Monday, 4 May 2009

Saint Émilion Wines

Saint Émilion Wines

Saint Émilion is the oldest wine area in Bordeaux region. It's terroir has been recognised by the UNESCO organization and it is now a World Heritage site. Saint Émilion itself is a beautiful Roman village, sitting on a hillside overlooking field after field of vines over looking the Dordogne Valley. Saint Émilion is on the Right Bank of the River Dordogne. The hills, terraces and plateaux of vines cover 13,600 acres. Most of Saint Émilion's vineyards are family owned and are relatively small: 17 acres on average.

Saint Émilion wines were not included in the 1855 Bordeaux Classification and have their own classification which was made in 1955. Unlike the 1855 classification, it is regularly revised. Château Ausone and Château Cheval Blanc are the only 2 wines currently classified as Premiers Grands Crus Classés A (First Great Growths category A). There are then 13 Premiers Grands Crus Classés B.

Terroir and Grapes

The terroir in Saint Émilion is varied and can be broken down into limestone plateaux, clay and limestone slopes, gravel terraces and sandy gravel plains. The clay and limestone suit the Merlot and the Cabernet Franc grape – Merlot is the most planted – and Cabernet Sauvignon is grown on the more gravelly soils.

Wine Style

Due to the diversity of the soils there are many different styles of wines but in general Saint Émilion wines are considered to be the most robust in Bordeaux. They reach maturity more quickly than other red Bordeaux wines and age beautifully. Their flavours are of blackcurrant and blackberry, preserved fruit, toasted bread and truffles. They are rich, warm wines and the high concentration of Merlot makes them velvety and round. They can also be complex, elegant and earthy.

Famous Châteaux and Recommended Wines

Saint Emilion is home to many famous châteaux: alongside the Premier Crus Ausone and Cheval Blanc there are Angelus, Pavie, Figeac, Canon La Gaffeliere and Bellefont Belcier to name but a few. However there are two wines that you may not have heard of yet which are definitely up and coming: Chateau La Fleur Morange and Château La Tour du Pin.
Château la Fleur Morange is a boutique wine in Saint-Pey-D'Armens made by Véronique and Jean-François Julien that is receiving high acclaim from wine critics across the globe. The vineyard is a 4 acre plot of unique soil with the added rarity of having100 year old vines. The soil is sand and clay layers over limestone and clinker sub soil – the only complex mixture known to exist in Saint Emilion – which Jean-François says contributes to the finesse of the tannins.

Jean-François has the reputation of being a perfectionist. He was a skilful cabinet maker by trade until he married Véronique, whose parents were wine makers. Jean-François became interested in wine making himself and painstakingly investigated the terroir around him, analysing those that he thought had great potential. There is an old carpenter's saying: “Measure twice and cut once” and this applies to Jean-François. His absolute attention to detail – no matter how small – has enabled him to make great wine.

The wines of Château la Fleur Morange are full bodied and fruit driven, impressively structured and sophisticated. They are a deep dark crimson purple with notes of raspberries, liquorice, blackcurrants, smoke and earth. They age well and should be cellared to allow the wine to develop further in the bottle.

Château La Tour du Pin originated from the estate of Château Figeac in 1876 and was acquired by M. G. Bélivier in 1923, who then transferred it to M. Giraud Lucien in 1972. It was bought by the First Growth Grand Cru Classé A Château Cheval Blanc in 2006.

Château Cheval Blanc have instigated finely tuned plot management systems and soil analysis to release the full potential of the 40 year old vines. To build on these efforts the first vintage was conducted in small vats to respect the diversity of the vineyard. The vatting process was carefully controlled on a case by case basis to bring out the potential of each grape variety, each type of soil and each type of vat. This has produced a wine with ripe – but not over ripe fruit, tannins which are dense but not harsh and fine mellow flavours of wood which leave the wine flavours to the fore.

The terroir is exceptional with the 27 acres of vines lying on gravels, sands and limestone and the vines grown are 75% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Franc. The wine of Château La Tour du Pin is a deep red with a purplish tint. The bouquet is fresh, complex and intense with a nicely integrated woody touch. The wine has notes of cherries, strawberries, blossom and raspberries. The attack is full and smooth leading into a silky tannic structure with a fresh edge highlighting the fruity quality of the finish.

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