The vineyards for Château Valentin are south of Margaux in the commune of Macau in the greater Haut-Médoc. Marked by ancient glacial soils deposited from the Pyrenees and the Massif Central, these gravelly soils are Cabernet friendly. Valentin is handpicked Cabernet Sauvignon from 57 year-old vines, balanced by 10% of Merlot and 10% of Petit Verdot. In classic Sorge winemaking, fermentation begins in cement vats, and the wine is finished in 2 and 3 year-old barrels, reused from the Château Deyrem-Valentin wine; bottled unfiltered. Blackberry and plum preserved with a soft leathery texture and a pool of melted cigar tannins. This is addictive, rubber-stamp Bordeaux.
The Sorge family bought the Deyrem-Valentin estate at an auction in 1928, rescuing some of the oldest vines of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in Margaux. Now all three of their wines, including Château Soussans and Château Valentin, are made in the cellars of Deyrem. In 2002 Jean Sorge passed his duties onto his daughter, Christelle. For those of you who haven’t had these wines in a few years, you should redirect your attention. And for those of you who are constantly searching afar for a peculiar grape or an impossible place, you should, once in awhile, look closer to home.
For three generations the Sorge family has farmed vineyards on the left bank of Bordeaux. Their cellar is in Marsac, the best part of the commune of Soussans, just north of Lascombes, Labégorce, and Margaux. Even though Soussans does not have the platinum zip code of Margaux, many of the classified estates in Margaux (including Château Margaux) have blankets of vines here, where the soil is pebble and gravels over sand and clay. Christelle’s choices are thoughtful: organic farming, sorting in the vineyard as well as the cellar, fermentation in only cement, and a conservative amount of new oak, which never exceeds 33%. She is a fierce moderate, making wines that are clean and shimmery but retain their appetizing core of soft and raw.
Christelle Sorge was born at Deyrem-Valentin. It is not only her work, it is her home. Christelle did a winemaking stint in Australia and staged at three classified first growths in Bordeaux (but she wouldn’t tell you because she is incredibly humble and shy). Just like Jean Dirler and the Menthon sisters, Christelle is a loyalist of the soil. When we first visited the family in the 1990s, we toured the property with Jean Sorge; as we approached the vineyards of Cabernet, there was Christelle, riding a tractor. Our first impression of her has unfolded into truth. In today’s glossy wine age, when so many Bordeaux wines are made by spreadsheets and finite numbers, the Sorge wines have become the outlier, and they like it that way. Christelle does not like Sledgehammer Bordeaux, and her passion is to make wines that are more quiet than loud. It’s so overplayed, but it’s so true… “balance and restraint,” those are her immediate words when she speaks about her wines. Even her personal style mirrors her wines. She’s a polished minimalist: petite, lean and cheekbone pretty without the added blush or bronze. More certain and perhaps a little less shy, 20 years later she’s still the same girl on the tractor.