Saturday, June 27, 2009

Chateau Talbot – 4th Growth, St. Julien

Next stop was Chateau Talbot, about 10 minutes drive south of Pauillac in St. Julien, and hidden behind a lush curtain of green ivy covering its ancient walls. We were met by Jean-Pierre Marty, and appreciated his practical approach to winemaking and international experience – having worked all over the world making wine, including Australia and China. Starting in the vineyard, he explained that St. Julien has a different quality of gravel and sandy clay than Pauillac and with less limestone. Like many estates they use no weed killer or insecticides, but will use non-organic sprays when necessary to combat disease. They attach the small brown boxes of “confusion sexual” to the vines to thwart moths – which we saw in most every vineyard, and are also a common practice in Burgundy.

They plow 4 times per year; have 3-4 buds per guyot, and prefer not to do green harvest, if possible. They use a system where each worker is assigned a specific plot in the vineyard for which he/she is responsible – and is paid according to results. Jean-Pierre explained that this is different from some of the team approaches used by other estates – and fosters a strong feeling of commitment in the workers. They are quite large with 107 hectares (5 in white) with 66% cab; 25% merlot and the rest in PV/CF. Average vine age is 35 years with the majority on 3309, 101-13 and ripara rootstock. 50 hectoliters per hectare.

Winemaking is traditional to the region, with the exception of an amazing new sorting machine for the second label called a Tribaei de Triviti. Though still with some issues as a new technology, we were surprised to learn that it can mechanically deselect up to 15% of grapes to avoid “greenness” by using a “flood of juice.” Fermentation with selected yeasts takes place in both large wooden foudres equipped with micro-ox and stainless steel (both cone-shaped). Maceration 3 weeks; delestage (more vigorous pumpover which involves pumping all wine from bottom of the tank to top to flood the marc); and ML in tank. He believes that the wooden foudres provide better extraction but they are much more difficult to clean and maintain. Liquid sulfur protects the wine in tank while going through ML. Aging in 50-60% new oak; medium toast. Only rack 3 times per year; blend in June. Free SO2 = 30-35. 43 full-time employees. Mobile bottling (they were bottling when we arrived).

We tasted 3 wines: the 2008 Chateau Talbot, which was a dark ruby with bright fruity nose/palate and velvety tannins. Good concentration, but not too heavy. Elegant, medium++ finish, nice acid. 2005 Constable Talbot – earthy cedar nose with a hint of bret on nose; herbal cherry on palate. Ripe tannins. A good food wine. 2005 Chateau Talbot – medium ruby with purple depths; cedar, coffee and minerality on the nose, with dark fruit on the palate and none of the touches of green we found on the Constable. Very good balance with med++ acid, big tannins, and a powerful finish.

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