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Around the Regions – Bordeaux

Stories of superstar wines selling for stratospheric prices can all too easily distort perceptions of Bordeaux. Neil Owens, Assistant Manager of our Norwich store, looks beyond the region’s exalted wines to find some rather more affordable treats.

The key to buying Bordeaux is remembering that red wines from the region are always produced by blending different varieties. The grapes used and the exact proportions depend on the location of the vineyards, the weather conditions during the vintage and the style of wine sought by the winemaker.

Left Bank

Geographically, Bordeaux is split by the Dordogne and Garonne rivers, which merge into the Gironde estuary. In the west, typically referred to as the Left Bank, Cabernet Sauvignon is king, producing wines with rich blackcurrant fruit flavours and firm tannins. Merlot plays a secondary role, adding soft, smooth red fruits that soften the occasionally austere Cabernet. Left Bank wines are often intended for ageing, as they develop food-friendly savoury complexities.

Right Bank

Merlot takes centre stage in the eastern flank of the region, known as the Right Bank. Cabernet Franc is used to add some structure, though generally the wines from here are softer, more generous and designed for earlier drinking.

Vintage Variation

Bordeaux’s relatively cool maritime climate leads to a greater degree of vintage variation than occurs in regions with a more consistent climate. While the Bordelais have been fortunate in recent years (2000, 2005, 2009 and 2010 were superb), modern viticulture techniques make undrinkable wine rare even in poor years. Often vintages where the weather was not quite perfect can provide better value for money. 2007, where a tough growing season was saved by a warm September, is one such example.

Château Marquis de la Grange 2009/10
£6.99 or £5.99 when you buy 2 bottles

This entry-level claret punches well above its weight. Plum, cassis and just a hint of leafiness combine in a soft, supple wine that is immediately accessible. One to enjoy now rather than cellaring for later.

Château Méaume 2007, Bordeaux Supérieur
£9.99 or £7.99 when you buy 2 bottles

Produced by expatriates Alan and Sue Johnson-Hill, Château Meaume has been a firm favourite with Majestic staff and customers alike over the years. This delightful combination of sweet fruitcake spice and rich plummy fruit shows exactly why it is so popular.

Right Bank

Château La Rose Chatain 2007, Lalande-de-Pomerol
£9.99 or £8.99 when you buy 2 bottles

Enticing plum and damson aromas mingle with a delicate smokiness on the nose, while the palate is crammed full of juicy black fruit. An open, generous, attractive wine from vineyards just north of Pomerol, this epitomises the Right Bank style.

Château La Vieille Croix 2005, Fronsac New!
£19.99 or £14.99 when you buy 2 bottles

Fronsac is an often overlooked appellation that is capable of producing intense and surprisingly tannic Merlot-based blends from its steep, gravely hillside vineyards. Here, a nose of deep brooding forest fruits, sweet spice and mulberries precedes a palate of cooked red berry fruit and baked earth framed by characteristically firm tannins. A superb lingering finish makes this an ideal companion for the cheese board.

Château Grand Faurie Larose 2006, St-Emilion Grand Cru
£19.99 or £16.99 when you buy 2 bottles

A generous and enticing nose of black cherries and subtle vanilla notes demonstrates the approachable nature of this attractive St-Emilion Grand Cru. Silky and charming on the palate, with succulent black cherry, raspberry and plum flavours ably supported by hints of green olive and finely grained tannins.

Left Bank

Château Lachesnaye 2004/07, Haut-Médoc, Cru Bourgeois
£9.99 or £8.99 when you buy 2 bottles

From a fantastic Cru Bourgeois sited in the heart of the Médoc, this is outstanding value for money. Last year we sold out of the 2002 vintage almost instantly. The newer vintage offers more fruit on the palate, but the oak is as well-integrated as ever. Snap this up, because it won’t be around for long!

Château Fourcas-Dumont 2007, Listrac-Médoc
£12.99 or £10.99 when you buy 2 bottles

Our buyers have sourced this parcel – a Gold medal winner at Bordeaux’s 2009 Concours Générale – directly from the Château. Cedar and oak notes complement smooth black fruits on the restrained, elegant nose. Finely-grained tannins allow the fruit to show through on the palate in an exceptionally food-friendly wine.

Château Peyrabon 2000, Cru Bourgeois, Haut-Médoc
£12.99

Another parcel sourced directly from the cellars of the Château, this time from the stellar vintage of 2000. A decade of maturation has created a complex, savoury wine exhibiting leather, cedar and truffle aromas with hints of the primary fruit characters. Now drinking wonderfully, it’s a delicious match for herbcrusted racks of lamb.

Château Tayac 2007, Cru Bourgeois, Margaux
£14.99

Wines from the Margaux appellation are famed for the elegance and perfumed quality they exude, and Château Tayac’s offering upholds this tradition with aplomb. Liquorice and cinnamon spice add complexity to a concentrated core of blackcurrant fruit. A firm favourite of mine with a hearty venison stew.