The Sleepers of Bordeaux

I recently tasted one of the top buys of the great 2009 Bordeaux vintage: Château Cap de Faugères. This estate, and its sister property, Faugères in Saint-Emilion, are favorites of mine for their consistency and value. Robert Parker calls the 2009 CdF a "sleeper of the vintage." Interestingly, he also called the 2000 Faugères "a big time sleeper of the vintage." I tasted that wine recently, and it is seriously good. It makes me wonder how long these wines will fly under the radar and continue to be so attractively priced. For now, let's consider ourselves lucky and discuss the places and people that make these wines special.

Hand harvesting at Cap de Faugeres

Cap de Faugères is a 31-hectare estate in one of the finest sections of Castillon, known as Sainte-Colombe. Like its sibling in St.-Emilion, the vineyard sits on limestone and clay slopes. Both properties are owned by Silvio Denz, who is an inspiration to me for his ability to marry his passions with his business interests. In addition to his wine properties, he is a world-class art collector and boasts the the world’s largest collection of perfume bottles created by revolutionary French glass artist René Lalique. Cap de Faugères is planted to 85% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. On average, the vines are 30 years old, but some vines approach close to 50 years of age. The wine is aged in mostly year-old French oak barrels for 12 months. Robert Parker calls the 2009 Cap a "sleeper of the vintage" and believes it may be the finest wine ever made at this estate. He also calls it a "super-duper wine," which is a spot-on description. While certainly a modern-styled Claret with Michel Rolland's stamp all over it, there is no denying the this wine is incredibly well-made. CWM recently offered this wine at $25.99, and it delivers a ton at that price. Loads of blackberry (a hallmark it shares with Faugères), coffee, leather and great texture make this one of the best values of this great vintage.

Rolland, Denz and von Neipperg

In 2005, Denz purchased Château Faugères, now a Grand Cru Classe of Saint-Emilion. While its history dates back to the 1800's, the estate has enjoyed a renaissance over the past fifteen years, and especially since Denz acquired the property. To put this in perspective, Robert Parker's BORDEAUX, first published in 1985 and updated in 1991, make no reference to Faugères. Since 2000, Parker has awarded Faugères ten 90+ point scores. The estate has a total of 49 hectares in the Castillon Plateau, east of the village of St.-Emilion. Some of the estate's vines are devoted to the production of another Denz property, the tiny production Peby Faugères, made from 100% Merlot (Parker has called this wine "First Growth quality").  Grapes are hand-harvested and the winemaking approach at Faugère is similar to CdF, except that the wine is aged in 50% new oak for at least 14 months, and aged on the lees for about 4 months of that time. I recently tasted the 2000 Faugères blind along with Figeac and Evangile from the same vintage. The Faugères was the most balanced and ready to drink of the three. The controversial Michel Rolland has been involved with the estate since 1993, and works closely with Denz and Manager Stephan von Neipperg. It is clearly a team that works. This is a modern, forward style that still has great structure and a sense of place.

The "Cathedral of Wine" wine cellar at Faugeres was designed by Mario Botta

In addition to having the opportunity to taste great wines, Faugères is worth the trip to view world-class architecture. The Estate's classically-styled Charter House has an understated beauty. The wine cellar was designed by Mario Botta, and is known as the "Cathedral of Wine," built from local limestone. About a 40 minute drive from the city of Bordeaux, St.-Emilion is one of the most picturesque villages in all of France. Like many of the great vineyards of Burgundy, the best vineyards here are found on limestone hillsides. If you visit, touring is easy, as many of the appellation's finest properties can be found in and immediately around the village itself. Among these are Ausone, Canon, Cheval Blanc, Troplong-Mondot, Pavie and Beasejour Duffau. And the list goes on and on.