Our first stop on Saturday was Chateau Bellefont-Belcier in Saint-Emilion, now a part of the Vignobles “K” group. Since acquiring Chateau Haut-Brisson in 1997, Peter Kwok has managed to assemble an impressive portfolio of Right Bank properties, from St-Emilion and Pomerol, as well as Lalande de Pomerol and Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux. Tasting these wines together offered us the perfect opportunity to begin our assessment of how the Right Bank fared in 2017.
We met with general manager Jean-Christophe Meyrou and winemaker Jerome Aguirre in the late afternoon. Establishing what will no doubt be a pattern for our visit this year, the first topic on everyone’s mind was the effect of the April frost. We discovered to our dismay that Chateau Haut Musset, Jerome’s own family property in Lalande de Pomerol lost the entirety of its 2017 crop to frost, an emotionally and financially devastating blow. Haut Musset is a wine familiar to many of our K&L customers, and it brought home in a very personal way the damage done to the region’s small vignerons by a single catastrophic event.
With vineyards exclusively on the plateau of St-Emilion in the case of Bellefont-Belcier and Tour Saint Christophe, and of Pomerol in the case of Tourmaline, these properties suffered little to no damage from frost. Jean-Christophe did note, however, that even so, yields were down in 2017 with an average of about 35 hl per hectare. By contrast, Haut-Brisson in St-Emilion lost about 50% of its crop to frost. The chateau’s 22 hectares are split between the limestone plateau and the low hills below sloping down to the Dordogne River. In 2017, only the fruit from the higher elevations was used. Yields were a mere 20 hl/ha.
The wines, mostly or exclusively Merlot, showed great depth and intensity of color. They were very bright and fresh in character, with notable acidity. There was uniform ripeness of fruit, with alcohol levels in the range of 14.2% to 14.7%. Tannins were quite fine with no noticeable astringency. Overall, very promising. As we continue to taste, it will be interesting to see if the style of these wines is representative of the vintage as a whole.
- Jeff Garneau