tasting at Chateau Dassault). Always a bit of a weathervane wine for me – when it’s good, the vintage is good. And although I’ve certainly tasted better recent vintages of Clos St Martin, this is, indeed, very good! Lovely pure black cherry fruit. Cedar and graphite; maybe just a little too much oak influence but that will knit in well in time. Glorious, rich, soft and quite voluptuous. Cool, tense, plush and plump yet with definition and delineation, structure and concentration too. A strong result, if perhaps not the complexity of some recent vintages. 92-94.
  • La Clotte (St Emilion; 85% Merlot; 15% Cabernet Franc; tasted at Chateau Ausone). A fabulous wine, as it so often is – and it needs to be as it’s the wine you taste just before Chapelle d’Ausone and Ausone. There’s a lot less Cabernet Franc here; but it still brings an awful lot to the party. This has a lovely crystalline purity and depth to it, with a sumptuous plump, dark purple/black fruit and a good dollop of cedar and graphite for good measure. There’s a nice compactness too, though like all the Vauthier wines it’s quite broad on the attack. It’s elegantly structured and the generous ripe sweet fruit flows and rolls through mid-palate – a long and winding road. Tender and beautifully juicy, this is a gracious grand terroir wine. A lesson in texture. 92-94.
  • La Commanderie (St Emilion; 75% Merlot; 25% Cabernet franc; 13.5% alcohol; a final yield of just 15 hl/ha; from a vineyard of 4 hectares of south-facing vines on the St Emilion plateau on a gravel, iron-rich sand and clay terroir; malolactic fermentation split 50:50 between wood and concrete vats; aging in oak for 16 months, 50% of which is new; tasted at the Association des Grands Crus Classés de St Emilion’s tasting at Chateau Dassault)). Immediately quite sweet and oaky on the nose, but with a lovely dark berry and stone fruit profile – damson and blackberry purée – and a hint of cedar. This is bright, crunchy and quite energetic on the palate and the oak (though discernible) is already nicely integrated; I like the flaky, crumbly tannins and the acidity is well-managed here. 89-91.
  • La Couspaude (St Emilion; 75% Merlot; 20% Cabernet Franc; 5% Cabernet Sauvignon; tasted at the Association des Grands Crus Classés de St Emilion’s tasting at Chateau Dassault). Rich, round and voluptuous in style with plum, baked plum and some cassis notes, black and red cherry too. A little confected perhaps but there’s some complexity here – and this is also pure and precise with a nice sense of focus. A little short in comparison to the stars and lacking in density, but that’s just because the extraction hasn’t been pushed. An accessible and elegant wine. 89-91.
  • Côte de Baleau (St Emilion; a final yield of 20 hl/ha; tasted at the Association des Grands Crus Classés de St Emilion’s tasting at Chateau Dassault and at Clos Fourtet). Bright if simple on the nose with plum flesh and skin, a sweet spiciness and a little ferrous mineral note. The oak is a bit obvious and this is just a little light and insubstantial, the fruit a little stretched. Elegant and tender in style, if somewhat slight and slender.
  • Couvent des Jacobins (St Emilion; 70% Merlot; 23%Cabernet Franc; 7% Petit Verdot; 13.5% alcohol; tasted at the Association des Grands Crus Classés de St Emilion’s tasting at Chateau Dassault and at the property with Xavier Jean; Thomas Duclos is the consultant). I’ve been following the impressive recent progress here now for a number of vintages. It continues in 2021. Raspberry purée and fresh raspberries, newly hulled. There’s a nice purity and precision to this and it has an intriguing, quite complex, saline and ferrous, earthy and crushed rock minerality. The fruit is quite plump and juicy and the Petit Verdot brings cracked black and green peppercorns; there’s a little spice from the oak which is nicely incorporated. Overall, this has a fine balance to it, some energy and plenty of lift. The tannins are also very finely textured and, even when it was less well made, this is a wine that has always aged gracefully. 91-93.
  • Croix de Labrie (St Emilion; 90% Cabernet Franc; 5% Cabernet Sauvignon; 5% Cabernet Franc – for the first time; 13.98% alcohol; pH 3.60; tasted at the Chateau with Pierre and Axelle Courdurié). A visually exciting combination of colour and viscosity – dark purple/black at the core with a punk pink rim. This has a fabulously intense cassis and (as ever) black cherry fruit, with fresh plump blueberries too. Aromatically expressive and full of vertical energy and lift, with the presence of chalk somehow already present on the nose. Great minerality too – crushed rock, rock salt and a trace of iron ore. A big canvas wine, glorious texturally and with an opulent structure carved out of the softest and most fine-grained of chalky tannins. Yet what is most striking here is the great purity and the vivid natural brilliance and energy of the fruit itself. This is explosive in the mid-palate, where so many other wines of the vintage are flat and monotone. Here we have a veritable firework display – exploding plumes of pure and pixilated sapid fresh fruit. A great achievement and a great advert for its biodynamic viticulture. A wine to celebrate and one of the most vivid expressions of the vintage. 95-97.
  • Dassault (St Emilion; 60% Merlot; 30% Cabernet Franc; 10% Cabernet Sauvignon; 13.3% alcohol; tasted at the Association des Grands Crus Classés de St Emilion’s tasting at Chateau Dassault). Pure, dark fruited and with lots of cedar. The bramble, blackberry and raspberry fruit is fresh, pure and precision and the fine-grained tannins grip well to give this a (rare) fantail on the finish. Very good with the acidity nicely integrated and distributed over the palate and a long if somewhat slender and etiolated finish. 89-91+.
  • De Candale (St Emilion; 75% Merlot; 25% Cabernet Franc; a final yield of 20 hl/ha; 13.5% alcohol; the consultant is Stephane Derenoncourt; aged in oak, 30% new, for 12 months; tasted from a sample sent to Paris). A wine very much defined by the vintage for good and ill. This has a lovely nose that expresses its fabulous Cabernet Franc fruit so well – with black cherries, a touch of cassis, freshly turned soil, a little black pepper and a subtle hint of graphite (not unlike the 2020 in fact). On the palate, this is soft and gentle and even slightly sweet on the attack, but the moment the fine-grained tannins start to grip the acidity starts to rise and the volume in the mouths starts to taper rapidly. It’s not exactly hollow in the mid-palate, but the already quite slender frame is certainly not richly covered in fruit. The finish is a little abrupt, but I still rather like this. It’s very expressive aromatically and has a subtle and beguiling charm. 89-91 (just).
  • Destieux (St Emilion; 66% Merlot; 17% Cabernet Franc; 17% Cabernet Sauvignon; a final yield of 35 hl/ha; tasted at the Association des Grands Crus Classés de St Emilion’s tasting at Chateau Dassault). Very reductive on the nose at first and this seems artificially sweet; the oak is not as yet well-integrated and I’m not sure it ever will be. Slight and a little hollow in the mid-palate though, more positively, this has quite a long and gently tapering finish. But it remains oddly sweet and, to me at least, lacks balance.
