Bordeaux wines are produced in the Bordeaux region of France. So for this tasting we concentrated on only French Bordeaux wines therefore excluding Meritages from the USA and Clarets from England. Bordeaux France produces three types of Bordeaux wines red, white (sweet and dry) and a sparkling known as Cremant de Bordeaux. To be classified as a red Bordeaux the wine is limited to six grape varietals shown below and can contain one or all of these grapes.
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- Cabernet Franc
- Petit Verdot
White Bordeaux wines can use any of the following five varietals shown below, however, Colombard and Ungi Blanc are rarely used and even then only in very small amounts for blending.
· Sauvignon Blanc
· Ungi Blanc
(Rusty also queried local sommelier, George Skorka, on the above. George said, ”
Semillon, Muscadelle, Sauvignon Blance. The rest can be, BUT NOT MORE THAN, 30% total: Merlot Blanc, Colombard,Mauzac, Ondenc,Ugni Blanc…….The proportion of Merlot Blanc can not be more than 15%.)
Many of you have heard the term “Left and Right Bank” Bordeaux wines. This is in reference to the Gironde River. There are two rivers feed the Gironde, the Garonne and the Dordogne, and once converged flow into the Atlantic. The terms “Left Bank” and “Right Bank” refer to the banks on each side of the Gironde where the Appellation is located that the wine comes from. The Left Bank is predominately Cabernet Sauvignon grapes and the Right Bank is predominately Merlot grapes. It was quite interesting at our GOTN that most of the red Bordeaux wines were from the Right Bank. Since Merlot is a much softer varietal it is a good selection for a young Bordeaux wine as it is more approachable at an early age.
So what provides the backbone for these old world wines? This style of wine highlights the effect and influence of its terroir. This region is primarily limestone which provides a large amount of calcium in the soil that is composed of gravel, sandstone and clay. The weather is cool thus the grapes are not as high in sugar content such as California and Australian wines which leads to lower alcohol content.
If you enjoy this style of wine but shy away because of the high prices, I would like to provide you with a strategy that I use when selecting and purchasing Bordeaux wines for my collection. If you are over 50 years of age, you would need to purchase wines produced 1995 or earlier to truly enjoy them in your retirement years. However the younger members of our group have the opportunity to buy recent releases and cellar them for 25-30 years. My practice is to buy Bordeaux wine vintages that are not the greatest years but are from great houses. If you buy a 1995 or 2000, exceptional years, the markup that results from Robert Parker (RP), Wine Spectator ( WS) and Wine Enthusiasts (WE) ratings is huge. Now for us, the average consumer, if you put a bottle of 1997 Chateau Leoville Las Cases next to a 1995 or 2000 vintage most of us would not be able to taste or smell the difference and would find it to be an outstanding wine, however, the difference in price is huge. My philosophy for buying wine is that great Bordeaux Houses are always going to produce great wines which is why you can purchase a great 1997 for a fraction of the price of a 1995 or 2000. The only exception would be if there has been an occurrence that has severely impacted the Bordeaux region as a whole or the House itself has had issues that has affected its wine quality internally. Spectacular years will equal spectacular dollars, however, an off year from a great House will yield a great wine for a fraction of the cost. Your money, your choice.
Another way to taste the quality of the “First Growths” is to buy the winery’s secondary label which also holds true for “Second Growths”. The secondary label is where the winery takes grapes from a vineyard on their property that was not high enough in quality to be sold under their primary label. Again, a great House is still going to put their expertise into their secondary label. So buy some of these wines and cellar them for 5-10 years and I guarantee you will be amazed at the end result.
At tonight’s Grape of the Night I was truly impressed by the various Bordeaux wines purchased from VWC and those brought in to share. Here is a list of the wines poured.
· 2006 Chateau Lamartine – Red Bordeaux
· 2003 Chateau Franc – Red Bordeaux
· 2008 Chateau Tertre de Launay – White Bordeaux
· 2009 Château Ballan-Larquette – Red Bordeaux
· 2005 Chateau de l’Evêché – Red Bordeaux
· 2006 Chateau Tour Pibran – Red Bordeaux
I want to thank everyone in attendance for a great time. As always, thank you to our host, Guy Lelarge, and to Geno for his spectacular service at Valencia Wine Company. Our next GOTN meeting will be April 4, 2011 at VWC at 7PM. The featured varietal will be Petite Syrah. I would like to have single varietals meaning that 85% of the primary grape be Petite Syrah. This is not a varietal that is as common as the others so make sure you have your selection in advance whether it be from VWC or elsewhere and remember, if you bring a bottle from elsewhere you will need to purchase one from VWC.