Château Tour Baladoz, Grand Cru St Emilion
When Private Cellar’s Director of Buying, Nicola Arcedeckne-Butler MW, first tasted the wines of St Emilion Grand Cru Château Tour Baladoz she was bowled over. Given that the property's neighbours are 1er Grand Cru Classé Château Troplong Mondot and the legendary Tertre Roteboeuf, it is hardly surprising but these wines are beautifully made in their own right and have a real sense of terroir.
We instantly bought the award winning 2008 Tour Baladoz for our new wine list and as a thank you they unearthed a small quantity of the delicious 2005 for us, which we offered in October 2013. Do keep an eye out for occasional special offers of splendid double magnums too – they are snapped up extremely quickly!
And don't just take our word for it... the medals won in recent vintages at the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles are testament to the consistent excellent quality of the wine produced on this estate.
2006 Vintage = GOLD medal
2007 Vintage = SILVER medal
2008 Vintage = SILVER medal
2009 Vintage = SILVER medal
2010 Vintage = GOLD medal
2011 Vintage = SILVER medal
Château “Valados” first appeared in "Le Producteur" in 1841, and was included in the first edition of "Cocks and Feret" (Bordeaux and its Wines) in 1850 under the name of "Baladoz". From 1874 to 1922, the estate was known as Château Baladoz until a tower was erected and adopted into the name. In certain parts, vines are grown at an altitude of up to ninety metres, almost the highest in the appellation, with more vines planted on the clay and limestone plateau that dominates the estate.Originally categorised as between the first and second crus of St Emilion, the estate later settled in the Grand Cru category and was described in the tenth edition of Cocks & Feret as follows:
"Remarkably well-sited, Château Tour Baladoz is located on the highest point in the region and affords visitors a superb panorama of the local countryside, including vine-covered slopes and stone walls. Entirely planted on clay-limestone soil, on a layer of bedrock, this vineyard of approximately 5 hectares features the finest premium grape varieties. It produces a very generous, aromatic, soft, extremely fine wine which has all the characteristics of a "grand premier cru". Annual production varies from 18- 22,000 bottles."
The property, located in Saint-Laurent-des-Combes, was purchased by Belgian wine trader Emile De Schepper in May 1950 and included a manor house, a vineyard worker’s house, cellar, vat room, quarries and 5.56 hectares of vines.
The new owner spent his first year renovating the cellars and making improvements to the vineyard and, since he could only visit from Belguim three of four times a year, he appointed a manager to ensure smooth day to day running of the estate. In those first years, the wine was exclusively exported to Belgium, in barrel, where it was bottled in the owner's cellars (in Ghent).
From 1970 onwards, Emile was assisted by his elder son Firmin who gradually took over the running of the château, employing a policy of strict quality control and building on the wine’s increasingly good reputation. Always wishing to expand the vineyard area, the family had to wait until 1984 before an opportunity presented itself, and they were able to purchase 3.74 hectares of vines forming a nearby estate called "Roquettes Mondottes", bringing the vineyard area up to around 9 hectares of vines. Following Firmin's death in 1987, his younger brother, Jacques, completed the job of combining the two estates into a single vineyard. Since then, the vat room at Tour Baladoz has been enlarged and new stainless steel vats were introduced. A new manager, Jean-Michel Garcion, was appointed in 1992, and the search for quality intensified.
Never wishing to stand still, the new team undertook particularly ambitious projects in the vineyard, convinced of Château Tour Baladoz's bright future. Every detail mattered: after investigating why the yields had been so low until that time, priority was given to picking the grapes at just the right degree of ripeness and then carefully sorting them before they arrived at the cellar. Fermentation in small vats made it possible to keep careful records and analyses of wines from different grape varieties and different plots. The choice of barrels was based on the characteristics of each vat. Words that kept coming back throughout all these changes were rigour and quality.
In 1999, a new barrel cellar was built which involved digging into solid rock for nearly a month; but the result was well worth the effort. The wine is now aged under the best possible conditions for 12-18 months (depending on the vintage) before it is bottled at the Château.
Soil and grape varieties
70% of the Tour Baladoz vineyard is planted on the plateau, with the remaining 30 % situated on the slopes of the valley over deeply submerged rocks. Here, the challenge lies in making a wine that is as mineral as the geological environment in which the vines grow: on the plateau the soil rests on two or three layers of quarries that are sometimes sunk into the ground at a depth of more than eleven metres. It is not uncommon to find clusters of hair roots of vines that capture the humidity present in the air at a depth of eight to ten metres, in the heart of the earth, between the rocks,
The soil base varies from pure chalk and marl, which reminds us of certain terroirs in the Champagne region, to freestone that appears occasionally and is noticed because of the colour variation in the clay. Here, the Merlot grape thrives and comprises 70% of the vineyard planting with Cabernet Franc (20%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (10%) making up the remainder.
Without a doubt, the winemaking process at Tour Baladoz is an extension of very careful and precise vineyard husbandry. The wine is vinified at low temperatures to preserve the delicate fruit aromas, making alcoholic fermentation slow but regular. Maceration lasts for three to five weeks, giving a richly coloured wine, before the wine is racked and transferred to temperature controlled tanks for malolactic fermentation (or the more current term malolactic “conversion”). Three to four months later, the wine is transferred to oak barrels, 70% of which are new and 30% of which have only been used for one year, and the wine is left to mature in barrel for eleven to fifteen months according to the vintage before the final blending.
2008 Château Tour Baladoz: "A charming domaine established on top of the limestone plateau of St. Laurent-des-Combes. A good representation of the St. Emilion terroir and the vintage. Intense ruby, with flashes of garnet. The nose is still a bit oaky but liberal aeration frees beautiful fruit and scents of spring flowers (violets). The same fruit can be found on the palate, quickly dominated by fresh tannins, slightly closed, which will begin to broaden and flesh out in two or three years. " Translated from GUIDE HACHETTE
2010 Chateau Tour Baladoz received a GOLD medal in the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles 2013
Gilbert & Gaillard: Ch. Tour Baladoz 08: 86/100; Ch. Tour Baladoz 09: 87/100