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The last of the venerable wine dynasty of Cruse, H.F. Cruse, had five daughters, each of whom inherited a chateau. Armelle, one of the daughters, was lucky enough to inherit and become the winemaker-cum-manager of the Chateau du Taillan, the first estate you encounter travelling from the city of Bordeaux to Medoc in the north. Henri Cruse purchased the chateau in 1896 and the family remained in charge for three generations. Now it is Armelle who carries the torch with her husband.
The chateau has been re-classified as a cru Bourgeois superieur as of 2001, when this segment (cru Bourgeois) of the 1855 classification order was amended. During the 1855 World Exhibition in Paris, properties of Bordeaux were classified, taking into consideration their appearance, taste, consistency, and market price over time.
The best were classified as Premier Grand Cru Classe, followed by 2nd, 3rd,, 4th and 5th growth, altogether 65. Then came cru bourgeois, flowed by cru artisanal. Considering the fact that there were over 9000 properties in Bordeaux, even making it into any classification category required superior quality.
Over centuries, chateaux change hands, and management decide to produce better wines or neglect the vineyards. Along with these changes, technology also changes. Wine quality is a moving target, and winemakers must keep improving quality according to market demands.
Cru Bourgeois was too broad in concept and required refinement. A committee of 18 professionals was formed and called for submissions. In all 450 properties submitted samples ain 2003 from five vintages (1998 – 2002) all of which were duly evaluated by three panels of six members. The criteria were taste, components of the blend, price, equipment and distribution. After due deliberations, nine were granted the title cru Bourgeois Exeptionelle, 80 Bourgeois superieur.
Chateau du Taillan was elevated to cru Bourgeois superieur, mostly due to efforts of Armelle the winemaker, and her husband who is in charge of the vineyards (35 hectares), of the 100 the chateau covers.
The encepagement consists of Cabernet Sauvignon (30 percent), Merlot (60) and Cabernet Franc (10). Cabernet Sauvignon provides overall structure, Merlot fruit, suppleness, and Cabernet Franc “spice”.
The chalky-clay soil provides excellent conditions for vines to thrive, and the average age of vines is 25 years. As vines get older the wines taste better, smoother and show more depth. The yields are kept low, pesticide use to an absolute minimum. The wines are aged in Allier and other French oak barrels for a minimum of 18 months, and the wines are clarified using egg whites thus preserving all the extract and fruit.
The chateau [produces approximately 10,000 cases of the flagship wine, and another blend called Cuvee des Dames that reflects market preferences. Chateau la Dame Blanche consists of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, is dry, and pleasant as an aperitif or with light foods.
Recently, Armelle the winemaker and manager of the property visited Toronto to present her wines. Three vintages of Chateau du Taillan and Cuvee des Dames were presented.
* Chateau du Taillan 1999 – vibrant colour, aromas of red fruits, earthy flavours, medium body and good long finish 88
* ChÃ¢teau du Taillan 2000 pleasant dark red colour, full body, well-extracted, with depth and long aftertaste 90
* Chateau du Taillan 2001 pleasant dark red, vibrant colour, fruity aromas, with an excellent concentration of flavour. Merlot flavours predominate 92
* Cuvee des Dames 1999 produced from 30 year old vines. Mouth-watering fruity aromas, and flavours, with an excellent balance and refreshing aftertaste 89
* Cuvee des Dames 2000 slightly vegetal aromas distract from the fruit. Pleasant to enjoy now 82
* Cuvee des Dames 2001 excellent ripe berry fruit aromas wafting from the glass, full body, chocolatey flavours with an excellent finish 92
Cellar for two to three more years.
The chateau is architecturally attractive, and the wines are interesting. If you are in Bordeaux make it a point to visit the Chateau you will be pleasantly surprised but call for an appointment 33 (0) 5 5657 4700
Article contributed by Hrayr Berberoglu, a Professor Emeritus of Hospitality and Tourism Management specializing in Food and Beverage. Books by H. Berberoglu
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