Château Tertre Roteboeuf 1989

I make no secret of my admiration for the wines of François Mitjavile. Indeed, there would be no point in me trying to do so. You would only have to look back at my most recent tasting notes and scores, as published in my 2015 Bordeaux at Two Years and 2016 Bordeaux at Two Years reports, to appreciate that I think Roc de Cambes to be nothing less than sublime, while I sometimes wonder whether the wines of Château Tertre Roteboeuf shouldn’t be reserved solely for consumption by popes and saints. Well, not really, but you get the picture. These are both great domaines and I feel lucky to be able their wines from time to time. I feel even luckier to be able to pull a bottle of a mature vintage from the cellar.

I suspect the story of Château Tertre Roteboeuf does not require retelling, but for those unfamiliar with the domaine it is worth knowing that only a few decades ago it was a complete unknown. one of many unremarkable grand cru estates in a peripheral corner of the St Emilion vineyard. The arrival of François Mitjavile in the 1970s perhaps brought a new sense of energy and direction to the estate, but not necessarily any great skill. It was after a two-year stint at Château Figeac that François finally settled in, but the vineyard required a lot of work, and the cellars were in need of serious attention. The wines reputedly improved but throughout what remained of the 1970s, and also for much of the 1980s, they went completely unnoticed.

Château Tertre Roteboeuf 1989

It was only in 1985 that François received the break that he deserved. A well-known French publication featured a tasting of the 1982 vintage, and reigning supreme – ahead of prestigious first growths and the like – was the 1982 Château Tertre Roteboeuf. Suddenly François and his wines were the hottest ticket in St Emilion, and the wine quickly sold out. Today the wines practically sell themselves, and at a high price too, in the same ball park as the growths, those within the St Emilion appellation anyway. And these days I never visit the Bordeaux region without calling in on François; put simply, to omit Château Tertre Roteboeuf from my tasting schedule could mean missing out on the hottest wine in the vintage.

Curiously, despite the story of Château Tertre Roteboeuf presented above, François Mitjavile has been known to describe 1989 (rather than 1982) as his breakthrough vintage. We should perhaps not be surprised; many vintages of the 1980s were very good, but perhaps not quite good enough. But 1989, and of course 1990, were both excellent vintages which raised many châteaux to new heights, in Bordeaux and beyond. The 1989 from Château Tertre Roteboeuf displays a great intensity of pigment despite its age, with a confidently dark core, and a gradual fade to a dusty red hue at the rim. There follows a great nose, and remarkably it still carries the elements that I see in this wine in younger vintages, in particular black olive, black tea leaves and black pepper, with a little seam of dried black cherry skins in the background. The palate shows the same character, but it comes wrapped in a dry, tense and sinewy substance, with density but not sweetness. Savoury, with dark black fruits, nuanced with tobacco leaf and a peppercorn energy, a fresh acidity and a long finish too. It has, considering its age, an impressive confidence in the glass. All in all, this is a quite lovely, savoury, textured and yet taut wine. Well done François. 94/100 (21/1/19)

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