Cru Bourgeois – great quality & value from Bordeaux

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.

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Wine in the Blood – great wines from Argentina

Viña Alicia with the Andes in the background

It is amazing how the term ‘New World wine’, and the concepts that it carries with it, stick. It makes all the wines made in non-European countries sound, well, new.

That of course is very far from the truth. Lord Byron’s grandfather waxed lyrical about the wines he found in Chile in the 1740’s on Commodore Anson’s circumnavigation of the world. Napoleon 1 found great solace in sipping Constantia whilst contemplating the wallpaper on St Helena and Robert Louis Stevenson loved California’s Schramsberg – to list just three relatively early brushes with ‘New World wines’ – which together span around 140 years. It almost sounds like an oxymoron, but most of the really old vine material in the world is grown in the, you’ve guessed it, ‘New World’.

Europeans went to the ‘New World’ for all sorts of reasons and over many centuries. Legions of British people left these shores for colonies that still thought of themselves as British, the same applied to Spaniards going to South America, but many also journeyed to places that had no direct link with their homeland. British people and Germans flooded into the fledgling United States, while enormous numbers of Italians headed for Argentina where they intermarried with Spanish immigrants to create this exciting, vibrant country.

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Some Portuguese delights…

The beautiful Quinta das Cerejeiras, Bombarral

Having recently returned from Portugal I thought I would share some thoughts about the wines I experienced over there.

This was not a wine trip, I did taste some wines, but most of what I had was straightforward everyday wine from the regions around Sao Martinho do Porto, which is on the coast a little north of Óbidos and Caldos da Reinha.

In many ways it was a very interesting exercise seeing how well served the Portuguese wine consumer is. All the supermarkets – and there were a great many of them within a few minutes – offered very wide ranges from right across the country. However, with a few exceptions I tried to limit myself to local fare – and I was very impressed indeed.

I have for long been a huge fan of wine from Portugal and have watched with disbelief as Portuguese wine ranges in the UK have been reduced to a mere token presence on the multiples’ shelves. Not that many years ago I could put together a range of really interesting Portuguese wines from the supermarkets, but not any more. Go to a British supermarket now and the Portuguese offerings are a shadow of their former self.

Which I find very strange as many of the wines offer stunning value for money and really could appeal to a wide range of British consumers, I assume as they are mainly small producers and cooperatives that the brands from elsewhere have more money and support available to put them on the supermarket shelves. After all, as Neil Diamond said, money talks.

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