2015 La Reserve de Malartic
Is it possible to have a 96-point Classified Growth Bordeaux for under $30?
Indeed it is. Right here, right now. With a little twist:
The place is Pessac-Leognan, the chateau is Malartic Lagraviere, and the wine is La Reserve de Malartic. That’s a lot of information, but it breaks down into three neat little parts.
First is Pessac-Leognan. It can make the claim of being the oldest (which means best, if you’re French) place to plant Cabernet in the world. It was the Dutch who, in the 1400s, first recognized the great terroir of Bordeaux and its capacity to make incredible Cabernet. At the time what is now known as the Left Bank was a swamp, so the Dutch planted high up on the hill behind the city of Bordeaux. There, the soil is an iron-rich substrate of stony gravel – a perfect match for Cabernet and the Bordeaux family of varieties.
Second is Malartic Lagraviere. That’s a long name, but it could have been even longer. The original chateau was Domaine de Lagraviere, and its roots date back at least to the 1500s. But at the end of the 18th century, it famous sea captain Count Hippolyte de Maures de Malartic purchased it. Let’s all be glad he honored himself by appending just one of his many names to the domaine’s (and by adding a boat to the label).
Malartic’s family held the chateau until the mid-1900s, when it changed hands several times, ultimately landing in the welcoming arms of the Bonnie family in 1997. Massive reinvestment in the winery and vineyards followed, resulting in the 2015 vintage being declared by Robert Parker as “the greatest this terroir has ever produced.”
Now, to the wine (and a little twist). Over the years it has become popular in Bordeaux (as well as in Napa) for chateaux to make a “second” wine, as is the case here. I used to pooh-pooh such wines – my palate is only for the “main” or “first” wine, and not some second-best castoff.
But as of late, I’ve been changing my tune, and here’s why. In Bordeaux the “main” wines are often built for the long haul (note Bob’s 30-year lead time below). And that is great, because I love aged Bordeaux wine. But I also need something to drink now—like tonight. And second wines meet this need.
How? The winery simply builds them differently. It’s the same terroir, same grapes, same winemaking team, same care for the wine: They just alter the blend to make the wine smoother, use less oak so it’s not as hard-edged, and then choose the most open and expressive casks. The results, as in this vintage of La Reserve de Malartic, are gorgeously on display:
An energetic and ultra-expressive nose practically leaps from the glass – blackberries, lead pencil, raspberries and black currants, and kirsch liqueur are all layered in a deeply expansive level of flavors. The palate is simply gorgeous with a ravishing purity of supple and silky fruit, yet maintains a distinctly elegant and long finish that truly represents the great terroir of Bordeaux. I agree completely with Bob on this one – it’s a simply brilliant effort. From the great 2015 vintage, this is absolutely stunning to drink now, yet has at least 15 more years of life in the bottle.
Did the second wine exactly score the 96 points noted below? No, I can’t claim that it did. But I can say it’s the same terroir, grapes, and winemaker. And frankly, this mere “second” deserves the same rating as its big brother. Can you get a 96-point Bordeaux for under 30 bucks? To my palate, yes you can. This is flat-out gorgeous. Don’t miss it.
Critical Acclaim for this exact wine:
“Striking violets and blueberries here. Some leafy notes, too. The palate adds some light, creamy oak, tastes of summer-berry pudding and supple tannins to close. Drink or hold.” – James Suckling
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