I t was a journey around Bordeaux conducted by Jean-Pierre Chambas, founder of Aleph Wines, who has been introducing South Carolinians to fine French wines for 40 years. Forty seven tasters Friday night followed his tour with eleven wines representing different regions of Bordeaux.
Jean-Pierre has conducted many of these tours at Wine World over the years. Rhone, Loire Valley, Burgundy, Provence. This is his second Bordeaux seminar I’ve attended (the last being 2012) and I’m always amazed at his intimate knowledge of the chateaux and their winemakers.
He should because some of the wines he presented tonight have been part of his portfolio for those 4o years mentioned earlier. https://alephwines.com
He described Bordeaux as the largest vineyard in the world…. referring to its size and that it has 14,000 producers, from big to small that produce red wine with the five main grapes that Bordeaux is known for: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot and Malbec. But he mentioned a sixth, a grape from its past that is making a comeback, Carménère. (Carménère is known as the lost grape. It was wiped out in Bordeaux when Phyloxeria decimated the french wine industry in the late 1800’s. It was not replanted as the area recovered with grafted stock. Thought to be extinct it had managed to make its way to Chile where it was rediscovered 21 years ago.)
Almost no vineyards in Bordeaux make a single varietal wine. The tradition is to blend with those main 5 grapes. Petit Verdot, he said is almost always used as a blending grape. He told the group that he and his sales staff had just tasted a spectacular Petit Verdot they were surprised to find being made in North Carolina and that they would soon be distributing it.
He said that the Cabernet Sauvignon grape that we have here in America came from Bordeaux. But it takes second place in acreage to Merlot. Some regions in Bordeaux traditionally use more Merlot than Cabernet Sauvignon and some use more Cabernet Sauvignon than Merlot. But the main point is tradition: the chateaux traditionally blend and are consistent in their blending.
Each chateau has a primary or first label wines that brings top dollar. These wines are “a commodity just like petroleum.” If go outside the pricing model “you get cut off.” The prices of these wines are fixed and in France that is legal.
Most have a second label that might use the same grapes and even the same blends but will be considerably cheaper. If they see any oak treatment it’s second or third use or even older oak while the first label will get new French oak.
The Fleur de Pedesclaux Pauillac featured tonight is a second label wine that has a $45.99 price tag. The first label wine, Chateau Pedesclaux is more than $100 but has the same grapes and the same blend. The second label wines are often the way people can try some great French wines “without having to mortgage the house.”
The vineyards of Bordeaux he once again emphasized follow tradition. “If you are in love with a wine you are in love with the vineyard because the vineyard has a profile that they will always produce to, year after year.”
He started the seminar tasting with a red, Cru de la Maqueline Bordeaux Rouge, because “you always select a sacrificial lamb to start with because usually people forget the first wine. But I wanted to be fair to this wine. It’s from an exciting small producer. And the purpose of a wine seminar like this is to introduce you to new wines and how they taste. You must decide if you like these wines or not.”
Red wine is dominant wine but there are whites produced using three main grapes, Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon and Muscadelle. (there are other white grapes but are seldom used). White wine from Bordeaux he said, has a much higher acid content than the same grapes grown in the New World due to its climate. He said a 7-year-old white wine from Bordeaux is considered to be in its prime where in the US it would be considered old. He added that it is not unusal to find a 20-year-old white from Bordeaux that is still excellent.
The second and ninth wines tonight were whites. Although unusual to many tasters to drink whites in the middle of reds he wanted to show how these styles of white differ. The Chateau Anice Graves Blanc 2014 (50% Sauvignon Blanc and 50% Sémillon) has no oak and the Chateau Villa Belair Graves Blanc 2011 (65% Sauvignon Blanc and 35% Sémillon) has some new French oak and is softer.” Much to everyone’s surprise the switch didn’t seem to affect the reds that followed.
At the break we had the usual great nibbles that Wine World’s seminars are known for. An excellent seminar.
Next up for Wine World is their First Friday tasting on Friday, Sept. 2, 2016 from 5-8PM.
Where: Wine World, 133 Georgia Ave., North Augusta, SC
When: Friday, August 26, 2016, 7pm.
Cost: $25 per person, $18 Wine Club Member.
Here are the wines to presented (click to see more):
- Cru de la Maqueline Bordeaux Rouge 2012
- Chateau Anice Graves Blanc 2014
- Chateau Mirefleurs Bordeaux Superior 2012
- Chateau Roc Taillade Medoc 2010
- Chateau Malmaison Rothschild Moulis 2012
- Chateau Paveil de Luze Margaux 2012
- Fleur de Pesdesclaux Pauillac 2010
- Chateau Chantegrive Graves 2009
- Chateau Villa Belair Graves Blanc 2011
- Chateau La Grange Clinet Premieres Cotes de Bordeaux 2014
- Chateau du Bosquet Cotes de Bourg 2012
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Here are the detailed wine notes:
Cru de la Maqueline Bordeaux Rouge 2012 | Bordeaux
The wine comes from a small vineyard close to Margaux, but only with the lowly Bordeaux appellation. It is ripe, full and rich, with smooth tannins and an approachable character. Red fruits dominate, along with wood flavors. The acidity at the end gives a lift.
