93-95/100 Robert Parker Jr. This tiny estate was in the qualitative doldrums for decades, but it has been resurrected by Christian Moueix and his son, Edmond, over the last few years and the 2010 ranks alongside the brilliant 2009. Two-thirds of this vineyard is planted on the pure limestone hillsides and the rest is on the Plateau of St.-Emilion. One parcel, over 100 years of age, produces a minuscule 5-10 hectoliters per hectare. The 2010, primarily Merlot, boasts a dense purple color as well as raspberry fruit notes intermixed with a liqueur of powdered rocks. With abundant fruit, minerality, size, substance, personality and extraordinary individuality, this stunningly concentrated St.-Emilion is a tour de force in great winemaking. It will need 4-5 years of cellaring and should keep for 25-30 years.
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 flavor 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 savory 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.
Chateau Belair-MonangePreviously known as Chateau Belair, the name was changed to Belair-Monange upon its full purchase by the Moueix family in 2008. The 12 ha vineyard is planted predominately to Merlot with some Cabernet Franc growing on limestone and clay soils. A blend of 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc, the wine is fermented in stainless steel and lined concrete tanks prior to undergoing maturation in a mix of new and seasoned barriques for 18 months. A philosophy encompassing reduced yields, later harvesting and meticulous fruit selection have resulted in a richer more generous, concentrated style since 2008.