Château Angélus vertical tasting
Looking at the wines of this top-ranking Saint-Emilion property with owner Hubert de Boüard


This was a really interesting session, hosted by the Institute of Masters of Wine, with celebrated Bordeaux property owner and consultant winemaker Hubert de Boüard (pictured above), looking at a range of recent vintages of Château Angélus. Hubert was born at Angélus, the family property in Saint-Emilion, on 1 July 1956. His grandfather had bought Angélus back in 1921, although his family had been vignerons in the region since 1782, with Hubert representing the seventh generation. He went to school in Libourne and qualified as an enologist in 1977, having studied under Ribereau-Gayon and Peynaud. After this he worked in Burgundy, the Rhone and the USA, did a stage at Figeac and then began working at Angélus in 1980. He took over in 1985, and this year will have run the property for 30 years.

In 2012 Angélus, along with Pavie, received the accolade of being promoted to the select group of Saint-Emilion 1er Grand Cru Classé 'A', both properties joining Cheval Blanc and Ausone at this level. As well as his own family domaines, which includes Angélus and Château La Fleur de Boüard in Lalande de Pomerol, Boüard has a thriving consultancy business, with 64 current clients (see

‘I consider myself as a farmer,’ began Boüard. ‘My father gave me secateurs to prune vines when I was seven years old. What we do in the vineyard is so important for the quality of the wine, but it is not enough just to have great terroir.’

Boüard describes Cabernet Franc as ‘the signature of Angelus’, and it usually makes up between 40 and 45% of the blend. ‘I have fallen in love with Cabernet Franc,’ he says. ‘We have 15 hectares of Cabernet Franc, and 10 of these are over 65 years old.’ But it’s not an easy variety to do well: Boüard describes it as the most difficult grape variety in Bordeaux. ‘You need 20-25 years of vine age before you can think about making a great wine from it,’ he points out. ‘If you have more than 30 hl/ha you can’t make grand vin with it, although you can with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. I am not a fan of very low yields, but I have never taken a high crop from Cabernet Franc.’

It’s also fussy about terroir. ‘It is a great variety when you don’t have too much clay. It needs between 10 and 15% clay. More than 15% is too high and less than 10% is not enough. In warm vintages such as 2003 it provides freshness and spiciness, and a long finish. It is very important.’

Boüard’s goal in winemaking is harmony. ‘I always try to have a harmonious wine. When I was a student with Emile Peynaud he told us there were three important things in making a grand vin: harmony, harmony and harmony. It is always something I try to reach.’ He adds that, ‘management of the extraction is one of the top things for catching the harmony in the wine.’

‘Wood is very important as a support of the wine, but if the wood overtakes the wine, it isn’t great. But what is more important is the lees. It is good to work with the lees because they naturally protect the wine against oxidation and we can work with less sulfur dioxide.’

‘If the lees are good you can keep the wine for 10 months with no or very low sulfur in the wine. It protects the aroma and the quality of the tannins. I am not against sulfites but if they are too high you lose quality.’ Boüard ages Angélus on lees without racking for around 12 months, and then the wine is racked and aged for another 10 months, so it spends 22 months in barrel altogether.

High alcohol? 'It's a problem now, making wines with high alcohol levels,' he admits. 'As a farmer, I try to work with low alcohol, but it is better when it is ripe.' Boüard claims that the human hand is more to blame for high alcohol levels than global warming. People are increasing the canopy size and waiting longer before picking. But he says that ways of countering high alcohol in the vineyard are increasing the planting density and reducing the size of the canopies. 'I was a leader in increasing the leaves,' he admits, 'and now I am a leader in dropping the leaves.' Boüard thinks that 14% alcohol is OK, if he has freshness, but beyond this it can be a problem. 'It is also a problem because alcohol is a solvent and aids extraction. For this reason we work at the beginning of fermentation and stop before the end. If you use oak, high alcohol gives greater extraction of tannins. I don't care about MLF in barrel; I just want to get the wine into barrel as soon as possible. If the wine is very cloudy it extracts less from the wood, especially if you have high alcohol.’ This was something he learned from Dominic Lafon in Burgundy in the 1980s.

