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.
2005 Château Caronne Ste Gemme
Cru Bourgeois, Haut-Médoc, Bordeaux
The colour was a beautifully deep plum-like purple – almost, but not quite opaque, which shows just how concentrated the vintage was.
The nose offered hints of plum and cassis liqueur with cocoa, tobacco, leather and sandalwood or cedar notes showing that the wine is beginning to evolve.
This is a medium bodied wine with a lovely touch of fresh red fruit acidity and a freshly sawn wood, sappy feel. The tannins are fine and ripe and slightly drying on a finish that has flourishes of fresh black fruit and herbs.
A very attractive wine with a refreshing character and excellent balance, this will continue to develop complexity – 91/100 points.
I really enjoyed this wine, it had the right balance of concentration and freshness that says elegance to me. It would be wonderful with a whole range of traditional meaty dishes from a steak frîtes to roast lamb.
There are many clarets, or red Bordeaux wines, on the market, but the majority of them give the drinker no idea as to how the great wines of the region taste and why Bordeaux is so very famous. This wines does, it is an excellent example and it is for sale at a reasonable price.
This excellent claret is available from Majestic at £13.99 a bottle.
The second wine was very different…
For a start there is nothing traditional or classic about it. Like the claret it is a blend, it’s even called The Blend, but it comes from a part of the world that is much more famous for varietal wines – Chile.
The Blend is made by Viña Errazurizand is a personal project of head winemaker Francisco Baettig who personally controls every stage of the process. Every year he puts together a cuvée of the best fruit that he feels can make a wine that expresses the terroir and conditions of the Aconcagua Valley – where Errazuriz have been based since 1870.
Interestingly the wine has become more avant garde over time, the impressive inaugural 2003 vintage was overwhelmingly Cabernet Sauvignon with some support from Shiraz, Sangiovese and Carmenère. By the 2006 vintage this, slightly more, traditional – or normal anyway – blend had morphed into an altogether more esoteric Sangiovese, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Carmenère combo, which suggests to me that that as the project developed Francisco clung to fewer preconceptions about what the wine should be like.
It is this impressive willingness to be creative that, for me, marks the 2007 version of The Blend. This was considered one of the very best vintages in Chile, with a long relatively cool growing season and Francisco has really produced a lovely wine from 45% Syrah with 30% Cabernet Franc, 20% Carmenère and intriguingly 5% Roussanne.
2007 Errazuriz The Blend
Aconcagua Valley, Chile
Perhaps it’s down to the Rousanne, but the wine has a lovely fruity and floral aromatic lift.
The palate is quite full-bodied, rich and supple, without being overblown. There is a melange of red and black fruit supported by ripe,smooth tannins and beautifully integrated oak – no mean feat when it spends 16 months in new barrels. Again it is the seam of freshness that gives this wine its sophisticated and elegant feel, making it an impressive and enjoyable wine that fills your senses without assaulting them – 91/100. points.
Available from Waitrose Direct at £16.14 a bottle.
In the interests of total disclosure I must mention that I sometimes do work for Viña Errazuriz, however the above is my honest and unsolicited opinion.
Both these wines were hugely enjoyable and delicious to drink, but what I especially liked about them – and approved of – was the fact that they were both elegant. The Chilean wine was the far richer and fruitier of the two, but neither was thin and scrawny and not even The Blend was an unrelenting fruit bomb. They both had the right, but different, amount of ripeness and concentration, balanced acidity and tannins, what is more the oak was beautifully managed and just right in both of them.
It has to be admitted that they are not cheap wines, but both deliver good value for money in their different ways and could partner a wide array of meals, whether over the Christmas period or before.
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