Chateau Montrose dinner
Temperature can make a huge difference to the way a wine tastes. This was reinforced by a white Bordeaux I was served at Langton’s recent Chateau Montrose (pictured) dinner. Langton’s, the auction and brokerage business owned by Woolworths, is staking a claim in the top-end Bordeaux market. Last year it hosted a Chateau Margaux dinner, this year Chateau Montrose – with special guest Hervé Berland, Montrose’s CEO and chief winemaker.
Four evenly-spaced vintages of the Chateau Montrose grand vin were served: 2010 (magnum – tasting), 2005 (magnum – tasting), 2000 (tasting) and 1995 (tasting). These were preceded by 2010 La Dame de Montrose (tasting), the chateau’s second wine, which is a very smart wine in its own right especially in a great year like 2010. As Hervé pointed out, it is not really a second wine in the usual sense, as it comes from the same vineyard as the grand vin. “The area has been frozen; it cannot be increased,” said Hervé. Indeed, all of the grapes for Montrose’s three red wines come from the one vineyard – which makes it different to many other famous estates in Bordeaux. Some top growths have added to their vineyard holdings since the 1855 Classification, and these new vineyards aren’t necessarily close to the original properties. Questions can be asked.
The owners of Chateau Montrose since 2006, the Belgian brothers Martin and Olivier Bouygues, have spent a fortune at Montrose updating its equipment and building a new barrel cellar, nicknamed the cathedral of wine. The results are in the glass for all to taste.
The brothers have also bought a second St Estèphe property, Chateau Tronquoy-Lalande. We tasted the 2012 vintages of its red wine (tasting), and its dry white Bordeaux Blanc (tasting). The latter is made, unusually, from 70% semillon and 30% sauvignon gris – which Hervé describes as more aromatic and less crisp than sauvignon blanc. Planting sauvignon gris was the choice of the previous winemaker, Jean Delmas, who came from Chateau Haut Brion (tastings) and realized that Tronquoy had the terroir to produce a white wine. Sauvignon gris is also used in Haut Brion’s white.
The Tronquoy-Lalande blanc was a superb wine, although when it was first served it was far too cold and the oak dominated, together with the greener aspects of the fruit – the snow-pea or green-bean aromatics. It is amazing the difference a few degrees in temperature can make to the way wine tastes. About half an hour after it was served this wine had acclimatized and come into balance. It then drank beautifully.
Of the Chateau Montrose vintages, I loved the 1995, 2005 and 2010. I would leave the ’10 in the cellar for now, drink the ‘95 tonight, and the 2005 vintage can be drunk or cellared longer. But the 2000 vintage was the odd man out: a funky wine, which became increasingly feral as it warmed in the glass. It’s not my cup of tea, but I did notice that some people enjoyed it. Each to his/her own!
Such is the quality of the winemaking and viticulture, and the all-important selection of barrels, that the Chateau Montrose of today is a far cry from the hard, forbiddingly tannic wines that we were taught to expect from St Estèphe in the distant past. Indeed, Montrose is remarkably smooth and the tannins, while generous, are very supple. Warmer summers and earlier ripening are facts of life in Bordeaux, as they are everywhere. But according to Hervé, the improvement in the grand vin is mainly because the selection is more stringent. “We make a lot less grand vin these days than in the previous owner’s day: they made a good 50% more (from the same vineyard). The Bouygues are very serious about quality.”