‘Cabernet Franc moderates the alcohol,’ he says, ‘It is very unusual to get more than 13.5% alcohol in Cabernet Franc.’

‘We try to mix extraction methods. We use punching down for the first day of fermentation and then stop altogether. Then we use delestage, and then pumping over. From 1030 [specific gravity] onwards we just wash the cap.’

In Fleur du Boüard he uses a new shape of vat, which is like an inverted tronconique fermentation vat (truncated cone-like tank, typical for fermentations in Bordeaux), with more surface of skin in contact with the juice. ‘When you empty the vat the must presses on its own weight,’ he explains, ‘and you have more tannins and the best sort of tannins. Everyone prefers the wine with this sort of extraction.’ But these innovations take a while to trickle through to his top property. ‘We use Fleur du Boüard as a laboratory; we work slowly at Angélus.’

He also discussed Brettanomyces, the common rogue yeast that gives red wine animal, phenolic, savoury characters and strips it of fruit. ‘Pre-maceration is key for the development of Brettanomyces,’ he says. ‘In the old days people would say that this is the typicity of the wine. It is a very important period. You must do it below 10 °C or you could have the development of brett, and once this is in the must you can’t remove it even with sulfur dioxide. If you use dry ice this is not so good for cooling.’ This is because dry ice – solid carbon dioxide – doesn’t cool evenly, and so some pockets will be at higher temperature, some at lower.

Boüard is constantly doing research, and is currently involved in a five year project to select yeast from his own vineyard to culture and then use in future vintages. In 2014 20% of the wine was inoculated with this specific cultured Angélus yeast, and in 2015 it will be used for all the wine. ‘My goal is to make the wine as clean as possible,’ he says. ‘The laboratory is my lifeline.’

He describes himself as pragmatic, not dogmatic. ‘Sometimes I will do fining,’ he says, ‘I will see what works.’ Boüard points out that fining eliminates about 90% of the yeasts and bacteria present, so sometimes this is enough on its own, and filtration isn’t needed. ‘Fining isn’t just for the tannins, it purifies the wine.’ If he’s not happy with the microbiological analysis then he will fine the wine.  

Boüard responded to the suggestion that Bordeaux has changed, and that the new style is different to classic wines of the past. He says that the wines are ready a bit earlier and the tannins are better managed, 'But I think we have preserved the style of the wine,' he says. 'The capacity for ageing these wines is good. I haven't changed much since I started in 1985, and the 1985 is still nice. I am not anxious about the ageing of the wines.' Boüard referred to the ageing potential of old Bordeaux in a nice anecdote. 'When I graduated in 1977 my father invited me for lunch, and brought a bottle of the 1945 Angelus.' he recalled. 'He opened the bottle and said “Oh my goodness the wine is not ready now, we will have to wait.'


Château Angélus 2012 Saint-Emilion, Bordeaux
55% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Franc. 14% alcohol, pH 3.8. Tight, fresh, sweet raspberry and blackberry nose. Very aromatic: floral with subtle green notes. The palate is focused and reined with firm but smooth tannins. Structured and youthful, this is primary but already has some harmony. |Lovely freshness and focus here. Linear, tight and pure. Very appealing. 95/100

‘The Cabernet Franc was great in 2012.’ Bouard describes both 11 and 12 as classic Bordeaux, with no overripeness. He thinks 2012 is a little more dense and charming.

Château Angélus 2011 Saint-Emilion, Bordeaux
60% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Franc, 14.5% alcohol, pH 3.6. Fresh with a subtle sappy edge to the dense red berry fruits. The tannins are quite grippy and there's fresh acidity. Focused and bright but a little angular, with nice raspberry freshness. Finishes grippy. 92/100

‘There's increased Merlot in the 2011 because we had to select the Cabernet Franc more. For the Cabernet Franc you can wait as long as you want: I've never tasted overripe Cabernet Franc. For Merlot you have to pick at the right moment. I've tasted lots of overripe Merlot.’