Chateau Anice Graves Blanc 2014 |
A 50/50 blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, this white Bordeaux offers Sauvignon Blanc induced aromatics of citrus, herbs and tropical fruits along with a weighty texture from the Semillon. Finishes crisp and clean with a nice chalky acidity.
Chateau Mirefleurs Bordeaux Superior 2012 |
Located in the territory of the Yvrac district, at the gates of Bordeaux, the Château Mirefleurs estate comprises 40 hectares of vines of “noble” grape varietals planted in soil varying from gravely clay to argillaceous sand. The layout of the estate is such that its planted slopes are south-facing and receive a great deal of sun. Belonging to the Castel family since 1975, this red wine of “Bordeaux supérieur” appellation is supple and full-bodied with beautiful colour, and will continue to age in the bottle. The cellar is composed of new barrels, one-third of which are replaced every year. Their efforts to modernize the cellar equipment have been richly rewarded.–From their Website
Chateau Roc Taillade Medoc 2010 |
The high proportion of Merlot gives a wine which is able to be appreciated when young. Deep colour, clean fragrance, often intense and complex aromas with a touch of oak. Well balanced with very good density and weight. Ripe and round fruit with harmonious and savoury tannins for the structure. Very pleasant finish. Food Pairing: This wine will perfectly accompany flavorful (red or white) meat dishes such as roast chicken, Beef Bourgogne, coq au vin, potato gratin chicken soups and stews and Tuscan-style bean soups. Also harmonious with most cheeses like Gruyère, Comté, Cantal, Reblochon, Beaufort … (avoid Roquefort and arguably Camembert). And of course, will also easily and gracefully accompany more simpler dishes like pizza and/or most barbecued foods.–From their Website
Chateau Malmaison Rothschild Moulis 2012 |
Appellation: Moulis en Medoc. 80% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. Sixteen months of aging. This wine will pair nicely with grilled meats, meat dishes with sauce and assorted cheeses.
Chateau Paveil de Luze Margaux 2012 |
The Luze family has been making wines for 6 generations. The Paveil Luze Castle is in a beautiful area of the Margaux appellation, part of the best Crus Bourgeois du Médoc. With its 32 hectares of vineyard remaining in one piece and sitting on the same floor for three centuries, the Castle of Paveil Luze is deeply rooted among his vines.
Combining authenticity and sense of ancestral techniques with the latest technical developments, all in a reasoned culture and an environmental approach, Chateau de Luze Paveil shows respect for tradition while being forward looking. With the help of Stéphane Derenoncourt also a consultant for the Priory-Lichine, following changes in ownership since 2010, and thanks to the experience of Stéphane Fort cellar master, the wines of Chateau de Luze Paveil reflect well the expression of the beautiful soil. Margalaise typical expression, finesse for charming wines, even captivating.
Fleur de Pesdesclaux Pauillac 2010 |
Dark red colour with purplish hues. Fine nose of blackcurrants and blackberries. The palate is ample with underbrush, rose and peony with a slightly peppery finish. Pair with steak, lamb.
Chateau Chantegrive Graves 2009 |
50% Merlot & 50% Cabernet Sauvignon. Cold pre-fermentary maceration followed by fermentation in small, temperature -controlled vats for 3 to 4 weeks. Barrel-aged for 12 months in 50% new oak.Beautiful ruby colour, seductive and complex on the nose with hints of toasted bread and ripe blackberry. On the palate the attack is direct and generous, underpinned by silky tannins.Can be enjoyed with red meats, game birds, poultry and mild cheeses.
Chateau Villa Belair Graves Blanc 2011 |
The nose is floral (magnolia), with distinct aromas of citrus (lemon, grapefruit) and exotic fruits (mango, pineapple). The attack is soft and round followed by an indulgent, buttery finish offering oak, brioche and vanilla. Barrel-aged for one year .Vines have an average age of 25years. The planting ratio consists of 65% Sauvignon Blanc and 35% Sémillon. After pressing, the juices are left to ferment in oak barrels at low temperatures. They are aged on their lees which are stirred regularly over a 4 month period. Bottling takes place in Spring of the second year following the harvest.
Chateau La Grange Clinet Premieres Cotes de Bordeaux 2014 |
Big tannins and ripe fruits result in a wine that is dense and structured. The wood aging is apparent, thanks to a smoky character that pushes over the black currant fruit. From vineyards on slopes above the Garonne river, this is a solid wine with a good future.
Chateau du Bosquet Cotes de Bourg 2012 |
This wine is almost black in color, with purple reflections, it displays a powerful bouquet of blackcurrants and blackberries, alongside hints of smoky vanilla. Broad and well-rounded on the palate, well-ripened fruits balance beautifully with a subtle oakiness. The tannins are at their best: warm, silky and powerful.