Helen’s blog

Thoughts and tastings from Helen Savage, wine writer.

Archive for August, 2012

Chateau Croque Michotte 2011 and 2010

Saturday, August 4th, 2012

Croque Michotte is a Saint Émilion Grand Cru. Pierre Carle is trying hard to restore it to Grand Cru Classé status, lost in 1996. He has converted the estate to organic viticulture, re-installed concrete fermentation vats, introduced an optical grape sorter and splashes out on up to 60% new oak each year. The terroir is sandy gravel – adjacent to Cheval Blanc, la Dominique and Gazin on the border with Pomerol. My experience with older vintages is that it is typically an elegantly perfumed wine, with the accent firmly on finesse rather than power. The blend, in the vineyard is 74% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc and 1% Cabernet Sauvignon. The average age of the vines is 52 years and the oldest are 92 years old. Three years ago Pierre increased the height of the canopy by 30cms, and claims that the wine now has more concentration – but alcohol levels remain reasonable.

The 2011 was picked a week or so after La Conseillante and Petrus. “I was a bit worried. I’m looking for freshness in the wine. Was I wrong to leave the grapes?” Pierre told me, but continued. “You should never look at others, but just taste your own grapes. Ripening here is a bit later.”

I tasted three barrel samples:

The first, pure Cabernet Franc, was richly perfumed, intense and spicy. The tannins were soft and the acids too seemed surprisingly soft.

The second, Merlot from a new medium toast Demptos barrel was much less perfumed, but was sweetly ripe with aromas of bramble, coffee and cocoa. It seemed richer and more powerful and the alcohol seemed higher. The finish was quite toasty. “The alcohol always seems higher when the wine has less extract”, said Pierre.

A third from a new Quintessence barrel, again Merlot, was more elegantly perfumed, but had more structure, even a hint of liquorice and a delightful freshness. The alcohol was less apparent – Pierre’s point seems well made.

In short, this unfancied vintage promises well – attractively fruity wine that seems likely to be enjoyable quite soon after bottling.

The 2010, recently bottled, is as one might expect, very good.

The colour isn’t, however, as deep as I expected – a bright, young ruby.The aromas are very fine, perfumed, spicy and savoury, with brambles, but also an underlying layer of darker fruit.The palate combines lovely freshness with elegant complexity. It is very well balanced and long, with just a hint, again, of liquorice. It is 14% abv – rather more than the 2011.

2010 Croque Michotte is not a blockbuster, but typifies the elegance of the estate.