I just had the good fortune to stop by at the Fine Wine Source when they were revisiting some wines either for the wine shop or for their restaurant Vertical, once the forced mandate of 25% occupancy is raised to 50% or more, or for both. They were asking my opinion, which made me feel wonderful, but they could easily make the decisions without my input, but as I say, I did feel honored. The restaurant and the wine shop pride themselves on having interesting wines, as opposed to what every “safe” wine list will carry. The “unicorn” wines are probably the easiest wines to select, because they are name driven and if one has the income or the expense account, they are extremely easy to sell. The average person, I would venture to say, doesn’t want to many choices; the wine lover wants to find something new and interesting, to give himself a reason to buy something. After all, not every wine has to be expensive, sometimes it is the affordable ones that we miss.
Chateau Larrivaux Haut-Medoc 2018 was one such wine. In 1581, seventy-five hectares were virgin land and a major project was initially planned with a castle worthy of “fairy tales.” In the end two buildings were erected, and both are still standing, one became the family home and the other became a haystack and barn and later a barrel cellar in 1821, Since 1580, because the husband was an “inveterate gambler” the wife took over, and it has been this way ever since. Today there are three generations of women attending to the estate, in a continuous series of females, and they manage nine hectares of vineyards with the majority in Merlot, followed by Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc. The estate is in Cissac, which is part of the Haut-Medoc, and the three planted vineyards are on different grounds, two are on gravelly soil with deep clay and one is of clay and limestone. The property is adjacent to Saint-Estephe, but because of the terroir, Merlot was the better choice to grow there and the 2018 was sixty-four percent Merlot, twenty-six percent Cabernet Sauvignon, seven percent Petit Verdot and three percent Cabernet Franc with about twelve months in oak. It was very approachable immediately and the feminine charm of the women produced a nice silky “feminine” Haut-Medoc without overpowering tannins that need some years to mellow. Since most wines are consumed in their youth, this wine is a winner.
Chateau de Roques Puisseguin-Saint-Emilion 2018 was another wine that I tried at the same time. Puysseguin (Puisseguin)-Saint-Emilion is another of the satellite titles that may append Saint-Emilion to their name; the others are Saint-Georges, Montagne and Lussac. The appellation is only allowed for red wines and can only be wines made from Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere. The grounds are known for their clay, limestone and gravel soils. This appellation has the strictest laws pertaining to the production of wine, in regard to density of the vines, residual sugar and final proof measurement. Chateau de Roques has been in the Sublett family for over two-hundred years, and today it is both a winery and a hotel. The fruit is both manually and mechanically harvested from thirty-year-old vines and in the course of wine production they use vats, barrels, Concrete and Stainless Steel. The wine is a blend of seventy percent Merlot, twenty-five percent Cabernet Sauvignon and five percent Cabernet Franc. The wine is bottles eighteen months after harvest and it spends at least twelve months in a mix of oak vats and oak barrels. The wine was a nice garnet color, with floral notes and red fruits, softer tannins and a medium finish. This wine can be enjoyed immediately. It is always interesting to me, as an amateur to see how similar wines can be so different.