Château Micalet 2015
Winegrowers: Anne-Marie and Denis Fédieu
Region: Haut-Medoc, Bordeaux
Grape: Merlot 60%, Cabernet Sauvignon 33%, Petit Verdot 7%
“It is obvious that someone passionate is behind the winemaking. Lovely, full bodied, sensuous.”
Clive Coates, MW, Wines of Bordeaux
92 Points Jane Anson, Decanter
As the interest in environmentally friendly, low intervention winemaking increases, has there ever been a better time to relaunch the Cru Artisan du Médoc label? The name alone suggests honest, small-scale, handcrafted wines, something that Bordeaux is surely in need of. Today we offer such a wine from the Haut-Médoc that has layer upon layer of flavour, exceptional fruit and tannins, all wrapped up in a juicy acidity. This wine is made from hand-harvested, organic and biodynamically farmed grapes. In the cellar it saw minimal intervention. This is a serious wine that offers exceptional life and staying power. Cru Artisan, as the name suggests, is an officially recognized appellation. Of the 584 wineries in the Haut-Médoc only 36 are included in the Cru Artisan AOC.
The Changing Face of Bordeaux: Bordeaux has lagged behind other French winegrowing regions in regard to emphasizing terroir and sustainable viticulture. For over a generation too much emphasis has been placed on modern winemaking techniques, superstar ‘travelling’ consultants and 100-point ratings. Like Champagne, Bordeaux became better known for slickly marketed ultra-luxury brands that are home to some of the world’s greatest terroirs. And again, like Champagne, Bordeaux has had a serious problem with the excessive use of pesticides and herbicides. But a long overdue change is occurring as organic and biodynamic farming grows and the use of technological manipulation in the cellar is minimized, allowing the great terroirs of the region to more clearly shine through.
“Cru Artisan AOC”: a forgotten Cru Revived: Cru Artisans are small (usually less than 5 hectares,) family estates that manage all aspects of farming their vineyards, cellar-work and the marketing of their wines. Cru families were originally known in the 19th century as an unofficial ranking in Bordeaux. Brokers and négociants chose to distinguish the wines in relation to the social status of the property owner. This way, the peasants produced a peasant cru, the artisans, an artisan cru, the bourgeois, a bourgeois cru and finally the aristocracy and the wealthy families, a classified cru. Therefore, social hierarchy and the hierarchy of prices became merged. Although not part of the 1855 classification, it is mentioned in the 6th edition of the Féret wine guide of 1868, but until 1994 the listing was largely forgotten. In 1989 a small group of producers lobbied to revive the AOC. In 1994 “Cru Artisan” was recognized by the European Union and the French Government followed suit by issuing the new classification in 2002. The ranking is established by a jury composed of recognized wine professionals and it includes a subjective appraisal of the quality of the wine and is subject to ministerial approval. Which winegrowers are included in the ranking is re-assessed every 10 years. Attaining Cru Artisan status is an explicit recognition of a winegrower’s exceptional wines and their passion and dedication to their vineyards. Of the 584 wineries in the Haut-Médoc only 36 are included in the Cru Artisan AOC.
Until the 17th century the Haut-Médoc was a region of salt marshes used for animal grazing. Ambitious Dutch merchants drained the marshlands and converted them to vineyards for wine production to sell into the British market that was then dominated by wines from Graves and Portugal. It was not long before the great regions of Margaux, Pauillac, St.-Estèphe and St.-Julien were carved out and by the 19th century the wine region of the Haut-Médoc was one of the most prosperous in France.
Chateau Micalet was established by Jean Péraud, a pastry baker and occasional winegrower, in the latter half of the 19th century. The chateau was first mentioned as a Cru Artisan in the 1893 edition of Édouard Féret’s classic tome “Bordeaux et ses Vins” (Bordeaux and Its Wines). The excellence of the Chateau’s wines was recognized in 1900 when it received the Medal of Honor from the City of Paris for its 1887 and 1889 vintages. Denis Fédieu bought this ten-hectare property from the estate of Jean Péraud’s daughter Madeleine upon her death in 1972. At the time the wine was sold to négociants. Over the years Denis and his wife Anne-Marie have painstakingly restored the vineyards, cellars and Chateau to its previous glory. They never used herbicides in their vineyards and in the early 2000s eliminated all chemicals. Formally certified organic in 2006 the family is moving towards biodynamic farming methods. The estate is now managed by their sons Damien and Dominique.
Château Micalet Haut-Médoc 2015: For lovers of left bank Bordeaux looking for tradition, quality and age ability at an affordable price we offer Chateau Micalet Haut-Médoc Cru Artisan 2015. This outstanding wine is a delicious blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot from low yielding 30 to 80-year-old vines. It was fermented with ambient yeasts in stainless steel vats. Maceration lasted 21 days with once a day punch-downs. It underwent malolactic fermentation and was aged on its lees for 6 months in stainless steel tanks and an additional 12 months in oak barrels of which 30% were new. During this time, it was racked from barrel to barrel several times. It was fined with egg whites then bottled with only a small amount of added sulphur. This wine displays a potpourri of aromas of dark cherry, cassis, menthol, cedar, tobacco, leather and savoury spices. On the palate there is a beautiful balance between fruit, oak, fine tannins and bright acidity, all framed by a weighty backbone of minerality from the gravelly vineyards from which it was born. Complex and elegant, with a long, satisfying finish, it comes from the excellent – stellar in the Haut-Médoc – 2015 Vintage (RP 95 pts). This is a cellar-worthy wine with the structure and intensity that will allow it to develop and age well for ten to fifteen years. Total production is around 3,000 cases but only about 400 are exported – mostly to the United States and Japan. At $35 there’s much more to appreciate here than just its great price. You do not want to pass this up. Eminently drinkable now, best from 2020 – 2032.