In late September - I had the pleasure of being hosted by M. Georges Pauli the technical director at Chateau Gruaud-Larose a 2nd Growth with origins dating back to 1725, which produces one of St-Julien’s most full-bodied and long-lived of wines.
On this visit to Châtea Gruaud Larose - I had my usual trio of friends - whom I have shared many a winery visit, good meal and bottle or two of special wine over the years on our wine travels. This was one of those days that I will never forget, nor my taste buds for the wines we had the pleasure to sample and talk through with Georges Pauli.
Georges Pauli is a lone bastion at the property through the many different ownerships and deserves most, if not all, of the credit for the consistency and quality of Gruaud-Larose despite the frequent ownership changes that often bring uncertainty that can result in declining quality.
From 1983 until 1997 the property and château changed ownership 3 times. In 1997 the Taillan Group took ownership which continues to this day. The Taillan Group is headed by Jacques Merlaut, which owns a number of other properties in the region, and his son Jean now works in the winery.
We were treated to several vintages of Château Gruaud-Larose (is motto known as 'king of wines, wine of kings') and each was characterised by a very intense but inviting deep red colour. Matched by a concentrated bouquet, in which the aromas of the five grape varieties mingle elegantly with delicate notes of undergrowth - the local ‘terroir’.
Château Gruaud-Larose’s vineyards stretch over 200 uninterrupted acres (81 hectares) and consist of more than 700,000 vine plants. The current proportions of the different grape varieties grown are 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot and 2% Malbec.
The quantities of each variety used in the wines will vary from year to year, enabling greater complexity. Cabernet Sauvignon, the king of the Médoc grapes, is traditionally the main variety used. Its proportion varies between 40 - 60%. Merlot although a secondary component in the ‘grand vin’ of Gruaud Larose, Merlot still makes an important contribution to the wine’s remarkable complexity.
Cabernet Franc a very old French variety, can produce fine wines of great complexity. Well-suited to these wines that will mature over a long period, Petit Verdot, a late maturing variety typical of the Médoc, is valued for its colour and high potential alcohol content. No longer grown on many estates because of its fragility, it produces excellent results at Gruaud Larose, and is an integral part of the wine. Malbec suffers from susceptibility to coulure (a failure to set fruit) but, despite this, makes an unquestionable contribution to the wine’s complexity of flavour.
Gruaud-Larose can be tannic and segmented in its youth but with bottle ageing it becomes marvelously harmonious and develops complex and beguiling characteristics of concentrated black fruits, cedar, spices and liquorice.
Agreed by many (myself in included) as consistently the top of all the 2nd growth chateau's and was definitely given a raw deal back in 1855. These were wines that I can say for certain - none of us could dare bring ourselves to spit out any of them.