  • Le Dôme (St Emilion; 80% Cabernet Franc; 20% Merlot; 13.4% alcohol; pH 3.71; tasted in the wonderful new Norman Foster-designed wine-making facility at Le Dôme). Rather reticent and closed at this early stage and seemingly slightly austere. But, slowly the characteristic cedar and graphite notes build in the glass with gentle coaxing. I love the initially discrete, subtle and disguised florality – violets and peonies and even a hint of camomile (but at this stage more of a suggestion than a forceful presence). On the palate this is much more bold and full. Indeed, it’s quite a mouthful, with rich and chewy, deep dark plump blueberries and black cherries. This is long, lithe, and tense with a lovely fresh bright crunchy fruit presence on the very long chewy grape-skin finish. The late picking dates here were crucial and, with all that Cabernet Franc, this was always going to shine in this vintage. It does. 92-94+.
  • La Dominique (St Emilion; 85% Merlot; 13% Cabernet Franc; 2% Cabernet Sauvignon; 13.5% alcohol; a final yield of 38 hl/ha; tasted at the UGCB press tasting). A little oxidative on the nose at first and quite ferrous too, with baked and fresh plums, red cherries, a hint of sesame seed, almonds and frangipane. On the palate, we lose the sweetness; indeed, this is very fresh, almost tart (though never actually green). The tannins are fine-grained, but the harsh acidity destabilises the flow of the wine over the palate. Yes, it’s tense, I suppose, but it seems to lack harmony. This does not have the density or compactness of recent vintages either and the finish is a little slender. Mildly disappointing after the success of recent vintages, though others seem to like this more. I will make a mental note to re-taste as soon as I can. 89-91.
  • Dragon de Quintus (St Emilion; 83% Merlot; 14% Cabernet Franc; 3% Malbec; 13.2% alcohol; this comes from the parcels at the bottom of the slope; aging in oak barrels, 30% of which are new). Quite an attractive ripe and sweet nose of red cherry and darker berry fruits, almond and frangipane, red liquorice and a slight floral element that I struggle to pin down precisely, though there’s a little lavender too. Sweet, too, on the attack, but the acidity builds and the sweetness subsides quite rapidly, accentuating further the slight sensation of tartness on the finish. Very lightly constructed and elegant in a way, but also somewhat insubstantial.
  • L’Etampe (St Emilion; a vineyard of 1.5 hectares between Figeac and Montlabert and with vines between 40 and 50 years of ages; 54% Merlot; 46% Cabernet Franc; aging in oak barrels of one previous use; just 3600 bottles; biodynamic wine-making since 2017; from the excellent Vignobles Jade). Very little of this wine was produced this year, around a third less than in 2020. There’s more Cabernet Franc in the final blend as a consequence and that is immediately noticeable, with this lovely, distinct and very intense Provençale lavender scent, alongside the wild thyme, blueberries, cassis and mulberries; there’s a touch of sandalwood too, especially with a little more air. The tannins are incredibly soft and caressing and there’s a gentle natural sweetness too. The acidity is also better integrated (than, say, in Fontfleurie), but this still has the same laser-liker precision. Very impressive, if somewhat cool and austere, with a fabulously long, tight and tense, bright and lifted finish. 91-93.
  • Faugères (St Emilion; 75% Merlot; 20% Cabernet Franc; 5% Cabernet Sauvignon; a final yield of 25 hl/ha; tasted at the Association des Grands Crus Classés de St Emilion’s tasting at Chateau Dassault). This I find very reductive on the nose. It is also tart and unbalanced. It seems to have been pushed too far in terms of extraction. It’s compact and dense but lacks refinement.
  • Faurie de Souchard (St Emilion; 62% Merlot; 33% Cabernet Franc; 5% Cabernet Sauvignon; 13% alcohol; pH 3.6; tasted at the Association des Grands Crus Classés de St Emilion’s tasting at Chateau Dassault). A bright and pure black and red cherry fruit with a little touch of cassis too bring additional freshness; pleasing graphite notes too. Quite a racy and direct acidity, but it’s well distributed and well incorporated. No great sense of delineation in the mid-palate and the structure is a bit monolithic. This loses some of its shape towards the rather un-gathered and unfocussed finish. 89-91.
  • De Ferrand (St Emilion; 64% Merlot; 35% Cabernet Franc; 1% Cabernet Sauvignon; tasted at the Association des Grands Crus Classés de St Emilion’s tasting at Chateau Dassault). Fresh and bright, with lots of vertical lift and lots of calcaire personality (one can sense immediately the type of terroir this hails from). Lovely svelte tannins and a crystalline clarity in the mid-palate that gives this a rather sinuous sense of viscosity, that is further accentuated by the salinity. There is more textural interest in the mid-palate than most, but acidity (already high on a calcaire terroir such as this) is just a little destabilising of the balance towards the finish. That said, I like this a lot and find the mid palate especially well constructed. I’ll give this the slight benefit of the doubt for now – much will depend here on the élevage. 91-93.

  • Figeac (St Emilion; 40% Cabernet Sauvignon; 31% Cabernet Franc; 29% Merlot; pH 3.65; 13% alcohol; tasted at the property). Incredible complexity. Violets. Lavender. Black cherry, brambles, and mulberries. Raspberry compote. A little wild gamey-ness. Cracked black peppercorns. Walnut shell and walnut oil. A lovely wild floral element – hedgerow spring flowers. Graphite and pencil shavings. And a distinct saline note – almost smoky bacon crisps! On the palate this is sinuous, bright and dynamic with a lovely forward momentum. The tannins are incredibly soft, the mid-palate impressively tight and compact, with lots of detail and layering, reinforcing the impression of great complexity from the nose. There is (perhaps unsurprisingly given its composition) something almost Médocain about it; we could almost be in some of the more hallowed parts of Pauillac! Class and quality. 95-97.
  • Fleur Cardinale (St Emilion; 70% Merlot; 20% Cabernet Franc; 10% Cabernet Sauvignon; a final yield of 22 hl/ha; 13.5% alcohol; tasted first from a sample sent to Paris and then at the Association des Grands Crus Classés de St Emilion’s tasting at Chateau Dassault with convergent notes). Blackberry and red cherry; grated cinnamon bark; liquorice root and grated black chocolate – just a sprinkle. Lithe and limpid and quite open-textured but this also displays good density and compactness. Linear, precise, focussed and with no evident wood, other than the trace of gentle sweet spices – all nicely incorporated. This is finely detailed, bright, energetic and luminous. Very much a success, with a lovely sense of balance; it has not been pushed too far. 91-93+.
