Bargain Bordeaux and Best Wine Deals – Lifting the lid on Lussac: Chateau Les Combes

Bargain hunters can be met with a confusing array of wines when trying to pick out a hidden gem in Bordeaux for a good price. Knowing your AOCs helps; here’s why Lussac can be a steal . . .

Saint Emilion satellite AOCs

Saint Emilion satellite AOCs

With Bordeaux wines hitting the headlines and prices escalating far and above the norm it’s not often we see bargain Bordeaux here in the UK. However with over 30 years experience in the Bordeaux wine industry I know full well that you don’t have to break the bank to drink good Bordeaux. Think beyond the box and start looking outside the recognised regions and you will discover great wines from Bordeaux’s hidden corners!

Lifting the lid on Lussac

Lussac, or Lussac Saint Emilion to give this little wine region its full title, is one of the satellite AOCs that sits to the north east of famous Saint Emilion. Lussac is the most northerly. It has an ancient past and, like Saint Emilion, has Roman roots. Unlike Saint Emilion, it’s not well known and it’s wines are not over priced.

What’s more, being dotted with country estates it can also boast some stunning chateaux.

Rolling countryside of Lussac

Rolling countryside of Lussac

Lussac sits west of the Cotes de Francs and to the south lies Montagane Saint Emilion with the Lavie stream acting as a border between the two. The landscape is slightly higher here than Saint Emilion’s and has more rolling hills. It’s soils are a mix of gravels and sands over clay or limestone bedrock.

The AOC is home to numerous historical monuments and takes the name Lussac from the Gallo-Roman Lucius who kept an estate there. His villa and lands encompassed the village and he is credited with being the first to have planted vines there. Archaeologists have unearthed pruning knives and amphoras in the parish dating from this era. In the 11th century the Cistercian monks settled at Lussac and at one point in time the entire AOC was dedicated to producing wine for religious purposes.

Thanks to being on the outskirts of Saint Emilion, Lussac’s wines were for a long time considered to be its country cousins. However as Saint Emilion steadily priced itself into the stratosphere Lussac’s old family estates and co-operatives quietly improved. At enterprising chateaux the younger generations of wine makers were sent away to study oenology and gain experience in the New World, notably Australia and California.

Lussac's coat of arms

Lussac’s coat of arms

Thanks to their new ambitions and aspirations the younger generation of wine makers have breathed new life into Lussac and its wines are attracting attention again.

Lussac’s wines have moved on from their robust and rustic roots to give a more modern feel. The wines are generally elegant and well structured, in the Saint Emilion style: refined, velvety and generous, powerful and complex. They have luscious and intense notes of strawberry, raspberry and cherry with accents of leather, plums and spices. Top performing Bordeaux wine merchants (negotiants) have opened up shop there – J P Moueix of iconic Chateau Petrus is an example. Some famous wine making dynasties also have a foot in Lussac – Andre Lurton’s Chateau de Barbe Blanche and Bernard Magrez’s Chateau La Croix de ‘Espereance are located there and chateaux owners are also employing prestigious consultants from Saint Emilion Premier Crus to oversee their wine making (Hubert de Brouard from Chateau Angelus consults for Chateau Lyonnat).

Lussac

Lussac

This influx of renowned wine makers coupled with the fresh vigour of the younger generation has lead to a resurgence in interest in Lussac’s wines. The revival has lead to Lussac’s wines appearing once more in the UK. However they are wines that usually come from the more prestigious stables accompanied by a price tag to match.

Looking a little deeper into the treasure chest can reap dividends and I can heartily recommend a superb Lussac that is great value for money: Chateau Les Combes.

The small estate of Chateau Les Combes lies in the hamlet of Saint Médard de Guizières in Lussac and was once owned by the Cistercian Abbey de Faize. The vineyards sit in the heart of a triangle of land bordered by the Cotes de Francs, Cotes de Castillon and Coutras. This was a battle field centuries ago, several times over. The last battle was that of Coutras in 1587, when King Henry IV fought to unify France.

The Borderie Family

The Borderie Family

History & Awards:

The Borderie family bought Les Combes for their son Frederic in 2005 from the family of the founder of the local co-operative. The ancient vineyard was a sleeping beauty; unspoilt with plenty of potential. The soils at Les Combes are a mix of clay and limestone and the vines are over 100 years old. The family’s wine producing history goes back centuries and they also own Chateau Vielle Dynastie in Lalande de Pomerol. The family were one of the few who continued to produce wine and shelter locals during the German occupation in World War II.

Frederic Borderie

Frederic Borderie

Frederic is a prime example of Lussac’s younger producers; he is talented, enterprising and innovative. After years of studying oenology and gaining experience in the Loire, Rhone, Australia and California’s Napa Valley, Frederic settled down to make wine at Les Combes. He has been successful with his wines receiving both national and international awards and gathering interest in the French press.

Hot Tip:

The talented younger generation has lead to a resurgence in interest in Lussac's wines.

The talented younger generation has lead to a resurgence in interest in Lussac’s wines.

Frederic is as proud of his much acclaimed wines as he is of his family’s heritage. He uses a cold maceration of 5 days at 8°C to make his Cuvée Saint Louis Bordeaux Superieur. This Cuvée is made from grapes on vines that are over 100 years old. Cold maceration means that grapes are soaked for several days before fermentation to optimise extraction. The benefits are better colour, more complex aromas and flavours and softer tannins.

