Opinion

A Trio of Classy Clarets

In the winter months – and with C*****mas looming on the horizon – many wine drinkers turn to the classics such as Bordeaux and Chablis.  Although Claret isn’t the best match for the traditional turkey, many disregard that and drink it simply because they like it – or like me, drink it with something other than turkey!

First, a quick refresher on the AOCs of the Médoc, the left bank peninsula which is home to many of Bordeaux’s world-famous Châteaux:

Medoc

As a generalisation, the AOCs of the Médoc are considered to be ranked as follows:

  • Pauillac & Margaux
  • Saint-Julien & Saint-Estèphe
  • Listrac-Médoc & Moulis-en-Médoc
  • Haut Médoc
  • Médoc

Of course, the quality of any wine is heavily dependent on the producer and vintage.

Here is a trio of Bordeaux reds that are drinking superbly right now and won’t break the bank:

Disclosure: samples were kindly provided, opinions remain my own

Château Monteil d’Arsac, Haut-Médoc Cru Bourgeois 2014 (13.0%, RRP €18.95 at Molloys)

monteil_d_arsac

The Cru Bourgeois label is for the “Best of the Rest”, i.e. those Médoc estates not included in the 1855 classification.  It was introduced in 1932 covering 444 estates, but between 2003 and 2007 it was altered, updated, split, reversed, and finally annulled – phasing in and out of the space-time continuum like transport ships caught in the nexus.  In 2010 a completely new version was published for the 2008 vintage, and it is revised annually based on the quality of the wines submitted.

If drinking this wine makes me bourgeois then that’s all right with me!  It’s quite smooth with oodles of black fruit and tangy red fruit.  There’s also a spicy element then pencil shavings and plums on the finish.  This is an excellent wine for the price, probably the best Bordeaux under €20 I’ve tasted for years!

Château Moulin-BorieListrac-Médoc 2015 (13.5%, RRP €24.95 at Molloys)

moulin_borie

Château Moulin-Borie is owned and run by Bruno-Eugène Borie who is also the proprietor of Saint-Julien’s Château Ducru-Beaucaillou, a Second Growth in the 1855 Classification.  Moulin-Borie is located in the appellation of Listrac-Médoc which is humbler than the big guns of Pauillac and co but is nevertheless capable of producing very good wines.

Despite coming from a ripe year, this is very classic left bank Bordeaux.  it shows lots of black fruit and a touch of vanilla, but also quite savoury, with cedar and black olive notes just starting to appear.  It’s mid weight, not a wine that weighs you down, and very classy.  I would definitely be interested in trying this wine after another five years of maturation – time to buy a few for the cellar I think!

Château Castelbruck Margaux 2014 (13.0%, RRP €32.00 at Molloys)

castelbruck_margaux

Margaux is seen as the most feminine of the big four AOCs and often shows an ethereal quality which eludes the others.  This 2014 is still quite young but very approachable and dangerously drinkable!  It has ripe, juicy blackberry, blackcurrant, black cherry and plum – so ripe that you almost feel like you are biting into actual fruit!  Fine cocoa powder and a touch of pencil shavings are part of a wonderful finish.

It’s sometimes said that Cabernet-based wines are a good match for chocolate and it doesn’t usually do much for me, but in this case a few squares of high cocoa-content black chocolate went down a treat with the wine!  For me, a big glass and a warm fire would be perfection.

Opinion

Frankly Wines Top 10 Value Reds of 2017

Here are ten of the reds which impressed me in 2017 and represent fantastic value for money:

10. Bodegas Salentein Portillo Pinot Noir 2014 (14.2%, RRP €12.99)

portillo-pinotnoir

An unusual grape for Argentina, Pinot Noir is much more often seen on the western side of the Andes, but this is a remarkably drinkable example from Bodegas Salentein. Although it’s their entry level Pinot, it has plenty of upfront but elegant fruit, and is nicely balanced – quaffable without being either jammy or thin.  There’s more complexity further up the range but this is the ideal mid-week quaffer!

9. Loggia Della Luna Morellino di Scansano 2014 (13.5%, RRP €15.00)

 

Loggia Della Luna Morellino di Scansano

This Tuscan treat is predominantly Sangiovesi and comes from the Maremma region of coastal Tuscany.  Morellino is (yet another) synonym for Sangiovesi with differing stories over the origins of its name.  However, given the prominent cherry flavours and high acidity I think the story of it being named after the morello cherry is the most likely.  This isn’t a hugely complex wine but is more likeable than many lower priced Chiantis so it gets a firm thumbs up from me.  Would make a great party wine that you’re not afraid to drink yourself!

8. Viña Chocálan Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 (14.5%, €13.95)

chocalan cab-sauv

Chilean Cab Sauv is something of a commodity nowadays, so it’s nice to find one that stands out from the crowd for its intensity of flavour and balance.  In addition to cassis so vibrant that you can almost feel the individual blackcurrants popping in your mouth, this wine also offers the cedarwood and pencil shaving that are more often associated with left bank Bordeaux.

7. Castaño “Hécula” Yecla Monastrell 2015 (14.0%, RRP €16.99)

 

Hecula

This was one of the standout value wines at Liberty’s 15th anniversary portfolio tasting.  Monastrell (aka Mourvèdre, aka Mataro) is a grape which needs plenty of heat – and gets it in south east Spain – but crucially this is grown at altitude so the vines get to rest at night and acidity is preserved.  This has some structure behind the big and bold fruit but can happily serve as a tipple on its own.

