Château Angelus 2021
On the label of every bottle of Château Angélus is the picture of a bell. This Saint-Émilion Premiere Grand Cru Classé A estate is situated in a natural amphitheater, surrounded by three local churches. The property’s namesake is derived from the close proximity to these spiritual houses of worship. During the harvest, vineyard workers can hear the church bells toiling while they tend to the vines. But there’s a deeper meaning to the symbol of the bell: it also represents the spiritual and priestlike devotion the eight generations of the Boüard family have to the vines at this property. The Boüard who currently runs the estate - Stephanie de Boüard-Rivoal - puts it best. She says, “We are only the guardians of a history that presided us and will survive us, so our role is to sustain it in the best conditions we are able to achieve.”
Château Angélus is one of the few estates in Bordeaux that has been run by the same family since its inception. The Boüard family has an even longer history than Château Angélus, as their legacy spans 700 years. Château Angélus was always a respectable property in Saint-Émilion, but once Hubert de Boüard took over after graduating from Bordeaux University and studying under the famed professor Émile Peynaud, quality skyrocketed. Throughout the generations, the Boüard family business was always deeply entrenched in the wine trade. So much, in fact, that one of the original names of Cabernet Franc was Bouchet, the maiden name of Hubert de Boüard’s Grandmother, Elizabeth Bouchet.
Admittedly, the quality of the wines at Château Angélus were underperforming in the early 1980s. But once Hubert de Boüard brought forth some revolutionary techniques from Burgundy, things started to change. Hubert made adjustments to the fermentation process, choosing to ferment whole berry in open top vats and conduct malolactic fermentation in small barrels instead. He made sure the estate would harvest parcel by parcel – like the vignerons of Burgundy did – and encouraged periods of ageing their wines on the lees. This would mean the wines would have more exposure to the yeast cells, yielding a creamier mouthfeel. Many estates have emulated Château Angélus’ viticultural techniques, and though these practices may seem commonplace today they were revolutionary at the time of introduction at the estate.
Stephanie de Boüard-Rivoal took over managing the Château Angélus in 2012, which was a very big year for the property. In 2012, Château Angélus was promoted to Saint-Émilion Premiere Grand Cru Classés A – the highest honor an estate can obtain in that part of the Right Bank. Since then, Stephanie has championed the transition of Château Angélus to organic viticulture. She is the third woman in the long line of Boüards to run the estate and has managed to move the property to 100% organic farming as of 2018. As of 2021, Château Angélus received its organic certification. Stephanie says the vineyards give her emotional and spiritual strength. She shares her ancestors’ devotion to crafting some of the most profound wines on the Right Bank.
"A brilliant wine that signposts this estate's evolution under Stéphanie de Boüard-Rivoal, the 2021 Angélus is a blend of 60% Cabernet Franc and 40% Merlot, with fully half of the old-vine Cabernet Franc maturing in foudres rather than 225-liter barriques. The result is a wine of unprecedented purity and finesse, unwinding in the glass with compelling aromas of plums, raspberries, rose petals, vine smoke, blood orange and warm spices, followed by a medium to full-bodied, deep and layered palate with a rich and fleshy core that entirely conceals its structuring chassis of ultra-refined tannins. Bright and sapid, it's striking for its integration and elegance at this early stage, and I wouldn't be surprised to see it upstage a number of more touted vintages once it's in bottle." - William Kelley, The Wine Advocate (4/29/2022), Ratings: (94-96)+
"This is well textured, plush raspberry and damson fruits, a sleight of hand that turns the high acidities into mouth-watering juice, with waves of graphite, pencil lead, saffron, smoked caramel and cigar box. The highest amount of Cabernet Franc on record at Angélus, largely because so much Merlot was lost to mildew. First full vintage where Benjamin Laforet is technical director, working alongside Hubert de Bouard. It's serious, takes its time to open, far less exuberant than the past few vintages at Angélus but classy and with presence. They are labelling this Premier Grand Cru Classé A, despite withdrawing from the 2022 classification when the selection process was already underway, and underlines why it's a loss to the ranking not to have Angélus within in. 23hl/h yield, no chaptilisation on the 1st wine, 100% new oak barrels + 30hl oak casks for the Cabernet Franc." - Jane Anson, Inside Bordeaux, Ratings: 97, Drink: 2027-2042
"The 2021 Angélus contains 60% Cabernet Franc, the highest percentage ever, and also reflects an increasing use of wooden foudres (half the Cabernet Franc or 30% of the whole blend). It has a more understated bouquet compared to the bravura vintages of the last three years, demanding gentle coaxing to reveal scents of brambly black fruit, potpourri, hints of orange pith and a little sous-bois. The palate is medium-bodied with fine-grained tannins, and quite sapid, the Cabernet Franc lending a slightly more chalky texture and a linear, focused finish. Displaying fine tension throughout, though not astoundingly long, this Angelus deserves 4–5 years in bottle to show its true potential." - Neal Martin, Vinous (5/2022), Ratings: 93-95