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Château La Prade 2011

Château La Prade 2011

Watching the slow drip….drip….drip of 2017 Bordeaux releases coming onto the market, with many of the top wines priced at a level the Bordelais could once only dream about, it can be easy to forget that the Bordeaux region is also a source of more affordable wines that offer great everyday drinking. Of course, if you simply must have the wines of the most famous communes and appellations, or the most famous labels, then such wines are not for you. But if you are prepared to take a wine at face value, and judge it based on what is in the glass, then there are some very pleasant surprises waiting for you here.

One vigneron I have often praised for his well-priced range is Denis Durantou, the man behind Saintayme, an interesting joint project with St Emilion vigneron Thierry Courreche which I profiled last week, as well as Château Les Cruzelles and Château Montlandrie. Whenever I spend a day visiting châteaux on the right bank, a visit to see Denis at Château L’Église-Clinet is always followed up by a knock on the door of Nicolas Thienpont, another winemaker turning out some affordable wines of great quality. The Thienpont name is associated with so many of the right bank’s most famous domaines, either as proprietor or manager, including Le Pin, Vieux Château Certan, Château Beauséjour, Château Larcis Ducasse and Château Pavie-Macquin, it can be easy to overlook the great value wines Nicolas makes in the Francs Côtes de Bordeaux appellation, I really should cast the spotlight his way a little more often than I do.

Château La Prade 2011

The Côtes de Francs (to use the appellation’s original name) is the region’s smallest appellation, with only about 450 hectares to its name – about half the area of vines you might find in St Julien or Pauillac. Nicolas Thienpont has a handsome slice of this, with three domaines here, Château Puygueraud, Château Charmes-Godard and Château La Prade. The first has been in the family since George Thienpont bought it in 1946, the second since its acquisition in 1988, while Château La Prade is the most recent addition to his portfolio. Nicolas Thienpont purchased this domaine in 2000, the vendor none other than Patrick Valette, the son of Jean-Paul Valette, proprietor of Château Pavie in the pre-Perse era.

This corner of Bordeaux is blessed with admirable limestone bedrock and clay soils, and most vineyards feature the traditional right bank varieties. The 4.5 hectares of Château La Prade are planted with 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc, these proportions usually transmitted through to the blend. The 2011 has 14.5% alcohol, and while it has a very robust and confident style – this is a wine that majors on joyous flavours and a plush texture rather than delicacy or finesse – there is no suggestion that this has any negative impact on the wine. On the nose it feels dark and smoky, with scents of roasted black olives, damson and blackcurrant fruit, along with twists of praline and toast. Despite its seven years, this still feels very youthful, with a dark and brooding presence. The palate shows excellent ripeness, the tannins svelte yet firm and robust, really quite typical of 2011 to my mind, with piles of damson fruit coming through to echo the aromatic profile, along with notes of soot and grilled black olive. There is a great density to it, a rich texture, with a ripe backbone. Overall this has a very admirable structure, and it should go for a good few years in the cellar yet without too much difficulty. Overall, a delicious and affordable Bordeaux. 92/100 (18/6/18)

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