What is Declassified Bordeaux and why are we being told it is Special? The Key Facts

Over the past few years Declassified Bordeaux Wines have been creeping into the mainstream. Few people know about them and lots of people are put off as ‘declassified’ doesn’t imply the wine will be good quality. The truth, in fact, is the exact opposite.

Chateaux are secretive about their Declassified Wines

Chateaux are secretive about their Declassified Wines

Declassified Wine is haunted by lots of smokescreens and mirrors. The chateaux who produce it don’t want their customers to know about it; the merchants who sell it are handicapped (sometimes legally) by the chateaux’s insistence on anonymity and the wine buying public is totally confused about it. No wonder it attracts a niche market!

I’d like to demystify Declassifed Wines so that we can all benefit. Let me explain . . .

Declassified Wine is a bit of an ambiguous term but in this instance the Declassified Wine I am referring to generally comes from a fairly prestigious Classified Chateau. (Top Bordeaux chateaux are ranked under various Classifications and are known as Grand Cru Classe or Classified Chateau).

Declassified Wine is the surplus wine that has not made it into the branded wines produced by the chateaux.

This wine is not labelled under the chateaux’s brand name(s) as a classified wine (Grand Cru Classe), instead it is labelled under the generic AOC or given a fancy name that has nothing to do with the chateau.

Shhh!  Declassified Wines can be a bargain

Shhh! Declassified Wines can be a bargain

You might not think that Declassified Wines are not up to much and to be honest most people are fairly sceptical when told about this practice. But the keywords to remember here are ‘prestigious chateaux.’

Wines produced by these top chateaux have certain advantages; they benefit from state of the art wine making, the best experts and oenologists, cutting edge technology and immaculately managed vineyards lying on the best terroir. In short these wines are made to the highest standards – they are the aristocrats of the wine world.

Declassified Bordeaux is made by the same team that produce the Classified Chateaux’s flagship wines.

This means that the Declassified Wine is made with the same level of expertise. The wine is also normally made from the same vineyard so it has the same pedigree and provenance.

Decdlassified Wines are made anonymously by the top Grand Cru Classe

Decdlassified Wines are made anonymously by the top Grand Cru Classe

Is Declassified Wine Any Good?

Simply put, it depends. To me, it all boils down to where it comes from. You can bag yourself a Declassified Wine from a top flight estate without the price of a Premier Cru if you are lucky. But therein lies the rub – as the top chateaux don’t want you to know who produced it, Declassified Wines are made anonymously. This means that you will either have to play the part of private detective or trust your wine merchant.

As merchants we do know where the wine comes from but we aren’t allowed to tell you (but we will always give you a few clues if you want to try and find out).

Bordeaux has some grapevines over 100 years old

Bordeaux has some grapevines over 100 years old

Why do Chateaux Declassify?

1. Chateaux are constantly having to replant their vineyards. Think of it as ‘rolling stock’ if you will. It’s part of their general vineyard management but replanting can also occur if a chateau acquires another estate whose vineyards need rejuvenating or if the chateau wants to introduce another grape variety.

  • Grapevines can attain a great age but generally as they grow old their productivity drops off. Whilst some grapevines in Bordeaux are the grand old age of 100 most are between the ages of 10 and 30 years old.

  • Overall the quality of the grapes increases with age but the yield (crop) decreases. This means that in order to keep production levels constant the chateaux have to plant new vines.

As the quality of the grapes on these young vines is not as good as their older siblings the chateaux can not put it into their Grand Vins (flagship wines).

Bordeaux wines are blends of different grapes

Bordeaux wines are blends of different grapes

2. Bordeaux Grand Vins are blends. In prestigious estates, only the best wines made from the best grapes are blended to be sold under the name of the estate for the highest possible price. Vineyards are typically divided into plots of 3 or 4 different grape varieties (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc are the most common). Part of the skill of the wine making expert is to create these blends using different vats or barrels of wines made from each separate grape variety. One grape may perform better than the others depending on the growing conditions for that particular year, which means that the winemaker requires less of the others.

