TN: Clos Saint Martin 2005 Saint-Emilion

I pulled a lot of wine from off-site storage this week, hence the notes on a lot of mature wine (with more to come).

I purchased a case of this on futures because I fell in love the the RMP-slagged 99 rendition after trying it at a big Stacole Bordeaux show (he even gave a tasting note I posted on Squires a backhand swipe after I said I thought Neal Martin nailed the quality of the wine - those were the days!) - FWIW, whenever I popped a 99 blind with Bordeaux fiends they would do backflips.

I popped a loner from the case just after release to see, and it was as full of acid, tannin and fruit as the early reports on the vintage suggested. Lots of great raw materials, but completely unassembled.

I didn’t expect to bury the case deep enough that bottle #2 would come out 12-13 years later, but lots of things changed, most notably for the purposes of this note, my tastes. This was the last case of Bordeaux I ever expect to buy. I have scattered wines from 08, 09 and 10, and a little closeout 12 Calon-Segur, but as great as the wine region is intellectually, they speak to my heart less often than other wines from around France and the world that are frequently more affordable (minus Burgundy).

That said, this is a spectacular wine with a long, long life ahead. Perfect fill, perfect cork. Dark color. Just a hint of ruby around the rim. If this is any indicator, 05 Bordeaux is moving ahead more slowly than 05 Burgundy, which is saying a lot.

Youthful nose. Only slightly evolved. Raspberry, blackcurrant, cassis, black plum. Not oaky at all in the nose. Where many Right Bank wines live off flamboyance, this has a vinous purity.

Texture-wise there is ferocious grip. The tannins are tongue-coating and the wine’s acidity is very intense (good!). The vintage was touted for having a lot of everything structural, and you can see reflected here for sure.

Behind the structure there’s beautiful purity of dark fruit, though it feels a little pent-up by the wine’s relative youth. There’s a stony, minerally note under the fruit which was what I found so compelling in the 99 - a wine that evolved more quickly, but calls back to this vintage.

Blind, unless someone is deeply experienced with Bordeaux and 05, I’m hard-pressed to believe anyone would guess the age. Hard to believe a Merlot-based wine could have this kind of brooding, forbidding structure. The wine is like a mountain range planted to dark fruit trees.

Thanks for this note, Jim. I have a few bottles of this somewhere. This is very encouraging

You don’t have to rush to find them! This wine has a lot of upside left to realize. Over the course of dinner and afterards, it got better and a little more generous, but this is on the slow climb to greatness.


Interesting that you should like this wine so much, and yet say you will buy no more Bordeaux!

I had the 2017 Clos St. Martin last week and it was showing very well.

This is the smallest cru classé in Saint-Emilion. I would like to pick some up for my cellar too.
The vines are in a prime location.

As for the wines of France, whereas top Bordeaux has moved out of your buget allowance (as it has for many people), I strongly suggest you discover some of the excellent affordable wines of Bordeaux, of which there are many. Here in the heartland, you can buy very good red wines for as little as 8 euros a bottle.

Best regards,
Alex R.

Lowest price in the US for this wine is $158/bottle so I guess somebody agrees with you that it’s going to be great!

I think the 2005 Bordeaux are aging at a pretty glacial pace. Wouldn’t touch them for the most part.

nice note. hard wines to find.

Great notes. Haven’t touched my case, and now don’t plan to for awhile. Thank you.


I would consider another five years or so.


That’s not quite what I said. I expect this will be the last full case I ever buy. I am happy to have it, as I agree, this is a special terroir. Bordeaux is behind Burg/Piedmont/North Rhone and Champagne for my heart, and I’m seldom buying full cases there either - threes and sixes are my normal maximums, so it’s no swipe at Bordeaux. Just noting that I am happy to have acquired a relative rarity from a great vintage in a style/from a tiny terroir that I really love, and that it is unlikely to happen again.

As to petits chateaux, I often buy and drink. Because of the size of the region and because I have a distributor that works with several importers and negociants, I can usually find a value-priced, top vintage wine with some age with very little trouble. No need to buy futures when you can buy pasts!