Thursday, 30 April 2009

Saint Estèphe Wines

Saint Estèphe Wines

Saint Estèphe is the most northern appellation of the Haut-Médoc. It sits on the left bank of the Garonne and is the closest appellation to the mouth of the River Gironde, where it joins the Atlantic Sea. and has less gravel, and more clay, than upstream towards Margaux. Estuary about 37 miles north west of Bordeaux. The vineyards of Saint Estèphe cover 3000 acres.

During the 1855 Classifications of Bordeaux wines Saint Estèphe was awarded 5 Grands Crus Classés – Château Cos d'Estournel and Château Montrose being the stars of this appellation.
Saint Estèphe also has over 40 Cru Bourgeois including the Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnels.

Terroir and Grapes

Saint Estèphe lies on layers of gravel on top of clay washed ashore from the Gironde and the harvest is one of the latest of the whole region. It has less gravel, and more clay, than upstream towards Margaux. This soil drains more slowly and gives the vineyards an advantage during dry summers. The soil is cooler, delaying ripening, and leave the grapes higher in acidity that their more southern counterparts.

Quartz and well rounded pebbles mingled with light, sandy surface soil are found everywhere, giving the wines a distinctive finesse. And the subsoil is made up of the famous Saint Estèphe limestone, which outcrops on the west of the appellation.

While Cabernet Sauvignon is the dominant grape, Saint Estèphe has more planting of Merlot than any other area on the Left Bank. Other grapes grown are Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Carmenère and Malbec.

Wine Style

Saint Estèphe wines are dark and opaque in colour, earthy, firm, robust and tannic. The tannins and acidity come from the rich and heavy clay and Merlot softens the wines. They reach their maturity slower than other Médoc wines so they can be laid down for a very long time while yet preserving their youth and freshness. They are known for their exceptional backbone with aromas of great finesse.

Famous Châteaux and Recommended Wines

Château Calon Segur
Château Cos d'Estournel
Château Lafon Rochet
Château Meyney

Château Montrose

Château Meyney can be dated back to the 17th century but its origins are much older as it is founded on an ancient ecclesiastical site. Meyney is one of the most ancient of the Northern Médoc vineyards, its recorded history goes back as far as 1662, when a large part of the actual buildings were constructed on and with the foundation of the Priory of Couleys (Prieuré des Couleys) , or the Convent of the Feuillants (Couvent des Feuilles) as it was also known. The Château is still sometimes referred to as Prieuré de Meyney.

The Château itself lies in the east of the appellation, next door to Châteaux Montrose and Phélan Ségur. Château Meyney has very much been an insider's choice as the wines have a been of persistently high quality throughout the 20th century. Today Meyney is thus under the ownership of Crédit Agricole Grands Crus, alongside Château Grand Puy Ducasse and the Sauternes Rayne Vigneau.

The vineyards of Château Meyney are a single plot of 126 acres stretching out over a series of gravel ridges overlooking the River Gironde. The soil is a mix of iron rich blue clay and sand about 3 metres deep over a limestone bedrock from a depth of about two metres – this is similar to Château Petrus in Pomerol. The pine forests on the coast shelter the vines from the north westerly winds. The grapes grown are 61% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc and 10% Petit Verdot.

Château Meyney's wines are classified as Cru Bourgeois Supérieur and are deep, dark and concentrated with plenty of ripe blackcurrant fruit and a distinctive aroma of smoke, prunes, truffles, coffee and cherries. The wines are well structured, velvety smooth and weighty. They age well and should be cellared as they continue to develop well in the bottle.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Saint Julien Wines

Saint Julien Wines

Saint Julien lies on two plateaus between Pauillac and Margaux on the left bank of the Gironde Estuary. It is divided into essentially 2 areas - the riverside estates around the village of Saint Julien and the southern estates around the village of Beychevelle where the area's Cru Bourgeois are also grouped. The vineyards cover 2,200 acres.

Saint Julien has the highest proportion of classified estates of all the regions in Bordeaux – 11 in total. The quality is so good in Saint Julien that second wines from those châteaux are very attractive. It is home to the 5 great second growths: Châteaux Ducru Beaucaillou, Léoville Poyferré, Léoville Barton, Gruard Larose and Léoville Las Cases and has a raft of high performing Châteaux in its ranks from 2ème (2nd Growths) to 4ème (4th Growths).

Terroir and Grapes

The waters of the Gironde Estuary have a warming influence on the climate which, coupled with the south easterly exposure of most vineyards, helps to fully ripen the Cabernet Sauvignon vines in this area. The terroir is very similar throughout Saint Julien - gravelly soils dominate and only the proximity of the estuary can cause slight variations in climate. In fact, Saint Julien's layer of glacial gravel takes the form of a huge rectangle over 3 miles long and 2 miles wide which sits on a limestone plateau. Saint Julien is a Cabernet Sauvignon commune. Blends of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon with around 20% Merlot and a bit of Cabernet Franc are not unusual.

