As we enter the fray of en primeurs, it is worth reflecting on more everyday offerings from Bordeaux. As the red carpet offerings reap their rewards, or just desserts, there are many largely unsung heroes which have benefited from all of the investment and research into viticulture and vinification at the top end and, well beneath the parapet, have been improving every element in wine production, from soil to bottle. Alison Buchanan, Associate Director & Buyer at C&B, picks some of her best value for money Bordeaux buys.
Tradition has always been a watchword in Bordeaux and we have always cited this as “an experiment which has worked,” but tweaks can and ought to be made to improve quality. Tradition is a fine servant but a bad master and slavish following thereof will inevitably stand in the way of progress. Whilst the maelstrom around the Bordeaux supermodels has been very public, there has been a gentle revolution in the shadows. Who would have imagined, even two decades ago, that a stated goal would be for Bordeaux to be either sustainable, organic or biodynamic by 2025 nor yet that they have already achieved 60% of that ambition.
Allan Sichel states that “it shows a total change in the state of mind” We are proud to be a Bordeaux house and we instinctively know that these wines offer absolute value. …and we are not alone. There is “real value to be found among less well-known châteaux, particularly the crus bourgeois in the Médoc in better vintages” states Jancis Robinson (jancisrobinson.com). Here we highlight and offer a collection of drinking Bordeaux, running parallel to our ongoing en primeur offerings.
A blend of 70% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, mellowed by some bottle age, this provides a relatively simple (in a positive sense) accessible style with dried violet aromatics complementing cherry and bramble compote – ideal Sunday claret. C&B Score: 16.5
This is from the Entre Deux Mers, between the Dordogne and Faronne rivers, plated on gravel, sand and clay. 35 year old Merlot vines (100%) providing a warming, smooth, plump-fruited red, rich and layered and ready to go. C&B Score: 16.5 – 17
Here we have a Merlot dominated blend (80%) which with 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Petit Verdot makes for a highly focused fennel-spiced blend of plump cherries and cassis, underpinned by a mineral seam. C&B Score: 16.5
The blend here is not, as may initially appear, an act of madness nor of self-indulgence but a real effort to match grape variety and terroir, one foot firmly rooted in tradition, the other very aware of the modern world, including climate change. 41% Merlot, 17% Carmenère, 16% Petit Verdot, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Cabernet Franc and 7% Malbec. This translates on the palate as sweet, exotic and classic – the whole gamut – with great focus to complement food. C&B Score: 16.5+
This was a totally run-down property, bought by the Touchais family, now fully restored and planted. Unusually for the Left Bank, the planting is Merlot biased, 50% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc and the wine enjoys 12 months in a mix of new, one, two and three year barrels. Deep cherry in colour, this is dark, earthy and fennel spiced, some herbal notes heightening a rather obvious come hither character. C&B Score: 17
Château de Lamarque, Haut-Médoc 2015
Château de Lamarque, a Corney & Barrow favourite for aeons, tends to be a little reticent in youth – a small price to pay for that hallmark longevity. The 2015, in fairness, has currently left its make-up box in the dressing room whilst other wines truly lay their hearts on their sleeves. With a blend of 45% Cabernet Sauvignon,45% Merlot and 10% Petit Verdot, matured in 42% new oak, this will still benefit from decanting – good underlying concentration, black and red fruit and mineral definition. C&B Score: 17
£22.75 Email [email protected] to order
An impeccable site, this sees twenty nine old vines (average) planted on the Poujeaux plateau overlooking Margaux. Moulis is something of an insider’s pick for price:quality and Dutruch is a fine ambassador. The blend is 58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot and 5% Petit Verdot. Sweet, slightly smoky and seductive nose on the nose, it combines intense old vine fruit, perfumed primary notes – black cherry and cassis – and earthy forest floor –complex. C&B Score: 17
Château Belair Graves de Vayres 2015
Making a welcome return to the field, this wine ticks all of our boxes. It treads that fine line between a certain classicism and overt seduction. There are heady floral notes, upbeat and evocative, allied to dark fruit. Cream-textured, this is very complete, supported by silken tannins and complemented by toasted oak – 33% new. The blend here is 50% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc. C&B Score: 17.5
Available for pre-order. Email [email protected]
Sharing the same appellation and vintage as Belair Graves de Vayres, 50% Merlot, 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, this is totally different stylistically. It is more taut, buttoned up even, initially, on the nose, but it opens up on aeration to reveal ripe, plump cherries with a cassis focus – a driven style, which will lend itself perfectly to food. C&B Score: 16.5
Since the days of Samual Pepys recording having much enjoyed some Ho Bryon (for which read today, Haut Brion Premier Grand Cru Classé) we in the UK have enjoyed something of an affinity with the Graves. This property used to be contracted to sell the grapes to the Baron Philippe de Rothschild, so was clearly recognised for its quality. Here, in a blend of 50% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Cabernet Franc we find plump fruit, cherries interwoven with filigree dark chocolate, underscored by earthy minerals. 30% new oak adds richness and texture. C&B Score: 16.5
80% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, with 12 months in 33% new wood, this offers a very pretty, opulent glass, rich in plum, cherry, pomegranate and warm fruitcake – very expressive. The palate is fresher and more upbeat than the generosity suggested on the nose, bright fruit to the fore with back notes of violet and rose – seductive. C&B Score: 17
And finally, no Bordeaux list would be complete without…
The perfect starter pack to this region. A selection of our C&B Own Label wines, representing the very best styles, and value for money. From a Margaux produced by the highly renowned family-owned négociant house of Sichel, to a Sauternes sourced from a Premier Cru property, this is house wine, but not as you know it.