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Château La Lagune Historical Vertical Tasting 2004-2020

During a recent invitation to Tain l’Hermitage, our Bordeaux correspondent Colin Hay tasted a historical vertical of Château La Lagune made by winemaker Caroline Frey. Here is his verdict. 

For an in-depth conversation with Frey, see here.

All the wines were tasted with winemaker Caroline Frey and commercial director at Jaboulet JeanLuc Chapel at Le Vineum in Tain L’Hermitage. The wines were served from bottle, having been opened an hour beforehand. They were tasted youngest to oldest and then compared.

  • La Lagune 2004 (55% Cabernet Sauvignon; 30% Merlot; 15% Petit Verdot; alcohol 13%). Caroline Frey’s first vintage at La Lagune. This has lovely, classic, cedary aromatics with plenty of secondary and tertiary elements; it has quite a vertical presentation on the nose. Plums and their sweet spices – cinnamon root and cracked black pepper. There is a pleasing oak spiciness too, with just the faintest hint of vanilla. Relatively under-developed in terms of colour evolution and quite dark and opaque at the core; but more evolved on the nose and this evolves further quite quickly with air. Herbal, earthy and Medocain in personality with a subtle gentle sweetness. Not the mid-palate concentration of other wines in the flight, but a nice trace of tannin and an elongated spine. Tender, chewy, crunchy and almost crumbly on the finish, the tannins not quite as refined as in more recent examples. A point and this will need drinking soon. There’s a touch of truffle and mushroom on the finish with more air. But nicely balanced. 91.


  • La Lagune 2005 (50% Cabernet Sauvignon; 35% Merlot; 10% Petit Verdot; alcohol 13.5%). A little more closed at first but with air, the classic Haut-Médoc cedar and graphite notes start to build in the glass. They are quite exquisite. There’s a trace of wood smoke and roasted coffee too. Compact, slightly austere and tender. Rolling, rippling, lithe and engaging on the palate. Freshly ground roasted coffee – or one’s nose in the coffee jar; a touch of dark chocolate; a hint of coconut. There’s a delightful little floral touch too – lilacs, perhaps. Good depth and concentration. Szechuan peppercorns. Pure and yet quite rich. Like the 2004 the tannins are just a little less refined than in more recent vintages. This has a chewy finish with nice grippy tannins and a broader finish in a way than the more focussed and precise style of later vintages. There is a lovely classicism to this. It needs an hour or two in a decanter. 93.


  • La Lagune 2006 (55% Cabernet Sauvignon; 35% Merlot; 10% Petit Verdot; alcohol 13.5%). Rich. More ferrous, more feral, more funky – and very 2006 with it. This is quite animal, gamey and richly textured. The oak notes are just a little prominent; there is the same touch of coconut as the 2005. On the palate, this is less austere and quite open-textured. Soft in the mid-palate, quite rich and broad-shouldered, less chiselled. The tannins are a little grippy on the finish, with just a hint of dryness. Spicy, peppery, mineral-rich and with a very broad if slightly rustic finish – the rusty gate iron oxide note quite present with even gentle aeration. Very much in the style of the vintage. 91.


  • La Lagune 2007 (60% Cabernet Sauvignon; 30% Merlot; 10% Petit Verdot; alcohol 13%). This is very different and, again, very expressive of the vintage. Pretty, bright, floral – with lilacs and peonies – and black chocolate ganache. This is more lifted, lighter and altogether more elegant. In short, very different from the two preceding vintages and very characteristic of the vintage. In the mouth this is lithe and sinuous, luminous even with a lovely whetstone cool minerality. There’s a lot less depth and concentration here but a subtle shimmering elegance. The wine broadens towards the finish, with a bit of a peacock’s fantail. The tannins are slightly dry towards the vanishing point but this is a good success in the context of the vintage. 91.


  • La Lagune 2008 (60% Cabernet Sauvignon; 25% Merlot; 15% Petit Verdot; alcohol 13%). The highest proportion of Cabernet so far in the flight and very much a Cabernet-dominated wine – all cassis and blackberry. This is purer in style and the oak is less present and better incorporated. This has a lovely very dark fruit profile – brambles and damsons. Intense, earthy with blue and black berry and stone fruit in the mid-palate, quite herbal too. Cedar, graphite and the signature stony minerality, accentuated rather than dominated by the oak notes. This is also more austere and compact, a little more serious but with some of the natural sweetness of the vintage. I find lovely lilac and lavender notes. Coffee grains from the cafetière too. More focussed on the finish, classic and less oaky. A subtle change in style here. 92.


