A Bordeaux Discovery - Andrew Caillard MW
Wednesday, September 27, 2017 in News
"Chemin de Chantecaille" (quail-song way) is a narrow road that runs along the boundary of St Emilion and Pomerol. At Chateau L'Evangile, the bitumen reaches a Y junction; the "chemin" becomes an access road to the left and "the line of desire", the main D244 roadway, angles to the right.
My Hand-drawn mud map of the area. See full size version HERE.
Between these two roads is a triangular island of vines, "a no-man’s land", which depending on the ownership of each block, may find its fruit in a famous Pomerol or Grand Cru Classé St Emilion wine. One such plot is “Chantecaille” a postage stamp sized vineyard block that is bizarrely crammed between vines belonging to Chateau L'Evangile and Chateau La Dominique.
Adjacent to this block, across the access road, lie vineyards belonging to Chateau Gazin and Chateau Petrus. Across the D244, just a few metres away, are more vines belonging to Chateau Cheval Blanc. Betwixt some of the region’s greatest names, “Chantecaille” has largely existed unnoticed by the world’s wine critics and survives in its current form, because of its tiny size, local politics and dogged family hope.
Curiously the Chantecaille vineyard has no "Grand Cru" classification because no cellars have been built on the property. The vineyard is so small, (only 0.4 hectare) that any building would require the destruction of the vineyard; a pointless exercise. As a consequence the crop is tractored to Chateau Guillot Clauzel in the commune of Pomerol, just a few kilometres away where it is vinified and then matured in barrel; all five or six of them!
The Clauzel family were previously the owners of Pomerol’s highly regarded Chateau Beauregard. After its sale, the family kept its lesser-known holdings at Chateau Guillot Clauzel in Pomerol and Chantecaille in St Emilion with the hope of emulating the success of Chateau L’Evangile (owned by Domaines Lafite Rothschild) who managed to make an exception of AOC law by including fruit from their St Emilion vineyard into their Pomerol wine.
This aspiration has not eventuated because of local politics, meaning that the status of the vineyard remains in limbo. If “Chantecaille” was purchased by one of its more illustrious neighbours, the fruit could be incorporated in a more prized and expensive label!
The merlot vines, with a few inter-plantings of cabernet franc, are anchored in old sands and gravel soils. The wine is vinified in stainless steel and then matured in seasoned barriques from Ch Guillot Clauzel. While there is no new oak used in the wine, the class of the vineyard is absolutely clear. 2009 was an exceptional Bordeaux vintage with a long warm growing season and cool nights. With its beautiful deep colour, musky, bright plum, herb aromas, inky dark fruit, praline flavours, supple textures, and firm chocolaty finish it really does offer wine lovers something quite exceptional at its price point.
The story of Chateau Chantecaille Clauzel is extraordinary because of its physical location, impressive “terroir” and wonderful quirkiness. Perhaps it is only a matter of time before it disappears along with its “hidden” Grand Cru Classé connections. In the meantime we should relish this accident of history and enjoy one of Bordeaux’s rarest, interesting and best value wines.
- Andrew Caillard, MW
Buy Caillard's "Great discovery" below or explore our complete portfolio of 2014 Bordeaux HERE..