Cold maceration has become a very popular technique in the industry within recent years and is said to have originated in Burgundy with their Pinot Noirs. However Frederic maintains that it actually stems from an ancient Saint Emilion technique. Cuvée Saint Louis Bordeaux Superieur is aged for 14 months in barrels of French oak (50% new oak). Frederic uses the best traditional techniques in harmony with modern technology to produce his wines. Interviewed by the French newspaper Le Point, Frederic explains:

‘When one has a good red meat, you do not need sauce. When the wine is pure, you don’t need anything artificial.’

Chateau Les Combes 'Cuvee Saint Louis' Bordeaux Superieur 2011 – Silver Medal

Chateau Les Combes ‘Cuvee Saint Louis’ Bordeaux Superieur 2011 – Silver Medal

Chateau Les Combes ‘Cuvee Saint Louis’ Bordeaux Superieur 2011 – Silver Medal £7.99*

Chateau Les Combes Cuvée Saint Louis 2011 was awarded a Silver Medal in Paris and is a rich, full bodied Claret.

Tasting Notes:

Luscious flavours of blueberry, truffle and juicy blackcurrant with smoky notes of leather, caramel and sandalwood. Supple and balanced with velvet tannins and a complex nose. Well structured and generous with a black fruit and liquorice finish.

Food Pairing:

Cuvée Saint Louis is superb with lamb, beef, and venison but also marries well with duck, pigeon and pheasant. It is great with highly flavoured dishes using cheese or salty bacon, chicken or pork in rich herby sauces and mushroom based recipes.

Enjoy!

* Price correct at the time of writing.

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The Question of Cuvées – What are they and are they any good?

Look through the rows of bottles available to buy nowadays and you’ll come across a few with ‘Cuvée’ on their labels. Not many people know what a ‘Cuvee’ is or why we should keep our eyes peeled for them . . .

Cuvée is a French word that basically means 'special blend'

Cuvée is a French word that basically means ‘special blend’

Cuvée is a French word that basically means ‘special blend’ and although it originated in France you’ll see it applied to wine labels from all over the world. The word Cuvée is derived from the word ‘cuve’ meaning ‘vat’ and dates back to 1825 when French wine makers started to put special emphasis on their quality blends. Cuvées tend to be distinctive house-style blends made to finely crafted recipes that generally denote a wine of superior quality; one that is better than the wine maker’s regular production.

Sadly the term Cuvée is not regulated. If it was controlled, countries outside France would probably not be permitted to use it. Some producers will put Cuvée on their wines labels to dupe the consumer into thinking that the bottle contents are a notch above the rest. However the majority of producers stake their reputations on their Cuvées which are of real quality and reflect true craftsmanship.

Cuvées tend to be distinctive house-style blends made to finely crafted recipes.

Cuvées tend to be distinctive house-style blends made to finely crafted recipes.

 

When selecting a Cuvée it’s useful to bear in mind who produced it and where it comes from. You’re most likely to see the word Cuvée on a bottle of champagne or sparkling wine but it is also widely used to label reds and, less commonly, still whites. If the Cuvée is a red or white wine and comes from a chateau or estate that you recognise you can be assured that it is no ‘ordinary’ wine.

If in doubt, check the small print on the label. A lot of good Cuvées have been recognised with awards and medals.

Bordeaux

Bordeaux wines are blends so usually when you see the word Cuvée on the label you know that the wine maker has singled this wine out as exceptional to the norm.

Cedric Boulin of Chateau de Cappes

Cedric Boulin of Chateau de Cappes

Bordeaux Cuvées are often named after the wine maker, the founder of the chateau or a famous person eg:

  • Chateau de Cappes ‘Cuvée Cedric’ is named after the young, up and coming wine maker who is the son of the founder, Patrick Boulin. Cedric studied oenology at Chateau La Tour Blanche in Sauternes and gained experience in the King Valley, Australia. ‘Cuvée Cedric’ is his first special blend and merited a Gold Medal.

    Chateau Les Combes Bordeaux Superieur 'Cuvée Saint Louis'

    Chateau Les Combes Bordeaux Superieur ‘Cuvée Saint Louis’

  • Chateau Les Combes Bordeaux Superieur ‘Cuvée Saint Louis’ is named for King Louis IX of France who reigned from 1226 until his death. He was canonised in 1297 and is the only French monarch to be declared a saint. He is the patron saint of distillers. Made by the Borderie family, Cuvée Saint Louis was awarded a Silver Medal for the 2011 vintage.

Chateau Perrot 'Cuvée Prestige'

Chateau Perrot ‘Cuvée Prestige’

Bordeaux producers also name their choice blends ‘Prestige Cuvées’ eg:

  • Chateau Perrot ‘Cuvée Prestige’ is so named to highlight its superior quality which goes above and beyond their Bordeaux blend. The chateau is owned by the Chavaux family and ‘Cuvée Prestige’ is aptly named as it gained a Gold Medal for the 2010 vintage.

Cuvées are sometimes named ‘Cuvée Vielles Vignes’ after the old vines they were made from.

Old vines in Bordeaux can live to over 100 years old and with age they produce smaller grapes and yield less clusters. Smaller grapes mean a higher ratio of skin to juice which results in deep, intense wines of great quality.

Chateaux owners in Bordeaux are not the only producers of wine, Bordelaise wine merchants (negotiants) make wines as well.

'Cuvée' de Jean Baptiste Audy

‘Cuvée’ de Jean Baptiste Audy

You’ll often find a negotiant produces a Cuvée as a house speciality eg:

‘Cuvée’ de Jean Baptiste Audy is made by the negotiant House of Audy (established in 1906) and is named after its founder, Jean Baptiste. Cuvée is an old style Claret made with a little Syrah in the blend (as was common in 1855) and hails from Audy’s flagship estate Chateau du Courlat in Lussac Saint Emilion.

