“It was just, like, a dream.”
Thibaut Decoster and wife Magali (a Bordeaux native) knew basically nothing about farming and winemaking. No prior experience working the land. No family in the industry. So naturally they now own four wineries across twenty-eight hectares of vineyards in Bordeaux.
“My dream was to be a farmer,” Thibaut Decoster told me during a one-on-one virtual video tasting of some of his brands’ 2016 releases. While in Paris (where Magali was working in sports marketing), the Decosters studied the wine business before jumping in with purchases, with Thibaut subsequently doing harvest and cellar-rat work to get hand-on experience in Bordeaux. Thibaut himself has never really had any other job; being a student before, his journey to becoming a vintner was “straight after diploma” as he put it.
The Decosters settled on Saint-Emilion, as that happened to be the Bordeaux region that made up his first formative tasting experience. As you’ll see below, the couple are quick studies…
2016 Chateau de Candale (Saint-Émilion Grand Cru)
This is a small Bordeaux spot with a rather large history. As Bordeaux Travel Guide put it:
“Château de Candale has been a fixture of the Saint-Émilion landscape for centuries. It was originally founded by Lady Margaret, Countess of Kendal, sometime in the 1400s. Lady Margaret was a descendant of Edward III, who was King of England and Duke of Aquitaine. She married the Castelnau-de-Médoc born Jean de Foix, whom became the Earl of Kendal. Their titles in the French form were Comte de Candale and Comtesse de Candale, which gave the name to the château. As with so many Bordeaux châteaux, Château de Candale would change hands many times throughout the centuries. In modern history, the Adams family and owners of neighboring Chateau Fonplegade sold Château de Candale to Jean Louis Vicard in 2010. The Vicards are well known in the Bordeaux wine region and Cognac for their barrel making company, Cooperage Vicard, which was founded in 1875. But in this venture into wine-making at Château de Candale, Jean Louis increased the size of the vineyards to the current 13 hectares.”
This Merlot (with a bit of Cabernet Franc) is grown on the south-facing clay and limestone hills, resulting in what Thibaut calls “a sunny wine.” He described the 2016 harvest season in general as “fantastic,” with little pressure demanding when to pick. While this one is fresh for sure, it is, indeed, showing its sunny side: open, fruity, mineral, plummy, full of red currants, black olives, and dark, dried herbal spices. It’s a modern, showy Bordeaux red, with plenty of power and heft on the back-end, but absolutely ready for some steak pairing right now.
2016 Chateau La Commanderie (Saint-Émilion Grand Cru Classé)
Another Merlot and Cab Franc mix, from 40-year-old vines, but this time grown on gravelly soils with ferruginous sand and clay, right on the border with Pomerol. Thibaut called this one “more feminine and charming” and was going for a more “delicate style.” Red fruits abound, as do some wonderful spice notes, including toast, herbs, and dried flowers. it’s poised, beautifully integrated, and almost dangerously easy to like. Things get deeper and more plummy on the palate, but the balance never waivers.
2016 Chateau Clos des Jacobins (Saint-Émilion Grand Cru)
This spot (where the Decosters now happen to live) forms a bit of a plateau around the village of limestone and clay, where 30-year-old Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon vines provide the raw materials for this release. Less sunny and cooler than the vineyard sites for the previous two wines above, with less drainage, a more Old World style Bordeaux red results: earthy, mineral, smoky, and full of fresh and dried herbal aromas. The fruits are darker, and the composition of elements feels a bit more complex, deeper, and more focused. Mineral and leathery throughout, this one will need time to develop in the bottle (warranting return trips).
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