Wine Style

Many people say that Saint Julien is the classic claret, robust, powerful and refined with a balance of perfume, structure and mineral fruit. Saint Julien combines the Médoc's best qualities – its wines have the elegance of Margaux, the power of Pauillac and the cedar and blackcurrant nose of Saint Estèphe. The wines age well and have the ability to develop for a decade or more

Famous Châteaux and Recommended Wines

Château Léoville Poyferré
Château Léoville Barton
Château Léoville Las Cases
Château Ducru Beaucaillou,
Château Beychevelle
Château Gruaud Larose
Château Branaire Ducru
Château Lagrange
Chateau Saint Pierre
Château Talbot

Château Saint Pierre is a Fourth Growth (4ème Cru) and lies opposite its sister Château Gloria just outside the town of Beychevelle. The château is one of the most ancient in Médoc and early records in 1693 show a wine growing property called Serançan belonging at the time to the Marquis de Cheverry. During the reign of Louis XV, Baron de Saint Pierre bought the estate, gave it his name and kept it until his death.

Château Saint Pierre was bought in 1982 by Henri Martin who also owned Château Gloria. Martin was born at Château Gruaud Larose in 1903 and came from a family of coopers who had been barrel making for the châteaux of Bordeaux for more than 3 centuries. Gloria was created in 1942 when Martin bought 14 acres of vines in Saint Julien, taking its name from the land on which the Martin family home was built. Martin became Mayor of Saint Julien, President of the Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins de Bordeaux, co-founded the Commanderie de Bordeaux and is responsible for reviving the ancient fame of the village.

Martin didn't stop at Château Gloria, his tireless quest to own a classed growth estate was realised when he bought at the grand age of 78. Saint Pierre is the very reverse of Château Gloria – its as old as Gloria is young. However the quality of the wines is the one thing they have in common. Martin breathed new life into the ancient Saint Pierre and renovated the château and the winery and rejuvenated the vineyards. Henri Martin died in 1991 and the Châteaux are now owned by his daughter Françoise and husband Jean-Louis Triaud who continue to improve the wines.

The vines stretch over 42 acres and it is one of the smallest vineyards in Saint Julien – if not the smallest. Martin sold some of the land to Ducru Beaucaillou and Gruard Larose and kept the old vines to make his wine – the average age of the vines is over 50 years old. The wines of Saint Pierre are fuller bodied than others from the appellation, fruity and smooth. They have smoky flavours of blackberries, ground coffee, toast, toffee, violets and oak. They are well balanced with firm tannins and good acidity. The wines age well and are also approachable when young.

Monday, 27 April 2009

Pomerol Wines

Pomerol Wines

Pomerol is the smallest wine producing area in Bordeaux however although it is tiny, Pomerol is famous world over. The vineyards are located 19 miles north east of Bordeaux and 2 miles from the city of Libourne on a slightly rolling plateau, that slopes gradually towards the Isle river valley and its confluence with the Dordogne. The vineyards cover 1976 acres and produce sumptuous, exuberant wines which are constantly sought after.

Although Pomerol has never had its Châteaux officially ranked in the 1855 Classification it is home to some of the most famous of wines – Château Pétrus, which is unofficially grouped with the Premier Grand Crus (First Growths) of Bordeaux, and the most expensive: Le Pin.

Terroir and Grapes

Soil in Pomerol is a unique, outstanding geological phenomenon. The topsoil is made up of gravel that varies in compactness, with layers of clay and sand. The subsoil includes iron oxide, locally called "crasse de fer". This soil, combined with a special micro-climate, accounts for the personality of Pomerol's wines. Pomerol runs from north west to south east, rising to a height of about 140 feet above sea level at its highest point, then falling away towards Saint Émilion.

Merlot accounts for 80% of vines planted, with the remainder divided between Bouchet or Cabernet Franc (15%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (5%). This high composition of Merlot in their blends means that the wines are considered the gentlest and least tannic and acidic of Bordeaux wines. Cabernet Franc helps to contribute to the dark, deep colouring that is typical of Pomerol wines.

Wine Style

Pomerol's wines are smooth, rich and velvety with an intense plummy fruitiness. The wines are gentle with a lush ruby colour and an elegant bouquet. Due to the reduced tannins found in these wines they can typically be drunk much younger than other red Bordeaux although they are at their best when the bottle reaches 15 years old.

Famous Châteaux and Recommended Wines

Château Pétrus
Le Pin
Château L'Evangile
La Conseillante
Château Nenin
Château Gazin

Some of the châteaux in Pomerol have tiny vineyards producing a small amount of wine each year and due to this the wines have become quite rare. Château L'Eglise Clinet was originally part of Château Clinet and Château Clos l'Eglise. In 1882, Mr Mauléon-Rouchut, great great grandfather of Denis Durantou, the current owner of the château, brought together different plots of Clos L’Eglise and Domaine de Clinet, which his family had acquired in the 18th century, to make up a 14 acre vineyard around the church of Saint John of Pomerol. Château L'Eglise Clinet is now one of the most sought after wines from Pomerol. The vineyard is situated on the plateau of Pomerol behind the church and is one of the few Pomerol vineyards that was not replanted after the 1956 killing frosts and consequently it has very old vines, a few of which exceed 100 years in age.