Tête de Cuvée in Sauternes is the ‘cream of the crop’

The sweet whites of Sauternes and Barsac will sometimes name their wines made from their best grapes ‘Tête de Cuvée’ (tête meaning ‘head’, or in this instance ‘the top or the best”). Chateau Suduiraut ‘Creme de Tête Cuvée Madame’ is a superb example.

Rhone

Rhone producers follow the same patterns in naming their Cuvées as those in Bordeaux but it’s worth remembering that some producers name a Cuvée after an historical event.

Rocca Maura 'Cuvée 1737'

Rocca Maura ‘Cuvée 1737′

  • Rocca Maura ‘Cuvée 1737′ from the Cotes du Rhone is a great example. This award winning Cuvée hails from Les Vignerons de Roquemaure in the heart of the southern Rhone Valley. These ancient vineyards gave birth to the term ‘Cotes du Rhone’ in 1737. Roquemaure, with its historic castle and port, was their commercial cradle. A royal decree specified that no wine or harvested grapes could be brought into Roquemaure from outside the area and the letters CDR (Cotes du Rhone) were branded by hot iron into the Roquemaure wine barrels to mark their quality. Les Vignerons de Roquemaure, named their Cuvée ‘1737’ as it represents the quintessence of the Cotes du Rhone and honours this auspicious year.

Champagne

In Champagne the word Cuvée has been widened to mean a special blend.  But as most champagnes are a blend, all champagnes are Cuvées!

In Champagne the word Cuvée has been widened to mean a special blend. But as most champagnes are a blend, all champagnes are Cuvées!

In Champagne the word Cuvée is used in two different ways:

Cuvée in Champagne can mean a particular blend that the champagne maker has created or the first juice that comes from the pressing of the grapes.

La Cuvée – similar to Extra Virgin Olive Oil, this is only made from the juice extracted from the gentle first pressing of the grapes. This is considered to be the finest and best quality. Champagne grapes are pressed in batches of 4000kg known as a ‘marc’. A maximum of 2,666 litres can be extracted by 3 separate pressings:

  • 1. La Cuvée – 2,050 litres (most top end Champagne Houses only use La Cuvée)

  • 2. La Taille (the tail end, which is closer to the bitter pips and stems) – 410 litres

  • 3. La deuxieme taille (the last drops) – 206 litres

Prestige Cuvée commonly refers to a vintage champagne, carefully blended from the best parcels of grapes, that sells for a premium.

Prestige Cuvée commonly refers to a vintage champagne, carefully blended from the best parcels of grapes, that sells for a premium.

Champagne Cuvées – in Champagne the word Cuvée has been widened to mean a special blend. But as most champagnes are a blend, all champagnes are Cuvées! Just because a champagne has Cuvée on the label it doesn’t mean that it is higher quality than normal.

Prestige Cuvée, Speciale Cuvée - these Cuvées can be something special. Cristal (created in 1878 for Czar Alexander II of Russia) from the Champagne House of Roederer and Dom Perignon (created in 1921) from Moet et Chandon, are both Prestige Cuvées.

Prestige Cuvée commonly refers to a vintage champagne, carefully blended from the best parcels of grapes, that sells for a premium. However as the term isn’t regulated you may find that a champagne labelled Prestige Cuvée isn’t all that it is cracked up to be.

Remember; if in doubt, check it out!

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Win Tickets: AeroExpo UK, 29 – 31 May 2015, at Sywell Aerodrome

ENTER HERE

ENTER HERE

Bordeaux-Undiscovered will be showing our wines at AeroExpo UK 2015 this year and we have 10 Day Tickets to give away as prizes. It promises to be a fantastic event so why not enter our Draw and see if you are a winner?

To enter our Prize Draw simply answer the following question:

‘Which plane won the Battle of Britain?’

Email your answer to enquiries@bordeaux-undiscovered.co.uk.

Good Luck!

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Bargain Bordeaux and Best Wine Deals – Chateau Perrot

Bargain Bordeaux can give you a lot of bang for your buck. Bordeaux-Undiscovered specialise in tracking down wonderful wines from this stellar region to offer you the best wine deals. Our latest discovery is Chateau Perrot . . .

Regions renowned for their white wines also grow red grapes for small production Clarets

Regions renowned for their white wines also grow red grapes for small production Clarets

The Bordeaux that is readily available in the UK tends to be either from the more expensive, premium, end of the scale or from cheaper producers who can guarantee large volumes of wine. This means that the majority of small producers who make great Bordeaux wines simply don’t get discovered, despite their wines being much feted in France. Hunting these wines down means that Bordeaux-Undiscovered can offer high quality wines at easily affordable prices.

The white wine AOC Entre Deux Mers (meaning 'Between Two Rivers' is also home to Red Bordeaux

The white wine AOC Entre Deux Mers (meaning ‘Between Two Rivers’ is also home to Red Bordeaux

Bringing small production Bordeaux to the UK benefits the producers as the wines gain the recognition they deserve thanks to their high standard and benefits the consumer as they represent amazing value for money.

Exploring the Entre Deux Mers for red Bordeaux has been unfashionable; after all this is an area renowned for its whites. UK merchants tend to source red wines from French negotiants (wine merchants) in more prominent and easily recognisable areas. However for those prepared to do the leg work this region between the two rivers has lots to offer.

The whole region has a fascinating history and its ancient estates have wine making pedigrees that stretch back centuries. These lands, once owned by Kings, Popes and nobility, produced wines for the court and the church long before the Medoc with its famous Bordeaux reds was even thought of. The terrain here is fertile and green; full of gently rolling uplands cut by numerous rivers and peppered with Medieval forts and bastides, chateaux, mills and monasteries.

