It is good to present a cherished wine to your tasting club friends. And it can be confronting also. For example: someone smelling your favourite wine and saying "Mm, a little chemical". What?? But you keep smiling - everyone at the tasting can have his or her say, whatever that is.
At a tasting that I threw yesterday I opened one of my favourite clarets. Not without any risk, having invited a number of unscrupulous tasters - some even with a more or less critical attitude towards the expensive blah-blah wines from Bordeaux. They tried: Clos Badon Thunevin 2001. They knew: it's a Bordeaux, c'est tous.
To my relief - to be honest - most people gave the wine a warm welcome. Maybe especially after the 1988 Vieux Château Certan that didn't come out very well - I think it was some time past its apogée. The Clos Badon was convincingly characterised as a very complete wine, and a wine that is both powerful and unctuous. True, and also true is that this wine combines the merits of the classic claret and the modern Bordeaux. A delicious achievement.
The nose. Has it all: dark ripe fruit, just the right touch of seducing oak, a hint of stimulating farmland manure, etcetera. Truly exciting, you just keep sniffing. The mouth. The corpus of the wine is young and athletic. Like Michelangelo's David. It is powerful, but not as a result of an enormous extraction, as we see so often in Saint-Emilion these days. No, this wine has a pleasant texture, with ripe tannins. There's a hint of sweetness, and there are refreshing acids. Overall: the Clos Badon is multifaceted, and its facets are harmoniously presented. It is a precise wine.
After having tasted the 2001 several times in Amsterdam, I had the chance to try more vintages while visiting Jean-Luc Thunevin in Saint-Emilion. In his garden in the village centre we tasted 2006, 2005, 2004 and 1998. From these I was especially thrilled about 2006 and 2005. We also tasted the 1999 and 1998 Château de Valandraud. Absolutely impressive, but personally I prefer the - less sweet, more lively - Clos Badon. So what does Thunevin do to create this beauty? Most of all: listen to nature.
The Clos Badon vineyards lay at the foot of hills belonging to Pavie and Larcis Ducasse, and the sandy land here (6,5 ha) is actually quite flat. The earth between the densely planted vines is ploughed, as a healthy alternative to spraying. Quite special is that the fermentation is being sparked by natural yeasts that live in the vineyard, no artificial yeasts are used. The wine matures in 100% new barrels, and before the wine gets bottled it is neither fined nor filtered.
Today's Clos Badon consists of 50% merlot and 50% cabernet franc. This will at least be the case up to the vintage of 2008. As a reaction to global warming Thunevin has started to plant the slower ripening cabernet sauvignon, and in the future wine the cabernets will make up for the biggest part of the blend. Another indication that Jean-Luc Thunevin is not just making wine, but working with a clear vision.
Should you ever visit Thunevin: look out for the chicken that is on the label of the Clos Badon. It is actually - still - hopping around in his garden!
(By the way: the Raveneau was spectacular, Jarry's Vouvray impressive and Guyon's Beaune very pleasant.)