Château L'Enclos dates back to the end of the 19th century when Pierre Larroucaud assembled parcels of vines in the hamlet of Grand Moulinet. The Château takes its name from the land around it and Clos or L'Enclos in Bordeaux refers to a walled vineyard. Larroucaud built the present Château which is in the Swiss chalet style. The Larroucaud family owned L'Enclos for 10 generations until Steve Adams of Adams French Vineyards bought the estate in 2007. Hugues Weydert is a descendant of the Larroucauds and is currently the Administrator of the château. L'Enclos neighbours Pétrus and de Sales and the 38 plots of vines are planted on 3 terraces on the Pomerol plateau covering 25 acres.

Château Hosanna is situated in the centre of the Pomerol plateau, neighbouring Château Lafleur to the north, Château Pétrus to the east and Vieux Château Certan and Château Certan de May to the south. It has an average annual production of one quarter that of Château Pétrus, its more famous stable mate and is made with all the care and dedication of that gives Pétrus its awesome reputation. Château Hosanna was formerly part of Château Certan Giraud which the Moueix family purchased in 1999. The property consisted of 2 distinctly different parcels; the parcel on the elevated part of the property was renamed Château Hosanna and the remaining parcel was later sold.

Jean-Pierre Moueix started his business in 1937, and was responsible for putting the wines of Pomerol, Bordeaux's smallest appellation, on the map. Today many wines from Pomerol fetch prices far higher than those of their Médoc neighbours despite lacking classified growth status. The company and its Châteaux is now run by his son Christian and grandson Edouard Moueix, and his company ETS. J-P Moueix, now manages a portfolio of more than 10 superior Bordeaux properties, including Châteaux Pétrus, Magdelaine, Latour a Pomerol, Trotanoy and Belair.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Pessac Léognan Wines

Pessac Léognan Wines

Pessac Léognan was created in 1987 as a break away from Graves and is centred around the villages of Pessac, Talence and Léognan. This is the reason why châteaux such as Smith Haut Lafitte and Carbonnieux still bear the title of Grand Cru Classé du Graves though they now lie within the Pessac Léognan area. Pessac Léognan is north of Graves and its vineyards cover 3,300 acres. It produces superb wines and contains many of the top châteaux. In fact Pessac Léognan is home to the only Graves château listed as a first growth in the 1855 Médoc classification – Château Haut Brion. Most of the wines it produces are red but Pessac Léognan is also known for producing some of the finest dry white wines of Bordeaux. The famous clairets (Bordeaux's own rosé) were first made here. It is also Bordeaux's most urban wine area - part of it is surrounded by the campus of Bordeaux University.

Terroir and Grapes

Pessac Léognan has an exclusive terroir which is based on gravel ridges (Graves takes its name from the gravel it lies upon). The soil also has distinctive tiny white quartz pebbles that are found in all the best vineyards. Further south, the soil is sandier with more clay. The climate is milder than to the north of the city and the harvest can occur up to two weeks earlier. Grapes grown are Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot for the reds and Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc (which must be at least 25% of the blend) for the whites.

Wine Style

Red wines from Pessac Léognan have a powerful bouquet. This gives the best wines a heady, rich and almost savoury character, laced with notes of tobacco, spice and leather. The whites have aromas of orange blossom, boxwood and passion fruits. The sparkling quartz gravel imparts a minerally, smoky, earthiness to the wine. The white wines are well structured and age well, as do the reds.

Famous Chateaux and Recommended Wines

Chateau Haut Brion
Château La Mission Haut Brion
Château Haut Bailly
Château Smith Haut Lafitte
Château Pape Clement

Château Haut Bailly is located along the Left Bank of the River Garonne in the commune of Léognan. It's neighbours are Châteaux La Louviere and Carbonnieux. In 1872, Alcide Bellot des Minières, purchased the estate of Haut Bailly on the advice of Cardinal Bonnet, Archbishop of Bordeaux. A man with a passionate interest in using scientific methods to improve viticulture, des Minières was a legendary figure, known to his contemporaries as “King of Wines”. Des Minières was much opposed to grafting his French vines onto phylloxera-resistant American root stocks – something that was being done in most other Bordeaux vineyards. He believed this would result in wines of lesser quality, and although some American graft stock was later planted, Haut Bailly still has 15% of its old vines dating from the pre-phylloxera period. Thanks to his drive, huge energy, and meticulous attention to scientific detail, prices for Haut Bailly rose to a level similar to those of the Bordeaux First Growths – Châteaux Lafite, Latour, Margaux, and Haut Brion. Today Haut Bailly is owned by Robert and Elizabeth Wilmers who have restored the château and invested in new wine making equipment. Château Haut Bailly is one of the most respected vineyards of Bordeaux.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Pauillac Wines

Pauillac Wines

Pauillac is sandwiched between Saint Estèphe to the north and Saint Julien to the south on the River Gironde as it widens into its estuary. The town of Pauillac itself is a small port which has shipped wines since ancient times. Pauillac has been hailed as a legendary appellation having 3 Premiers Grandes Crus classés (1st great growths) out of the 5 in Bordeaux as well as having 15 Grande Crus Classés within its boundaries.