The end result is that high quality vats of wines that don’t meet the flavour profile for the vintage are surplus to requirements.

Declassified wines are all about brand protection

Declassified wines are all about brand protection

So what do the chateaux do with the rest? They make a Second Wine. Second quality wine is blended and sold under a second label, generally for about one third of the price of the Grand Vin. Some chateaux also make a Third Wine. A case in point is Premier Cru (First Growth) Chateau Latour in AOC Pauillac; the Grand Vin is Chateau Latour, the Second Wine is Les Forts de Latour and the Third Wine is Pauillac de Chateau Latour.

Once a chateau has filled out its requirements for its Grand Vin and Second Wine any remaining wine would be sold as Declassified Wine anonymously for even lower prices, distributed privately or sold to restaurants.

Why are the chateaux so secretive about their Declassified Wine?

Declassified Wine is all about brand protection and manpulating prices. The chateaux want to protect the prestige of their Grand Vin (and its high price). They simply don’t want to devalue their brand by making less expensive wines available under their chateau name.

 

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The Surprising Success of Semillon, Sauvignon’s Perfect Partner

Following on from Bordeaux Dry Whites being a surprise hit in our best sellers of 2014 I thought it would be good idea to turn the spotlight on Semillon . . . the grape that makes Sauvignon sing.

Semillon grapes

Semillon grapes

Sales of our Bordeaux Dry Whites (Bordeaux Blancs made from the classic blend of Semillon and Sauvignon grapes) have been booming. These lovely, structured wines were once the preserve of well informed wine afficiandos but now more and more people are waking up to their virtues. This style of wine is reaching a wider audience thanks in part to New World Sauvignon Blanc producers who are taking the next step up in developing their wines. Their natural progression has been to experiment with Bordelaise Dry White blends using Semillon as Sauvignon’s perfect partner.

Dry White - Chateau Pape Clement Blanc, Pessac :Leognan AOC

Dry White – Chateau Pape Clement Blanc, Pessac :Leognan AOC

Australia has quickly adopted Semillon to blend with their Sauvignons to recreate the Bordeaux style.

The result has been that Semillon is getting more exposure. Deservedly so. This grape is used in the blend of every white produced by the Bordealise. Prestigious Grand Cru Classe produce aristocratic Dry Whites that can evolve for decades using the Semillon and Sauvignon blend (Chateaux Haut Brion Blanc, Laville Haut Brion Blanc (now La Mission Haut Brion) and Pape Clement Blanc for example). Similar to the following that White Burgundy commands, top flight White Bordeaux has its own loyal supporters.

Chateau Climens, Premier Cru, AOC Barsac - 100% Semillon

Sweet White – Chateau Climens, Premier Cru, AOC Barsac (100% Semillon)

Semillon is also essential in the famous Sweet Whites of Bordeaux’s Sauternes and Barsac. Thanks to this grapes susceptibility to Noble Rot these long lived, nectar like, dessert wines could not be made without it. All the Saturnais use Semillon, some chateaux choosing to use it unblended; Premier Cru (First Growth) Chateau Climens is a case in point.

However you don’t have to spend a fortune to buy a good White Bordeaux; there are many excellent Petits Chateaux producing affordable superb Whites.

Chateau Vrai Caillou, Petit Chateau, AOC Bordeaux

Dry White – Chateau Vrai Caillou, Petit Chateau, AOC Bordeaux

Bordeaux White Blends

There are actually several grapes permitted in a White Bordeaux blend: Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon are the primary grapes. A dash of Muscadelle is occasionally added to the blend by some chateaux. Lesser known varieties such as Sauvignon Gris, Ugni Blanc (Trebbianno), Colombard, Mauzac, Ondenc and Merlot Blanc are also permitted but are very rarely used.

Why do Semillon and Sauvignon marry so well in a blend?

