Château Malescot St-Exupéry 1995
It is a few weeks since I turned the spotlight on the 1995 Château Haut-Bailly, accompanied by an admission (an unwise one, perhaps) that I made a resolution to pull and drink some older wines from my cellar. Although mine is not a ‘real’ cellar, if for you a cellar has to be subterranean, this is a ‘real world’ cellar. It is one I have been stocking since I first started buying wine to keep and not just drink that evening, which was sometime in the early 1990s. The ‘cellar’ I was using at that time was really damp, and I used to wrap the bottles in clingfilm to prevent the labels rotting away. I still have some bottles from that era, and I know immediately when I have pulled one because they still have their fragile wrapping of clingfilm. More importantly, they also still have their labels.
So what do I mean by ‘real world’ cellar? Quite simply, this isn’t a cellar crammed to the ceiling with first growth Bordeaux, various super-Tuscans, multiple vintages of La-La Côte-Rôtie and magnums of Screaming Eagle. I don’t mind admitting that there is a bottle or two of Château Lafite-Rothschild and Château Latour (but none of the other stuff, if you were wondering), after all these are benchmark wines for Bordeaux, but by and large the wine I buy is usually rather more modest, and chosen not purely on the basis of quality, nor purely price, but a balance of the two. That used to mean Château Léoville-Barton and Château Pontet-Canet (newcomers to wine will probably struggle to comprehend the bargain the latter of these two wines was in the early days of its 1990s renaissance, when quality was rocketing and prices weren’t). These days I still put such wines away, but the ‘real world’ nature of the cellar means I am cellaring two or three bottles rather than a case of each. I get a feeling that some Bordeaux-minded bloggers skirt around the price issue, praising the greatest wines without any mention of price, but I won’t. I find many wines I once drank regularly too expensive to buy more than the occasional bottle these days. And if I feel this way, I am certain a vast array of other wine drinkers do as well.
There are still some affordable options in Bordeaux though (depending on your personal definition of ‘affordable’ of course) and although Margaux is far from my favourite appellation it is somewhat ironic that here I find numerous châteaux that are of interest to the more frugal Bordeaux buyer stocking his or her ‘real world’ cellar. While some names in this neck of the woods seem to chronically underperform, there are also some unsung heroes here. Tucked away in the cellar I have quite a few different vintages from classed growths such as Château Giscours, Château Prieuré-Lichine, Château Dauzac and Château Rauzan-Ségla (the presence of this last one in a ‘value’ list might surprise, but bear in mind the quality as well as the price relative to Château Palmer and Château Margaux and you might see where I am coming from). And there are some noteworthy cru bourgeois properties as well, such as old favourite Château Angludet.
Château Malescot St-Exupéry is another that has some representation in my cellar. For much of the 20th century this estate has been in the hands of the Zuger family, and the estate has turned out some really strong wines under their direction. The 1995 Château Malescot St-Exupéry is a case in point. In the glass this wine, now 21 years old, still has a fresh red and moderately dense core, with just a thin pink oxblood rim. It still looks youthful, but the nose is more evolved, quite tertiary in fact, with savoury game-bird notes leading the way, followed by a little perfumed gravel, floral peony scents set against a note of macerated cherry. There’s a herbal note too, with hints of tobacco, rosemary and green peppercorn. That tobacco element immediately comes to the fore on the palate, which has a gentle texture carrying a quite profound, very open, aromatic cigar box and rolled tobacco note. It feels very savoury, long and quite textural, there is a bitter and dry element, perhaps tannin-related, that coats the mouth as if it were a mix of chewing tobacco and black tea. A glorious character, so interesting, with a nicely resolved structure despite that darker more bitter element, the overall feel of the wine elegantly balanced and slightly silky. A delicious effort. 17.5/20 (15/2/16)