The great châteaux of Pauillac are Château Lafite, Château Latour and Château Mouton Rothschild. Pauillac's vineyards span 2700 acres and they produce wines of finesse, elegance, and intensity that can only be matched on rare occurrences elsewhere in the world.

Terroir and Grapes

Pauillac has undulating hills which are unusual in the Medoc and the soil contains heavy gravel which is important to the wine growing as it reflects the sun and allows excellent drainage. The gravel is mixed with touches of sand, limestone and iron in certain spots, provides just enough nutrients and minerals to give unique, virile, powerful wines with a great concentration of flavours.

Pauillac is the home of Cabernet Sauvignon based wines, with elements of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petite Verdot as well.

Wine Style

Pauillac wines are rich, densely coloured, full bodied and profound with an elegant mix of black currants and cedary oak that is luxurious and distinguished when mature. There is a wide variation on this theme throughout Pauillac, in part due to the differing terrain across the region. The wines have an opulent bouquet with aromas of blackcurrant and cedar when they age. The best vintages of Pauillac will hold for decades or more, with the occasional example dating back to the turn of the 20th century. Though these examples are rare, it is a great indicator of the quality of Pauillac's wines.

Famous Chateaux and Recommended Wines

Pauillac is dominated by the great châteaux of the Rothschilds: the First Growths Château Lafite, and Château Mouton Rothschild and the 4th and 5th Growth Chateaux owned by them Clerc Milon, d'Armailhac, and Duhart Milon. One other First Growth has its home in Pauillac and that is Château Latour. It is also home to some of the most beautiful châteaux resembling those from Gothic fairy tales such as Chateaux Pichon Baron and Pichon Lalande.

Château Haut Bages Libéral is one of the least known Pauillac estates but produces good wines at very competitive prices. Since 1983 Haut Bages has been owned by the Jacques Merlaut's Taillan Group who also own Châteaux Chasse Spleen, Gruaud Larose, Citran and Cos d'Estournel. The estate is run by his grand daughter, Claire Villars Lurton, manager of Château Ferrièrre, Château La Gurge, and wife of Gonzague Lurton, owner of Château Durfort Vivens. Coming from the stable that it does and given the expertise in the wine making the château's profile is rapidly rising.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Moulis-en-Médoc Wines

Moulis-en-Médoc Wines

Moulis-en-Médoc or Moulis as it more commonly known is the smallest of the Médoc appellations, it's vineyards spanning 1,300 acres. Lying 9 miles north west of the city of Bordeaux, it lies closer to the Atlantic in the West of Médoc.

Moulis is taken from the French word for windmill, for which the region is famous. Moulis falls half way between Margaux and Saint Julien, and takes the shape of a narrow band some 4 ½ miles long, on the left bank of the Gironde Estuary.

Terroir and Grapes

Moulis is hilly country, studded with a diversity of Garonne and Pyrenees gravels, chalk, limestone and clay and this results in wines of differing characters. The grapes grown are Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Carmenère, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. As the terroir is so varied so are the wines so it pays to know about the parcel of soil that each wine comes from.

Wine Style

Moulis produces wines which are a deep, intense ruby colour with an elegant bouquet and fine structure. The wines are ready to drink earlier than other Médoc wines but the strength of their tannins allow them longevity.

Famous Chateaux and Recommended Wines

Moulis has the Médoc's highest number of Crus Classé Châteaux – the stars of which are Château Poujeaux and Château Chasse Spleen both of which are rated Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel. This is a special recognition for quality and potential reserved for the top 9 of the 100 plus Châteaux in Bordeaux that are rated Cru Bourgeois. Moulis has 26 Crus Bourgeois which have an excellent reputation.

Château Poujeaux's vineyard is planted on the finest outcrops of Günz gravel, which gives wines with a violet and blackcurranty nose with a touch of raspberry brightness and cedar. Château Chasse Spleen sits on a pocket of Garonne gravel and chalk and this gives a rounded wine with a charming nose of spice and plum.

