My nice surprise of the year. I bought quite a lot of St.Emilion 2005s at release, not knowing much at the time about “the dark side”. After several disappointments, I sold the lot, somehow forgetting two bottles of Rol Valentin. I did come close to selling them two years ago, but realising I would be making a loss, decided to keep them, and I’m glad I did.
On opening, the wine was as I had feared: mocha, chocolate and oak dominating some Christmas cake aromas, with a big, thick mouthful of much the same. I then decanted it for several hours, which marginally improved it, but not enough, so I poured it back into the bottle, recorked it and put it back in the cellar for several days.
Coming back to it last night, it was transformed: all the mocha, chocolate and oak had gone, replaced by Morello cherries, blueberry, plum and violet aromas, so very promising. The first sip was just as good - dark cherries at first, then a wave of blueberry, not at all OTT, followed by waves of redcurrant, fresh blackcurrant and quite spicy plums, with a finish that was long but not at all hot, even quite crisp.
The wine had a well-rounded feel to it, but what surprised me the most was the freshness of the taste - it does have a sense of richness but no more than an Alliet Chinon, for example. Already very enjoyable with a long decant, it will be better still in another five years.
I had never tried Rol Valentin before, so this was quite a revelation. I wouldn’t say the style of the 2005 is a classic one, but neither is it made in the 00s style which I find so repellent. I won’t be rushing out to buy lots more, but at the right price I would certainly buy a few.
I might well find some at the right price - I suppose that Rol Valentin is an example of the rise and fall of certain Saint Emilions during and after the reign of RMP. In terms of price, the 2005 was the high water mark, at around 50€ EP. Subsequent vintages dropped to around 30€, with the 2016 and 2017 currently changing hands for around 20€. No older vintage shows any tendency to rise in price - for example the well-received 2009 came out at 30€ and sells today for the same price.