Perhaps this is because they are genetically very close, although Semillon’s parentage is still a bit of a mystery. Young or unripe Semillion grapes have a similar aromatic profile to Sauvignon. Semillon compliments Sauvignon extremely well; it adds weight, structure and density to the wine, taming the acidity of Sauvignon. In France Semillon can express flavours of lemon, honeysuckle or acacia flower, pear, fig, sweet hay or grass, peach and green apple. When used in Sweet Wines Semillon’s flavour profile deepens to complex flavours of hazelnut or almond, tropical and candied fruits. It is known for giving a rounded, honied, waxy tone to the wine.

Dry White - Chateau Mayne Pargade, Petit Chateau, AOC Bordeaux

Dry White – Chateau Mayne Pargade, Petit Chateau, AOC Bordeaux

Wine Styles

1. Dry Whites – Bordeaux Blanc. The most established blend is Semillion and Sauvignon. However a few chateaux produce a rare 100% Semillon Dry White; Sauternes Premier Cru Chateau Siglas Rabaud’s ‘La Semillante de Siglas’ and Chateau Le Puy are two examples.

2. Sweet Whites – Liqoreux (sweet) and Moelleux (semi sweet). Semillion is used to make dessert whites, many of which are 100% Semillion, although Sauvignon and/or Muscadelle can also be used in a blend.

Semillon Key Facts

Grape:
Semillon is a golden skinned grape, sometimes blushed with pink or copper. It is thin skinned and has low acidity.

A Little History:
Semillion was the most widely planted white grape in the world during the 1800s but plantings declined in France after World War II and today a group of Sauternes chateaux have formed a cooperative to preserve their Semillon clones.

Semillion is native to Bordeaux and has been grown there for over four centuries. Although it’s thought to have originated in Sauternes there is a theory that it actually comes from Saint Emilion. The grape was known as Semillon de Saint Emillion in 1736 and ‘Semillion’ could be a corruption of the town’s name. This idea is a little controversial as Saint Emilion is renowned for its red wines today rather than its whites!

Noble Rot

Noble Rot

Noble Rot:
Noble Rot is a little miracle worker. It’s a fungus (botrytis cinerea) that affects grapes. It shrivels the grapes, intensifying their sweetness and concentrating their flavours whilst keeping a high level of acidity. In Bordeaux Noble Rot occurs around the little river Ciron, a tributary of the river Garonne. The AOCs that produce Sweet Whites (Sauternes, Barsac, Cerons etc) lie in the hollow where the two rivers converge. The Ciron has cooler waters than the Garonne and where the two rivers meet mist is produced. The mist descends upon the vineyards, giving the right conditions for the development of Noble Rot.

Making sweet wines from grapes with Noble Rot is labour intensive – grapes have to be hand picked so that only those with Noble Rot are selected and yields can be low. It is said that one grape vine only makes enough juice to make one glass of wine. Although these are dessert wines their sweetness is not cloying due to their zesty acidity.

AOCs producing Sweet Whites

AOCs producing Sweet Whites

AOCs:
Many appellations can produce Dry White Bordeaux under the Bordeaux, Bordeaux Sec, Bordeaux Superieur, Premiers Cotes de Bordaux and Bordeaux Moelleux AOCs but below are a few that specialise in dry white and sweet white production, including some lesser known appellations that are worth tracking down.

Entre Deux Mers – Dry White

Graves – Dry White

Pessac Leognan – Dry White

Blaye Cotes de Bordeaux – Dry White

Cotes de Bourg – Dry White

Sauternes – Mainly Sweet White but increasingly

showing a shift to Dry White production

AOCs producing Dry Whites

AOCs producing Dry Whites

Barsac – Mainly Sweet White but also showing a shift to Dry White production

Sainte Croix du Mont – Sweet White

Loupiac – Sweet White

Cerons – Sweet White

Cadillac – Sweet White

Cotes de Francs – Dry & Sweet White

Graves de Vayres – Dry & Sweet White

Haut Benauge – Dry & Sweet White

Saint Foy – Dry & Sweet White

Saint Macaire – Dry & Sweet White

If you would like to discover Semillon for yourself we stock several Bordeaux Dry Whites from Graves and the Entre Deux Mers as well as Bordeaux Liqoreux and Moelleux from Barsac and Sauternes. Cheers!

