Wine tasting: Chateau d'Issan Margaux - elegant, good value, highly drinkable
In the past 10 years, Bordeaux wines have captured headline news with their meteoritic rise in prices and Chinese buyers' insatiable demand for them. But more recently, their fortunes have seen a reversal with a slide in prices and popularity. For wine lovers this is an opportunity to rediscover Bordeaux.
One hidden gem, and often overlooked, is Chateau d'Issan located in Margaux. The chateau has a long and colourful history. In 1152 its wine was served at the marriage between Eleanor d'Aquitaine and Henry II, King of England. Fast forward to the 19th century, and the château was classified as a third growth under the 1855 classification. It boasts illustrious neighbours including the highly regarded third-growth Chateau Palmer, and the premier cru Chateau Margaux.
The property has gone through its highs and lows. Under the stewardship of Emmanuel Cruse since 1998, the quality of the wines has risen to its former glory. Out of 120 hectares on the property, about 53 hectares are under vine.
In terms of style, the current owner says, "I aim to make elegant wines, not monsters." The wines remain true to their origin. They are pure and elegant with refined tannins, and are highly drinkable. Best of all, prices are still reasonable and deliver quality for value.
The chateau has had an overhaul in both the vineyard and cellar. Vineyards have been re-drained and vines have been replanted on improved rootstocks. Investment in the cellar includes the purchase of sorting tables, stainless steel tanks and barrels.
Blason d'Issan 2008, Margaux
Blason d'Issan is the second wine of Chateau d'Issan. It's made in a similar way to the first wine but grapes are sourced from younger vines — about 20 years old, compared to those with an average of 45 years. The wine serves as a good introduction to d'Issan and is ready to drink earlier, with more forward fruit. The vintage of 2008 was considered difficult with small yields. It has been overshadowed by the more voluptuous and highly rated 2009 and 2010 vintages. This is reflected in the price.
Fresh black fruit, cedar and minty notes. Medium body, with a simple fruit structure, firm underlying tannins balanced by crisp acidity. A fruit-forward, approachable drinking wine. HK$285
Chateau d'Issan 2006, Margaux
It was a vintage of varied quality and good wines are harder to find. Generally, they fared better on the left bank in Pauillac, St Julien and Margaux. D'Issan produced a delicate and pure wine.
Quite restrained with black fruit, cedar and smoky tobacco notes. Elegant and pure with soft tannins and balanced acidity. Classic Margaux style showing purity in fruit. HK$689
Chateau d'Issan 1996 Margaux
Tertiary notes of savoury, leather and earth. Lighter-bodied with good fruit intensity, integrated tannins and finishing quite long. A classic Bordeaux starting to show maturity. Good for drinking now and for at least another 10 years. HK$775
Wines are available from Wine Etc etcwineshops.com