  • Fleur de Lisse (St Emilion; from a vineyard of 8.65 hectares with vines aged between 40 and 50 years on the foot of the limestone slopes of Saint-Etienne de Lisse; 60% Merlot; 40% Cabernet Franc; biodynamic wine-making since 2017; aging in oak foudres, barriques and in amphora; Jean-Claude & Jean-François Berrouet are the consultants here; from the excellent Vignobles Jade). Another wine from Vignobles Jade with a lot more Cabernet Franc in the final blend than in 2020. Austere and a little firm and reclusive on the nose at first – with sandalwood, saffron and wild hedgerow flowers accompanying the fresh brambles, mulberries and blueberries – loganberries too, especially as this inhales and finally starts to exhale. A wonderfully tense and taut attack that I really love texturally, with both incredibly soft and fine-grained limestone tannins (with just a little crumble to them) and also a vivid sense of bright acidity that is seamlessly integrated into the structure and texture of the wine from the moment it touches the palate. Vibrant and energetic. Yet very delicate and elegant too and with decent substance and concentration. The balance is exquisite. Glorious florality and minerality on the finish. 91-93+.
  • La Fleur Morange (St Emilion; 50% Merlot; 50% Cabernet Franc; a final vineyard yield of 20 hl/ha before selection from the 100-year old vines here; 13.5% alcohol; tasted at the Association des Grands Crus Classés de St Emilion’s tasting at Chateau Dassault). Only half of the already tiny 20 hl/ha picked was used in the grand vin, so just 3500 bottles produced. An interesting, almost Italian, mix of black and sour cherries. This I find just a little tart and the tannins, though soft at first, are a touch dry by the finish. Somewhat one-dimensional and the fruit seems almost a little baked. Clearly not the easiest vintage to produce here. 89-91.
  • Fonplégade (St Emilion; 90% Merlot; 10% Cabernet Franc; organic and in conversion to biodynamic viticulture since 2017; tasted at the Association des Grands Crus Classés de St Emilion’s tasting at Chateau Dassault). A spectacular wine in the context of the vintage and something of a revelation for me – I have been impressed by this before, but it seems to attained another level in this vintage. Aromatically expressive, intense and engaging on the nose, with a vibrant, wild, fresh berry fruit and a very lifted and vertical presentation. There’s a little twist of the pencil-sharpener that emerges with aeration and notes of wild thyme too, but this is really all about the pure fruit. Bright, energetic and lithe on the palate too, with the dynamism that so often comes with biodynamic viticulture (I tasted that first before recalling that this property was in biodynamic conversion). Lots of detail and definition. A great success. 92-94.
  • Fonroque (St Emilion; 69% Merlot; 31% Cabernet Franc; a final yield of 27 hl/ha; tasted at the Association des Grands Crus Classés de St Emilion’s tasting at Chateau Dassault). Floral – with violets and chocolate-coated violet; cassis and brambles, damsons and sloes, plump black cherries too; and graphite, with more cedary notes on the palate. On the palate this is tense and tender. One of the relatively few wines of the appellation to have lots of interest and layering in the mid-palate, with the crystalline crunchy berry fruit the star attraction. Not massive but all in harmony; eloquent and precise with a lovely sense of drive and focus. 92-94.
  • Fontfleurie (St Emilion; a vineyard of 17 hectares in Saint-Hippolyte, with a smaller parcel between Ausone and Pavie-Macquin; 69% Merlot; 31% Cabernet Franc; 28% aged in amphora; organic and biodynamic; Jean-Claude & Jean-François Berrouet are the consultants). Light extraction, with an almost radiant lilac-pink rim. Very floral and herbal on the nose, just like the 2020, with bright and fresh plump raspberry flesh and just a little suggestion of cinnamon spice. Lovely svelte tannins on the entry, with the same crunchy raspberry fruit now joined by darker berries and the same wild herbal notes from the nose – a touch of lavender too. Considerable acidity that weaves itself into the core of this wine and structures it, just as much as the tannins, across the palate. Pure, precise and focussed, but with a marked acidity that some might struggle with. 89-91.
  • Franc Mayne (St Emilion; 100% Merlot – as the Cabernet Franc is being replanted; a final yield of 22 hl/ha; 13.5% alcohol; tasted at the Association des Grands Crus Classés de St Emilion’s tasting at Chateau Dassault). Another slightly oxidative St Emilion, with lots of ferrous minerality, a hint of smoke and a wild and pleasantly ‘sauvage’ herbal element – a little like its near-neighbour Coutet. The pronounced acidity is here put to good use as it becomes almost part of the structure of the wine. But there is no escaping it, even if it’s well-integrated. This is never quite tart, but it gets close to that. The structure is good, though this has no great mid-palate density and the fruit feels slightly stretched. Pure and natural but destabilised by the acidity. Not an easy vintage here. 89-91.
  • La Gaffelière (St Emilion; 42% Cabernet Franc; 58% Merlot; tasted at the property). A truly fabulous wine and a continuation of the impressive upward trajectory of recent vintages. Interestingly, they finished the harvest here with some of the Merlot. Seductive and with a beautiful sensation of harmony and total integration on the nose. Lots of cedar; lots of graphite; nice walnut notes too. There’s also a telling subtle natural sweetness to the fruit. In the mouth, there’s a lovely grip from the tannins that massages the finely balanced sapidity into the fruit. The salinity from the terroir and the acidity from the vintage work together with the tannins in framing the structure of the wine, which builds graciously in the mouth. Subtle, delicate and very long and racy, with rolling fruit and bright energy from the fresh juiciness. Exquisite and very good in the context of the vintage. This is now providing serious competition to some very famous names. One to watch. 93-95+.
  • Grace Dieu des Prieurs (St Emilion; 80% Merlot; 20% Cabernet Franc; vinified and aged in new Radoux Blend barrels; tasted directly from barrel at the chateau). Another success in the context of the vintage, though one fears that the Arte Russe project is destined to become a further casualty of our geo-political age. All of the press wine was used, giving this enough mid-palate depth and concentration to bear the oak. Cinnamon, pain d’epices, cinnamon toast, cloves and fennel seeds accompany the dark berry, cherry and stone fruit. There is a touch sweet spice too – clove, nutmeg and mace. The wood is a little more marked than in previous vintages, but is very much at the heart of the identity of this wine (one doesn’t use Radoux Blend barrels if one is not seeking discernible oak influence). The assemblage is the same as the 2019 and the final yield is roughly equivalent too (with the frost protection working well and great responsiveness in the vineyard reducing mildew losses with, in fact, little need for treatment). Limpid, with impressive tension and a nice structural frame carved and crafted from ultra fine-grained tannins, this has some pixilation in the mid-palate (if a little less detail than the last two vintages – more monochrome than multichrome perhaps). There is, though, a lovely plume on the finish and this lingers long on the top of the palate. 92-94.
  • Grand Corbin Despagne (St Emilion; 75% Merlot; 24% Cabernet Franc; 1% Cabernet Sauvginon; a final yield of just 19 hl/ha (around half the normal); 13.4% alcohol; pH 3.58; tasted at the Association des Grands Crus Classés de St Emilion’s tasting at Chateau Dassault). Rich dark berry and cherry fruit; hibiscus flowers, with a hint of saffron too; and walnut shell and oil. Quite intense and aromatically very expressive. Good ripe fruit, but charged with energy and freshness too. Nice pinch from the crumbly tannins which structure this into two waves, the second very sapid and juicy and refreshing. Not as great as the 2016 or 2019, but a lovely wine nonetheless and very much in the style of recent vintages. Lots of tension, finesse and yet quite an impressive sense of structure and concentration too. Likely, as ever, to prove excellent value. 92-94.
