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The 2020 Vintage: "LE SUBLIME"

2020, the mirror year, is also the golden number of this rare vintage -one of perfect proportion and ideal harmony. It evokes at the same time the cyclical time of the vine and its work, an ideal of balance and that duality, undergone, overcome and sublimated, which characterises it. 

Between the very mild winter and ensuing spring, there was no break but instead a fluid transition ensured by abundant rainfall. The equivalent of a whole year’s rain fell between November 2019 and June 2020, which replenished the soil’s water reserves, necessary for the vines during the summer period.

Months of hot weather followed, not extreme heat but very dry conditions, until storms arrived in mid-August, which delivered to the soils just what they needed in order to partner the vines in their growth cycle and avoid them slowing or shutting down. These alternating conditions which appeared very marked, even violent, were smoothed out by our clays soils which, acting like a sponge, were able to retain moisture and pass it on sparingly and with regularity to the vines.

This smooth, harmonious development of the vines was marked by a number of important stages. After an early start to the growing season and fears of frost, which didn’t materialise, the flowering process was fast and perfectly smooth, especially in the early-ripening vineyards just after the 15th May. The veraison process took place mid-July in excellent weather conditions.

 

The vines were in perfect health throughout the whole of the cycle, and the grapes filled up with sugar as they benefited from an even ripening right till the end. The berries remained small but perfectly formed, while the skins were thick and the pips ripe.

Although a hot and sunny year, this vintage is perfectly balanced. While the alcoholic degrees are relatively high, these are subtly balanced by pHs which bring out the freshness and intensity of the fruit flavour.

At Angélus this year, the harvest began on 15th September and lasted only a short time. The Merlot was harvested in just 8 days! The Cabernet Franc was picked in three days –September 28th, 29th and 30th in absolutely perfect weather conditions.  Rarely has a vintage produced such sublime Cabernet Franc at Angélus.

Our initial impressions when we tasted the berries have been consistently confirmed when tasting the wines: silky, tight-knit tannins, a very deep colour, precision in the ripe fruit aromas, amazingly intense aromatic complexity, and very long, very lively freshness of flavour on the mid palate.

This lively tension and sublime duality have forged the character of a new, remarkable Angélus which is bound to capture people’s imaginations and remain long in their memories.

 

 

ANGELUS AFFECTED BY FROST

Everything in the vineyard had been been in the best possible shape up till now. It gave us an early glimpse of the potential 2017 crop. After a normal bud-break, spring brought mild temperatures and vine vegetation growth accelerated, while the formation of bunches was 10 days early.  

Unfortunately, the wine region of Bordeaux was severely hit by frost during the nights of the 26th and 27th April, Angélus included. Although 80% of the vines at Angélus dedicated to the First Wine are undamaged, the impact is nevertheless quite significant.  

The 2017 harvest will therefore not be abundant. However we will muster all the necessary energy and all our resources to make the little wine we will produce in 2017 of outstanding quality.  

If we look back over the history of our region, we are reminded that if a spring frost affects the abundance of the harvest, it does not necessarily reduce quality. The glorious vintages of 1945 and 1961, when the initial weather conditions were similar to what we have just experienced, are two shining examples.  

"Unstinting efforts ensure the successful completion of all work." Virgil. 

 

Could Cabernet Franc be one of our oldest grape varieties?

 

In his ampelographical treatise of 1909, P. Viala stated that the etymology of its name and its synonyms go way back in history and referred to a scholar of the 17th century called Petit Lafitte, who appeared to claim that the Vidure (the Petite Vidure or the Grosse Vidure)-its Bordeaux name, was the ancestor of the Biturica. He bases his opinion on the hypothesis that the word Vidure may come from the word Bidure, then Biturica. It was from the 19th century that the Cabernet Franc could be found in written works.

In 1829, in his “Classification of the Wines of Bordeaux and Specific Grape Varieties”, the wine broker M. Paguierre found it to be “delicate with a bright deep colour and with superior flavour”. Then in 1855, in “Vine-growing, Vinification and Wine” by M. d’Armailhacq, an article by the Count Odart stated that the wine it produces is “fine, full of bouquet and long-ageing”. At this time already, specific reference was being made to the very notion of terroir and the nature of the soils. He also wrote that “according to the spot where it was planted, the results were different: on limestone soils the wine was outstanding; on gravel over clay subsoil it produced a wine that was rich in colour and long ageing; on light sands the wine was light and had limited ageing potential; in tuff the wines were of no interest, it was flat and colourless”. In other words, the place where it was planted and its supply of water were of great importance. We are also told that the wine of this variety “keeps for a very long time and gains in bouquet and delicacy over 12 to 15 years… and it can keep well up to 20 years”.

