Château Angélus and the paradoxical 2010

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I have just written up a vertical tasting of Château Angélus that I attended last week, courtesy of the IMW. It was very interesting, as these sorts of vertical tastings always are. Not all the wines are as incredible as they should be, given the hype that they receive, and there are some surprises. The markets prices aren’t always a reliable guide as to the best vintages, either.

The real surprise for me was the 2010. This is a paradox of a wine, because at 15.5% alcohol I should utterly despise it. But it’s actually a really balanced wine, and for me was probably the best of the tasting, with 2012 and 2008 in close competition. In comparison with the 2009 tasted warmer and riper, and with less of a future ahead of it, even though it was lower in alcohol.

Château Angélus 2010 Saint-Emilion, Bordeaux
55% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Franc. 15.5% alcohol, pH 3.57. Sweetly aromatic with black cherries and blackberries. Lovely focus on the palate which is rich and quite extracted with fresh black cherries and raspberries. There’s a lushness to the fruit but it’s not liqueur-like or jammy. Grainy structure provides a foil to the sweet fruit and there’s good acidity. It carries its 15.5% alcohol brilliantly. Primary and really impressive. 96/100

Why was the 2010 so good? Because of the pH, which as a very healthy 3.63. Remember, they don’t add acid in Bordeaux. It’s natural acidity. If you had a 15.5% wine with a pH of 3.6 where shed loads of tartaric had been bunged in, it would be a horror show. So I’m guessing the explanation for the paradoxical performance of 2010 is that it just had high sugars in the Merlot, but the grapes weren’t physiologically over-ripe.

Normally high alcohol wines are just picked too late, with dead fruit flavours and a cloying sweetness that can seduce some people, but which is really rather horrible. I didn’t find any of the Angelus wines particularly over-ripe, and this is something I’m sensitive to.

You can read all my notes and also Hubert’s insightful and interesting comments here.  And there’s a video of Hubert in action here:

4 comments to Château Angélus and the paradoxical 2010

  • Claude Vaillancourt

    This wine is the total opposite of what you preach here and you love it. Oh! It’s Château Angélus… How can you be sure they never add acid in Bordeaux? Acids are converted to sugars, these grapes were really loaded with molecules…

    Would like to see you tasting this wine again with a new world label.

  • Chris Williams

    Hi Claude,
    What do you mean when you say “acids are converted to sugars”?

  • Claude Vaillancourt

    Hi Chris,

    I meant replaced. With ripeness, malic acid is going down and glucose/fructose is going up in the berries. With 15.5% alcohol, residual sugars and all the organic acids needed to give a pH of 3.54, plus everything else, you end up with a lot of organic molecules in solution. Maybe it is possible without acidification. I don’t know. My point was more about saying because it’s Bordeaux so it is sure they don’t acidify. It was true when wines were all below 13%, but 15.5% is a different ball game.

  • Claude, I agree, that’s why I pointed it out as a paradox. I can only be honest and say that it was a really good wine. It had freshness and definition. It must be an anomaly of the season that sugar ripeness got this high while acids stayed at a good level, and fruit flavours stayed fresh. Normally 15.5% alc in Boreaux would mean the wine is horrible

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