Ch. PUYGUERAUD, Cotes de Francs
The PERSON: Nicolas Thienpont (of Chx. Pavie Macquin and Larcis Ducasse fame)
The PLACE: “Francs – Cotes de Bordeaux” (formerly the “Cote de Francs”) ont on the extreme eastern edge of Bordeaux.
Ch. Puygueraud has been on my go-to Bordeaux list for as long as I have had a go-to list. It is well grown and well made under the direction of one of the right bank’s best estate managers – Nicolas Thienpont. It tastes like what it is and where it’s from and there is no hint of over-manipulation or over-extraction or over-pricing. Instead, Ch. Puygueraud is solid and reliable and comforting all the while serving as a reference standard for right bank reds in a certain price range. If the appellation were fancier, the wine – exactly as it is – would sell for a lot more.
I was first introduced to Ch. Pygueraud back in the early 1980s by François Thienpont (youngest sone of George and brother of Nicolas, more on whom below) who was then in Houston “learning English and chasing girls” (from his unofficial but corroborated biography). He has since become the owner of his own Bordeaux negoçiant “Wings” and in that role supplies Bordeaux wines to Spec’s. He also spends at least one day every year shepherding me around the right back (St. Emlion, Pomerol, etc.) properties in Bordeaux. As part of the Thienpont Famly (younger brother of Nicolas Thienpont), he is part owner of Ch. Pugueraud and Vieux Ch. Certan (among others) and has an inside track on properties owned or managed by his family members such as Chx. Le Pin, l’If, Pavie-Macquin, Berliquet, and Larcis Ducasse. Aside from all that, he’s a pretty good guy. In any case, I have been a fan of Puygueraud since I was first exposed to it and still am.
The Ch. Puygueraud property was acquired by George Thienpont in 1946 and he subsequently replanted it with vines towards the end of the 1970’s. Since 1983 his son, Nicolas Thienpont (of Pavie Macquin and Larcis Ducasse fame), has been responsible for the winemaking. Under their direction, Ch. Puygueraud has become the reference standard for the Francs (formerly Cote de Francs) appellation and generated interest in and in fact a revival and renewal of this lesser known area at the edge of Bordeaux’s limestone plateau east of St. Emilion. The chateau and its vineyards are located on the eastern edge of the Cotes de Francs (a Right Bank appellation which is itself located on the eastern edge the whole of Bordeaux). The soils are clay over limestone. Everything is done right but there is no fussiness.
The property is planted to 70% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Malbec on clay-limestone on limestone rock with clay and marl. The ground here is fairly flat. The vines are trellised a bit higher than, say, in the Haut Medoc and mechanical harvesters are employed.
The wines are fermented in temperature-controlled stainless-steel tanks with pump-overs and an extended post fermentation maceration. The dry wines go through malo-lactic in the barrels and get some lees stirring during their 12-16 months in a mix of French oak barrels with about 40% new each year. If they need a breath of air, micro oxygenation is employed.
While it seems logical to say that Nicolas Thienpont is the driving force behind Puygueraud, this is a case where the land seems to speak at least as loudly as the winemaker. Puygueraud is very much a wine of its place.
Ch. PUYGUERAUD, Cotes de Francs, 2010 ($21.84)
A 14.5% alcohol blend of 70% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Malbec fermented using pump-over in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks and aged 14 months in French oak barrels (40% new). Deep purple in color with well formed legs; dry, medium-full-bodied with freshly balanced acidity and medium plus phenolics. Juicy, lively, mostly black fruit with a limestone terroir note; supple dusty oak and accents of black pepper, black flowers, red flowers, cocoa, and dark spice. Long finish, fresh, alive-in-the-mouth, complete. It might repay some keeping (3 or so more years) but why would you? It is delicious now. BearScore: 91.