Tasting Events

Super French Wines (part 2)

Following on from part 1 which mainly featured Loire Sauvignon Blancs, this part 2 looks at some of the Bordeaux wines which will feature in the SuperValu French Wine Sale running from  5th to 26th September in store and online.  As previously mentioned,  the sale includes some “Special Guest Wines” which are available for a limited time only – marked with *.

Château Moulin Lafitte 2014 (12.5%, €18.99 down to €14.00 at SuperValu)

CH Moulin Lafitte

This Château is located just above the River Garonne as it stretches out eastwards after Langon.  The soil is mainly clay (80%) which adds power to the wines and makes it perfect for Merlot.  The blend of this 2014 is 80% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon.  In fact, such is the power and roundness of the wine that it feels significantly higher than its stated 12.5% alcohol.  A very nice Claret.

Château Pey La Tour Bordeaux 2016 (14.5%, €19.99 down to €9.99 at SuperValu)

Pey la Tour.jpgIn the Entre-Deux-Mers region again, this time with a Vignobles Dourthe property.  Dourthe was founded in 1840 and now have over a dozen Châteaux across Bordeaux plus some two dozen branded wines.  The blend for this bottling is 90% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon.  It results in a soft, fruity wine which is simultaneously smooth and powerful.

Château Sissan Grande Réserve Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux 2016 (13.5%, €23.99 down to €11.99 at SuperValu)

Chateau Sissan Grand Reserve

The Château Sissan estate extends over 25 hectares in Cadillac, Entre-Deux-Mers, just over the River Garonne from Sauternes.  It benefits from gravel soil, up to 4 metres deep in places, no doubt left by the Garonne as its course has gradually changed over the centuries.  The blend is 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon – with more of the latter than normally seen in this part of Bordeaux due to the free draining gravel soil (which is seen in the likes of Pessac-Léognan and Pauillac).  The nose is rather spicy (apparently due to the Cab) and interesting.  The palate is generous with plush red and black fruit, soft tannins and a spicy finish.  Delicious!

Lady De Mour Margaux 2016 (13.0%, €34.99 down to €20.00 at SuperValu)

Lady De Mour Margaux

Left bank Bordeaux is not usually that approachable in its youth, but if any of the top four appellations are worth committing infanticide with then its the supple wines of Margaux. Lady De Mour consists of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot; after fermentation the wine receives 12 to 15 months in French oak, a quarter of which is new.  It does taste wonderful but it’s the mouthfeel rather than the specific flavours which really shine – like velvet wrapped in satin!  This is amazingly approachable for a Cabernet Sauvignon-dominated blend, but then it is Margaux and the excellent De Mour group (who also produce another favourite Château Tayet)

Château Tour Baladoz Saint-Emilion Grand Cru 2015 (14.0%, €44.99 down to €25.00 at SuperValu)

Tour Baladoz

Château Tour Baladoz is situated just three kilometres south east of the village of Saint-Emilion, with 70% of its vines on the plateau and 30% on slopes.  Sources differ on the assemblage for the 2015, but given the warm year this seems reasonable: 70% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Petit Verdot.  After a cold maceration, each parcel is vinified separately depending on the variety, age of the vine and terroir.  Maturation is for 17 months in oak barrels (70% new) sourced from ten  (!) different coopers.  It has a beautifully fragrant nose which exudes class.  The palate shows silky tannins with chewy, soft fruit.  This is an accessible but classy wine.

Château La Garde Pessac Léognan Rouge 2010* (14.0%, €49.99 down to €30.00 at SuperValu)

CH.La Garde 2010

All the reds above have been fairly young, spanning 2014-16.  This is something different, a left bank Bordeaux which is starting to mature – and from an excellent vintage too.  I tend to think of Pessac wines as having a similar blend to Margaux, which rings true when you compare La Garde to Lady De Mour above: it consists of 67% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Merlot and 2% Petit Verdot.  Maturation is for 14 months in specially selected barrels, of which a third were new.  Tasted from decanter, this was glorious, with notes of graphite, spice, plum, blackberry, and even a savoury meatiness!  This is definitely a treat wine which deserves matching with a good meal.

Château Roumieu Sauternes 2014 (14.0%, 375ml, €19.99 down to €10.00 at SuperValu)

Sauternes Roumieu

Bordeaux does have some great (dry) whites, but the excellence of its sweet wines is even more overlooked.  These wines are very expensive to produce, as the grapes are only harvested when the bunch is at the right stage of noble rottenness (is that a word?) necessitating many passes through the vineyard.  The amount of juice per vine is also very low as botrytis reduces the water content.  But the payoff?  Amazing sweet wines.

