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Violets. Violets. Violets. Strawberries and raspberries.

There are always some pastille tones/shades to the red fruit on aeration. Almost all vintages then give a brighter and more intense ruby colour; they have lots of interesting dry extract (rose, violets, lavender, with quality freshness (strawberries fruit) and fruit precision(blackcurrant, pastilles). Well-structured and reasonably complex, all bottles start with smoky cassis and new oak (mocha coffee and vanilla), good purity of fruit (ripe red, dark to mix), a bright core and well-worked tannins. On the palate, the fruit profile turns complex- always fruity and round with strawberries, raspberry and blackcurrants. With suitable fruit lengths of quality Cru, all vintages are easy without losing the intensity; tense without losing the balance. And all bottles are excellent for all occasions. However, if you are looking for a super complex Margaux set, these Malescote St Exupery bottles may be for someone else.

The stylistics will say: a clean, balanced and fruity modern wine.

The Malescote St Exuprety style is reflected in the technicals summarised as follows. Vinification/ Maturation/Temperature controlled and matured in 100% new oak(sometimes less); hence the wine is bold and powerful. All vintages undergo malolactic in the barrel depending on the vintage, ageing on lees with stirring; hence, there are always adequate intensity, complexities and textural touch. Mostly 13-14 months of barrel ageing before being racked without fining or filtration; therefore, the creaminess. ABV is just right; almost all vintages are at 13.5%, so this wine is full-bodied. All vintages are 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, and 8% Petit Verdot; the varied grapes mean creating better complexity over time. The mInerality finish is more from the soil gravel overlying chalk or marl slopes towards the Gironde. Fruit is picked into trays to prevent crushing; hence, the freshness.

2007 has lifted acidity on the palate, leading to an extended finish. It now has traits of clarets; some complexity, maturity and tertiary tones still fruit. 2011 has excellent structure-lean, slightly austere, with elegance. 2014 is floral, solid, seamless and long. Its fruit profile drumming on a different beat-blueberry and minerality. 2015 is easy to understand and is very lovely. Farr wrote aptly, 'inky colour with a dense black fruit nose. The palate is rich with mouth-filling tannins and a glycerol texture, which gives the blackcurrant and cherry fruit an oozing ripeness. The finish is pure cassis with a bit of creamy vanilla. Plush with no hard edges. Edited.' 2017 is tight with minerality- good fruit with a dry finish.

What are the stylistics of contemporary CDPs? I asked this question in my MW class years back because I saw the market and product requirements for more structure of the then domination grape Grenache and asked for a solution, if any.

Where some friends venture to change the composition to include more Syrah, and fellow wine-maker students did eventually work on that, Xavier, who handcrafted his wines in Rhone, seems to have re-iterated the solution he had during the tasting: he uses blending and found out the GSM grapes that can compensate for the loss of the acidity- an obvious example is his Barbare Estate Cuvee 2012 which showed excellent lost rigidity of the low ph now found in Turkey. Using old trees and never grafted roots is the other attempt, when he cited examples of the great success from the basic-Du -Rhone Rouges 2018, for which he painstakingly blended 76 parcels of land with trees aged from 100 to 45 years. He believed old vines give rigidity. Another example is Giondas 2019, an effort of co-fermenting grapes from some 80-100-year-old trees. Also, his other wine Arcane is from 100-year-old trees.

Eventually, I tasted and wrote on the wines Xavier showed me yesterday afternoon, 14 April 2023.

A delicious wine. In the spirit of making NV champagne, Xanier's Chateau du Pape Blanc de Noir Almutia is an across vintage and blanc and noir grapes, using white juice. Orchard and stone fruit-fresh; floral(lavender); almost looks oily. The palate is intensely citrus, radiating, with a complete and spiced finish: tea leaves and some milder dry fruit surface over time in the second sip. The structure intensifies after 30 minutes—an excellent fruit length for a simple wine. This little white is a great introduction to his friendly wines as if they are any great beverage, bending across vintages and terroir, among other things. I intend this as a compliment because all the wines I tasted had good balance, great intensity, good complexity and reasonably long length. In addition, they have a unique chance and texture of their own. I will buy this wine.

Another nice wine. A Cote-du-Rhone 2018 this fresh is something interesting; if it has some Beaujolais taints, the colour is shiny and bright ruby with a tight pink rim. There are hovering tones of violets, lavender, focused cherry and blueberry fruit; the core is meatily tight, with cloves and nutmeg, skin bitterness and dark chocolate finishing elements. Many fine tannins are still edgy and add nicely to the texture of the finish, which is rare in a basic entry wine. There is intensity, also radiance. Pleasant surprises- becoming expansive and entirely in taste after 30 minutes. Alcohol is balanced; acceptable length.

Energy, energy, energy. Arcane Le Soleil 2015 is coloured clear deep ruby with pink tones. Now fasten your seatbelt. Fuller and sweetly spiced, the nose is red fruit driven with tones of ripe blueberries. A bit plasticky on the nose to start, but the fruit energized extremely well after some minutes. Understandably malolactic fermentation and ageing for 18 to 48 months depending on parcels, masked and suppressed the nose. 85% aged wood and 15% new oak were used. Weaknesses are: mid-palate too strong, perceived abv on the high side, fruit is masked. I may keep some bottles for curiosity.

