If Cabernet Sauvignon is the ‘King of grapes’, then perhaps Cabernet Franc, rather than Merlot, can now claim to be the Dauphin.
Change comes carefully when you’re the ninth generation to lead your family estate, one of the oldest in St Emilion. However, at Château La Gaffelière there has been something of a quiet revolution. Alexandre de Malet-Roquefort has overseen a significant replanting of his vines, ripping up Merlot and replacing it with Cabernet Franc.
It is, in part, a response to climate change, with the latter grape considered to give more freshness to the blend, but it also undeniably helps deliver wines more in tune with the times, with accessibility and charm.
At a London tasting ‘masterclass’, held jointly with Domaines Delon at 67 Pall Mall, Malet-Roquefort said the move would “prepare the chateau for the tenth generation”, by effectively future-proofing the blends, insisting “We have to adapt”. He also spoke about the “big challenge” of keeping a Bordeaux estate in family hands, fending off takeover interest.
If one grape, Cabernet Franc, appeared to be in the ascendant on the Right Bank, at Château La Gaffelière, then the vertical tasting suggested that another, Petit Verdot, was slowly vanishing from the blend on the Left Bank, at Château Léoville Las Cases.
The tasting also offered those present a chance to sample the diversity of the four Delon estates, from Château Potensac in the north of Médoc to Château Léoville Las Cases and Clos du Marquis in Saint Julien and Château Nénin in Pomerol.