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14th May 2018

Domaines Rollan de By - Jean Guyon. A maestro of the Médoc

When it comes to entrepreneurial spirit, and names in Bordeaux who have come to epitomise quality, rejuvenation and new or recent chateaux acquisition it is probably Bernard Magrez who most readily springs to mind. But another person cut from the same cloth is Jean Guyon.

Not from a wine family background (antiques and interior design in fact) Guyon became enthralled by wine at an early age, and his first acquisition was Château Rollan de By in the Médoc in 1989. He has taken the property from under 3 hectares to over 60, and replanted the vineyards with an encépagement more suited to their soil conditions.

Rollan de By has been an ‘insider's’ Bordeaux for years, and I regularly buy some when it becomes available in my local Foire de Vins. Its attractive price and dependable style and quality make it perfect for people who want to drink really good Bordeaux, without the exotic prices that the great names now fetch.

I was delighted, therefore, to run into Richard Dupont, who oversees the company’s sales in Asia, when I was at Prowine in Shanghai last year. He invited me to taste with him when I was in Bordeaux for the Primeur week in April, and very kindly - because our schedule could not allow for a trip up to the property - they opened all the wines for us to try in their offices in the city. It was a pleasure to meet Jean Guyon himself, a charismatically charming Bordelais gentleman, and also to taste some wines which weren’t embryonic 2017s (as well as those that were!).
I was also impressed that Richard and Jean took pleasure in showing a couple of ‘lesser’ vintages – the acid test (occasionally literally!) of how well a château, especially in Bordeaux, is performing. Which was well, in these cases.

Domaines Rollan de By - Jean Guyon now extends to seven properties (we tasted from the leading five châteaux) , with the celebrated Cru Bourgeois Château Greysac being the most recent acquisition (2012), but hopefully not the last, because Guyon appears to have a magic touch when it comes to instilling a vitality into his properties and propelling their wines’ quality upwards at an astonishing rate. Catch these while you can, and you are sure to get a bargain.
After all, anyone (if super-rich!) can buy a great property and make great wine, but only true genius can radically improve on the wines that the terroir has historically given.

Tasted 11 April 2018, Bordeaux



Château Greysac
2012 was first vintage made by Jean Guyon following the purchase.
The wine is around €14 – 15 retail in France, and even in a few short years since purchase the progression in quality is readily apparent.

Château Greysac Médoc 2012
65 M 29 CS 3 CF 3 PV
Mature smoky dry coffee and raisin fruit with spices and smoke. Herbs, some mint, ripe, just, with a sinewy structure, some varnish. Dry grainy tannic finish, if a little lean. 15.5

Château Greysac Médoc 2015
65 M 29 CS 3 CF 3 PV
Mid ruby colour, some age apparent. Big ripe fruit aromas, but with fairly advanced aged qualities – rosehip, leaves and caramel spices. Sweet fruity and dry spiced in the mouth. Not massively complex, but structured and very good value. 16

Château Greysac Médoc 2017
65 M 29 CS 3 CF 3 PV
Very deep purple colour. Chalky bright fruit, rich spice and mocha hints. Sweet fruit, not hugely complex or deep, but rounded and ripe black and red fruit. Long sweetly fruity finish. Great value. 15.5+



Château La Clare
Purchased in 2001. As with several of the other properties, the percentage of Merlot is quite high here for the upper Médoc. Traditionally all Cabernet territory, actually there is quite a lot of far more Merlot-friendly clay in the soils, and Guyon has replanted accordingly. Traditions that create less-good wine are not really worth upholding…

Château La Clare 2014
45 M 40 CS 15 CF
Stewed, meaty savoury aromas, with some baked red fruit aromas, and hints of rosehip. Rich and ripe fruit, velvet texture, and warmth. Rounded, mouth-filling and generous. Fresh and full finish. Great value. 16

Château La Clare 2017
45 M 40 CS 15 CF
Purple colour. Bright vibrant fruit aromas, not overtly oaky yet, but with hints of coffee. Baked red and black fruit flavours. Juicy and fruity, with dry tannic extract, good acidity, but just lacking a little flesh in the mid-palate. 15.5



Château Rollan de By 2012
70 M 10 CF 10 CS 10 PV
Dry coffee and spice aroma, some age showing, but approachable. Good depth and extract for the vintage with cassis, bramble and dried petal flavours. Some autumnal fruit and smoke. Really delicious, fresh finish. Good now. 16

Château Rollan de By 2015
70 M 10 CF 10 CS 10 PV
Still youthfully oaky aromas. Lots of black fruit underneath. Great extract with still youthful tannins, good freshness and depth. Black fruit and juicy finish. Good. 16.5

Château Rollan de By 2017
70 M 10 CF 10 CS 10 PV
Very deep purple colour. Very deep juicy coffee spice and fruit aromas. Very rich extract of blueberry and cassis fruit. Good tannic structure, and fresh acidity. No green. Ripe mouth-coating tannins. Very good. 16.5


We were even invited to give our opinions on two proposed label re-designs…

Château La Tour Seran 2014
65 M 15 CS 10 CF 10 PV
Fresh bright fruit. Rounded soft tannins and soft acidity. Fresh, simple, but really well balanced. Not hugely complex or deep, but very pleasant. 15.5

Château La Tour Seran 2015
65 M 15 CS 10 CF 10 PV
Warm sweet black fruit aromas, some coffee spice and hawthorn. Fuller and richer in the mouth than the 2014, with still-to-integrate tannins, but richer and more fruit. Lovely wine. 16

Château La Tour Seran 2017
65 M 15 CS 10 CF 10 PV
Very intense and spicy violet aromas with purple fruit. Oak, but not over-dominant. Very rich extract of deep spicy fruit with plenty of coffee and earth. Rich juicy finish. 16.5



Château Haut Condissas
This is the jewel in the crown, a small 12 hectare property near Rolland de By. Unusually the vineyard has been planted to 20% Petit Verdot, seemingly a climate-change proof late ripener which can be utterly delicious when fully ripe – which is currently far more likely at this northern end of the Médoc than further south.

Château Haut Condissas 2008
60 M 20 PV 10 CS 10 CF
(New oak twice)
Very deep and spicy. Liquorice and earthy, inky aromas. Spices and coffee. Inviting and complex. Juicy and concentrated with lots of cinnamon, baked fruit, spices and earthy complexity. Serious and structured. Very good extract and quality level. Deep spicy youthful finish. Very good. 17.5+

Château Haut Condissas 2012
60 M 20 PV 10 CS 10 CF
Deep ruby-purple colour. Very rich aromas, with baked plum and prune aromas and flavours, spices and coffee bean. Huge dry tannic extract and depth. Very long spicy youthful finish. Needs another r5 years or so, but really top quality. 17.5

Château Haut Condissas 2017
60 M 20 PV 10 CS 10 CF
Very inviting inky purple colour and aroma – violets, chalk and spearmint with black fruit. Super concentrated with lots of juicy fruit, grippy tannins and extract. Deep black fruit and mocha spice with tobacco and cinnamon. Dry rich tannins on the finish. Already plenty of oak notes. 17.5+

And finally, as a welcome palate cleanser:

Blanc du Château Rollan de By 2016
100 SB (sur maturité)
Very ripe greengage fruit and honey. Rich green and yellow fruit flavours in the mouth with great concentration and richness. Very deep, long lemon curd and pastry finish. Very good. 17

What a pleasure to be able to taste this comprehensive range of some of the best valued Bordeaux wines on the market. I heartily recommend searching them out before Richard (who is good at his job!) establishes them successfully in China and the market forces the prices up!

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