We taste wines back to 1970 from one of the most famous Provence estates
A vineyard in Provence that also traces its roots to Bordeaux recently organised a tasting with wines back to 1970: Chateau Vignelaure in Coteaux d’Aix en Provence. Britt tastes the wines and meets the new owners.
Château Vignelaure is not your typical Provence wine estate although it is situated in a very “Provençal” part of Provence, in the beautiful appellation of Coteaux d’Aix en Provence, close to the region of Luberon. It was created by George Brunet from Bordeaux, later bought by an Irish couple who sold it 2007 to a Swedish/Danish couple, Bengt Sundstrom and Mette Rode Sundstrom, also owners of the successful company Lauritz.com (auctions of art, antiques, wine etc. on the internet).
Bengt and Mette did not actually look for a vineyard. They wanted a house somewhere, but not in Provence. “Too many tourists”, says Bengt. “However, when we saw Vignelaure we fell in love with the place and fortunately this part of Provence is a bit less touristic.”
Vignelaure is a young estate, created by George Brunet in the 1960s, but nevertheless it is an historic one. When Brunet arrived he planted cabernet sauvignon, the first cabernets to be planted in Provence. He used cuttings from his estate in Bordeaux, the classified growth of Château La Lagune. The first vintage was 1970 and the wine was more or less a 100 % cabernet and Vignelaure quickly became famous.
In 1985 the appellation Coteaux d’Aix en Provence was created and the appellations rules demanded less cabernet and more syrah and grenache which Vignelaure subsequently planted. Cabernet, however, still accounts for 60 to 70 % of the blend.
The soil here is perfect for cabernet sauvignon, says Philippe Bru, oenologist and director of Vignelaure. Together with Swedish wine maker Sigvard Johnson, who arrived at the estate already in 2004, Philippe oversees the daily running of Vignelaure.
Vignelaure has 60 hectares of vines and produce approximately 190 000 bottles a year. 8 hectares of less suitable red wine soil have been uprooted and instead roussanne, rolle and semillon have been planted. In 2012, for the first time, a white wine will be produced at Vignelaure. ”Claude Bourguignon, the famous microbiologist, was here and declared that these parcels were grand cru-soil for white wine”, says Bengt.
End of last year we were invited to a very interesting vertical tasting of Château Vignelaure back to the very first vintage 1970. A proof of the ageing potential of Château Vignelaure.
Château Vignelaure 2007
Was recently put on the market. The estate keeps the wines in bottle a few years after the barrel ageing (which can last between 1 and 2 years) before releasing them to the market. Harvest by former Irish owner O’Brian and Philippe Bru started in October. Good structured wine with length and freshness. Some tobacco and cedar wood on the nose.
Château Vignelaure 2006
Generous fruit and freshness. Ripe tannins, nice balance. A delicious wine.
Château Vignelaure 2005
A magnificent year. Fruity, almost jammy but also tobacco aromas. Great to drink now.
Château Vignelaure 2004
More classic in style, aromas of “Herbes de Provence”, the fruit is a little greener, tannins are present. Should be very good with a Provencal meal.
Château Vignelaure 2002
A difficult year. A strict selection of grapes was necessary because of the rain. A certain ripeness on the nose. Good concentration thanks to low yield. Bordeaux style. Elegant and well balanced.
Château Vignelaure 1999
Somewhat closed on the nose. The palate shows an elegant wine, balanced and perfect to drink now.
Château Vignelaure 1997
Another difficult year when it was important to do a very strict selection and only use the best grapes. Spicy, notes of leather, ripe fruit, still some tannins. A lot of finesse.
Château Vignelaure 1990
Ripeness, pleasant aromas on the nose, good concentration, Provence herbs, cedar wood, quite silky on the palate.
Château Vignelaure 1985
Coffee and tobacco on the nose, feels younger than it is. Fruit is fresh. A delicious wine.
Château Vignelaure 1975
Still vigorous, both on the nose and on the palate. Overall a good impression.
Château Vignelaure 1970
The very first vintage made from cabernet planted in 1965. Drinkable but a bit tired.
2011 is, according to Bengt, the best vintage since they bought Vignelaure, both in quality and quantity. The summer was cool which gave a good balance. September and October was hotter than normal and cabernet sauvignon in the end reached a very good sugar level.
Vignelaure also turns out some other wines. ”These wines are every day wines, more accessible and a complement to Château Vignelaure”, says Bengt. “La Source” with cabernet and syrah, has a modern feel to it, made in a fruity and soft style, “La Source Rosé” is a full bodied, pleasant rosé and “Le Page Rouge”, made with cabernet and merlot, is a good structured, balanced and easy drinking wine with fruity and soft aromas.
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