Bordeauxlicious is a striking D&D/CIVB (Bordeaux wine body) campaign and is running until 12th October.
Now this may surprise you, but even as a Frenchman and sommelier I used to look at Bordeaux with a strange eye – maybe due to its links with England or maybe because people from the region rarely mix outside of their area! Then in recent years, the price of the first growths seemed to turn them into commodities rather than beautiful bottles of wine and made people feel that buying Claret was like going through a mortgage approval process rather than buying wine. It hasn’t been helped by the rise of Russian oligarchs and Chinese billionaires who have driven prices further still.
Speaking of China, I have found it amusing to see the soaring price of Lafite-Rothschild over there and struggled to understand why this was. I was lucky enough to visit Chateau Lafite a couple of months ago – even though I wasn’t flying first class or wearing a diamond-encrusted Rolex! On that trip, I really wanted to find out why Lafite is more prestigious and expensive than Latour in China. I put this question to the Lafite cellar master and his answer was the best and most honest that I could ever have expected: “it’s because of the name mainly, they can pronounce it.” That was brilliant. All manner of reasons have been put forward for Lafite’s popularity in China but this was the best and it was incredibly endearing to hear it from the cellar master. But I digress…
I do not want to talk solely about Bordeaux first growths. We have to credit them for being the ‘locomotive’ of the Bordeaux AC train; but the magic of this area is really down to the quality of the grapes – principally Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot – the Atlantic climate and effect of the Gironde estuary, which combine to create wines which in the old days were able to live over a century long. The white varietals, made mainly from Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle cover the full flavour and texture spectrum, from dry styles to stickies.
Bordeaux is bursting with appellations, some extremely famous and others lesser-known like Graves-de-Vayres or Cadillac, which are interesting to go around if you have time. If you only have time to sample a few Bordeaux wines, I do highly recommend sticking to the core of Bordeaux which, based on my taste, is the areas of St Estèphe, Pauillac, St Julien, Margaux, Pessac-Léognan and St Emilion.
For Bordeauxlicious at Angler, we are focusing on Bordeaux terroir and here is a very basic snapshot of what to expect:
St Estèphe can appear austere in youth with a discernable ferric note at some châteaux, but the best typically display good depth of colour, pronounced acidity and tannins in youth and are exceptionally long-lived. They are rustic and austere.
Pauillac produces the most aromatically complex and subtly-flavoured wines. It is the text book Bordeaux wine for many people. Cassis, blackberry, tobacco and cigar box notes are part of the key aromatic profile.
St Julien has the structure of Pauillac and the fruitiness of Margaux, a lovely combination! Elegance, harmony, perfect balance and weight.
Margaux should be really flavourful, elegant, exquisite and tasty but, for me, it is not as reliable as St Julien – a bit of an oddity!
Pessac-Léognan should be heady, rich and almost savoury in character, laced with notes of tobacco, spice, leather and vegetal hints.
St Emilion should be generous, with good colour, and reach maturity quicker than other red Bordeaux, maybe due to the amount of Merlot in the blend. In short: a round, easy and smooth red wine.
In my opinion, the first wines of Bordeaux chateaux tend to be a little overpriced and so for my Bordeauxlicious selection this month, I have relied on the second wines – generally made with younger vines or declassified yields. Join us at Angler and taste the wonderful wines which made this sceptical Frenchman a Bordeaux convert!