Domaine de Baron-Arques, Vertical 2003-2012

Tasted in Bordeaux, April 2014

 

 

I last did a vertical of this wine at the chateau - owned by Baroness Philippine de Rothschild since 1998 - on February 20 2010, where I tasted the 2003 to 2009 vintage, so it was great to retaste those same wines, and see the progression over the four vintages since then.

 

This is a beautiful 43 hectare estate, high up in the Limoux hills, at an altitude that varies between 250m and 350m, meaning the wines always retain excellent freshness. The terroir is largely clay over limestone, with pockets of gravel and is planted with both Mediterranean and Atlantic varieties. The work in the vineyard is really plot by plot, vintage by vintage, from 12 permanent staff members, plus extra 7 who work almost year round. Two consultant Gilles Rey (in the vineyard), Eric Tourbier (winemaking), plus Philippe Dhalluin during blending. Limoux is best known for its white wines, and specifically its sparkling, so the biggest challenge facing Baron'arques is overcoming the perception problem of making a quality red wine in the appellation. So far, Japan is the biggest market. Then China and Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, Germany. It’s an ontrade wine in France, but just 10% of overall sales are in France (highlighting again what a tough space it occupies in traditional markets)

 

But despite the difficulty in terms of placing the wine (not helped by ambitious pricing of between 30-35€ for baron, and 15-17€ for second wine), these are really wines worth getting to know, and I am always pleasantly surprised when I open a bottle at their easy combination of sexy southern spice with a more Bordelais freshness and backbone. As a rule, the second wine is more Mediterranean in profile than the main Baron'arques, which focus more on a Bordeaux-style profile.

 

La Capitelle du Domaine de Baron'arques AOC Limoux 2009

This was the second vintage of the second wine, 6 months in barrel, then aged in bottle for another year, 15%abv, this is a big wine, gloss of vanilla from the oak, has some heat on the finish but there is flattering fruit here. Mix of 46% merlot, 10% cabernet franc, 2% cab sauvignon plus 29% syrah, 7% malbec, 6% grenache. 84. Recommended. Drink 2014-2019.

 

La Capitelle du Domaine de Baron'arques AOC Limoux 2010

50% merlot, 6% cabernet franc, 36% syrah, 8% malbec. Less immediately appealing than the 2009, although this has more ageing potential I am sure, black spice, opens very prettily in the glass. But still for me the tannins get slightly in the way here, they are a little intrusive. 3,6ph. 83. Recommended. Drink 2014-2022.

 

La Capitelle du Baron'arques AOC Limoux 2011

The blend is 59% merlot, 39% syrah, 11% malbec. The syrah is really evident on the nose, very fragrant. This feels exotic, the spice here is cinnamon and white pepper. Soft tannins here, really velvety, lovely texture, the spice is still evident, but less abrupt than with the 2010. 3.7ph 85. Recommended. Drink 2014-2020.

 

Domaine de Baron'arques AOC Limoux 2003

This vintage saw a heatwave in Limoux like everywhere in Europe, but the elevation ensured that the wine retains a sense of freshness even today. Tertiary aromas coming through, dried fruits, prunes and clearly fruit that ripened fully. But it is still going, and proves that Baron'arques is a wine that can age. Very easy to drink now, this has soft fully supple tannins, alcohol is high, 14.6%abv. 86-87. Recommended. Drink 2014-2019.

 

Domaine de Baron'arques AOC Limoux 2004

56% merlot, 9% cabernet franc, 5% cabernet sauvignon, 11% syrah, 13% malbec, 6% grenache, this has much better balance than the 03, lovely freshness and a real sense of movement and uplift on the finish. 88+. Recommended. Drink 2014-2021.

 

Domaine de Baron'arques AOC Limoux 2005

62% merlot, 16% cabernet franc, 14% syrah, 8% malbec. 25% new barrels, 75% 1-3 year old barrels. Lovely nose, there is a real delicacy, almost floral character with clear influence from the cabernet franc. Aerian. Elegant. Again we are in the drinking window of this wine, the tannins have softened. Very easy to drink, very attractive. 88. Recommended. Drink 2014-2021.

 

Domaine de Baron'arques AOC Limoux 2006

For me, this is more Bordeaux on the nose, the most so far. Lovely nose, very pretty, here the tannins are more firm, 56% merlot, 19% cabernet franc, 5% cabernet sauvignon, 15% syrah, 5% syrah. 25% new barrels. Would need to be carafed, because the tannins really need to soften up here. There are menthol notes on the close of play here, again emphasises the Bordeaux side of the wine. 89. Recommended. Drink 2014-2022.

