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Deep purple-black in color, the 2018 Valandraud develops slowly from a base of warm black cherries, blackberry compote and preserved plums with a perfume of sandalwood, Indian spices, lavender, wilted roses, mocha and fruitcake plus wafts of woodsmoke and camphor. Full-bodied, the palate is rich, ripe and flamboyant with tons of opulent black and blue fruit layers, wonderfully curtailed by a firm frame of velvety tannins and fantastic freshness, finishing very long and very seductive.

Score: 95/97+ Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW, Wine Advocate (April 2019), April 2019

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The Story

In 1989, Jean-Luc Thunevin and Murielle Andraud became the proud owners of a small plot of land of 0,6 ha, in the valley of Saint Emilion, between Pavie Macquin and La Clotte. In 1991 they produced and bottled their first vintage. Since then, their estate portfolio has grown with properties in Saint Christophe des Bardes, Saint Sulpice de Faleyrens or Saint Etienne de Lisse.

In the early days, wine critics nicknamed their production « garage wine », but even as Château Valandraud had not –yet- entered the Saint Emilion classification, it was considered by most wine critics, including Robert Parker, as playing in Bordeaux major league.

In 2012, Château Valandraud has been promoted as a 1st classified growth of Saint Emilion.

In 2017, Château Valandraud became a full member of Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux.

 

Because garage wines do not often grow in the best possible land, the vineyards must work twice as hard as others to reach top quality. Valandraud's cultivations are scattered around Saint-Emilion, which means that the soils are significantly different. Winemaker Dalmasso says: –We have plenty of choice in the blending stage. Only 20–30 per cent of our wines go to Château Valandraud, and the rest to Virginie de Valandraud and 3 de Valandraud.

We work as ecologically as possible, but unfortunately, a hundred per cent organic operation is not a realistic alternative due to the climate. Harvest method: hand picked Winemaking: grapes are stemmed manually, then bursted in ahand-crusher. Fermentation in oak vasts. Malolactic fermentation in new oak barrels.

Surface: 8.88 hectares Soil : clayey limstone

Grape varieties 65 % Merlot, Cabernet Franc 25 %, Cabernet Sauvignon 5%, Malbec 4%, Carmenère 1%

Average age of the vines : 30 ans
Manual harvest, several sorting including Tribaie.technology

Vinification in thermo gerulated stainless steel , concrete and wooden tanks , Malolactic fermentation in barrels.

Ageing: 18 to 30 months in new barrels Production: 150 00 bottles
Blending may differ accordin to vintage

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Vintage 2018

2018 Bordeaux Vintage Report and recommendations

by Andrew Caillard MW

2018 is an exceptional year. The Bordeaux whites and sauternes are very good, but from an Australian perspective the excitement is all in the red wines. All sub regions produced examples of really good wines, but some performed better than others. Generally the very top estates made exemplary wines illustrating that the human factor and wealth can have a major impact on terroir! Over the last few weeks I have tasted around 350 to 400 wines, sometimes in large format forums like the UCG tastings or at various Chateaux. Nowadays it is difficult to taste the wines blind but density of colour, aromatic freshness, tannin density and overall balance are obvious indicators. In some instance I have tasted wines a few times enabling me to cross reference.

 

The weather until a few days ago has been clear with bright sunshine, warm days and a cool breeze. Temperatures have fallen now with more cloud cover and intermittent rains. While driving from Sauternes to St Emilion we drove through light hail but not enough to cause too many problems. In two weeks we have seen dormant vineyards and trees spring to life. The growing season is starting a touch early and of course people are worried about the chances of frost. After the devastating frost events of 2017 and the challenges created by hail and mildew during 2018, there is a feeling that climate change may well have an unpredictable impact on future  Bordeaux vintages.

