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Château Barreyres 2016

Château Barreyres 2016

A return to a long-lost favourite this week, with one of the most recent vintages from Château Barreyres. In recent years my encounters with the wines of this cru bourgeois château seem to have become even less frequent than they once were, but don’t be fooled; this apparent decline belies the deeply rooted affection I hold for this under-the-radar Haut-Médoc estate.

Château Barreyres was a very early discovery for me, maybe thirty years ago, tasted and drunk at a time when I was still developing an understanding of Bordeaux and its flavours. The memories of that early vintage (time has eroded my memory of its identity, but I suspect it was the 1989, maybe the 1988), scented with blackcurrant and mint (yes I can recall the aromas better than the year printed on the label) were an early focal point as I learnt about Bordeaux. The wine was once widely available in the UK from one of the big supermarkets, and so I would regularly check in on the latest vintage. Sadly it seems to have long disappeared from those shelves, but this weekend I popped the cork on a bottle picked up last year in a French supermarket.

Château Barreyres isn’t a very well known property, so perhaps a few words on its story might be worthwhile. The vineyard probably dates back to at least the 18th century, although hard evidence as to its existence first appears during the 1820s. The rather impressive château, accurately depicted on the label, was probably built by Timothée du Périer de Larsan (1805 – 1893), proprietor for much of the 19th century. It remained in the hands of his descendants until 1971 when it was sold to the Castel group. It remains in their hands today, the château serving as home for many years to Pierre Castel.

The vineyard accounts for an impressive 109 hectares (the estate in total covers about 240 hectares), planted to 55% Cabernet Sauvignon and 45% Merlot at a density approximating 9,600 pieds per hectare, with the work in both vines and cellars very conventional. The wines are made by Bruno Teyssier, with external consultation from Antoine Medeville, a local consultant who seems to specialise in this corner of the Médoc peninsula. The 2016 Château Barreyres displays a dark black cherry hue, with a matt concentration at the rim. Aromatically it kicks in with a very dark and savoury style, with roasted blackcurrant and black cherry fruit, laced with currant, tobacco, liquorice and soot. Deliciously textured on the palate, this is balanced, elegant, lightly sinewy and substantial, with grilled berry fruit, all wrapped up in fresh acidity and minty-edged tannin. It is fresh, cool and classically structured, but with a dark and roasted confidence simmering beneath it all. While it has appeal now this is a substantial wine from a hugely successful vintage for the region; leave it a year or two to come together, time for it to absorb some of that tannin, and it will give some great-value drinking for maybe a decade thereafter. 92/100 (17/8/20)

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