BORDEAUX – Jean-François Millet left us with an indelible image of the Angélus, its sound ringing out over the fields, but I have a closer connection with the great St. Emilion wine, Château Angélus. Its new cellars do now have twenty bells, or carillons, that chime three times a day, although they probably call most visitors to a tasting rather than to prayer! I happen to think there is some similarity in the two activities, but then I am a bit prejudiced in favour of the vine.
Hubert de Boüard, manager and co-owner of Château Angélus, was recently in London to give a master class for the Institute of Masters of Wine, and it was certainly one of the most intelligent and lucid explanations of how to make a great wine. The right grape with the right terroir is vital and here Hubert sings the praises of the Cabernet Franc on his south-facing slopes. It gives great freshness and spiciness, the signature of Angélus. If he could pick out one quality that he looks for in a wine, it would be harmony, and I have no quarrel with that. Angélus also shows smooth glycerol and succulent "sweetness" which is very endearing.
THE FAÇADE OF ANGÉLUS.
All this is achieved with attention to detail, a passionate concern for the health of the vineyard and enormous care in the choice of his casks. Hubert’s thesis at the Faculty of Oenology in Bordeaux was on oak and he goes three times a year with his tonneliers, or barrel suppliers, to the great oak forests in central France. His approach to winemaking tends to the pragmatic, rather than being "recipe driven," taking decisions based on observation and analysis. Interestingly, at Angélus, there are concrete, stainless steel and wooden fermentation vats – the best of all worlds.
HUBERT DE BOÜARD DE LA FOREST.
I often think that the very first tastings of Angélus, when it is still in barrel, do not show its finest points. Once in bottle, the wine blossoms, amplifying and attaining that opulence that we love. We tasted nine vintages of Château Angélus, in the elegant surroundings of Trinity House overlooking the Tower of London, and every wine flew the flag both of its year and its origin. The 2012 and 2011 are, of course, waiting in the wings, as are the superlative 2010 and 2009, two fabulous vintages that are completely different from each other. The 2010 is deeply aromatic and expressive, still hedonistic fruit juice but headed for a long life, while the 2009 is exotic and a bit "baroque," all black liquorice and Asian spices. The 2008 has blackberry fruit and crispness, the 2007 melts in the mouth with its soft accessibility and the 2006 has great flavoury impact and structure. Then came two gems, a truly classic 2005, a many-layered mouthful where fruit, acidity and tannin are in perfect balance, followed by a show-stopping 2000, with complexity, richness and cigary elements that caused me to write, "éclatant."
Brilliant indeed – a good description of the career of Hubert de Boüard and his life’s work at Angélus.
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