I simply love French wine! I do not understand all the intricacies of French wine but I really enjoy learning. Last summer I declared it my summer of French wine. I tasted and learned quite a bit while I sought to better understand the beauty of French wines. From Alsace to Champagne to Burgundy, Bordeaux, Beaujolais, Loire Valley, Rhone Valley, Languedoc and Provence, I have been blessed over the past year to have enjoyed a bounty of outstanding French wines. Since last summer’s “Summer of French Wine” was such an excellent opportunity for me to expand my French wine knowledge I decided to keep it going this summer. In May I shared with you an educational and delicious Burgundy wine class I attended in my article “Touring Burgundy with Domaine Devillard” and two delicious Languedoc Rosés in my article “Celebrating the Sun with Paul Mas Rosé.” So let’s take some time this June to explore Bordeaux.
Bordeaux has 54 wine appellations. The Bordeaux region is dominated by the Gironde estuary, along with its two tributaries the Garonne river and the Dordogne river; defining the main geographical sub-divisions of Bordeaux. The “right bank” region lies geographically to the right of the Dordogne River and north near the city of Libourne. This region is dominated by earthy Merlot blends. The “left bank” lies geographically to the left of the Garonne River and south around the city of Bordeaux. Furthermore, the left bank is sub-divided into the Graves, the area upstream of the city of Bordeaux, and Médoc, the area downstream of the city of Bordeaux. The left bank provides both white and red wines, the red wines are dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon.
Bordeaux has a unique terroir that is vital to the beauty of its wines. The Gironde estuary along with the Garonne and Dordogne rivers provide a unique oceanic climate and irrigate the soil. The region is largely limestone that contributes to its calcium rich soil that is comprised of gravel, sandy soil and clay. There are five red wine Bordeaux grapes: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec. The most common white Bordeaux grapes include: Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc. Both red wine and white wine Bordeauxs are crafted as blends. To learn more about Bordeaux and the fabulous wines crafted there I encourage you to visit the Bordeaux web site.
I chose to explore two right bank Bordeauxs and two left bank Bordeauxs. Purchasing Bordeaux, especially lower priced ones, can be confusing and at times daunting. I will share with you what I purchased and what aspects of the label indicated the wine may be a high quality value.
Château Brisson 2009 Castillon Côtes De Bordeaux: One thing to look for on a label of Bordeaux is that producer listed on the label actually made the wine. I knew this was true for this wine because the phrase “Mis En Bouteille a la Propriete” was listed on the label. So far I had a good vintage year and a wine that was crafted by the Château listed on the label. This wine was labeled “Grand Vin de Bordeaux,” which is to indicate the wine is the producers “best” wine, a step up from their second bottling;” however, the term is unregulated.
Tasting notes: This “right bank” Bordeaux was crafted from 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine poured a deep garnet with violet highlights into the glass and opened with aromas of bramble berries, cherries, leather, licorice and a slight hint of vanilla. On the palate it offered dried black cherries, black plums, a touch of spice and soft toasted oak. It was well-refined, smooth and balanced. It was softer on the palate than on the nose. SRP $19.99
Château La Croix Des Moines Lalande-De-Pomerol 2010: This wine was crafted in the Lalande-De-Pomerol region of Bordeaux. This region is known as one of the higher quality, lower priced Bordeauxs. Additionally, 2010 was a good vintage for seeking out lower priced Bordeauxs. Furthermore, its higher alcohol content of 14% and the fact that it was aged 14 months in oak also indicate it may be a good quality and value Bordeaux.
Tasting notes: This “right bank” Bordeaux was crafted from 80% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Cabernet Franc. This wine poured a deep garnet with rose petal highlights into the glass and opened with alluring Bordeaux aromas of ripe red and black fruit, licorice, savory spices and mineral notes. On the palate it delivered dark cherries, plums, black raspberries, smoke, licorice, dried herbal notes and touch of cedar. It offered a nice feel on the palate, well-structured and balanced with a lingering dryness on the back of the palate. It was soft but very pleasing. SRP $20.99
Château Bernadotte 2004 Haut-Medoc: There were several aspects to this wine’s label that indicated it was a solid purchase. First, the vines were in the Haut-Médoc region, a region known for producing high quality lower priced Bordeauxs. Second, the label carried the phrase “Mis En Bouteille au Château,” which also indicates the wine is crafted by the Château on the label. Third, since 1996 this prestigious winery located in the heart of Médoc has been owned and operated by Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, an amazing wine producer who I have enjoyed on several occasions. Finally, this wine was imported by Maison Marques and Domaines, whose impressive portfolio I enjoyed a few months ago in Dallas. However, at a lower price its age may indicate it is losing its punch. Let’s find out.
Tasting notes: This “left bank” Bordeaux was crafted from 59% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot. This wine poured a vibrant and deep scarlet into the glass and opened with aromas of rich red fruit, savory spice, minerality and worn leather. On the palate it delivered black cherries, red plums, cranberries, sage, crushed stone and a touch of cola. It was well-structured and balanced with a dry lingering finish. This wine has moved past its prime but it still has some life yet. For full enjoyment I would recommend purchasing a younger vintage. SRP $25.25
Château Bois-Martin Pessac-Léognan 2009: This wine offers many indication of being an exceptionally valued Bordeaux. First, the Pessac-Léognan appellation is a prominent component of the Graves sub-region. Second the label clearly indicated “Mis En Bouteille au Château.” 2009 is a good vintage for lower priced quality Bordeauxs. Third, its higher alcohol content of 13.5% is a good indication. Finally, this small vineyard is owned by the Perrin family of Château Carbonnieux and is wonderfully located in gravel soil between two high quality vineyards: Château Fieuzal and Château Malartic-Lagravière.
Tasting notes: This “left bank” Bordeaux was crafted of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot. This wine poured a deep ruby and opened with a vibrant aroma of red and blue berries, herbal notes, chocolate and baking spice. On the palate this wine was lively and bright; delivering flavors of cherries, raspberries, blueberries, soft leather, vanilla, and touch of dry dirt. It as a well-structured wine with well integrated tannins, mouth-coating feel and a long dry finish. This was the most sophisticated of the four wines and it was my favorite! SRP $20.62.
Bordeaux is a bold red wine that pairs very well with grilled steaks, lamb, veal, heavy pasta dishes such as lasagna or Bolognese. I recently came across a Mario Batali recipe from his New York restaurant, Babbo, Rib-Eye Steak with Bacon Wedge, and knew I had to prepare this recipe with these Bordeauxs. I served these wines to guest with Batali steaks, roasted potatoes and a delicious wedge salad. This was the perfect Bordeaux meal. The steaks appear a tad burnt on the outside but that was just the sear on the coating, I can assure you they were juicy and perfectly cooked to a medium on the inside. And to finish off the meal, an assortment of chocolate cookies and cupcakes. YUM!
I hope this article helped you to see that it pays to learn about Bordeaux. None of these wines were “blow your mind” Bordeaux, but they were all quite enjoyable. A little research and knowledge can help you find high quality Bordeauxs at a great value of under $25, making Bordeaux a weeknight wine for all to enjoy!
My Song Selection: The Bordeaux terroir was evident regardless of the price. These four Bordeuxs all had classic Bordeaux characteristic of deep fruit and earthiness. They were all smooth with a leathery touch and paired beautifully with the outstanding filets! Therefore, I chose a song that is deeply soulful with an R&B edge, “Willing and Able” by Dalton Reed.
Seek out your own value driven Bordeaux and let me know what song you pair with them. Cheers!