More importantly, this terrain makes great red wine and it is packed with hidden promise.

It’s a good hunting ground for Bordeaux-Undiscovered.

Gold Medal - Chateau Perrot 'Cuvee Prestige' 2010

Gold Medal – Chateau Perrot ‘Cuvee Prestige’ 2010

Unknown in the UK but awarded Gold in France: Chateau Perrot

We discovered Chateau Perrot near Castelmoron d’Albret, the smallest village in France. This is a classic small producer (Petit Chateaux) making award winning wines which have never been seen in the UK before.

Location:

The ‘Cuvee Prestige’ is a gold medal winner and deservedly so. This little chateau is a real discovery and we are pleased to be able to introduce it to wine lovers over here. Perrot is owned by the Chavaux family and its vineyards lie about a mile away from the 10th century fortified village of Castelmoron which sits on the rocky escarpment high above. The vines sit on crumbly limestone soils and are surrounded by sunflowers to attract the bees.

Castelmoron d'Albret

Castelmoron d’Albret

History & Awards:

The Chavaux’s have been wine makers for several generations spanning the centuries and Perrot sits on an old site. Bernard and Christine Chavaux grow 4 acres of red grapes (Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon) and 17 of white (Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc).

Their red wines have been attracting awards in France since 2003 from both Bordeaux itself and Paris.

Similar to another of our popular Petits Chateaux (Trois Tours), Chateau Perrot’s land was once owned by Jeanne d’Albret (1528 – 1572), Queen of Navarre and the mother of King Henry IV. She stayed at Castelmoron several times and held a small court there. There is no doubt the Queen enjoyed the local wines, they were served at all the local noble manors.

plantation4 (Copier)

The Perrot Vineyard

The vineyard is a patchwork of ancient plots, each given its own name which is recognised on the cadastral plan. This means that the plots were established long ago in time and were important enough to be named by the local government. This was done in the past in order to collect taxes from the vineyard owner, each plot being allocated a specific duty. Perrot is the name of the largest plot and gave its name to the Peit Chateau.

Hot Tip:

Making wine from separate plots is a policy followed by todays top chateaux as it allows the wine maker to blend only the best from each terrain. It’s not a modern invention but has become best practice – Petit Chateaux were following this policy for centuries.

Chateau Perrot ‘Cuvee Prestige’ 2010 – Gold Medal £6.99*

Chateau Perrot

Chateau Perrot

Tasting Notes:

Chateau Perrot produces a small amount of Claret and we have selected their ‘Cuvee Prestige’ to bring to the UK. This Cuvee is a special blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon from superior quality grapes from the Perrot parcel.

Chateau Perrot ‘Cuvee Prestige’ comes from the 2010 vintage – a glorious year for Bordeaux.

We are offering Cuvee Prestige at an introductory price of £6.99 which is superb value for money.

‘Supple and fruity Claret with a powerful, spicy nose and lingering aromas freshly crushed black fruits. Flavours of black cherry, cassis (blackcurrant liqueur) and mocha with notes of ripe dark plum, vanilla and toasty oak; coupled with a long fruity finish. Velvety smooth with good depth.’

Christine Chavaux

Christine Chavaux

Food Pairing:

Being an exceptionally made Claret, Cuvee Prestige is great with food; try it with roast duck, chicken, guinea fowl or lamb, rabbit and game pies. It’s a good match for strong hard cheeses as well as bean dishes with smoked ham or chorizo.

Enjoy!


* Price correct at the time of writing.

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Bordeaux Wine Tours: Top 5 Least Favorable Times to Visit

Guest Post by Pascale Bernasse of French Wine Explorers, a wine and culinary travel company known for their Bordeaux wine tours.

PastedGraphic-1Bordeaux was recently awarded Best European Destination 2015, and for good reason. Its lively riverfront is bustling with chic cafés, wine bars, and boutiques, and it offers over 1,000 restaurants—5 with Michelin stars—so finding a good meal is never difficult. Its neoclassical limestone architecture is stunning; in fact Paris modeled many of its boulevards and buildings after Bordeaux’s. It is the second largest wine-growing region in the world, home to no less than 10,000 vineyards, and it accommodates hundreds of thousands of tourists each year.

With so many vineyards and chateaux to explore, and so much delicious food and wine to sample, visitors need to take note of the ideal times not to travel to Bordeaux, to enjoy all that the region has to offer with as few hiccups and headaches as possible.

Bordeaux Wine Tours: Top 5 Least Favorable Times to Go

  • PastedGraphic-3In April, be on the lookout for Bordeaux’s En Primeur or Future’s Market, which is held around the first week of April. This is when all the chateaux and vineyards make available to wine journalists and wholesale buyers tasting samples of their wines prior to bottling. During this time the better estates, in particular Classified Growths, may not have estate representatives available to lead tours so they will be closed. Other estates offer limited tastings, so a visit during the Future’s Market may leave you wanting more. Also in April, be mindful of when Easter falls. Be aware that the French take the Friday before Easter and the Monday after off.
  • On odd numbered years—in the month of June—Bordeaux holds Vinexpo, where thousands of wine professionals and buyers flock to sample and buy wines from around the world. During this influx accommodations are more expensive and may be difficult to procure, and estates are often closed or offer tours on a limited basis because they send their best representatives to the expo.
  • In July, travelers should consider scheduling their tour of Bordeaux before or after July 14th, as it is Bastille Day—France’s national holiday commemorating the revolution. On this day, it will be virtually impossible to tour any estate or sample its wines since it is likely they’ll be closed to celebrate.
  • PastedGraphic-4Travel during harvest between September and October can be a wonderful time visit Bordeaux. The leaves on the vines are starting to change from bright verdant to autumnal ochre, red, and purple hues. Some visitors can witness, and perhaps participate in, a manual harvest—a practice more chateaux are reverting back to. Yet they are the fortunate few at this time of year, as many estates close their doors to the public to focus on the harvest. So if you want to tour and taste wine in Bordeaux during these months, it is best to book ahead six months to a year to insure your trip is a memorable one.
  • Another September event to avoid if your plan is to savor Bordeaux wines is Le Marathon du Médoc. This is a sometimes raucous half-marathon where its participants run the 26.2 mile course through the picturesque vineyards of Bordeaux. Its course includes 23 wine stops, winding its way through 50 chateaux. So it is needless to say that tastings on that day will be unavailable, and the crowds of people participating in the race and standing on the sidelines may linger in the area for a few days, clogging hotel rooms and vying for tours themselves.