  • Grand Corbin (St Emilion; 80% Merlot; 16% Cabernet Franc; 4% Cabernet Sauvignon; tasted at the Association des Grands Crus Classés de St Emilion’s tasting at Chateau Dassault). A little closed at first, but with a pleasant, tender red and darker berry fruit nose. Pure and precise but not a great deal of complexity. Never hollow nor dilute but the fruit is just a little stretched and doesn’t quite cover the bones. But there’s an easy-drinking accessibility to this and plenty of fresh and bright crunchy fruit. 89-91.
  • Grand Mayne (St Emilion; 75% Merlot; 25% Cabernet Franc; 13.7% alcohol; a final yield of 33hl/ha; tasted at the UGCB’s press tasting). Dark cherry and berry fruit. Quite exotic, with a generous sprinkle of Asiatic spices. Lovely walnut and graphite notes too. Rich, bold, pulpy and plump. A good wine, certainly in the context of the vintage, with nice grippy tannins, but there is some lack of mid-palate density – one sense the size of the grapes. A little dilute and a little short. 90-92.
  • Les Grandes Murailles (St Emilion; 100% Merlot; 13.5% alcohol; a final yield of 38 hl/ha; tasted at Clos Fourtet and at the Association des Grands Crus Classés de St Emilion’s tasting at Chateau Dassault). From a tiny vineyard next to Clos Fourtet on the limestone plateau at the gates of St Emilion. Plum and red berry fruit. This is open-textured, soft and clearly the product of a judiciously gentle extraction. There’s a pleasing sense of calcaire lift which the acidity reinforces. Limpid, lithe and sapid with an impressively intense dark berry. Pure, precise, delicate and quite gentle. A success, though a little slender and short in comparison to recent vintages. 90-92.
  • Haut Brisson (St Emilion; 90% Merlot; 10% Cabernet Franc; 13.5% alcohol; pH 3.7; a final yield of just 12.5 hl/ha, with significant losses from frost; tasted at Bellefont-Belcier). The scent of lavender and violet infuses and enrobes the dark berry and stone fruit; this is quite spicy too, with Asian aromatic spices and green Szechuan peppercorns. Lovely density, breadth and depth and impressive volume in the mouth too; this is quite big-boned, yet refined and elegant with a pleasing sense of fluidity and freshness combined. Almost a little Darwinian – the quality achieved by the brutal natural selection in the vineyard (frost and then mildew). The only hint of the suffering is the very slight hint of dryness on the finish. 90-92.
  • Haut Sarpe (St Emilion; 70% Merlot; 30% Cabernet Franc; tasted at the Association des Grands Crus Classés de St Emilion’s tasting at Chateau Dassault). Big and bold. Quite a pronounced saline minerality and sapid and juicy. Fresh, bright, a little tart and somewhat shapeless – with little lacking a sense of structural evolution over the palate. This is quite viscous in the mouth, but strangely open-textured too. The finish I find just a little tart and astringent.

  • L’If (St Emilion; 79% Merlot; 21% Cabernet Franc; from a series of well-placed parcels summing to 8 hectares; pH 3.61; 13.5% alcohol; tasted at Le Pin). Lovely dense black and red cherry fruit; ultra-pure and very precise. Cool and classic, the aromatic cool-summer Cabernet Franc playing a key role here, bringing with it a herbal element and darkening a little the profile of the fruit, especially on the palate. This is quite serious and would be almost austere were it not for the vibrant, vital, bright crunchy fruit. Cashmere tannins, a hint of dark chocolate on the attack and a wonderfully intense dark briary bramble fruit, with a little cassis, and those lovely wild herbal notes again. Aeration in the mouth accentuates and recharges the presence of the cassis, releasing delightful little rivulets of freshness and tannin in the process. Crystalline, rich and flowing with a lovely natural sweetness on the finish and with very ripe tannins. 95-97.
  • Jean Faure (St Emilion; 60% Cabernet Franc; 33% Merlot; 7% Malbec; tasted at the Association des Grands Crus Classés de St Emilion’s tasting at Chateau Dassault). This is somewhat unusual – the nose both oddly sweet (in the context of the vintage) and yet also quite tart. On the palate we have almost the impression of an Asiatic cuisine – something sweet, something sour, something salty, something bitter and something umami. There is nice precise cassis fruit, however, and black cherry notes appear with more oxidation and the flavours start to blend and integrate. This needs time and is difficult to assess for now. 89-91?
  • Laforge (St Emilion; 92% Merlot; 8% Cabernet Franc; 13.3% alcohol; pH 3.59; tasted with Jonathan Maltus at Le Dôme). In effect this comes from the best plots of Chateau Teyssier. Appropriately, given its name, this is quite ferrous in personality and in the character of its minerality. As with Teyssier itself, we have a lovely ripe cherry fruit. This is full, rich and glossily textured, with nice grippy-grainy tannins that are slightly crumbly and that gather just a little towards the finish. Nice notes of pain d’épice and a very pleasing subtle florality too. The tannins, though, are a little chunky. 90-92.
  • Laniote (St Emilion; 73% Merlot; 18% Cabernet Franc; 9% Cabernet Sauvignon; tasted at the Association des Grands Crus Classés de St Emilion’s tasting at Chateau Dassault). It may be the sample, but I really didn’t get on with this at all. Jammy; confected; the fruit seems blitzed and blended. Better, I think, to reserve judgement.
  • Larcis Ducasse (St Emilion; 86% Merlot; 14% Cabernet Franc; a final yield of 34 hl/ha; 14.5% alcohol; tasted at the UGCB press tasting in Bordeaux). Saline and calcareous, wild and racy, bright and energetic, lithe and dynamic. A fabulous and fascinating wine. Here the somewhat elevated acidity really works, bringing added vibrancy and vitality to the densely packed, broad and impressively concentrated mid-palate. The limestone tannins, as ever here, chisel and carve a path through the compact fruit, giving this a very architectural feel and, as ever with Larcis Ducasse, one has the impression that one is only really sensing the structure at this very early stage. The tannin management is excellent (as it needs to be with a wine like this); this is one of the few genuine vins de garde of the vintage. 93-95.
  • Larmande (St Emilion; 91% Merlot; 7% Cabernet Franc; 2% Cabernet Sauvignon; 13% alcohol; tasted at the Association des Grands Crus Classés de St Emilion’s tasting at Chateau Dassault). Simple, pure, and with a nice focus to it. But, as the same time, this is quite slender, quite slight and just a little hollow. I had higher hopes for this and look forward to re-tasting.
