If you read our emails regularly, you’re well aware that my infatuation for blue-chip Bordeaux evolves into fanatical obsession when Château Chantecler makes a limited appearance. This culty estate releases a single micro-cuvée each year that is (1) an iconic representation of the legendary Pauillac appellation, (2) a rare-earth magnet for Bordeaux collectors of the highest order, and (3) a bonafide blockbuster in its youth. However, these wines are so profoundly delicious and classic upon release, holding onto a stash of any size has become a dreadfully hard task for me—and I’m afraid that won’t be changing anytime soon. Today, we’ve been granted limited access to their recently landed 2017 Grand Vin, a Pauillac of epic proportions that has broken through the perfection barrier and entered an investment-grade category all its own.
For those who are unaware, this is certified Grade-A Bordeaux for serious collectors and “buy low/sell high” investors. Here’s the insider info: While First Growth powerhouses Lafite and Mouton Rothschild scrap over which will command Pauillac’s highest prices in the 2017 vintage ($500-$1,000), next-door neighbor Chantecler quietly produces less than 300 cases (the Rothschild clan make tens of thousands) for 5-10x less. And I use “neighbor” literally: Dead center of Pauillac’s extortionate real estate sits one lone hectare of vines surrounded by the iconic trinity of Mouton Rothschild, Lafite Rothschild, and Pontet-Canet. Simply put, this is a truly extraordinary, truly authentic Bordeaux that squashes its luxury neighbors in the price-to-quality department. If you want a taste of the best, there is no smarter investment or savvier buy than this hand-crafted, top-class Bordeaux. We can part with up to six bottles per person.
You may have seen this property receiving top honors in Decanter’s magazine piece, “The Last Little Guys of Pauillac,” but Chantecler’s is a fascinating story that is worth exploring further. Yannick Mirande grew up in wine and his family has owned and worked vineyards in Pauillac for many generations. Over the years, the Mirande family assembled a respectable 12-hectare collection of vineyards and were able to earn a living selling their harvest to prestigious neighbors like Mouton and Lafite. In the aftermath of the 2000 “vintage of the century” hysteria, demand for Pauillac fruit skyrocketed and real estate values quickly followed suit. Yannick’s aunt was unable to resist the temptation of selling almost all the Mirandes’ vines to Mouton Rothschild in 2004. Fortunately, Yannick salvaged the family’s crown jewel, a one-hectare hillside parcel of a Pauillac lieu-dit, “Plateau de Padarnac,” for himself. Over the next six years, he continued farming and improving his small vineyard, selling fruit to various cru classé neighbors, and apprenticing while honing his skills in the cellar.
Having made great strides as a winemaker and vigneron, Yannick finally released his first vintage of Château Chantecler in 2010, made from that one single hectare. Even today, he still only bottles a few hundred cases of this one cuvée, composed of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot. To put that in context, consider that neighboring Mouton, Lafite, and Pontet-Canet own 676 acres of vines in Pauillac and produce a combined 60,000+ cases of their Grand Vin each vintage!
Yannick farms his small plot of vines using a hybrid of organic and biodynamic practices. The soil in this hillside site is classic Pauillac gravel, with vines averaging 50 years of age. All grapes are de-stemmed, and aging occurs in new (60%) and once-used barrels for 18 months. The wine is lightly fined with egg whites before bottling.
There’s no other way to put it: Yannick keeps one-upping his own wine. We called his 2015 a masterstroke, and then his 2016 a legendary triumph because nobody thought it could match the power, concentration, and stunning perfume of the previous five-star vintage...until it did. And, now, here we are staring at the ‘17 in the glass and asking ourselves if this is the best we’ve tasted. We either have the memory of a goldfish or it truly is the finest of his eight releases, and we’re going with the latter: This reveals a dense, dark ruby core with vibrant magenta-purple reflections and wastes no time whatsoever revealing its aromatic firepower. That said, the longer you decant this, the better it will be—I suggest two hours to start, and, yes, you can and should sip on a few ounces while you wait. Chantecler’s 2017 Pauillac explodes with dried plums, redcurrant, crushed blackberry, black cherry skin, cassis, candied violet, crushed graphite, baked earth, cedar box, pipe tobacco, cloves, star anise, and shaved nutmeg. The medium-plus bodied palate is simultaneously lush and powerful with heaps of gravelly savor and sleek berry fruit adding to an already lengthy finish. This is one of the rare expressions of Pauillac that is already so intricately complex and integrated in its youth but will also age beautifully for decades to come—and it’s worth mentioning the others are far more expensive and nowhere near as limited. Stock up now or forever hold your peace!