As some of you know, my husband and I have found a new activity for our Monday evenings (well one Monday a month, that is). Our local wine store offers monthly wine tastings at a nearby restaurant. February’s tasting focused on inexpensive wines from Bordeaux. Read about January’s tasting of Ports. Knowing very little of the region before the lecture, I was excited to not only learn more about a different type of wine, but hopefully find some new bargains.
Let’s start from the top, shall we? The Bordeaux region of France is located in the southwest corner of the country. It is a coastal growing region, and is marked by three rivers that define the region. The rivers converge in a fork shape, creating the left bank, right bank, and the remaining land in between, the Entre-Deux Mers (the large yellow region on the map). Translated, the region is literally “Between Two Rivers.” Both the left and right bank have always been considered the premiere land, and therefore are home to the oldest and most prestigious Bordeaux wineries. In recent years, however, wineries have begun to reinvent in the Entre-Deux Mers and are producing some decent wines. Because this “newer” wine growing region (Bordeaux has been producing wine since Roman times) is less known, you can get some spectacular deals on wine – this is where the inexpensive part comes in. Most of the wines we tasted were from the Entre-Deux-Mers region.
What do you need to know when purchasing wine from Bordeaux? First off, look for a 2005 vintage. This was a great year and you are pretty much guaranteed a good bottle of wine if it’s from ’05. Stay away from 2007 and 2008 (for Reds) as this year was less desirable and produced mediocre wines. Vintages are “good” and “bad” mainly based on the weather during the growing season. While its not a hard and fast rule, knowing a good vintage can go a long way.
Next, let’s talk about the types of wine produced by the region. Eighty-eight percent of Bordeaux wines are red wines and are named “Claret.” Unlike the varietal classification system (what we use here in the U.S.) which names a wine by the predominate grape (ex. Chardonnay or Pino Noir), French wines are mostly blends of certain grapes and therefore rely on an “appellation” classification. This means, if you buy a “Bordeaux,” you know you are buying a blended red wine usually consisting of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc grapes. Bordeaux also produces “White Bordeaux” and much like the name suggests, this is a blended white wine, usually consisting of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and Muscadelle grapes.
On to the tasting:
We tasted seven wines that particular evening, but here are a few of my favorites. (All happen to be reds – we did taste two whites, but in my opinion, you can get better white blends at a cheaper price from other regions – namely Australia and New Zealand)
Chateau D’Argardens Bordeaux Superieur – 2005 – This Merlot/Cab blend had a lovely nose of fresh plums, with good tannins, but a light slightly weak finish. There was a little fruit and a slight hint of oak at the end, but nothing long-lasting. At $13.99 this is a decent wine to serve with a heavier chicken or pork dish.
Chateau Douley Cotes de Bordeaux – 2005 – Mostly Merlot, this is a great everyday red. With a fantastic nose of blackberry, smoke, and oak, the wine opens up with strong cherry notes and good balanced tannins. This was the best value of the evening, in my opinion, at $12.99.
Chateau Lagarosse Cotes de Bordeaux – 2005 – Mostly Merlot, this wine carried less fruit and more smoky, earthy flavors. With a woody nose and stronger tannins, this wine was a nice change from the fruitier reds. $15.99
Chateau Rocher Figeac Saint Emillion – 2005 – This boutique wine comes from the Right Bank, unlike the rest of the wines featured. The wine offered a dark fruit on the nose, but surprised with spice and earthy tones within. With less tannins, the wine still remained very balanced. This was my favorite wine of the evening. $19.99
Chateau Haut-Beausejour St. Estephe – 2005 - This 50/50, Merlot/Cab blend has a minerally nose, but is very blanced and has a long smooth finish. There is less fruit to this wine, but the wine certinaly does not lack. This blend will age 10-15 years. $32.99
Interested in tasting? Contact Machester Wine & Liqours for reservations. Tastings are once a month at The Adams Mill Banquet Room and cost $5.00 per person. March’s topic: South Afriacan Wines