  • Laroque (St Emilion; 99% Merlot; 1% Cabernet Franc; 13.5% alcohol; pH 3.49; a final yield of a most impressive 41 hl/ha; tasted with David Suire and the property). This occupies the glass beautifully, with a shocking lilac/purple rim and a luminous limpidity. There was no frost at Laroque and the elevation and associated circulation of the air reduced the mildew pressure – as did the genetic diversity of the old-vine Merlot (as David Suire explained, the vines tend not to suffer all at the same time which allows for a more targeted approach to interventions). This is incredibly fine, incredibly pure and shockingly bright, with a highly expressive, elemental and essential calcaire Merlot personality. Raspberry, blackberry, bramble and cassis fruit, with a hint of walnut shell and a stony/rocky minerality. On the palate this is poised and tender, with perhaps the best Merlot tannins of the entire appellation in this vintage. Wow! Texturally, this is brilliant – so pure, fluid, glistening and crystalline and with a miraculously soft mouthfeel. There is great elegance and finesse, but above all this feels entirely natural. I love the little fountains of fresh fruit juice that periodically refresh and recharge the palate. One of those wines that feels like it comes from a living place. It makes one think that one can judge the quality of the management of the environment from the quality and naturalness of the wine. Really brilliant and has to be tasted to be believed. 93-95.
  • Laroze (St Emilion; 60% Merlot; 30% Cabernet Franc; 10% Cabernet Sauvignon; tasted at the Association des Grands Crus Classés de St Emilion’s tasting at Chateau Dassault). This has a lovely peppery nose, with a pure, precise and focussed cassis and bramble fruit, that actually closes down with more aeration (not a bad sign at all). The quality of the tannin-management is impressive and this has a taut, tight, compact core that promises well. Yes, the acidity is quite noticeable, but as the tannins start to yield and more fruit is released into the structure, this will fill and round out well I feel. A nice sense of harmony and balance and a very pure almost peaceful finish. It’s not the first time that I’m been impressed by this estate. 91-93.
  • Lassègue (St Emilion; 56% Merlot; 36% Cabernet Franc; 8% Cabernet Sauvignon; just 70% new oak; 13.5% alcohol; pH 3.64; tasted at the property with Pierre Seillan). Fresh, bright and with a little freshly grated dark chocolate, white pepper and crushed rose petals and lilac alongside the intense blueberries, brambles, black cherries and crushed raspberries. There is a lovely aromatic complexity here and no discernible oak influence other than a little bit of roasted coffee bean. In the mouth we have an impressive limpidity and viscosity. The palate is dominated by the cool tranquillity of the Cabernet Franc which it is lovely to have here at 35%. There’s a touch of graphite too and a wild garrigue herbal element. The tannins are supple and svelte and this has good compactness and density. The finish is long and this exudes balance and harmony. Deeply impressive in the context of this – indeed, any – vintage. 92-94.
  • Margo ‘Cuvee de Coeur’ (St Emilion; from a parcel of just 0.2 hectares; 100% Cabernet Franc; 14% alcohol; no added sulphur; just 700 bottles produced). This is the first time I’ve tasted Chateau Petit Val’s small production monocépage Cabernet Franc cuvée. It is vinified in amphora and bottled without added sulphur after just 6-months of élevage. This is, presumably, the finished wine. The fruit is very pure and there’s a pleasing honest earthiness to the nose, alongside the classic cassis, redcurrant, blueberry and pyrazine elements. On the palate this may lack a certain complexity, but it compensates with lots of energy, great freshness and a tight, compact fruit stretched out along the fine tannic backbone. Accessible, easy and unpretentious.
  • La Marzelle (St Emilion; 75% Merlot; 17% Cabernet Franc; 8% Cabernet Sauvignon; 13% alcohol; tasted in Paris and then at the Association des Grands Crus Classés de St Emilion’s tasting at Chateau Dassault). Very dark and extracted for the vintage and reductive on the nose at first. Black cherry, liquorice and cassis with a hint of graphite. Impressively svelte tannins and a lovely gentle attack, this builds nicely through the mid palate and we have depth, density, concentration and length without dryness in the tannins nor any aggressive acidity. Quite a success, and confirmation of the steady progression here, even if it perhaps lacks a certain ‘wow’ factor. 90-92.
  • Monbousquet (St Emilion; 70% Merlot; 15% Cabernet Franc; 15% Cabernet Sauvignon; a final yield of just 18.5 hl/ha; 13.7% alcohol; pH 3.67; tasted at Chateau Pavie). If I am honest, never my favourite wine from Perse Latitudes. But this is floral and bright on the nose, with some calcaire lift. On the palate, it is creamy, yet fresh, with a pure blackberry fruit as well as more confit and compote notes. Less obvious oak than usual. But there is also no great sense of structure and the violet element almost feels a little soapy. I can appreciate this, but I don’t love it.
  • Mondot (St Emilion; 100% Merlot; 13.5% alcohol; tasted at the property with Aymeric de Gironde). Limpid and viscous in the glass and with a pleasing natural sweetness. This has a lovely bright and lifted cassis fruit. Apparently the assemblage was tricky, but it was clearly very well done in the end as this is beautifully integrated and very harmonious. It is also impressively floral for a Merlot monocépage wine. Cracked black pepper, graphite and almonds and walnut shells alongside the fresh crunchy bright fruit. There is a good sense of density here, but also a lovely soft attack, with the granularity of the tannins pixilating and nicely outlining the frame of the wine. Not nearly as complex as the grand vin, but with a pleasing shape and impressively dense and compact for a second label. Fresh and lifted on the finish. A vin de terroir. 91-93
  • La Mondotte (St Emilion; 85% Merlot; 15% Cabernet Franc, a final yield of an impressive 45 hl/ha; tasted at Canon La Gaffelière with Stephan von Neipperg). A glorious showing in this vintage, with all the cedar and graphite one associates with La Mondotte – and that fabulously pure black cherry fruit too. There’s a lovely smoked back tea component too – Lapsang Souchong alongside the black cherries, blueberry compote and fresh plump raspberries and blackberries too. Finally, there’s just a hint of truffle. Once again, on these great St Emilion terroirs the cool-vintage old-vine Cabernet really triumphs, even at 15%. This has incredible purity and the fruit is perfectly à point in terms of ripeness. I love that. The freshness is locked in here and this is more like a higher altitude expression of St Emilion limestone than a St Emilion from a cooler vintage. Superb. 94-96.
  • Monlot (St Emilion; 55% Merlot; 45% Cabernet Franc; a vineyard of 8 hectares on a clay-limestone terroir near the town of St Emilion itself purchased in 2011 by the Chinese actress Zhao Wei; consulted by Claude Bourguignon and Jean-Claude Berrouet). A pure, naturally sweet, bright raspberry fruit, with a discernible hint of horse hair and a warm earthy/herbal element too. Pure, fresh, lifted and very much defined by its limestone terroir. There’s a nice vibrancy, energy and forward momentum to this on the palate; it is also quite sinuous, with a rolling, rippling, crumbly tannic finish. Quite light in extract and very pure, focussed and precise. There’s good progression here. 90-92.
