Château Valandraud

France, Bordeaux

Among the garagiste wineries of the 1990’s, none was more garagiste than Château Valandraud. When Jean-Luc Thunevin and his wife Murielle bought a couple of tiny plots of wines in 1989, the only place they had to make their wine was in a garage in the back streets of St Emilion village. The better of the two plots was 0.6ha just outside the village squashed between Pavie-Macquin and Le Clotte in a little valley called the Vallon de Fongaban – tacking the “Val” from Vallon on to Murielle’s maiden name – Andraud – they came up with the name Valandraud. Necessity as much as thirst for quality meant that practically everything was done meticulously by hand. The first release was in 1991. The 1992 was released at First Growth kinds of prices, which turned heads and set Château Valandraud on the path to cult status. Gradually more vineyard has been purchased including the previously obscure Château Bel-Air-Ouÿ in Saint-Etienne-de-Lisse, way out east near the border with the Côtes de Castillon, meaning Château Valandraud now has a château. With the purchase of Bel-Air-Ouÿ, it is interesting to note that the majority of this undoubtedly great estate’s vineyards lie far outside the established area of the St Emilion plateau. Valandraud’s meteoric rise was crowned by its elevation from nowhere to Premier Grand Cru Classé (B) status in the 2012 St Emilion classification, and few would bet against the B being turned into an A if St Emilion can bear the turmoil of a further classification in the future. The vineyards are around 70% Merlot, with anything from 65% to 100% going into the main cuvée. Most of the rest of the vineyards are Cabernet Franc, but there are smaller plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Carmenère. The wine is aged in 100% new oak. There are, also, around 2ha of vineyard dedicated to white wine production. Aside from Château Valandraud, there is Virginie de Valandraud which is often described as the second wine of the estate but Thunevin insist it is more of an alternative cuvée with Le 3 de Valandraud being the actual second wine.