 

Domaine de Baron'arques AOC Limoux 2007

Rich, pure well fruited nose, this is young, you can tell this is from well ripened fruits, and has a lovely persistency and length, not over ripe, this is an excellent wine, very precisely placed black fruits, no hard edges, no green, and really separates itself from Bordeaux in this vintage with some rich exoticism from a vintage that was clearly more successful in Limoux, 56% merlot, 19% cabernet franc, 5% cabernet sauvignon, 15% syrah, 5% malbec. 91+. Highly recommended. Drink 2015-2025.

 

Domaine de Baron'arques AOC Limoux 2008

The latest harvest at the estate apart from 2013, began on october 6 and lasted until october 29. Not a hot year but managed to push the maturity. Lovely intense spice, this is very elegant. The blend is 57% merlot, 18% cabernet franc, 4% cabernet sauvignon, 12% syrah, 9% malbec. Really a characteristic of Limoux that they are able to harvest right up to the end of October, so can wait til the tannins are fully ripe. Very unusual, and that means can be ripe but the altitude keeps freshness. 89. Recommended. Drink 2015-2025.

 

Domaine de Baron'arques AOC Limoux 2009

This is the only vintage where cabernet sauvignon is higher than the cabernet franc in the blend. 61% merlot, 13% cabernet sauvignon, 6% cabernet franc, 12% syrah, 8% malbec. This has a lovely feeling of pleasure, gourmet feeling, no need to wait for a long time to be ready to drink, the tannins here are soft and silky. Has a hint of dark chocolate. Get quite a Bordeaux nose, but a more exuberant feel on the palate. 90. Highly recommended. Drink 2015-2025.

 

Domaine de Baron'arques AOC Limoux 2010

This is a serious wine, great ageing potential, not as flattering as the 2009, but this has excellent structure, beautiful soft tannins that are still very present. Soft, not drying. These are good wines. Subtle spicy aspect to them. 88. Recommended. 2016-2028.

 

Domaine de Baron'arques AOC Limoux 2011

Blend is 48% merlot, 22% cabernet franc, 7% cabernet sauvignon, 13% syrah, 10% malbec. Harvested 22 sept to 14 october, 14.7%abv that comes across with a slightly hot character at the end of the palate, probably because very hot weather during harvest meant that the grapes reached maturity very quickly. The tannins are still soft, well worked, not green, but this for me lacks some of the balance of the other years. 86-87. Recommended. Drink 2017-2027.

 

Domaine de Baron'arques AOC Limoux 2012

Just finished collage. Will be bottled in one month, then put on the market in September. From this vintage, incidentally, they pulled up all the grenache at the estate, found they couldn't get it ripe enough, just dont have the degree days. To replace it, they field grafted with chardonnay (see below for the white tasting notes). This is a successful 2012, with reat finesse, great elegance, excellent wine. Side of bitter dark chocolate, real potential for ageing. 88-90. Recommended. Drink 2018-2028.

 

The white wines

Domaine de Baron'arques Chardonnay AOC Limoux 2011

Integral vinification in barrel (this is in the cahier de charges of Limoux), 35-50% new oak, a touch of pencil lead, direct press technique for two thirds of the harvest, maceration on the skins for two days for one third. 10% of malo here to ensure that the acidity remains high. This has the potential to age further but for me could do with a little bit more of a lift, it lacks the twist of reduction. Good lemon character, but the oak is a touch intrusive. 87. Recommended. Drink 2014-2020.

 

Domaine de Baron'arques Chardonnay AOC Limoux 2012

This is highly successful, a beautifully aromatic nose, with the chardonnay/oak character less grilled, more mineral than the 2011. The mineral character is much more evident, cleaner, there is still the round, fatty mouthfeel of chardonnay, but with lime blossom, twist of citrus. 3,3ph. 91. Highly recommended. Drink 2015-2023.

 

Domaine de Baron'arques Chardoanny AOC Limoux 2013

Still in barrel. Late harvest, late veraison, 24 sept to october 8, very late for the white wines. 40% new oak, 40% 1 yr, 20% 2 yr, acidity excellent, 3.21ph - and after a few minutes in the glass, the impression of precision, length, lace, lime blossom again, lovely florality opens up even further. Great persistency. An excellent wine. 92. Highly recommended. Drink 2015-2023.