Château Roumieu has some celebrated next door neighbours in Châteaux Climens and Doisy-Védrines.  The blend is fairly typical with 89% Semillon, 10% Sauvignon Blanc and 1% Muscadelle.  Still in its youth, this 2014 is very intense with marmalade, apricot and floral notes.  Obviously a sweet wine – I’d guess north of 100 g/L residual sugar – it is nevertheless nicely balanced and just so lovely to drink!

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Make Mine A Double

Make Mine a Double #04 – White Graves (of the Bordeaux Kind)

This series of articles each covers two wines that have something in common, and most likely some point of difference. Compare and contrast is the order of the day – so make mine a double!

The South-Western district of Bordeaux is known as the Graves after the gravelly soil which predominates and produces a wide range of classic red and white Bordeaux. Although much less well known than the famous communes of the Médoc on the left bank and St-Emilion and Pomerol on the right bank, Graves was actually producing quality wines even before Dutch engineers drained the marshy Médoc peninsula. In fact, Samuel Pepys even made mention of the well-established “Ho Bryan” in his eponymous diary written in the 1660s.

There are producers of top quality white wine in the rest of Bordeaux but the Graves is easily the leader for whites. Apart from Haut Brion, which was one of the original four First Growths, the remainder of the Graves was omitted from the 1855 Bordeaux Classification; the Classification of Graves was first published in 1953 for reds and whites were added in the 1959 update.

Grave Vineyards
Grave Vineyards (Credit: vingnobledebordeaux.com)

The best part of the northern Graves surrounding the villages of Pessac and Léognan has had its own appellation since 1987, though the wines still show (usually Grand Vin de) Graves or Bordeaux on the label.

A word of caution for the uninitiated: whereas Bordeaux Supérieur AOC is a red wine made with slightly stricter regulations on yields and minimum alcohol (which is nowadays exceeded in most years anyway) than standard Bordeaux AOC, Graves Supérieures AOC is actually a sweet wine! It is similar in style to the more famous sweet wines of Sauternes and Barsac, though usually less intense and complex. Both sweet and dry whites are generally a blend of Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc, sometimes with a dash of the third ranked white grape Muscadelle.

Having done a tour of the Graves Wine Route many years ago I can personally attest to their quality! Sadly availability in Ireland is very limited indeed. Here are a couple I have tasted and enjoyed recently.

Château Simon Graves 2013 (€15.95, Cases Wine Warehouse) 12.5%

Château Simon Graves 2013
Château Simon Graves 2013

Although based in Barsac and specialising in sweeter wines, Château Simon also produces 12,000 bottles a year of white Graves from three hectares.  Fermentation (to dryness) is in oak; batonnage is carried out for several months to add creamy lees character.

Château Simon
Château Simon

Tangy! Honey and soft white fruit from the Sémillon (50%), citrus freshness from the Sauvignon Blanc (50%). Definitely more than the sum of its parts, the two grapes work perfectly together. Lively enough to work as an aperitif or with seafood, but enough body to accompany chicken and stronger poultry, or even pork. Great value for money.

Le Must de Landiras du Château Terrefortes des Chons Graves Supérieures 2004 (direct from the Château)

Le Must de Landiras du Château Terrefortes des Chons Graves Supérieures 2004
Le Must de Landiras du Château Terrefortes des Chons Graves Supérieures 2004

A different beast entirely. If my warning above wasn’t enough, the deep golden colour should let you know that this is pretty sweet. Brought to a DNS Wine Club barbecue by my mate Paul W, it is apparently just about ready to drink according to the producer – at over ten years old.

Les Chons is smack bang halfway between the villages of Sauternes and Barsac, and the Grand Vin is indeed a Sauternes.  However, they also own other vineyards in the Graves and this is the resulting wine.

Many of the Graves Supérieures I’ve tried in the past have been disappointing – some sweetness, but not enough to qualify as a dessert wine, and not concentrated enough to be interesting as a medium / off-dry wine. This blows all of them out of the water – easily the best I’ve tasted from the region and on a par with a very good Sauternes. Honey and baked apples show on the nose and palate, with an unctuously sweet mouthfeel, but balanced by acidity. Outstanding.