The Hidden Gem – Roc De Cambes vertical 2002 – 2015

Are you a Bordeaux brand name drinker? Or you are one of those whom try to look for gems?  

Don’t get me wrong, I am in love with those aged first growth and grand cru Classé, which Bordeaux lover doesn’t ? However, for practical reason, at least to me,  it’s that those first growth or super seconds aren’t exactly close to affordable for daily consumptions (while at a fun dinner table very recently, a friend told us she has DRC as her vin de table at home;  lives aren’t close to the same sometimes, in a good or bad way, ha), and even a Las Cases, a Trotanoy, or any VCC which I adore, price soars.  Finding hidden gems can be fun and gratifying, when you have the cash or when you don’t.

These few years to me, Roc de Cambes is one of those jewels, produced  by the famed François Mitjavile whom as well making his Château Tertre-Roteboeuf.  Price of wine range from 2015 around 40 euro to 1996 at 75 euro a bottle, pretty decent for such great quality if you ask me.  A strong buy call.

great to spend time with Francois Mitjavile to taste his full range of wine, captured by his passions, he stressed “we don’t talk about wine at dinner but things that is important to us. We dominate wine and let’s not let wine dominate us.”


It is reported that in the late late 1980s when François Mitjavile first visited the 10 hectares vineyards of Roc de Cambes, which are situated close to the Gironde on a south-facing slope in a natural amphitheatre, he put his finger in the ground and decided to buy the estate there and then. It has the same limestone (partly clay) “mother rock” that characterizes many of the greatest vineyard sites in St-Émilion, including François and Miloute Mitjaville’s crown jewel, Château Tertre-Roteboeuf.
Located just across the Gironde estuary from Margaux, the Côtes de Bourg remains relatively “unknown” compared to the ‘Right Bank’ appellations of Bordeaux. The region’s soils are a mix of alluvial sand and gravel closer to the river and, up on a plateau that includes Roc de Cambes,  these soils are slow to warm up in the spring, which results in a naturally long growing season. Although it is an outlier area compare to the grand cru classes , François was convinced he’d found a true gem, and the wines I am tasting with Adam Brett-Smith , MD of Corney & Barrow here, a vertical from 2002 to 2015 today, we both came to conclusion easily that it has again proven to strive as an archiver (amazing value for money as well).
François has transformed the fortunes of this property by bringing his wine-making philosophy and all his technical of know-how from Tertre Roteboeuf and applying the same principles to this fabulous site. Key to the success has been controlling the vines’ vigour. Yields here are low by Bordeaux standards (35hl/ha in a great year like 2009). Another of François’ key principles is he only look for full phenolic ripeness in his grapes at harvest.
Roc de Cambes had set a new standard in the Côtes de Bourg. And to this day it is unrivalled in this commune and quite sometimes beats the very “well known” superstars in blind.  It will be fun to serve their wine  blind next time side by side with some super right bankers.
wine produced by Francois Mitjavile

For the meantime, below are some of the wine tasted to share: 

2002 is a vintage with not much sun but dry year. Perhaps wine can be lack of brightness, sometimes with a high level of structures ( tannins). On nose, quite soft and wet, with slightly noticeable  barnyard & mint notes. Slightly dirty, lean, but rich and spicey.  despite a hot year, it poses nice freshness with great acidity.

Hot and dry. Game, leather on nose, nice structure, euchlyptics, little dry and sweet spices, nice sweet finish, slightly drying. 89

A year of sad rainy season, warm. Classic. Expressive sweet tobacco , candied nose, elegant, a bit wet leafy style yet very tasty and minty; slightly bitter at finish. Medium to long finish. drink now but can keep. 91

Ripe, dark juicy nose.  Sweet floral & spices emerged after some swirling.  Smoke, leather, tobacco, nice softness, elegance (surprisingly for a 09) with great concentration.  fruit forward now with red and black berries, nicely weaved together, intense sweet creamy flavour, savoury comes at finish. medium to long finish. 75% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Malbec.  Unbelievably  approachable now. I found it is an extremely great value at around USD 80 (compare to as well amazing François’s another baby, Le Tertre-Roteboeuf at USD350) 94

Greater concentration and structures than 2009 , with the fruits of 09. Interesting nose of stewed and ripe fruits of blackcurrants and plums. Pure and fresh.  This wine needs time for sure, will be interesting to come back every year to see how it evolves into, but if you only have a few bottles, I would say 8- 10 years would sounds like a safe bet. 75% Merlot, 5% Malbec, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. 92

Smokey, cedar, chocolate, toasty, graphite on nose.  Soft graceful entry and more expansive after few seconds, minty , hint of leather and great elegance of merlot is showing here. Amazing effort by Francois here.  comfy to drink now.  91-2

Earthy Soft entry again, more on the red berries side, fresh, more herbal than 2011, medicinal tart cherry finish . 90

lighter in style, linear, on the sweet side, inside out. Great spices, nice tannins, I love its lifting finish . Enjoyable now. 90-91

Interesting nose, rose petals, slightly cheesy, ripe, sweet and savoury at the same time, nice texture , soft yet firm and so easy to drink even now. slightly short at finish. 91

Dark and savoury.  Powerful and gorgeous.  Cocoa, minty, fresh, a beautiful structure similar to those in 2009. Nice mouth feel with a lighter touch to it. fresh, elevating at finish. A very feel great perfumed wine here. I suspect you can drink this earlier than their 2009.  A great bargin like most of the Roc de Cambes at USD 55.  93-94

More info for the geeks : winemaking :
The average vine age is over 35 years and François Mitjavile overhauled the vineyard by replanting diseased vines and introducing grass covering which helps regulate the water supply. The grapes (65% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc) are harvested as late as possible, and are then vinified in temperature controlled cement vats. The wine is then matured in oak barrels (50% new) for 15- 18 months. Roc de Cambes produces rich, stylish, full-bodied wines that considering their size are remarkably harmonious and well balanced.

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