Friday, July 23, 2010

Stages 18 and 19 - July 23 and 24th: Bordeaux

Today the Tour rides up through the Bordeaux Appellations of Graves and Sauternes and into the City of Bordeaux, where Saturday's time trial stage from there to Pauillac will most likely determine the winner of the race. The wines of Bordeaux at first glance seem to need no introduction. Among the most famous and expensive in the world, the top Classified wines of this region are sought after by collectors and investors the world over. This year, the region was brought into the world spotlight with the recently concluded futures campaign for the superb 2009 vintage. They are fairly easy to understand, the reds being blends of up to five grapes, mainly Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, with Malbec, and Petit Verdot in support, and mainly Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon for the whites.  Finding value here is a bit trickier, and a lesser known fact is that there are so many wines beyond the top 100 or so estates, with 57 Appellations and by some counts up to 10,000 growers. There are also excellent value in less hyped vintages that are often better than they are portrayed in the press and earlier maturing than the great classic years. There are great inexpensive crisp whites from Entre Deux Mers, fantastic red wine values in the Cote des Francs, Cotes de Castillon, Fronsac and smaller estates in the Medoc, second labels from some of the top properties and even some delicious rose wines produced. I went to Bordeaux early this spring to taste the terrific 2009's - for a look at my thoughts on the vintage click  Bordeaux. For our full list of 2009 futures, click the link. In the meantime, here are a few favorites that are currently in stock. To purchase, click any of the wine below and enjoy the race as it captures the stately manicured and formal beauty of one of the great wine regions of the world!

2007 Chateau Lauriol Bordeaux Cotes de Francs - $19.50 - The Cotes de Francs has always been an area where great value can be found with soft, fruit driven wines. However, in 2007 the sun smiled on this area and Chateau Lauriol made a tremendous wine that is drinking beautifully but could stand up to short term cellaring. At 100% Merlot, this velvety dark berry infused wine possesses a touch of leather, smoke and cassis fruit. Very good concentration here.
Region: Cotes de Francs (Bordeaux), France
Grape: 100% Merlot
Drink: Now - 2014
Cuisine: Grilled and barbecued meats
ABV: 13.5%

Manoir de Gravaux Cotes du Castillon - $19.50 - This is a classic blend of 88% Merlot & 12% Cabernet Franc from the Cotes de Castillon. This region shares much of the same soil, climate and characteristics of its immediate neighbor St. Emilion, produceing ripe, lush mouthfilling and supple Merlot dominated wines. This is made by superstar winemaker Stephane Derenencourt, one of the top consulting winemakers in Bordeaux. Drink now 2015+. Serve with classic beef, lamb, duck and other hearty dishes.
Region: Bordeaux, France (Cotes du Castillon)
Grapes: Merlot and Cabernet Franc
Drink: Now - 2015
Cuisine: Beef, Lamb, Duck
ABV: 13.5%

2006 La Violette Manoir de Gravaux Cotes de Castillion - $29 - While still a young appellation by French standards (AOC status in 1989), there is no denying that the quality of wines emerging from this Right Bank area of Bordeaux offer outstanding quality at attractive prices. Cotes de Castillon is made up of nine villages strewn along the eastern side of the Dordogne River. There is no white wine production here as the basic Right bank smorgasbord of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Malbec comprise the varietals grown in the area. There are over 2900 hectares under vine but most of the chateaus are small, averaging about 10 hectares of vineyards. Sandy gravel soils over a base of limestone lend a perfect combination of bright fruit and modest structure.
Terra Burdigala is a partnership between two superstars in Bordeaux with a focus on excellent quality offering tremendous value. Stephane Derenoncourt (the famed winemaker of such legendary wines as La Mondotte and Le Pin) handles the work in the vineyards and winery while his partner Francois Thienpont (owner of Vieux Chateau Certan) handles the business side of the partnership. "La Violette" is a single vineyard on the property that borders Chateau de l'A, Stephane's personal vineyard holding. The clay-limestone plateau has perfect exposition and this hand-harvested wine is treated to twelve months maturation in barrel prior to bottling. The vines average 45 years of age and the tiny two hectare plot is trimmed to very low yields as only 750 cases are produced yearly. A silky blend of 92% Merlot and 8% Cabernet Franc, the La Violette lives up to its name with pungent violet aromatics, deep blackberry fruit and a long sweet tannin filled finish. From the sleeper 2006 vintage, a wine that is lush enough to drink now but will age and improve for 4-6 years.
Region: Bordeaux, France (Cotes du Castillon)
Grapes: Merlot and Cabernet Franc
Terroir: Clay and limestone
Drink: Now - 2016
ABV: 13.5%

2006 Chateau Les Trois Croix Cannon Fronsac, Bordeaux - $25 - Patrick Leon and his family purchased this picturesque Fronsac estate with the singular goal of making a wine as dynamic as Mouton Rothschild in Fronsac. A tall order indeed...but Msr. Leon has "terroir" on side. The vines of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc are planted at 86 meters high on a plateau of limestone--the highest estate in the region. That elevation as well as the superior exposition of the vines, lends concentration to the wine. The 2006 is a juicy little devil, with plums, kirsch, lavender, graphite and hints of toasty oak commingling in the glass. There is certainly structure present, but it's hard to deny the lovable nature the wine displays today. A fantastic value to be enjoyed now through 2016.
Region: Canon Fronsac, Bordeaux, France
Grape: Merlot and Cab Franc
Drink: Now - 2016
ABV: 13.5%

2005 Chateau Saint Hilaire Medoc "Cru Bourgeois" - $25 - With vines located in the gravel-laden soils of Jau Dignac Loirac and even older ones in Queyrac, this estate owned by Adrien Uijttewaal spent over 10 years sending their grapes to a winegrowers co-op. Finally in 1995, they felt that they had high enough quality grapes to make a wine of which they could be proud enough to adorn the name Saint-Hilaire. After a 12 month stint in 33% new French oak, this blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc is gorgeously endowed Bordeaux. Juicy and ripe mixed red fruits, lush black raspberries, smoke, fresh herbs and a touch of oak frame this wine that is surprisingly wide open but certainly has the bones for aging. Enjoy it now (with a little decant) and over the next 8 years.
Region: Medoc (Bordeaux), France
Grapes: 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot & 5% Cabernet Franc
Vinification: 12 months French Oak (40% new)
Drink: Now (with a decant) Best: 2014 - 2018
ABV: 13%

2006 Vieux Chateau Certan Pomerol - $189 (sale price) - Vieux Chateau-Certan has been owned by the Theinpont family since 1924 (along with Troplong-Mondot in Saint Emilion which they acquired just three years prior). It is one of the top states with an impeccable "terroir" in the heart of Pomerol. Surrounded by great chateaux such as P??trus, La Conseillante and L'Evangile, the vineyards are composed of gravelly soils with sub-soils of iron-rich clay and a bit of sand and are planted to 60% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. Alexandre Theinpont completes a severe green harvest, often dropping over 50% of the fruit to increase concentration. Probably the finest wine this estate has produced, there is no doubt that the 2006 VCC is the wine of the vintage. Lavish wild berries, smoke, incense, leather, licorice, cassis and ripe plums have tremendous weight, but that unmistakable Pomerol elegance. While it is forward and supple enough to enjoy right now, this is an all-time classic for the cellar to be enjoyed from 2018 through 2030.
Region: Pomerol (Bordeaux), France
Grape: Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon
Drink: 2018-2030
Cuisine: Lamb shank, Porterhouse, Venison
ABV: 14%

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