 

 We have pretty tasted a good amount of primeurs wines now. As usual the vintage will be exaggerated. The growing season was near calamitous but long warm sunshine hours over summer cleaned everything up and allowed the grapes to ripen very really well. The colours, flavours, density and acidities are really impressive and as a consequence the vintage is generally quite exceptional. It is difficult to truly understand the overall crop losses as producers are understandably quite cagey. But they vary from almost nothing to less than a third. At Ch Climens in Sauternes Barsac I would estimate the crop being around 20% of the average. When one considers that this estate lost its whole crop in 2017 from frost, the shock must be keenly felt. Mother Nature has been particularly cruel of late. The narrative of the growing season will inevitably create a negative impression, but few people will remember the details in years to come. They will only remember the wine. For some people with long memories they believe the vintage is like 1947 or 1961. If this is the case, this is not just an exceptional vintage, this is something beyond the norm. An immortal year. The concentration, weight, and vitality of the wines are impressive. Despite the amazing tannin density, saturated colours and flavours, the wines are actually quite easy to taste, indicating remarkable balance and life.

 

In my opinion the strongest sub regions are Pauillac and St Julien – which have both produced wines of great consistency and classicism. They are powerfully expressive with pronounced ripe tannins and pure fruit flavours. The combination of better micro-climatic conditions, wealth and physical resources helped with the result. Ch Pontet Canet is an outlier because of its approach to biodynamic viticulture. It suffered terribly from mildew and has produced only a third of the crop. The wine is markedly different from wines like Ch Latour or Ch Pichon Lalande, but its overall buoyancy and richness of fruit is compelling. It also stands for something that is worthwhile and important. 

 

I always think of Pauilac as being the reference for Bordeaux. Typically the wines are extremely expressive with pure cassis cedar aromas and fine grainy tannins. This year the wines are particularly dense and inky with plentiful graphite tannins. They are not at all sinewy or soupy and hence when the tannins settle down the wines will be exceptional.

There are many outstanding wines from Pauillac including Ch Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Ch Pichon Longueville Baron, Ch Lynch Bages, Ch Batailley, Ch d’Armailhac and Ch Grand Puy Lacoste. The first growths Ch Latour, Ch Mouton Rothschild and Ch Lafite Rothschild are very impressive. Their second wines Les Forts de Latour, Petit Mouton and Carruades are also of very high quality.

 

Neighbouring St Julien has also performed very well. Ch Ducru Beaucaillou and Ch Leoville Lascases probably lead the pack but Ch Leoville Barton, Ch Leoville Poyferré, Ch Gruaud Larose, Ch Talbot and Close de Marquis are all exceptionally well made wines

 

St Estephe is variable. Some estates controlled the volume and consistency of tannin very well and made classical wines. These include Cos d’Estournel, Ch Montrose, Ch TronquoyLalande, Ch Phelan Segur and Ch Canon Segur. Other examples were in my opinion excessively brutish in structure. For those willing to keep the wines for a decade or two, many of them will eventually come

around.

Margaux is also variable and does not always have the density of fruit to go with the tannins. Yet one of my favourite wines of the vintage is Ch Palmer which is magical. In fact I think it is the wine of the vintage. Ch Prieuré Lichine, Brane Cantenac, Giscours and Marquis de Terme were all good. Ch Margaux and Pavillon Rouge were of course well above the average. 

 

Subregions Moulis, Listrac and Haut Medoc wines are all over the place yet there are some genuine highlights including Esmond de Rothschild’s Ch Clarke, Ch Cantemerle and Ch Beaumont. 

 

Graves and Pessac Leognan have produced wines of varying quality yet again the very top Chateaux including Ch HautBailly, Ch La Mission Haut Brion and Ch Haut Brion have made impressive grand vins. Ch Smith Haut Lafitte has really moved up the hustings and has made a really good wine this year. 

