Even as seasoned Bordeaux professionals, Château de la Malleret is on the periphery for us - a property and label we’ve heard of, but not one that we knew too much about. They were also one of the producers who lost nearly all of their 2017s, so we hadn’t seen the wines in previous tastings during En Primeur. Nonetheless, one of our great negociants (Christophe Reboul-Salze of The Wine Merchant) told us that we should join them there for dinner last night, and off we went.
Pulling up to the property, it was surrounded by construction gates and modular pop-up offices. The winery looked about 75% finished and we started to wonder what we were doing there. All that said we were warmly greeted and brought in for the tour. Walking in we found a custom built, state-of-the-art facility that looked impeccably detailed and designed. All gravity fed and technology-driven - it would be many a winemaker’s dream. When finished, it will certainly bring their production to another level qualitatively.
Which is nice and all, but a common story to many burgeoning properties in Bordeaux - new tanks, designer cellars, etc, etc. So...up we went to the Chateau proper. Passing through the gate we saw a wonderful expansive property surrounding a traditional Bordelaise estate. There were even two horses roaming the grounds to which we gave a passing compliment. Our tour guide said, “thank you. We have more up at the property.” How many, we asked. “Oh...I think 57 right now.” And all of the sudden we were transported to what seemed like another world.
As an extension of the Chateau, Malleret has a world class stable, indoor dressage arena, equine rehabilitation equipment, and a team of dedicated and devoted riders. The property is even more massive than we originally imagined, with grounds expanding to over 375ha. Stepping into the stables we were greeted by curious horses sticking their heads out of the stalls to check out the new company, and a perfectly groomed horse being prepped for a routine. Off to the balcony we went where, with Champagne in hand, we were treated to a wonderful show in the arena below. To say none of us saw this coming is an understatement. What an out-of-this-world type experience, and cleverly done by our hosts.
The evening melted into conversation, dinner, the lovely ‘14s and ‘15s of Chateau de la Malleret and their small Margaux property concisely named Le Margaux de Malleret. But three decanters loomed large on the bar, brought by Christophe. More surprises were in the works. The wines were all revealed to be 2011s - a difficult vintage for sure, it is one that is not currently on the collective consciousness of the Bordeaux customer, and Christophe had a point to prove. It was clearly made when it was revealed that the wines were Vieux Chateau Certan, Pichon Lalande, and La Mission Haut Brion, and they all were superlative examples of the respective labels. One last decanter was pulled out and we guessed our way to the brilliant 1996 Leoville Las Cases.
One of the surprising parts of travelling like this is finding these moments - the “how did I get here” - indelible slices of life that are completely unexpected and simply stunning. Standing on a balcony over an indoor equestrian arena, half a world away, with a glass of bubbly in hand we found that place, and looked at each other trying to figure out how we got there.
The wine itself, however, is one to follow and highlights that in a world of established classifications and familiar labels that there are still discoveries to be made in Bordeaux. It is easy for us to walk in the same footsteps of past year, but the region is always evolving and finding these gems is what it is all about. All it takes is an open mind, a sense of adventure, and perhaps some riding boots.
- Ryan Moses