We are so lucky to live in these times, I really believe that the quality of good wine has never been better than it is now, but that is sometimes easy to forget. Luckily I tried two very different red wines recently that really proved the point, they were rich and supple with great fruit and excellent tannin management. They appeared to be superbly made and to have had love and care lavished upon them and the results were enticing:
Cru Bourgeois Clarets – polished and renewed for 2009
Of all the world’s great wine regions it is Bordeaux that is dearest to my heart, for the simple reason that the first really good quality wines that I tasted were from there. Many of you are aware that I love Spanish wines and almost anything left of field, but wherever else I roam I am always drawn back to the red wines of Bordeaux. Sadly I have not been to Bordeaux often enough or, as prices have risen, drunk nearly enough of the stuff and I would very much like to put that right.
Well, recently I was in exactly the right place to start that process. Last year I reported in detail on the new Cru Bourgois classification for the Médoc district of Bordeaux. I attended the first unveiling of the new classification last year and the explanation of the new selection process as well as the principals behind it. If you need to catch up on the background my article from last year explains all – read it here.
That first vintage of the newly revamped Cru Bourgeois was the 2008, the new one is the much more exciting 2009. The tasting panels have now done their work and the results are in and 246 wines have achieved the coveted Cru Bourgeois status for the 2009 vintage – three more than last year’s tally. Having seen the unveiling of the new classification last year I was anxious to see how things were progressing. I had a favourable view of the wines last year, but was slightly concerned that as Cru Bourgeois is a guarantee of a minimum quality that it might lend itself to a sort of general sweeping up of otherwise unclassified wine. So I was pleased to be able to taste a good representative range of these wines.
I well remember the first time I tried a half decent claret, one that did not have the word on the label that is. How sophisticated I felt and what a revelation it seemed. I shied away from the costly 1982 Sarget de Gruaud-Larose – £4.99 a bottle, how wish I had bought 20 cases or so – and kept to the more modest Château Meyney 1977 Cru Bourgeois St Estèphe at £3.99.
That experience, which was a good one, was pivotal in fixing my view of red Bordeaux wines. From that moment one I knew I liked them, respected them and desired them, sadly I could seldom ever afford them and it has remained that way ever since. Bear in mind too that was in the days when a bad vintage, like 1977, bore no relation to a good one at all – not like now. Continue reading
The other day I was fortunate enough to taste two very different wines. They were like chalk and cheese in many ways and yet I think they would appeal to the same sort of drinker.
One was a really classic wine, I know this term is overused, but the wine in question is a Cru Bourgeois Bordeaux that I have tasted on and off throughout my career and one that is much loved by the UK wine trade – Château Caronne Ste Gemme.
Located just to the south of the commune of St Julien in the Haut-Médoc (number 3 on the map), Caronne Ste Gemme often has some of that famous village’s cedary style, which to many Brits is the quintessence of claret. Unlike the mass of estates further north, this property is on its own, but it occupies some impressively deep, superbly drained, gravel soils which help it to produce concentrated wines from its 45 hectares of vines that are made up of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Petit Verdot and 37% Merlot. Continue reading
It is a sad fact of wine life that many consumers find French wine terms confusing. Often it is not the fact that they are in French, as much as they are confusing concepts to translate. Cru Classé, Grand Cru, Grand Cru Classé, Premier Cru, Premier Grand Cru Classé all have a meaning that gets somewhat lost in translation. What is more, the same word or phrase can mean subtly different things in various regions of France.
I often tell my students not to go looking for logic in French wine terminology, as that way madness lies.
I really think it is best not to translate them and just to accept them as they are. Strangely I was taught that Cru means ‘growth’, which always struck me as odd and not an easy word to sell to the consumer. Happily, I have researched it myself and discovered that one of its meanings is ‘vineyard’, which is altogether more satisfying and simple to understand.
Replace Cru with vineyard, as well as translating classé and you have; Classified Vineyard, Great Vineyard, Classified Great Vineyard, Premier Vineyard and Premier Classified Vineyard. Which nearly make sense, anyone can tell that these words on a wine label imply that the bottle contains something that is highly regarded by someone. Continue reading
I really am in a claret phase and it is very interesting tasting some affordable wines from Bordeaux. I have always liked the idea of claret, but have become concerned that most consumers would never get a chance to taste the sort of wine that comes into my mind when I think claret.
This is my third claret in this series and I think the consumer is pretty well served by them so far, but of course they are far more expensive than the average spend – even these relatively moderate prices make them more likely to be wines enjoyed at a special occasion than every day.
So far I have stuck to the left-bank Médoc wines, so I felt that a change was in order and I turned my attentions to the Libournais area. This of course includes the famous St Emilion, and its satellite villages, as well as Pomerol, Lalande-de-Pomerol and the rather more spread out Côtes de Castillon, Côtes des Francs as well as Bourg and Blaye. Today my eye fell on a wine from Canon-Fronsac. Continue reading
Every now and then I get a craving for Claret. Sometimes I can stave it off with a good bottle of something similar, but different – a good Cabernet, Rioja or Chianti, or something slightly odd perhaps. That can only work for so long though, then I have to drink a bottle of claret. The trouble is, nowadays that means money.
So, I was thinking what sort of wine do consumers actually get for the moderately priced Clarets that adorn the supermarket shelves? It is a long time since I tried any, so I decided to set that right.
In a branch of Morrisons I came across a real blast from my past: Château Tour St Bonnet. I used to sell this wine over 20 years ago and it had always proved popular, indeed had been a bit of a star, but that was the 1985 vintage.
In those days it always represented stunning value for money and gave a real bottle of Château bottled Claret for not much more than a basic branded Bordeaux – that is still true. Continue reading