Yes, I realize this is yet another Margaux property I’m blogging about, but how excited I was when I heard Jean-Luc - the owner and winemaker of Malescot St. Exupery - was in town! This is one of the first Chateaux familiarized myself with from Bordeaux when I started studying wine. I didn’t know much back then, but I loved how long this Chateau’s name is, and it was fun learning to pronounce it! Fast forward to now, it’s still one of my favorite Chateaux, but mostly because it is one of the most consistent wineries from Margaux.
When I found out I would be meeting Jean-Luc and tasting through his line-up, I felt like the awkward kid who just scored a dance with the prom queen at school! What strikes me most about his wines has been two things: quality and consistency. Today, I finally had a chance to meet the wizard behind the curtain and hopefully would get a peek at his secrets.
Now, I imagined Jean-Luc would be a serious, very traditional French winery owner and in my mind, he was someone I would have to act very formal and serious around. I prepped myself for “that guy”, but when he rolled up - very hip, young, and a cigarette in his fingers – I had to throw that image out and start fresh, very interesting contrast. He walked in, big smile, hug, warm and then we got right to business.
The original owner of this Chateau was Simon Malescot Esquire, King’s Counsel to Louis XIV. Then on Feb 5th, 1827 Count Jean-Baptiste Saint-Exupery, the great-grandfather of aviator and writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery (who wrote The Little Prince) purchased the property, added his name to it, and made it the Chateau Malescot St. Exupery we now know.
Malescot St Exupery is a 3rd growth from Margaux. Unfortunately, it did have a rocky past as the previous owner neglected the property and it was particularly a run-down. Jean-Luc’s father and grandfather, Roger and Paul Zuger, purchased the then 17 acre property in 1955 (Paul was already the winemaker at the property at the time); and it is now expanded to 29 acres, and considered one of the best maintained properties in Margaux. The wines are always unfiltered and they use natural yeast as Jean-Luc believes “designer yeast” strips away the terroir in the bottle. Their wines always display an enticing floral perfume and a graciously silky texture that’s second to none in Margaux!
The lineup today was their 1995, 2004, 2010, 2012, and the recently released 2014 vintage. Although they were all really outstanding, I will focus on the 2 vintages I thought tasted the best, and of course, I’m importing them directly from the winery for you all to enjoy! (Due to arrive in April, 2017)
You might notice the label looks slightly different for this vintage. That’s done to celebrate the birth of Jean-Luc’s daughter. This label is signed by Jean’s father Roger Zuger and they use the original design from nearly a century ago. The wine is floral, exotic, peaking right now at 22 years of age. Tart cranberry, strawberry, hints of savoy spices. The mouth feel is mellow and well-integrated with some earthy notes, but not over the top on earthiness. There’s a touch of pencil lead at the end (which I love to find in old Bordeaux) and a dusty after taste. The wine is singing now and should be enjoyed ASAP!
Food Pairing – Carintas, Smoked Pull Pork
Drinking Window – Now to the next 3 years.
If you study Bordeaux vintages you are probably surprised to see me pick the 2012 over the 2010 to talk about in the lineup. I must say I was surprised myself. First of all, let me say the 2010 was outstanding as expected. Firm, structured, and a wine that needs 15+ years before it will be in prime drinking age. With that said, the price is higher, and it does require fairly good self-restraint and patience in order to wait and really fully enjoy a vintage like that! However, the 2012 vintage blew my socks off in terms of price, quality, and drinkability. Full disclosure, I did judge the bottle by its vintage first, wasn’t expecting much at first. Then I put it near my nose and was immediately greeted by the full intensity of the aromas blasting through! 2012 was a difficult year for the left bank in general. It was a very cold, long season and was impossible to get Cabernet Sauvignon to ripen, hence most wines come off as softer, or at worst case, watery and uninteresting. I look up at Jean-Luc and there’s a smirk on his face. He knew how good his 2012 is, and he enjoyed watching my reaction for sure!
“This 2012 is amazing! What is your magic?” I had to ask.
I found out their 2012 vintage is 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot, 7% Petit Vedot and 8% Cab Franc. They used a lot more Merlot this year because it’s an early ripening grape that does better in cooler vintages. Secondly, and this is very important - They took a gamble. They did not start harvest until October 1st and didn’t finish harvest until October 26th! That’s the latest ever for them! They let the grapes stay on the vine until they were fully ripened, risking possible rain or other bad weather conditions that could ruin their entire crop! It was risky, but their gamble paid off. This wine showed expressive intensity, very bright floral notes with bittersweet chocolate, hints of vanilla and other delicious baking spices. It’s pleasant, pretty, and solid all the way around. Firmly structured on the palate with secondary aromas of leather goods, earthy notes and a touch of some cured meats. Medium plus in acidity and incredibly satisfying on the finish.
I asked Jean-Luc to give me his notes on the 2012 vintage and he said “Well-balanced, achieved proper ripeness, and thank goodness we didn’t get rained on” I could not agree more! I think the 2012 is a steal! I’m lucky to have the last few cases from my Bordeaux importer (remember, Malescot St Exupery is not a particularly large Chateau with massive production) Reserve yours today for April Arrival here:
Food Pairing – New York Strip with Chimichurri sauce
Drinking Window – Now but can age and improve for the next 15 years.
Special thanks to Los Altos Country Club for letting us taste in their ball room!
The beautiful members only Los Altos Country Club.