Beginning with his first vintage at Tertre Roteboeuf in 1978, François Mitjavile didn’t need long to grow his (staunchly!) unclassified estate into one of the most respected names in St Emilion.
Part winemaker, part philosopher, Mitjavile is one of the great characters of Bordeaux. He could be considered almost Burgundian in his approach - the opulence and grandeur are for his wines, not his front gate, the cellars are not gilded halls and statues.
Mitjavile generally picks late, uses 100% new oak, and produces no second wine. Truly one of the personalities of the region.
85% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc. 33 hl/ha. Harvested 22–25 September, one of the earliest ever. Cask sample.
Seductive and just a little decadent as always en primeur with a mix of toasted, mocha notes from the oak and red-berry fruit. Dense, rich and ripe on the palate, the ripeness pushed just to the limit. Supple tannins but a structure for ageing, the alcohol offset by a stony freshness.
17 points, James Lawther, JancisRobinson.com (April 2021)
One of the wines of the vintage will be the 2020 Château Tertre Roteboeuf, which has its classic exotic, boisterous, incredibly sexy personality front and center. Cassis, smoked meats, vanilla, graphite, white truffle, and a liqueur of rocks-like minerality are just some of the nuances here, and it hits the palate with full-bodied richness, incredibly purity, building tannins, and a blockbuster of a finish. I followed this barrel sample for just under a week and it never showed a hint of oxidation or fatigue. This cuvée always shows lots of oak (it’s brought up in 100% new barrels), especially in its youth, but it is incredibly well-integrated and largely disappears once at full maturity. Hide bottles for 7-8 years if you can, and it’s going to keep for 30 years or more.
(97-99) points, JebDunnuck.com (May 2021)
The 2020 Tertre-Rôteboeuf is rich, deep and fabulously expressive, packing so much punch and energy into its midweight yet opulent frame. Black cherry, gravel, menthol, spice, licorice and smoke all build in the glass. Red cherry, red plum, lavender and blood orange lend brightness as the 2020 gains volume. Dazzling.
(95-97) points, Vinous (June 2021)
The 2020 Tertre-Rôteboeuf has exquisite purity on the nose, to the point where I could not decide whether the aromatics resembled a fine Romanée-Saint-Vivant or a Saint-Émilion. Maybe a mixture of the two? There are plush black cherries, cassis and vanilla, and creamy new oak but wonderfully integrated. The palate is medium-bodied with fine-grained tannins. This particular sample, from a half-bottle, did demonstrate quite a bit of wood tannin, especially on the finish, but that will be subsumed by the oak, and as my glass warmed up, it did become more enmeshed. I suspect this Tertre-Rôteboeuf will require more bottle aging than previous vintages.
(93-95) points, Vinous (May 2021)
St.-Émilion is the star of Bordeaux’s Right Bank, north of the Dordogne River. The rich red wines produced in St.-Émilion, based on Merlot and Cabernet Franc, are less tannic and generally more fruit-driven in flavour than the Cabernet-based wines of Left Bank. Merlot thrives on the plateaus high above the Dordogne, where the soil is filled with sand and clay, a perfect medium for creating opulent, fruit-forward wines. With a typically savoury character, St.-Émilion wines are sometimes called the “Burgundies of Bordeaux.” These refined reds, with loads of finesse, are elegant companions to beef, chicken, pork and duck.
The wines of St.-Émilion were not included in the famous 1855 classification of Bordeaux, which ranked wines of the Left Bank. In 1955, St.-Émilion published its own classification, based on soil analysis, wine quality and reputation of the properties. Unlike the 1855 classification, St.-Emilion’s system requires properties to continuously prove themselves. The list is revised regularly, most recently in 2012. There are two tiers within the classification, Premier Grand Cru Classé and Grand Cru Classé. There are currently just 18 Premier Grand Cru properties and 64 Grand Cru Classé properties.
The St.-Émilion appellation is home to hundreds of individual producers, enhancing the variety of wines made there. Many of the properties remain small, family-run enterprises, unlike the large châteaux of the Left Bank. The area is also the base of France’s controversial micro-châteaux or garagiste wine movement; these innovative winemakers operate outside the traditional classification system, making very high quality (and very expensive) highly extracted wines.