Even in Saint-Emilion, a region where hundreds of great wine estates exist, Hubert de Boüard de Laforest is considered a legend among legends. In the rarefied world of Bordelais, de Boüard, winemaker and owner of Chateau Angelus, has a reputation that is well-earned and undisputed.
A skillful oenologist with a fascination for traditional Burgundian techniques and modern winemaking technology, de Boüard elevated the wines of Chateau Angelus to Premier grand cru classe, or first classified growth status, shortly after taking over the family estate.
He credits the terroir of Chateau Angelus above all else. The estate is situated on the famous cotes of Saint-Emilion, with the clay and limestone terroir typical of the region. It is planted with 51 percent Merlot, 47 percent Cabernet Franc, and just 2 percent Cabernet Sauvignon.
How would you describe a typical Saint-Emilion wine, and specifically, Chateau Angelus?
B: The style of Saint-Emilion is linked to the soil. It's one with depth, very good color, but in terms of tannins, which is very important, the tannins are very velvety, they are melted, not rough. The wines are not difficult to understand. With a top Saint-Emilion wine like Angelus, you have elegance, finesse, which is maybe the haute couture of Saint-Emilion.
The Merlot grape accounts for a higher percentage in the blend, but it's the cabernet franc that gives Saint-Emilion wines their elegance, is it not?
B: The Merlot gives the softness, the velvety style, but what the cabernet franc gives to the wine is really the backbone, the freshness, the spiciness. If you drink a Merlot, pure Merlot—maybe except Petrus—it's a bit boring because the Merlot just rolls in your mouth. The cabernet franc makes the wine very elegant, very fresh in the end, and this is really the spiciness which gives the elegance of Saint-Emilion wine.
V: You like to say that there is no such thing as the best vintage, only different ones. Still, can you name a year that stands out for you?
B: 1995 is really the vintage of Saint-Emilion. Why? Because everything went on at the right moment in this part of Bordeaux; the weather was fantastic. We got perfect ripeness for the Merlot; it was not too hot—we don't like it when there's a heat wave—and we had cool nights, which motivated the ripeness. And then we got a fantastic Indian summer for the Cabernet, making the blend really magical. In terms of color, the 1995 vintage is very deep. In terms of perfume, it's cedar, oak, and cigar—not the cigar itself but more the aroma of the cigar box when you open it. And it's very round, smooth, and elegant, like velvet in the mouth or cashmere on the palate.
A selection of the best vintages of recent years, Saint-Emilion Premier Grand Crus
Tasting notes: Intense, well-layered, multidimensional flavors, yet delicate and sublime. A nose of incense, blueberries, blackberries, currants, licorice, and crushed rocks. A wine that will last a century in the bottle.
Ready to drink: 2030 to the next century
Tasting notes: The most concentrated of the 1995 Saint-Emilion first growths. Very full-bodied, thick, and pure. A massive, powerful, rich offering with plenty of ripe, sweet tannin.
Ready to drink: 2002 to 2025
Tasting notes: Full-bodied, powerful, and concentrated with a finish that lasts nearly a minute. Strong, precise nose of black fruits, liquid minerals, smoke, and graphite. A wine with a longevity of 50 years or more.
Ready to drink: 2006 to 2045
Tasting notes: Nicely balanced, deep, and pure. Aromas of black cherries, crushed rocks, and earthy undertones.
Ready to drink: Now and until 2020
Tasting notes: Smoky, green peppercorn element with crunchy dark fruit. Stark texture, but full of character and appealing structure.
Ready to drink: Now until 2018
Chateau Troplong Mondot
Tasting notes: Concentrated, multilayered, with terrific acidity, and substantial, but sweet tannins. A bouquet of Asian spices, blueberries, blackberries, truffles, graphite, and charcoal.
Ready to drink: 2018 to 2050
Photographs by Jar Concengco
This story first appeared on Vault Magazine Issue 1, 2011.