Two Duos from Saint-Émilion
Merlot isn’t a grape that particularly moves me, except when it comes from Saint-Émilion. Yes, those wines are blended with Cabernet Franc and sometimes Cabernet Sauvignon, but Merlot almost always predominates in both flavor and structure.
From Saint-Émilion comes Merlot in all its svelte, not hefty, glory. That’s a style I can relish.
Here are notes on wines from two producers I’ve recently tasted for the first time. Each cuvée from both properties offer excellent typicity of the region’s famed clay-limestone soils paired with its star grape.
The Château Haut-Brisson wines are made with grapes grown under certified organic methods then harvested by hand. Supervised by Michel Rolland, these wines bear the hallmark of dedication to high quality.
Château Haut-Brisson 2010 Saint-Émilion Grand Cru La Grave 14% $39
Bursting and forward with roasted black plum skin, blackberry and licorice, this is a hard-core, dark-fruited wine. It has a lightly chalky texture with refined and grainy tannins and well-integrated acidity. It pits the characteristically superb ripeness of 2010 against plenty of good lift and boasts a moderate-plus finish, too.
Château Haut-Brisson 2012 Saint-Émilion Grand Cru 13.5% $55
This pleasantly fragrant wine smells of dusty red earth, worn leather, dried tree bark and cardamom. Its exuberantly fresh fruit character and bewitchingly ripe core are utterly satisfying. Its mild acidity and easy-edged tannins provide only light tension, making this an excellent bottling for early drinking. And, that’s just fine, as it drinks so well now that it is almost unbearable to abstain from this super-clean, berry-fruited pleasure.
Château Haut-Gravet is run by two generations of the Aubert family, who also run near-by Château La Couspaude. The extended family’s interest in running wine estates began before the French Revolution. Today, Amélie Aubert focuses on harmonizing the plant with the soil to tease out the best possible expressions.
Château Haut-Gravet 2010 Saint-Émilion Grand Cru 13.5% $45
This wine’s deep mulberry color appears to promise a mouthful of juicy exuberance, and it definitely delivers. There’s that trademark Saint-Émilion earthiness on both the nose and the palate along with a basket stuffed with fresh-picked forest berries. The tannins are smoothly sculpted and the finessed acidity offers refreshment, making this a highly drinkable wine. It’s a great, medium-bodied wine for any time of year.
Château Haut-Gravet 2011 Saint Emilion Grand Cru Grand Chemin 13.5% $45
This wine smells like a stroll deep into a dense forest. Its bouquet also offers perky red cherries with accents of rhubarb and dried cranberry. The succulent fruits, generously round tannins and full body meld into a harmonious palate without ponderous weight. Unusually accommodating for a young Bordeaux from trying growing season, the lightly peaty and savory finish carries the wine into a new layer of complexity on the medium finish. Seriously tasty!