Bordeaux has emerged as not only one of the most beautiful cities in the world, but one that embraces both modernity and cultural heritage alike. A well-timed visit to this nearly 500-year-old city is one that is not likely to be forgotten.

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A Vintage Performance on a Winning Day

Bordeaux-Undiscovered’s Race Day at Stratford Racecourse on 28th March was a great success. Check out the results below!

STR382-9377 Race 6 BTO Presentation 28-03-15We had several winners onboard who won tickets in our Prize Draw for the event. To enter into the Draw they had to answer the following question:

‘What is your favourite wine?’

We had some great answers and it turns out that Claret in all shapes and sizes is still a firm favourite:

  • The Grand Crus Classes were first past the post with a photo finish between the two Saint Emilions Chateaux La Fleur Morange and Pavie.

  • They were closely followed by the Petits Chateaux with newcomers performing well.

  • Malbec was a surprise front runner as an outsider and Sauvignon Blanc came in as a runner up. STR382-9235 Race 3 Presentation 28-03-15

  • There were a few stragglers and Alborino fell at the first hurdle.

Our Prize Winners were invited into the Collecting Ring to present prizes to the winning owner and jockey for one of our races and to judge the ‘Best Turned out’. We also had a lovely mention in trainer Kim Bailey’s Blog on 3rd April as we sent him some bottles of Claret having overheard that he had enviously watched owners and trainers leaving the racecourse clutching cases of wine – wine lovers who are racing fans can read all about it here: http://www.kimbaileyracing.com/baileys-blog/

STR382-9467 Race 7 BTO Presentation 28-03-15The Sunday Racing Post also gave us a mention in their piece ‘Little Jimmy produces vintage performance for Gretton’. Tom Gretton’s eight year old Little Jimmy came in 1st in our Claret Handicap Chase.

The results are here:

Bordeaux Undiscovered La Fleur Morange Mathilde Handicap Hurdle

1st Oyster Shell. Jockey: Jake Greenall

STR382-9367 Race 5 Prize Presentation 28-03-15Bordeaux Undiscovered La Fleur Morange Handicap Chase

1st Midnight Lira. Jockey: James Best

Bordeaux Undiscovered Claret Handicap Hurdle

1st Little Jimmy. Jockey: F de Giles

Bordeaux Undiscovered Sommeliers Choice Chase

1st Seymour Legend. Jockey: L Treadwell

Bordeaux Undiscovered Tipsy Selling Hurdle

1st Minister of the Interior. Jockey: R Johnson

Bordeaux Undiscovered Tally Ho Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race

1st Mister Miyagi. Jockey: Harry Skelton

STR382-9138 Race 1 Presentation 28-03-15You can view all the pictures of our Winners at our Gallery on our Competition Page. The photos of the Winners at the Races were taken by the Stratford Racecourse official photographer, Les Hurley.

After such success we’re hoping to run more Competitions and Prize Draws soon. If you’d like to take part please sign up for our Newsletters and we’ll keep you posted! (Newsletter Sign Up can be found at the bottom right of our Home Page here).

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Guest Post for French Wine Explorers

Check out my Guest Post over at French Wine Explorers, known for their Bordeaux wine Tours:
fwt
Bordeaux White Wines:  Taste What You’re Missing

Cheers!

Posted in Explore Wine Regions | Leave a comment

Homing in on the Rhone – Roquemaure, Birthplace of the Cotes

Home to famous names like Hermitage, Chateauneuf du Pape and Cote Rotie, the Rhone has long been an ancient hub of wine making. Peel back the layers; look a little deeper and you’ll make an amazing discovery: Roquemaure, the birthplace of the Cotes . . .

Roquemaure

Roquemaure Castle

The Rhone Valley is so long that it stretches for almost 150 miles north to south. The wine region begins at the gastronomic paradise of Lyons and ends in the south, west of Marseille, where the River Rhone flows into the Mediterranean Sea. The valley is awash with history and wine; it’s an ancient trade route that merchants have travelled for thousands of years. Amidst the more famous wines there are many hidden gems that glint from within the valley’s reaches; often long forgotten by those outside France.

Exploring earlier this year I came across a real diamond.

Castle of Hers

Castle of Hers

In the Southern Rhone at the end of a narrow limestone ridge that rises abruptly from the flat plain below sits a ruined castle. Its sister, the Castle of Hers, sits on the opposite bank of the River Rhone. When they were built the Rhone was wider at this point than it is today and both castles were on islands within the river. The castle on the crag is known as Roquemaure (‘Rocca Maura’ which means the ‘black rock’ in the old French language of Occitan).

