Tag Archives: bordeaux

Why we should drink more affordable Bordeaux

When we hear Bordeaux, many of us imagine large chateaux and even larger price tags. We think of complex classification systems and confusing labels. Most of all, we think of unapprochable wine – the expensive stuff needs to be put in the cellar (not to mention that it’s just expensive) and the cheap stuff is just… cheap. But there is such a wealth of wine from Bordeaux that neither needs age nor a fat wallet. All it needs is a good meal.

Wines of Bordeaux are extremely food-friendly. They are often lower in alcohol and high in acidity (two necessary aspects when pairing with food). Most Bordeaux is made to be drunk when young – no cellar time necessary. So for those of us looking for a great bottle to go with dinner, Bordeaux is an excellent choice. If you are nervous about navigating the world of Bordeaux and searching for a great wine under $50 that fits your palate, here are a few suggestions.

- Entre-Deux-Mers – translates to “between two seas.” This region produces excellent and crisp white wines, great for pairing with seafood or as an aperitif. Not only that, but they carry a very lovely price tag (under $15).

- Right Bank – if your palate tends to softer, more elegant reds, look for Bordeaux from St-Emilion or other right bank appellations (Fronsac, Canon-Fronsac, Cotes de Castillon, Bourg, Blaye, etc). These wines are typically Merlot-based and often very approchable when young.

- Vintage – there have been a few stellar vintages in Bordeaux this past decade, including 2005 and 2009. Many 2009 are still in futures sales, but there are some excellent under-$50 wines from the ’05 vintage. Stellar vintages translate into great wines, even in the entry-level sector. So snag some ’05s and give them a try.

It’s also helpful to read the tasting notes so you get an idea of what the wine tastes like. Don’t base it off of scores, but rather read what the winemaker or wine critic says about the wine – this is important in buying Bordeaux.

So give our Affordable Bordeaux a try. And enjoy the 1 cent shipping we’re offering on this list this week. Cheers!

Takeaways from the Wine Spectator Wine Experience

I just returned from 4 days in New York, where I had the privilege of attending the Wine Spectator Wine Experience. The event includes four long days of wine tasting, drinking and education, with renowned winemakers from around the world travelling in to hold seminars, pour wines and generally schmooze with the wine drinking public and trade. While I tasted some great wines, going into specifics on each would be terribly boring. Here are a few general takeaways I got from the event:

  1. I should drink more Burgundy. Let me clarify that – I should drink more Burgundy… if I could afford it. Sadly, prices are still high on wine from this magnificent region, but if I could sip on Puligny-Montrachet and Volnay every evening, I probably would. I tried to run up and down the aisles tasting the Harlans and the Chateau Margaux, but found the most pleasure in the not-too-crowded Burgundy booths, where the wines were delicate and elegant, refined and wonderfully balanced, showing a true sense of place.
  2. A lot of California Cabernet is overrated. There are plenty that are not, but quite a few that are. And some that tasted like they should have been pouring at the Port tables. I enjoy Caymus and Quintessa as much as the next person, but a few “cult” Cabernets I tried did not taste nearly as exciting as their price tag said they should be.
  3. I need to try more Super Tuscans! And Italian wines in general. I spent too much time trying to get to the big names, but exploring some of the Italian wines with which I was unfamiliar was a real treat. It made me realize I need to wait 20 years before drinking any Brunellos, that Sangiovese is a wonderful food wine, and that Italian winemakers are simply charming.
  4. Bordeaux has brett.  Even the first growths. Perhaps I’ve become too sensitive to the spoilage yeast, but some of the higher end Bordeaux I tasted, including first growths, were tainted with notes of brett, otherwise known as brettanomyces, a spoilage yeast that often lives in the barrels of wineries, adding notes of leather in small amounts, aromas of “barnyard” in larger amounts. The potency of it ran the spectrum, overtaking the wine in some cases. Oddly I didn’t find it in any of the Rhone wines I tasted…
  5. Dry Portuguese reds are the next big thing. Tasted quite a few, including one that ranked number 9 in the Wine Spectator top wines of 2010. It was fantastic. Structured, with great fruit and lots of layers of complexity and just a true sense of place – it was different, not trying to be something it’s not, but embracing its terroir and coming out on top. Delicious stuff.

Tasting the 2009 Vintage in Bordeaux

 

 

I have just spent three amazing days in Bordeaux tasting over 300 wines from the 2009 vintage. Mike and Rich joined up with Patrick Baugier and myself to see for ourselves what this much heralded vintage is all about. In a word it is AWESOME.

Patrick is a Bordelais with an enormous spread of contacts throughout the region. He drove us around and made sure we didn’t miss a thing. This explains why we managed to taste close on 400 wines. We tasted through all qualities – from Petits Chateaux of the Cotes de Bourg to Ch Lafite and Ch Margaux. We also tasted some quite magnificent Sauternes and Barsac. One thing that stood out was how immediately accessible these wines are. We were spitting throughout but it was often very difficult to do so, and nearly impossible with the sweet wines!

