The Quintessential Saint-Émilion Garagiste
I’m thrilled to offer an offer the exclusive U.S. allocation of the phenomenal 2015 Croix de Labrie Saint-Émilion Grand Cru. Robert M. Parker, Jr. has called Croix de Labrie “One of the tiniest production as well as most seductive, opulent wines in all of Bordeaux,” and “one of the most decadently hedonistic and luxuriously fruity wines of Bordeaux. It also possesses undeniable complexity, texture, and class.” To Parker, Croix de Labrie “represents the quintessential St.-Emilion garagiste wine.” And garagiste it is, a contender for the smallest Grand Cru Saint-Émilion estate, just 5 acres next door to Pavie. With Michel Rolland guiding the winemaking, this is benchmark Saint-Émilion offered at the exceptional price of $99 per bottle arriving direct from the château.
I had the pleasure of first meeting Croix de Labrie owner Pierre Courdurié at Robert Parker’s “Matter of Taste” event in San Francisco, where principals were pouring The Wine Advocate’s highest-scoring wines. We established a good rapport, and subsequently agreed to meet up on my next trip to Europe to re-taste his wine in a more tranquil environment. The wine that really captivated me was also the youngest, this 2015 vintage. I scored it 96 points. Dark purple-black in color, the nose is profoundly layered with black cherry, kirsch, plum pudding, blueberry, and licorice with dark chocolate, clove, cinnamon, and fine French oak. The palate is impressively structured with a dense core, cooling acidity, rich and velvety tannins, excellent length, and a dark-chocolate and wild-berry finish. This wine will give immense pleasure now, yet will improve in the bottle through 2035.
This wine has also captured the attention of sommeliers and critics. Consider the impression Croix de Labrie made last year on Arvid Rosengren, wine director at New York’s lauded Charlie Bird restaurant and Best Sommelier of the World in 2016. “This is a producer I knew nothing about and it was really interesting to see their approach on making terroir-driven wines in Saint-Emilion," Rosengren told Sommeliers International. "Axelle and Pierre do all the right things, working extremely carefully in the vineyards, even with horses in tightly planted vineyards.”
Likewise, James Suckling scored this “fabulous St.-Emilion” 96 points, a rare instance where my score is as high as his. Suckling raved about the 2015 vintage’s “blackberry, chalk and blueberry character,” its “full body, firm and chewy tannins” and “long and persistent finish.” “A great small production,” indeed.
This tiny 5-acre site next to Pavie is a hillock of sand and clay with traces of iron oxide and a clayey limestone subsoil, free-draining and providing real depth and density. Mature 45-year-old vines and high-density planting provides small berries contributing impressive structure. The wine is fermented plot by plot in small barrels, a technique favored by Michel Rolland for better oak integration, softer tannins, and rounder, richer flavors. The wine was then matured for 18 months in 100% new French barriques.
I’m grateful to Pierre Courdurié for providing Wine Access members this unique opportunity to collect one of the rarest and most exceptional wines of Saint-Émilion. Of less than 400 cases produced, he has made 50 cases available to us, the only place in America that he has entrusted his precious bottles.
Matt Deller MW
Master of Wine