Les Vignerons de Roquemaure

Les Vignerons de Roquemaure

It was here that I discovered a little cooperative making stunning wines that have a history so weighty behind them that I was astonished by what I’d found.

Roquemaure sits on the right bank of the Rhone 6 miles north of Avignon, 5 miles south east of Orange and 2 miles west of Chateauneuf de Pape – ideally placed to become a trade centre. This region has a very old historical roots; a Roman villa and grave yard lie beneath the ground in the outskirts of the castle and it’s thought that Hannibal himself crossed the River Rhone here with his war elephants on his journey from the Iberian peninsula to northern Italy. Wines have been produced in the region since pre-Roman times, and those from the right bank were the favourites of Kings and of the Avignon Popes who ruled the area.

The wine of the Popes

The wine of the Popes

Roquemaure castle dates back to the 1209 at the eve of the Albigensian Crusade. Perched high on its crag Roquemaure was a wealthy wine hub; the castle hosted frequent visits by French Kings, Popes and nobility and its little port on the river bustled with wine exports.

The fame of its wines even reached England; the earliest written mention of viticulture in Roquemaure is by Gervase of Tilbury (Essex) in 1214!

Five hundred years later in 1735 more than 8,000 barrels a year were being shipped from the port.

Cuvee 1737, named for the year that coined the Cotes du Rhone

Rocca Maura Cuvee 1737, named for the year that coined the Cotes du Rhone

Roquemaure – the birthplace of the Cotes du Rhone

The trade in wines caused rivalry between competing French regions – Burgundy in particular tried to protect its reputation against the rise of the Rhone. Bordeaux frequently used Rhone wines (especially Hermitage) to spice up poor Bordelaise vintages. In 1650 a rule was passed to safeguard the quality of of the Rhone wines in order to protect against forgeries:

The term Cotes du Rhone was coined at this time in attempt to guarantee the origin of the wine and this rule forms the basis of today’s nationwide AOC system!

In 1737 King Louis XV decreed that all casks from Roquemaure should be branded with the initials C.D.R. The Cotes du Rhone was born. At first only wines from Roquemaure and neighbouring Lirac, Tavel and Chusclan could bear this mark. Two hundred years later it was expanded to a wider area and made law by the INAO in 1937.

Changing Tides for Roquemaure

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Today the castles are no longer islands in the Rhone

Some links with Bordeaux and Burgundy remain to this day:

  • The famous negotiant house M. Chapoutier have been producing both Burgundy and Rhone wines for over 200 years.

  • Francois Pinault, owner of Permier Cru (First Growth) Chateau Latour also owns Chateau Grillet in the Rhone.

  • Bernard Magrez, owner of four Bordelaise Premier Crus also produces Rhone wine. Oddly enough the oldest of Magrez’s Premier Crus is Chateau Pape Clement (which celebrated its 700th anniversary in 2006) which was once owned by Pope Clement V – who died at the castle of Roquemaure in 1314!

However as time marched on the port of Roquemaure silted up as the Rhone changed its course and the wine trade started to fade into obscurity. Of course wines were still produced in the area but the rise of Bordeaux with its great port eclipsed the Rhones and Roquemaure became a back water. In France connoisseurs know where to hunt out these wines but across the Channel their notoriety has been washed away.

Roquemaure Reborn

Roquemaure vineyards

Roquemaure vineyards

In 1922 a group of local wine makers clubbed together to form Rocca Maura, a cooperative based in Roquemaure. Today vintners from nine villages bring their harvests to the cellar and work in common with one goal in mind: to produce good wine of great character. Their vineyards cover some of the best terrain and stretch across the Roquemaure’s lands, Tavel and Lirac. Fanned by the winds of the Mistral and marked by the passage of the River Rhone these lands sit on limestone bedrock and granite outcrops covered with red soil and pebbles. The plots, established by their grandparents and ancestors, are reworked and the wines of Roquemaure have been reborn.

I have brought a sample of my favourites back to the UK; you can try them all as part of a case or individually to suit your personal tastes. Enjoy!

Rocca ‘Cuvee 1737′ Cotes du Rhone 2013 – Silver Medal £7.49

Deliciously deep and elegant Cotes du Rhone. Fine and fruit driven with satiny smooth tannins. Dense flavours of dark morello cherry, raspberry and ripe fig with subtle notes of cloves, vanilla and black pepper. A lingering finish of liquorice. Well balanced and full of finesse.

Rocca Maura Viognier

Rocca Maura Viognier

Les Cepages Viognier, Pays de Gard 2014 £6.49

Dangerously good, fruit driven, aromatic Viognier from the Gard. Sensuous flavours of ripe white peach, lime and poached pears with heady notes of verbena flowers, sweet aniseed and freshly cut hay. Complex, expressive and elegant with an impressively pure and long finish.

Rocca Maura Rose, Pays de Gard 2014 £5.99

Rocca Maura Rose

Rocca Maura Rose

Fine and fragrant Rose from the Pays du Gard. Lithe and lively with refreshing flavours of ripe raspberry, black cherry, cinnamon and sweet anise with a touch of strawberry. Gorgeous heady aromas of lily and wallflower. Svelte, smooth and well balanced.

Rocca Maura White

Rocca Maura White

Rocca Maura Blanc, Pays de Gard 2014 £5.99

Smooth, refreshing, crystalline White from the Gard. Clean flavours of pear, lemon and honeydew melon lifted by notes of apple blossom, almonds and sweet anise. Vivacious and bright this is also layered and expressive in the mouth. A crisp, well balanced white with lovely harmony.

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Saint David’s Day, Bordeaux Wine and the Daffodil

Saint David’s Day falls on 1st March and heralds in the Spring. Saint David is the Patron Saint of Wales so let’s take a look at the Welsh connections to Bordeaux and its wines . . .

