Clos Badon Thunevin
Jean-Luc Thunevin, godfather to the garagiste movement that swept across St Emilion during the 1990s, surely needs no introduction. Today it feels like he is part of the St Emilion establishment, and so it is easy to forget that he started out as an outsider, with little to his name other than enthusiasm and vision. He had a small parcel of vines in the Vallon de Fongaban, on limestone, and another down on the sandy soils of St-Sulpice-de-Faleyrens. With no facilities and pretty much no cash, he borrowed a chai (or a garage if you believe the legends), green-harvested hard to reduce yields, hand-picked and hand-destemmed, and vinified his first vintage, putting the wine through malolactic fermentation and élevage in the same barrel, to simplify the process and save money.
Not only were the wines a hit, but Jean-Luc Thunevin had inadvertently fathered a completely new style of wine. Rich, dark, concentrated, textured wines, the product of ultra-low yields, with ambitious extraction of colour and structure. Before long these ‘garage wines’ were seeing out élevage in 200% new oak which, for those new to the concept, was beginning the aging in new oak barrels, then racking the wine into another set of new oak barrels halfway through. The wines were blessed with high scores, and high prices naturally followed. Today Jean-Luc points to others that preceded him with low-volume cuvées in a similar style, figures such as Jacques Thienpont at Le Pin and François Mitjavile at Château Tertre-Roteboeuf, but I wouldn’t go along with this; first, these wines are not made in the same extreme methods, and second they were made either by vignerons from established families, or from well-established crus.
Today Jean-Luc Thunevin (pictured above) and his wife Murielle Andraud head up a small viticultural empire, the flagship cuvée still Château Valandraud of course, the price of which now befits its reputation and more than two decades of high scores and high demand. There are within this empire, however, other vineyards and other options. Acquired by Jean-Luc Thunevin in 1998, Clos Badon Thunevin provides us with one of the more notable cuvées.