Château Les Charmes-Godard 2014
Looking beyond the more famous right-bank appellations has been of benefit to my drinking in recent years. What are Bordeaux backwaters today were once desirable wine regions, their limestone terroirs held in high regard by local vignerons. While fashions and tastes have changed over the centuries, and few fans of the Merlot-dominated right bank would now step outside the comfort zones of St Emilion and Pomerol, the potential of the soils around the towns and villages of Francs, Bourg, Fronsac, Puisseguin, Montagne and so on is just as it was in pre-phylloxera times. Or so the quality of some of the wines I have tasted would suggest, anyway.
I explored the Francs Côtes de Bordeaux appellation in a little detail a year or so ago when I wrote up the charming 2011 Château de Francs, from a property in the joint ownership of the Boüard de Laforest family (proprietors of Château Angélus and Château Bellevue) and Dominique Hébrard (who was once co-proprietor of Château Cheval Blanc). The appearance of such well-known names is not unusual for this appellation, the desirable limestone soils and presumably relatively low land-values having proved irresistible. Château Les Charmes-Godard is one estate worth looking out for; this vineyard was purchased during the 1980s by Nicolas Thienpont, of the same Thienpont family that own Vieux Château Certan and Le Pin in Pomerol, and who manage Château Pavie-Macquin and Château Larcis Ducasse in St Emilion.
Rather than being recent arrivals though, the Thienpont family have a long association with the vineyards around Francs. It was Georges Thienpont who first put down roots in Bordeaux, buying Château Troplong-Mondot in 1921, and Vieux Château Certan in 1924. A couple of decades later, in 1946, his son George Thienpont purchased Château Puygueraud in Francs, long before the region even had appellation status. The estate was fairly dilapidated, and at first he ran it as a farm, growing cereals and raising cattle, and it was only at the end of the 1970s that the family replanted the vineyards. The wines today are pretty smart, and they offer great value too, as I described when I wrote up the 2012 Château Lauriol, the estate’s second wine. It was in 1988 that Château Les Charmes-Godard was added to the family’s Francs portfolio.
The estate has 6.5 hectares of vineyards, planted to both red and white varieties. Unusually for Bordeaux, the Francs Côtes de Bordeaux appellation allows for all styles, red, white and even sweet wines, and all three are produced here, and although I don’t ever recall tasting the sweet wine I have tasted the dry wines very frequently, and I have often been impressed. Focusing on the red wine, Merlot dominates, and the wines are made using the same fastidious attention to detail employed across the Thienpont portfolio. The 2014 Château les Charmes-Godard is made entirely from Merlot, and has an alcohol level of 13.5% (while I confess I fail to make a record of this figure for many wines, I find it very informative with right-bank Merlot-dominated cuvées). This was bottled using a DIAM closure, so no chance of cork taint here. Accordingly, it has a delightfully fresh and expressive nose, loaded with damson and blackcurrant fruits, while laced with little complexities of tobacco leaf, coffee bean and vanilla. The palate is equally fresh, pure, bright and textured, with charming substance and a moderate texture, giving the middle of the palate a quite savoury and structured feel overall, which seems quite appropriate for Francs, with some grippy bite to it in the end. Overall a wine which is savoury, dry and reserved, but which is not short on charm and confidence. Drink now, or keep for five years. 16/20 • 92/100 (16/10/17)