Château Chasse Spleen is held in high esteem – being ranked as high as many Third Growths by some critics. The château's name means to “chase the blues away” and hails from a literary background – Lord Byron visited the château in 1822 and was so entranced by the vineyards that he remarked “Quel remède pour chasser le spleen”. It is also thought to have been inspired Baudelaire's poem “Spleen” after he had visited the property.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Margaux Wines

Margaux Wines

The Margaux appellation consists of 5 communes: these are the village of Margaux and the neighbouring villages of Arsac, Labarde, Soussans and Cantenac. It is the most southerly of Médoc's appellations. Margaux lies in the Haut Médoc on the left bank of the River Garonne estuary, north west of the city of Bordeaux.

The Margaux appellation extends over 3,200 acres and has 80 châteaux and domaines who produce wine. It boasts 20 of the original 61 classified growths from the 1855 Classification of Bordeaux wines.

Margaux is actually unique in the Médoc in that it is the only one to contain all the range of wines, as rich as they are vast, from First Great Cru Classé to the Fifths, not forgetting its famous Crus Bourgeois and its Crus Artisans.

Terroir and Grapes

Margaux sits upon a plateau of white gravel which has been brought down from the mountains by the river. The gravel lies on an ancient layer of limestone and clay marl. These are ideal conditions for great wines as the soil is the thinnest in the Médoc, drains very well and the vines send down deep roots to draw nourishment.

Margaux makes almost entirely red wine, harvesting Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot grapes, with only a small amount of white wine made.

Wine Style

The wines of Margaux are generally thought to be the most aromatic and elegant of the Médoc and are often described as being more feminine than the other wines of the region. They have a perfumed grace and are supple and elegant. They age well as the relatively thin terroir imparts tannins which give them long life. The other characteristic of these wines which combine vitality, subtlety and consistency, is their diversity and personality. They present an exceptional palette of bouquets, fruity flavours which show up differently from one château to another.

Famous Châteaux and Recommended Red Wines

Château Brane Cantenac
Château du Tertre
Château Giscours
Château Kirwan
Château Lascombes
Château Malescot St Exupery
Château Margaux
Château Palmer
Château Prieure Lichine
Château Rauzan Segla

Wines from the top châteaux can fetch top prices but the second wines produced from the Margaux châteaux are superb wines at a fraction of the cost. Alter Ego De Palmer was first produced in 1998 as the result of a new approach to selecting and blending. It's known as Château Palmer's second wine but it really should stand alone on its own right as a Second Label. Prior to 1998 the second wine was called La Reserve de General but this was discontinued and the is now wine sold off in bulk. There are no separate vineyards for Alter Ego de Palmer as it is made from the same grapes on the same terroir as its illustrious big brother. The difference is in the wine making as different techniques and extractions are used to make it. Alter Ego is fermented at lower temperatures to preserve fruitiness. Fermentation typically lasts two weeks for Alter Ego and three for Palmer.

The blending of Alter Ego de Palmer seeks to bring out softness, finesse, and intense fruitiness - the hallmarks of Château Palmer's terroir - even when young. After 16-18 months in barrel, Alter Ego's elegant aromas, concentration, and smoothness make this a great Margaux and a typical Palmer.

Although Alter Ego de Palmer can age for 10-15 years, depending on the vintage, it is designed to be approachable just two years after it is bottled. Alter Ego is full bodied, well balanced, and fruit driven with a finish of blackberry, chocolate, blueberry and cedar. It's a silky smooth opulent wine and has a charming elegance.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Haut Médoc Wines

Haut Médoc Wines

Haut Médoc is part of the Médoc appellation and it's name means Upper Médoc as it sits at a higher altitude. The appellations of Pauillac, Listrac, Moulis, Margaux, Saint Julien, Saint Estèphe are encompassed within it.

The Haut Médoc lies on the Left Bank of the Gironde Estuary and its vineyards cover 10,500 acres.

Due to its size and composition Haut Médoc produces a wealth of different wine styles as the vineyards lie on varying soil types each with its own micro climate.

Terroir and Grapes

The soil is made up of well drained alluvial gravel terraces are best suited for the growing of Cabernet Sauvignon with clay and limestone lying underneath.

In ancient times the Haut Médoc was a vast region of salt marshes used for grazing but in these were drained in the 17th century to exclusively plant vineyards.

Cabernet Sauvignon is the dominant grape variety planted but Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Carménère, Petit Verdot and Malbec are also grown.

Wine Style

Wines from the Haut Médoc are bright, generous red wines with a delicate bouquet of dried cherries, vanilla, wood, liquorice and black fruits.

The colour tends to be a rich ruby or garnet red. They age well and as they develop they acquire wonderful aromas of leather, roasted coffee, prunes and truffles.

Famous Châteaux and Recommended Red Wines

Château d'Agassac
Château Sociando Mallet
Château La Lagune

Château Marquis de Perissac 2004 (£5.62) is made by a small, traditional co-operative of wine makers in Perissac itself, once an important stronghold that was destroyed in the 16th century and the countryside around the hamlet is famous for it's standing stones and dolmens. Marquis de Perissac is a typical example of a wine from the Haut Médoc, it's a generous, not too powerful red with rich aromas of blackberries and cherry with soft tannins and good structure.

