Angelus’s De Bouard-Rivoal Says 2020 Vintage `Feels Like a Trilogy’

Chateau Angelus vineyard, Saint Emilion. Photo: Guy Collins

By Guy Collins

The 2020 vintage at Chateau Angelus “is going to be really beautiful, ” coming after the “exotic, opulent” 2018 and “more classical, traditional” 2019, according to Stephanie de Bouard-Rivoal, head of the family-owned Saint Emilion wine estate.

Angelus described the 2020 vintage in a recent newsletter as having “silky, tight-knit tannins, a very deep color, precision in the ripe fruit aromas, amazingly intense aromatic complexity and very long, very lively freshness of flavor on the mid palate.”

Unusually wet weather between November 2019 and June 2020 was followed by very dry conditions until storms in mid-August, according to data from Angelus. Following an early start to the growing season and a fast flowering process, the harvest too was unusually early, starting on Sept. 15 for the Merlots and Sept. 28 for the Cabernet Francs, finishing by Sept. 30. A small amount of rain during picking helped soften the skins of the grapes.

“There are comparisons between ’18 and ’20 in terms of mildew pressure,” de Bouard-Rivoal said in a phone interview from the estate on Dec. 8. “It was even tougher in ’20, and in the second period of the year we had drought,” although “the vines never showed signs of hydric stress.”

While the 2020 vintage is still developing and won’t be presented to the wine trade until next year, the 2018 and and 2019 wines are already on the market. “It feels like a trilogy,” she said. While for the 2020 “I thought we’d have a very high degree of alcohol because of the drought in the summer,” she said that turned out not to be the case.

For the 2018 vintage, the blend was 65% Merlot and 35% Cabernet Franc, the second-highest proportion of Merlot in the estate’s main wine since its promotion to the status of Saint Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classe `A’ in 2012, which put it among the top four wine estates of the appellation alongside Chateau Ausone, Chateau Cheval Blanc and Chateau Pavie.

“The typicity of 2018 is the high acidity, the low pH, that is really important in our wine to bring freshness and have long aging potential,” she said.

The 2018 vintage was harvested from Sept. 24 to Oct. 11 and benefited from the introduction in the winery of two 32-hectoliter “foudres,” ultra-large barrels which soften the wood impact on the wine as well as helping to control oxygen. A third was installed in 2019 and a fourth is arriving next year.

The 2018 vintage came as Angelus was switching to organic wine production, which posed a challenge due to the tough weather conditions. “It happened when there was extremely strong mildew pressure in Bordeaux, which was difficult to cope with,” de Bouard-Rivoal said. “Our team was really fantastic. In the end we managed to limit the damage.”

The 2019 vintage had a more typical blend of 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet Franc and was harvested from Sept. 18 to Oct. 9. Apart from the main wine, which according to the Angelus website was distinguished by the “homogenously high quality of the Cabernet Franc,” the year was also notable for the new winery becoming available for Angelus’s Carillon d’Angelus wine, which has evolved since 1987 from being the estate’s second wine into a wine with own fully-fledged identity. The vineyard surface devoted to Carillon d’Angelus has also more than doubled in less than 10 years, to 18 hectares (44 acres) from 7 hectares.

The 2018 vintage of Chateau Angelus has a value on the London-based Liv-ex on-line wine market of 3,032 pounds ($4,050) per 12-bottle case in bond, according to Cellar Watch data, making it the highest-priced of the vintages since the 2012, the year of its promotion. The 2019 is priced at 2,760 pounds, the 2016 at 2,800 pounds and the 2015 at 2,550 pounds, according to Cellar Watch, while 2012 is priced at 4,200 pounds.

Chateau Angelus, Saint Emilion. Photo: Guy Collins

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I am a journalist writing about the Bordeaux wine market.

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