Acidity, acidity, acidity. You can do miracles riding in warm climates with these excellent attributes. The fruit profile of Barbare Estate Cuvee 2012 is fresh and ripe cherries, dry raisins, and Christmas Puddings on the riper side, radiating focused, linear and direct, and there is so much balance! The palate is structured, textured, shining, and spicy; there is a fullness to the stomach. Full-bodied; extremely balanced as well. Xavier told us these grapes are from Turkey. This is my biggest surprise for the afternoon. 2012 fruit this fresh-no way. I will buy this wine for fun because this is a unique wine.

Back to traditionality. Drumming on a different beat, Gigonda 2019 is deep ruby with a medium rim. On the nose, dry flowers, dry fruit skin, Chan Pei, and elements of whiskies. Ingredients of fruit, such as prunes and raisins, are lurking behind. The palate is controlled with well-tamed alcohol and spices, leading to a dark chocolaty yet slightly plasticky finish. Composition is 95% Grenache and 5% Mourvedre, co-fermented.

Drinkable, here and now. Arcane l'Hermit 2016 is one of the most drinkable- the classic fruit profile, spices, liquorice, and exceptionally smooth and round finish. It is also one of the most age-worthy wines well made.

My fav. Deep purple with purple hues, this crafted CDP Anonyme 2017 is fresh with black fruits mixed with notes of spices and undergrowth. It is dense and perfumy, supple and bodied(ABV 15%); not much nuance to start without undue concentration, chalky and rippling finish. Made in only 5000 bottles, this 2017 vintage uses hand-picked grapes, traditional vinification, ageing in quarts of 25% in half-casks, 25% in casks, 25% in conical wooden vats, and 25% in concrete tanks. The blend is from Centurion Grenache, Vaccarèse, Counoise, Mourvèdre, Cinsault, Terret Noir, Muscardin, Picpoul, and Clairette sourced from more than different parcels scattered among the appellation. How can Xavier do this so well, and the fruit is so vibrant? Why this tastes is so focused? So intriguing. I got this as a present from my supplier who is leaving the company. I confessed I belittled this bottle even though I heard quite some about the breadth and depth of the work by Xavier Vignon Southern Rhone Valley, including Raymond Usseglio, La Nerthe, Gardine, Mont Redon, Maucoil and others. I like the name Cuvee Anonyme( literally no-name), which I came across in my first Sociology class. I will buy and sell this wine.

Finale. Natural fruit, balanced, textured, fine tannins. Structured, intense, balanced, and good length. Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2000 is an enjoyable, harmonious piece of art.

Who says CDPs lack the Bordeaux and Burgundian tannic structure? Not with these wines I tasted in the afternoon.

Updated: Apr 18

No other ink needs to be spilt on Chateau Lagrange 2008. The blackberry and pu erh tea aroma and flavours of the 2008 Lagrange left the Team with a significant impression. It has a core of ripe, generous black fruit from the riper merlot with integrated tannins; this is a well-made, impressive wine and showed Chateau Lagrange’s capabilities in an otherwise average vintage(almost like frozen and limited fruit). This neat and clean style, endowed by Emile Peynaud, Marcel Ducasse and Bruno Eynard, stands Lagrange out from other wines from the same St. Julien Appellation, including Talbot, Beychevelle, St Pierre, Gloria, etc. Scores are RP93, NM92, and Dcanter92.

Deep rubied with a tight pink rim, 2010 has the right balance of tension(structure) and elegance(poise, finesse). The house style is almost unmistakable, with, for this vintage, a sleek and saline touch that gives excellent value. surely a wine to keep for some years. Sscores are impressive, JS96, for example.

Deep ruby with a medium rim, 2011 gives clean blackcurrant, raspberries and longan fruit. Oak treatment wears 2011 with a delicate and gentle touch- pure fruit, lightish touch. Austere to start, very enjoyable and friendly to finish. Scores are good, for example, RP93.

This is a consolidation of the tasting and papers

written from 2006 to 2013. These write-ups had been with the orginal site Wine and Beyond, Yahoo, until the service stopped by Yahoo in September 2013.


For years I have been working with wines, either buying it, selling it to wine companies, lecturing and writing about it, and, not unimportantly, enjoying it with friends. If any of the articles on this site are worth reading it is due to my teachers, my mentors, my peers and friends, my students, and in particularly my editors who ignite in me a desire to communicate in wines.


Clinging to the trellis of wine, I started to get more and more involved with estates and winemakers, by supporting them with consultancy in communication and marketing. The more I spend my time outside Hong Kong, the more I sense a desire to be part of the international wine family.


Writing about wine represents a moment of reflection, curiosity, atitudes and a desire to analyse often hidden structures and history, in an effort to make the wealth of wine accessible to a targetted, and hopefully larger audience.


I am not sure if I can wine proivde more accessible to all through this blog. But I am sure to write in wine means being involved in wine and  to remain as impartial and objective as possible.


Kevin Tang.

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