  • Montlabert (St Emilion; tasted from a sample sent to Paris). The sweetness here comes largely from the oak, but there are nice choices made here. Quite rich without ever being heavy, quite herbal too and with a little touch of mint bringing fresh lift. There’s a little hint of sweet cinnamon spice from the oak. Good grip and pinch from the tannins bring the wine back to its spine, giving a nice sense of structure and evolution. Long for the vintage. 90-92.
  • Moulin du Cadet (St Emilion; 100% Merlot; 13% alcohol; a final yield of 35 hl/ha; tasted in Paris and then at the Association des Grands Crus Classés de St Emilion’s tasting at Chateau Dassault). Concentrated black cherries, sour red cherries and a hint of cedar. Mint. Plush. Pure. Open-textured, lithe and quite sinuous. A little one-dimensional in terms of its fruit profile, but with a pleasingly satinous texturally. Refined and elegant. Just a little disparate and dilute on the finish. 90-92.
  • Muse de Val (St Emilion; from a tiny vineyard of just 1 hectare and just 5000 bottles produced; on an argilo-calcaire slope; the average age of the vines is 35 years; 50% Merlot; 50% Cabernet Franc; malolactic fermentation and aging in 100% new oak). As you’d expect this is richer and oakier than Petit Val itself on the nose, with prominent notes of ripe dark berry and stone fruit, fine dark chocolate, cracked black peppercorns, liquorice, camphor and candlewax. On the palate this is a little more musclular and the tannins, though fine-grained, are at this early stage just a little aggressive. Needs time; but there is promise here. 90-92.
  • No. 3 d’Angélus (St Emilion). This is ever more impressive each year and I put this to my nose and then had to look at the label in case I’d made a mistake and inadvertently exchanged it for Carillon. Aromatically very expressive with a very floral nose – violets and lavender, peonies and mimosa. Lots of rich dark chocolate and mocha alongside the very dark berry and stone fruit (blueberries and damsons, predominantly). Soft and caressing on the entry, giving at first the impression of some richness and depth, but that’s a little deceptive as this tapers quickly and doesn’t deliver in and through the mid-palate. But that’s entirely a product of the vintage; this is supremely well-made and brings a lot of Angélus class to the party. Fascinatingly, we have the nose and attack (as well as the texture) of a wine I’d rate much more highly. This will drink well immediately.
  • Pavie (St Emilion; 52% Merlot; 30% Cabernet Franc; 18% Cabernet Sauvignon; a final yield of 33 hl.ha; 14.1% alcohol; tasted at the property). Very beautiful, very composed and very elegant for a Pavie at this nascent stage. Very dark berry fruit, cassis and blueberries, black raspberries, sloes, mulberries too, and even a hint of plum skin. Lots of graphite. Violets and peonies too. This has a gracious and gentle opening, very much more classic and less the Pavie of recent vintages (though this is the continuation not the start of a trend). The wine unfurls very slowly, reinforcing the sense of grace and elegance. The architectural structure itself and both its evolution and the delineation and detail of that evolution are very impressive; this is finely layered and precisely crafted. Cool, refined and with the acidity nicely integrated into the structure, this is a style of Pavie that I really like. 94-96+.
  • Pavie Decesse (St Emilion; 88% Merrlot; 12% Cabernet Franc; 14.2% alcohol; 33.6 hl/ha; tasted at Chateau Pavie). Creamy, rich and intense, with slightly confit notes on the nose – brambles, plums, blueberries and a touch of cocoa and grated chocolate, liquorice and walnut. There is impressive purity and precision. The tannins are quite robust and this is big and broad-shouldered structurally – massive for the vintage and it will need time to come around. The oak is only a very slight presence and will be rapidly absorbed. There is a good tight core, with plenty of density and compactness, but not the mid-palate delineation and definition of some. Impressive in its way, if a tad stolid. 92-94.
  • Pavie Macquin (St Emilion; 79% Merlot; 19% Cabernet Franc; 2% Cabernet Sauvignon; 13.5% alcohol; a final yield of 37 hl/ha; tasted at the UGCB press tasting in Bordeaux). Sweeter and oakier than Larcis Ducasse, but similarly profound, deep, dense and pure. Black cherry and brambles dominate the nose and palate, with a nice herbal note and the same structuring combination of tightly interwoven acidity and tannins. Massive structurally, certainly for the vintage, and perhaps not to everyone’s taste because of that; but this is very well made and it works. A great success, though the more obvious oak is not yet fully integrated and it slightly unbalances the wine at this early stage. 92-94.
  • Petit Cantenac (St Emilion; 85% Merlot; 10% Cabernet Franc; 5% Cabernet Sauvignon; tasted at Chateau Séraphine in Pomerol). Bio controlled but not yet organic. Gamey on the nose, with a baked plum and fresh plum skin fruit and a waft of wood-smoke. Big and quite chunky but lithe and sinuous too. The tannins are chewy and nicely frame the finish. The secret here is a fair bit of press wine rather than greater extraction. The result is a very successful second wine in a difficult vintage.
  • Le Petit Cheval (St Emilion; 60% Merlot; 7% Cabernet Franc; 33% Cabernet Sauvignon; tasted at the property with Pierre-Olivier Clouet). Cedar, black cherry and graphite, with a gentle florality – little hedgerow flowers. Pure, ripe, rich and svelte with a lovely flowing texture; very true to its identity of recent vintages. Sapid and juicy, with the tannins both supporting the fruit but also strapping it quite closely to the spine. There’s lots of energy here and one has the sensation of fresh cleansing showers of juiciness descending from the top of the palate. There’s a lovely fresh menthol note and a hint of wild herbs right on the finish. 91-93.
  • Petit Faurie de Soutard (St Emilion; 90% Merlot; 10% Cabernet Franc; 13% alcohol; at the Association des Grands Crus Classés de St Emilion’s tasting at Chateau Dassault). Simple but very pleasant. Pure black cherry, slight hints of hedgerow flowers. Quite tender and lithe. No great weight or density, and a little dilute on the tapering finish. Not pushed in terms of extraction (which is a very good thing), but not brimming with personality in this vintage either.
  • Petit Val (St Emilion; from a vineyard of 11 hectares on the sandy-clay/clay-limestone slopes; the average age of the vines is 35 years; 80% Merlot; 20% Cabernet Franc). This has a lovely, ripe yet fresh, fragrant and expansive nose of red and black cherry, brambles and blackberry, red liquorice and wild thyme. The tannins are very refined and this is brilliantly chiselled and sculptured. Very pure, precise and with the croquant fruit nicely stretched out over the frame. 90-92.