 

In 1868, Cocks et Ferret described it as having “ leaves which were comparable to those of the Cabernet Sauvignon, they are slightly less fine and less shiny, their indentations are a little less deep; its canes are long and covered with light brown-greyish bark, which led to its name Cabernet Gris. Its bunches are less long than those of the Cabernet Sauvignon, its fruit is very flavoursome”. In 1874, in his treatise on grape varieties, Count Odart said that the wine it produced in suitable terroir was “ fine, full of bouquet and long-ageing”. He added that “ it was one of the plants in Gironde that had the reputation of producing one of the most distinguished wines when the fruit reaches complete ripeness”.

In 1886, again in Cocks et Ferret, we can read that the wine is “light in colour when it leaves the vat and that it becomes darker after three or four months”, a fact that we witness today during each of our vinifications.

The Cabernet Franc has numerous synonyms. According to “Synonymy of Ampelography” by the INRA, it can correspond to different origins and types: Achéria –the Basque country, Arrouya – the Jurançon region, Bouchet or Gros Bouchet – around Libourne, Bouchey or Boubet – the Adour basin, Breton – the Loire valley, Capbreton rouge and Messange rouge – the Landes sands, Gouhaort – Madiran, Noir dur – Loiret, Grosse Vidure and Carmenet – the Bordeaux area, Véronais – Saumur, Cabernet Gris and Petit Fer – around Libourne, Carbouet – Bazas area.

P. Galet, in “Grape Varieties and Vineyards of France” described it in 1962 as a “ small producer”. Jancis Robinson, in her1986 book on grape varieties wrote, “ it participates in Saint-Emilion in the production of absolutely superb wines. Its aromas are of raspberries, violets and pencil shavings”. She reminds us that a report dating from the 18th century, quoted by Professor Enjalbert, considered it particularly well adapted to the Libourne vineyards.

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History

Château Angelus is one of the largest and most prestigious St-Emilion estates and was promoted to1er grand cru classé status in the 1996 St-Emilion reclassification. Since 2012 ranked Premier grand cru classé (A) in the Classification of Saint-Émilion wine. Passionately managed for over four generations, Angelus is owned and run by two cousins, Hubert de Boüard de Laforest, andJean-Bernard Grenie and is located in the centre-west of the St-Emilion appellation, due west of St-Emilion town.

Angelus's vineyards, 57.8 acres, situated less than a kilometer away from the famous St Emilion steeple, enjoys a perfect southerly-exposed slope - Cabernet Franc (which makes up 48% of the blend) is grown at the bottom of the slope, where the soil is sandier and warmer, while the Merlot(50% of the blend) is grown in the limestone-rich clay soils at the top of the slope. The wine is matured in 100% new oak for 18 months. Rich, concentrated and complex, Angelus needs at least five years of bottle age before it should be approached.

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Vineyards

What makes a great “terroir”? It is much more complex than you might think. It is not just the land, the earth, its natural capacity to drain away water and retain humidity – limestone or clay – the proportion of different elements in it that make it warm or cold soil, rich or poor ground, well-balanced or lacking. It is also the way it is exposed at the head of a valley, on a slope or at the foot of a hill, which creates little places that can be absolutely outstanding.

 

The vineyard at AngОlus resides in a natural amphitheatre on a south-facing slope of Saint-Emilion and at its foot, where the summer temperatures are concentrated and where growth starts earlier. The soil is naturally drained by the slope. A good distribution of limestone and clay (between 8 and 20%) provides a regular supply of water and minerals. The vines’ rootstocks areideally suited to this “terroir” and the vine varieties are distributed according to the soil types: Merlot on the hill, where there is more clay and Cabernet Franc on the sandy clay-limestone soils at the foot of the hill.

 

Surface area : 23.4 hectares (58 acres) in one single block
Situation : On the south-facing slope of Saint-Emilion, on the famous “pied de côte” (foot of the slope)
Soils : Clay-limestone in the high part, clay-sand-limestone on the hillside slopes.
Density of plantation : 6,500 to 7,500 plants per hectare
Grape varieties : 50% Merlot, 47% Cabernet Franc, 3% Cabernet Sauvignon
Average age of the vines : 30 years
Pruning technique : “Girondine”, leaving two canes
Vineyard management : Vines are grown in the traditional manner. Some of the rows are seeded with grass. Debudding, then crop thinning in summer
Harvesting : 100% by hand. The grapes are sorted on the vine and on three sorting tables at the cellar
De-stemming : 100%
Annual crop yield : 30 to 35 hectolitres per hectare

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Winemaking

Cabernet Franc is cultivated lovingly, defended, respected and admired. On some of the greatest Saint-Emilion estates, Cabernet Franc covers a large proportion of the vines grown. At Angelus, it is not the majority grape variety, but accounts for 47% of the total vineyard and the Cabernet Franc vines are on average more than 30 years old.

