January’s White Burgundy Week was my attempt to catch up on posts featuring French Chardonnay, which I had somehow neglected to cover in the past. This week I’d like to talk about another French wine region that I have previously left unmentioned, in what will similarly be Red Bordeaux Week.
Like I did in the series that inspired it, this week I’ll be talking about a selection of wines from a different region within Bordeaux each day I post. My other reason for doing White Burgundy Week was to address the misconception that it is all prohibitively expensive. There are plenty of high quality examples that are quite affordably priced in Bordeaux as well, and this week I would like to show some of them off.
To begin the series, today we will be covering a region that I consider one of the best kept secrets in the red Bordeaux category, Saint-Estèphe. I chose this region to start the series because I feel that it does a good job of representing Bordeaux itself.
The Bordeaux region is divided effectively into two parts by the Gironde River, separating it into what are called the Left and Right Banks. Although the geographical make up of the region differs widely, the soil of the Left Bank is primarily gravel based, facilitating better drainage, creating ideal conditions for growing Cabernet Sauvignon. The Right Bank has a higher percentage of clay in its soil, which retains more water, making it better suited to growing Merlot. Like a miniature version of Bordeaux, Saint-Estèphe is also divided into two distinct soil types, with gravelly conditions in one half and clay heavy conditions in the other half.
Saint-Estèphe and its southern neighbor, Pauillac, which we will cover on Wednesday, are both located on the Left Bank in the Haut Medoc, where Bordeaux’s most famous Left Bank wines originate. Friday we will be talking about the Right Bank’s St. Emilion, which competes only with the region of Pomerol for dominance of the Right Bank. Because of Saint-Estèphe’s generally attractive price point and its relative similarity to the geography of Bordeaux, it’s a great place to begin exploring the region, so let’s get started.
Wine #1: Chateau Petit Bocq 2005 Saint-Estèphe
Our first wine sources its fruit from 80 different vineyard plots throughout the Saint-Estèphe growing region. The blend is a roughly half (slightly more) Merlot and half Cabernet Sauvignon, with just trace amounts of Cabernet Franc for extra subtlety.
Spiced dried cherry tones show at first on the nose, with very dark stone aromas, a hint of licorice and some subtle dried herbal tones. Sweet raspberry and cola mix with faint hints of oak cask and rubber.
Dark cherry and blackcurrant introduce the palate, with ripe black plums showing at the core. Faint hints of coffee, black pepper, and bergamot add some very interesting complexity and depth to the ripe fruit. This is a nicely evolving wine, with a firm, wet granite minerality, fresh fruit ripeness, and an almost citrusy acidity. Very pleasant and well done.
Worth Buying. 89 points.
Wine #2: Chateau Lilian Ladouys 2003 Saint-Estèphe
At the time of its release our second wine was classed as a Cru Bourgeois Superieur. In 1855 a list of the best producers in Bordeaux’s Left Bank was assembled, into what came to be called the Grand Crus Classés. These wines have historically been regarded as the region’s best, and the list has only been significantly updated once in its history, to elevate the status of Mouton Rothschild from a second growth to a first growth (the highest class). Because so little change has been made to the list, the Cru Bourgeois system was developed to include other producers of comparable quality wines to give them the status they deserved. However, the system was overturned a few years ago, and was reintroduced only recently in a different format. Although Chateau Lilian Ladouys’ standing in the Cru Bourgeois system no longer has technical meaning, the fact that it was awarded this honor in the past is an indication of its high quality.
Tender, plumy tones dominate the aroma, with blackberry and blackcurrant showing as well. Faint floral tones, a hint of pencil shavings, and a mix of forest floor and fallen leaves combine with a spin in the glass.
Ripe and plush, with a red currant and cherry tone, the palate starts off bright and intriguing. Violets and dark chocolate blend with wild honey and tones of dried blueberries and butter toffee. This is an impressive wine, with an interesting amount of complexity, and a fascinating depth. Well integrated, with nicely balanced delicate tannins, this is a wine…
Worth Trying. 91 points.
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