Ch. Cantin, St-Emilion

What can one expect of a bottle of Saint-Emilion Grand Cru?   Due to the rules of the appellation,  expectations should be limited as 50% of the wine is deemed to be Grand Cru.  (If you want the really classy stuff the label needs to read Premier Grand Cru Classé – or of course you need to know the individual chateau.)  Then the wine should be made predominantly from Merlot though it can be a blend with the two Cabernets, Sauvignon and Franc.  As a result the fruit should be rich and plummy and the structure should be present but with a soft, even pliable backbone, unlike the straighter lines of Cabernet Sauvignon-dominated wines of the Médoc.  And finally, if you want something that is a bit special, you should expect to pay for it.  The appellation is not huge (5,400 hectares, 6% of the vast Bordeaux vineyard) and there is a demand for the earlier drinking, luscious charms of Merlot, as long as you don’t call it that. 

Ch. Cantin

Ch. Cantin 2009

Château Cantin is a part of Les Grand Chais de France group.  Its staple is the J.P. Chenet range which is apparently the largest selling French brand in the world so they must be doing something right.  This bottle, provided as a sample, is an illustration of the way they are trying to up their game and get a foothold in the premium wine market at an affordable price.  Ch. Cantin 2009 is available at Waitrose Wine Cellar at just under £25.  

I tasted the wine blind and thought I was much further south than Bordeaux.  I couldn’t really place it – thats not its problem but mine! – but certainly noticed the layers of smoke and spice from oak, the ripe, even super ripe fruit, and the evident alcohol.  I guessed a spot-on 14.5% alcohol by volume, a rare occurrence indeed.  My second guess was that it was a Merlot-dominated claret from Bordeaux. Having had that confirmed, I said that the consultant must be Michel Rolland which admittedly covers a lot of chateaux, but turned out to be correct. Apparently M. Rolland’s first year as consultant was indeed the 2009. 

This is a good value example of the currently fashionable, highly extracted Merlot from a great and early drinking vintage, the warm 2009.  In the glass it is clear from the deep colour and the intensity of the palate that very ripe fruit has been picked and that the berries have been kept in contact with the juice for a good long time, both Rolland hallmarks. There is 10% of Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% of Cabernet Franc to fill out the Merlot and the wine has spent a year in oak barrels.  

This would make a good step up for those  are intrigued by wine and wish to trade up to something. What they will experience is a wine of some real intensity and complexity but one that remains drinkable and approachable. Even the high alcohol is reminiscent of warmer New World wines which most wine-drinkers now start with and is pretty well matched by the fruit.  It is not mean, slightly green Bordeaux as we used to know it and probably the better for that.  

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