  • Peymouton (St Emilion; 82% Merlot; 10% Cabernet Franc; 8% Cabernet Sauvignon; tasted at the offices of JP Moueix in Libourne). A pure, fresh and crunchy bramble fruit, with a nice verticality from the calcaire terroir. There’s a pleasing loamy, earthiness too, a touch of sandalwood and a little hint of graphite. This has a nice open texture and is a success in the context of the vintage. It is delicate and light in a way, but with good balance and harmony. It’s also likely to represent excellent value. 89-91.
  • Pindefleurs (St Emilion; 90% Merlot; 10% Cabernet Franc; tasted at the offices of JP Moueix in Libourne). Smoky, more burly, deeper and with less lift and brightness than La Serre (tasted before). But this has a nice expressive dark berry fruit and wild herbal elements too. There is good grip and bite from the tannins, which are fine-grained and structure this nicely and there is some detail in the mid-palate if no great length or depth. There is a certain amount of precision here allied with accessibility. 89-91.
  • De Pressac (St Emilion; 73% Merlot; 17% Cabernet Franc; 7% Cabernet Sauvignon; 2% Carmenère; 1% Malbec; a final yield of c. 30 hl/ha; tasted from a sample sent to Paris). A lovely fresh pre-ground coffee bean note on the nose, with a touch of sweet spice and a generous blend of dark stone and berry fruit, with just a suggestion of cedar. Soft, fine-grained tannins, a nice sapidity and the acidity is well-managed and nicely integrated across the palate. Long and tapering on the finish, this is impressive in the context of the vintage. 90-92+.
  • Le Prieuré (St Emilion; 91% Merlot; 9% Cabernet Franc; 13.2% alcohol; a final yield of just 16.1 hl/ha; tasted at the Association des Grands Crus Classés de St Emilion’s tasting at Chateau Dassault). This comes from a top plateau terroir and has a lovely crystalline texture that is almost more 2019 than 2021. Very pure cassis and mixed cherry and stone fruit. Less dense and compact than the 2020 and 2019, but in the same style. And very stylish it is too – this is all about finesse, purity and precision with lots of detail and delineation in the classy mid-palate (where is counts most). Very sapid and juicy with a lovely fantail finish – almost hinting at fireworks right at the end. My kind of St Emilion! Each year this seems more impressive. 92-94.
  • Puyblanquet (St Emilion; 75% Merlot; 25% Cabernet Franc; 13.7% alcohol; pH 3.43; tasted at Chateau La Gaffelière). Bought in 2020 by La Gaffelière which is ironic in a way, as it was sold by the Malet-Rocquefort family in 1959 to help them acquire La Gaffelière in the first place. This is well-placed next to de Pressac and Valandraud and we can expect significant investment. There is already more selection and more green harvesting. This is the second vintage and the first (I think) to be presented en primeur. The wine is classy, glossy and tender, with a fresh and pure blueberry and blackberry fruit, a little graphite and nice crumbly tannins. It has lovely texture and is made very much in the pure and precise style of La Gaffelière. There’s a lovely salinity too on the finish. A work in progress, but certainly one to watch. 90-92.
  • Quinault l’Enclos (St Emilion; 59% Merlot; 23% Cabernet Franc; 18% Cabernet Sauvignon; tasted at Cheval Blanc with Pierre-Olivier Clouet). Floral and aromatically expressive, with a deep dark berry fruit. This is svelte, finely textured and with pleasingly chewy tannins. The acidity here produces fascinating descending droplets of sapid freshness in the mouth a bit like the larmes (or ‘legs’) in the glass. Pure, precise, quite elegant and with a good and quite substantial structure. 90-92.
  • Quintus (St Emilion; 68.2% Merlot; 31.3% Cabernet Franc; 0.5% Malbec; 13.4% alcohol; from the parcels on the limestone slopes above the chateau; aging in oak barrels, 38% of which are new). Evidently lightly extracted with an attractive radiance and limpidity in the glass. Sweet and oaky on the nose, more so than Le Dragon, with notes of coconut accompanying the ripe and plump red and darker berry and stone fruit, a little liquorice and even incense, with violet, wild thyme and dried lavender. On the palate this is fuller than Le Dragon, but although broad-shouldered there is no great fruit density and there’s really only just enough substance to cover the bones (though it builds a little with aeration). There is, however, a nice clarity and translucence and the tannins are finely-textured and have that lovely chalkiness that tells us where this is from. The oak will need time to incorporate (a phrase I’ve used sparingly in this vintage) but there is good potential. 91-93.
  • Ripeau (St Emilion; 65% Merlot; 30% Cabernet Franc; 5% Cabernet Sauvignon; 13.5% alcohol; a final yield of 21 hl/ha; tasted at the Association des Grands Crus Classés de St Emilion’s tasting at Chateau Dassault). Bold and slightly burly but impressive in a way. Quite concentrated but at the expense of a little haziness in the mid palate. Chewy, substantial and quite big on the finish but with no dryness – indeed, the finish is cool and refreshing. This just lacks a little structural evolution and delineation; but it’s a good wine in the context of the vintage. 89-91.
  • Rocheyron (St Emilion; 60% Merlot; 40% Cabernet Franc; from a vineyard of 7.4 hectares; a final yield of just 15 hl/ha; c. 10k bottles; tasted from a sample sent to Paris). From a real sweet spot for me in the appellation that is not – yet – sufficiently well appreciated other than by those seeking to acquire vineyard space here. Interestingly, they seem to know, better than most how good the terroir is (given just how much they’re prepared to pay for a row of vines)! Fabulously aromatic and wonderfully complex. This is wild and sauvage (in French) but not savage at all – quite the opposite in fact. Peppery, spicy and exotic (with red and green Szechuan peppercorns) but also very lifted, bright and with a great intensity. There’s a lovely cool vintage Cabernet Franc note here too, which is more herbal and whose presence builds with aeration. This will need to put on a little weight in élevage (for some), but it’s fabulously interesting, rather delicate and with an ethereal beauty that has me captivated. Texturally, this is more silk and satin rather than velour. The grainy chalky tannins are perfectly ripe and à point and this has a long and slowly tapering finish. 93-95.
  • Saintayme (St Emilion; 100% Merlot; 13.5% alcohol; aging in oak barrels, 30% of which are next; tasted at L’Eglise Clinet with Noëmie Durantou). Lovely deep dark cassis and cherry fruit and nice cool climate Merlot. There’s a little new oak and its vanilla and spice but this will integrate nicely with time. Ripe, full, and quite rich for the vintage. Lovely tannins and a pleasing natural sweetness. A good chewy finish too. Likely to be excellent value. 89-91.
  • La Serre (St Emilion; 80% Merlot; 20% Sauvignon Blanc; tasted at JP Moueix in Libourne and then again from a sample sent to Paris). Pure, bright, red berry fruit – raspberries that are nice and plump and their plucked hulls and a little redcurrant too. Tasted again almost two weeks later this has put on a little depth and the nose is more floral. Tense and quite racy, the acidity is all about freshness and vertical lift here (rather than sapidity or tartness). Accessible, easy, bright and delicious if with no great pretention or great complexity. Tense and energetic. 90-92.
