Château L’Arrosée 2007
At heart, I’m a left-bank guy. In this matter my tastes have probably been shaped by a number of different influences, the most basic of which is where I live. While today there is no difficulty in sourcing the wines of St Emilion and Pomerol in the United Kingdom, historically ships setting sale from Bordeaux for London, Bristol, Leith and indeed any other British port where wine was landed were most likely to be laden with bottles from the famous cru classé châteaux of Pauillac, St Julien, Margaux and the like. Many of the wines of the right bank were seen as petits vins, ‘country wines’ perhaps, I imagine rather as we might regard those coming from Bergerac or the Côtes du Frontonnais today. The right bank appellations – in particular Pomerol – only came to prominence later, during the 20th century, and while they certainly had their exponents in the United Kingdom – Ronald Avery, of the Bristol-based wine merchant of the same name, was a stalwart supporter of Petrus – these regions succeeded in opening up markets in countries that were, being blunt, perhaps a little more open-minded and less class-orientated.
As subscribers who have read A High Time with Haut-Brion, a recently published tasting report on the wines of Château Haut-Brion and Château La Mission Haut-Brion, will already know that I did some early cutting of my teeth at a tasting club in Chester, and the wines poured there were perhaps a legacy of this facet of the trade between Bordeaux and the UK. There were many verticals of left-bank châteaux, but in five years of attending I remember only two Pomerol tastings, and a third in which a few wines from Vieux Château Certan cropped up. Appearances from St Emilion were equally rare, just Château Pavie from the Valette era and one or two other occasional interlopers. For this reason, Winedoctor’s early days were dominated by left-bank wines. In recent years, however, I have done much to correct this, starting with Pomerol, touring the region, visiting and tasting. My coverage is now extensive (although I still see a few gaps, domaines I wish to visit and profile), and for much of this year I have been working on St Emilion. And what a task that is turning out to be.
The issue is an obvious one. Pomerol is a fairly discrete region, especially if one focuses mainly on the button of clay at its heart, and the gravelly plateau that surrounds it. St Emilion, however, is a huge region, and even with a similar approach to it there are at least a hundred domaines here of interest, probably many more. Yesterday I overhauled my profile of Château Angélus, the last of the four ‘level A’ premier grand cru classé estates to receive this treatment, and my ‘level B’ overhauls are almost done. Alongside I have of course been adding new profiles, for the likes of Château Pavie-Decesse, Château Lassègue, L’If and Château Quinault L’Enclos, among others. But this is just the tip of the iceberg; it is a project I can see stretching several years into the future, but thankfully the process is a fascinating one. The evolution of the St Emilion vineyard is no less complex than it is for the left bank, and even in recent times this evolution continues.
This weekend’s wine from Château L’Arrosée is a good example of how, even since the turn of the century, the St Emilion landscape has changed. The vintage is 2007, but the domaine is no more. The estate had been purchased by Roger Caille in 2002, and his son Jean-Philippe Caille seems to have had serious intent, having engaged the services of two consultants including the renowned Gilles Pauquet, perhaps best known for his work with Château Cheval Blanc and countless other top châteaux. Despite significant investment, however, he subsequently sold all to Prince Robert of Luxembourg in 2013, and the estate was thus absorbed into Château Quintus. This wine is therefore a little piece of vinous archaeology. The 2007 Château L’Arrosée, far from a great vintage for Bordeaux on the whole, shows some early tones of maturity to the colour, with a dark mahogany tinge to the rim. The nose follows this darker theme, with hints of spice, especially cloves and cinnamon, with a suggestion of fruit cake and dried damson skin, although the overall effect is more spice-driven than fruit-driven. It feels cool and lightly textured in the mouth, a little coarsely composed too, in keeping with the vintage, but showing some good bite. Having said that, the tannins feel fairly well-softened, albeit still showing the graininess of the vintage, perhaps blunted a little by the passing of time. In its favour, there is a nice energy to it, and a good length too. I think it is perhaps still a touch awkward and adolescent, but it gives some pleasure now. Not a bad result at all, taking the vintage into account, and a compelling insight into a piece of St Emilion history. 15/20 (12/10/15)