Sunday, October 30, 2005

My tongue feels so good it hurts...

My dear friends and lovely wife surprised me with an excellent birthday meal, accompanied by much laughter and good wine, including a bottle of 1986 Clerc Milon.

I am abgestuffed!

From the Wine Doctor:

Chateau Clerc Milon

Chateau Clerc Milon is a property with which all lovers of Pauillac should be familiar. Although in illustrious ownership (it is part of the Rothschild stable that also includes Mouton Rothschild) it hides at the fifth growth level, one of the dozen Pauillac properties that dominate – in numbers at least – this rung of the 1855 classification. But wine buyers interested in quality know that this ancient classification cannot be wholly relied upon, and there are many chateaux outperforming their rank. Lynch-BagesPontet Canet is another under-rated fifth growth. And, based on my recent assessment of five vintages (it was to be six but one was corked – not even the Rothschilds are immune to TCA), Clerc Milon is another. is a classic example, consistently ranked as the equivalent of a second growth, and prices are higher than one might expect. The recently rescued

Chateau Clerc MilonIn the 19th Century the chateau was owned by Jean-Baptiste Clerc, who was running the show at the time of the 1855 classification. He died in 1863, and the mantle was passed onto his widow. Within no time the estate had been broken up, and part sold on to Jacques Mondon; hence the wine was now known as Chateau Clerc-Milon-Mondon. As the decades passed, though, the estate passed through a succession of owners and, as always happens in these circumstances, it gradually fell into disrepair. By the 1960s it was the property of local lawyer Jacques Vialard. Little wonder, considering its condition, that Marie Vialard and Madame Heron, who inherited the property upon Vialard’s death in 1970, were only too pleased to sell this moneypit on. This was to Baron Philippe de Rothschild’s advantage; he secured the estate for the paltry sum of one million francs. Over the next decade it saw extensive refurbishment, with the fruits of the labour being a succession of excellent wines, from the early 1980s onwards.

Milon is a small village near Chateau Lafite, but Chateau Clerc Milon itself is situated in the northernmost part of the Pauillac appellation near Mousset. Here Baroness Philippine de Rothschild – Baron Philippe’s daughter - can oversee activity at Clerc Milon, Mouton-Rothschild and d’Armailhac, whilst keeping up to date with progress at her other interests in Chile (Almaviva) and California (Opus One), as well as the branded side of the business – such as the infamous Mouton Cadet. It is a most parcellated property, with over 100 separate vineyard plots scattered around. The soils are a mixture of sand and gravel, with more clay nearer the river. There are 30 ha in all, planted with 46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot and an impressive 1% Carmenere; a rare sight in the vineyards of Bordeaux nowadays. In recent years the area planted to Cabernet Sauvignon has decreased, whereas there is more Merlot. The vines average over 50 years of age and are planted at a density of over 8000 plants per hectare. The end result, after fermentation, is the grand vin Chateau Clerc Milon. There is no second wine.

Chateau Clerc-Milon is an unusual wine. It does not have a huge, vocal following in the way that Lynch-Bages does. It does not have the benefit of recent publicity concerning an obvious improvement in quality, with the Parker points to match, in the way that Pontet-Canet has. It does, however, demand a healthy but admittedly not exorbitant price. Nevertheless, I came to a recent tasting hoping to find some decent examples of Pauillac. What I found was an impressive wine; in several vintages a dark, brooding and masculine libation, punching way above its weight. But with it comes none of the cost-enhancing hype that follows some other Bordeaux underlings. One that I should be buying more of, I think. (19/1/05)

Contact details:
Address: Chateau Mouton-Rothschild, 33250 Pauillac
Telephone: +33 (0) 5 56 73 20 20
Fax: +33 (0) 5 56 73 20 44

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