  • La Lagune 2009 (60% Cabernet Sauvignon; 30% Merlot; 10% Petit Verdot; alcohol 14%). Compact, more tense and focussed and more austere again still. Cool, perhaps even a little ‘protestant’! Mineral rich, with just a hint of cedar. Elderberry and a very dark, pure crisp black fruit – brambles and cassis (the Cabernet very dominant). Soft and svelte, with glorious tannins; this opens slowly and fans out very beautifully. Quite a lot of still unresolved tannins on the finish. Very Margaux – almost a hint of Brane Cantenac to it! Floral, elegant, with nice walnut notes too. A special wine and the pick of the vertical to this point. Elegant, with great potential and super-svelte, tender and tense tannins. Fresh and with a lovely slightly pointy acidity on the finish. Like the 2008, this is less marked by the oak. 93.


  • La Lagune 2010 (60% Cabernet Sauvignon; 30% Merlot; 10% Petit Verdot; alcohol 14.5%). Again, this is very floral, but here with more pink spring flowers – very fresh floral notes over pure dark berry fruit again. The texture in the mouth is lovely – the first great vintage marked by the development of the tannin management. There is oak, but it’s all in moderation. There’s a very classic earthiness too and all that delicious cedar – I find this very terroir driven. It is Margellais again, but more Durfort this time than Brane perhaps – with the wine more than ever marked by its top Cabernet fruit. This is mineral-intense and with a little more density than the 2009. Very beautiful. Gloriously svelte on the opening, a little broader than the 2009 through the mid-palate, but with the same sense of a defined spine and a sinuous structure built along that spine. This is more of a vin de garde. Pure, precise, chiselled and long and rolling on the more tapered graphite-encrusted finish. Great potential. 94.


  • La Lagune 2011 (60% Cabernet Sauvignon; 30% Merlot; 10% Petit Verdot; alcohol 13.5%). Flattering at first with a spicy and yet floral nose that is, again, quite Margellais especially for a vintage that often comes across as a little rustic and unrefined. This is charming and accessible, but it is not for the long haul! It is less big and burly than you might expect – and less rustic too – but it’s still not difficult to tell that it comes from the most ungainly of the vintages in this line-up. The wood spice is more evident here. The tannins are svelte on the attack and the mid-palate is quite open and even luminous. But this also lacks mid-palate delineation and is a touch thin in comparison to the vintages either side. A pleasing sense of minerality the slightly slender finish. Not overdone at all but not the strongest of this line-up and it Will need to be drunk quite soon. 91.


  • La Lagune 2012 (56% Cabernet Sauvignon; 26% Merlot; 18% Petit Verdot; alcohol 13%). Caroline Frey’s pick as an underappreciated vintage and she’s spot on. This is very, very 2012 – indeed, it’s almost a little Pomerol 2012. Very elegant and floral, very open and easy, accessible and effusive. White flowers, pink spring hedgerow flowers, cherries and bright fresh red-berry fruit. Lovely if light and a little slender; very perfumed and it almost tastes like that too. Mineral-infused, as ever and lovely subtle cedary notes are appearing. Soft. Easy. Luminous and beautifully textured. The tannins are exquisitely managed, testimony to the quality of the vinification. The oak notes break through towards the finish and slightly disrupt the balance, but I like this very much for drinking now. Not a big wine at all, but very beautiful in all its elegance and refinement. 92+.


  • La Lagune 2014 (70% Cabernet Sauvignon; 20% Merlot; 10% Petit Verdot; alcohol 13.5%). This is altogether bigger, richer, more compact and with a pleasing sense of mid-palate density. Floral, again, now with loganberry and raspberry fruit and a little hint of blackberry too; with air, coconut and chocolate nibs. Supple and rippling, with a nice sense of compactness and impressive density for the vintage. The archetypal cedar and graphite notes (more the latter than the former in fact) appear in the mid-palate. Fine; precise; more chiselled and tauter than earlier vintages – and with an impressive internal structure. The trace of lavender maked it more herbal and more vertical. Very fine. 93.


