Chateau Lassègue 2016 Saint-Émilion Grand Cru

91 points, Michael Rockich, AppellationsTen

Chateau Lassègue is an 18th Century wine estate located in the Saint-Émilion district, arguably Bordeau’s most historic due to winemaking dating from the 4th Century Gallo-Roman era.  The Chateau is listed as a World Heritage Site by Unesco.  In 2003 the Chateau was purchased from the Freylon Family by Jackson Family Wines along with partners Pierre and Monique Seillan.  Pierre, a French winemaker with nearly five decades international experience, has been involved with JFW on several ventures including being Vigneron for Vérité and Anakota in Sonoma County, California, Château Lassègue and Château Vignot in Saint-Émilion, Bordeaux, and Arcanum and Valadorna in Tuscany.

Merlot, the major constituent of this wine at 60% and the mainstay of Saint-Émilion’s blended wines, was first cited in the mid-1780s relative to Bordeaux’s Right Bank, and by the mid-19th Century plantings were seen on Bordeaux’s Left Bank, as well as in Italy.  Since, Merlot has been disbursed widely, not only in France, but also in California, Italy, Chile, and eastern Europe.  Often used as a blending partner to soften Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot gained popularity in the USA as a stand-alone varietal when the market realized that aging was not a prerequisite prior to consumption.

Merlot prefers a cooler clime than Cabernet Sauvignon, and to produce focused, high quality wine, attentive, knowledgeable viticulturists are preferred.  At its best Merlot yields softly textured wines with lush flavors.  The winemaking of Merlot generally falls into one of two main styles.  One, a slow, longer ferment, is believed to produce a lighter, more elegant wine.  The other is a speedier, briefer ferment purportedly yielding wines with a luscious, exotic character and flavors.  The particular grapes used may lean towards one of those two styles.

The deep roots on Chateau Lassègue’s 40 to 50 year old vines, plus the water retention ability of the Chateau’s clay-limestone soils permitted access to adequate moisture to support development over the dry, warm summer of 2016.  Fermentation was in stainless with élevage in 70% new French oak.

This 2016 displays a beautiful onyx in color with shades of ruby glimmering through while exposing a violet rim.  Aromas of fresh sliced black plum, pungent crème de cassis, black cherries, blackberry jam, and violets.  This is a highly concentrated wine, yet the bright acidity and notable fresh fruit lend contrasting finesse to the touch and feel in a well integrated whole.  Such a really big wine that keeps on beckoning into the finish, and to the last drop.

For an accompaniment, I knew rotisserie chicken would be a good match.  But I decided to put some zing in the chicken by frying slices of it briefly on medium-high heat along with, what else, diced garlic cloves!  The pairing was absolutely perfect with this Merlot, 33% Cab Franc, and 7% Cab Sauvignon blend!  About $60.

A sample for review.

Photo Credit Chateau Lassègue & Jackson Family Wines

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