THE ULTIMATE GARAGISTE?
I first met Jonathan Maltus some 12 years ago at my forgettable wine shop in the
Fulham Road. He had just bought Ch. Teyssier - a run-down Château in St. Emilion,
reputed to have some of the worst vines in the area and was trying to flog me some
of the 1993 vintage that he had inherited from the former owner (although he had
a hand in finishing the wine in 1994). It was an OK wine, fairly priced, nothing
special and took a long time to shift. Undeterred, this English businessman (who
had just sold his engineering company for a few million quid), sunk all his money
into building Teyssier into one of the finest estates in St. Emilion.
First of all, he proceeded to buy up parcels of better vines in neighbouring areas
to blend in with the estate vines and the quality took a quantum leap towards the
end of the nineties by bringing the technological advancements of the new world to
the heart of the old, introducing a new, ambitious team and constructing two state-of-the
art wineries and a modern barrel-cellar.
Then he acquired other parcels and vinified them separately as single vineyard wines
as well as buying up two other estates, Ch. Laforge and Ch. Grand Destieu. The single
vineyard wines have now become very much "cult" wines, and enjoy a tremendous reputation
for their individuality and command high prices. His top single vineyard wine is
called Le Dôme, followed by Le Carré and Les Astières, all produced in tiny quantities.
There is also a tiny white wine single vineyard called Clos Nardian which has equally
received cult status. At a more entry level, there is a white and rosé Ch.Teyssier
and a new Bordeaux Supérieur AC called Peyzat, another single vineyard wine, but
this time at an almost entry level price.
Not content with bringing Ch. Teyssier and its satellites to the forefront of modern
winemaking in Bordeaux, Jonathan decided to try his hand in Australia by purchasing
small blocks of old vines in the Barossa Valley in 2001. The attraction here was
the age of the vines that had long-since disappeared from Bordeaux due to phylloxera.
About 1500 cases of Exile (75% Shiraz, 20% Mourvèdre and 5% Grenache) and Emigré
(30% Shiraz, 30% Grenache, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Mourvèdre, 3% Carignan and
2% Muscadelle) were made with the 2002 vintage receiving critical acclaim - 98 points
from Robert Parker for Exile and 95 points from Steven Tanzer for Emigré.
In 2003 he decided to introduce a series of wines from the Barossa Valley that were
founded on the same winemaking techniques employed in St. Emilion - low cropping,
handpicking into shallow trays, no use of must pumps and both pre- and post-fermentation
maceration. Thus The Colonial Estate range was introduced and a total of 8,000 cases
were made. Further land was purchased in 2003 and 2005 including some whites from
blocks in the cooler climate of Adelaide Hills where produced among the wines was
Exodus (90% Chardonnay, 10% Riesling), a premium wine comparable to Clos Nardian.
The main winery is in the style of the early-settler period. Stone facing and a galvanised
roof reflect local tradition but mask a modern, temperature-controlled winery that
has been completely equipped from France. Wooden vats, triage tables, and conveyors
as opposed to stainless steel vats and must pumps underline the difference in approach.
With the output from Australia now approaching 25,000 cases, perhaps the word "garagiste"
is becoming a misnomer, but the wide variety of small production wines keeps Jonathan
there in spirit if not in circumstance.
I tasted the 2005 Bordeaux's (barrel samples, of course) and some of the Australian
wines at Chateau Teyssier a few months back. I also re-tasted the Bordeaux wines
at a dinner hosted by Jonathan at my house in December. Here are my notes.
Ch. Peyzat Bordeaux Supérieur 2005. This is a single vineyard wine, literally one
step from the St. Emilion appellation. Hand picked with a yield of 45hl/ha. 85% Merlot,
15% Cabernet Franc. 20% new oak, 40% 1 year old oak, 40% 2 year. Round and fleshy
with a lot of upfront fruit. Not a lot of depth and weight but remarkable value from
this entry level wine of the gamme. 86 pts.
Ch. Teyssier St. Emilion Grand Cru 2005. 85% merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc. The original
château, but with additional vines from better placed locations near to Ch. Monbusquet.
A little closed up on the nose and perhaps a little greenness on the palate, but
there is lots of complexity and good fruit beneath the tannins. 87 pts.
Ch. Grand Destieu St. Emilion Grand Cru 2005. This is a contiguous property to Tessier's
vines near Monbusquet, a single estate producing a wine of 75% Merlot and 25% Cabernet
Franc. This is a bit richer than the Teyssier - ripe berries on the nose, well balanced
with complexity and fresh acidity. 91 pts.
Ch. Laforge St. Emilion Grand Cru 2005. This is another estate wine based on a number
of plots mainly situated in the commune of St. Sulpice de Faleyrens. 92% Merlot,
8% Cabernet Franc. Ripe fruit on the nose and also on the palate - a lot of concentration
and grip here - deep and tannic, rounded and complex with nuances of sweet cherries
and blackberries. Finishes very long. 94 pts.