  • La Lagune 2015 (65% Cabernet Sauvignon; 30% Merlot; 5% Petit Verdot; alcohol 14%). Another step up in quality and an impressive success, even in the context of this great southern Médoc vintage. Very cedary, again, with a trace of lavender and hyacinth, a hint of fresh coconut too and walnut shell. This is dense, dark and brooding. Serious but seriously seductive too (a lovely tension between the sunniness of the vintage and a slight terroir austerity)! Very beautiful. Very harmonious. Elegant too. Open and seductive. Aromatically, this is very expressive, especially at first. Cool, calm and exuding quality. Cedar and pencil lead, brambles and blackberries, black cherry too. The tannins and palpably present and crumbly but soft-edged and ultra-fine grained. With more air this actually goes back into its shell a little. Excellent. 94.


  • La Lagune 2016 (60% Cabernet Sauvignon; 35% Merlot; 5% Petit Verdot; alcohol 13.5%). Glorious. Wild herbs and flowers. This, to me, tastes very ‘biodynamic’ with all that natural energy and dynamism. Beautiful, with a bright, croquant red and black berry and cherry fruit, but also sloes and damsons. Lithe and charged. Bright and dynamic, but with that lovely structural cool, core of graphite and fine-grained tannins. Soft and so fine-grained as to give the impression of cool menthol. Chewy and serious but oh so lithe and tender. Fresh and persistent in that freshness. A genuinely great success. 95.


  • La Lagune 2017 (70% Cabernet Sauvignon; 25% Merlot; 5% Petit Verdot; alcohol 13%). This is a little closed at first, rather delicate, again floral and quite lifted aromatically. The fruit is dark – cassis and blackcurrant. In comparison with the two preceding vintages, there is a little lack of mid-palate punch and concentration, but there’s a certain compactness here even if it is focussed around a somewhat slender core. The fresh, crunchy damson fruit is sapid. I find this an impressive advert for the wine-making here in recent years; the cedar comes through in the mid-palate which is lovely and this finishes on that crunchy fruit note of the vintage. Not long, but with a great sense of energy and balance. 92.


  • La Lagune 2018. Essentially no wine made. The hailstones, as Caroline Frey explains, were “the size of pigeons’ eggs”.


  • La Lagune 2019 (60% Cabernet Sauvignon; 30% Merlot; 5% Cabernet Franc; 5% Petit Verdot; alcohol 14.5%). Wow! This is wondrously pure and precise; all tension, focus and energy. The fruit is ultra-pure cassis – more so than any of the other vintages tasted; with air, we find cinnamon and nutmeg. This is bright, lively, very precise and very forward-oriented on the palate. And it is very, very Cabernet. Cool, refined and finely-chiselled with a great sense of architecture. It is just perhaps one of those wines whose purity make you question whether it is sufficiently complex, but when you ask the question you find the complexity too. This is nutty, mineral and floral too – walnuts, graphite and purple flowers; with air, the complexity is slowly unleashed. Lovely finesse from the ultra-refined tannins. What great potential. 95.


  • La Lagune 2020 (65% Cabernet Sauvignon; 30% Merlot; 5% Petit Verdot; aging in oak barrels for 14 months; a final yield of 35 hl/ha; 14.1% alcohol). This is concentrated and ultra-pure, taking this to a level of precision above even the 2019 for me. Simply the best wine Caroline Frey has made at La Lagune in my humble opinion. Blackcurrant and very dark chocolate-coated cassis, black cherries too. Graphite and black pen ink. Incredibly fresh and incredibly pure and very bright, lively, luminous and translucent. Hauntingly beautiful – with the perfect capturing of the fruit the moment it was picked – a magnificent signature of the fruit is present here. This is exciting and yet so elegant and fine and refined and classic too. Intensively soft with the fruit gliding out of the filigree and silk tannins and growing in puissance through the mid-palate. Mineral-charged, graphite-rich and yet perfectly balanced, this is power in silk. It is like a very dense and strong yet supple fabric. Utterly excellent and completely confirming my love of it en primeur. 96.

Read more:

In conversation: Caroline Frey of Château La Lagune and Paul Jaboulet Aîné

Hermitage La Chapelle Historical Vertical Tasting 2006-2020

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