Commit the name ‘Montagne Saint-Émilion’ to memory. This vastly underrated AOC is a cherished source of outstanding Right Bank Bordeaux—without the expensive prices of its immediate neighbors.
Its 1,600 hectares of vineyards are dedicated exclusively to red wine, and mixed clay/limestone soils are strikingly similar to those of Saint-Émilion itself (they’re only separated by a small slip of river). Château Haut-Goujon is approaching its 110th vintage, but unless you’re a local, it’s probably a new name: Their all-consuming dedication to quality over quantity means their modest production is mostly snapped up by the French. Family-owned and operated since the turn of the century, Haut-Goujon predates the establishment of the Montagne Saint-Émilion AOC by 24 years, and 2015 may be their best vintage to date. By now your Spidey-senses should be tingling: elite terroir, outstanding year, and an unerring ability to fine-tune sustainable viticulture with modern French winemaking. No wonder Haut-Goujon is one of my favorite new discoveries. Tasting hundreds of Bordeaux wines can be exhausting, until a fresh, sumptuous wine like this brings my palate back to life and reminds me why I’m there in the first place. If this 2015 is any indication, you’ll be hearing about Château Haut-Goujon for years to come—don’t hesitate, because this beautifully polished gem is likely to disappear quickly!
Elie Garde planted the first Merlot vines on his property in 1912. Was he aware that he was founding one of the greatest châteaux in a then-unestablished AOC? Probably not. But he had every intention of starting a legacy. Elie was just the first Garde to steward the château. Today it’s Corinne, Mickaël, and Vincent. They took over in 1995 and have worked every day since to implement forward-thinking sustainability initiatives. The Gardes have focused on developing biodiversity, closing the loop on waste materials through impressive recycling initiatives, converting to organic farming, and investing in their employees’ education. To drink Château Haut-Goujon is to feel the cumulative passion of a family working in symbiosis with their land—that’s a great feeling.
Today, the Gardes have 18 hectares spread over two appellations: Lalande-de-Pomerol and Montagne-Saint-Émilion (just four hectares!). The soils here combine gravel, clay, limestone, and iron-rich sand known locally as crasse de fer—the exact soil found at benchmark Saint-Émilion properties such as Cheval-Blanc. Haut-Gougon’s ’15 is an intriguing mashup of sanguine, peppery Saint-Émilion characteristics and the velvety, plummy richness of Pomerol.
By now, you’ve heard how good 2015 vintage was. But stellar vintages usually come with stunning price tags. Thankfully, the weather in Montagne-Saint-Émilion was pretty much exactly the same as the weather in Saint-Émilion proper, so we can enjoy a legendary vintage without getting gouged. Across the board, 2015 produced flamboyant, sensuous, richly textured wines. Château Haut-Goujon’s 2015 is no exception. April was hot, June was hotter, and July was absolutely scorching. Thankfully light August rains provided enough moisture for the growth cycle to continue uninterrupted. It’s not the first time these 30-year-old vines have endured a hot summer, and the resulting grapes were hand-harvested relatively early by a team of 30 pickers. Eighty percent of the blend is Merlot and the other 20 is Cabernet Sauvignon. Fermentation was followed by extremely gentle pneumatic punch-downs for delicate extraction and refined tannins. After a 25 day maceration, the wine was aged in 30% new French oak—just the right amount to soften and elevate the wine’s inherent charm without eclipsing the concentrated fruit and earthy soul.
I chose to decant this bottle for 30 minutes, but it’s so luscious and refined that you could get away with drinking it right out of the bottle. Pour it into big Bordeaux stems and marvel at its color—dark, nearly opaque ruby-garnet moving to magenta at the rim. It is already well-integrated and immensely pleasurable, round and balanced with no sharp edges. The first aromas are of red fruits and spices: rich plum jam, mocha and nutmeg. The palate is defined by freshness and elegance rather than oak and tannin. It drinks like satin, thick and creamy. Primary notes of ripe black raspberry and black currant are balanced by bay leaf and graphite There’s an undertone of that perfect, savory sous-bois starting to creep in but you’ve got a good three to five more years before it overtakes the vanilla bean and satsuma plum currently holding court. The finish shows real poise with plenty of acidity for food.
I’m liking venison with this wine. My local market actually has fresh venison sausage. If you’re lucky enough to have a similar source, I love the sound of venison sausage burgers with tons of grilled peppers. There’s something to be said for the simple joy of eating with your fingers while drinking exceptional Bordeaux. Bon appétit!
Merlot 80%, Cabernet Sauvignon 20%
30% New French
Iron-Rich Clay & Limestone