Aged in oak barrels, it offers an elegant and pleasant woody fragrance and being a medium bodied wine it is perfect drinking with such meals as Duck, Lamb, Fillet Steak & Beef Stroganoff. It also captures and enhances the flavours of many Vegetarian delicacies, which contain protein based items such as Nuts, Lentils and Beans.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Côtes de Castillon Wines

Côtes de Castillon Wines Facts

Côtes de Castillon is a new appellation which dates back to 1989 and it is noted for its quick rise through the ranks in terms of quality and popularity. It gives an excellent price/quality ratio with its Bordeaux Supérieur. It takes its name from the town of Castillon-la-Bataille, and the battle that was fought there which brought an end to the Hundred Years War. The area is known as the place where the English lost control of Bordeaux.

The vineyards of Côtes de Castillon cover 7,500 acres and lie east of St Emilion and south of Fronsac on the right bank of the river. Most of the domains are less than 25 acres.

Terroir and Grapes

Côtes de Castillon rolls down the steep slopes of hills and valleys created by the Garonne and Dordogne rivers that flow through the area. Often facing south or south east, the vines that grow on these slopes have excellent exposure to the sun.

The climate is slightly warmer and drier than most of Bordeaux. The soil is clay and limestone on the hilltops, sandy gravel at the base of the slopes and clay and silt in the valleys.

Merlot is the primary grape variety planted due to the clay limestone soils and the more continental weather, followed by Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec.

Wine Style

Côtes de Castillon produces great value wines with right bank characteristics. They also have the additional benefit of being approachable when young, but also able to age and improve with a few years in the bottle. The wines are known for being concentrated, fruity and typified by strong blackcurrant notes. Other flavours are plums, cherry, leather, raspberry and vanilla according to the terroir and the vintage.

Famous Châteaux and Recommended Red Wines

Château Faugeres
Château Cap de Faugeres
Château d'Aiguilhe
Château Veyry

Try Château Puyanché 2004 (£5.86) made by the Arbo family who have been wine makers since 1900. Their vineyards sit on clay and limestone soils and the wine has a long maceration (3 weeks) which gives Château Puyanché the aromas of blackberry and plum compotes, leather and spices. The grapes are 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc. The Cabernet Franc with its unique herb infused red berry fragrance, adds backbone and acidity to the sensual, round favours of the Merlot.

Château Puyanché is a dark garnet colour - almost plum - and is a supple and complex wine, well balanced and silky. As an aromatic wine it will go well with Italian tomato and pesto pastas, roasted aubergines and moussaka and Asian cuisine.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Bordeaux Appellation Origine Controlée (AOC)

AOC stands for Appellation Origine Controlée and this means that these wines originate from a specific region or area, that meets strict production norms and is officially recognized only after tasting and analysis. The Bordeaux AOC is a guarantee of typicity and quality for the consumer. They represent perfect examples of the Bordeaux style and account for half of the planted surfaces in Bordeaux. All of the wine making districts in the Gironde "département” (administrative area) can produce these AOC wines. They are designed to be consumed young.

Bordeaux Supérieur AOC covers the same geographic area as Bordeaux AOC but the wine is produced by older vines. The grapes are picked on selected plots of older vines. Bordeaux Supérieur wines are sometimes also aged in oak barrels to increase their power and aromatic complexity. Moreover, Bordeaux Supérieur wines must be aged at least for 12 months before they can be sold.

You can find some good bargains amongst these AOC appellations but most of the wines are available as commercial brands.

The Bordeaux region of France is the second largest wine-growing area in the world, only the Languedoc wine region is larger. Bordeaux lies halfway between the North pole and the Equator and its geological foundation of the region is limestone, leading to a soil structure that is heavy in calcium. The Gironde Estuary dominates the regions along with its tributaries, the River Garonne and the River Dordogne which irrigate the land and provide with an oceanic climate.

The rivers define the main geographical subdivisions of the region: the Right Bank, situated on the right bank of Dordogne, in the northern parts of the region, around the city of Libourne and the Left Bank situated on the left bank of Garonne, in the west and south of the region, around the city of Bordeaux itself. The Left Bank is subdivided into the regions of Graves, upstream of the city of Bordeaux and the Médoc, downstream of Bordeaux on a peninsula between the Gironde and the Atlantic. Between the two rivers lies the Entre Deux Mers (Between Two Waters). An old saying in Bordeaux is that the best estates can "see the river" from their vineyard.

In Bordeaux terroir takes precedence over grape varieties – terroir is the concept that the wine embodies the unique aspects of a place that influence its being. Terroir is therefore a combination of the soil the vines are grown in, the geography of the place and the micro climate that nourishes the vines. Therefore the vast vineyard that is Bordeaux creates very different and distinct wines due myriad combinations of terroir which is why appellations are so important as they are the flagships for the wines they represent.

