Ah, the Right Bank of the Bordeaux and the village of St. Émilion. So different, so delicious and so old world in its charm. The vineyards are smaller, more modest and the wines are made more hands on from their proprietors. The soil is completely different from the Left Bank containing more quartz, sand, clay and chalk, which correlates to Merlot and Cabernet Franc being the primarily grown grapes. There is very little Cabernet Sauvignon grown here and the percentage of Merlot can be extremely high in some vintages.
However, the wines of St. Émilion and Pomerol can be very expensive in relation to other wine regions in the world. While some of the very best in the region like Château Cheval Blanc, Château Ausone, Château Angelus, Château Pavie, Pétrus are completely out of the price range for most people you can still find some affordable and great wines. Recent off years for Right Bank (2007, 2008, 2011 and 2012 ) can be a good place to start or you could remortgage the house and build an amazing wine cellar.
Cheat sheet for the region: Wines are mostly Merlot, Cabernet Franc based. St.Émilion wines tend to have a lively texture and feature notes of blackberry and vanilla. Wines from Pomerol tend to be velvety in texture and feature more plum and cocoa notes.
Château Le Carré is a very small vineyard(1.5 hectare) in the heart of St. Émilion. So small in fact that they don’t have a Chateau of their own and the wine is produced at Chateau Teyssier. In roughly a 80% Merlot to 20% Cabernet ratio, the 2008 vintage shows bold upfront blackberry, dark fruit, full body, pleasant oak and the caramel signature they’re known for. The texture is round and the finish is long with more black fruit, and black cherry in particular on the back end. I find this wine to be a wonderfully drinking wine and a good representation of St. Émilion without breaking the bank.
Chateau Teyssier has been producing wines in St. Émilion for over 300 years. The vineyard spreads over 50 hectares producing 80% Merlot to 20% Cabernet Franc grapes and roughly 15,000 cases of wine per vintage. The 2009 vintage has a wonderful nose of deep blackberry and oak notes. The palate was balanced well with strong tannin, medium acidity and earthy dark berry, cocoa and currant. The finish isn’t overall lengthy, but drank very well. A couple more years in the cellar will do this well, but at around $26 a bottle you can’t go wrong.
Château Les Cruelles 2009
Château Les Cruelles isn’t typical to the Right Bank in the sense that they grown an exceedingly high proportion of Cabernet Franc 40% to 60% Merlot. This however doesn’t translate to the percentage in the recent vintages as most are roughly made up of 90% Merlot. The 2009 vintage is had a nose of berries, vanilla and cream. The palate was was layered with dark fruit, caramel and some wonderful earthy tones. The finish felt a little short for my preference but still had some wonderful berry notes, good acidity, and round tannin.
Chateau Feytit-Clinet is one of those vineyards that really got me hooked on Bordeaux. The relatively small 6.5 hectares vineyard grows roughly 90% Merlot to 10% Cabernet Franc production about 2,000 cases per vintage. The 2010 vintage is probably one of their single best vintages they’ve ever produced. The nose is dark fruit, plum and wonderfully earthy. The palate is silky with cherry, blueberry and more plum. The wine is well balanced with the perfect acidity and nice lengthy finish. Great fruit and really well made wine here. This vintage is one of the best valued wines in the region for the money even at around $80 per bottle.