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While we love Bordeaux (at least the old school stuff), we often find the modern wines to be too manipulated for our tastes. Too often the wines range from uninspiring to over-priced and over-oaked, a far cry from the classic Claret on which we cut our teeth. This is a shame, as there are few wines that combine deliciousness and elegance with the longevity and aplomb of Bordeaux. Fortunately, there are a few Chateaux who produce honestly-made wines that remind us why we fell in love with the region. One of our favorite growers is Michel Théron from Clos Jaugueyron.
A transplant to Bordeaux from Languedoc, Michel Théron studied viticulture with the intention of returning home, but married a Bordelaise woman and decided to remain in the Gironde. In 1993 the couple purchased a small parcel of vines in Cantenac with vines subsequently added in Arsac and Margaux, eventually covering 7 hectares. Farming is admirably non-interventionist, as Théron has never used synthetic treatments in the vines and obtained Demeter certification in 2008. The resulting healthy, living soils produce ripe vivid fruit, and ultimately delicious, luminous wines of terroir.
As in the vines, work in the cellar is decidedly old school. The grapes are fermented whole-cluster in tank with native yeasts, with the wine then aging in barrique with a minimum of new wood. Long lees contact and minimal racking help to lend structure and texture without relying on heavy extraction, manipulation, or new oak. The resulting wines have a detailed sense of minerality, elegant aromas, and fine-grained, velvety tannins with a fine balance between ripe fruit and savory earthiness. These are honest clarets of purity and terroir rather than opulence or ego and are a pleasure to drink. John McIlwain
Just entering maturity, the 2007 Clos du Jaugueyron Margaux has a perfumed nose with aromas of violets, cassis, wild blackberry, and cedar. The mid-weight palate offers good freshness, fine-grained tannins, and flavors of ripe black currants, hedge fruits, and graphite, with notes of cocoa on a velvety, lingering finish. There is beautiful interplay between the sweet, savory, and structural elements. Lovely now with a bright upside over the next 10-15 years. John McIlwain
Sourced mainly from younger Merlot vines (55%) planted in the gravelly, sandy soils of Macau, with the remainder Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc; this is a fresher, softer wine from Michel Théron. This cuvée sees a bit more new oak than his other wines, which tempers the dark, terroir-driven berry fruits and allows for hints of spearmint, cocoa, and damp earth to shine through. The palate is rather silken, showing dark fruits and minerals with great structure. Pure, unadulterated, and unbelievably delicious Bordeaux with a bit of bottle age (the current vintage is 2013) makes me very happy. Tim Gagnon
The Margaux is always the most serious and age-worthy of the wines in the Clos du Jaugueyron line-up. Sourced from older vines (some even passing the century mark), this cuvée is a true vin de garde. The 2010 vintage offers aromas of black fruits, cassis, ash, dried thyme, graphite on the nose. The dense palate offers layers of dark cherry, blueberry, and damson plum flavors, with hints of crushed herbs and chocolate. There is good underlying structure and sense of energy with fine-grained, but firm, tannins and fresh acidity framing the long rising finish. Decant 3-5 hours ahead if drinking now or hold 10-15 years and drink from there. This is lovely old school Bordeaux! John McIlwain
A magnum of incredibly delicious Bordeaux! It has great structure that hints at its aging ability, but it is more than ready to pop open at your next dinner party. Tim Gagnon