 

Balanced and long-keeping:  At Angelus, this variety has always been popular. It is strongly represented on the estate and makes an important contribution to the blends of the prestigious Saint-Emilion wines that grow on the south-facing slope and in the gravelly soils next door to Pomerol. In the Angelus vineyard, Cabernet Franc is grown on warm soils made up of sandy limestone scree lying on top of clay that benefit naturally from a regular water supply. Cabernet Franc vines reach their peak at 20 years old and the most spectacular results are achieved with fruit from vines older than 40 with low yields.

 

The wines are slow to open up, but they are amongst the most intriguing and the most refined. Their colour becomes more intense during ageing, the menthol, spicy aromas are impressively elegant and subtle. The tannins are dense, but silky and bring the necessary fresh notes to achieve overall balance. Cabernet Franc enhances the ageing of the greatest wines.

 

OEnologist : Hubert de Boüard de Laforest

Fermentation : In temperature controlled stainless steel, concrete and oak vats at 28 to 32°C
Maceration : 2 to 4 weeks
Running off : The wine is run off the skins directly into 100% new oak barrels
Blending : Selection and blending of batches after the first summer of ageing
Annual production : Château Angélus – 1st Classified Growth: 90,000 bottles on average, i.e. 7,500 cases
Ageing : 18 to 24 months in new barrels
Fining : Generally no fining, otherwise traditional with egg white
Bottling : At the Château, 20 to 26 months after the harvest
Distribution : All over the world through the Bordeaux market

 

 

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4 different wines with 67 vintages

Highlights

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Wine Moments

Here you can see wine moments from tastingbook users.    or    to see wine moments from your world.

 Izak Litwar , Wine Writer (Denmark)  tasted  2 wines  from  Château Angelus . In a tasting of  56 wines 

Bordeaux 2020 Vintage - Château Smith Haut Lafitte 2020- lots of aromatic blackcurrants and black cherries on the nose, powerful on the palate with a strong backbone, big concentration, multilayered and with great length. Long, long finish. Impressive effort. 96-97p.

2m 28d ago

 Jeannie Cho Lee MW, Wine Writer (South Korea)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Angelus . In a tasting of  20 wines 

My overall impression after tasting over 300 wines from across all appellations of Bordeaux is that it is generally an excellent vintage for red wines. The 2020 red wines have as much depth and concentration as the previous two vintages, 2018 and 2019, but tastes lighter, less denser on the palate. For example, the four first growths I tasted – Mouton, Lafite, Margaux and Haut-Brion were outstanding in their sculpted expression of their own individual terroirs. Anyone who really wants to understand the character and terroir of Lafite for example, should really seek out the 2020 vintage. What I loved about Margaux in this vintage is the sculpted, precise, detailed expression despite the immense concentration of flavors. Haut-Brion was incredibly layered and complex while Mouton was expressive and deep with amazing freshness.

3m 15d ago

 Christer Byklum , Wine Writer (Norway)  tasted  3 wines  from  Château Angelus . In a tasting of  42 wines 

2020 Château Figeac/ Ruby. Scented, minerals, floral, bright nose, detailed, lifted, layered, refined and nuanced nose, almost like a silky scarf caressing your chins while smelling it. Violets like you would not believe it! Fresh acidity, ripe tannins, juicy, silky, velvet, juicy, detailed, bright, transparent deep, incredible balance (13,9% alcohol), it just gives and gives, in small pockets of different flavours. The most intriguing Figeac to date. So effortless and yet so deep. A symphony of harmonies. And the finish lasts into the sunset. 98-100

3m 19d ago

 Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW, Wine Writer (United States)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Angelus . In a tasting of  17 wines 