Les Astéries St.Emilion Grand Cru 2005. (75% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc). This is
from a single vineyard that is situated next to Clos Fourtet. The vines are over
70 years old - planted before the 1956 frosts. There is big black fruit on the palate
- good finesse but with more grip and minerality, producing terrific balance and
a long, complex finish. Only 300 cases made. 96 pts.
Le Carré St. Emilion Grand Cru 2005. (85% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc). Another single
vineyard that abuts Clos Fourtet but from a different angle. The vines were purchased
from Ch. Canon and get two runs of green harvesting down to 4 bunches at mid-veraison.
Yield is down to 28hl/ha. This is still very, very tight and not showing a great
deal of complexity at the moment. But the fruit underneath the tannins is sweet and
ripe, the winemaking displays good finesse with a lightness of touch and a long finish,
which bodes well for a very elegant wine in due course. 94 pts.
Le Dôme St. Emilion Grand Cru 2005. (73% Cabernet Franc, 27% Merlot). Le Dôme is
a single vineyard situated next to Ch. Angelus and is probably the biggest expression
of Cabernet Franc in a Bordeaux wine. There is big fruit on the nose again and very
dense and chocolatey on the palate with good ripe fruit beneath soft and supple tannins.
This should turn out to be a soft and cuddly wine with layer upon layer of elegant
fruit with hints of chocolate, spice and vanilla to add to the complexity and a long
finish when it reaches maturity. 98 pts.
Clos Nardian St.Auban de Branne 2005. (40% Sauvignon Blanc, 40% Sémillon, 20% Muscadelle).
Another single vineyard wine from a village just south of St. Emilion. Once assemblage
of the three varieties is complete, the juice is poured into new French oak barrels
that have been given a stronger than normal toast and left to age for eight months.
The 2005 is a nicely balanced blend with good weight with a hint of tropical fruit
on the palate. The extra toast in the barrels enhances the grip and complexity on
this full-bodied wine. 93 pts.
Please note that a few bottles remain of the en primeur offer by our associated company,
Trésors du Vin Ltd at opening prices. Prices will increase by 10% as from the 1st
May. For details click here.
The Colonial Estate
"Expatrié" Barossa Ranges Sémillon 2005. (88% Sémillon, 12% Riesling). Typical honeyed
nose and the addition of the Riesling gives added crispness on the palate although
the rich, ripe fruit is fully displayed. Medium bodied with a good finish. 86
"Evangéliste" Adelaide Hills Reserve Chardonnay 2004. (95% Chardonnay, 5% Riesling).
A year in French oak rounds out this smooth and flavoursome wine with hints of melon,
peaches and citrus fruits. 85 pts.
"Exodus" Piccadilly Chardonnay 2005. (90% Chardonnay, 10% Riesling). Maltus's flagship
white wine is remarkably light in alcohol for an Australian wine, but this give it
an extra dimension in finesse so often lacking in wines from Australia. There is
a complex nose of citrus fruits and on the palate the oak still dominates a little,
but in time this should integrate well with the stylish fruit and honeyed flavours
which are complemented by a long finish. 250 cases made. 93 pts.
"Envoy" Barossa Valley GSM 2004. (50% Grenache, 30% Shiraz, 20% Mourvèdre). The wine
is aged for around 12 months in a blend of new, one and two year old French oak barrels
and shows excellent spicy tones with rich fruit, soft tannins and reasonable weight
without going too far over the top. 89 pts.
"Explorateur" Barossa Valley Shiraz 2004. (100% Shiraz). The wine is aged for around
12 months in a blend of new, one and two year old French oak barrels. After tasting,
the final blend is determined a month or so before bottling. This wine is remarkably
restrained for an Australian Shiraz with a good, balanced structure and a long finish. 92
"Etranger" Barossa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2004. (88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Shiraz).
The wine is aged for around 12 months in a blend of new, one and two year old French
oak barrels. Again, there is lovely restraint and it's nice to taste an Australian
red that doesn't try to hit you four-square between the eyes. There is real elegance
here with tones of fleshy black summer fruits, soft tannins and a complex, long finish. 93
Emigré 2004. (30% Shiraz, 30% Grenache, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Mourvèdre, 3%
Carignan, 2% Muscadelle). A blend of old vine fruit taking in the hot climate of
the Barossa Valley and the cool climate of the Eden Valley. The wine is then aged
for 18 to 20 months in new French oak. The blend certainly works - a very smooth
wine combining the brambly fruit of the Rhône varietals with the chocolatey and minty
fruit of the Bordeaux varietals. Soft tannins, enormous complexity and good balance
completes a marvellous drinking experience. 96 pts.
"Exile" Barossa Valley 2004. (75% Shiraz, 20% Mourvèdre, 5% Grenache). A single vineyard
wine in the Barossa Valley, made from extraordinary low yields, shows a wonderful
degree of concentration and complexity and yet the tannins are soft, reminiscent
of the "iron fist in the velvet glove" wines of the Stag's Leap District in the Napa
Valley. There are layers and layers of black berry fruits, integrating with the spiciness
of the dominating Shiraz. This is a huge wine, aged for 18 to 20 months in new French
oak and yet it is neither dominated by the oak nor the tannins. A remarkable achievement
of power, finesse and balance. 98 pts.