Monthly Archives: February 2024

2015 Château Fourcas Hosten

Listrac (pronounced “Lees-trahk) is probably the Médoc communal appellation with the lowest profile, even less so than Moulis. Although the latter is of comparable size (630 hectares vs. 570 for Listrac), it boasts a greater reputation and better-known châteaux.
What makes Listrac unique? For a start, it is the highest point in the Médoc and has a greater proportion of Merlot than its sister appellations. There are twenty châteaux altogether and a cooperative cellar. Listrac wines can hardly be said to have a loyal following and the local wine trade considers them on the rustic side.

The leading châteaux are Clarke, Fourcas Dupré, Fonréaud, and Fourcas Hosten.

Fourcas Hosten has had a number of owners over the years, including the négociants Sichel and a consortium of Americans. The estate was purchased in 2006 by Renaud and Laurent Momméja, scions of the Hermès luxury group. There are 50 hectares of vines: 58% Merlot, 41% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2% Cabernet Franc. A small quantity of white wine is also made from Sauvignon Blanc and Sauvignon Gris.

I opened a 2015 Fourcas Hosten this past Sunday, uncorking the bottle 4 hours before the meal and decanting it two hours before. I wasn’t expecting anything remarkable, more like a sturdy, perhaps old-school Médoc. I have to say though that this was disappointing. At nine years of age the color was deep and fine. The nose was subdued, with black cherry and more dominant mushroom, forest floor, and truffle notes. But where the wine fell down was on the palate. This started out well enough, but went on to reveal rough, unfriendly, bitter tannin that no amount of ageing will soften.

Of course, I won’t damn this estate because of one unfortunate encounter and I’ll make a point of tasting recent vintages at upcoming Union des Grands Crus tastings. A lot of things can change in nine years. I have had the white Fourcas Hosten, which is fairly rare (7,000 bottles a year). It will make a welcome addition to the Médoc Blanc appellation that is in the works.

2000 Château Chasse Spleen

Château Chasse Spleen in Moulis

I drank this on Sunday with a roast free-range chicken. Isn’t it amazing how such a simple dish, if the bird is first rate (i.e. not industrially raised) and cooked right, provide so much pleasure? By the same token, the thin-skinned creamy-fleshed Agata potatoes with crème fraiche and chive were a reminder that gourmet delights don’t need to be complicated and expensive to be delicious.

Yes, the wine. This exceeded my expectations and reaffirmed my faith, if need be, in the wines of the Médoc. Moulis is a tiny appellation, one of the smallest in Bordeaux. It nearly merged with Listrac not long ago, which would have made a lot of sense, but ran into a few ego-fuelled problems along the way… Anyway, Chasse Spleen has long been considered one of the leading wines of Moulis and was a cru bourgeois exceptionnel for many years. However, for whatever reason, it is not one of the 14 wines included in that category, or any other for that matter, in the 2020 classification.

Moulis may be small, but with 130 hectares of vines, Chasse Spleen is large, taking up 20% of the entire appellation. It has belonged to the Merlaut family (Gruaud Larose, Chasse Spleen, Haut Bages Libéral, Ferrière, Camensac, etc.) since 1976. They also make a white wine, but this is nothing extraordinary in my experience.

I tend to think of Chasse Spleen as a stalwart old-fashioned sort of wine representing good value for money and taking a lot of time to come around. The last vintage I drank was the 2015 which was good, but not particularly so. This 2000, however, was markedly better.

The color was splendid, with only a slight bricking on the rim. You could easily take this for a much younger wine. While not spellbinding, the nose was fresh and pure with pencil shaving, licorice, tar, and blackberry nuances. The wine was even better on the palate, with a very fluid, easy-going side along with a seductive, soft, melts-in-your-mouth texture and candied black fruit flavors. The wine seemed plush and marked by Merlot to me, although this constitutes only 20% of the blend. While 2000 Chasse Spleen is not a weighty wine, nor one of great breadth, it is truly delicious, with one taste inviting another. The only demerit I can think of is a certain roughness and dryness on the finish. At age 24, this is, in my opinion, as good as it will ever be. To my mind, the price/quality ratio here shows that Bordeaux is very much in the running amidst global competition.