The Neipperg Portfolio, 2015

Do you remember the first glass of wine you ever drank? I’m afraid to say I don’t, and I have a sneaking suspicion that it was something really quite undistinguished. It therefore may be a memory better left deeply buried, in the far corners of my mind. Do you remember which bottle suddenly gave you that ‘light bulb’ moment when you suddenly realised that wine was more than just a vehicle for alcohol, more than just liquid sloshing about in a glass? I’m afraid, again, that I struggle, although I think if pushed the 1989 Chinon Clos de l’Echo from Couly-Dutheil comes close, a wine I got to know during my student days.

This severe deficiency in my memory seems wide-ranging, but thankfully I do remember my first bottle of wine from the portfolio of Stephan von Neipperg (thank heavens, perhaps I am not going prematurely senile after all). It was the 1995 Clos de l’Oratoire, the first of a half-dozen-or-so bottles plucked from the shelves in what might have been a moment of feeling flush, although if I recall correctly it was a purchase driven by a good deal (it’s not so often we can say that about Bordeaux these days). Those bottles are now almost all gone; just one, at the time of writing, remains buried somewhere in the cellar, but over the years I have encountered many other vintages, and of course other Neipperg wines, not infrequently when visiting Château Canon-la-Gaffelière, Stephan von Neipperg’s recently promoted premier grand cru classé châteaux which sits on the roadside below the town of St Emilion.

The Neipperg Portfolio, 2015

Since his early days at Château Canon-la-Gaffelière, Clos de l’Oratoire and La Mondotte, the running of which he took over from his father in 1983, the Neipperg portfolio has developed considerably. In particular La Mondotte has been entirely refashioned by Stephan (pictured above), working with long-time business partner Stéphane Derenoncourt, a formidable winemaking duo who worked together for many years. Under their direction this estate, previously a mere grand cru, leapfrogged into the premier grand cru classé level of the St Emilion classification, a remarkable feat. Stephan went on to purchase Château d’Aiguilhe in Castillon in 1998, and he also has a finger in various other pies in Bordeaux, including Pessac-Léognan at Clos Marsalette, and in Sauternes at Château Guiraud. But it is I believe in St Emilion (and Castillon) where his strengths really lie.

This tasting of wines with Comte Stephan von Neipperg took place not in St Emilion but in London, and it took in all his wines from the right-bank appellations, before finishing up with some from Château Guiraud.

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