 

St Emilion is a fascinating tapestry of colour and movement this year making some truly outstanding wines. Ch Cheval Blanc, Ch Ausone, Ch Belair Monange, Ch Fourtet, Ch Figeac, Ch Canon and Ch Pavie have all produced wines of richness and impact. I also enjoyed Ch La Dominique and the Burgundian-like Tertre Roteboeuf. But there is more inconsistency on the flats and fringes of the region. However as is often the case the value can be found best with lesser names who have prevailed well. This includes a few wines in the nearby Cotes de Castillon which may represent good value.

 

Pomerol is more consistent than St Emilion but there is also some variability. Ch Petrus, Vieux Chateau Certan, Ch Certande May, Ch Latour a Pomerol, Ch Gazin, Lafleur, Lafleur Petrus and Ch Trotanoy made really terrific wine but there were some instances where the wines were lighter in weight and probably less appealing. On reflection I think Pomerol vies for line honours. The wines are amazingly impressive with beautiful polish, suppleness and concentration. There are many instances where second wines have performed 

2018 is not a very great Sauternes Barsac year and the quality is dependent on the producer and how much of the crop was picked before the rain and humidity finally arrived to promote botrytis in the vineyards. My clear favourite is Ch Climens. Although I always see it in parts, the end result promises to be outstanding.  Rieussec, de Fargues and Lafaurie Peyragueyare are standouts.

 

As you will see from my tasting notes there are many great wines. This year it is going to be very hard to make a bad decision. Although the big names have made impressive wines there are stacks of lesser known or lower profile estates that have made promising young wines. Over the next year they will continue to evolve and mature in barrel, building more complexity and allowing the tannins to settle down. 

As regards whether it is a great vintage, I think it is safe to say that it is a remarkable year with many very great wines made. In some ways it is a miracle year considering the challenges and disappointments of the growing season. Most observers will agree that the 2018 vintage, specifically the red wines, is in the same league as the greatest vintages including 2015, 2010 and 2009 etc. Some winemakers are also suggesting its very similar to 1947 or 1961. 

But 2018 is also an atypical year – whatever that means these days. The weather patterns are more difficult to predict and no one can really second guess what God plans for this forthcoming season. Thankfully the predicted cold snap last night did not damage the emerging new growth. But the unseasonable warm start to the growing season and clear skies has everyone on edge

 

Andrew Caillard, MW

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Latest Pro-tasting notes

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Written Notes

Tasted twice - last time in October 2019. Consistent notes. Showed excellent purity, precision and focus, great complexity and finesse, sophisticated touch and great length. Highly impressive. Best ever vintage for Valandraud.

  • 98p

Ruby. Blackberries, anise, blueberries, some spices, layered, intense yet refined and detailed nose, incredible depth. Floral high notes. Fresh acidity, ripe tannins, blueberries, anise, liquorice, spices, layered, detailed and nuanced, lush yet graceful. Long indeed! Stunning. Tasted three times with very similar notes. 98-100

  • 100p

Deep crimson. Intense dark plum cedar spicy aromas with wood varnish notes. Immensely concentrated and oaky with attractive inky complexity and plentiful graphite textures. Elemental but impressive despite the oak right now. Should settle down into completeness.

  • 95p

Robust fruit from low yields but no less elegant. Wonderful richness, texture and structure, this will become a superbly balanced wine of great beauty.

  • 97p

Purple red colour with violet hue and black core. . Very complex nose, exuberant character, lush fruit reminiscent of ripe blackberries, sweet plums, already balanced spiciness with a touch of chocolate in the background. On the palate opulent and well balanced with great elegance, depth and length, great finish. A truly great wine. 

  • 98p
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Information

Origin

St. Emilion, Bordeaux

Inside Information

This is richly fruited, with waves of fleshy raspberry, boysenberry and red currant cruising through, inlaid with singed vanilla and apple wood notes along the way. Shows density and cut through the finish, with a tug of tobacco at the end. This is dialed up to 11.

Score: 96/99 James Molesworth, Wine Spectator, March 2019
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