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Best Sellers 2014 – The Whites and a Racy Rose

Whites soared in popularity in 2014 with our cool climate, high altitude wines doing well but the big eye opener was the boom in Semillon – Sauvignon blends. Coupled with a racy Rose these were the best sellers of 2014.

Dry White from Sauternes Second Growth Chateau de Malle

Dry White from Sauternes Second Growth Chateau de Malle

For a long time Bordeaux Dry Whites (Bordeaux Blancs made from a blend of Semillon and Sauvignon grapes) were highly sought out only by those ‘in the know’ but demand has risen thanks to increased awareness. This is partly down to their affordability, good quality and the fact that New World Sauvignon producers duplicating Bordelaise Dry White blends have raised this style’s profile.

Number 1. Our surprise smash hit, M de Malle 2005 £16.99button_sold_out

M de Malle is a top notch, stylish, Dry White that comes from a different class. It’s the Dry White of the celebrated and historic Chateau de Malle, a Sauternes Second Growth (2ème Cru). Chateau de Malle is an exquisite national treasure and has been owned by the same family since 1650. Famous for its sweet Sauternes, de Malle produces this Dry White from its vineyards in Graves. We were the first to introduce it to the UK and the demand for it in 2014 was astonishing.

Chateau de Malle, an early 17th century treasure with magnificent Italian style gardens

Chateau de Malle, an early 17th century treasure with magnificent Italian style gardens

Sadly this fine wine is a rarity as its production never exceeds 7,000 bottles per year and we quickly sold out.

However we do have the equally delicious M de Malle 2012 vintage available.

Andrew Barrow – Spittoon: A touch of class here – from the blossom and wax aroma through to the ‘tinged with the exotic’ palate. A combination of softness, a gentle rounded mouthfeel with a complex wax and citrus burst on the finish. Dry. That citric burst finality comes complete with a hint of herb and a gravelly texture.

Dry White from Petit Chateau Balan Larquette

Dry White from Petit Chateau Balan Larquette

Number 2. Customer favourite at the shows, Ballan Larquette 2013 – Bordeaux Oscar Winner £9.49

Ballan Larquette 2013 simply shone at the Shows and proved to be a winner with the customers at these events. Shows are a fantastic way of allowing wine lovers to try before they buy and once tasted Ballan Larquette is never forgotten. Not unsurprisingly this superb Dry White comes from a multi award winning chateau owned by the indomitable Regis Chaigne.

Ballan Larquette

Ballan Larquette

With 6 generations of wine makers behind him Regis is one of the top flight producers of Petit Chateaux. His small estate, Ballan Larquette, lies across a scattering of hamlets near St Laurent du Bois. He combines centuries of traditional knowhow and respect for the land with cutting edge wine making to produce wines of extraordinary quality. Passionate, driven and consumed by his quest for excellence; Chaigne is one of our favourite winemakers and we are proud to have introduced his wines to the UK.

Richard Mark James – Wine Writing: Chateau Ballan Larquette – intense zesty green fruit, citrus and gooseberry vs oily honeyed rounded texture, quite concentrated with crisp and tasty fruity finish. Lovely dry white.

Rose from Provence by Ravoire et Fils

Rose from Provence by Ravoire et Fils

Number 3. Our high performer from Provence, Les Soleillades Rose 2013 £8.99*

You wouldn’t think that a Rose wine would sell out at Christmas; after all these are wines for the summer time aren’t they? But that’s what happened in December 2014. Luckily we were able to acquire more stocks in the nick of time. Les Soleilades is named for the sun and is produced by Roger and Olivier Ravoire who own Domaine Valdernier in Aix en Provence.

Les Soleillades

Les Soleillades

Les Soleillades is made from Grenache (used in Rioja and the southern Rhone), Syrah (used in the Rhone) and heat loving Cinsault, an ancient grape thought either to have originated in Provence or to have been brought to the area by traders from the East. The beauty of Cinsault is its wonderful perfume, which comes through in Les Soleillades. It’s a fantastic food wine as well as being an enjoyable drink in its own right, which might explain the Christmas rush.

