We’ve all heard tales of sky-high prices for Clarets from the very finest properties in Bordeaux: Margaux, Pétrus, and Mouton-Rothschild are just a few of the legendary wines that most people have heard of, but few us ever actually get to try. Because they are privileged to be situated on the very best of terroir, they are able to consistently produce the best, and therefore the most expensive wines – which explains why they get all the publicity.
However, the good news for us mere mortals is that there are in fact thousands of other producers within the Bordeaux Appellation, a region which, astonishingly, produces more wine annually than does the whole of Australia. These “Petits Châteaux” as they are known provide a happy hunting ground for affordable Bordeaux, notably in the better vintages, where due to the good weather this lesser promising terroir can produce good wines.
A glance at the map shows a plethora of satellite appellations, some relatively well-known, others rather more obscure. Names to look out for on the label include the Haut-Médoc, Listrac-Médoc, Graves, Pessac-Léognan, Lussac-St-Emilion, and Puisseguin-St-Emilion. And then there’s the five A.C.s known collectively as the Côtes-de-Bordeaux: These are the Côtes-de-Bourg, -de-Castillon, -des-Francs, – de-Blaye and -de-Cadillac. Certain wines from the Médoc have been awarded the quality mark “Cru Bourgeois” and most of these are definitely worthy of some attention.
And here’s another thing: Although Bordeaux is famed for its red wine (often referred to simply as “Claret” here in the U.K.), a wide spectrum of wine styles are produced across the region. For example, the white wines of Bordeaux range from simple bone-dry Sauvignon Blancs right the way through to the famed luscious golden pudding wines of Sauternes and Barsac.
This weekend (from Friday 13 to Sunday 15 November) we’ll be celebrating some of Bordeaux’s best kept secrets in our Esher shop. It’s a free event – just drop in! To whet your appetite here are four of the wines you’ll be able to try:
Château Lestrille Capmartin 2012 £16.00/£14.00
This quality dry white Bordeaux is a revelation indeed. A blend of 42% Sauvignon Gris, 46% Sémillon and 12% Sauvignon Blanc, the leanness of the Sauvignon is rounded out by blending it with Sémillon, which lends weight and ripe tropical fruit notes. An additional dimension of complexity is achieved by fermentation in new oak and lees stirring. On the palate, a citrus backbone of bitter orange and grapefruit is fleshed out with mango and lychee flavours, accompanied by hints of ginger and vanilla spice, plus touches of acacia honey.
Château Lyonnat, Lussac-St-Emilion 2006 £16.00/£14.00
Old-vine Merlot in a classic style from the small village of Lussac-Saint-Emilion. The 2006 is at its peak right now with a deep, rich palate of dark berry fruits.
Château Vieux Robin, Cru Bourgeois, Médoc, 2006 £16.00/£14.00
From a small family owned property with just 18 hectares of vines situated at the far northern end of the Médoc. A blend of around 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot and 10% Petit Verdot the wine spends a year being aged in a mix of new and second-year barrels.
Château Plince, Pomerol, 2011 £40.00/£36.00
Farmed by the Moreau family for four generations, the vines on this estate are mainly Merlot, accompanied by 25% Cabernet Franc. This is a classic, elegant Pomerol, opening up upon aeration to reveal flavours and aromas of wood spice, cocoa and fruity cassis, underpinned by rounded tannins.