Wines of Château de Valandraud presented at Club Chasse et Pêche
Monday February 6th 2006
an Olivier Collin collaboration
I was given the occasion to taste the wines presented by owner Jean-Luc Thunevin and his wife Murielle Andraud and here are my detailed impressions. The tasting took place in two steps, as I was first presented with the wines in pure tasting during an hour long meeting with Jean-Luc Thunevin, and then, I re-tasted the wines to confirm my impressions at the dining table.
Blanc de Valandraud #2 2004 Bordeaux
Produced in tiny quantities (about 1200 bottles in this wintage) and sold for 15 euros in France, this wine represents the low-end of Valandrauds products. Exhibiting a good yellow colour with silvery glint and a light texture, the wine initially reveals a slight sulphating residue which completely clears up to reveal a pleasant albeit restrained nose where Sauvignon dominates with citrus aromas an some greenness. Clean and a bit tight on the palate, the fruit is decent and helped by good freshness. A tart finish hints a lack of maturity of fruit. Paired with King salmon, the wine was better as it provided a pleasant contrast to the fishs unctuous and mellow texture.
Blanc de Valandraud #1 2004 Bordeaux
Same vintage but rather more ambitious, this wine is a fantastic achievement. Produced in collaboration with the oenologue Athanase Fakorellis who also works for Château Malartic-Lagravière, this wine is made from vines growing on a hill with western exposure consisting of argil soils and benefits from the most meticulous treatment both in the vine (adapted effeuillage, three green harvests, drastic selection upon harvest) and in the chais (8 to 9 hours of slow pressing, stirring upon lees, new oak aging). This wine is literally a tour de force for young vines on of age four. The price of 75 euros in France seems entirely justified.
Showing a bright yellow colour with hints of green and good texture, this wine presents very pure and intense aromas with a wonderful fruitiness as well as exquisite floral notes usually found in the best wines of Pessac-Leognan (although this comes from the terroir of Saint-Emilion!). Luch oaky notes are already perfectly integrated in the fruity opulence to leave a fine impression on the taster. An excellent balance Sauvignon-Semillon follows on the palate with a remarkable initial richness, good unctuous mouthfeel balanced by an adequate acidity providing freshness. Mid-palate full and velvety where Semillons natural fat shows absolutely no heaviness and prepares a pure finish of very good length.
Virginie de Valandraud 1999 St-Emilion
Jean-Luc Thinevin insists that this is not Valandrauds second wine, as it comes from no lesser parcels and benefits from the same meticulous care as the estates flagship wine. Sold for about 60 euros in France, it represents the middle-range at Valandraud. The wine shows very little signs of evolution at sight with a dense ruby/purple colour with less intense rim and a rather thick texture. Intense mature fruit aromas show first on the nose evolving towards dark chocolate notes, it does not evolve much in the glass over the tasting, probably needs more time to show some complexity. The palate confirms that this is rather unevolved but hedonistic, with cassis fruit and a good structure developing with restraint and charm. Soft tannins in the mid-palate leave way to a less interesting finish where sweet fruit and vanilla dominate and shows some bitterness after some time. These impressions are confirmed with direct comparison with the top cuvees from 1998 and 1995 during the meal.
Château de Valandraud 1998 Saint-Emilion Grand Cru
A particularly successful vintage showing lovely classical proportions, no doubt helped by the high percentage of Cabernet-Franc found in the wine. The colour shows a slightly evolved appearance with intense garnet and a ruby rim. Upon opening, the nose is a bit discrete and reveals oak and brown sugar notes but it develops wonderfully and with precision, showing wonderfully ripe and elegant Cabernet-Franc as well as some spiciness provided by a touch of cinnamon. The palate confirms the wines potential: fully balanced from start to finish, full-bodied and endowed with a very good tannic structure, no unnecessary oak, very good purity of fruit with a bitter chocolate finish. Elegant and seamless, it leaves a very different impression from the rumoured over-extraction. My best Valandraud this evening and this wine shows similar class to Cheval Blanc in the same vintage.
Château de Valandraud 1995 Saint-Emilion Grand Cru
Some bottle variations where found here. During the pre-dinner tasting, the wine showed really well and my comments below will be based on these impressions. Jean-Luc Thunevin mentioned to me that brett aromas were at times found in bottles from this vintage, and it may have been the case for the bottles presented at our table over dinner as the wine seemed more evolved and had unusual animal undertones.
One finds signs of evolution at the rim here, while the core is still perfectly coloured with a deep purple colour. Unlike the 1998, the nose is marked by Merlot aromas of truffle, cinnamon along with a slight and pleasant toasted oak residue finely integrated to redcurrant notes. On the palate the wine has developed very well with years in bottle and still shows a massive side balanced by wonderful fruit richness and lush texture which should carry the wine for many years to come. I have not had the occasion to taste this wine in its youth, but I imagine that it always has had this natural richness (at times confused with over-extraction). The wine has a long finish with mineral undertones and a touch of leather after a while.
Château de Valandraud 2001 Saint-Emilion Grand Cru
Jean-Luc Thunevin had taken great care with the serving of this wine, asking for it to be decanted for 6 hours, and still the wine showed typical modern vin de garde features.
Showing an almost opaque purple colour at the core, a saturated rim and a much fatter texture than the preceding wines. The aromas it exhibits are less attractive to my personal and more traditional taste, packed as it is with chocolate dipped cherries and moka notes that appeal to many along with very, very ripe fruit and a touch of alcohol. More civilised on the palate, the wine shows a sexy side which almost makes one forget its heavily built structure. Compared to the 1998 or even the 1995, one cannot help but notice a search for more ripeness. Tannins make their presence felt but also seem finer and this helps the wine, but the wine does not appeared as well layered to me as did the 1998. This is nevertheless a fine example of a right bank modern wine that will certainly require 5-10 years before it can eventually show some grace in age, after showing its youthful opulent side.