Terroirs of Saint-Emilion: Timeless Opulence

Retail Team | September 19, 2023

It’s a little hard to generalize about Saint-Emilion, the largest of the famous Bordeaux appellations. Terroirs here range from the hallmark limestone plateau where the town of Saint-Emilion resides to the renowned Günzian gravels in the northwest that impart Grand Cru elegance.

What unites many of the crown jewel estates in this Right Bank region is their ability to produce spectacular interpretations of Merlot. Plush and easily ripened, the grape is the basis for the worldwide prestige of Saint-Emilion wines, typically marked by sumptuous richness and refined finesse.

We reached deep into the Sotheby’s Wine archives to unearth these exemplars of Saint-Emilion opulence from two benchmark estates. These collectible bottlings represent the pinnacles of their respective vintages.

Château Troplong Mondot, a Grand Cru Classé estate, has undergone a series of stylistic transformations through the centuries. The two vintages on offer today are revelations of the estate’s identity from around the 2010s period, when Troplong Mondot achieved a remarkable density and depth. The 2009 is a high-gloss giant of the vintage – awarded 99 points by Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, this bottling soars with monumental concentration, held in check by long, fine tannins and vivid acidity.

The 2014 – also available in half bottles – was another signature release, “unquestionably one of the wines of the vintage,” wrote critic Jeb Dunnuck. Almost a decade of cellaring has teased majesty out of the tightly packed core of this Merlot-led blend, which bursts at the seams with ripe blackberries and black cherries.

Practically a neighbor of Troplong Mondot, L’If is operated by the great Jacques Thienpont, who also owns Pomerol’s prestigious Le Pin. Small in size (comprising just 19 acres) but mighty in expression, L’If sits on the famed limestone plateau and has become a beacon of classical claret under Thienpont’s leadership.

The 2013 has fulfilled the massive potential that drinkers spotted early on. Cashmere-soft, it boasts intensity and focus, with earthy undertones illuminated by the brightness of cassis and black cherry. The 2017 shows explosive power and tertiary finesse, marrying long, silky tannins to a profusion of black and red fruit. A wine of standout elegance, the 2018 is lithe yet full-bodied, treating the palate to a well-knit tapestry detailed with floral accents and beautiful spice.

Like the Saint-Emilion appellation itself, these wines can’t be readily summarized, possessing a complexity and poetry best encountered firsthand.