Château Valandraud 2020
• Domaine: Château Valandraud
• Appellation: Saint-Emilion
• Classification: Premier Grand Cru Classé
• Origin: Right Bank, Bordeaux, France
• Importer: Laguna Cellar
In Bordeaux, there was one man who broke all the rules and created wines that kept industry giants on their toes. His name was Jean-Luc Thunevin. His wine? Château Valandraud. Though an undeniably excellent wine, Château Valandraud is important because not simply because of the contents in the bottle, but because of the story behind it. It was a wine that changed a lot of established traditions in Bordeaux -- a wine for oenophiles and renegades alike.
Château Valandraud is the home property of dynamic husband and wife duo, Jean-Luc Thunevin and Murielle Andraud. Prior to becoming a vigneron Jean-Luc was a successful négociant. In 1989, Jean-Luc and Murielle purchased a small 0.6 hectare plot close to Château Pavie Macquin. They purchased an additional 1.2 hectares of vines a bit further east in Saint Sulpice. The name, “Valandraud,” is an interesting one. The “Val,” portion comes from the location where the grapes are planted, a place called Vallon de Fongaban. The latter portion of the name, “Andraud,” is the last name of Jean-Luc’s wife, Murielle. Murielle is currently the gifted individual who makes all the wine for Château Valandraud and Jean-Luc runs the business and is the face of the operation.
Jean-Luc Thunevin and Murielle Andraud started breaking the rules fairly early on. In the 2002 vintage, Jean-Luc covered his vines with plastic tarping to protect them from potential water damage during the rainy season before harvest. The French National Institute of Appellations forbade this practice and declassified his wine as table wine in retaliation. They also forbade Jean-Luc and Murielle from putting their name on the bottles. No matter for the plucky power couple, as they simply sold their wines as, “L’Interdit de V…D.” Everybody who knew Château Valandraud knew this clever labeling hack would be their way of skirting around the rules and regulations. This earned Jean-Luc the title of the Bad Boy, of Saint-Émilion. Château Valandraud was the property that started the garagiste movement. Jean-Luc Thunevin and Murielle started their winemaking operation with virtually no money, so they made their first few vintages in a garage. This production style started an entire movement of winemaking that is now popular all over the world.
The plantings of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Carmenere thrive in clay and limestone terroir. Château Valandraud also produces a white wine, which comes from a 2 hectare plot planted with Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Sauvignon Gris. The wine is vinified depending on the needs of each varietal and the materials vary from temperature controlled wooden vats, stainless steel, or concrete fermenters. Everything at Château Valandraud is specialized in order to create the best wine possible, and the techniques are working – Château Valandraud was classified as a Premiere Grand Cru Classé Class B estate in 2012, joining the ranks of Château Figeac and Château Troplong Mondot. Without a doubt, Château Valandraud produces not one, but a series of world-class wines that cater to the oenophile and rule breaker in all of us.
"Opaque purple-black colored, the 2020 Valandraud bursts with scents of crushed black plums, boysenberries and blackberry preserves, followed by hints of dusty soil, garrigue and clove oil. The medium to full-bodied palate delivers a lot of energetic, crunchy black fruits with a lively backbone and beautifully ripe, rounded tannins, finishing long and fragrant." Lisa Perotti-Brown, May 2021 Week 3, The Wine Advocate (05/20/2021) Rating: 95-97
"Winemaker Jean-Luc Thunevin has hit a home run in the vintage, and his 2020 Château Valandraud is unquestionably up with the crème de la crème out there. Made in a ripe, sexy, plush style, it brings an incredible amount of ripe black fruit, chocolate, vanilla, espresso, and leafy herb-like aromas and flavors. This carries to a full-bodied, powerful Saint-Emilion that somehow stays weightless and graceful on the palate, with moderate acidity, ripe tannins, and a great, great finish." Jeb Dunnuck, Bordeaux 2020: En Primeur - Part 1 (05/23/2021) Rating: 97-99
"This is excellent, broad-shouldered with ample depth to the brambled fruits, liquorice, cigar box spice, with a gorgeously saline finish. Chalky, grippy tannins keep tugging you back into the body of the wine. The tannic grip is helped by a linen rather than silk texture that stops things being overly smooth and instead adds depth and interest to the powerfully knitted body, as do white flowers on the aromatics as it opens. Good stuff. 100% new oak for 24 months. A yield of 49hl/ha. Thunevin has sold a 50% stake in Valandraud to the Lefevre family at Sansonnet (also the new owners of Villemaurine, so a busy year for them)." Jane Anson, Best Saint-Émilion 2020 Wines Tasted En Primeur, (04/30/2021) Rating: 96
"The 2020 Valandraud is impressive. Inky, deep and exquisitely layered, it possesses tremendous richness in every dimension. crème de cassis, chocolate, licorice, new leather, spice and lavender build as the 2020 gains volume in the glass. Silky and plush, with magnificent balance, this is shaping up to be one of the wines of the year. A magnificent effort from Muriel Andraud and Jean-Luc Thunevin. Superb. Tasted two times." Antonio Galloni, Vinous (June 2021) Rating: 95-97