When I wrote recently that you could find some little gems in the rural back waters of Bordeaux Chateau Les Marcheys was in the forefront of my mind. This is a super claret made by a small chateau in the Lieu Dit of Marchais, Cleyrac – a tiny hamlet in the midst of nowhere. Cleyrac sits between Sainte Foy La Grande and Saint Macaire in the Entre Deux Mers.
A ‘Lieu Dit’ is an old French term for a small vineyard that bears a traditional name – you normally hear of them in Burgundy or Alsace. In this case the vineyard is Marchais, which translates as ‘the Marches’ . . . similar in meaning to the Welsh Marches region that we have in the UK. i.e. a border land or frontier. It’s probably where Chateau Les Marcheys takes its name from.
The Les Marcheys vineyards are definitely older than the pretty chateau and the area is home to a rich medieval heritage. Ancient fortified buildings hark back to feudal times when brigands were afoot and Lords squabbled over land. Not far from Les Marcheys stands the ancient 16th century Chateau de Basgéran flanked by turrets with battlements and the 14th century water mill Moulin de La Salle.
In those days the water mills were usually owned by the Monasteries, Abbeys or the local Lord – villagers could safely mill their grain into flour there protected within the fortifications. The Moulin de La Salle was once attached to a chateau that belonged to the Order of Malta (Knights Hospitaller, founded in 1023) and in 1519 records show that it was owned by Jammes de Fargues, Lord of Cleyrac. It still has the shooting gallery and a dungeon!
Fortified water mills of this type are only found in the Entre Deux Mers and are a reminder of how this triangle of land, laced with streams, was once well defended by Church and Nobility alike. The appellation has long been overlooked as far as red wines are concerned, as it is renowned for its whites – but it’s becoming clear that there are some super clarets now being produced there that deserve more recognition. They represent great value for money and those of you who appreciate a good glass of red wine won’t be disappointed.
Chateau Les Marcheys 2009 is very dense garnet-red with light ruby tints at its edge and is well balanced, supple and velvety on the palate. It is very aromatic with a powerful spicy nose and flavours of crushed ripe red berry fruits, leather and blackberries. It’s made from an equal blend of the classic Bordeaux grapes of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc – and is very good with food, being only 12.5% abv!
This is a wine that would pair well with an assortment of cold meats, salamis and sausages as well as steak char-grilled on the barbeque, grilled lamb and pork chops.