Château Angélus 2010 Saint-Emilion, Bordeaux
55% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Franc. 15.5% alcohol, pH 3.57. Sweetly aromatic with black cherries and blackberries. Lovely focus on the palate which is rich and quite extracted with fresh black cherries and raspberries. There's a lushness to the fruit but it's not liqueur-like or jammy. Grainy structure provides a foil to the sweet fruit and there's good acidity. It carries its 15.5% alcohol brilliantly. Primary and really impressive. 96/100

‘Two great vintages where everything went right. It is not the technique that makes the wine, it is the vintage that makes the wine. The weather conditions in Bordeaux influence the style of the wine.’ 

Château Angélus 2009 Saint-Emilion, Bordeaux
60% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Franc. 14.5% alcohol, pH 3.8. Lovely sweet black fruits nose with some warm autumnal notes as well as ripe blackberries. Lush but fresh with very sleek ripe black fruits on the palate. This has a lovely smooth mouthfeel with real purity and freshness alongside the sweet, lush fruit. 94/100

‘This is a little bit more exotic,' says Bouard. 'You can feel more the sun in the wine. The style is a bit more baroque than the 2010.' He prefers the 2010 but emphasizes that he likes the 2009 a lot. 'I think the balance of the 2010 is fantastic.'

Château Angélus 2008 Saint-Emilion, Bordeaux
58% Merlot, 42% Cabernet Franc. 14% alcohol, pH 3.62. Aromatic, taut, fresh black fruits nose with a fresh raspberry and chalk edge to it. Very fresh style. The palate is supple, bright and has lovely fresh red and black fruits, with good acidity. A fine, bright, classic wine with purity and focus. Taut and linear. 94/100

Bouard describes the 2008 as having a lot of classicism and freshness. 'When we tasted it from vat it was a bit angular, but the pH gave the vintage the identity. There are violets on the nose, a lot of fruit. A good vintage.’

Château Angélus 2007 Saint-Emilion, Bordeaux
13.5% alcohol, pH 3.85, 62% Merlot, 38% Cabernet Franc. Some spicy, autumnal notes on the nose as well as roast coffee, mint, meat and some slightly animal characters. Spicy and a little rustic on the palate with attractive blackberry fruit. A savoury, spicy style. 89/100

With more Merlot, Bouard describes this as a soft, simple wine that's ready to drink. It's a wine for lunch, he says.

Château Angélus 2006 Saint-Emilion, Bordeaux
14% alcohol, pH 3.7, 62% Merlot, 38% Cabernet Franc. Sweet, warm, liqueur-like black cherry and blackberry fruits. Broad with lovely soft texture and grainy, chalky tannins. There's some sweet cherry pie character, too. Ripe and easy but has some nice freshness, and it's drinking well now. 92/100

'The style is not the style of the 2008,’ says Bouard. ‘You can feel the tannins at the end. It will need a few more years to get the tannins completely integrated. We had some difficulties getting the ripeness on the Cabernet Franc.’

Château Angélus 2005 Saint-Emilion, Bordeaux
14.5% alcohol, pH 3.63, 62% Merlot, 38% Cabernet Franc. Dense and quite tannic with rich, sweet blackberry and red berry fruits, with very firm, grippy tannins clamping down quite a bit. There's lovely ripe, sweet, curranty, even slightly jammy fruit here but also grippy structure and good acidity. It's quite impressive but it hasn't come together yet and needs more time to integrate. The tannins are quite fierce, but I can imagine that in a big line up tasted blind this would impress because you wouldn't notice the nature of the tannic structure as well. 93/100

Château Angélus 2000 Saint-Emilion, Bordeaux
Sweet, ripe aromatic nose with some spicy, slightly farmyardy savoury notes in the background. Sweet blackcurrant and cherry fruit. The palate is fresh and quite classic with some gravelly, grippy notes under the black fruits. Beginning to evolve with some animal characters, finishing quite spicy. It's really attractive, albeit slightly rustic, and the brett (at least, what I suspect to be brett) has begun to expose the bones of the wine a bit. 93/100

Here is a film of the tasting, with Hubert in action:

See also:

Pontet Canet vertical tasting
Haut Bailly vertical tasting

Wines tasted 02/15  
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