A WONDERFUL WINE WHICH TRULY REFLECTS WINEMAKING SKILLS OF THUNEVIN COUPLE AND TERROIR OF SAINT-EMILION
Jean-Luc Thunevin and Murielle Andraud
Chateau Valandraud was created in 1989, when Murielle and Jean-Luc Thunevin bought a small parcel of vines, 0.6 ha, in the outskirts of Saint-Emilion near Pavie Macquin. After several purchases since then, they have today 10 ha big vineyard with parcels placed in various areas of St.Emilion appelation. Before they started as vignerons, they owned three restaurants in Saint-Émilion and have created their wine merchant business, which still is very successful.
I'm honest and have to admit, that I wasn't impressed at all with Jean Luc's Valandraud when I tasted it for the first time in Spring 1998. I think it was vintages 1995 and 1996. At that time, everybody spoke of garage wines, old guard of vignerons on the Left and Right Bank was left sleepless, looking at great reviews of Valandraud by Robert Parker. Jean-Luc Thunevin was called names like "black sheep" or "Bad Boy", for making technical wines without character of soil. This was at least what many wine-journalists including myself thought at that time. Looking back I confess, that I was too quick in judgement and forgot one important thing - you don't build Rom in one day, everything takes time and you can't put your personal style on wine being winemaker for short time.
The funny thing was that several old guard vignerons and younger ones critised Jean-Luc in '90s for bringing in new things in winemaking, and I remember young one from famous property in Saint-Émilion saying , "I'll always make wine in traditional way, no new gimmicks and no copy of Valandraud style of winemaking, blah, blah", during my visit in 1996, and then reverting completely half a year later to modern style. I won't mention his name.
Then Valandraud and Jean-Luc wasn't my main priority to visit, due to f.i. obligation to write certain articles for wine-magazines and research on other properties, mainly in Pomerol.
First in 2007, I decided to revisit wines of Jean-Luc and tasted 2006-2005-2004 vintages of Valandraud. I was not only impressed by the stunning quality of these wines, but also of how much style and character of terroir these wines possessed. And this stunning quality has continued since then, which I've witnesed during my visits (twice a year) since 2007. I'm glad to have rediscovered Valandraud.
Jean-Luc Thunevin is a great wine personality with awesome sense of humour, blisteringly fast remarks and witty tongue. He passed his winemaking duties to his wife Murielle in 2007, chosing instead promotion of his wines around the world. Murielle's first vintage is 2008 and she told me during visit in April 2011, that Valandraud already was a complete wine thanks to Jean-Luc's winemaking skills before she stepped in, but she wanted to add more softness and richness to it, in which she's succeded extremely well. She already participated a lot during 2007 harvest, when she tried to learn as much as possible, working with her husband Jean-Luc, before taking over 100% for 2008 harvest. She wants to harvest late, when grapes have reached full phenolic ripeness. Woman touch - just taste vintages 2010-2009-2008!
She also oversees harvest and vinification of white wine. "White" vineyard is situated after the cellars of Chateau Fleur Cardinale and she started with white wine in 2003. Mr. Fakonellis (associated with Michel Rolland), who was consulting famous domains in Burgundy, is consulting here, and vinification is made after Burgundy method (batonnage de lie, etc).
Murielle is also a fabulous chef de cuisine and imho could work at any famous restaurant in the world. Everybody who's had the chance to participate in lunch/dinner at Murielle and Jean-Luc's home can confirm that.
2015 Valandraud (barrel sample) 96+p
Tasted in April 2016. Meaty and long, great structure and richness, very complex and refined, excellent depth and length, strong backbone. Impressive wine.
2014 Valandraud (barrel sample) 95p
Tasted twice - last time in April 2016. Consistent notes. Great nose and palate, excellent acidity and complexity, fabulous structure and depth. This is just so impressive wine!
2013 VALANDRAUD (barrel sample) 91-93p
Tasted in March 2014. This wine was well made with splendid complexity, ripe fruit and ripe tannin, silky texture and long smooth finish. On the light side.
2012 VALANDRAUD 94+p
Tasted three times - last time in March 2015. Consistent notes. This property continues its "hot" run. Very ripe fruit, strong and powerful, fresh, big ripe tannin. Sappy and lush. Impeccable winemaking and great success for the vintage.
2011 VALANDRAUD 95+p
Tasted three times - last time in March 2015. Consistent notes. It offered extremely complex nose of black cherries with great intensity, length, depth and structure on the palate. Very rich and complex wine. Has kept it promises from the barrel all the way to the bottle!
2010 VALANDRAUD 97p
Tasted five times - last time in March 2015. Consistent notes. This wine was seamless, long, deep, exquisite blend of black cherries and chocolate, sophisticated touch, sweet fat tannins, impeccable balance and long caressing finish. Sublime stuff and maybe the best wine ever made here.
2009 VALANDRAUD 96p
Tasted four times - last time in September 2012. Consistent notes. This wine had more intense nose than 2010, but less richness. Nothing to complain however - extremely well-made, rich and sensual wine. Kudos to Murielle Thunevin!
2008 VALANDRAUD 95p
Tasted four times - last time in September 2015. Consistent notes. stunning nose of black cherries (cérise noir) and blackberries, strong backbone, fabulous structure, great concentration and length. Great display of soil character and fabulous effort. First vintage made entirely by Murielle Thunevin.
2007 VALANDRAUD 92p
Tasted twice - last time in October 2009. Consistent notes. Very aromatic cherry fruit, round, showing silky fruit, silky tannins and finishing soft and tasty. Very seductive wine with delightful balance.
2006 VALANDRAUD 94p
Tasted three times - last time in October 2009. Beautifully composed wine, ripe berries, splendid balance, chewy, complex, great concentration and length. One of the best wines in Saint-Emilion in this vintage, that's for sure.
2005 VALANDRAUD 97p
Tasted four times - last time in April 2011. Consistent notes. Black red. Fabulous intensity on the nose of black cherries, blueberries and blackberries. Great intensity and concentration of sweet, perfectly ripe berries, and impressive fatness and length. This wine is real treat for wine-lovers and will give them a pure enjoyment for a long, long time. Exceptional effort from Jean-Luc Thunevin. All the four times I've tasted this wine, it was breathtaking and a fantastic tribute to the vintage!
2004 VALANDRAUD 93p
Tasted in October 2007. Very seductive wine with aromatic cherries and immediate appeal. Slightly less concentrated and less rich than 2006, but in every way a superb wine.
2000 VALANDRAUD 94p
Tasted in December 2013. Creamy black fruit on the nose, very aromatic. Creamy black fruit on palate, tight and concentrated, great complexity, balance and length. Smooth and long aftertaste. Impressive stuff from Jean-Luc Thunevin.
1998 VALANDRAUD 94p
Tasted in September 2015. Very aromatic on the nose and palate, sweet fruit, elegant and well-balanced. Seductive wine with silky fruit and tannin, velvety texture. At its apogeum and delightful to drink now.