Chateau Angelus, which has been making wine in St-Emilion for almost 250 years, is still considered "new" for that appellation. It was founded by, and has always been run by, the de Bouard family. The name "Angelus" means the ringing of bells to commemorate a catholic devotion, and the workers in the Chateau Angelus vineyards can hear the bells ringing from three nearby churches...thus how the winery got its name. Although the quality of the wine has had some rough years, the quality of the terroir is one of the best in St-Emilion. And with some key education and talent emerging from the de Bouard family in the past 40 years, the winery is now realizing its potential and has rocketed to one of the top, most sought-after labels in the region.
This Right Bank Bordeaux, where the merlot and cab franc varieties reign, has perfectly balanced soils of limestone and clay and is positioned on gently sloping hills. Although the vines average 38-years-old, the estate actually has old Merlot vines dating back to 1918. And many of the cab franc vines are more than 60-years-old. As they introduce new plantings, they are strategically increasing the vineyard density. Chateau Angelus vineyard workers practice aggressive debudding and crop thinning, and prune using the "Girondine" method. But the real Cindarella story of Chateau Angelus in not the terroir or fruit, which are indisputably world class, but of the winemaking practices that have been put in place over the past 40 years.
Hubert de Boüard de Laforest joined the family business at Angélus in 1976 and proceeded to make several modernizing changes that included: hand picking fruit and optically sorting, manually destemming a large portion of their harvest (can you image picking grapes off the stem one-by-one at that magnitude?!), fermenting in open top vats with whole berries, conducting malolactic fermentation in small barrels, the practice of maturing in new oak and ageing on the lees. Hubert also began farming, harvesting and vinifying on a parel by parcel basis, which allows him more control over the quality. Under his management, and the consultancy of oenologist Michel Rolland, the estate has been consistently moving up in its classifications, eventually attaining Premier grand cru classe A in 2012.
The style of Chateau Angelus is lush, dense and creamy, but also elegant, classy and pure with lots of freshness. Critics, like Robert Parker, describe it as densely opaque purple/blue in color with notes of smoke, graphite, blueberries, blackberries and cherries. It has terrific fruit intensity, a powerful, layered, multidimensional mouthfeel and full body and a finish that goes on for a minute.
Excess wine from the top, classified vineyards gets blended with wine from unclassified plots and goes into their second wine, called Le Carillon d’Angélus, whose quality is nearly as high as its "big brother." And to monetize their new Merlot plantings, while they wait for them to mature and be good enough for their top label, No. 3 d’Angélus is now available and meant to be drunk upon release.
You can see the bell, the Angelus, represented in the Chateau's label, cork, case and capsule markings, as well as in the elaborate sculpture that installed in the back of the main building. It makes it easy for you to imagine being transported to this majestic Bordeaux vineyard, hearing the bells ringing, smelling the sweet grapes, and feeling the sun warming you and the soil under your feet.