Located 11 kilometres north-west of Pomerol, Château d'Abzac has been under the stewardship of the D'Anglade family since 1796. Today its vineyards extend over 35 hectares following the path of the river Isle over a Gunz gravel terrace of alluvial deposits towards Libourne. The principal wine here – in terms of volume – is an excellent 'Bordeaux Supérieur' that is made from pure Merlot which is vinified in stainless steel vats without any oak influence. It drinks well from release and has been remarkably consistent over numerous vintages. With a bright red fruit bouquet and a supple palate of cassis and damson supported by fine-grained tannins, it is a versatile claret that doesn't require decanting and will cellar well for 3-5 years. In 2014, the family bought a 1.5 hectare parcel of vines in Lussac Saint-Émilion from which they produce their Château Milonblanc bottling. It is made from a blend of 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon that are fermented in thermo-regulated vats and raised in French oak barrels of various ages. It is fuller and firmer than the Château d'Abzac with a core of black fruit, hints of spice and vanilla and enough tannic grip to support a decade's bottle age.
Last year we were delighted to procure a parcel of Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux from Château La Brande in Saint-Etienne-de-Lisse just outside Saint-Émilion. It is blended from a base of 70% Merlot along with Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot in descending proportions. With a brambly bouquet and mid-weight black fruit palate offset by fresh acidity and supple tannins, it pairs well with roast lamb and wild mushroom dishes.
Chateau Gombaud-Guillot is an 8 hectare biodynamic estate in the heart of the Pomerol plateau that boasts Château Trotanoy as a neighbour. Here, they deploy a blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc grown on gravel and clay soils to produce a well-structured and elegant wine that merits decanting and will benefit from 5 or more years bottle age. James Molesworth published the following tasting note on the 2014 vintage in the Wine Spectator: "This delivers a long, lush stream of pure raspberry ganache flavours, flecked with anise and fruitcake notes, all gliding through a silky, suave finish. What you see is what you get, and it's pretty tasty. Drink now through 2026. 1,500 cases made. Score: 90."
Sourcing Classed-Growth Claret for ready drinking can be a fool's errand if one isn't careful. We think the 5th Growth Haut-Médoc Château Cantemerle is already showing well in the 2012 vintage. Made from a blend of 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot and 2% Cabernet Franc, no lesser critic than Robert Parker described it thus: "Cantemerle's ethereal elegance and racy, classy style are unmistakable in this understated yet pretty, dark ruby-colored 2012."