Château de Villegeorge 2019

Last weekend brought one of those strange and happy coincidences that life throws up from time to time. A morning of Bordeaux research had taken me back in time to 1932, and the creation of the Cru Bourgeois classification. This was a three-tiered classification, the precursor of the modern-day three-level system which was successfully reinstated with the 2018 vintage.

At the very top of the original 1932 classification there were just six châteaux, each of which enjoyed the rank of Cru Bourgeois Supérieur Exceptionnel (no this is not a typo – that is how the top tier was described in the 1930s). Of the six, today five still exist (one having been absorbed into the vineyard of a grand cru classé estate), and four of these names were immediately familiar to me. These were Château Angludet, Château Bel-Air Marquis d’Aligre, Château Chasse-Spleen and Château Moulin Riche. The fifth, however, did not immediately ring any bells (although I have tasted the wines before now). It was Château de Villegeorge, a property I realised I should perhaps know better.

My research completed, later in the day I started working my way though a large consignment of 2019 Bordeaux samples. Upon opening the very first box what should appear before me but the 2019 vintage of Château de Villegeorge, in shimmering lilac and gold. Pulling the cork, I was delighted to find the wine was as attractive as the label is distinctive. And out of about 40 wines tasted on Saturday afternoon, it beat all-comers to secure a spot as this week’s Weekend Wine.

Château de Villegeorge 2019

Château de Villegeorge is located on the outskirts of Avensan, a small settlement directly inland of the Margaux appellation, and just south of Moulis-en-Medoc. As the label tells us it is today the property of Marie-Laure Lurton, and she runs it alongside one other property, Château La Tour de Bessan in Margaux. Marie-Laure is the daughter of Lucien Lurton, and when he divided his portfolio of properties among his offspring in the early 1990s, Marie-Laure received these two estates; others went to her sister Bérénice Lurton (she took Château Climens) and brother Gonzague Lurton (he took Château Durfort-Vivens). I could go on; after all, Lucien Lurton did have ten children, all of whom received something in the hand-out.

Under Marie-Laure’s direction there have been some positive developments here over the years, including an expanded cuverie in 1997, expanded barrel cellars in 2007, improved harvest reception facilities, and a move towards more environmentally sound working. The estate has Haute Valeur Environnementale level three certification, and follows the Terra Vitis charter; neither guarantees stunning levels of sustainability, but this is still a lot more than many of her peers on the Médoc are doing. In the vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon dominates, and a typical blend is between two-thirds to three-quarters Cabernet, the rest Merlot, sometimes Petit Verdot too. I confess I don’t have the 2019 blend to hand, but the style suggests to me it follows this scheme, being strong on Cabernet character.

In the glass the 2019 from Château de Villegeorge has a delightfully dark hue, looking just a touch glossy, and showing some appreciable density. The aromatics call to mind dried bramble fruits and gravel, with a little rose garden perfume, feeling rather Margaux-like at the start, but with more air it takes on a more brooding and darker character, more reminiscent of savoury and saline black fruits, and it is this style that comes across on the palate. It is elegantly composed, with a savoury polish mirroring the nose, a medium-bodied but rather silky substance, and a tight core of well-knit tannins. This has a fine sense of harmony and composure, with those saline black fruits, a good freshness in keeping with the overarching style of the vintage, and a sinewy presence. The tannins linger in the finish, and admittedly have a little grain to them, but they work well within the context of this wine, and they will do their job of carrying this forward a good few years. Having said that, if you were impatient to pull the cork, I am quite sure you would not regret doing so now. Just make sure it gets a couple of hours of air, as I did. The alcohol is declared to be 14%. 92/100 (7/2/22)

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