Rolland’s Collection with David Lesage
I was invited to attend a very interesting tasting organized by Le Manoir, the Romanian importer and distributor of Michel Rolland’s wines. I believe, or would like to believe, that any person that likes and consumes wine, or at least is interested in wine, heard about Michel Rolland. As debatable as his wines are perceived for being too extracted or too oaky, most of the prestigious Chateaux in Bordeaux employ his consulting services. He is definitely a great blender.
Last night Mr Rolland’s son-in-law, David Lesage, presented some of the wines included in the so-called Rolland’s Collection. I actually met Mr Lesage one year ago when he conducted another wine session presenting the same Collection but some from different vintages, session organized also by Le Manoir. His presentations are interesting and engaging, filled with technical details but also spiced up with “behind the curtain” information.
I found out last night that in Bordeaux it became mandatory to mention the alcohol level on the labels starting with the ’70s. If the alcohol level is above the appellation’s rules a producer might not be able to use the AOC for that particular vintage. Mr. Lesage mentioned how Michel Rolland had the initiative to measure the alcohol level in a legendary wine: 1947 Chateau Cheval Blanc and the result is just staggering: 14.8%. Should the 1970s regulations have been in place in 1947, Cheval Blanc would have not carried the Saint-Emilion Grand Cru appelation. Interesting information for a wine geek. So the blamed high alcohol levels we see often today on Bordeaux wines are not a first.
We started with a white wine made from a 1 ha plot from Lussac-Saint-Émilion, normally a red wine appellation, labelled as a Bordeaux Blanc and produced in a relative short supply. The wine is aged for up to 12 months in new French oak barrels. The use of new French oak barrels is a common thing to all wines in the Rolland’s Collection. Chateau La Grande Clotte 2009 is a white blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Gris, Semillon and up to 50% Muscadelle. The wine is opulent, both on the nose, as on the palate, oaky and elegant is the last word that comes to my mind when describing this wine. A wine that grabs your attention immediately but a bit too much for me.
Next two wines were 2002 and 2005 Chateau Le Bon Pasteur Pomerol served in parallel from two separate glasses to better compare them. The 2002 is completely open and ready to drink, showing pronounced aromas of green vegetables, green bell pepper and grass, (2002 was a rainy and hard to ripe vintage in Bordeaux) mixed with smoke, red fruits and a touch of minerals. Full bodied and filling the palate, fresh, structured, with assertive tannins. The wine is a pleasure to drink right now and has no problem holding further years. (90-91/100)
2005 Le Bon Pasteur is at a different stage. The wine feels tempered and restraint compared to 2002, but it has a depth and a complexity not matched by its older brother. Well structured, grippy tannins, fresh, ripe, full and hiding a lot of potential. Long and best to be left alone for now. (92/100)
Next wine was Le Defi de Fontenil, a 100% Merlot made only 5 or 6 times since 1999: 2000, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2008 and 2009 (if I understood correctly). Even though the property sits in Fronsac, the wine is labelled as a simple Vin de Table because INAO did not approve the experiment started in 2000 by Dany and Michel Rolland to place plastic sheeting on the soil between the rows of vines on some plots in Château Fontenil to prevent rain penetration during the month preceding the harvest. It is probably one of the most, if not the most expensive Vin de Table produced in France. The berries are fermented in open oak barrels custom made for the Chateau, while the temperature is controlled by the use of dry ice. Aged for 18 months in new French oak barrels, this is an opulent, super concentrated and hedonistic expression of Merlot. We had the 2005 vintage which is extremely youthful, oaky, concentrated, structured, with fine sweet and fully ripe tannins. Long finish with opulent aromas and flavors of plums, cassis and prunes. Too young to be fully enjoyed at the moment. Probably a guy on steroids would mirror the image of this wine. A style that has its own fans.
Being a Vin de Table the producer is not allowed to mentioned the vintage on the label, however on the back label it is specified differently this information: 2005 appears as 05 and similarly for other vintages.
The 2003 Remhoogte Bonne Nouvelle made in South Africa, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinotage shows a more classic line, in complete antitheses with Le Defi de Fontenil. It is a style that I like more and it is hard to stay away from its pleasant smoky profile. Really balanced and perfectly enjoyable. At almost 10 years of age it is youthful and capable to hold many more years.
Last two wines were both Malbec’s made in Argentina: Val de Flores 2004 from vineyards sitting at 1000 m altitude, and Yacochuya 2004 from vines sitting at over 2000 m altitude. The climates are completely different as the properties are separated by over 1000 km. Both wines show an incredible high alcohol level: 15% for Val de Flores and a staggering 16.5% for Yacochuya, both are powerful wines but show amazing balance, ripe sweet tannins, structure and concentration to hide the heat. Yacochuya is massive and super-concentrated, probably one the most concentrated wines I tasted so far and yet silky on the palate. (91-92/100) for Val de Flores 2004 and (93-94/100) for Yacochuya 2004.
There was also a Spanish Tempranillo made in Toro: 2003 Campo Eliseo (Champs Elysées in French), a wine made together with Jacques Lurton. A modern expression of Tempranillo.
The tasting was fun and interesting and after so much alcohol I left home a happy man. Before this event I actually had the chance to taste 3 other great wines: 2001 Masi Mazzano (92-93/100), 2006 Renato Ratti Barolo Marcenasco showing already a good approachability (91/100) and a very young and woody 2009 Tignanello (91/100).