Château de Bellevue Lussac St-Emilion 2005

Ah, coincidence. It’s been an interesting month: my partner was up in the Bay Area a couple of weeks back and availed himself of one of their May specials: a half-case of Bordeaux wine at a reduced price. This week, the New York Times published an excellent article quoting Paul Grieco of Hearth – a restaurant in New York City where I’ll hopefully be drinking myself into a stupor this coming Sunday – as being “sad” that no one’s come into the restaurant and asked for a glass of Bordeaux. I get that: I own barely any Bordeaux – heck – with this recent purchase I have nearly eight bottles, I think – and generally never think to buy any. Why? Well, the price thing, yeah, but also because I’ve never had one that, you know, really transported me. The ones I’ve had have inspired no personal connection, no rhapsodic waxing, nothing. Worse yet, I’ve been watching all ten hours of Mondovino (the TV series, not the movie) this week and have cringed repeatedly at the huge châteaux and their tacky yet expensive eyeglass-wearing marketing directors, etc. etc. etc.So. Here’s a bottle of not-quite-so-young Bordeaux. Kermit Lynch imported it; it’s thirty bucks or so, apparently. What’s it like?First off, the nose isn’t at all what I was expecting. It’s lush: full, rich, darkly scented, redolent of cassis and smoked tea. There’s just a bit of black cured olives, wet clay, and rich, savory meat that reminds me of Korean barbecued ribs. It’s wonderfully complex, to be short.My first thought upon tasting it, however, was “this isn’t fully ripe.” There are definite green, herbaceous notes here that seem surprising and slightly unpleasant, especially for someone used to California, Washington, South Africa: instead of delivering a wine as rich as the smell, you instead are presented with a distinctly mean, narrow flavor profile that’s disappointing at first. The trick, however, is to stick with it: suddenly, you find yourself flashing back to taste descriptors learned in college that you never use for your home state: lead pencil, cigar box, minerality, all of those things. Most of all, though, I taste a kind of slate-y stoniness; the wine is narrow in the mouth but upon closer reflection decidedly taut, beautiful in the same way that mannish women are: you sense a tension of beauty rooted in restraint. Yes, this could have wound up in Napa territory, all plushness, sweet tannins, cloying chocolate-plum perfume: instead, it’s been artfully arrested in a way that those qualities inherent to Merlot are arrested, paradoxically making them more compelling.Tannins are noticeably present, of course, yet perfectly correct; they’re currently working beautifully with a meat pie from the South African bakery down the road. Based on the rich fruit and good acidity, I’d reckon that I opened this bottle too soon: if I were you, I’d hold this back for another decade.To sum up: yes, my generation do not drink Bordeaux… yet. The trick is I think to work through the initial disappointment of encountering a wine almost, but not quite, familiar as the stuff of Pahlmeyer and Thelema; you need to sit with this one for some time and listen carefully. The story it tells is all the more beautiful for speaking so softly. Château de Bellevue
Price: $28
Closure: Cork
Source: Retail

One thought on “Château de Bellevue Lussac St-Emilion 2005

  1. Very interesting review of the Château de Bellevue. Thank you for sharing it. Three of us here in America’s heartland just sampled bottles of both the 2000 and 2005 Bellevue (St.-Emilion) with a delicious dinner of beef bourguignon (yes, I know…a Burgundian dish with a Bordeaux wine?! Heaven forfend!).

    Nonetheless, I discovered your tasting notes *after* we had consumed the wine and I was impressed at how closely our tasting notes matched yours. Some fruit, but subtle and understated. Balanced acidity and tannins (with the younger 2005, at least), but surprisingly herbaceous, like fresh cut grass or green pepper. Notes of pencil lead and slate.

    The 2000 seemed slightly sour and had a much shorter finish, so it was probably beginning its descent on the far side of the ideal drinking window, but as of 2014, the 2005 Bellevue still had good tannic structure and provided a nice long finish to allow us to pick up many of these “interesting” flavors.

    However, as a predominantly “new world red wine drinker”, I often wonder if the “subtly and restraint” so often lauded when praising a good French wine is misplaced. Should we really prefer our wines with herbaceous, grassy notes? I can’t say I’m a fan. Is drinking something that reeks of “French funk” rather than luscious, ripened fruit and spice notes truly preferable? Should I “educate” my palate to appreciate when a Bordeaux tastes more like I’m licking wet paving stones than drinking fermented and blended fruit juices?

    Perhaps. I like complexity in my wine, but I like it WITH ripe fruit flavors bursting from the glass rather than INSTEAD of them. Perhaps my tastes are bohemian, but I often wonder if the French have conned everyone into thinking that less is more simply because their climate isn’t as conducive to allowing their fruit to fully ripen?

    I don’t know. And while I’ve visited both Bordeaux and California wine country and am very familiar with both styles, I can’t help but prefer the more robust “new world” flavor profiles. All of the wines that have blown me away (and “transported” me, as you so vividly articulate)…ALL of them are new world vintners such as Pahlmeyer, Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards, Ridge, and Jonata. The only French wine to even come close was the 2010 Château de Beaucastel CdP, and that was tasted “far too young” according to some French wine purists. Perhaps I have much to learn.

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