The Côtes de Bordeaux is an insider’s secret when it comes to value. Appellations like Blaye, Bourg and Castillon boast some terrific terroir but still fly under the radar on price. Perhaps the best-kept secret of all is Francs Côtes de Bordeaux, and we’ve got a 94-point blockbuster from one of its top producers.
The 2016 Château Marsau comes from a property that Robert Parker has praised as “the reference point for the Côtes de Francs, producing an opulent, Pomerol-styled effort”. At under $45 a bottle, the quality/price ratio of this one is near impossible to beat, and it’s going to move fast.
Francs may not be the best-known of the Côtes, but its top-tier estates are producing world-beating wines. Alongside the Chadronniers (owners of Chateau Marsau), the legendary Thienpont family are also a major presence here with Les Charmes Godard and Puygueraud. When heavyweight Bordeaux players are involved in an out-of-the-way region and producing wines of this quality at prices like these, shrewd buyers should take notice. Parker commends Marsau for “transcending its pedigree” and asks, “is it the Petrus of the Côtes de Francs?”
Such comparisons aside, this is no copycat estate and has developed a sterling reputation in its own right. Parker asserts that “Marsau is producing the sexiest, most sumptuous wine in the Côtes de Francs” and “is a testament to the perfectionism of its proprietor”. Chadronnier is among the most prominent figures in the Bordeaux wine trade, with the knowledge and the financial muscle to make something very special at this home estate.
Appelation - Francs Cotes de Bordeaux
Harvest - October 5 - 10
Yield - 38 hl/ha
Blend - 100% Merlot
Elevage - 12 months in oak barrels, 30% of new oak
A nose of black fruit, menthol, evolving into mineral notes when aired (pencil lead, chalk). An elegant palate, voluptuous, supple, silky tannins.
Chateau Marsau is located near to the historic village of Francs, a few kilometres East of Saint-Emilion. The vineyard lies on one of the highest points of the Francs Cotes de Bordeaux appellation. Based on the region, the individual aspect of the vineyard, soil type and climate, the decision was made to plant Merlot - the emblematic variety of the Right Bank. Chateau Marsau's aim is to take full advantage of the quality of the fruit grown in their vineyard, and to faithfully express the personality of the terroir and vintage. To that end, each separate parcel of fruit is aged in oak barrels, to preserve the individual identity of each cuvee. The final blend is made at the end of a 12-month period, bringing into being the Chateau Marsau.
There’s a very bright and ripe array of dark berries and plums with an earthy edge, as well as nuances of sweetly fragrant black truffle. The palate has a very supple and fluid core of ripe dark plums with a very sleek, polished and compressed bed of tannins. Great depth and drive here through the finish. Mouthwatering, pure merlot. Try from 2023.
Very solid, offering a core of steeped black currant and blackberry confiture notes liberally lined with anise edges and backed by a racy, chalky spine for balance. Approachable, but a few years of cellaring will work too. Best from 2021 through 2027. 5,833 cases made.
JANE ANSON - DECANTER MAGAZINE
This is an extremely reliable Côtes wine from owner Mathieu Chardronnier that absolutely deserves to be recognised for its succulent fruit and restrained but confident extraction and balance. This is very good, emphasising what 2016 does so well with the reds. It is juicy and powerful but not excessive, making it an utterly drinkable wine.
NEAL MARTIN - WINE ADVOCATE
The 2016 Marsau, which is pure Merlot picked 7-15 October, undergoes a soft extraction and now tends to be blended earlier during the élevage. It has a lovely nose of brambly black fruit, lively and well defined with a pastille-like purity, a second bottle showing a touch of camphor. The palate is medium-bodied with fine tannin, tightly wound blackberry and raspberry fruit with a light, slightly linear finish. I probably like the 2015 better last year but it is still a well made Francs Côtes de Bordeaux that belongs to the Chadronnier family, owners of Bordeaux merchant CVBG.
ROGER VOSS - WINE ENTHUSIAST
88–90. Barrel Sample. This wine is richly spicy and refreshingly juicy. Fine tannins give the wine its structure while leaving the beautiful fruit right up front. This will be ready from 2025.