Les Soleillades was a new introduction to our range and it was certainly a successful one. 2014 saw a number of new wines added to our discoveries, from Bordeaux and beyond. We are expanding our range again this year, exploring fresh regions, finding new chateaux and unique wines. If you would like to be kept up to date with our latest arrivals please sign up for our newsletter here.

* Prices correct at the time of publication.

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The Search For High Quality Sparkling Wine – France’s Answer to Prosecco

Whilst Prosecco soars in popularity, are we missing out on what is right in front of us? High quality French sparkling wine is one of the best bubblies you can buy; and it’s well worth discovering . . .

Beyond the great wine making region of Champagne sparkling wine flourishes in France

Beyond the great wine making region of Champagne sparkling wine flourishes in France

French sparkling wine ranks among the best of its breed; it has an impressive pedigree, stunning quality and a dazzling reputation to boot. Centuries of perfecting wine making techniques have certainly paid off. So why do many lovely French sparklers fall under our radar? Perhaps it is because they are over shadowed by the huge importance of Champagne?

Many French sparkling wines can rival some of the cheaper Champagnes on the market and deserve more recognition.

Vins Mousseux

Vins Mousseux

Beyond the great wine making region of Champagne sparkling wine flourishes in France. In fact, Champagne is a new comer to the world of sparkling wine. The fabled monk Dom Perignon (1638 – 1715) was not the first to discover the process of making fizz and his famous quote ‘Come quickly, I am drinking the stars’ is more of a marketing gimmick cooked up in the 19th century. There are older claimants to the title of ‘the first sparkling wine in the world’. Blanquette de Limoux comes from the Pyrenean foothills just south of Carcassonne and pre-dates the making of Champagne by about 150 years. Local folk lore says that Dom Perignon was a monk here before moving to the Champagne region and took the secret with him.

Known as Vins Mousseux, these sparkling wines are well worth exploring.

Up and down France, in pockets of land around historic cities, there are long established sparkling wine producers quietly making beautiful bubblies that are snapped up by the French.

Highly recommended, these sparkling wines are well worth discovering!

Highly recommended, these sparkling wines are well worth discovering!

Key Facts

AOCs:

Not all Vins Mousseux in France are made under an AOC; below are a few of the well known appellations:

Blanquette de Limoux (Languedoc Roussillon)
Clairette de Die (Rhone Valley)
Saumur (Loire Valley)
Gaillac (South West)
Saint Peray (Rhone Valley)
Vouvray (Loire Valley)
Montlouis (Loire Valley)

From bone dry to sweet, Vins Mousseux come in a wide variety of styles

From bone dry to sweet, Vins Mousseux come in a wide variety of styles

Styles of Vins Mousseux

These sparkling wines come in a variety of styles, based on their residual sugar content:

1. Brut Nature or Brut Zero – Bone Dry
2. Extra Brut – Very Dry
3. Brut – Dry
4. Extra Sec – Dry to Medium Dry
5. Sec – Medium (Semi) Dry
6. Demi Sec – Medium (Semi) Sweet
7. Doux – Sweet

Methods of Production:

1. Champagne Method (Methode Champenoise or Traditionnelle) – Secondary fermentation in bottle

2. Charmat Method (Methode Charmat or Cuvee Close) – Secondary fermentation in a pressurized vat

Duc de Berieu Brut (Dry)

Duc de Berieu Brut (Dry)

My Recommended Vins Mousseux

Duc De Berieu Brut – Dry French Sparkling Wine. 11% abv. Currently £6.99

Duc de Berieu is a lovely example of high quality Vins Mousseux being made in France today. It’s made by Grande Vins de Gironde (GVG) who are owners of several renowned chateaux in Bordeaux but who also specialise in sparkling wine. Duc de Berieu is made from the Ugni Blanc grape, which is the French name for Trebbiano. The name Ugni Blanc holds the key to this grape, it’s derived from the old French name ‘Unia’ which comes from the Latin ‘Eugenia, meaning ‘noble’ and the grape is an unsung hero when it comes to sparkling wines. Especially if they are well crafted by experts such as GVG.

