Chateau Angelus is today one of the four “First Growths” of Saint Emilion that are classified as Premier Grand Cru Classé ‘A’. It sits alongside Chateau Ausone, Chateau Cheval Blanc and Chateau Pavie as the highest rated estates in the appellation. Chateau Angelus and Chateau Pavie are the newest additions to this top rank, having both been promoted in latest reclassification of 2012. This was the first time any Chateau had been promoted into this top tier since the inception of the classification system in 1955.
Angelus is one of the few Saint Emilion properties today that has remained under family ownership since its inception over 237 years ago! Hubert de Bouard was the 7th generation to take over the property in 1985 and it was his work in the vineyard and winery that saw the property promoted in 2012.
The modernising revolution under Hubert de Bouard
Hubert was one of the first to introduce green harvesting into Saint Emilion and drastically reduce the production levels at Chateau Angelus. Prior to his implementation of green harvesting in the mid-eighties the property was producing 200,000 bottles of the Grand Vin every year. His work in the vineyard cut the production level by half with average production levels under his guidance down to 100,000 bottles.
His yield reduction brought more concentration to the wines and higher levels of ripeness. Under the teachings of Emile Peynaud, he introduced more whole berries to the fermentation as well as picking the grapes later pushing for more ripe phenolics. He also extended the élevage to 23 months in new French oak bringing more power and depth to the wines. His modernising techniques in the vineyard and winery completely transformed its reputation and within a few years of his implementations the wines were competing with some of the best in the appellation. The first great vintage of Angelus under the guidance of Hubert de Bouard was the 1989.
The property is today managed by Stephanie de Bouard-Rivoal, who took over its management from her father in 2012. Hubert de Bouard still remains very much involved, working alongside his daughter.
The Estate consists of 42 hectares of vineyards but just 27 hectares are classified as Classé “A” status and are the only grapes that can be used for the Grand Vin. Carillon d’Angelus is often seen as Angelus’ second wine but in fact comes from a separate vineyard and is made in a separate winery.
The Chateau Angelus assemblage and the importance of Cabernet Franc
The Angelus vineyard is a natural amphitheatre planted to 53% Merlot, 46% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot (although the Petit Verdot was planted just two years ago). Angelus is one of the few Saint Emilion properties to have a significant proportion of Cabernet Franc in its assemblage. This is because it soils have both clay and limestone soils. Cabernet Franc is highly susceptible to disease and prone to suffer from a lack of water, so it requires the clay soils to really perform in the region. Thankfully Chateau Angelus is part of an inverse croissant-shaped stretch of clay that starts in the north with Chateau Cheval Blanc, through to Chateau Figeac, Chateau Angelus and Chateau Ausone – properties that all include a large proportion of Cabernet Franc in their wines.
Chateau Angelus – Mini Vertical
Last week we were fortunate to have Bong Grelat-Tram from Chateau Angelus come and visit us at our London HQ to taste through a vertical of vintages exploring the profile of Chateau Angelus through vintages from 2014 to 2005. What was great about the comparison tasting was to taste both young and old top vintages as well as young and old vintages from more difficult vintages, allowing us to explore how the Angelus flavor profile comes through under different climatic circumstances.
It is clear from the tasting that the property has a distinct flavour profile. The tannins are very elegant, noticeable especially in more challenging vintages. The 2006 and 2011 are impressively elegant vintages, and whilst the effect of the vintage tones down the power of the wine, these vintages might better suit the traditionalist. The wine retains a long finish with strong spice, barbecue smoke and dried cigar leaf, no doubt from the long ageing in new French barriques. Whilst powerful oak notes add complexity, the influence of the oak is much more absorbed in the riper, juicer vintages.
Deep purple colour with noticeably more power and density on the palate than the Carillon d’Angelus. The palate has pronounced fruit flavours of black plum and blackberry which is impressive for the vintage allied with round, soft, yet velvety textured tannins. The wine is distinctly medium bodied and doesn’t carry the power of riper vintages but the dry tobacco, exotic, incense spice and light savoury smoky notes and sweeter vanilla spice add complexity to the finish.
Deep purple colour, opaque. The wine is full of lovely aromatics that linger and dance on the palate too. Not overtly fruity, more toasty, sauvory and spicy. Sweet vanilla tones, dry clove spice, barbecue smoke, black pepper, cedar wood, dried cigar and violet notes. The palate is richer than the nose would suggest with the black plum fruit intensity matching the power and flavours coming from the oak. Medium bodied with a lovely multi-layered texture with velvety structural tannins, more exotic incense notes appear on the long finish.
The beginnings of some tertiary aromas with light mushroom and damp earth notes integrate beautifully with incense, bbq smoke, licorice, violets, black pepper aromas. Said to be a big brother of the 2011 it definitely shares the fragrant exotic nose and the spicy, dried, cigar finish. There is a lovely freshness to this wine and persistence of flavor which is helped by very evenly set, elegant tannins and juicy black plum and blackberry fruit. Drinking beautifully now and over the next 10-15 years.
Fantastic pronounced fruit aromas. Another level of concentration in the fruit compared with the ’06 and tastes deceptively younger. The wine retains the spice, incense and tobacco notes of the previous vintages but the concentration of fruit is so much more present, these other elements are less dominant due to the added density of the fruit. Black plum, black cherry, red berries (the spectrum of fruit flavours really expands in the 2005). The full body and concentration is counterpointed by a vibrant acidity giving the wine great poise. The tannins remain very fine but also more concentrated building structure in the palate. The seemingly signature dried tobacco finish lingers long and beautifully interspersed with floral fruit notes. Amazing wine!
Latest developments at Chateau Angelus
With the 2018 production Chateau Angelus introduced two individual 3200 litre oak foudres to the winery which made up 10% of the production of the Grand Vin. The team tasted the wine in the foudre every day comparing it with the same fruit aged in oak barriques to understand the effects of this alternative élevage. These thicker oak barrels saw a slower transition of oak flavours into the wine and the tannins in the foudre were very pure and more refined than when compared to the barriques. So happy with the results Chateau Angelus has bought an additional foudre this year to be used in the 2019 vintage.
The 2018 Angelus was certainly a highlight of the Bordeaux EP campaign in 2019. Although clever timing of the release and a well-judged price reduction may have contributed, the wine received much praise from across the board of reviewers and perhaps this slightly more restrained approach on the oak barriques has helped push the quality levels at Chateau Angelus a notch higher.