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Enjoying Wine and Beer in the Augusta GA area

Chateau Haut-Brion For $20? Clarendelle Comes Close

Clarendelle Saint-Emilion 2014, Bordeaux

Cost: $19-21

Unless you have a rich uncle, or a really, really great friend, you probably will never taste Chateau Haut-Brion, one of the most famous and most expensive wines in the world.

But thanks to the Bordeaux house that produces Haut-Brion you can come close for only $20.

Clarendelle Saint-Emilion 2014 ($19-21) will shatter your expectations about French bargains. There are many good or great wines from Bordeaux that are affordable, but you have to hunt for them and try them before you know if they are worth buying. Not all inexpensive Bordeaux wines are worth drinking.

With tariffs being imposed on many European wines, you might want to stock up on some of them now before the taxed wines start making their way into wine shops.

Bordeaux and Burgundy are two of the most famous wine-producing regions in the world. I love their wines, but it can be difficult to find affordable wines from either region. Some wine drinkers are doubtful that you can find bargains from either region, but they are out there.

The Clarendelle is everything you would ever want in a Bordeaux: a powerful wine with ripe cherry and plum flavors, silky tannins and a nice balance of fruit and acidity. The current release is 2014, so you know the winemaker thought it needed some time to mellow out. This affordable super-premium wine is the perfect combination of quality, elegance, finesse and complexity.

You get a hint of how good the wine is by the label, where it says “inspired by Haut-Brion.” If you don’t know much about Bordeaux, you should know that Haut-Brion is one of the most famous and most expensive wines in the world. Current vintages can run you $1,200 or more, while older vintages sell for as much as $15,000. Per bottle.

It was one of the original first growths from the French classification of 1855. After falling into disrepair, it was bought in 1935 by Clarence Dillon, a New York banker. His great grandson, Prince Robert of Luxembourg, runs Domaine Clarence Dillon today. And Domaine Clarence Dillon produces Clarendelle Saint-Emilion with the same winemaking team that produces Haut-Brion.

When you drink Clarendelle, you won’t be drinking Haut-Brion, but you will have an outstanding wine made by the same people who make one of the most famous wines in the world using grapes from Bordeaux. In fact, for most of us The Clarendelle Saint-Emillion probably tastes better. You need a pretty sophisticated palate to appreciate a wine like Haut-Brion.

The Clarendelle is 77 percent merlot, 16 percent cabernet franc and seven percent cabernet sauvignon. The wine is a deep, intense red in the glass with floral and black fruit aromas. The first sip reveals a complex array of flavors, predominantly cherry and plum, with peppery and spicy notes. Elegant tannins and crisp acidity make it a great wine for food.

I would suggest chilling the wine slightly, opening it an hour before drinking and decanting it.

This was the first vintage for Clarendelle to produce a wine from Saint-Emilion, and they picked a great year to start. A beautiful spring was followed by an average July and uncertain weather in August. September brought a warm Indian summer with light rains.

The warm weather continued into October and allowed the grapes to ripen slowly and fully, reaching the proper balance of sugar and tannins.

The 2015 vintage should be even better.

Winery: By some measures you could trace Domaine Clarence Dillon back several centuries to wine being produced on the Chateau Haut-Brion property. Clarence Dillon arrived on the scene in 1934 when he visited Haut-Brion and appreciated its past excellence and future potential.

He bought the property the next year and began returning the estate to its former glory.

In 1983, the Dillon family also purchased the neighboring estate, Château La Mission Haut-Brion. And since 2011, the family company has owned a Saint-Emilion grand cru, Château Quintus.

In 2005, 70 years after Clarence Dillon’s arrival in Bordeaux, Prince Robert opened a new chapter in the history of the Dillon family in Bordeaux, creating Clarence Dillon Wines.

The name Clarendelle is inspired by the name Clarence Dillon. The company created the label to bring the world the best of Bordeaux at affordable prices. The grapes may be grown in slightly different terroir than Haut-Brion, but the wine gets the same careful attention by the winemaking team.

Clarendelle produces several wines, including a white, a rosé and a dessert wine.

Goes with: We had this gorgeous wine with grilled duck. It was a wonderful pairing.

I have liked duck since I was a teenager, but it’s not something you usually cook at home. Ducks have so much fat that when you cook them the grease drips off and creates smoke in an oven, or flames if you cook them on a grill.

Several years ago we discovered frozen half ducks in grocery stores, and they are perfect. The duck is pre-cooked, so most of the fat is gone. You just put them on a hot grill for 10 minutes on one side and five minutes on the other, and you have a perfectly cooked duck.

We added baked potatoes and tossed salads and had a feast.

The rich, flavorful duck was a great match for the robust wine. All the rich fruit flavors of the wine brought out the sweetness of the duck. Teri had her duck with orange sauce, which is included with the duck. I like raspberry or cherry sauce, but didn’t have any, so I ate the duck plain, and it was delicious.

This wine also would go well with roast lamb, pork chops or savory stews.


If you have questions about wine you can email Dennis Sodomka at dennis@bottlereport.com

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