Yes, this is an offer of a Bordeaux from the 2017 vintage, but it is an offer with a difference. At a point when en primeur is dominated by a select few grand names, and the speculation surrounds price over and above all else, I am pleased to offer a wine from a humble appellation from a winemaker of undoubted talent. All this and at a price that is unlikely to offend anyone. The appellation is the often overlooked Côtes de Bourg, the winemaker is François Mitjavile of Château Le Tertre-Roteboeuf fame, and the price is £175 per 6 bottle case in bond. The wine? Domaine des Cambes 2017.
I doubt you will have heard of Domaine des Cambes. I doubt you will know much of the Côtes de Bourg (situated on Bordeaux's Right Bank, at the confluence of the rivers Dordogne and Garonne). However, you may have heard of François Mitjavile, and you may well have heard of his Château Le Tertre-Rôteboeuf, which ranks among St. Emilion's finest – although Mitjavile makes no bones over St. Emilion’s high society nor rankings.
François Mitjavile has crafted a reputation for producing wines that boast ripe fruit and glorious textures. His wines are mouth-filling and opulent. The enjoyment is not precluded by the need to cellar them for years, yet they invariably age gracefully. He produces two wines from the Côtes de Bourg area, Roc des Cambes (which is classified as Côtes de Bourg) and the wine in question, Domaine des Cambes. The latter is from a lower-lying vineyard towards the Gironde estuary and, as it lies just outside the appellation limit, it is therefore simply classified as AC Bordeaux. Domaine des Cambes is often mistakenly viewed as the second wine of Roc des Cambes, but it is very much a separate vineyard, with more clay in its soil composition and less limestone.
We visited François Mitjavile in April and spent a few fascinating hours tasting the impressive 2017s but also revisiting some older vintages. We also debated the modern day need to generalise about vintages, differing philosophies on winemaking and I am sure politics crept into our discussion at some point. Of the wines we tasted one wine left us stunned – a 1991 Domaine des Cambes. 1991 was not a great vintage for any particular area of Bordeaux, yet this wine made for great drinking at its current 27 years of age. Why? There is more to the Côtes de Bourg appellation than many realise, and the terroir offers plenty to a winemaker of Monsieur Mitjavile’s skills. He might have been one of the trail-blazers, although I doubt he would like the moniker, and now it seems other winemakers and investors are waking up to this region’s potential.
This is something of an antidote to the main Bordeaux en primeur campaign and is well-worth considering given the quality to value ratio alone. It is reassuring to consider that today this vineyard is more established and that François is making better wines with greater consistency than ever before.
We include notes from both Antonio Galloni and Neal Martin, although keep in mind that critics generally score wines from lesser appellations at lower levels. We suggest leaving the scores to one side and reading the words below.
2017 Domaine des Cambes
£175 per 6 bottle case in bond
(89-92) points, Antonio Galloni, vinous,com
The 2017 Domaine des Cambes is rich, sumptuous and super-expressive, which is surprising given the wine only went into barrel in February because the fermentations were quite long. A rush of dark cherry and plum captivates the senses is this nuanced, inviting wine from the Mitjavile family. Red-toned fruit intermingled with floral notes add lift. The blend is 80% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Franc and 2% Malbec.
(89-91) points, Neal Martin, vinous.com
The 2017 Domaine des Cambes has a fresh, lifted, energetic bouquet that is very Left Bank in style thanks to the expressive Cabernet Franc. I love the definition and drive of these aromatics. The palate is medium-bodied with pretty red berry fruit interlaced with dried orange peel, marmalade and brown spices. There is energy infused into this wine from start to finish and I strongly suspect that it will drink supremely well once in bottle. Drink 2020-2030.
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