CHICAGO WINE JOURNAL: Beau-Séjour Bécot, royalty of the Right Bank
By Lawrence B. Johnson
At any tasting of the great wines of Bordeaux, the stars don’t merely come out – they shower. So it was at a recent sipping with friends, a small but widely representative sampler that produced one heady delight after another.
The megastar of this assortment, the seductively opulent Château Beau-Séjour Bécot 2009 from St.-Emilion on the Right (or east) Bank of the Gironde Estuary, doubtless would have fared well in any collection of Bordeaux’s grandest wines.
St.-Emilion, together with nearby Pomerol, is the finest wine-producing region on the Right Bank. As in Pomerol, the clay-rich soil of St.-Emilion favors Merlot over Cabernet-Sauvignon, which thrives in the gravelly earth that prevails on the west side of the Gironde (hence, the Left Bank as one looks at it on the map).
Again like Pomerol, St.-Emilion’s clay also provides a nurturing bed for Cabernet Franc, which tends to be the primary complement in the Merlot-based blends typical of Right Bank producers.
The Château Beau-Séjour Bécot vintage 2009 ($100) is a sumptuous expression of these wines at their most glorious. Made from 70 percent Merlot augmented by 15 percent Cabernet Franc and 15 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2009 Beau-Séjour Bécot shows a bluish-purple hue and sends up aromas of blueberry, blackberry, anise and earth.
On the palate, this luscious, concentrated wine mingles black fruit beneath a hedonistic overlay of chocolate. Full bodied and well structured, it lingers on the finish. Even though it has formidable aging potential, the Beau-Séjour Bécot 2009 is all but impossible to resist right now.
La Dame de Montrose 2009, the second wine from the eminent Château Montrose in the Left Bank’s northernmost appellation of St.-Estèphe, is imposing, possessed of an engaging earthiness and, in one respect, highly unusual for Left Bank wines: It is almost entirely Merlot – unlike the primary label, which is a typical Cabernet Sauvignon-based blend. The other glaring difference is price, around $300 for the flagship Montrose compared with $60 for La Dame.
This black-purple wine offers a nose of flint, currant and dark plum. On the palate, its brew of dark fruit flavors vies with the bracing effect of pronounced tannins. I find something of a paradox in La Dame 2009: While its excellent acid frame (together with those tannins) augurs for an interesting evolution in the cellar, flavors of soil and dry leaves already lend this young wine an aura of maturity. Given time in a decanter, La Dame de Montrose 2009 should be an ideal match for lamb chops, game fowl or even a juicy steak.
The wines of St.-Julien, which lies just to the north of Margaux on Bordeaux’s Left Bank, are known for their silky elegance, a quality generously expressed in the Château Branaire-Ducru 2010 ($90). Blended from 70 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, with about 23 percent Merlot plus dollops of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, this Branaire is a plush, enticing wine dominated on the palate by tobacco, blackberry and tar.
At this tasting, I found the nose of the Château Branaire-Ducru 2010 vintage to be reticent, an indication – along with its ample tannins – that this is a wine in its early emergence. It’s going to be a beauty, no doubt. But I wouldn’t even disturb its cellar rest for 10 years, and then just to see how it’s doing. Grand vin, indeed, and well worth the wait to savor.