With the shift into winter comes a certain type of craving - I've identified mine to be amidst cinnamon and clove, cedar wood, leather, fire place and lots of cassis. The colour should be ruby or garnet with some translucency or none at all, and the palate generous. The Bordeaux blend.
Now for those unfamiliar, a Bordeaux blend consists of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc with smaller additions Malbec and Petit Verdot and indeed, only these grapes are permitted for blending in Bordeaux. The proportions may change year to year according to vintage and desired type of wine or estate style.
Some producers of Bordeaux blends might use the term “Meritage” (which rhymes with “heritage,” and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise) if they belong to the Meritage Association. There isn’t a Meritage Association police force either, but there are rules. To call a wine “Meritage,” it has to be blended entirely from traditional Bordeaux varieties, with no more than 90 percent of a single grape (Dr. Vinny, Wine Spectator).
The Bordeaux styles:
The Right Bank
Merlot takes the lead here as the climes and soils are favourable. Merlot loves clay rich soils, a good amount of shade and a dip in the temperature earlier in the evening. Merlot, by nature offers more plum fruit and has less notable tannins making it the more approachable type of wine. Approachable, to the point of tepidness. Perhaps we could say, no diversity or challenge makes a complacent drinker and renders the wine/grape flabby and unremarkable? I’d say so, when there’s so much wonder in the each vintage and stories woven to attribute to the wines.
The Left Bank
Cabernet Sauvignon is predominant here and shoulders the other grapes in the blend, usually with Merlot playing second fiddle or the very fragrant Cabernet franc. The signature fruit of Cabernet Sauvignon is of course that intense cassis and the often it comes with pyrazines, an aroma compound the gives you bell pepper or leafy notes. More colour in the skins mean much more tannins and when young, these tannins do appear course and rather grippy, proving much more a challenging drink than the Smooth operators across the water.
Though I'm eternally team Burgundy, I do occasionally stain my lips in delighting my palate with a Bordeaux blend. As much as I love a solo piano piece, I very much enjoy trios and string quartets. Each component flatters each other, harmony is achieved, the picture is complete.
This ideal wine will be long lived, already multi-faceted and will gain even more complexity as it ages.
The very succinct example of a Right Bank Bordeaux is our Chateau Beynat.
Located at Cotes de Castillon, the younger vines - averaging 25 years enjoy clay and limestone rich soils and produce fruity Merlots and Cabernet Francs. For this particular cuvee, maturation was in stainless steel and very little to no oak. The desired wine is a fresh and youthful medium bodied-red for immediate imbibing. Juicy with nice ripe tannins that are cooling to the palate rather than scratchy. That’s not to say it is in anyway a simple wine. I find a nice depth to this wine and a little touch of development through cooked plums and just a hint of mushroom. This is true value Bordeaux for the concentration and depth that it offers.
Modeled on the Left Bank style is our beloved Pech Abuse.
Domaine du Pech lies deep in the heart of south-west France in the Buzet appellation. In the region of Gascony with nearby Toulouse to the east and Bordeaux to the west. Magali Tissot and Ludovic Bonnelle practice biodynamic viticulture, use no pesticides, fungicides or herbicides in the vineyard. A Further no chemical additives in/during vinification process with no addition of sulphur. The grapes are fermented using only the naturally occurring yeasts.
The typical grape varieties here and also typical for Buzet are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc - grape varieties that it shares with Bordeaux. There is also a smidgeon of Sauvignon Blanc for the special white wines that are produced here.
It is quite large by biodynamic standard with 17 hectares given over to vines. The soils are gravels, limestone and clay and the yields are very low being in the range 10-25 hectolitres per hectare.
Now to me, this is one that’s truly in league with the upper echelons of Bordeaux. It offers so much fruit, concentration and complexity. Theres so much going on - the wildness of a dense forest with black cherries, black and blue berries trodden on with their leaves. Pine, cedar, sweet woods and spices. Further on, there’s mushroom and game. So complete.
Another one of our paste options was the Čotar Terra Rossa.
From the west wine country of Slovenia, a town called Karst. The family planted the vines in the 70’s as a direct supply to the restaurant that they own, they also buy in neighbouring fruit from vines that are 100 years more. Due to demand they started bottling not long after in the 80’s. The one we picked up is the Čotar Terra Rossa, the name signifying the local soil and grape. This is loosely modelled on Bordeaux with 40% of their local Refošk or the Italian cousin Refosco. The rest of the blending components - Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot do shout out their presence too. Biodynamically produced and ultra minimal on sulphur addition.
Heres the baffling thing - The vintage is 2005. Yes, you can get excited anticipating all that development splendour and it really delivers. You can sip and witness further evolution in the glass. The strange thing here is that the wine still gives you fresh fruit and plenty of acidity. This is wonderfully strange, elegant, utterly delicious and suggests a long life ahead of it. This core of acidity should see this wine cellaring well up to 10 years or more.