On Thursday I attended my first In Vino Veritas tasting of the new 2009-2010 academic year at Sciences-Po. David Riefenstahl is this year’s president and it’s looking to be another vinous year, loaded with tastings and national competitions.
Château Sociando-Mallet was the featured producer. Pascale Roby, the estate’s commercial representative, guided us through a brief history of the estate and a vertical tasting of 5 wines, summarized below. The estate produces Haut-Medoc appellation wines and is located in the commune Saint-Seurin-de-Cadourne, less than 5 kilometers north of Saint-Estephe. Since the 1600s when the Sociando family purchased the land, the estate passed through many hands, including the famous Bordeaux lawyer, Guillaume Brochon. By the middle of the 19th century Madame Mallet purchased the estate, adding “Mallet” to the estate’s name. However, by the 1960s, after a succession of owners, the 115 hectare estate had only 5 hectares of vines in production. It was not until 1969 when current owner Jean Gautreau purchased the estate, that serious quality wine production began. Today the estate is known as one of the top non-classified producers of the Medoc. Mr. Gautreau considers his wine to be at par with many of the 1855 Growths but has not yet pursued any elevated classification, preferring the flexibility in vinification that is inherent in lower classifications.
Today over 85 hectares are planted with vines. 75 hectares are dedicated to the production of the first label, with an average age of vines of 35 years. The remaining 10 hectares of vines, averaging an age of 20 years, is used to produce the second label, “La Demoiselle de Sociando-Mallet”. The varietal breakdown of the whole estate is roughly ~50% Cabernet Sauvignon, ~50% Merlot, and ~5% Cabernet Franc. The soil is composed of a layer of gravel covering a subsoil of clay and limestone. Depending on the year the yields range from 50 to 55 hectoliters per hectare with a vine density of around 8,300 vines per hectare. Once in the winery the vinification follows a fairly traditional path. The estate uses 25 percent cement vats and the remaining are stainless steel. One characteristic of the wine making that Pascale pointed out was the high extraction methods. Roughly 4 pump overs are completed each day during fermentation and maceration and in some cases a “delestage” (rack and return) is done. The maceration lasts between 15 to 20 days for the second label and 20 to 40 days for the first label. Both labels are aged in oak for roughly 12 months; however, the difference is in the composition of new oak. The first label ages in 100% new oak, whereas the second label is aged in 25% new oak barrels with the remaining wine left in the stainless steel or cement vat.
Below is the breakdown of our tasting. I must say that none of the wine’s blew me away, but clearly the 2004 was my favorite, followed by the 2001. And well at least in France these bottles can be easily found for under 25 euros, so look for the ’04!
2006 La Demoiselle de Sociando-Mallet
Tasting Notes: Dark purple in the glass. A fresh, bright nose of red fruit, minerality, black cherry and vanilla. Medium tannins and good acidity in the mouth with a silky texture in the mid-palate but becoming a little course on the finish. There are flavors of black cherry, plum and dark chocolate.
Price: ~$30 @ Snooth.com
2006 Château Sociando-Mallet
Tasting Notes: Dark purple in the glass. A tighter nose, yet expressing some richness as well as good minerality and notes of black fruits. The tannins are very strong, overshadowing the nice acidity and flavors of blackberries, dark chocolate and oak.
Price: ~$50 @ Snooth.com
2004 Château Sociando-Mallet
Tasting Notes: Dark purple and slightly hazy in the glass. A more fruity and aromatic nose with notes of berries and spice. Unfortunately the aromas dissipate a little too quickly in the glass after a few minutes. This wine is rich and full-bodied with medium tannins and a great balance, allowing one to almost ignore the slightly course texture. There are flavors of plum and blackberry with plum dominating the finish. 24,500 cases produced.
Price: $40 @ Wine Spectator on release
2001 Château Sociando-Mallet
Tasting Notes: Dark purple and slightly hazy in the glass. There’s an immediate minty freshness notable on the nose as well as a subtle hint of meat and additional notes of blackberry, mineral and vanilla. This wine is very acidic with a light bitterness. Cherry Starburst comes out on the attack, mellowing out to notes of plum, blackberries, and milk chocolate. 24,580 cases produced.
Price: $25 @ Wine Spectator on release
1996 Château Sociando-Mallet
Tasting Notes: Purple with a hint of mahogany in the glass. There’s an overall roundness and thanks to Laurence I was able to pick up a little hint of cabbage on the nose. There are also more standard aromas of mineral and black fruits. In the mouth this wine is full-bodied, dark and thick with medium tannins and a meaty, bloody flavor profile, accompanied by black-blackberries. No more ageing is needed for this bottle. In fact I think it’s already began its downward progression, yet still pleasant to drink, albeit a little eclectic all around. 22,400 cases produced.
Price: $38 @ Wine Spectator current auction