A Château Angélus Vertical

The Château Angélus master class organised by Decanter magazine in November 2009 was well attended.   Regrettably Hubert de Boüard was absent but his place was most competently filled (at very short notice) by his daughter Stephanie Boüard.  For a private banker she was remarkably well informed about the family wine business (but then if my family owned one of Saint-Émilion’s most exciting Premier Grand Cru Classé wines I doubt I would bother much with banking!)

The 30 ha estate has 23.4 ha of classified vines, with a soil base of mostly limestone and clay.  A relatively high proportion (47%) is planted to Cabernet Franc, with the rest Merlot and just a few vines of Cabernet Sauvignon.
We started with a couple of wines from Château la Fleur de Boüard.  This is a property owned by the Boüard family in Lalande de Pomerol.   Château la Fleur de Boüard 2006 is 80% Merlot with the balance Cabernet.  It has a lively and fresh nose, with hints of cigar smoke and dewy undergrowth.  Medium-bodied, the palate offers gracefully presented fruit with a lively finish.  Not bad (88 points).  Château la Fleur de Boüard 2005 was less expressive on the nose, with more obvious blackberry and cassis aromas.  It has more palate weight and density.   It is still only medium in body, but the finish is more pronounced and defined.  It was slightly awkward at this stage, but certainly promises to offer decent value in the future (89 points). 

Next up was a mini flight from another recent Boüard acquisition, Château Bellevue. This property is located on a limestone plateau between some very ear-catching neighbours:  Angélus, Beauséjour and nearby Beau-Séjour Bécot.

Stephanie explained that her great-grandfather had tried to purchase it in 1938 but was unsuccessful, and it wasn’t until 2007 that the Boüards secured a 50% stake and effective control of the production.   To me it was quite clear that the estate had not been firing on all cylinders prior to the acquisition.  Château Bellevue 2001 (85% Merlot / 15% Cabernet Franc) had a nose will little to differentiate it.  The palate was similarly thin and disappointing, with a distinct lack of ripe fruit.  Drink up (84 points).  Château Bellevue 2005 (80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc) was a step up;   a more obviously extracted wine with a dense and smoky nose.  Plenty of blackcurrants and cigar box notes.  The palate was considerably beefed up with more pronounced tannins and a bigger finish.  Certainly better, but not great (89 points).   With Château Bellevue 2006 some faults again emerged.  The nose here is extremely plumy, with black cherries and some damp wool.  But it’s a little fluffy and lacking grace.  This was reflected on the palate, which really lacked delineation and precision.  It was a rather incoherent wine which might be OK for early drinking ‘on the fruit’ but which has little long term appeal (86 points).

So after a somewhat patchy start it was time for the grand vin itself.  Château Angélus doesn’t need a lot of introduction, so my colleague and I dived straight into our horseshoe of arranged glasses. 

Château Angélus 2006 (Merlot 60% / Cabernet Franc 40%) was straightaway a huge step in class.  You can literally suck up the densely perfumed nose from the glass, which fills the nasal passages with the power of a Halls decongestant.  Not the most complex of noses, for sure, but enticing.  In the mouth the tannins are quite grippy.  That is the first impression, but then the layers of black fruits take over to produce quite an opulent sensation, overlaid with mocha and liquorice tones.  I thought that overall the tannins were a little too astringent at the finish and that held back my score.  But this is a bright wine which will drink well now.

Château Angélus 2005 (Merlot 50% / Cabernet Franc 50%) was the star of show.  The nose was beautifully dense, pulling off that difficult trick by combining opulence with elegance.  Once this precious juice meets the mouth the overriding sensation is of power coupled with harmony.    All parts of the palate work beautifully together and there is already some decent level of complexity developing in the wine.  The tannins are quite amazingly smoothed and there is a lovely melted dark chocolate quality to the finish (which I timed at 45 seconds).  But it isn’t all smoothness and velvet, the acidic skeleton is there too to carry the wine.  The complete package (98 points).

It was tough for the vintages that followed.   Château Angélus 2004 (Merlot 60% / Cabernet Franc 40%) had a more restrained nose, with much less of the evident fruit of the 2006 or 2005.  The wine is thinner and astringent than the 2005, of course, but not without charm and elegance (92-93 points).

Château Angélus 2003 (Merlot 42% / Cabernet Franc 58%) had a deliciously ripe nose with plenty of perfume.  The nose was reminiscent of the 2006 but with a little less freshness.  Plenty of coffee and mocha was evident.  The 2003 has a lovely palate weight and density.  Not the same level of complexity as the 2005 but almost as much power.  Again the harmony and softened tannins are very evident.  Beautiful wine, but I thought perhaps just a little too one-dimensional for a seriously high score (92-93).

Château Angélus 2001 was perhaps the most ‘classic’ vintage of the flight.  The fruit was nicely presented and balanced but lacked a bit of power.  The wine was redeemed and lifted by its impressive finish though, which was elegant and persistent (92 points " mostly on the quality of the finish).

Château Angélus 2000.   After the 2005 the silver medal position was clearly the 2000.  This has a stunning, soaring, perfumed nose with blackcurrant and just some suggestion of dried herbs.  This wine, having a little more bottle age, showed a good combination of many of the factors that we had enjoyed through the tasting.  The palate is quite inky, but the density and weight were well judged.  This is not as big as the 2005, or as long, but it is very fresh with plenty of acidity towards the finish.  Wonderful and just starting on its long journey of evolution (94.5 points).