Top 5: new reds from Bordeaux
For cabernet sauvignon and merlot fans who have never tasted wines from Bordeaux, it’s time to listen up!
Located in the southwest corner of France, the Bordeaux region is home to some of the world’s most revered wines. Wrapped around the Gironde River which flows to the Atlantic Ocean, this region is home to 60 unique appellations and the highest concentration of vineyards in France. Since the specialty sub-appellations were designated in 1855, this area has become ground zero for cabernet sauvignon and merlot, as well as smaller amounts of cabernet franc, malbec (known here as côt) and petite verdot used in blends.
The Left Bank, located on the west side between the Gironde and the ocean, is home of the famous, high-rent appellations of Margaux, Saint-Julien, Paulliac and Saint-Estephe, where specialty chateaus produce world-class cabernet sauvignon-based wines. On the eastern side of the Gironde, the Right Bank, producers in Pomerol and Saint-Emillon specialize in the art of making merlot-based wines.
Many wines from the magnificent 2010 vintage were recently showcased at the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux tour held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Washington D.C. Needless to say, there was plenty to talk about!
According to Dany Rolland, who owns Chateau Le Bon Pasteur in Pomerol with her husband, wine consultant Michel Rolland, the 2010 vintage is worth its weight in gold. “To me, the wines from 2009 were easy, sweet and approachable. But the 2010 is more of a true classic with a better balance of tannin, acidity and body. It’s a vintage that is memorable from the moment it is poured and concentrated enough that it will probably outlive me,” she said with a smile as she graciously poured samples.
Another fan of the vintage was winemaker Jose Sanfins of Chateau Cantenac Brown, an esteemed Grand Cru Classé winery located in the Margaux. “More freshness and acidity with ripe flavors and smooth tannins,” he said. “One of my favorite vintages of the past twenty years.”
Here are some of Likelii’s favorite Bordeaux picks from the tasting:
Hoarder’s Delight: For those of you looking for a well-rounded wine that won’t bust the wallet, I’d suggest getting your hands on the D'Armailhac 2010 Pauillac ($59.99). Named for the D'Armailhac family, who established the estate in the eighteenth century, the historic estate property is now owned by Barrone Philippine de Rothschild. This expressive blend of 60% cabernet sauvignon, 23% merlot, 15% cabernet franc and 2 % petite verdot features attractive aromas of bright red fruit, fresh sage and cedar; vibrant flavors of red raspberry, currants and anise, elegant tannins and a silky texture. All this for just under $60. What a steal!
Diamond in the Rough: The Chateau Gruaud Larose 2010 St. Julien ($84.99)
Made with cabernet sauvignon and smaller portions of merlot, cabernet franc and petite verdot grown on gravelly soils and farmed organically, this outstanding new release features attractive aromas of blue fruit, leather, allspice and earth. Deep flavors of blueberry, boysenberry, crème de cassis, crushed plum, smooth velvety tannins and plenty of structure. The purity and personality in the wine grows with each sip.
Sexy Beast: Chateau Canon-la-Gaffeliere 2010 St. Emillon ($129.98)
Personally, I’ve always felt that cabernet franc provides ample structure to blended Bordeaux-style wines. This new release from Chateau Canon-la-Gaffeliere drives my point home with layers of power and finesse. Made with a combination of 50% merlot, 40% cabernet franc and 10% cabernet sauvignon, the wine bursts at the seams with a youthful core of dark berry fruit, raspberry, mineral and smoked meats. Together, these rich flavors and chewy tannins are lifted by a nice burst of acidity and a long, velvety finish. Seductive and very satisfying. Just writing about this wine makes me crave more!
Right Side of a Good Thing: Pavie-Macquin 2010, St Emilion ($139.99)
This decadent blend of 85% merlot, 14% cabernet franc and 1% cabernet sauvignon has attractive scents of ripe red and blue fruit, roasted coffee beans, cinnamon and black pepper. The flavors are deep with notes of blueberry, boysenberry, plum, dark cherry, mineral, wild herbs and layers of spice. The texture is smooth and silky with accents of cocoa and smoke on the long engaging finish. With all these flavors packed inside one bottle, it’s a reasonably priced alternative to the winery’s estate wine that retails for $375 to $400 a pop.
Liquid Memories: Pichon-Longueville Baron 2010 Pauillac ($234.99)
For those willing to spend a few extra bucks on a serious wine that is worth aging in the cellar, try this amazing new wine made by Pichon-Longueville Baron in Pauillac. Freshness, elegance and finesse are three words that immediately come to mind with the first sniff of this magnificent blend of 79% cabernet sauvignon and 21% merlot. From there, deep aromas of fresh violets, lavender, cassis, ripe berries, fresh tobacco, wild mushrooms and roasted black walnuts dazzle the nose. In the mouth, the wine continues to expand with opulent flavors of black cherry, blueberry, dark chocolate truffles, creamy texture, chewy tannins, and a nice accent of fine-grain French oak on the long, elegant finish. Put it this way: If someone bought me a bottle of this wine, I’d definitely consider being their friend for life. It’s that good!