Affordable and St-Emilion are not often put together. Yet it is possible to find good-value, high-quality wines if you know where to look, writes JAMES LAWTHER MW

Affordable and St-Emilion are not often put together. Yet it is possible to find good-value, high-quality wines if you know where to look, writes JAMES LAWTHER MW

It’s not an easy task finding good, affordable St-Emilion. For one thing it’s a large appellation, some 5,400 hectares under production, with a multitude of châteaux and brands, over 1,000 if the count could be effected. The properties are generally small and running costs and land values excessive which tends to drive the prices high. So sifting out the affordably good from the indifferent provides the same kind of sport as scouring Burgundy’s patchwork vineyards for good wines.

Are there any helpful hints for choosing wisely? Vintage, of course, is an aid. On the market at present 2000 has produced some beautifully ripe wines, 1998 is of the same quality but more intense, 1999 is varied and needs careful selection (ripeness and over-oaking are the two major problems) while only the very best of 1997 are still worthy of consideration.

Price is another pointer. As a rule of thumb, wines that retail at up to £13 will tend to come from St-Emilion’s sandier soils, be lighter framed and for earlier drinking, from three to five years. Those at £15 upwards will
probably have a better terroir and more investment in the vineyard and cellars and, accordingly, a greater
ageing potential, up to 10 years. There are therefore
two types of ‘good-value’ wines: those that represent interesting everyday drinking and those that, given their more serious nature, are a bargain for laying down.

The last tip, as in Burgundy, is to get to know the names of the reliable producers. The tasting highlighted those making consistently good wines – Côte de Baleau, Rozier, Grand Corbin-Despagne and Pressac are obvious examples. Other producers are coming to the fore (Mangot, Clos Larcis, Gaillard) but the names will be less familiar as the wines are not necessarily available on the export market.

For the purposes of this selection 176 wines from
six different vintages were tasted blind at the Syndicat de St-Emilion. Classified wines (1996) were excluded from the tasting. A price bar of £15 retail or h20 at the cellar door was set but has been transgressed if the wine has been considered worthy of inclusion at the listed price. One of the top wines of the tasting, Château Rochebelle, had to be omitted due to the price being well above the guideline.

CHATEAU COTE DE BALEAU

A really fine wine with superb fruit and definition. Dark fruits with more of a blackcurrant expression, really vibrant on the palate. A touch of chocolatey oak, firm finish, quite reserved, almost Médocain in style. Should age well. 2004–2010.

£11.15; C&B

CHATEAU ROZIER

Deep, bright, opaque colour. Quality fruit extract with finely judged, elegant, smoky, toasty oak. Medium to full bodied with grip on the finish. Modern but not
excessive. Very fine. 2004–2010.

£13; M&V

CHATEAU PAS DE L’ANE

Ripe, modern St-Emilion with a note of terroir. Big, deep colour. Loads of rich, dark fruit extract with an overlay of vanilla oak. Soft and round on the attack, powerful and extracted but clean, fresh finish. Plenty of firm, ripe tannin. 2004–2010.

N/A UK (h18.30, tel: +33 5 57 74 62 55)

CHaTEAU ARMENS

Deep, bright colour. Well-handled, aromatic fruit – cherry/raspberry with a note of vanilla and spice. Smooth texture, again the flavour of dark fruits and spice on the palate, firm assertive finish. 3–8 years.

£15.58 C&B

CLOS LARCIS

Well honed, classic in style with grip and length on the finish. Dark fruits but discreet, medium weight, crisp, fresh finish. Well balanced. 4–8 years.

N/A UK (h12.68, tel: +33 5 57 43 01 44)

CHATEAU FRANC GRACE DIEU

Good colour. Ripe, dark fruit, gently
aromatic. Medium bodied, soft and round on the palate, appealingly drinkable but has grip. Long, fresh finish. 3–7 years.

£20 en primeur; BBR (available from spring 2003)

CHATEAU MANGOT, CUVEE QUINTESSENCE

New wave St-Emilion but well executed. Plenty of rich, firm extract with a coating of toasty, mocha oak. Needs time to settle but fruit and oak harmonious. Long finish with plenty of grip. 2004–2010.

N/A UK (h21.50, tel: +33 5 57 40 18 23)

CHATEAU DE PRESSAC

Fine wine with form and stature. Well-extracted fruit with just a touch of oak. Reserved, sober with plenty of ripe matière, balance and grip on the finish. Solid and dignified. Five stars on another day. 2004–2010.

N/A UK (h22, tel: +33 5 57 40 18 02)

D DE DASSAULT

Second wine of grand cru classé Château Dassault. Full colour. Attractive nose –
dark fruits with a touch of vanilla oak.
Soft and ripe with a firmness on the finish. Quite serious. 3–6 years.

£13.95; Har (only 1997)

CHATEAU LAGARDE BELLEVUE

Lighter weight and frame but plenty of ripe, plummy fruit. Soft and round with well-integrated oak. 2–5 years.