6. Frères Laffitte Le Petit Gascoûn Rouge 2016 (12.5%, RRP €13.50)

petit gascoun rouge

Yes the label is cute, but the wine is pretty nice as well – an easy drinking Tannat-dominated blend which is surprisingly quaffable (or “smashable” in modern parlance).  The lighter alcohol also suggests that this would make a great picnic wine in the warmer months – it’s exactly the wine to have on hand in case of an impromptu barbecue.

5. Casa De La Ermita Lunatico 2015 (14.0%, RRP €18.99)

Lunatico

Another Spanish Monastrell shows that there is lots of good value wine being made from the grape – and Spain is one of the few European countries with a climate hot enough for it to fully ripen.  12 months ageing in French oak adds structure to blueberries and blackberries.

4. Pagos de Labarca AEX Rioja 2011 (14.5%, RRP €22.99)

Pagos-De-Labarca_Rioja

Rioja wines are generally easy to like, but, on reflection, not all of them are easy to admire – some have have too much wood at the expense of fruit, some have a big bang of strawberry fruit from Tempranillo but not much else, and some are just plain weird.  As with most European wines, the region is most talked about but the producer is key to what’s in the glass.  This is one of the most accomplished and well rounded Riojas I have tasted at any price – wonderfully rich red fruit with delightful vanilla in support.  As an aside, it was also given the stamp of approval from DNS Wineclub!

3. Fog Mountain California Merlot 2015 (13.5%, RRP €20.95)

Fog Mtn Merlot NV-corkcap

It’s sometimes said that Sideways killed California Merlot (and gave a big boost to Pinot Noir).  There’s an element of truth in that statement as the trajectory of the grapes’ sales moved in opposite directions, but the reality is that it was the poorer Merlot wines which lost out, leaving the good stuff behind.  The name of this wine alludes to the cooler sites from which the grapes are sourced helping to preserve acidity and balance.  The presence of 14% Petit Sirah in the blend adds a touch of backbone and complexity.

2. Domaine de Montcy Cheverny Rouge 2016 (11.5%, RRP €23)

montcy

The assemblage of this wine – 60% Pinot Noir, 35% Gamay and 5% Malbec – would rarely be found anywhere else but the Loire.  It’s made with minimal intervention from organic grapes, resulting in a light but fruity red which tastes more alive than almost any other wine.  It’s like having freshly squeezed orange juice after a glass of squash!

1. Château Tayet Cuvée Prestige Bordeaux Supérieur 2010 (13.0%, RRP €23.00)

de-mour-bordeaux-2010-chateau-tayet-cuvee-prestige

I had sung the praises of the contrasting 2009 and 2011 vintages of this wine during the year (with my personal preference being for the 2009), but on tasting the 2010 at SPIT Festival I found that put those both in the shade.  It’s a rare thing that Bordeaux is classed as good value nowadays, but this bottling from the De Mour group is the most superior Supérieur around!

Make Mine A Double

The Victorians at Molloys [Make Mine a Double #23]

2016-09-17-21-28-35

Once past the humongously big area that is “South Eastern Australia”, the next level of appellation is usually the state.  As the biggest wine producing state it’s usually South Australia that is most prominent on the wine shelves, with perhaps Western Australia next (WA is a relatively small producer in volume terms though it does produce a good proportion of Australia’s quality wines).  NSW has the Hunter Valley and others, but it’s those regions whose names make it onto labels.

Victoria has lots of quality wine regions such as the Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula and Heathcote, but blends between them are not that common either.  Here are a couple of Victorian wines I tried recently that are multi-region blends:

MWC Pinot Gris Victoria 2015 (13.5%, €18 down to €15 in September at Molloy’s)

mvc-pinot-gris

The stylistic division between Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris is quite a divider (and I’ve commented on it myself several times).  The divide is now being blurred by many wine makers who want to make a fresh, mineral style but with a lot more flavour than bulk Italian Pinot Grigio – Fiona Turner at Tinpot Hut is one.

This example is quite rich, though not as sweet or oily as Alsace versions can be.  There’s lots of tangy fruit flavours as a result of extended time on the skins.  It’s got enough to please both crowds without selling out to either – a great achievement!

MWC Shiraz Mourvedre Victoria 2014 (14.0%, €18 down to €15 in September at Molloy’s)

mvc-shiraz-mourvedre

Wines sold in the EU don’t have to mention minor parts of the blend if they are less than 15% in total, so mentioning the Mourvedre component of this 95% Shiraz 5% Mourvedre wine is a deliberate choice by the producers.  That tells you something – they want to stand out from the crowd of varietal Shiraz and they also think that even 5% of a variety adds something to the final wine.

As its sibling above, this is a blend from different premium vineyards across Victoria.  My educated guess would be that it contains a fair bit from the cooler southern regions such as Yarra Valley as it’s much lighter than most I’ve had from the warmer inland areas.  In the mouth it’s nice and smooth, but well-balanced.  It has the usual black fruit and spice but they are fresh rather than stewed or jammy.  This Shiraz blend would be fantastic with a peppered steak!

Disclosure: both wines kindly provided for review

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