Press review Chteau d'Issan 2010 - Winedoctor, Chris Kissack

上篇文章 下篇文章

December 18, 2023

Margaux is the largest of the four famous ‘big name’ Médoc appellations (not to slight Moulis-en-Médoc and Listrac-Médoc – guys, you’re great too, honest) and yet it is perhaps the least represented in my own cellar. Whatever number of bottles I have, I am pretty certain – thanks to well-represented stalwarts such as Château Léoville-Barton and Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste – that I have more bottles from châteaux positioned north of the Chenal du Milieu (the drainage channel that runs just south of the first St Julien vineyards, if you are scratching your head) squirrelled away than I have from the gravelly expanses of Margaux.

Having said that, there is a small cohort of trustworthy châteaux in this appellation that I have been buying and drinking since I was wearing short trousers (possibly an exaggeration) and this group includes Château d’Issan.

There is something distinctly aristocratic about Château d’Issan, with its expansive walled vineyard, fortified stone gatehouse and of course the château itself, complete with moat. Evidently of ancient origin, perhaps more so than any other of Bordeaux’s classed growths, it has a history which stretches back centuries. Many centuries. It is claimed that wine from this land – which at the time went by the name of Lamothe Cantenac – was served at the wedding of the Duke of Normandy, better known as King Henry II (1133 – 1189) of England, and Eleanor d’Aquitaine (c.1122 – 1204), which took place in 1152.

It was through this union that Bordeaux came under the rule of the English crown, an arrangement which persisted for close to 300 years. If only Henry’s namesake Henry VI (1421 – 1471) had prevailed at Castillon, a loss which brought defeat for the English, ending the Hundred Years’ War and returning Bordeaux to the French crown, perhaps it still would be. In a stroke that would solve at least half of all my post-Brexit travel restrictions (the Bordeaux half, not the Loire half, if I’ve lost you).

Château d’Issan 2010

While there is clearly great history here, this is not a property that has been resting on its laurels. Indeed, in recent times change and modernisation have gone hand-in-hand with heritage and tradition at Château d’Issan, especially so in 2020 when proprietor Emmanuel Cruse was made an offer he could not refuse. The proprietor of a neighbouring property was unwell, and their vineyards were suddenly up for sale; eager to sell to a local family, rather than some anonymous insurance company, pension fund or supermarket magnate, Emmanuel was given first option.

For the first time ever the vineyard of Château d’Issan was extended beyond the boundary of the ancient stone wall, the acquisition bringing to the estate 7 hectares of vines outside the clos, just to the north, located between Château d’Issan and Château Margaux. Not only was the terroir therefore enviable, the new vines also included parcels of Petit Verdot, planted in 1948, and Cabernet Franc, planted in 1958, both varieties new to the blend at Château d’Issan, for so long restricted to Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. They went into the grand vin for the first time in that vintage, 2020.

My mind is currently occupied with what to drink one week from today with roast goose (please, don’t suggest Alsace Pinot Gris, Riesling or Gewurztraminer – I don’t buy into that) and I can’t help thinking that Château d’Issan might be just the ticket. Not the new blend of 2020 though – that’s just a tad young – and so the options from my cellar are 2009 or 2010, something of a dilemma. Tasting the 2010 Château d’Issan this weekend, however, I think I might have made my mind up. At more than ten years of age, this still has a great colour, a dark and focused cherry red, with a thin but vibrant rim. This is followed by a wonderfully evocative and expressive nose, as focused as its appearance in the glass suggests, with a multilayered aromatic profile of cranberry, tar, pine smoke, charcoal, tobacco and juniper. This all comes across quite beautifully on the palate, which still shows a softly polished and youthful texture, with layers of sandalwood, spice and the grip of the 2010 vintage supporting the concentrated midpalate. This is a great wine, aromatically charming, approachable now (and great with goose, I am, sure) but still brimming with potential on the palate. Drink now and enjoy, or hold off for five, ten or more years. The alcohol on the label is 13.5%. 96/100 (18/12/23)