By Rose Murray Brown MW Published in The Scotsman 8 May 2021
Look beyond the big names in Bordeaux, you will find a wealth of artisanal producers making wines with charm and character in neglected corners of this famous region on offer at decent prices.
“Think what you can buy from Burgundy these days under £30 – it’s slim pickings – yet Bordeaux offers the consumer so much: drinkability, ageability, volume and a flavour profile that appeals to the British palate”, says Tom Jenkins, Bordeaux buyer at Justerini & Brooks who has been unearthing and championing new young talent in the region.
Jenkins points to emerging properties in lesser-known communes - like Castillon, Francs, Haut Medoc, Lalande de Pomerol and Fronsac. “You will find it is not all about fancy chateaux and luxury brands in Bordeaux”, he says.
I recently tasted Justerini’s affordable claret selection alongside similarly priced offerings from other merchants:
Bordeaux: CHATEAU LARY TAGOT 2018 (14%) ***STAR VALUE***
£8.50 The Wine Society
Extraordinarily good value - one of my top finds at The Wine Society’s spring tasting. Based 50km south of Libourne, this chateau has been divided by its owners with one half used for this wine. Delightful cedary aromas, soft velvety mouthfeel, sweet plums, blackcurrant flavours with just enough dryness on the tannins to remind you that you are in Bordeaux. With its appealing softness, it is no surprise to find 65% Merlot in the blend. Only downside is its synthetic cork.
Fronsac: CHATEAU GRAND VILLAGE 2016 (15%)
A lowly appellation of Bordeaux Superieur – but don’t be put off by this. Fabulous example of an entry level wine offering so much for the price. Beautiful cedarwood nose, rich cranberry and cassis notes, bright acidity with grainy chalky tannins. The best vintage this property has produced for some time. The Guineaudeau family describes 2016 as a three step waltz: wet spring, brutal drought and moderate autumn – the result is impressive.
St Estephe: CHATEAU CAPBERN 2014 (14.5%)
£20 Justerinis (2015 now listed)
St Estephe is a well-known commune, but there are hidden gems to be found amongst the lesser names. Capbern, once called Capbern Gasqueton, was bought by its neighbour to the north - Chateau Calon Segur. St Estephe is usually renowned for deep compact austere Cabernet Sauvignon-dominant Bordeaux, but this is remarkably attractive and approachable. Now with winemaker Vincent Millet in charge, the result is a gorgeous sweet black fruited claret full of flavour, fine tannins and lingering length.
Castillon: LA SOURCE DE GOUBAU 2015 (14%)
£18.99 Raeburn Wines
Perched on one of Bordeaux highest points at a modest 100m altitude on St Philippe d’Aiguilhe plateau, this 10 hectare estate makes intense silky characterful wines with well-defined rich fruit, spicy notes, fresh plummy and fine tannins. Now known as L’Hetre under its new owner Belgians Jacques Thienpont and Anne de Raeymaeker; a Castillon property to watch.
Medoc: CHATEAU GREYSAC 2015 (13.5%) ***STAR BUY***
Greysac was owned by the Agnelli Fiat family until 2012, when Jean Guyot (of Rolland de By fame) took over this excellent estate. Despite being in the Medoc, it has 65% Merlot in its five-grape blend. A popular wine at the tasting – a great introductory claret which would convince anyone of Bordeaux charms. Lovely cedary nose, ripe fruits, silky finish with Guyon’s hallmark creamy oak and lush fruits.
Francs: CHATEAU CLOS FONTAINE 2015 (13.5%)
£15.99 Raeburn Wines
Brothers Jan & Florian Thienpont – fourth generation at this recently renovated Cotes de Bordeaux estate – use lightly toasted large-sized (500 litre) oak barrels for maturation, rather than classic smaller 225 litre Bordelais barrels. Beautifully cedary aromas, bright plummy fruits, fruitcake sweetness, slightly spicy with soft smooth tannins. They have also just bought two further properties: Chateau Bouty and Chateau Rubin; names to watch in future.
Moulis-en-Medoc: CHATEAU DUTRUCH GRAND POUJEAUX 2015 (13%) ***STAR BUY**
£20 The Wine Society
Serious claret from a stellar ripe vintage at a remarkable price. The Wine Society have been working with this chateau for over 40 years – and it is top notch Moulis in this vintage. The Cordonniers, who live in Belgium, own just over 30 hectares with 30 year old vines on classic deep gravel and clay limestone with plots interspersed with neighbour Chasse Spleen. Predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon with Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc; initially cedary with rich crunchy blackcurrant fruits – but the overall mouthfeel is luscious soft textured, mellow and silky.
Castillon: L’AURAGE 2014 (13.5%)
£32.95 Corney & Barrow
Ambitious modern style claret from Louis Mitjaville. Originally known as Chateau Cadet, this renamed estate benefits from a verdant breezy woodland setting with rich clay and limestone soils. Robust, packed with black cherry fruits, liquorice and herby hints, so dense and concentrated with a slightly smoky finish – from a mid-weight traditional style vintage.
Bordeaux: ACTE 9 2017 (14%)
Another Bordeaux Superieur with a difference from the Guinaudeau family, who own legendary Chateau Lafleur in Pomerol. This 100% Merlot from the tricky frost-prone vintage is not dissimilar to a limestone-based St Emilion in style with bright forward fruits, dark cherry fruits, silky sweet palate, minerally notes and seductive texture. Classy modern label with a modern taste – this is the last vintage under the Acte name – from 2018 vintage it has been renamed Perrieres de Lafleur.
Pomerol: J&B POMEROL NV (13.5%) ***STAR BUY***
Highly classified blend from two leading estates on Pomerol’s plateau. Superb smart claret with beautiful perfumed fruits, sweet plummy flavours, hints of caramel and cassis liqueur, lush ripeness, balancing acidity and moderate alcohol for Pomerol. Predominantly from 2016 vintage made by talented winemaker Denis Durantou who very sadly died last year aged just 62. Raise your glass to one of Bordeaux greatest winemakers.
Join Rose’s Rhone wine tasting with winemaker Bastien Tardieu of Maison Tardieu-Laurent on Friday 28 May 2021 in association with Raeburn Fine Wines www.rosemurraybrown.com