Bordeaux: A Reliable Choice for Centuries

Bordeaux: A Reliable Choice for Centuries

Written by Claire Paparazzo

Bordeaux has long been touted as one of the world’s most prestigious wine regions, with the most highly-coveted blends.

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The region boasts a prime location for growth, situated close to the European Atlantic coast in the southwest of France; and the area’s major metropolis—also called Bordeaux—has been a bustling port city for centuries. The Gironde river cuts through the center of the region creating two banks: the left bank (known for Cabernet Sauvignon blends), and the right bank (known for more Merlot forward blends).

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Early on, wealthy businessmen who travelled to various port cities were exposed to Bordeaux wines and brought them back to England, the Netherlands or wherever else they were travelling from, generating the buzz that led to the first Bordeaux wine collecting trend. Collectors were taken by the blends’ reliability, and they admired Bordeaux as a region with ideal growing conditions for well-rounded wines. 

 

Bordeaux produces more than the red blends it’s best known for—there’s also Bordeaux blanc, the sometimes forgotten white blend made primarily of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Muscadelle; or the highly-coveted sweet wines, like Sauternes and Barsac, making this a region that has something for everyone to enjoy. 

 

In my personal experience, Bordeaux—and I mean the really good Bordeaux—is just too expensive to leisurely buy and drink; but as a sommelier, I have sold and opened more Bordeaux than I ever expected. (If I had to name my favorite Bordeaux, it would probably be Cheval Blanc Saint-Émilion—I can’t afford it, but wow, I love it.) Though I’m not buying it regularly for personal consumption, one thing about Boredeaux rings true: it is classic wine, and a well-aged interpretation at a certain price point rarely disappoints. A sommelier friend of mine often used to tell his guests, “Let me save you from ordering Bordeaux”—he likes to recommend top wines from the lesser known regions, which offer true quality with no expectation, plus provide an opportunity to educate the guest. Even though it still makes me laugh, I understand his sentiment. However, I love to sell Bordeaux—I see it as a true time capsule. As opposed to some other regions producing wine you are meant to drink now, Bordeaux is really at its best at around 10 to 20 years of age. 

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photo via Vins & Millésimes

photo Château Cheval Blanc

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Bordeaux produces wine at many quality levels, from the entry level Bordeaux AOC to the highest First Growth level. The Bordeaux classification system was put into place in 1855 at the request of Napoleon III, who had organized an international fair in Paris and wanted to display France’s best wines, ranked according to special guidelines. The system ranked the wines according to growth, from First Growth to Fifth Growth, and included only red blends and sweet wines from the Médoc and Graves regions. The right bank wines were not included here, but in 1955,  Saint-Émilion Bordeauxs were classified, divided into class A (which includes Cheval Blanc) and class B. Unlike the original 1855 classification, which has only been slightly revised twice in history, the Saint-Émilion classification is reviewed every 10 years.

 

Bordeaux produces close to 900 million bottles of wine each year. You would think this would be enough wine for collectors, enthusiasts and the everyday person to consume, right? Even still, some people are compelled to make counterfeit Bordeaux wine, a crime that reveals the unfortunate truth of how dark the wine business can sometimes be. I recall when I first found out that this was a thing—I was horrified, because to me, part of the delight of drinking wine is studying its place of origin and celebrating its authenticity. Talking with Château owners over the years, I have found comfort in knowing that modern techniques like laser engraving barcodes onto bottles have been put in place to preserve the authenticity of Bordeaux, for decades to come.  

 

Recently, I came across  a quote from the late Canadian artist Robert Genn that captures the exclusivity and value of Bordeaux:

 

“The most expensive bottle of wine ever sold - a 1787 Château Lafite Bordeaux, supposedly once the property of Thomas Jefferson... It was sold at Christie's in London in 1985 for $156,000.00. Like a lot of high-priced art, the bottle is essentially undrinkable.”

 

I suppose when the stakes are this high, greed can come into play. But I want to believe in a world where the authentic expression of a wine can be traced back to the soil from which it came, from the specific weather conditions that made it what it is; a tasting experience in which the unveiling of the wine is truth unfolding in front of you.

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photo by VadimVasenin

 

photo via Pinterest

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Wines from our tasting:

Château Lanessan Haut-Medoc 2008: This wine is a left bank blend composed mostly of Cabernet Sauvignon, with Merlot and Petit Verdot. Château Lanessan has 32 hectares of vines, which translates to about 79 acres—it is a large vineyard. The vines are around 30 years old, and instead of hand harvesting, here the use of machines come into play—to manage a property of this size, it makes sense. The 2008 vintage was a bit uneven, but the sunshine, although late, came in at the right time to achieve ripeness needed. On the sight, the wine had a slight purple hue to it. Smells of green peppercorn, cedar, dried fig and tart dark berry fruit on the nose. On the palate, the acidity was juicy, and more earthy notes came out—a bit of iron with lingering tannin. It wasn’t a huge wine, but it had medium concentration and the fact that it was showing really well and for days to come was a surprise.

 

Château Trimoulet Saint-Émilion 2010: This wine is a right bank blend, 75% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Franc. Château Trimoulet has been in the Jean family since 1802. The  15-hectare vineyard houses mostly Merlot and Cabernet Franc, but they also have a small amount of Cabernet Sauvignon planted, for when the blend calls for it. The land’s diverse soils include sand, clay, and limestone, with iron deposits. The wine is vinified in traditional concrete vats, then aged in 75% new French oak for close to a year. The 2010 vintage is considered a good one, boasting tannin and structure that lends a lot to work with now and also has great potential for aging. The color of the wine was more garnet with medium plus intensity. Spice, cooked plum, chewy tobacco, and sage on the nose led to stewed fruit, cardamom, and tannins that dry and coat the mouth. This wine is big and dense, and even after being open for days, it’s still a delight.

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If you would like to buy these two wines please contact Shiraz Noor at Acker Wines. LBV Social Club members get a discount through our partnership!

 

Claire Paparazzo is an LBV Social Club member who also leads some of the Club's wine tastings. This is her reflection on the tasting that took place on August 19th, 2020. Find her on Instagram at @clairepaparazzo and @wineifyouwantto.

 

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