I thought this might offer a welcome divergence from all this talk of Bordeaux En Primeur, prices and percentages…
In the late 1990s, I remember some very poor Bordeaux at under £20 per bottle...traditional merchants used to have stacks of ordinary Bordeaux that failed to deliver. Some were lean and lacking intensity, short of fruit, some were green and lacking ripeness and with harsh drying, astringent tannins. All in all, not a bundle of laughs. Fortunately, all that has changed and the level of general winemaking outside of the classified growths of Bordeaux has risen considerably. It is possible to find a few gems in the right vintage…the much praised 2016 is one such vintage that gave a note of precision to a number of humble Bordeaux.
I would like to highlight one particular Saint-Emilion Château, namely Château Haut-Simard (classified Grand Cru), owned by the Vauthier family, who also own Châteaux Ausone, Moulin Saint-Georges and La Clotte amongst other properties. It is worth stressing that Grand Cru is the first rung of the Saint-Emilion classification, populated by hundreds of small Châteaux of dramatically varying levels of quality. You may have heard us talk of the turn around we have witnessed at Château La Clotte since the Vauthiers became involved; frankly every wine they touch is well worth drinking. There is ring of quality about all their wines from the most lowly to the majestic Ausone itself and it is always one of the highlights of any Bordeaux buying trip to taste the range of wines produced at Château Ausone. As I recall, the majority of Haut-Simard is invariably sold to merchants in the US, so normally we are tasting out of general interest, rather than commercial interest – I jumped when I recently had a chance to buy a parcel of the impressive 2016.
The Vauthiers have owned Château Haut-Simard since 1954, but it was in their family line since the 1920s when it was owned by the Mazière family, of whom Alain Vauthier is a direct descendant. The property is divided into two; Simard’s vineyard covers approximately 40 hectares, whereas Haut-Simard, the superior of the two, covers 10 hectares, equating to around 3,500 to 4,000 cases per annum on average. The Château is situated due south of Saint-Emilion on limestone and clay soils, approximately one and a half kilometres away from the centre of Saint-Emilion. It is planted with 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc, though the Vauthiers tend to prefer a higher percentage of Cabernet Franc in the final blend.
Please see below for my note from the bottle I tasted last week as well as Neal Martin’s second note from January 2019.
2016 Château Haut-Simard, Grand Cru, St.Emilion
£195 per 12 bottle case in bond
The 2016 is the finest example of Haut-Simard I have tasted – it is a blend of 65% Merlot and 35% Cabernet Franc. It reveals that typically plush Vauthier style, letting you know it is a wine in the Ausone family, even if it is one of the entry level wines. It shows a purplish red hue in the glass, with floral, violet scents over a deep juicy berry fruit. There are notes of hedgerow fruit, ample blackberry and damson – certainly a juicy stone fruit touch. Sleek, almost lush in texture, this is a fresh and poised Saint-Emilion with softly, wonderfully ripe macerated summer berry fruit. With a surprising length and precision and a gently mineral-nuanced finish...this is so good for its level. In fact, stunning when you consider the price. Drink 2021-2035. (SL)
93 points, Neal Martin, vinous.com
The 2016 Haut-Simard has a top-notch bouquet of gorgeous, well-defined blackberry, briar and raspberry aromas that burst from the glass. There is a floral aspect to this Saint-Emilion that the 2016 Simard does not possess. The palate is medium-bodied with sappy black fruit, fine density and concentration and a very fine line of acidity. The oak (30% new) is seamlessly integrated, with a long tail on the finish. This is the finest Haut-Simard I have tasted. Excellent. Drink 2022-2038.
Frankly when you come across such great wines so favourably priced, it reminds me why I took to Bordeaux in the first place. It is a joy to simply concern yourself with the wine in the glass!
Please let us know of your interest.
All the best,