  • St Georges Côte Pavie (St Emilion; 80% Merlot; 20% Cabernet Franc; 13.5% alcohol; a final yield of 37 hl/ha; tasted at the Association des Grands Crus Classés de St Emilion’s tasting at Chateau Dassault). Plum and cherry fruit; a little frangipane perhaps too. A little dilute at first but only at first. The tannins and the sense of power here build and build across the palate – unusually so. But I find this just a little dry on the finish and the fruit feels rather blitzed, lacking just a little charm and detail in the mid-palate. The finish is also a touch astringent. There’s good substance, but it seems to have been pushed a little far. 89-91.
  • Tertre Roteboeuf (St Emilion; 85% Merlot; 15% Cabernet Franc; a final yield of 31 hl/ha). One works up to Tertre Roteboeuf but one is still never quite prepared for it! So often brilliant in difficult vintages where the late picking pays dividends, this has scarcely ever been more true than in 2021. Sweet-tinged, completely different from any other wine of the vintage and, even if slightly unusual even for Tertre Roteboeuf, this is not difficult to pick. Intensely smoky, with a combination of barbeque, tobacco leaf and tobacco smoke notes alongside the fresh, bright aerial florality – iris and peonies and violet and a little wild lavender, honeysuckle too; archetypal Mitjavile rose petals and candied petals too. On the palate, this is sweet, rich, deep, dark and concentrated – an ample mouthful of juicy, pulpy, fleshy raspberry and blackberry, mulberry and damson fruit. Big, chewy chalkily-textured tannins craft the substantial structure and frame and this finishes fine, long and ample. A marmite wine in a marmite vintage – my head sometimes tells me I shouldn’t love it as much as I do – but I can’t wait to taste it from bottle just as I couldn’t wait to taste it en primeur. 93-95.
  • Teyssier (St Emilion; 80% Merlot; 20% Cabernet Franc; 13.3% alcohol without chaptalisation; pH 3.6; tasted at Le Dôme with Jonathan Maltus). Slightly ferrous, as ever, on the nose, rich and with an obvious touch of wood and its vanilla and warm spices. Figs and caramel; blackcurrant; blackberry, black cherry; black tea leaf – oh, and a hint of cinnamon too. On the palate this is tender, lithe, easy and unpretentious. And it will bring a smile to many a palate.
  • La Tour St Christophe (St Emilion; 80% Merlot; 20% Cabernet Franc; a final yield of 35 hl/ha; 13.6% alcohol; tasted at Bellefont-Belcier). Nicely composed and quite subtle, gentle and serine, with loads of cedar arriving with aeration, enrobing as it does so the ripe, succulent dark berry fruit – raspberries, black raspberries, blueberries and black currant. This is a reposing wine that seems to be choosing somehow what it wishes to express today and what it will leave for another day. It has a lovely calcaire lift to it, plenty of energy and is very well balanced. The well-chiselled structural frame is quite densely packed and this feels dynamic and energetic. There’s a nice trace of graphite and a lovely tapering long and very refreshing finish. 92-94.
  • Troplong Mondot (St Emilion; 85% Merlot; 13% Cabernet Sauvignon; 2% Cabernet Franc; aging in a combination of oak barrels and foudres; tasted with Aymeric de Gironde at the property early on a Saturday morning). No frost here and very little mildew, as in 2018 and 2020, due to the relative altitude and the windy exposition. Picking was reasonably relaxed, with each parcel left to attain full maturity. Like the vineyard itself, this is complex and finely pixilated. There are black and red cherries, a hint of walnut skin, blood orange (not for the first time); and, with greater aeration and a second pour, blueberries and blackberries, with Asiatic spices around the edge. This has a pleasing natural sweetness to it and a little hint of the cedar to come (this remains a little closed). This has a sumptuous opening, rich and mouth-filling, with great amplitude the impression of which is reinforced by the fabulous softness that fills the cheeks. Elegance and class, with a crystalline purity despite the depth, concentration and underlying (if subtle) puissance. Chalkily-textured through the mid-palate with little explosions of sapidity released in the mouth, first, with a bit of aeration and then again on the finish itself. The tannins grip nicely, closing down the evolution before an explosive chalkily-structured second wave and a long tapering finish. There’s a brilliant tension between the considerable structure and the elegance, finesse and general soft disposition of this energetic wine. 95-97.
  • Trottevieille. Not yet tasted.
  • Valandraud (St Emilion; 85% Merlot; 9% Cabernet Franc; 6% Cabernet Sauvignon; 13.5% alcohol; a final yield of 29 hl/ha; tasted from a sample sent to Paris and then at the UGCB press tasting). So intensely floral on the nose that we must be in the parfumier’s workshop rather than the field itself! Lavendar, lilac and violets. Very dark ripe black cherry fruit. Lots of cedar and graphite; walnuts too. Sublime texturally. The tannins are awesome and the freshness is perfectly managed – so well distributed over the frame of the wine. This remains very true to itself and its singular style and very good. A bit La Croix de Labrie in style. Lithe, tense and with great sapidity on the finish. 94-96.
  • Vieux Chateau Mazerat (St Emilion; 90% Merlot; 10% Cabernet Franc; 13.65% alcohol; pH 3.64; tasted with Jonathan Maltus in the chai at Le Dôme). Another intensely floral top St Emilion in this vintage. Dark cherry, blackberry and just a little blackcurrant on the nose. On the palate, this is rich, deep, bold and quite sweet-tinged, with lots from the spice cupboard – cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and assorted crushed peppercorns bringing addition interest to the plush purple berry and plum fruit. Long and chewy, plump, exotic, spicy. 91-93.
  • Villemaurine (St Emilion; 92% Merlot; 8% Cabernet Franc; a final yield of 44 hl/ha; tasted at the UGCB press tasting and again at the Association des Grands Crus Classés de St Emilion’s tasting at Chateau Dassault). Impressive if with a slightly more blended fruit than some – an assortment of dark berries and cherries of various hues, some damson too. The sapidity is nicely used to mark the passage to the second part of the presentation of the wine over the palate. This is long and juicy, racy and energetic on the finish. This is the product of a very gentle extraction with finely managed chewy-chalky tannins. 92-94 (just).
  • Yon Figeac (St Emilion; 86% Merlot; 6% Cabernet Franc; 8% Petit Verdot; 13/5% alcohol; a final yield of 33 hl/ha; tasted at the Association des Grands Crus Classés de St Emilion’s tasting at Chateau Dassault). Rich and naturally sweet with ripe black and red cherries and a little raspberry – with a nice crunchiness to it. Well-sustained (i.e.: good length) but not great structural evolution and no distinct mid-palate to speak off. But this is nicely gathered on the finish, though the crumbly tannins shade towards dryness right at the end. 89-91.

See here for db’s en primeur vintage report, with appellation-by-appellation reviews on MargauxSt JulienPessac-Leognan & Graves, St Estephe & Haut-Medoc, Pauillac, Pomerol, St Emilion and Sauternes.

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