This, the first vintage of le Dôme, consistently over-performs. In the most part, the right bank is overshadowed by the Medoc in 1996, but this wine always seems to transcend expectation. Perhaps it is the dominance of Cabernet Franc in the blend that makes this so successful. There’s a very Cabernet bouquet of cassis, cedar, herbs and graphite. It’s not a blockbuster, but there is ample, sweet, floral fruit. There is a real sense of cohesion, elegance, and balance. We have been fortunate to chart this wine’s evolution over the last five years, and it never disappoints. It displays complexity and nuances one associates with bottle age, yet its development has been glacial, hinting at a long future ahead.
A unique and well established ‘micro terre’ (rather than micro winery) that produced its first vintage in 1996. Le Dôme is a tiny 1.63 hectare vineyard planted with fifty year old vines situated between Château L’Angélus and Grande Mayne. Owner, Jonathan Maltus, insists on two green harvests during the growing season to restrict yields to an absolute minimum so that his Cabernet Franc and Merlot grapes reach optimum levels of ripeness and concentration. The minute size of land to work requires only a small team of harvesters and allows picking to take place every year at exactly the right time - the 1998, for example, was harvested within two afternoons. Over the years, Jonathan has increased the percentage of Cabernet Franc in the blend and decreased the use of new oak. Since 2008, there has typically been a maximum of 80% new oak and the style has become more precise and the wines display a greater sense of elegance. Le Dôme has never been short of critical acclaim, but even die hard fans must have been slightly surprised when the 2010 received 100 points from Robert Parker in February 2013. This is an unbelievable achievement for a relative newcomer to this historic region. Le Dôme has been one of the most consistent and best performing wines from St Emilion over the last two decades. As with Cheval Blanc, old vines Cabernet Franc usually forms the basis of the final blend with less than 25% Merlot fleshing out the wonderful currant, cedar and herb flavours. Unfortunately quantities are very limited, as annual production barely exceeds 900 cases.
St-Émilion is a very different region to those of the Médoc, dominated by small-holding farmers and estates rather than grand Châteaux. Merlot is widely planted as is Cabernet Franc in some parts. The wines are enormously variable in style depending on the terroir, the grape variety make-up and winemaking style. Loosely the region is divided between the limestone Côtes, Graves or gravelly limestone plateau or the sandy alluvial soils nearer the Dordogne. Traditionally Médoc wines were trade from Bordeaux and St Emilions from Libourne so they have their own classification system separate to that of 1855. The classification is revised every ten years and falls into four categories, St Emilion, St Emilion Grand Cru, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé and St Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé
Most of the district's best properties are either on the steep, clay-limestone hillsides immediately below the town or on a gravelly section of the plateau west of St Emilion itself abutting Pomerol. There are several high profile estates in the region, including Cheval Blanc, Ausone, Figeac, Le Dôme, Valandraud and Pavie.