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Sociando Mallet 2002, 2003, 2007 2012, 2014

Sociando Mallet is unique in shaping my tasting career: it helps form my concept of quality in wine. What struck me most about Sociando Mallet is their consistency. . Not only are they excellent in the good years, but they are also very well made in the less-good times. While it's always true that not all tasters like the Socialndo Mallet style, its performance, at least in the eyes of Parker et al., is always far better in structure, harmony, elegance and balance than some of the Crus, regardless of the vintage conditions.

Based in the Haut-Medoc just north of St Estephe, Sociando Mallet did not exist at the time of the 1855 classification and had no chance to opt to enter the Cru Bourgeois system. Neither a classed growth nor a Cru Bourgeois, Sociando-Mallet is structurally placed as an anomaly. To me, Sociando-Mallet is just too good to be classified. And this query, do we need classification systems at all, is always on my mind.

The average age of the vines is 35 years, with 55% being Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc; hence there are always complexities and intensities with the wines. The great vineyard sites, which lie on gravel over a clay-limestone subsoil sloping down to the river, are unusual in that they ripen quicker than their more southerly counterparts and are therefore picked earlier. The Chateau’s wines are always matured in 100% new barrels; hence there is always a spectrum of nose and taste.

This is rare for a non-classed growth, but the fact the wines absorb this amount of new oak so comfortably underlines their structure and quality. With 20 years+ of ageing for these 4 off-vintaged sets, all vintages are woven with silky fruit/wood tannins with unique wine structures. Yet all vintage shows peculiar characters. All vintages tasted are rough 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, and 5% Cabernet Franc. Fruit tones(primary, secondary and tertiary) are overall still balanced.

2002 reflects the fruity character of the vintage. Deep ruby with a medium garnet rim gives a classic Haut Medoc bouquet with a pleasant fruity touch and melted tar and graphite aromas with time. Masculine and earthy, the palate is somewhat grainy, barely drying, and in synthesis with the structure. This 2002 is precisely the kind of good work Sociando Mallet can do in a difficult vintage.

2003 is mega-concentrated. With silky tannins, sappy acidity, and excellent fruit length, the fruit nose is primary mainly, with few signs of evolution. Tannins are sweet. With deep ruby with a medium garnet rim, it noses notes of blackberries, blackcurrants and a pleasant touch of eucalyptus. On the palate, it is fruity, fresh, balanced and persistent finish(tones of cedar, leather, spices).

2007 gives medium ruby red with a tight garnet rim. Roasted notes mark the bouquet with a little fruity expression. Allowed it to breathe, there are notes of ripe, black fruit. On the palate, the wine is slightly creamy and balanced. However, just like the bouquet, it struggles to express itself. It may need more time.

2012 is more opened-up and drinking nicely now; a good light claret. With a deep ruby with purple reflections, it is a refreshing, well-typed bouquet with notes of eucalyptus, mint and a little black tea—fruity and lively mouthfeel. On the palate, the wine has freshness and a floral touch. It lacks flesh, but the structure is there.

2014. Deep, ruby, tight rim. Lots of potential. Intense Blackcurrant tones. Smoky aroma; austere, robust build, dense, of good length, tensioned; the style has remained faithfully Sociando-Mallet, but compared to the primeur pattern, it appears harsher and has lost some of its balance—mineral finish, full-bodied, structured, as intense as the nose. It could taste too low for some. Steadfast.

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