Chateau La Gaffeliere & La Connivence Vertical

Tasted at Chateau La Gaffelière in late November 2014. The works at the estate are coming to an end, with the final landscaping and setting up of a boutique now underway. The vineyard has been 60% replanted sincd 2007, and the new cellars have been in use since harvest 2013, with optical sorting used for the first time. This is a fully gravity-led cellar, with no pumps used anywhere and 12 small 30 hectolitre vats and 8 just slightly larger at 50 hectolitres. 

 

Alexandre de Malet Roquefort's Pomerol estate, Chateau La Connivence, was also tasted back to 2008, its first year of existence, along with the second wines of each estate, and a few other chateaux in the family ownership.

 

 

 

Clos la Gaffeliere Saint Emilion Grand Cru 2011

14%abv. This second wine of Chateau la Gaffeliere is delicate and light. It doesn't start off with much promise but gets into its stride fairly quickly, and glides along the palate. No need to wait, this can be drunk today. Soft redcurrant and raspberry fruits from 50% merlot and 50% cabernet franc. Tannins are very light, this is not huge or overly extracted, just a sweet wine doing its thing. 86-87/100

 

Clos la Gaffeliere AOC Saint Emilion Grand Cru 2012

Firm purple colour, touch more evident fruit on the nose than with the 2011. On the palate also, there is more structure here, tighter weave of blackberry still with touches of redcurrant. Again blend is 50/50 merlot / cab franc. 100% oak barrels, one year old, stainless steel vats for the vinification. Real potential here, a lovely second wine that can be approached within next two to three years. 14% 89/100

 

Chateau la Gaffeliere AOC Saint Emilion 1er Grand Cru Classé 2008

Derenoncourt is consultant at La Gaffeliere and has worked with Alexandre extensively on replanting the vineyard (most notably moving the location of the cabernet franc to warmer slopes - they were all extremely young here, so none have made it into the first wine). A touch of reduction on the nose, and a cinnamon edge from the oak.  This vintage is 100% merlot because of the cabernet uprooting and you can feel the impact - just lacks the elegance of usual years if La Gaffeliere. This is a vintage that I often enjoy, but not feeling this. 14%abv. 89/100

 

Chateau la Gaffeliere AOC Saint Emilion 1er Grand Cru Classé 2009

14.5%, 90% merlot, 10% cabernet franc (because the newly planted cabernet francs still so young not much in 1st wine at this point). 50% new oak. Stainless steel vats and gravity-led vinfication, with open vat punching down of the grape skins for softer extraction. Supremely elegant. This has gorgeous juiciness, real pulsing plum and damson where you can feel the texture of the fruit, excellent extraction, and excellent use of oak, nothing jarring. Get the toasted almond that adds a swirl of coffee and cappuccino complexity but here it is perfectly balanced by the fruit. A lovely wine. 94/100

 

Chateau la Gaffeliere AOC Saint Emilion 1er Grand Cru Classé 2010

A model of restraint, with dark bitter chocolate oozing behind the violets and blackberry carefully buttoned up tannins. Love the sense of lift that permeates the wine, the acidity feels crisp, poised, a Catholic schoolgirl off to prayers. The oak barrel influence (50% new) is discernible but perfectly balanced. Love it. Perfectly illustrates the 2009/2010 stylistic divide - same blend, both excellent vintages, and yet very different wines. 94-95/100.

 

Chateau la Gaffeliere AOC Saint Emilion 1er Grand Cru Classé 2011

14%abv. 90/10 merlot cab franc. Been decanted around one hour before the tasting, as has the 2012. Like the oak use here, but where the 2nd wine is floating and pretty with its soft fruits, this betrays the lack of rich texture a little more clearly because you expect more. Liquorice and violets, pretty floral notes, soft tannins and an attractive sense of forward motion, some continuum on the palate if you listen out to what it's telling you. 14%. 91/100

 

Chateau la Gaffeliere AOC Saint Emilion 1er Grand Cru Classé 2012

Fruits richer and rounder here, some lovely toasting on the final furlong. 14%abv but feels richer and rounder by quite some distance than the 2011, still without sacrificing the elegance and lift. 80/20 as new cabernet franc comes on board, 50% new oak. Lovely smooth texture, bilberries here, the fruit is fairly dark, definitely intense, clear ageing potential. Great potential for what the newly planted vineyard is going to be achieving in a few years time. 92/100

 

Chateau la Gaffeliere AOC Saint Emilion 1er Grand Cru Classé 2013

First year in the new cellars, where plot by plot vinification has been prioritised, and optical sorting used to sort out what was a pretty difficult harvest. This has brightened up since the primeurs, taken on a vibrancy. Still lacks the depth of flavour of the 2012 and I would stand by my assessment that this is a difficult vintage that will be best enjoyed within its first 1à to 15 years of life. It has elegance, there are no green edges and the extraction has been perfectly handled, but it lacks depth. 87-88/100 (a rise from my en primeur assessment).

 

Over lunch, we also drank a far older, 1964 Chateau La Gaffelière, which I first placed in the 1980s as it tasted so young and full of fruit. Just a beautiful wine. A 2001 also drunk at lunch was darkly spicy, well structured, just beginning to come into its drinking window.

