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Angelus: The Importance
Château Angélus has risen to become one of the leading estates in St Émilion and one of the finest wines in all of Bordeaux. Regularly praised by critics, it excels year upon year, delivering exceptional quality and being described by Robert Parker as “one of the great, shining success stories and superstar estates of St Émilion and all of Bordeaux.”
The quality of the wine being produced at Angélus rose steeply when Hubert de Bouard took control in 1985. Much stricter methods of vineyard management and winemaking were introduced, such as the lowering of yields, improvement in selection and the use of all new French oak in the aging process. Alongside these, modern and climate controlled cellars were introduced and an extensive renovation estimated to have cost around 10 million euros took place in 2012. The rewards of this investment were first seen with the 1988 vintage, with Parker writing that although the estate had had a somewhat shaky past, “it quickly became the poster child and catalyst for the qualitative revolution in St Émilion and since 1988 there has not been a hiccup.”
The rewards for this strong focus on quality have been clear. In 1996, Angélus was promoted to 1er Grand Cru Classé in the St Émilion reclassification, and then elevated to 1er Grand Cru Classé A status in 2012, joining Cheval Blanc, Ausone and Pavie, and showing the value in price that can be found with Angelus, when compared to its colleaugues, such as Cheval Blanc.
Angelus: The Insight
The Grand Vin of Angélus is typically full bodied, rich and bold in style, with Antonio Galloni saying that “next to Pavie and Cheval Blanc, Angélus has broader shoulders, larger-grained tannins and more overt ripeness.” Stephen Tanzer described the 2015 Grand Vin as possessing “extravagantly rich aromas of black raspberry, blueberry, bitter chocolate and coconutty oak.” Some of the best vintages of this wine have been 1990, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2009 and 2010, with them all being considered close to perfect by critics.
A second wine has been produced at this estate since 1987 called Le Carillon d’Angélus. The vines receive the same care and attention as for the Grand Vin, the main difference coming from the length of time spent in oak and the proportion of new oak used, which means that the wine is of a lighter and more approachable style than the Grand Vin, and is characterised by velvety tannins and rich fruitiness. It has been well received by critics, with Parker saying of the 2015 vintage that it was able to “show up many other St Émilion grand crus.”
A third wine has also been produced since 2007, called the No3 d’Angélus, the product of the estates younger wines, which focuses on producing a smooth and fruit forward wine.
The constant search for ways of producing wine of even higher quality is clear at Angelus. In 2009, an extra 60 people were hired in order to manually destem the grapes berry by berry as much as possible, and this was expanded to 150 people the following year, meaning that almost half of their crop was destemmed manually. This process means that the berries will stay intact, preserving freshness and retarding oxygenation.
Angelus: The Background
Château Angélus was born when the first owner George de Bouard started buying vineyard land in St Émilion, but the true birth of this estate, as it is now, took place in 1909 when Maurice de Bouard de La Forest inherited the vineyard and purchased a 3.5 hectare parcel of vines known as ‘L’Angélus’. He purchased another 13 hectares of vines and the family continued acquiring vines, with the estate now being comprised of 39 hectares of vines. The estate continues to be owned and run by the same family, with Hubert de Bouard now in charge with help from his children. The family also owns other vineyards in Bordeaux, including La Fleur de Bouard in the Lalande de Pomerol and Château de Francs in the Côtes de Francs appellation.
Neighbours include Château Canon and Jonathan Maltus’ Le Dôme. The vineyard of Château Angélus is situated in a natural amphitheatre which is overlooked by the three Saint Émilion churches. This meant that in the centre of this site, the sounds from the angelus bells were amplified each time they rang, reminding all the men and women working in the vineyards to take a few seconds out of their day to pray, and it is this that has come to be represented on the beautifully distinctive label of this wine.
Planted on some of the best soils of St Émilion, made up of clay and limestone, the vineyards consist of 51% Merlot, 47% Cabernet Franc and 2% Cabernet Sauvignon. This is considerably more Cabernet Franc than most of the other wines being produced in St Émilion, and the significant use of this grape variety in the final blend means that this wine has a strong aromatic character and can age extremely successfully.
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