This May we are celebrating our unique collection of Bordeaux blends (ranging in price from pennies to Petrus at £3500) With 20% off in store and online all month. Here’s our very own Harry Crowther’s guide to buying Bordeaux!
Bordeaux: Old vs New
Doubling up as both a region and a style of wine, top Bordeaux’s unfortunately command astronomical prices. Good deals can be found at Cru Bourgeois level, but you have to do your homework. Whilst we can cater to all those wine buffs should they decide to indulge, we have a great range of high quality Bordeaux’s to sample without going overboard.
And in the spirit of high quality we look to other countries for Bordeaux style wines, with a new world approach. Actually, you could argue that the opulent and powerful alternatives that the likes of USA, South Africa and Argentina offer are more faithful to the traditional old school Bordeaux blend. These guys use the ‘lesser’ blending varieties to great effect delivering structure, balance and excellent value.
Just ask our Director of Wine, Zack Charilaou; who will tell testify from his trips to Argentina, the new world home of the Malbec variety, a grape now benign in the endless sea of vine in South West France, but arguably the most popular and fastest selling grape on the planet!- please follow this link for Zack’s Guide to Malbec in all its glory!
I witnessed the influence and reach of Bordeaux for the first time during my visit to New Zealand. Working as a cellar hand in Auckland, huge halls filled with casks of Hawkes Bay Malbec, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon waiting to be blended and bottled.
What are Bordeaux varieties and what is a Bordeaux blend?
Originally, there were five red varieties planted and blended in Bordeaux. Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot. Malbec was by far the most popular, making the bulk of all wine with the other four constituents added according to winemaker style or ripeness of the vintage.
During the mid-late 1800’s the Phylloxera infestation became an epidemic throughout Europe, nobody was hit harder than France. This forced vigneron to uproot and burn over two thirds of their vines, seeing as most of this was Malbec, the variety was completely wiped out.
Re-planting after the outbreak focused on the more forgiving Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon varietals.
Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot boast some area under vine, very much in the shadow of the aforementioned, bringing elegance and body to the blend respectively.
Malbec now makes up less than 1% of Bordeaux’s area under vine and has found itself a new world home in Argentina.
Bordeaux sees two styles of wine, which are separated by the two tributaries of the Gironde Estuary (Dordogne and Garonne Rivers).
‘The Left Bank’ is found on the left banks of the Garonne River, situated around the city of Bordeaux.
‘The Right Bank’ lies on the right banks of the Dordogne, slightly further inland to the north.
Styles tend to differ, with the right bank often displaying softer textures with more opulence of fruit- thanks in large part to the higher concentration of Merlot.
Left Bank examples have traditionally have higher percentages of Cabernet Sauvignon, still with a significant portion of Merlot. These wines are more tannic, and need time to develop and soften with age but have great concentration in ripe vintages.
The forgiving nature and adaptability of the two newly crowned kings of Bordeaux, have allowed winemakers across the globe to produce wines in the style and tradition of Bordeaux, but with distinct regional differences and characteristics. Making this style of wine the most popular and versatile in the world.
We yet haven’t picked up on the fact that Bordeaux also produces white wine too. The worlds most famous dry white, Sauvignon Blanc is often blended with the waxy, honeyed character of Semillon to produce wines of beautiful complexity, and focus and no place does produces a finer example of a new world Bordeaux white than Australia.
All the wines below are available to buy online and in the M Wine Store and are fantastic expressions of new and old world Bordeaux. Don’t forget this is just a a few of many. Click on the links to follow them to the M Wine Store webpage…
At under £10, this is a steal. Classic Western Australian style- which lies on a similar latitude to Bordeaux, so expect refreshment and clean, high acidity. This wine is Semillion heavy, lending the finish to have a little more body and mouthfeel than you would expect from a Sauvignon Blanc. An easy drinker and a fine example of what you can get from a white Bordeaux.
Sticking in the Southern Hemisphere, some 9,200km across the Indian Ocean, we bring you the Botmaskop blend from Delaire Graff. Owned by the world famous Graff diamond company, this is one of South Africa’s most prolific and high quality wineries.
A blend of all five Bordeaux varieties, with a dose of Syrah for an extra layer of complexity. This wine has everything. Deep, dark, berry fruits, full of body and a rich personality. A wine for those who are looking for a generous helping of ripeness with a juicy rib-eye, alternatively the more serious wine drinkers there will appreciate this homage to the old school Bordeaux classic.
Finishing our west to east round up of the Southern Hemisphere we have a gem from Argentina. Luigi Bosca boasts on of the most iconic wines ever made in the land of Malbec, the ‘Icono’ which you can find in the wine store and restaurant.
Going slightly off piste, this blend takes a step away from Malbec, and Gala 2 offers one of the softest, most elegant Bordeaux blends from Argentina. This wine is a changer; a nosy re-visit to the glass every now and then will be rewarded with evolving aromas the longer the wine stays out of the bottle. Must try!
No blog post about new world Bordeaux wine would be complete without a mention from California, not least from the Santa Cruz Mountains region close to San Francisco. The terroir here can be unforgiving and rugged, but those who endure, literally enjoy the fruits of their efforts. This sub-region produces some of Americas finest Cabernet Sauvignon that will stand up to any old world examples.
Ridge are amongst the best. This is a Cabernet/Merlot heavy wine, Petit Verdot brings colour and vibrance, and the Cabernet Franc rounds everything off with a touch of class and elegance.
Elegance is the key word for the 2000 vintage, as we start to see tobacco leaf and earthy notes on the nose, the palate still offers ripe cassis and blackberry. Medium-full bodied, it is the softness and mouthfeel of this wine that really makes it so special.
Bordeaux, Right Bank, Saint-Emilion. A wonderful nose of sweet spice and liquorice and a plummy-ness from what is probably a Merlot heavy blend. It is rich and opulent on the palate with velvety tannins that will continue to soften with age. This wine is just starting to come into its own. Lay it down for another 2-5 years and patience will be rewarded, alternatively crack it open now to enjoy the fruit in this lively, exciting and excellent value for money wine.
Come in to see all of the Bordeaux’s we have on sale, please don’t forget to drop an email to the firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or need advice.
Thanks for reading and happy drinking!
M Wine Store