Caernarfon

Caernarfon

I’ve been wanting to write a blog for Saint David’s Day for some time. I have a dash of Welsh blood in me. My grandfather, who was taken prisoner after receiving machine gun wounds in both legs at the Somme, came from Tredegar. So Wales is close to my heart. As is Bordeaux.

Wales, past and present, does have connections to Bordeaux; the Welsh settled, traded and fought there. They also enjoyed its wines. The Welsh love of Bordeaux wine goes back many centuries and it was shipped from Bordeaux to the Welsh ports at Chepstow, Milford Haven, Haverford West, Caernarfon, Beaumaris, Newport and Carmarthen from the late 1300s onwards.

Wine was shipped in to the Priories and Abbeys of Wales

Wine was shipped in to the Priories and Abbeys of Wales


Ships often carried about 25 tuns of wine at a time (a medieval tun contains 252 gallons – the equivalent of 1008 bottles). Some vessels carried even more into the Welsh ports arriving in fleets of up to 9 ships, each carrying up to 49 tuns. That’s an awful lot of Claret!

Claret was the drink of choice amongst the Welsh nobility and the religious orders in the priories and monasteries. Welsh bards were commisioned to write poetry for their noble patrons and often spoke of Claret in their verses. Guto’r Glyn (1412 – ca 1493) wrote a famous poem where wine represented the leaders of the French Army. He talks of Clared (Claret), Bwrdiaws (Bordeaux wine) and Gwresogwin (Mulled Claret). Lewis Glyn Cothi’s poetry, written around the same time, is full of the names of the wines his patrons served from France, he even mentions Sant Miliwn (Saint Emilion) wine!

The Battle of Crecy

The Battle of Crecy

Of course the Welsh went to Bordeaux too; some to fight against the French in the Hundred Years War. The soldiers of the Black Prince, Edward III adopted the green and white colours of the leek for their uniform and Welsh archers wore these colours during the Battle of Crecy. Shakespeare mentions the wearing of leeks by Welsh soldiers (and the by the Tudor King) in his play Henry V set around the Battle of Agincourt.

Sadly there are no great Bordelaise chateaux that I know of that bear a Welsh legacy (unlike the Irish and Scottish Chateaux of Bordeaux). There is little history of the Welsh who decided to settle there all those years ago.

Chateau de Seuil bears the red dragon of Wales on its label

Chateau de Seuil bears the red dragon of Wales on its label

Today, however, Chateau du Seuil in Cerons (Graves AOC) proudly sports the red dragon on its label in homage to the land of its Welsh owners, the Watts family, who purchased it in 2001.

It seems the Welsh have dissipated amongst the ports and appellations of Bordeaux; scattered on the wind. One lingering reminder of them though comes about at this time of year. Cetain vineyards are peppered with wild daffodils. Chateau Coutet’s vineyards on the top of the Saint Martin de Mazerat plateau, are one of the rare places in Saint Emilion where these wild daffodils flourish amongst the vines and spinneys of sessile oaks. At Coutet, no weed killer or pesticide has ever been used.

The Tenby Daffodil

The Tenby Daffodil

Both the leek and the daffodil are emblems of Wales, and both are worn on Saint David’s Day. We may see the daffodil worn to honour the occasion more often now thanks to David Lloyd George (the only Welshman to serve as Prime Minister) who championed the daffodil over the leek as the symbol of Wales in the early 1900s. Strangely enough daffodils and leeks both share the same Welsh name: Cennin. Daffodils are known as Saint Peter’s Leeks, Cennin Pedr.

Chateau Tertre de Launay Cuvee des Jonquilles

Chateau Tertre de Launay Cuvee des Jonquilles

You won’t find any chateaux bearing the emblem of the leek but there are one or two wines named for the daffodil and some Bordeaux Whites bear the fragrance of this narcissus – our organic white Chateau Rioublanc is a good example. Some chateaux have acknowledged this phenomenon by naming their white wines after the scented flowers – Chateau Tertre de Launay produces Cuvee Jonquilles des Launay, there is also the Cuvee Narcisse from the Entre Deux Mers.

Chateau Rioublanc

Chateau Rioublanc

If any wine lovers out there know of any Welsh connections to Bordealise chateaux I’d like to hear from you.

Happy Saint David’s Day!

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Declassified Bordeaux – Our Signature Wines, The Saints Estephe and Julien

Our Signature Wines highlight the passions and strengths of the wine makers that created them and bear the trademark characteristics of the AOCs that birthed them. Unique in the UK; these wines are exclusive to Bordeaux-Undiscovered.

Flagships of their AOCs - Our Signature Wines

Flagships of their AOCs – Our Signature Wines

Each Signature Wine has been carefully chosen as a beautiful example of the wines produced in these particular AOCs. We selected them as flagships of their regions for those of you who want to discover the different styles great Bordeaux can offer.

AOC Saint Estephe

Saint Estephe is the most northern appellation of the Medoc and is the closest appellation to the mouth of the Gironde Estuary, where the River Garonne begins to join the Atlantic Sea. The AOC is renowned for the beautiful structure and longevity of its wines. Saint Estephe has over 40 Cru Bourgeois and Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnels but the crown jewels of the appellation are the Second Growths (2ème cru) Chateaux Cos d’Estournel and Montrose and Third Growth (3ème Cru) Calon Segur.

Emblem of the Saint Estephe winemakers

Emblem of the Saint Estephe winemakers

Firm and full of finesse, Saint Estephe’s wines are the amongst the most long lived in Bordeaux.

