The Big Deal: Ch. GRAND CORBIN DESPAGNE, St. Emilion Grand Cru Classé, 2011

The DEAL: $29.99 per bottle cash through 9/20/14 (normally $39.89 cash)
The PERSON: François Despagne, seventh generation of his family to own Ch. Grand Corbin Despagne
The PLACE: Ch. Grand Corbin Despagne in the northeast of St. Emilion near the Pomerol border
GCDLabelCh. GRAND CORBIN DESPAGNE, St. Emilion Grand Cru Classé, 2011
A 13.5% alcohol, typically St. Emilion blend of 70% Merlot, 29% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Cabernet Sauvignon grown on clay and sand over iron deposits and sand over clay (Yield = 38hl/ha). The hand harvested grapes were sorted four times before being crushed and fermented in a mix of concrete and stainless steel tanks using pump-overs, rack-and-return, and even some punch-downs. Aged 18 months in all French oak barrels (50% new). Sensory: Deep purple-red in color with well-formed legs; dry, medium full-bodied with freshly balanced acidity; medium-phenolics. Tight when first opened but opens nicely with air and time in the glass. Rich dark fruit and earth nose. Deep, dusty, fully ripe St. Emilion offering a mix of red and black cherry-berry-plum fruit with notes of earth, cedar, and spice as well as dusty, still integrating new oak. Robust and a bit rustic now but, based on track record and vintage style, this will develop beautifully. Drink (after a rough decanting) now for rustic, chewy primary flavors or after at least ten more years (stored properly) for a developed secondary bouquet. This is steak wine (now). BearScore: 90+. (NoteDate: 09/15/14).

About the DESPAGNEs
The Despagne family have been working with vineyards in the area of St. Emilion since the early 1600s and have been land owners since 1812 when Louis Despagne (born in 1789) bough the first plots of what was then called “Crû Grand-Corbin – propriétaire Despagne” in the “Corbin” area in the northeast of the St. Emilion appellation. His son expanded the property adding more land. Towards the end of the 19th century, the name “Ch. Grand Corbin-Despagne” came into use. In the 20th century, Paul Despagne, who was an extraordinary winemaker, developed the reputation of the property by making wines of consistently high quality. When the first official classification of the growths of Saint-Emilion was made, Ch. Grand Corbin-Despagne was ranked as a Grand Cru Classé.

francoisdespagneFrançois Despagne is the seventh generation of his family to own and manage this property. After completing his studies in molecular biology (with a specialization in microbiology, oenology, and ampelology) and working advising and managing other wine properties, he took over the family estate in 1996. As its manager (both vigneron and winemaker), he continues to build on the heritage he received and improve the quality of the wines he makes. François says “The common thread in my work as a winemaker is anticipation, respect and stability, to enable me to produce the best possible wine in each vintage. Through careful monitoring and decision-making during the whole of the growing season, I aim to make a precise wine that reflects the wine’s terroir and the identity of our Grand Corbin area and is worthy of its origin, which has given it its renown for nearly 200 years.” Over the last several years François, has become a friend and information source about St. Emilion and its history and traditions. He regularly come to Texas to taste and talk about his wines and is fond of Mexican breakfast at La Mexicana. He is also the owner of and winemaker for Ch. Ampelia in Castillon – Cotes de Bordeaux.

On taking over at Ch. Grand Corbin Despagne, François Despagne quickly began an in-depth survey of all the different terroirs that make up Grand Corbin-Despagne. Located in the northeast of the Saint-Emilion appellation (adjacent to Pomerol), the estate has two main soil-types: clay-sand with iron deposits and thin layers of ancient sands over clay. Despagne dug study of 150 soil pits which together with a measuring of the soils’ water supply constraints, enabled him to plot 53 parcels, each with its own unique mix of grape variety, rootstock, vine age, and terroir. With this data, he was able to implement a plot-by-plot system of management for the vineyard. Grand Corbin Despagne has had “integrated crop management” status as early as 2006 and AFAQ-AFNOR certification since 2005, as part of the Terra Vitis sustainability charter. Today, the vines are grown organically. No weed-killers have ever been used.

I have visited Ch. Grand Corbin Despagne numerous times and have had the opportunity to taste wines at the chateau dating back to 1959 (my birth year). I state with great confidence that I cannot think of another property at this price point (under $50 per bottle) that rewards aging as much a Grand Corbin Despagne. More than anything else, these are wines for the cellar.

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