I recently started going through my cellar and having a go at some aged bordeaux. I have been sharing my tasting notes here on PTC as we go through this excercise to see how these wines are holding up with some years under their belt. We started with a relatively younger wine in the 2003 Château Haut-Bailly and them moved back in time to the 1998 Château Haut-Brion. As you can probably tell by now we are working backward in time through my cellar and will eventually end with a 1970 bordeaux (not telling you which one just yet).
Today I am going to share my experience with the 1995 Château Gruaud-Larose. Gruad-Larose has long been one of my favorite Chateau and I really love their wines. The 1995 vintage in on the left bank in Bordeaux is considered a classic by most and the wines of that year have been showing a good ability to age very well.
History of Château Gruaud-Larose
The property is a baby historically compared to its peers in Bordeaux with origins dating to 1725. Seems crazy to say that makes Gruaud Larose the baby of the bunch; a testament to the long and rich history of making great wine in Bordeaux. The knight Joseph Stanislas Gruaud gets most of the early credit in the creation of what we now know as Gruaud-Larose. The property was originally called Fond-Bedeau (for some reason that makes me think of fondue) and was run by two different Gruauds; one a priest and the other a magistrate. The result of the two owners was two separate bottlings, one called Abbé Gruaud and the other Chevalier de Gruaud, the names indicating which belonged to the priest and which belonged to the magistrate.
In 1778 the magistrate, the Chevalier du Gruaud, died and his portion of the property was deeded to Joseph Sebastian de La Rose. Joe renamed his new property Gruaud-La Rose or Gruaud-Larose. This piece of land, vineyard and wine was classified as a Second Growth in the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855.
Control of the property was split among multiple descendant but remained intact until 1867 when it was split in two - Château Gruaud-Larose-Sarget and Château Gruaud-Larose-Faure. The two châteaux were reunited by the Cordier family, who purchased the Sarget piece in 1917 and the Faure piece in 1935.
From 1983 until 1997 the property and château changed ownersrhip 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, most notably Château Haut-Bages-Liberal.
Soil, Vineyards and Vines
The vineyards cover 200 acres (82 hectares if you're French) of in the St. Julien appellation and the terroir is typical for the region, deep Quaternary gravel. The vineyards, with vines averaging 45 years of age, are planted to 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot and 2% Malbec.
The vineyard is managed by a winemaking team overseen by Jacques Merlaut's son, Jean. Georges Pauli is the Technical Director at the property. He is a lone mainstay at the property through the many different ownership teams and deserves most, if not all, of the credit for the consistency and quality of Gruaud-Larose despite the rapid ownership changes that often bring uncertainty that results in declining quality.
Harvest and Production
The fruit is hand picked and sorted then undergoes a cold-soak prior to temperature controlled fermentation in a mixture of wooden and concrete vats, with pumping over of the fermenting must twice a day. Up to a third of the vintage undergoes malolactic fermentation in oak barrels, before ageing the entire wine in Alliers and Nevers oak (up to 50% new) for eighteen months. The grand vin is Chateau Gruaud-Larose, and about 25,000 cases are produced annually.
1995 Growing Season
An excellent year for both the left and right bank of Bordeaux with the left bank, sight of Gruaud-Larose, being a bit better. The previous 4 vintages were very wet with a ton of rain but 1995 was choice. A mild winter and early spring was followed by a dry, hot summer. It did rain a bit in early September but the rain was less than in the previous 4 vintages and, crucially, there was perfect weather from September 20th through to October leading up to and including harvest.
1995 Château Gruaud Larose - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
Decanted for 4 hours. Very dark purple, almost inky in color. Classis Bordeaux barnyard, wet straw, and damp earth nose with hints of chocolate, blackberries and meat. The first night it revealed a full bodied palate of black cherry, dark berries, hints of licorice, red meat and earth. Very smooth and elegant tannins with just the right amount of acidity. It had a medium-long finish. Day two of this wine was much better. The dark berries, cherries and currant really exploded out of the wine with cassis and licorice at the end of a long and rich finish. The tannins were refined and in balance and there was still some nice acidity left. Great balance and drinking well but I still think it should be better given the quality of the 95 vintage on the left bank. I do think this will improve with more cellar time but I am down to 1 bottle - bummer! 50+4+13+17+8=92 pts (see Tasting Notes and Scoring to know what these number mean.)