2020 Smith Haut Lafitte/ A blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot aging in 60% new barriques, the very deep purple-black colored 2020 Smith Haut Lafitte makes an impactful entrance, opening with flamboyant notes of blackcurrant pastilles, chocolate-covered cherries and molten licorice, leading to nuances of ground cloves, woodsmoke, crushed rocks and dusty soil. The medium to full-bodied palate bursts with opulent black fruit preserves and shimmering mineral sparks, framed by exquisitely ripe and fantastically firm tannins and seamless freshness, finishing with epically long-lasting earthy and savory layers. This is the singular voice of Smith Haut Lafitte at its finest, and wow-oh-wow is it worth a listen. This 2020 has an alcohol of 14.5% with a pH of 3.65. The tannins this year were a little higher than 2018 and 2019. A little less than a third of production went into this grand vin. 98-100p

3m 25d ago

 Markus Del Monego MW , Wine Writer (Germany)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Angelus . In a tasting of  16 wines 

2020 – the paradox vintage Part 3

4m 20h ago

 Markus Del Monego MW , Wine Writer (Germany)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Angelus . In a tasting of  153 wines 

2020 – the paradox vintage - part two

4m 7d ago

 Markus Del Monego MW , Wine Writer (Germany)  tasted  2 wines  from  Château Angelus . In a tasting of  650 wines 

2020 – the paradox vintage 


2020 began with mild temperatures even breaking temperature record highs at the beginning of February. These conditions led to a premature budbreak. Budding developed unevenly, very much depending on the locations although the coo and humid weather in April had not a very significant impact on slowing down the growth of the vines. Finally all the vines came into bloom at the end of May without any significant coulure or millerandage. At the start of June, frequent rain intensified the pressure of mildew. From mid-June, the weather changed. The whole Bordelais saw a period of very dry weather for two months. However, the earlier accumulation of water reserves prevented water stress. Around July 18 a heat wave began to build up but the cool nighty prevented water stress on the wines again. The veraison started at the end of July and went on till the beginning of August. The heatwave in August accentuated water stress, but shorter rainy episodes avoided a complete block. The dry and sunny weather in September encouraged the grapes maturity and harvest started on September 10 with a rather mild weather. Towards the middle of September, rain prevented the fruits from wilting but as its frequency was quite concerning, the haves was pushed forward. "Le diabolique" is the title given to this vintage by Véronique Sanders. It is a very special French word, which is not correctly translated with “diabolic” in English. In France, the expression means to overcome the devil. And the vintners succeeded. 2020 is clearly a vintner’s vintage which asked a permanent reinvention of the wineries, struggling hard with this difficult vintage. However, the vintage surprises with excellent wines, exemplary freshness and elegance and very dense structure. In former times it was said that the vine has to suffer to make exquisite wines, in this vintage the people have suffered to make a great wine. The first part of notes for this tasting with over 800 wines you will find today. More notes will follow over the coming days.

4m 8d ago

 Achim Becker / Wineterminator.com, Wine Writer (Germany)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Angelus . In a tasting of  12 wines 

Henschke 1992 Hill of Grace  aus perfekter Lagerung war absolut großartig und erinnerte blind etwas an Heitz Martha´s Vineyard. Noch so jung und frisch mit großartiger, süßer, dunkler Frucht, sehr ätherisch mit reichlich Minze und Eukalyptus, exzellente Struktur mit guter Säure und toller Länge, aber auch weich und in perfekter Balance, in der alle Elemente zusammenpassten – WT99.

5m 11d ago

 James Suckling., Wine Writer (United States)  tasted  3 wines  from  Château Angelus . In a tasting of  25 wines 

Château Angelus 2018 / The aromas are incredibly complex with dark berries, elderberries, bay leaves, cloves and tile, follow through to a full body with layers of creamy and lightly dusty tannins that deliver a lingering finish and great attention to detail. The flavors range from black fruit to earth and stones. It’s reserved and poised with great intensity and power, in a toned and formed mode. One for the cellar. Try after 2026.
 

7m 25d ago

 Izak Litwar , Wine Writer (Denmark)  tasted  2 wines  from  Château Angelus . In a tasting of  21 wines 

Bordeaux 2018 in bottle / After having tasted more than 150 wines already (primo January 2021), big and small properties, I can already make a very bold statement. This vintage in red is really something, and I've to backtrack my earlier opinion based on barrel tasting, that it's inconsistent compared to 2010 and 2016. It seems that the time spent in barrels and final blends benefitted the wines a lot and they're of high quality everywhere in Bordeaux. 

8m 8d ago

 Markus Del Monego MW , Wine Writer (Germany)  tasted  3 wines  from  Château Angelus . In a tasting of  29 wines 

The 2018 vintage just arrived on the market and some estates have been sending the samples of the new release for an "Arrivage-Tasting". There were some excellent samples of a vintage, which was already very convincing during the en primeurs campaign and now performs as expected.

9m 6d ago

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