by Aaron Winsor
Hello Prince Albert!
Old world wine labels can be confusing. Take a look at many of the wines from France, Italy, Spain or Portugal and you will notice that a good majority of these wines simply state a location or designation on the label without indicating the varietal or including useful information like what the wine will actually taste like.
Terms like Chianti, Bordeaux, Rioja, Valpolicella or Chablis require the consumer to understand the region and style of a wine simply by reading the name and this can lead to intimidation and frustration for those trying to wrap their heads around regional styles from around the world.
This week I took a look at a couple of wines from Bordeaux, France which include two categories of wine from this famous region. When you hear the word Bordeaux what do you think the wine will taste like? What grapes will it include? To begin, Bordeaux wines are allowed to use five different grapes including cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, petit verdot and malbec.
Many of the affordable options will simply blend merlot and cab sauv together but the high-quality offerings will utilize multiple grape varietals for richer complexity and aging potential. The wines begin as simple, smooth and fruity with hints of earth to full and powerful with gripping tannins and tons of rich complex flavors with decades of age.
Speaking of affordable options, the most common and inexpensive category for these wines is simply called “Bordeaux” or “vins de Bordeaux”. After the entry-level wines comes Bordeaux Superieur which has more standards in the growing and bottling process including minimum one year of oak age, minimum alcohol levels (must be at least 10.5% ABV), minimum and maximum grape yields and minimum sugar and ripeness levels to name a few. You will notice a price jump going from Bordeaux Superieur to the Grand Cru levels.
The average Bordeaux Superieur will cost between $15 and $30 while the Grand Crus can easily cost $60 to $200 depending on the region or producer.
Adding to the complexity is the understanding of sub-regions inside Bordeaux. The Grand Cru from this week is not only from the left bank of Bordeaux but also from an area known as Saint-Emilion (an area inside of the Haut-Medoc). Grand Crus often need more cellar time to soften and can be harsh at a young age. Even with over 11 years of aging, the Chateau Cantenac could have used more time resting in the cellar which would soften the tannins and develop further secondary flavors. Grab a couple bottles of Bordeaux and do a taste comparison between the different quality levels. I’m sure you’ll notice the difference! Here are my wine picks of the week!
Chateau Claire Abbaye Bordeaux Superieur 2017: (Bordeaux, France). Dry red, deep ruby color with hints of violet. The nose offers up smooth ripe dark fruits (blackberry, plum, black cherry) as well as a touch of black pepper and a tangy twist of balsamic cherry. This red is mellow and fruity on the palate with medium intensity and flavors of dark fruits, pencil shavings, vanilla, subtle black pepper and lingering oak on the medium-length finish. Medium acidity lifts the smooth fruity mid palate while soft (medium) tannins provide enough grip to provide balance and structure to the blend. Excellent balance between fruit and oak here. Pair with salty, fatty foods like crispy pork belly, smoked brisket or roast lamb. Very good! $35, 14% ABV
Chateau Cantenac Saint-Emilion Grand Cru 2009: Dry red, medium ruby color with fading edges. This red opens with a high intensity bouquet of rich dark fruit (brambleberry, black currants and plums), cassis, cloves, black pepper, graphite mineral, pencil shavings, mustard seed and smoked meat.
These flavors carry onto the palate with medium-plus intensity. Medium-plus body and medium-plus acidity combine with rich and silky fruits (plums, blackberry, cassis, black currants and a backing of warm spices (cloves, vanilla and pepper). The finish is long and oaky which coats the mouth with luxurious flavors.
Earthy smoked meat/leather appears as the wine opens up. The tannins are slightly aggressive which indicates this wine will age further. Pair with roasted or grilled meats, fine cigars or aged cheeses. Outstanding! $65, 13% ABV
Cheers and thanks for reading!
Aaron Winsor is a Prince Albert resident who currently holds a WSET Level 3 certification in wine and will never turn down a good cigar or whisky. Check out his Instagram and Facebook page under Aaron The Wine Guy for wine, whisky and cigar reviews.