Capital Vintners is delighted to finally be offering wines En Primeur. This week, to celebrate the fact, we thought we’d give you a glimpse of the history behind some of the great Bordeaux chateaux – namely Beychevelle, Clinet, Domaine de Chevalier and Grand Puy Lacoste. More wines to follow! Get in touch with one of our sales representatives for more information or to purchase any of the wines.
The Beychevelle estate owes its name to an old legend, which proffered that ships passing the estate on the Gironde River were asked to lower their sails (baisse voile) in homage to Nogaret, councillor and keeper of the seal to Philip IV of France. “Baisse voile”, or “bacha velo” in Gascon, became “beychevelle” and inspired the chateau’s emblem of a ship with a griffin at the prow.
An admiral of the French navy is said to have built the original chateau in the 16th century, which today is surrounded by sumptuous gardens reflecting the classical elegance of the estate. It was not until the 18th century, however, that any interest was taken in the Chateau’s winemaking potential. The land and building was improved, but then came the French Revolution and the estate was sold and resold repeatedly – during which time it was classified as a Fourth Growth. In 1984, after three generations of ownership, the property was sold to the Grands Millesimes de France and the Japanese group, Suntory.
Having developed a strong consumer following in the Far East, Beychevelle is a prime example of the impact that the Asian market can have on previously underperforming brands. Recent vintages are in strong demand and prices are firmly on the up – Beychevelle emerged as the top player on the Left Bank 200 index in March.
Beychevelle 2015: “suave”
Beychevelle 2015 has been released up 16.6% on the 2014 release price, making it cheaper than all back vintages previous to 2012 and 39.2% lower than the 2005.
Neal Martin (92-4) called the wine “a suave Beychevelle in the making”, whereas James Suckling (92-3) described it as “very pretty”. Great value coupled with top quality makes this year’s Beychevelle an exciting wine to purchase En Primeur.
Chateau Clinet has a long and tumultuous history – a characteristic of many leading Bordeaux estates. Passing through a succession of owners from the 19th century up until the 1980s, its fortune began to change when it fell under the management of Jean-Michael Arcaute. He restructured the vineyards and planted a high proportion of Merlot – previously, 25% had been planted to Cabernet Sauvignon.
Harvesting by machine was replaced with harvesting by hand, and a second wine Fleur de Clinet, was introduced. Arcaute’s interventions were clearly successful – the 1989 release was considered by Robert Parker to be one of the best of the vintage, and remains one of Clinet’s most accomplished wines yet.
In 1998 the property was purchased by Jean-Louis Laborde, and today the estate is run by his son, Ronan. The underground vinification cellar was refitted and expanded in 2004, and has thermally regulated wooden vats as well as temperature and dampness control. In places, vineyard work is done using horses rather than tractors to protect the soil and the vines.
Clinet 2015: “hedonistic”
Critics have been impressed by this year’s release. James Suckling awarded it 99-100 points and described it as the “greatest Clinet ever. No jam. Just class”. Neal Martin (95-97) called it “a great Pomerol from Ronan Laborde and his team” and James Molesworth (94-97) wrote that it “shows serious length already and latent depth. A hedonistic wine in the making”.
Chateau Grand Puy Lacoste
The Chateau’s name originates from a combination of its location – ‘puy’ is a topographical term relating to elevations in flat landscapes – and the family name of the estate’s original owners, Lacoste.
Initial plantings took place in the 1500’s when the property was owned by the Guiraud family. However, much of what we know of as Chateau Grand Puy Lacoste can be credited to the Dejean family, who were forced to sell the estate when Bordeaux was devastated by phylloxera in the last 1800s. After passing from owner to owner, it was finally sold to the Borie family, who also own Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou in St. Julien and Chateau Haut Batailley in Pauillac.
François-Xavier Borie remains the current owner and winemaker. In 2004, complete renovation of the vineyards, winemaking facilities and cellars began and Borie purchased the huge stainless steel fermentation tanks which are in use today.
Grand Puy Lacoste wines are known for their classic Pauillac style – a full bodied, tannic, concentrated Bordeaux wine that ages well. Interestingly, the wine became one of the first non First Growth Bordeaux brands to sell successfully in Asia – partly to do with the fact that it shares its name with the well-known sportswear designers, Lacoste!
Grand Puy Lacoste 2015: “elegant”
Grand Puy Lacoste 2015 has been released up 24.7% on the 2014 release price.
There is a marked difference in the price of Grand Puy Lacoste between good and ‘bad’ vintages (anything other than 2005, 2009 and 2010), and the opening price of the 2015 pitches it among the best vintages.
Critics seem to agree, with James Suckling (94-95) calling it “very fine and elegant” and Neal Martin (94-96) concluding: “You could describe the 2015 as being between 2009 and 2010…and that, folks, is not a bad place to be.” Liv-ex members also voted it top “value” wine of the vintage for the sixth year in a row.
Domaine de Chevallier
What we know of today as Domaine de Chevalier was purchased in 1865 by Arnaud Ricard for 33,000 francs. The estate began selling their wine under the Gascon name of “Chivaley”, but wine was not their main interest and the land was used mostly for food crops and ranching.
Shortly after Ricard died, his son Jean transformed the property into a full time vineyard, and the name was changed from “Chivaley” to the French “Chevalier”. Claude Ricard, Jean’s son, took over in 1948 when he was only 21 years old. Under Claude, Domaine de Chevalier was included in the 1959 Graves Classification.
In 1983, the estate was purchased by its current owners, the Bernard family, for 23 million francs. Olivier Bernard oversaw the expansion of the vineyards and a full replantation programme took place from 1988-1995, followed by renovation of the winemaking facilities and cellar.
Domaine de Chevalier is renowned for both its red and its white Bordeaux wine. The white Bordeaux uses a combination of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, while the red is comprised of the classic mix of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot .
Domaine Chevallier 2015: “intellectual”
Domaine Chevalier Rouge 2015 has been released up 32.1% on the 2014 release price, lying somewhere between the 2009 and 2010. Its set of strong critic scores seem to explain why.
Neal Martin (95-97) called it “a fabulous, intellectual wine” and Jancis Robinson (18/20) commented on its “lovely appetising low-key classicism”. Buyers might also find the popular brand appealing.
Domaine Chevalier Blanc 2015 has also been released, up just 10% on the 2014 price.