We waited almost fifteen years to compare bottles of Saint Emilion again (the last time was in October 2005). That's way too long of a gap, because these are outstanding wines, showing a sense of place paired with refinement and solid dark fruit flavors.
Our winner turned out to be the oldest bottle of the night, with eighteen years of age on it, and although it showed some mellowness, it was neither tired nor over-the-hill. Our second-place wine was only behind the winner by two points, coming from the outstanding 2016 vintage.
None of the bottles exceeded $40, which was somewhat surprising for this appellation, and the second and third place entries were both great values.
First Place: Domaine Chante Alouette Cormeil Saint Emilion Grand Cru 2002. Looks a little cloudy, with scents of wet concrete floor, mint, gas station, plums, and dried cranberries. Maybe a little bit of funk. Andy felt that "this smells like a house being renovated." Black olives on the attack, then moves to flavors of blueberry and plum, with a long bright finish that hints of brine. About 65% Merlot, with Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Andy, Kristin, and Cathy's favorite, for a total of 23 points. David's bottle. About $32.
Second Place: Château Lusseau Saint Emilion Grand Cru 2016. Smells dark, with notions of mushrooms, wet soil, boysenberry, and burnt toast. Ali was reminded of "a really meaty licorice." Those dark qualities continued on the palate, with flavors reminiscent of cigar shop, cedar, baseball glove, dark coffee, and a bit of must. There's a streak of iron through it too, plus pomegranate and cranberry. David felt that the flavor was "like you licked a pail", while Ali thought it was "fortifying." Smooth texture, but finishes with toothy tannins. Composed of 70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. Ali's favorite of the night, with a total of 21 points. Cathy's bottle. About $22.
Third Place: Château La Couronne Saint Emilion Grand Cru 2015. The brownest in color, with aromas of black pepper, bell pepper, cranberry, sandalwood soap, and brine. Andy commented that "This is a soap I would use, for sure", with Ali following up with, "This is a soap you do use." The most mellow on the palate, it was pretty, but did not have a lot of fruit, rather notions of wet stone, toffee, licorice, and coffee. Like copper toward the finish, it seemed a little faded. About 60% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc. Everyone gave this at least one point, with a total of 14. Ali's bottle. About $24.
Château La Révérence Saint Emilion Grand Cru 2016. Smelled a bit musty, like old man's cologne, or a dark aged library. Included scents of bergamot, black pepper, menthol, cinnamon, and bicycle tube. Kristin was reminded of "mysterious guy in a study." Great, plump texture, showing flavors of plums, dark cherries, wild black cherry, cough medicine, and chocolate. Cathy felt that is was "almost chewy", while Ali detected "chocolate covered marshmallow." Made from half Merlot and half Cabernet Franc. David's favorite. 11 points. Andy's bottle. About $26.
Château Pipeau Saint Emilion Grand Cru 2016. Started off perfumed and floral, like lilies and violets, then moved to something more herbal, like thyme. Kristin found "used book store." Dark and tannic in the mouth, with flavors of licorice, molasses, espresso, and chocolate-covered coffee bean. The tooth-coating quality had Andy feeling that "it's like a tooth sweater." Greener on the finish, with suggestions of bell pepper and apple. Maybe a little unforgiving right now. Mark's favorite. 11 points. Kristin's bottle. About $36.
Château Cormeil Figeac Saint Emilion Grand Cru 2011. Like fresh cut grass and cedar on the nose, plus dried red roses. Ali was turned off by this bottle's aroma, describing scents of trash, but Cathy was reminded of Chanel perfume. A little more bland and watery compared to some of the others, with tasters finding flavors of lavender, orange peel, and lemon thyme. Lacks concentration, with a short finish. Only Mark voted for this, with 4 points. Mark's bottle. About $40.