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.
The Château is in the northernmost part of the Médoc, or Bas-Médoc, in the village of Saint Christoly-Médoc, not far from St Estephe. The estate comprises 45% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot and 5% Malbec and is on gravelly soil within sight of the Gironde, near Châteaux Loudenne and Potensac.
Morrisons have the 2006 vintage @ £10.99 a bottle.
The colour was a classic garnet tinged crimson.
The nose, too, was absolutely classic with that scented fragrance of cedarwood and dried plum and blackcurrant – this is not a fruit-driven wine. The palate was medium-bodied and lean – with not much fat on it, there were little pockets of fruit here and there interspersed with firm, but smooth tannins, balanced by some fresh acidity. There were some cedar and coffee characters with smooth, subtle vanilla spice. Overall it was a little bit lean and lacking fruit while the finish was slightly green tinged – if reasonably long.
This was quite a good wine, quite elegant and with no actual faults, but it was perhaps a little too lacking in generosity and élan. Also it was immeasurably better with some roast duck than it had been without. This would please someone who likes the traditional dry claret style, but is unlikely to win over fans more familiar with the fruity new world style.
There are many worse Clarets out there and with food it was not at all bad – I was just hoping for a bit more. It would be a good, if unexciting dinner party choice. At £10.99 I leave it up to you to decide whether it is value for money, personally I think it is much better value than many of the Bordeaux brands, but is not cheap – 85/100 points.
The search for affordable Claret will go on, please let me have your recommendations too…