In November 2023, the London team were treated to a tasting with Josephine Duffau-Lagarrosse of St Emilion’s Chateau Beausejour Duffau Lagarrosse. Josephine wanted to tell us more about the new direction for the chateau, starting with the 2021 vintage and told us more about the history and style of an estate to watch.
Beausejour Duffau Lagarrosse: A World Class Terroir:
Located close to Angelus and Canon, Beausejour Duffau Lagarrosse is noted as having one of Bordeaux’s finest vineyards. In 2011, Robert Parker said it is “one of the great hillside terroirs of Bordeaux and St.-Emilion” while, more recently, Jane Anson wrote that it “comes close to the perfect expression of limestone.” This soil profile means elegance, charm and precision.
For many years Duffau Lagarrosse underperformed – with one notable exception discussed below – but in recent years it has undergone a renaissance and is very much an estate to watch with that incredible terroir shining through.
The Legendary 1990 Vintage:
The 1990 Beausejour Duffau Lagarrosse came from seemingly nowhere and has passed into legend. The wines made here in the 1980s were largely unexceptional, so a 100-point score from the highly influential Robert Parker came like a bolt from the blue. The 1990 Duffau Lagarrosse became an instant collector’s item as a result.
Parker liked the 1990 from barrel, saying that “This profound St.-Emilion merits a serious look from connoisseurs”, but his 92-94 point score probably turned few heads and meant that relatively few would have bought cases en primeur. Those that did, no doubt, didn’t feel much need to lay the wines down for decades, and so it is likely that much was drunk before Parker’s perfect rating in 1997.
At a time when 100-point scores were much rarer than they are now, this score caused shockwaves and meant that what little availability remained quickly disappeared and that what was left soared in price. It is now a unicorn, and a good case will set you back well over £10,000 if you can find one.
The 1990 was not only a perfect wine but also served as a signpost for the potential here. It would, however, be some time before that potential was once again fully realised.
The new direction for Beausejour Duffau Lagarrosse:
After the 1990 there were more years of good, but not great wines. Wines that didn’t fully showcase the brilliance of this wonderful terroir. That all changed in 2009 with the appointment of St Emilion royalty. This came in the form of Nicolas Thienpont and his team. The results were immedai spectacular, with the 2009 and 2010 vintages both achieving 100-point scores from Robert Parker. Recent vintages such as the 2015, 2016 and 2019 have also been superb.
The next big change came in 2021 when Josephine Duffau-Lagarrosse took full control of the estate. She did so with the help of Prisca Courtin-Clarins of the Clarins cosmetics group. It was something of a coup in the face of stiff competition and showed the determination of the young winemaker. Josephine has a clear vision: pure, mineral-driven wines that reflect this classic St Emilion terroir of thin clay over limestone. Like many in the region, Cabernet Franc may become a more important part of the blend. Merlot, however, remains King and the heart and soul of this historic St Emilion.
We tasted the 2021, and it’s very true to this vision. Pure, precise and sophisticated with plenty of depth, despite the tricky vintage. It’s a great start for the new regime, with the estate clearly in very good hands.
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