Château Cantemerle 2016
• Domaine: Château Cantemerle
• Appellation: Haut Médoc
• Classification: Fifth Growth, 5ème Grand Cru Classé
• Origin: Left Bank, Bordeaux, France
• Importer: Laguna Cellar
Château Cantemerle produces a wine perfectly tailored to the modern drinker. This Fifth Growth Haut Médoc estate yields age worthy wines featuring the traditional Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, yet the wines are significantly softer and less aggressive than some of the more sturdy, tannic, and almost port-like wines of the Médoc. For drinkers who enjoy luscious fruit, silkier tannins, and great value wines, Château Cantemerle is definitely a producer worth paying attention to.
Château Cantemerle is one of the first famous estates any individual fortunate enough to travel to Bordeaux will see when driving along the famous route D2. The Fifth Growth Haut Médoc estate also happens to be one of the oldest properties in the Bordeaux wine region boasting a rich and colorful history. Historic documents date the property all the way back to the 12th Century. On the grounds of the estate, one will find hundreds of blackbirds crowing among the vines, and this is how the Château Cantemerle receives its namesake. The word, “merle” is French for blackbird and, “canta,” derives from the French word, “chantar,” meaning, “to sing.” This interesting name for the estate led to one of the most famous, talked-about legal cases in Bordeaux in the 19th Century.
The property was owned by the shrewd businesswoman Madame Villenueve Durfort and was already a well-known winemaking estate at the time. The owner of the neighboring property, Château Pibran, renamed his property, Chadeuil Cantemerle Château Pibran. This naturally led to confusion among the two estates, and Madame Villenueve was a woman who suffered no fools. Eventually, she took the owner – a man named Pierre Chadeuil - to court and though he argued, “Cantemerle,” was a region and not a name he lost and was forced to pay damages. But this wouldn’t be the first time Madame Villenueve fought hard for her estate. During the 1855 Classification, when Château Cantemerle was initially left out of the document, Madame Villenueve marched over to the négociants, bringing 40 years of books that proved her wine was selling for as much or more than the other Classified Growths. She won, and Château Cantemerle received its well-deserved ranking as a Fifth Growth estate within a year.
Any property with a legacy spanning as long as that of Château Cantemerle is bound to have its fortunes rise and fall. The property was pummeled by phylloxera at the turn of the century and a particularly nasty bout of downy mildew for almost a decade. In the modern era, Château Cantemerle is owned by the SMATB group who continues to put investments into the estate and improve it. Everything is harvested, sorted, and destemmed by hand at Château Cantemerle. They view their winemaking as a sort of, “soft infusion process,” and there is very little pressing involved. The goal is to produce age worthy wines with supple, airy tannins featuring refined fruit. Without a doubt, the property’s journey is an exciting one and we look forward to what the future holds.
"The 2016 Cantemerle has a tightly wound bouquet and it never quite delivers the detail and mineralité that some of its peers have produced in this vintage. There are attractive undergrowth scents and a touch of tobacco, but it does not leap from the glass with joy. The palate is medium-bodied with supple tannin, good depth of fruit, blackberry laced with cedar and graphite. One sample was missed a little precision, however, a second and third demonstrated much more precision and tension. My score reflects this." - Neal Martin, Robert Parker's Wine Advocate (4/28/2017, Issue 230), Ratings: 90-92, Drink: 2020-2030
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