Classic Bordeaux That Won’t Break the Bank

A wise man once said that before one can understand anything properly, one has to learn how to love it. For me, this holds true with both wine and women. It seems that the bulk of my time is spent with the pleasurable task of trying to understand the qualities and complexities of wine and women. Perhaps that is how I found myself hosting a Friday evening wine class with six charming Ukrainian women.

For this evening’s tasting we will be covering some classic French Bordeaux. What makes the wines I have selected so special? Not just because they are wines of quality and distinction, the wines we will be tasting won’t break your bank.

Many of the notable red wines produced in Bordeaux are actually blends of different grape varieties. Why blend? Many wine makers are attempting to produce wines that are more rich in flavor and enhance the wine’s overall profile. The goal of most vintners is to produce noble wines that are distinctive of the region. For the French, wine making is all about terroir (the unique characteristics of the local geography). The three grape varietals that are most widely planted in Bordeaux are, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot.

Cabernet Sauvignon is the vintner’s dream. In many aspects, this varietal can reflect the desires and personality of the winemaker, while maintaining familiar flavors that are expressive of the variety. Since Cabernet Sauvignon takes a bit longer to reach maturation, allowing their flavors to mellow, it is ideal for blending with other grapes. When blended with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon softens, and adds appealing fruit tones without sacrificing its innate character. Cabernet Franc adds to the seductive allure of a Bordeaux Blend by enhancing the bouquet. The resulting wine is more aromatic and fragrant. Wines that are dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon are primarily produced in the sub-regions Graves, Medoc, Saint Estephe, Paulliac, Margaux, Saint Julien, and Sauternes. These areas lie on the left side of the Gironde River, hence the term “Left Bank.”

2010 PauillacWines produced in the appellations of Saint-Emilion, Fronsac, and Pomerol are renown “Right Bank” wines. They contain very little Cabernet Sauvignon, and make avail of Cabernet Franc. These wines tend to have greater fruit concentration and softer tannins. It is also somewhat popular to blend with varying amounts of Petit Verdot.

Our first selection, Chateau Grand Pulay Ducasse Paulliac 2010 is 60% Cabernet Sauvigion and 40% Merlot. In the glass, it is a deep purple in color. On the nose, the aromas are of intense fruit, with subtle hints of of licorice and spices. On the palate, the texture is subtle with loads of cassis fruit. This is a succulent wine that is both seductive and elegant. It can be enjoyed now or cellared for another 15 plus years. Definitely a must buy at only $55.

“Mmm,” Iryna’s face filled with a smile. “I loved the oodles of cassis.”

” I also found notes of white chocolate,” Nadiya was quick to add.

Lena quietly swirled her glass then drew a deep breath. “I also found hints of mocha.”

“This is a stylish and finely structured wine.” Zhenya said with calm finality.

Our next selection, La Grave Pomerol 2009 is a most inviting wine. In the glass, it is a deep ruby purple. On the nose, the bouquet is a compeling array of aromas. It is filled with red cherry, raspberry, minerals, spice, and cake. On the palate, this full-bodied wine is opulent with velvety tannins and juicy fruit. The finish is long and well textured. Ready to drink now, the bottle price of only $65 makes it feasible to stock your cellar. La Grave Pomerol

“I love the depth of color,” Iryna paused to collect her thoughts. “At first sight, I felt that something special was about to happen.”

“The bouquet was inviting,” Zhenya smiled softly. “It is generously filled with ripe fruit.”

“I also found the subtle scent of sweet tobacco.” Nadiya was quick to add.

“Simply a delicious wine,” Galya said flatly. “I especially liked the flavors of fig and fresh baked cake.”

“That’s it,” Ilona chuckled softly. “The fresh baked cake was calling to me.”

“A delicious wine indeed,” Lena nodded approvingly.

2006 Beau Sejeur BecotUp next, a Chateau Beau-Sejour Becot Saint-Emillion Premier Grand Cru Classes 2006. The Becot family is dedicated to quality and this wine is representative of their efforts. It is a blend of 70% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Franc, and 6% Cabernet Sauvignon. In the glass, it is deep purple, striated by purple hues. The nose is filled with sweet fruit aromas of black currant and black cherry. There are also pleasing hints of graphite and charcoal. On the palate, it is full-bodied, with generous amounts of fruit. This nicely concentrated wine finishes long, and filled with ripe fruit. Once again, the Becot family has produced a wine that is indicative of Saint-Emilion. The bottle price is $65 and the ready is ready to drink now and up to 2025.

“I love the wine’s deep ruby color.” Galya was first to speak.

“I especially liked hints of graphite and charcoal.” Ilona said softly as she savored her wine.

“Agreed,” Nadiya gave a quick nod. “There is a nice smokiness.”

“This is a well-structured wine with god tannins,” Lena remarked.

Iryna nodded in agreement. “Definitely opens up beyond its youthfulness.”

“This is why I like French wines,” Zhenya sighed happily.

Our last selection, Château Rauzan-Segla Grand Cru Classe Margaux 2004, is the most expensive of the wine we selected, but well worth the price. In the glass the wine is ruby red and welcoming. The bouquet is laced with the soft aromas of blackberry and vanilla. On the palate, this medium-bodied wine showed polished tannins giving an overall silky mouthfeel. The flavors of black currant enticed into a delightful and memorable finish. Ready to drink now, the half-bottle price is afordable at $65. 2004 Margaux

“Good wood balance.” Iryna was the first to comment.

“I liked the wine’s lightness.” Ilona saluted with her glass.

“Very pleasant to drink.” Lena added with a soft smile.

“Good fruit.” both Galya and Nadiya chimed in harmony.

“A very polished wine that should be added to every cellar.” Zhenya concluded matter-of-factly.

Bordeaux, just the name conjures up all sorts of extraordinary wine expectations. In the future we will continue to explore the priceless wines from the Gironda sub-region.

“But that my friends, is another story … “

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