They say that every winelover's history starts with a great Bordeaux.They say that after a while he will grow bored and will start looking at other regions and styles. And they also say that at a certain moment, many, many years after that first encounter, the real winelover will return to it. We from CSP have definitely not yet arrived at that point, but despite this our monthly tasting was for once dedicated to Bordeaux.
I was selecting a bunch of "sans pretention" wines in the caves of Van Eccelpoel (www.vaneccelpoel.be), with the help of sommelier Koen Mchiels, and had only tasted one simple white Bordeaux until that moment, when we started talking about the winecrisis in the Bordeaux region. "Yes", he said, and he pointed to a row of cases of first growths and other very expensive toppers from the region, "we go every year to taste the primeurs, and we know we will sell everything we can get, but", and here he started whispering, "we don't drink them ourselves anymore, they are too expensive and a lot of them aren't even good." I told him than that I considered it a big mistake of the Bordeaux marketing big shots to concentrate on either the expensive top wines, or on the mass of cheap Bordeaux that they try to make fashionable to young people by their Apéro Vintage events. In my opinion the most interesting things in Bordeaux happen in the middle, in a price range between 8 and 18 euro. Koen turned around and pointed to another row, and said "Yes, we do agree with that. There is a new wave of winemakers active that make excellent stuff, and that now have to fight against the prejudices of today's winelovers. Often they don't even want to taste anymore. But we love them ourselves and fight really hard to sell them." And suddenly I had an idea...
A few years ago Koen and his boss, Mr Van Eccelpoel, started buying Bordeaux from a new generation of winemakers. They got better and better, and now I quote Mr van Eccelpoel, they have brought back the joy of drinking and selling good Bordeaux wines to our shop. And suddenly it seemed so logical: after all these years when CSP has tasted Sicilian, Spanish, German, Austrian, Australian and American wines, it was probably time to give the old lady another chance. Koen made a selection and though the members were surprised and initially sceptical, we would not be sorry.
Koen pointed out which wines had to be decanted, which ones we could decant if we had enough decanters, and which wines really did not need it, and I'll indicate it in the tasting notes if we did or not. The tasting was half blind, which means that the wines were served in flights of two or three, carefully wrapped up so nobody could see the label, and we had a list of the wines that were going to be served that evening, with their technical details, which is actually a very exciting and educational way of tasting.
The whites were nice, with a dirt-cheap and completely sold-out 2009 Chateau Bourdicotte that was simple but also very easy drinking (**), and two more ambitious and more expensive bottles that confirmed what we knew about Bordeaux whites (nobody will drag me away from this style of wine when an Ostend sole makes its appearance). Both combined elegancy with fruit and a nice touch of the barrel: Cuvée Passion, Tour de Mirambeau, Bordeaux Blanc, 2010, at 13,45 euro, and Le Cygne, Château Fonréaud, Bordeaux Blanc, 2010 at 16,65 euro. Both scored **(*). Dover sole works too :-).
The surprise however, was in the reds !
Our prejudices were immediately blown to smithereens by a wine from Pierre Taix, the Château Jouanin, Castillon, 2010. Everybody thought we were having one of the toppers, but it appeared to be the cheapest one. Tasting notes spoke of cedar and pencil in the nose, and a fine acidity, good healthy tannins, and a great balance in the mouth. In the finish some mint. Only 8,65 euro, but **(*) !! The perfect wine for a dinnerparty with friends and family. Everybody will ask where you've found it, and even trained winelovers will complement you with your excellent taste !
Pierre Taix works biological on all three of his châteaux, and I keep on repeating that there is often a certain freshness and natural purity in well-made wine from bio-grapes. He works without consultants because he thinks that consultants drive everybody to making the same wine. He spends a lot of time in the vineyard (good boy!!) and spends a lot of time and effort in picking the right harvesting date.
picture from L'Esprit de Bordeaux, the webiste from Yvon Mau.
We tasted two more wines of the man: the Guadet-Plaisance, Montagne Saint-Emilion, 2009, at 12,9 euro a little bit more expensive, and a very smooth wine, soft but with lots of vanille and clearly well-oaked. I liked it most on day 2 when the oak became more timid. The other one was the Château La Mauriane, Puisseguin St-Emilion, 2009, at 15,95 euro one of the more expensive of the evening. 18 months of new oak for the 70% merlot, five-year old barrels for the cabernet sauvignon, and the wine smelled and tasted a lot like a Chilean merlot. It was fresh, pure and long, but not really my cup-of-tea. Both wines received **, and CSP was true to its principles: the cheapest bottle was in our eyes the best buy.
Stéphane and Françoise Dief make wine since 1998. Their 17ha of vines are spread over bigger and smaller parcels over the whole village (Saint-Christoly-en-Médoc). They use techniques from the biodynamical school of viticulture and worship the vineyard, for them the base of all good wine. They believe in dense plantation in order to reduce yields. We tasted their second wine, Petit Manou, 2008, 12 months of oak, 50% merlot, 30% cabernet sauvignon, 10% petit verdot and 10% cabernet franc and...did not like it too much. Horse, stable were dominant in the smell (one of the members spontaneously whinnied), and the mouth was dark and closed with a high acidity. Some oxygen helped a bit, but not a lot. The Clos Manou, 2010 (decanted), the first wine of this house, was brilliant. A very complex and interesting nose, a fine and educated, well balanced mouth, and it got better and better, soft, elegant and refined. Despite its youth allready a pleaser, and we think a wine with some future (for people with a higher level of self-control than us).
Sean Matthys Meynard was a pharmacist in Paris and fell in love with Bordeaux wines at the tender age of 20. One day he decided to realise his dreams and since that day in the year 2000 he is the owner of Château Baulos-Charmes, a castle in Pessac-Léognan with 5,9ha of vineyards. 64% is planted with Merlot, 1% with Cabernet Franc and the rreest with Cabernet Sauvignon. What he has in common with the others in this tasting is an extreme care for everything that happens in the vineyard: he works the soil (far better than herbicides), prunes and defoliates, harvests by hand (of course) and takes care that he does it on the right moment (sounds a lot easier than it is). The fermentation happens for the biggest part in ciment, but part of the malolactic happens on new oak. He works with gravity, not with pumps, and keeps his new oak under control (only 1/3 or even 1/4 in some years of the wine ripenes in new oak, for 12 months). We tasted the 2009. The first nose was a bit agressive (cold coffee) and the wine needed time, but when it got time its nose unfolded nicely. the mouth was promising and had something that I like a lot in a young wine and is for me a sign to put the rest of the bottles away for a few years: very closed feeling, but with a hidden almost pulsating nucleus of black fruit...give this baby 4 or 5 years and something very nice might come out.
We did add two Bordeaux out of my private cellars to the series, hoping for a surprise, but everybody immediately recognised them. They get therefore a blog-article of heir own.
Conclusion: indeed, it seems that a new generation is rising in the Bordeaux. They offer great drinking fun, but with just that little bit of quality and sophistication to please the more experienced winedrinker. We stick to our initial idea: between 9 and 19 euro Bordeaux offers very interesting wines today. Rather good news this !