2020 Château Saintayme en primeur is one release you really should not miss this year. At just £138 per dozen bottles in bond (equivalent to £16.48 per bottle on your table, with all taxes paid) this is a wine to fill your cellar with.
There is no more convincing argument for buying en primeur than a wine which is loved by the critics and which will offer easy enjoyment within a year or two of landing (hence can be cellared at home). Collecting Grand Cru Classé Bordeaux is an enormously pleasurable pastime, but Saintayme is a wine to enjoy on weekdays, to take to parties and to share with and introduce to friends.
Jeb Dunnuck says the 2020 "should be snatched up by savvy readers...in a vintage where Merlot excelled, it's a real standout (91-93 points). Looking back our own tasting notes, we waxed lyrical about the density and purity of fruit and the lifted acidity from the limestone terroir, before describing it as 'a paradigm of St. Emilion'. So, both enormously enjoyable and the kind of wine to show in a tasting as an example of what this commune is all about.
We have talked about the wines of Denis Durantou for some years, since he turned around the fortunes of his diminutive Pomerol estate L'Eglise Clinet, making it one of the most respected on the right bank. With just 4.5 hectares here, he then began to practice his art with a collection of other, small properties in neighbouring St.-Emilion and Lalande de Pomerol.
Saintayme, La Chenade, Les Cruzelles & Montlandrie all effectively "came from nowhere"; one of the reasons Durantou was so respected. He demonstrated, several times over, the ability to identify sites with great potential and then went on to fulfil that potential. Jane Anson wrote of him:
"The impressive thing with Denis Durantou is the accomplishment shown across his entire range and the precision of his work with tannins. These are not insubstantial wines, and here there is a richness and shape to the structure as it moves through your mouth. Black cherry fruit is accompanied by a lovely freshness and chewy but extremely well-placed tannins that hold, hold, hold, before backing off for a lift on the finish."
We have grown used to seeing his labels in our cellars and the sense that these modestly-priced wines would always deliver real excitement and a strong identity, far above their monetary value. We were very sad to hear that he had passed away suddenly last year. Not all winemakers receive an obituary in The Times. His describe him as an "intensely private perfectionist", which fits with our impression of him.
When we last visited L'Eglise Clinet in April 2019 his daughters Alix and Noémie were working closely with Denis, presenting the wines and clearly very involved in all stages of production. Along with their sister Constance, they now run the estate, with winemaker Oliver Gautrat, who worked with Durantou for twenty years.
Saintayme (known and labelled in some markets as Saintem) is from a 9-hectare parcel of vines on a long-term lease to the Durantous. A single plot of Merlot in St-Etienne-de-Lisse, the terroir here is limestone, clay and gravel, with the vines averaging 35 years of age.
Landing spring 2023.
|RED||2020||Château Saintayme||75cl||£138 per case of 12||Château Saintayme
2020 / / 75cl
£138 per case of 12
Tasting Notes"The 2020 Saintayme is more backward on the nose than expected and demands coaxing from the glass. Eventually it offers tightly wound blackberry, wild hedgerow and black truffle scents, an inviting marine/seaweed scent emerging with time. The palate is medium-bodied with succulent ripe tannins that frame the sweet black cherry, bilberry and licorice notes. Quite linear toward the finish, it does not fan out like the 2018, although it feels long and persistent. Give this Saint-Émilion 3–4 years in bottle if you can. 87-89 points" Neal Martin, Vinous.com------"Deep crimson colour, plenty of deep bilberry fruits, firm tannins and good tension; a lot to like about this wine. Closes in on the finish, pretty serious in feel overall, muscular, but has the deft kick upwards that you find in many limestone-led wines in the vintage. The first year with Constance and Noemie Durantou at the helm, having taken over from their late father Denis (Noemie in particular had also worked alongside him for several years as winemaker, along with cellar master Olivier Gautrat). Drinking Window 2027 - 2042. 92 points" Jane Anson, Decanter Magazine------"The 2020 Saintayme is 100% Merlot, harvested between the 28th and the 30th of September. It has an alcohol of 14.5% and is aging in French oak barrels, 30% new. Deep purple-black colored, it needs a little coaxing to unlock scents of tar, forest floor and aniseed, over a core of baked black plums, blackberry pie and chocolate-covered cherries, plus a touch of dried mint. The full-bodied palate is densely packed with muscular black fruits and loads of earthy accents, framed by firm, rounded tannins and just enough freshness, finishing on a lingering minty note. 63,000 bottles are expected to be made. 2024-2038. 90-92 points" Lisa Perotti-Brown, RobertParker.com------"Another gem from Denis Durantou, the 2020 Saintayme should be snatched up by savvy readers, as it’s a year-in, year-out value, and in a vintage where Merlot excelled, it’s a real standout. Black cherries, mulberries, camphor, chocolate, and subtle oak notes all emerge from the glass, and it’s medium to full-bodied, balanced, and has a great mix of richness and freshness. Drink bottles over the coming 10-12 years. 91-93 points" Jebdunnuck.com------"A gorgeous red with so much black fruit and salty, mineral character. It’s medium-to full-bodied with creamy, polished tannins and a long finish. The precision and fine texture is impressive. One of the best I have had for a while. 94-95 points" jamessuckling.com