N/A UK (h7.75, tel: +33 5 57 24 68 83)

CHATEAU BELLECOMBE

Mellow, dark cherry fruits. Quite expressive. Medium bodied, soft with an appealing freshness on the finish. 2–5 years.

N/A UK (h7.50, tel: +33 6 82 84 84 63)

CHATEAU LES GRAVIERES

Modern-style St-Emilion. Big, deep
colour. Sweet, caramely oak on the
nose and palate but the fruit is there. Plenty of extract. A little dry on the
finish. 4–8 years.

N/A UK (h13, tel: +33 5 57 84 54 73)

CHATEAU CARDINAL-VILLEMAURINE

Quite seductive nose – compôte of dark fruits with a dash of vanilla oak. Palate fresh, clean and structured. Longer ageing potential. 2004–2010.

N/A UK (h21, tel: +33 5 57 24 74 46)

CHATEAU DU VAL D’OR

Big, rich wine with plenty of extract and oak. Modern wave. Dark purple-black hue, lots of polished oak, ripe-overripe fruit, touch of alcohol but clean finish. 4–8 years.

£13.99; LWC (1999 only)

CHATEAU COTES DE ROL

Harmonious, medium-bodied wine. Quite fruit driven with just a touch of oak. Attractive early drinking. 2–5 years.

£12.50; Hal

CHATEAU CROS-FIGEAC

Dark, bright hue. Perfumed Pinot-raspberry nose. Lively fruit on the palate with a mocha nuance. Soft and aromatic, medium weight and intensity. 3–7 years.

N/A UK (h19, tel: +33 5 57 55 51 60)

CHATEAU TEYSSIER

Supple, amiable wine with instant appeal. Plenty of soft, dark fruit, well-integrated oak, pleasing texture and weight. Drink over the next three years.

£12.95; Tan (1999, 2000 expected soon)

CHATEAU MANGOT

Good colour. Dark, briary fruit – more blackberry and blackcurrant. Reserved, even a little austere. Assertive tannic finish,
perhaps a little robust but honest. 3–7 years.

N/A UK (h11, tel: +33 5 57 40 18 23)

CHATEAU PONTET FUMET

Plenty of soft berry fruit, ripe, sweet with conspicuous vanilla oak on the palate and nose. Will appeal to some but the oak a little over-stated at present. 4–8 years.

£11.55; Bib ( available from autumn)

CHATEAU ROC DE BOISSEAUX

Attractive fruit-driven wine. Dark fruit: cherry aromas, soft, plummy fruit on the palate, a dash of vanilla oak, medium intensity. Simple, less complexity but an enjoyable drink. 3–5 years.

N/A UK (h11.40, tel: +33 55 7 88 07 64)

Vintage 1999

CHATEAU GRAND CORBIN-DESPAGNE

Balanced, ripe and well extracted. An
aromatic cherry-raspberry nose,
medium bodied with a core of soft fruit and fine tannic edge. Overall harmonious. A more than sound effort for the vintage. 4–8 years.

£12.50–15.83; F&R, Mls

CHATEAU ROZIER

Serious wine with volume and punch for the vintage. Intense, restrained, dark fruit on the nose and palate, ripe tannins and a fresh, minerally, balanced finish. 2004–2008.

£13; M&V

CHATEAU PIPEAU

Big and ripe for the vintage with loads of extract. Quite exotic nose of ripe-overripe dark cherry fruit, orange zest and toasted oak. Rich, plummy texture on the palate, good depth and a firm tannic finish.
2003–2008.

£12.95; T&S

CHATEAU FLEUR CARDINALE

Dark hue. Plenty of firm, dark berry fruit on the palate and nose. Oak apparent but integrated. Solid structure. Good weight. Some ageing potential. 2004–2008.
ThH

CHATEAU COTE DE BALEAU

Dark fruits, fresh and balanced. Medium weight and frame, soft, fleshy middle but grip on the finish. That subdued, minerally Médoc nuance noted again. 2003–2008.

£11.15; C&B

CHATEAU FOMBRAUGE

Quite deep colour. Solid wine with a
firm to hard tannic structure. Good weight of fruit with a note of vanilla oak on the nose and palate and glow of alcohol. Quite intense. Needs some bottle age. 2004–2010.

£15; Mls

CHATEAU CHEVALIER BLANC

Medium bodied, soft fruits with an
exotic, spicy, vanilla note. Smooth attack, rounded, plummy texture. Enjoyable over the next three years.

N/A UK (h11, tel: +33 5 57 24 68 83)

CHATEAU DU VAL D’OR

Deep colour. Heavy toasted oak on the palate and nose but a reasonable volume of fruit behind. Sweet attack, little dryness on the finish. 2003–2007.

£13.99; LWC

CHATEAU BOUTISSE

Soft, plummy fruit with quite a hint of vanilla oak. Coffee-mocha overtones
reasonably well integrated on the palate. Medium intensity. 2003–2007.

£10.95; Rbs

CHATEAU MAUVEZIN

A more reserved style with the terroir and Cabernet influence underlined. Medium bodied, balanced with cassis aromas and flavour and a firm minerally edge. A little peppery. 2003–2008.

