Story and photos by Dwight Casimere
Savoring the floral perfume of Grand Crus Classes Saint-Emilion
NEW YORK---Saint-Emilion is one of the most picturesque and historic towns in all of Bordeaux France. Located on the Right Bank of Gironde River, the region has been growing grapes and creating wine wince the time of the Romans. Primarily Merlot based, with a measure of Cabernet Franc blended in for structure and body, the wines are awash with flavors of black fruit and the plush richness brought by the rich, complex soil composed of sand, limestone gravel and clay.
In prehistoric times, the area was submerged under the sea and in some areas the calcerous soil is dotted with the skeletal remains of crustaceous sea life, which further adds to the richness of the soil and the unique structure and character of the resulting wines. These are wines to be savored with your favorite cheeses or charcuterie. They also marry well with Prime Aged Steaks and game meat. They're practically a must of the Holiday table with its centerpiece Turkey, Ham, Standing Crown Roast or Leg of Lamb. Rich sauces and side dishes are the wine's favored companions; try sage dressing, bread pudding, hearty mac n'cheese, cinnamon spice yams and the ubiquitous cranberry jelly mold. Even savory desserts like candied fruit cake, rich German Chocolate Cake, chocolate mousse or Flaming Puddings are a terrific match. The possibilities are endless. If you run out of ideas or are simply exhausted by the plethora of choices, open a bottle, sit back and relax and enjoy a moment of solace before your Holiday guests arrive.
Brian Dudley, Sales Manager Stuyvesant Liquors Distributors savors a glass of Saint-Emilion
The art gallery setting for the Grands Crus tasting at San Francisco's Terra
The Association de Grands Crus Classes de Saint-Emilion embarked on its 2015 Tasting Tour in three major cities, in New York at the Metropolitan Pavilion, Chicago at the architecturally stunning Venue Six10 atop the Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership and in San Francisco's Terra Gallery near the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Gallery District. The artistic setting was appropriate to the art-in-the-bottle presented by the 25 winemakers who were present to personally pour their 2010 and 2012 vintages in their US debut.
Most of the wines sampled hovered in the $25-$65 (most costing $35-$45) range, not cheap, but well worth the price. They pack a lot of flavor and body into their wines. If you're a lover of French wines, as I am, you may recognize some of the names; Chateau De Pressac, Clos De Jacobins, Chateau Dassault, Chateau Grand-Pontet.
Among my personal favorites was the 2010 Chateau de Ferrand, which can be had for about $35 a bottle. Marie Pourquet poured a generous tasting portion for me and I was amazed at the distinctive floral aroma. It had the perfume of fresh-cut roses. A blend of 75% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Franc and 1% Cabernet Sauvignon, the wine is fermented in 50% stainless steel and 50% glass-tiled concrete, a practice of many of the producers in the area. It preserves not only the natural fruit flavors, but enhances the unique soil characteristics of the regions terroir, which is a blend of clay and sand on a layer of iron-rich clay. The wine is produced by means of organic viticultural methods from 42 year old vines that are picked at optimum ripeness in early October.
Sophie Fourcade of Chateau Cote de Baleau and Les Grandes Murailles, Clos Saint Martin
GRAND CRUS CLASSES SAINT-EMILION A CAVALCADE OF COMPLEX FLAVORS
The taste of the wine is arresting. First your mouth is awash in flavors of dark fruits; plums, ripe blackberries tinged with anise. The opulent fruit is supported by an undercurrent of minerality from the rich and complex soil from which the grapes are derived.
The wine is made in the north of the Saint-Emilion appellation, close to the famed Pomerol. Its a pedigree that shows in the final product.
Francois Despagne grabbed my attention in order to pour me his 2012 Chateau Grand Corbin-Despagne-(about $47), another 75% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Franc, 1% Cabernet Sauvignon blend. The wine gets a distinct toast from aging in French oak from various origins and 50% each of old and new oak casks. Oenologist Jean-Philippe Fort uses all organic viticultural methods to achieve spectacular results.
It's always nice to see a familiar face at these trade tastings, and Guy Meslin, owner of Chateau Laroze tugged at my sleeve to pour me his 2010 Chateau Laroze, a steal at $45. The grapes are grown at the foot of a western slope about a mile or so from the village. The unique soil composition of silica over clay gives the wine its distinctive character and structure. A blend of 70% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, the grapes are grown on 20 year old vines and fermented in stainless steel and concrete. Consulting oenologists Hubert de Bouard of Angelus and Jean-Philippe Fort of Rolland Consulting (boy, they really get around in the region!), have created a masterpiece using slow, careful fermentation at low temperatures and aging in varying combinations of old and new French oak. The wines they produce are a symphony of complex flavors and aromas.
Anabelle Cruse-Bardinet is the winemaker to Chateau Corbin 2012 ($23), a powerful blend of 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc, this wine comes from one of the oldest estates in St. Emilion, dating back to the 15th century. The great grandparents of the current owners, the Cruse family, bought the estate in 1924. Since 1999, the chateau has been managed by Anabelle Cruse-Bardinet and her winemaking team (Jean-Philippe Fort and Michel Rolland strike again!). Her cousin, Emmanuel Cruse manages Chateau d'Issan in the Marguax, so there must be something in the genes. Also unique is the fact that the line of succession at Chateau Corbin has been passed from mother to daughter for multiple generations.
Fermentation in concrete tanks preserved the unique fruit-foward flavor characteristic of the wine. Aging in 100% French oak barrels (40-50% new each year), makes this one of the best tasting wines of the day with its roundness and balance. A healthy hunk of Blue Cheese was all that was needed to bring out the best in this luscious wine.
Look for the wines of the Grands Crus Classes of Saint-Emilion. It's a bargain-priced passport to France that will take you on a delightful journey of flavor sensations.
Below: Shirley Chan of LPL Financial