 

 

 

Newly established Pomerol estate - a pretty rare thing - owned by Alexandre de Gaffeliere with two friends, Girondins footballers Johan Micoud and Mattheiu Chalmé. Claude Gros is the oenologist here (taking over in 2010 from Stephane Derenoncourt who started out for the first two years - and who also works with La Gaffelière), and the vines cover just 1.2 hectares making 2,500 bottles per year, established in 2008. I wrote about the launch of this estate, so thrilled to taste this vertical. Just four small-sized vats in the winery.

 

Chateau La Connivence AOC Pomerol 2008

The property is 1.2ha in total, with 90 ares of vines that are 30-40 years old, plus 35 ares that were replanted in 2008 and are now six years old. They also added 15 ares of cabernet franc vines in 2013. This was the first vintage of the estate, carried out with the advice of oenologist Stéphane Derenoncourt. Each year they carry out three harvests; the first in the vines, the second usually for the second wine from the finer gravel plots and the last one for the main wine. Even six years on, the oak here is fairly powerful, needs a good ten minutes in the glass before it loosens up and the fruit makes its way through the tannic structure. This is a punchy Pomerol, certainly announces its arrival. 90/100.

 

Chateau la Connivence AOC Pomerol 2009

More finesse and refinement here, although still the vanilla bean sweet oak accompaniment to the well-ripened blueberry and blackberry fruits. Lacks some of the floral side that you can get in some Pomerol's from the plateau, but this is early days for the estate. This is more of a power ballad, meaty structure and beautifully confident fruit. 92-93/100

 

Chateau la Connivence AOC Pomerol 2010

A swirling wand of coffee and mocha bursts out on the attack, but this has a better sense of verticality than the first two vintages and you start to feel the estate growing into itself, giving a more classic Pomerol feel. Tannis are rich and round, this is a real chewy wine, plenty to digest, could sit and enjoy for a good few hours, demands you take your time. First one where start to feel the thought process, the unwinding of a message behind the taste, more terroir feel here. Like it a lot, and when go back to it there is a subtlety and freshness that is really striking. The vintage will have played its part of course, but there was also a switch from Derenoncourt to Gros as consultant - and no doubt the fact that it was the third harvest meant the winemaking team is getting to understand the nuances of the vineyard. 95/100.

 

Chateau la Connivence AOC Pomerol 2011

Some touches of florality coming through on the nose as they continue to draw out the characterstics of the vineyard and terroir, fruit obviously a little less ripe than the previous three vintages, but I like this, lovely restarint and with that comes a sense of Pomerol smile and seduction. This is a good wine, get excellent fruit without too much heaviness or power. An early drinker but not quite reaching its stride yes, this has time ahead of it. 92/100.

 

Chateau la Connivence AOC Pomerol 2012

Good, rich, black truffle and pepper spice, good weight but not too heavy. Think I prefer the 2011 amazingly, but this is an excellent wine, a long distance number and I love that they are really reaching in to what a Pomerol should taste like - the power and the perfume. 91/100.

 

Chateau la Connivence AOC Pomerol 2013

Very much like the nose on this, powerful toast, touches of menthol amd blackberry. Not as much complexity or length on the palate as the 2011 or 2012, the vintage is not entirely left behind, but there is lots to enjoy here, and there is a lot to be said for a high quality early drinking Pomerol. 90/100. 

 

La Belle Connivence 2013

The second wine of La Connivence, in this intage I get slightly tart fruit on the nose, blueberry and redcurrant, with a fairly swift finish. Feel they sacrificed this one to the beauty of the first wine, but I do like the feeling of softly softly dancing through your palate. An early drinker, within the next five years. 86/100.

 

La Belle Connivence 2012

Coffee, mint, liqourice, vanilla bean, this is good but a little confectioned. Pleasing, good lift 14%abv. 88/100

 

La Belle Connivence 2011

As with the first wine, this is excellent, totally delicious, great smooth fruits soft texture, nice lift, not overly alcoholic despite being at 14%. V good. 88/100

 

La Belle Connivence 2010

Excellently definied clean fruit teased out at this point. You get the full range of coffee and toast without it being a charicature. Good fruit, slightly too obvious alcohol at still 15%. 89/100

 

La Belle Connivence 2009

Plump fruit although the alcohol high and is not fully balanced with the other elements. Needs to be refined a little, and it may well smooth out its edges over the next few years. Not getting Pomerol typicity though - although enjoyable. 14.5% 87/100

 

La Belle Connivence 2008

I get a touch of brett on the nose here, giving it a rustic feel. Only the first vintage and the second wine, so inevitably it had a few bumps in the road at this point. 13.5% 84/100.

 

 

Other Malet-Roquefort wines

 

Chapelle Chateau d'Alienor AOC Bordeaux Superieur 2009

A fun and alluring brushing of chocolate and cinnamon on the palate, this is a perfect perfect christmas party wine, get hold of it now! 100% merlot, stainless steel vinification then 70% new oak barrels, and it shows. This is hugely polished for the appellation, plump round and ready to drink. Not huge length and 15% is straying towards unmanageable but that's what makes it a fun bottle to share between friends, and should be under €10 consumer price. Great wine for the category! 88/100

 

Chateau Armens AOC Saint Emilion Grand Cru 2009

70% merlot, 20% cabernet franc, 10% cabernet sauvignon. 14.5%abv. Alexandre de Malet Roquefort bought this estate in 1999, his first investment under his own name in Saint Emilion. 60% new oak, this is rich and round, with whiff of toasted almonds and rich plum fruits. I get the alcohol giving a touch too much heat here. But it's accomplished and ready to drink, with the Right Bank generosity of this vintage without being swamped by extraction. 90/100