N/A UK (h22, tel: +33 5 57 24 72 36)

CHATEAU PONTET FUMET

Good extract, lots of chewy fruit, firm but fine tannins, a little reserved aromatically. Quite a serious wine. 2003–2007

£11.55; Bib

CHATEAU PATRIS

Lively, aromatic wine with an expressive fruit character, raspberry-cherry perfume and flavour, smooth texture and fresh finish. Delightful drink. 3–5 years.

N/A UK (h18, tel: +33 5 57 55 51 60)

CHATEAU CROS-FIGEAC

Red fruits, lots of soft, plummy Merlot character with a touch of subtle vanilla oak. Quite warm, loose knit but attractive fruit. 3–6 years.

N/A UK (h18, tel: +33 5 57 55 51 60)

CHATEAU DU PARC

Medium bodied, quite firm finish, plenty of smoky, toasty oak but of a fine quality. Fruit about handles it. 3–6 years.

N/A UK (h12.65, tel: +33 5 57 24 77 30)

CHATEAU MAGNAN LA GAFFELIERE

Simple, easy style. Fleshy, red fruit character. Drinks well now. Not for the long haul.

N/A UK (h12.15, tel: +33 5 57 55 38 03)

CHaTEAU MANGOT, ‘CUVEE QUINTESSENCE’

Creamy oak a little heavy but plenty of dark fruit extract to help integrate. Attractive weight of fruit, fresh with a minerally edge and firm tannic finish. 2004–2008.

N/A UK (h20.50, tel: +33 5 57 40 18 23)

CHATEAU LAPLAGNOTTE BELLEVUE

Delicately aromatic with hints of summer fruits. Appealing fruit on the palate and enough firmness to give it a serious edge. Touch grassy on the finish. Drink over the next 3 years.

£11.91; Its (1995 only)

CHATEAU DE PRESSAC

Well-extracted, medium-bodied wine, quite reserved and within itself at present. Soft, round attack, well-integrated oak. Grip on the finish. Serious. 2004–2008.

N/A UK – sold on Place de Bordeaux
(h18.50, tel: +33 5 57 40 18 02)

CHATEAU JEAN VOISIN

Attractive, ripe, red cherry fruit. A little chocolatey oak, but persistent fruit character. Harmonious. 2003–2006

N/A UK. Tel: +33 5 57 24 70 40

CHATEAU ROC DE BOISSEAUX

Soft ripe fruit, fleshy, not a big wine but attractive drink. Light tannic structure, fresh finish. Drink over the next 2 years.

N/A UK (h10.50, tel: +33 5 57 88 07 64)

CHATEAU MOULIN GALHAUD

Deep colour. Rich, full extract, plenty of
confit, curranty fruit with a layer of
elegant, cedary oak. Touch of alcohol,
low acidity, quite extracted but good effort. 2003–2006.

N/A UK (h16.74, tel: +33 5 57 97 39 73)

CHATEAU MARQUEY

Lighter weight/frame but a good definition and balance. Layered fruit with a minerally nuance. Drink over the next 2–3 years.

N/A UK (h15, tel: +33 5 57 24 62 61)

CHATEAU GAILLARD

Soft, round, fleshy, well extracted. Little chocolatey oak on the palate. Attractive, medium bodied wine. 2003–2006.

N/A UK (h11.28, tel: +33 5 57 24 72 44)

Vintage 1998

CHATEAU ROZIER

Big, rich colour. Still a little closed, reserved and intense. Lovely ripe fruit on the palate, plenty of depth. Creamy oak present but well integrated. 2004–2008.

£13; M&V

CHATEAU MAGNAN LA GAFFELIERE

Good colour. Ripe fruit, volume, balance and freshness on the finish. Well-integrated oak. Lively, compact wine. Drink over the next 2–3 years.

N/A UK (h12.80, tel: +33 5 57 55 38 03)

CHATEAU GRAND CORBIN-DESPAGNE

Deep colour. Ripe, dark fruit on the nose with a dash of cedary-vanilla oak. Sweet attack, round and full on the palate with a spicy edge. Warm, firm finish. 2004–2008.

£13.90; Bib

D DE DASSAULT

Deep colour. Good intensity and volume. Grip on the finish. Quite a bit of reserve. Still a lick of vanilla oak on the nose and palate. Drink over the next 3–4 years.

£13.95; Har

CHATEAU CADET PEYCHEZ

Compote of summer fruits, round attack, fresh finish. Simple but attractive. 2–3 years.

N/A UK (h10.22, tel: +33 5 57 74 43 80)

CHATEAU COTE DE BALEAU

Extracted style but plenty of sweet, dark fruit matière. Big, warm and rich with a liberal dose of chocolatey-mocha oak. Almost 4 stars but for the oak. 2004–2008.

£14.81; C&B

Vintage 1997

CHATEAU GRAND CORBIN-DESPAGNE

Good colour. Lovely, creamy red fruit on the nose and palate. Soft, round and warm. Holding up well. Drink over the
next 2–3 years.

£12.50; Mls

For full list of stockists turn to page 90

Written by JAMES LAWTHER MW