Everyone who enjoys wine, from the beginner to the collector, knows about Bordeaux. This French region is well known for its amazing dessert wines from Sauternes and Barsac, its excellent dry whites from the Graves and Pessac-Léognan appellations, but its those outstanding long lived reds that make Bordeaux a household name.
Purchasing such long lived and very often expensive wines requires research. The quality of Bordeaux wines can vary enormously from vintage to vintage. Unlike California, the differences are much greater from one year to the other, making it very risky to buy whithout having tasted beforehand. A vintage may be remarkable in the Libournais (Saint-Emilion and Pomerol) such as 1998, and be average quality in the Médoc.
And when you think price might be an indication of higher quality, then comes along a very expensive vintage in Bordeaux (2007) that offers simple wines with very little potential. How does one go about selecting fine St-Émilions or Médocs for his or her cellar ?
Step one is to remember that the year of the harvest known as the vintage is of utmost importance. Even when buying wines from reputed chateaux in average years will not guarantee longevity. The quality of the vintage is crucial when it comes to aging potential. You cannot artificially reproduce the natural ripe tannins that Mother Nature supplies to these wines in a great year.
Secondly you must look at the track record of many of these reputed chateaux. Some are presently under achieving, others are upcoming. The change in ownership and/or management that many domaines have gone through in recent years has obviously influenced the quality of the wine produced at the chateaux. So the one million dollar question is : who’s hot and who’s not ?
Thirdly,( the main concern for most oenophiles), is trying to find those few bargain wines that Bordeaux can offer. We all know by now that the top clarets fetch extremely high prices making most of them unaffordable to the average income consumer.
There is no doubt that the effort spent to find those great bottles will reward you. That well crafted Haut-Médoc you purchased for a mere thirty ($40) dollars and aged for ten years in your cellar is now giving you all the complexity and hedonistic pleasure that only mature Bordeaux can deliver. If you wish to repeat (as often as possible) this pleasurable experience, the following information on vintages and producers should help you make the right choices to guarantee the level of quality necessary to satisfy your demanding palates!
– 2013 vintage is weak, simply stay away.
–2011 and 2012 are only average to good. The best wines will be found in Saint-Émilion and Pomerol districts.
–2010 and 2009 : two outstanding years with remarkable aging potential. Quite different, 2009 displays ripe flavors while 2010 is a very classic vintage with more freshness and firm tannins.
–2008 a good to very good vintage with average aging potential
–2007 a rather weak vintage, best wines are from Saint-Émilion and Pomerol.
–2006 and 2004 : two vintages that often lack ripeness. Tannis are firm and on occasion bitter. Be very selective.
–2005 an outstanding vintage of long lived wines.
– other high quality vintages to watch for are 2003, 2001 and 2000.
Finally, here is a short list of the Who’s Hot in the various appellations of Bordeaux. Pay special attention to Saint-Émilion (this district has been coming up with new wines every year), and the upcoming appellation of Côtes de Castillon. Don’t forget that these wines represent the elite of Bordeaux, prices will vary anywhere from $40 to a few hundred dollars a bottle.
Ch. Calon-Ségur Saint-Estèphe
Ch. d’Armailhac Pauillac
Ch. Grand-Puy-Lacoste Pauillac
Ch. Pontet-Canet Pauillac
Ch. Léoville-Barton Saint-Julien
Ch. Léoville-Poyferré Saint-Julien
Ch. Kirwan Margaux
Ch. Malescot St.-Exupéry Margaux
Ch. Lascombes Margaux
Ch. La Tour Carnet Haut-Médoc
Ch. Sociando-Mallet Haut-Médoc
Ch. Barde Haut Saint-Émilion
Ch. Beauséjout-Bécot Saint-Émilion
Ch. Canon La Gaffelière, Saint-Émilion
Clos de l’Oratoire Saint-Émilion
Ch. Larcis Ducasse Saint-Émilion
Ch. Grand-Mayne Saint-Émilion
Ch. Monbousquet Saint-Émilion
Ch. Pavie Macquin Saint-Émilion
Ch. Peby Faugères Saint-Émilion
Ch. d’Aiguilhe Côtes de Castillon
Here are a few wines, including a very good Bordeaux, to enjoy during the Labour Day weekend:
Two lovely reds:
Château Trianon 2010 Saint-Émilion Grand Cru, Bordeaux 48,75 $
From the outstanding 2010 vintage, this lovely Grand Cru delivers the goods. In a style that is elegant and ripe, the nose displays dark berries and graphite with animal and vegetal hints. Very good extract and length. This charming red offers velvety tannins, richness and character with good aging potential (3 to 8 years). Should be great with grilled lamb cutlets. Score : 91
Le Vin est une fête 2012 Côtes du Marmandais, Elian da Ros, Sud-Ouest 20,90 $
A charming red from an appellation from Southwest France to watch out for. A lovely blend of Merlot (60%), Cabernet Franc (20%) and Abouriou (20%); its complex nose displays mineral (graphite) and animal scents. This seductive red offers soft acidity and a velvety texture. Flavourful and well balanced it should marry well with grilled veal plank steak. Score : 90
A very original white:
Les Greilles 2013 Gaillac, Causses Marines, Sud-Ouest 23,15 $
For those looking for something different, try this very original white blend of Len de l’el (60%), Mauzac (20%), Ondenc (15%) and Muscadelle (5%) from Soutwest France. The nose is reminiscent of Spanish Sherry with hints of honey, cider and cooked apple. A very tasty white with good length and refreshing acidity. Great with simply grilled swordfish. Score: 88
A light and refreshing rosé :
Whispering Angel 2013 Côtes de Provence, Caves d’Esclan, Provence 25,65$
Like most rosés from Provence it displays a very pale color. Made with a majority of Grenache (80%), with a bit of Syrah (10%) and Cinsault (10%) that add character. A very refined rosé that should please the fan of light and delicate wines. Its very discreet nose displays citrussy aromas of grapefruit. This light and fresh rosé will marry well with grilled shrimp. Score: 87