The Appellations

Barsac – Sweet White Wine
Blaye – Dry White Wine
Blaye – Red Wine
Bordeaux and Bordeaux Sec – Dry White Wine
Bordeaux – Red Wine
Bordeaux Clairet – Clairet
Bordeaux Haut Benauge – Sweet White Wine
Bordeaux Rosé – Rosé
Bordeaux Supérieur – Red Wine
Bordeaux Supérieur – Sweet White Wine
Cadillac – Sweet White Wine
Canon Fronsac – Red Wine
Cérons – Sweet White Wine
Côtes de Bordeaux Saint Macaire – Sweet White Wine
Côtes de Francs – Dry White Wine
Côtes de Francs – Red Wine
Côtes de Bourg – Dry White Wine
Côtes de Bourg – Red Wine
Côtes de Castillon – Red Wine

Crémant de Bordeaux – Sparkling White Wine
Entre deux Mers – Dry White Wine
Entre Deux Mers Haut Benauge – Dry White Wine
Fronsac – Red Wine
Graves – Dry White Wine
Graves – Red Wine
Graves de Vayres – Dry White Wine
Graves de Vayres – Red Wine
Graves Supérieures – Sweet White Wine
Haut Médoc – Red Wine
Lalande de Pomerol – Red Wine
Listrac Médoc – Red Wine

Loupiac – Sweet White Wine
Lussac Saint Emilion – Red Wine
Margaux – Red Wine
Médoc – Red Wine
Montagne Saint Emilion – Red wine
Moulis en Médoc – Red Wine
Pauillac – Red Wine
Pessac Léognan – Red Wine
Pessac Léognan – Dry White Wine
Pomerol – Red Wine
Prémieres Côtes de Blayes – Red Wine
Prémieres Côtes de Blayes – Dry White Wine
Prémieres Côtes de Bordeaux – Red Wine
Prémieres Côtes de Bordeaux – Sweet White Wine
Puisseguin Saint Emilion – Red Wine
Sainte Croix du Mont – Sweet White Wine
Sainte Foy Bordeaux – Red Wine
Sainte Foy Bordeaux – Sweet White Wine
Saint Emilion – Red Wine
Saint Emilion Grand Cru – Red Wine
Saint Estèphe – Red Wine
Saint Georges Saint Emilion – Red Wine
Saint Julien – Red Wine
Sauternes – Sweet White Wine

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Bordeaux Wine History

Wine making in Bordeaux goes back into the mists of time. The Bordeaux region is the largest and oldest fine wine vineyard in the world, covering more than 284,000 acres of vines in 57 appellations. Tradition has it that wine making dates back to the 1st century AD when the Bituriges Vivisques, a Gaulish people from Burdigala (the Roman name for Bordeaux), planted Biturica vines on the banks of the Garonne. Biturica is the ancestor of today’s Cabernet Sauvignon, thought to be originally from Albania. Pliny recorded that vines were grown in Bordeaux in 71 AD. The Biturica grapevine was resistant colder winters and Bordeaux's oceanic climate and soil were ideal, and thus, the city’s most identifiable roots were planted 2,000 years ago.

The first author to mention that wine was grown in his native Bordeaux was the 4th century Roman poet Decimus Magnus Ausonius and it is believed that Château Ausone in Saint Emilion stands upon the foundations of his villa Lucaniac.

Unlike most areas of France, where the Church developed and controlled the wine, the merchant class traditionally was at the centre of the Bordeaux wine trade. Perhaps this is due to its location near a port which made for easier commerce. The ancient port of Bordeaux is called the Port de la Lune (the Port of the Moon) due to the enormous curve of the river in the city centre. The Port de la Lune unites the heart of the city around its crescent shape - which inspired the Bordeaux coat of arms and the estuary is amongst the largest in Europe.

Bordeaux's wine trade took off on the 12th century when Eleanor of Aquitaine married Henry II bringing Bordeaux with her as part of her dowry. Eleanor brought with her a taste for Bordeaux wines and before long galleons were shipping barrels of wine to and fro the Channel. In fact there was so much wine shipped that the weight of a ships cargo became measured by the number of wine barrels (tonneaux) it could hold - giving rise to our word “ton”.

Graves was the largest producer of wines back then, with Château Pape Clement as its oldest named vineyard. In 1305 Archbishop Bertrand de Goth, who was to become Pope Clement V, presented it to the see of Bordeaux.

The wines from Bordeaux at this period in time were much paler than the red wines of today as the result of a short fermentation, usually of no more than 1 or 2 days. As soon as the wine was fermented, it was run off into barrels, so the grape skins (which contain the colour and tannins) were left only a short time in contact with the juice. These wines didn't last long, and were usually drunk very quickly. Such wines exported from Bordeaux were known as Clairet, which is the French for “clear” and this is where our word claret comes from. Originally all clarets were clairets and the English adored them.

