Tasting Notes: ‘A New Look at Bordeaux’, presented by Nina Cerullo AWE, 23 January 2019

We were delighted to welcome back Nina Cerullo, one of our most popular presenters, to tell us about all the new things happening in Bordeaux. Nina’s father lives in Bordeaux and she is a Certified Bordeaux Educator so she is very well placed to tell us what is really happening and how thing are becoming very different from the traditional rather rarefied image of Bordeaux wines. We learned a lot about Merlot, the increasingly dominant red grape which, unlike the gravel-preferring Cabernet Sauvignon, is happy in damp clay. For the white, Sauvignon Blanc dominates followed by Semillon, SB in particular needing a long slow growing season to avoid the “in your face” style of some current New Zealand SBs – hence Bordeaux and the Loire are good with their maritime influences. The very varied geology of the Bordeaux area is the key to the diversity of its wines. Nina’s exciting area is Cotes de Bordeaux, especially Castillon CdB, Fronsac CdB and Francs CdB.

2017 Chateau Bel Air Perponcher Reserve Rose (Wine Society £9.50)
A blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and a touch of Cabernet Sauvignon, this is a pale rose (“Oeil de Perdrix”) with lovely fresh red fruit on the nose and palate and just a touch of sweetness and tannin. Very good value.

2016 Tour Chapoux Bordeaux Blanc (Waitrose £8.99)
From the Entre-Deux-Mers (the large area between the Dordogne and Garonne rivers), a typical 100% Sauvignon Blanc made in the slightly rounder Bordeaux rather than Loire style, no New Zealand “cat pee in a gooseberry bush” here but good acidity – try with fish!

2016 Chateau Peyreblanque Graves (Solent Cellar £18.99)
A blend of Muscadelle and Sauvignon Gris, gentle oak on the nose and slightly spicy from the Sauvignon Gris, fairly low acidity and a somewhat “oily” rich character; for me, edging on a bit flabby.

2012 Chateau de Pitray Castillon Cotes de Bordeaux (Wine Society £8.95)
Next door to AC St. Emilion but without the cachet, so better value, this wine has a lovely fruity slightly herbal nose, very gentle smooth tannins from the bottle-ageing and a subtle palate – elegant. A typical Right Bank blend of 75% Merlot, 23% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Malbec

2014 Chateau Lauriol Francs Cotes de Bordeaux (Lea and Sandeman £13.95)
From 95% Merlot, this is an example of the modern style of Bordeaux from the younger winemakers that started around the beginning of the noughties. Very much to international taste, with subdued tannins and dominant red fruit from ripe grapes, I found it rather characterless, almost anodyne. I hope this is not the way all lower-price claret goes.

2014 Les Trompettes d’Argent AOC Bordeaux (Laithwaites £16)
Much more structured and elegant than the Lauriol, with a touch of spice on the nose and smooth but strident tannins and dep red fruit on the palate Blend was 95% Malbec, gentle and more subtle than most Chilean Malbec – a lovely wine.

2011 Chateau Dutruch Grand Poujeau Moulis en Medoc  (Wine Society £16)
Although 2011 as not a good ripening vintage in Bordeaux, good wines were still made. Moulis is usually Merlot-based but the little hill of Poujeau, not being on sand, uses more Cabernet Sauvignon to great effect to give structure. This wine is 54% Merlot, 42% Cabernet Sauvignon and 4% Petit Verdot and spent 12 months in old oak barrels, giving a much more traditional claret, a very pleasant wine.

2005 Chateau Beaumont AOC Haut Medoc Cru Bourgeois (Corney & Barrow £25)
My own offering, from one of the great-value Bordeaux houses, 2005 was one of the best vintages for a decade and it shows. Lovely structure and just the right level of tannins for drinking now – for me this is what “claret” is all about, drink with a good steak! Beaumont produces a lot of wine, hence the low price, and its consistency is well-known, if you ever want to buy a case to tuck away do consider their wines.

Notes by John Harris