2019 Château Berliquet, St Emilion, Bordeaux
Jane Anson, Decanter (May 2020)
About this WINE
Ch. Berliquet comprises a square, 10-hectare handkerchief of St Emilion vineyard, surrounded on three sides by Ch. Canon’s vines. Its long history dates back to the 1740s, making it one of the appellation’s oldest vineyards. It is a Grand Cru Classé.
Until as recently as the 1970s, Ch. Berliquet's wine was made by the local co-operative. The quality was good but rather unexciting. Since 1978, the wine has been vinified and matured at the château and has improved beyond recognition.
In 2017, Ch. Berliquet was bought by Chanel, who brought in winemaker Nicolas Audebert to further refine the estate’s offering. Nicolas brought with him a wealth of experience, most recently from a decade in Argentina where he oversaw the Cheval des Andes project (a collaboration between Ch. Cheval Blanc and Terrazas de los Andes).
Nicolas brought in mapping and terroir specialists Géocarta and Kees Van Leeuwen to create a soil survey of the vineyard. Based on this deep knowledge of the clay-limestone plateau, and clay and sand slopes, Nicolas has formulated phased plans to variously grub up, replant and co-plant areas of the vineyard.
“We’ll replant a third of the vineyard with more Cabernet Franc than Merlot,” explains Nicolas. “We really consider that the terroir can bring Cabernet Franc to the highest expression of fruit, elegance and precision.”
In the winery, vinification takes place in stainless-steel tanks. The wines are aged for 16 months in oak, with 50% new barrels. The cellars have been carefully renovated in recent years.
You can read an interview with Ch. Berliquet’s winemaker Nicolas Audebert here.
Ch. Berliquet has made a strong commitment to working sustainability. In addition to introducing environmentally responsible practices in the winery, they have recently planted hedges, grasses, walnut trees and introduced green corridors to increase biodiversity.
St Emilion is one of Bordeaux's largest producing appellations, producing more wine than Listrac, Moulis, St Estèphe, Pauillac, St Julien and Margaux put together. St Emilion has been producing wine for longer than the Médoc but its lack of accessibility to Bordeaux's port and market-restricted exports to mainland Europe meant the region initially did not enjoy the commercial success that funded the great châteaux of the Left Bank.
St Emilion itself is the prettiest of Bordeaux's wine towns, perched on top of the steep limestone slopes upon which many of the region's finest vineyards are situated. However, more than half of the appellation's vineyards lie on the plain between the town and the Dordogne River on sandy, alluvial soils with a sprinkling of gravel.
Further diversity is added by a small, complex gravel bed to the north-east of the region on the border with Pomerol. Atypically for St Emilion, this allows Cabernet Franc and, to a lesser extent, Cabernet Sauvignon to prosper and defines the personality of the great wines such as Ch. Cheval Blanc.
In the early 1990s there was an explosion of experimentation and evolution, leading to the rise of the garagistes, producers of deeply-concentrated wines made in very small quantities and offered at high prices. The appellation is also surrounded by four satellite appellations, Montagne, Lussac, Puisseguin and St. Georges, which enjoy a family similarity but not the complexity of the best wines.
St Emilion was first officially classified in 1954, and is the most meritocratic classification system in Bordeaux, as it is regularly amended. The most recent revision of the classification was in 2012
Cabernet Sauvignon lends itself particularly well in blends with Merlot. This is actually the archetypal Bordeaux blend, though in different proportions in the sub-regions and sometimes topped up with Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot.
In the Médoc and Graves the percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend can range from 95% (Mouton-Rothschild) to as low as 40%. It is particularly suited to the dry, warm, free- draining, gravel-rich soils and is responsible for the redolent cassis characteristics as well as the depth of colour, tannic structure and pronounced acidity of Médoc wines. However 100% Cabernet Sauvignon wines can be slightly hollow-tasting in the middle palate and Merlot with its generous, fleshy fruit flavours acts as a perfect foil by filling in this cavity.
In St-Emilion and Pomerol, the blends are Merlot dominated as Cabernet Sauvignon can struggle to ripen there - when it is included, it adds structure and body to the wine. Sassicaia is the most famous Bordeaux blend in Italy and has spawned many imitations, whereby the blend is now firmly established in the New World and particularly in California and Australia.
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Vibrant damson in colour. I love the deep creaminess that is evident from the first nose, with hints of cocoa and gunsmoke. There is more clay here than at Canon; about 50% of the vineyard has a clay layer over the limestone whereas at Canon it is closer to 10%, meaning Berliquet is less ethereal, more urgent and powerful, still with precision and feathery chalky tannins. They have restored the underground limestone cellars for barrel ageing. A yield of 45hl/ha. 45% new oak, for what is the 2nd full year of the Canon team working the vineyard. Thomas Duclos consultant. Drinking Window 2026 - 2042
Jane Anson, Decanter (May 2020)
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