We started off on Monday, where we tasted a selection of over 50 Petits Chateaux from earlier vintages for possible addition into the Club Claret range. We have found ten or so which you will be hearing about later in the year.

From then on, we drove up and down the Medoc, calling in on the numerous tastings of the local commune wines, the Cru Bourgeois and finally the Cru Classé. Many of these tastings were in the Chateaux themselves where the hospitality of our hosts was exceptional.

The consensus of opinion about this vintage is that we are looking at wines that compare to 2000 and 2005, perhaps a shade better than the former and tussling for pole position with the latter. What was also fascinating to witness was the powerful presence of merchants and traders from China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and even India. This is a vintage that will sell out en primeur very quickly – be warned.

The daily visit to six or so tastings culminated in some very happy evening dinners, be they in Bordeaux restaurants, private homes or Chateau environments. Here we were able not only to talk wine but finally swallow a few glasses and remind ourselves, as if we needed reminding, how delicious mature Bordeaux wines are.

I had to return to England today, to collect my car, only to drive back to France tomorrow for a few days skiing with my grandchildren in the Haut Savoie. I am not complaining, except seeing Mike, Rich and Patrick heading off in the car to Ch d’Yquem, and then on to St Emilion and Pomerol, with Ch Petrus on the menu, left me with a frog in my throat!

Over the next few days, I will be more specific about the wines we tasted. In fact we will be putting together a shopping-list of the best of the bunch for you to think about. Till then, salut!

Anthony Foster MW

 

An update on recent Bordeaux Vintages – Part 4

 

The 2003 vintage followed that incredibly hot summer when temperatures were up in the 40 degrees Celsius (well into the 100’s Fahrenheit) day after day, At Vinexpo, that pivotal wine fair held in Bordeaux every two years, iced water was the star of the show. There was very little rain and in a land where irrigation is simply not allowed, there was a severe risk of the grapes shriveling. Mercifully the rain arrived in time and good quantities of very ripe sometimes shrivelled grapes with low acidity were harvested. Some of the fruit tasted stewed, some simply luscious.

Nobody felt that the wines would be anything more than massively fruity and fairly short-lived because of the over-ripe tannins and lack of acidity. Well Bordeaux is an amazing region for great wines and the 2003’s stubbornly wanted to be amongst them and now we are seeing a surprising number of very classy wines – in particular from the Medoc – showing great complexity.

Recently I enjoyed drinking three examples of this fascinating vintage

Château Pichon-Longueville Baron 2003 Pauillac
Nice sweet, cassis nose, also chocolatey, and rich. It was concentrated, sweet and full. The palate was firm, complex and had full rich spicy fruit and firm tannins. It had wonderful balance and great length. Very special

Château Cos d’Estournel 2003 Ste Estephe
A wonderful velvety, toasty nose that’s round and powerful. It was very rich wine with plenty of ripeness and luscious fruit with a coffee edge to it. It has balanced oak and enormous concentration. A wine with enormous power and potential longevity

Château Pavie2003, St Emilion
Surprisingly from the right bank where wines were not generally as successful as those from the Northern Medoc, this wine showed great class. At once it had rich and chocolately with roast coffee notes and some very sweet dark fruits. The palate was powerful, full and concentrated with plenty of oak influence, along with the sweet fruit. Really delicious and still a keeper.

 

An update on recent Bordeaux Vintages – Part 3

 

The 2000 vintage was much hyped. Everyone wanted a great wine for such a memorable year. Seemingly they were going to buy whatever. Thank heavens it turned out to be a fine vintage in Bordeaux. Indeed now as the wines are coming round it is being considered as an even better vintage than originally thought.

Bordeaux 2000 is the story of a vintage in two parts: after a warm winter and wet spring, the first half got off to a bad start. A sultry wet winter and the biggest mildew attack since the 1870 was only brought under control by a flash of heat in June. Then July, usually the powerhouse of any vintage, was overcast and cool. At the end of July, if this had been 30 years ago, the vintage would have been lost already.

The second half was a total turn-around, and, as the long, dry days of August and September progressed into harvest time, things got better.

Picking started around 20th September in ideal conditions but rain did arrive on the 24th and picking stopped. The rain only lasted twenty-four hours and was not the downpours of previous years. Many estates delayed picking immediately after rain and some held off until October and were rewarded by an Indian Summer which produced wines of gorgeous ripeness. Some growers picked in September and their wine just missed the boat, but were still of good quality. One of the keys to this vintage is recognising this in the wines.

Quoting Jancis Robinson who emailed me the other morning: “Last week I had the great pleasure of 'looking at' nearly 50 of the more significant red Bordeaux from the 2000 vintage now celebrating its tenth birthday. This is traditionally the time at which classical red bordeaux starts to come round and starts to provide good drinking.”

Quality abounds in all regions with many wines already very accessible but clearly with the potential to live on for another 20 years or more. Even though prices opened substantially higher than the 1999’s, most of the great wines have trebled in price since release.