In the 17th century, after the Aquitaine returned to French ownership, the Dutch became the main importers of Bordeaux wines. The Dutch brought improvements to the wine making techniques of the region which made longer fermentation and ageing possible. Dutch engineers drained the marshes so that vineyards could be planted and clarets began to be produced in the Graves and on the sands and gravels of the Médoc to the north west of Bordeaux. The wines were "black" (or darkly coloured) red wines that we recognise today.

In 1663 Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary:

“Off the Exchange with Sir J. Cutler and Mr. Grant to the Royall Oake Taverne in Lombard-street . . . And here drank a sort of French wine called Ho Bryan, that hath a good and most perticular taste that I never met with.”

This wine was none other than Chateau Haut Brion made in Graves, by Arnaud de Pontac, first President of the Bordeaux Parlement. Three years later in 1666, Arnaud de Pontac sent his son to London, where he opened a restaurant, grocers and tavern named the Sign of Pontac’s Head, and here he introduced his claret to the fashionable elite of London society.

In 1725, the spread of vineyards throughout Bordeaux was so vast that it was divided into specific areas so that the consumer could tell exactly where each wine was from. The collection of districts was known as the Vignoble de Bordeaux, and bottles were labelled with both the region and the area from which they originated.

In 1855 the Emperor Napoleon III organised the Exposition Universelle de Paris to showcase the best of all that was France, hoping to surpass the one in London. The exhibition was an elaborate vehicle for boosting trade, and wine was just a small part of it. For the Exposition, Napoleon III requested a classification system for France's best Bordeaux wines which were to be on display for visitors from around the world. Brokers from the wine industry ranked the wines according to a château's reputation and trading price. In their view, the market (which was mainly British) had already determined which Bordeaux wines were best, and the classifications needed to reflect the market's judgement. The result was the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855. Although intended as a listing for the show, and nothing more than that, the classification stuck fast and now appears to be with us for the rest of eternity.

From 1875-1892 almost all Bordeaux vineyards were ruined by Phylloxera infestations. The region's wine industry was rescued by grafting native vines on to pest-resistant American rootstock. As Phylloxera is native to the east coast of the United States, the native American vine species generally evolved with resistance.

In the 20th century the rapidly expanding wine industry created the INAO (Institut National des Appellations d'Origine) whose mission was, and still is, to ensure the quality of wine. Today, 97% of Bordeaux wines are very successfully marketed according to AOC standards. This mission of improving quality brought the whole industry to a higher level with the creation of new classifications (Saint Émilion in 1955) and the appearance of new AOC's (Pessac Léognan in 1987).

Monday, 13 April 2009

Wine for Women?

Well – it's official. Women prefer red wine. The press is reporting on a recent survey commissioned by Vinexpo that was conducted on magazine websites in the UK, Japan, Germany and the US, including and in the UK. Over 4,000 women responded to the survey commissioned by Vinexpo, revealing a preference for red wine and skepticism for marketing campaigns that target them specifically.

The survey found that in the UK 55% of women prefer red, compared with 35% for white. Rosé is the least favourite at 7%.

It also showed that women wear the trousers as far as choosing the wine goes - women in the UK buy 8 out of every 10 bottles of wine in consumed in the home. Vinexpo's study also shows that women lead the way in wine knowledge and wine purchasing. Women in the UK scored highest for confidence at 61% against an international 41% average.

80% of women said they liked to drink wine because they liked the taste and 70% because it goes well with food. Only one in five said they drank wine because it was fashionable and even fewer because they thought it was good for their health.

Nine out of ten wine purchases were made in supermarkets and specialist wine shops. A third said they bought wine on the internet. Price determined women's choice of wine at 74%, followed by grape variety 64%, country of origin 55% or the label or packaging 42%.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Wine for Men?

Is wine gender centric? Do women prefer white wine and men red? Isn't this all a bit old hat? Do wine makers have to consider the sexuality of their consumers before they package up a brand? And here was me thinking that all they needed to do was focus all their efforts into making a good wine. E & J Gallo are launching a new male-oriented wine brand into the UK market. It is targeted at 35 to 65 year old men and will fill a gap in the market for a red wine oriented brand, according to Iain Newell, Marketing Director for Europe.

The Redwood Creek brand is to be rolled out across both the on and off-trade markets after some success in the US, where it is a 2m case brand. The initial range will consist of two reds, a Merlot and a Cabernet Sauvignon and one white wine, a Chardonnay.

The brand will have an emphasis on the “great outdoors,” and tie ups with the Woodland Trust, outdoor clothing label Regatta and the Californian Tourist Board are in the pipeline to drive the association.

“This is more about hiking, fishing and camping than extreme sports and we are planning a programme of events and promotions around these areas to launch and develop the brand,” said Newell. Excuse me but don't women participate in these activities as well?

The company also announced that it would be re-running its rosé over ice campaign, Rosé on the Rocks, in the on-trade following success last year. This year over 3,500 outlets will be involved in the campaign over the summer months. Presumably – as it's pink – this will be aimed at women? How cliché can you get?