  • The AOC was known as Saint Esteve de Calonne until the 18th century. Saint Esteve is the old French name for Saint Stephen, the Patron Saint of Stonemasons. In pre Roman times Saint Estephe’s iron ore deposits were quarried and it was a centre of metallurgy and stone working. The Calonnes part of the name comes from ‘Calon’ which were small vessels used to carry goods across the river.

  • Saint Estephe’s nearest neighbour is Pauillac (they are only separated by a stream) and is the least gravelly appellation of the Medoc. Its vineyards lie on layers of pebbles, quartz and small stones on top of clay washed ashore from the Gironde. Deep below lies a bedrock of limestone. This soil drains more slowly and remains cool, delaying ripening. The harvest here is one of the latest in Bordeaux. This terroir gives the wines exceptional backbone and a distinctive finesse.

  • While Cabernet Sauvignon is the dominant grape, Saint Estephe has more planting of Merlot than any other area on the Left Bank. Other grapes grown are Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Carmenere and Malbec.

Our Signature Saint Estephe: Les Vignes de Hebe 2011, £15.99*

Les Vignes de Hebe 2011, Saint Estephe

Les Vignes de Hebe 2011, Saint Estephe

Created by one of the influential dynastic wine making merchant families of Bordeaux, Les Vignes de Hebe is made by Grand Vins de Gironde (GVG), owned by the Borie-Manoux and Casteja family. With a number of top flight Grand Cru Classe chateaux throughout Bordeaux under their ownership, including Premier Cru (First Growth) Chateau Trotte Vieille in Saint Emilion and Fifth Growths (5ème Cru) Chateaux Batailley and Lynch Moussas in Pauillac, they have been specialising in producing superb Bordeaux wines for several centuries.

We can not say from which vineyards Les Vignes de Hebe is produced but Casteja owns Chateau Beau Site which neighbours Calon Segur and has recently acquired Chateau Picard via its purchase of the wine merchants Mahler Besse.

Map of the Left Bank AOCs

Map of the Left Bank AOCs

GVG’s range of Les Vignes wines bear the hallmark of their AOCs; representing the essence of their region. Les Vignes de Hebe is named after the Greek goddess of eternal youth and cup bearer to the gods on Mount Olympus. . . a nod to the longevity and pedigree of this wine.

Tasting Notes

Powerful with exceptional backbone and beautiful structure. Concentrated flavours of cassis (blackcurrant liqueur), blackberry and black cherry with smoky notes of liquorice, spice and dark chocolate. Velvety and very fragrant.

Saint Julien's coat of arms

Saint Julien’s coat of arms

AOC Saint Julien

Saint Julien is often said to be the quintessential claret, combining all of the Medoc’s best qualities. The AOC has the highest proportion of classified chateaux (Grand cru Classe) of all the regions in Bordeaux – 11 in total. The quality is so good in Saint Julien, that Second Wines from those chateaux are very attractive. It is home to the 5 great Second Growths (2ème crus) Chateaux Ducru Beaucaillou, Leoville Poyferre, Leoville Barton, Gruard Larose and Leoville Las Cases.

Consistently elegant, Saint Julien’s wines are classic Bordeaux at its best.

  • Saint Julien was once named Saint Julien de Reignac and was a Gallo Roman village. The village of Reignac lies exactly opposite Saint Julien on the other bank of the River Garonne and it seems that these two Roman villages traded together. Saint Julien is the patron saint of travellers, boatmen and innkeepers, hence the adoption of his name for the village.

  • Chateau Beychevelle's label depicting the lowered sails of the galleon

    Chateau Beychevelle’s label depicting the lowered sails of the galleon

    Saint Julien lies on two plateaus between Pauillac and Margaux on the left bank of the Gironde Estuary. It is divided into essentially 2 areas – the riverside estates around the village of Saint Julien and the southern estates around the village of Beychevelle where the area’s Cru Bourgeois are also grouped. Beychevelle takes its name from the Gascon French ‘Baisse-Vaille’ which means ‘lower sails.’ The village of Beychevelle and its chateau were once the fief of the Dukes of Epernon and galleons lowered their sails as they passed by as a sign of allegiance. Chateau Beychevelle’s wine label symbolises this by depicting a ship with sails lowered.

  • The AOC lies on a layer of glacial gravel which sits on a bedrock of limestone. Cabernet Sauvignon dominates Saint Julien and blends of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon with around 20% Merlot with a dash of Cabernet Franc are not unusual.

Our Signature Saint Julien: Les Vignes d’Icare 2011, £20.49*

Les Vignes d'Icare, saint Julien

Les Vignes d’Icare, Saint Julien

Les Vignes de Hebe is made by Grand Vins de Gironde (GVG), owned by the Borie-Manoux and Casteja family, one of Bordeaux’s major players. The Borie-Manoux and Casteja family are powerful wine merchants and own several top flight Grand Cru Classe chateaux. Their cousins (the family divided property and businesses in 1942 to avoid punitive inheritance laws) also own Second Growth (2ème cru) Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou in Saint Julien, amongst others.

GVG’s range of Les Vignes wines bear the hallmark of their AOCs; representing the essence of their region. Les Vignes d’Icare is named after the Greek hero Icarus who sought to fly to the sun. It’s a fitting name for a wine born of Saint Julien, an AOC that seeks to attain the pinnacle of excellence.

Tasting Notes

A wine with perfect harmony. Full of finesse with elegant and expressive flavours of mulberry, black currant, rich black cherry and coffee beans. Lifted by notes of cedar wood, anise, graphite and roasted oak. Pure but with hidden power.

* Prices correct at the time of publication

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