Tasting Notes:

Lovely light bodied sparkling wine with subtle flavours of apricot, ripe peach and fresh cut lime lifted by heady floral notes of orange and almond blossom. Beautifully balanced acidity and a soft exuberant mousse of fine bubbles. Clean, crisp and full of charm.

Food and Wine Pairing:

A gorgeous glassful at parties, Duc de Berieu Brut is light, refreshing and stylish. It’s great with seafood and starters, salty foods such as salami, prosciutto and feta cheese, creamy pastas, poultry, spicy and fragrant Chinese cuisine and sweet pastries.

Duc de Berieu Demi Sec (Medium Sweet)

Duc de Berieu Demi Sec (Medium Sweet)

Duc De Berieu Demi Sec – Medium Sweet French Sparkling Wine. 11% abv. Currently £6.99

Duc de Berieu Demi Sec is aged on the lees to give it unique aromatic structure and depth.

Tasting Notes:

Delicious delicate flavours of ripe peach, pear and almonds with lovely floral notes of acacia flowers and subtle sweet anise.  Beautifully balanced acidity and a fizzy foam of soft bubbles.

Food and Wine Pairing:

The medium sweet Duc de Berieu is a fabulous food wine. It’s great with nibbles – antipasto and tapas and spicy Indian food. Try it with sushi, rich oily fish such as smoked salmon and mackerel, creamy pastas and soups, poultry and pâté.

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Tricks of the Trade – Premier Cru For a Fraction of the Price

We’d all like to drink like Kings but most of the French Premier Crus are so expensive they are far out of reach for most of us. However, savvy wine lovers can steal a trick or two on the chateaux and bag a superb wine for a fraction of the price. I’ll tell you how . . .

Vineyards in the town of Saint Emilion

Vineyards in the town of Saint Emilion

Keeping a beady eye on chateaux purchases may seem overzealous but there is a good reason to watch who is doing the buying and selling. Most of the prestigious Premier Cru chateaux producing Grand Vins have great demand for their wines but no room for expansion. Their production is limited as they can’t enlarge their vineyards to make more wine. Strict AOC rules govern vineyard acreage and the Premier Crus are either boxed in by their neighbours, hemmed in by dwellings or surrounded by land deemed unsuitable by the AOC. Patches of premium land in Bordeaux are astronomically expensive and are difficult to find.

‘Often, the only way a chateaux can increase their acreage is by buying up their neighbours – and if those neighbours are sitting on premium land then they are sitting on a little gold mine.’

Usually the Premier Cru chateaux will devour their latest acquisitions, adding their prime acres to those of the Grand Vin. Very occasionally you’ll spot a small chateau, full of sleeping potential, being purchased by a member of a Premier Cru wine making dynasty as a project. This small chateau will be pumped full of investment; the chateau buildings renovated, vineyards resurrected and the wines brought up to high quality by the same wine making team employed at the Premier Cru. These are the little gold mines to watch out for.

‘La Tour du Pin is a case in point.’

Chateau La Tour du Pin, now part of Premier Cru Chateau Cheval Blanc

Chateau La Tour du Pin, now part of Premier Cru Chateau Cheval Blanc

This little chateaux was a remnant from the great Figeac estate in Saint Emilion. This is premium land, having perfect terroir for great wine production. The Figeac estate dates back to the 2nd century AD and sits over a Roman villa once owned by the Roman Consul Figeacus. Down the centuries the estate fragmented into a patchwork of smaller enterprises. Today, both Chateau Figeac and Cheval Blanc lie on part of the old estate and both are Premier Crus. In 2006 the owners of Cheval Blanc, Bernard Arnault and Albert Frère, bought La Tour du Pin. Investment followed, the Premier Cru wine making team stepped in and the wine took off into the stratosphere.

A bottle of Cheval Blanc can be 10 times the price of La Tour du Pin

A bottle of Cheval Blanc can be 10 times the price of La Tour du Pin

A few vintages later Arnault and Frère did the maths and La Tour du Pin’s fate was sealed. Their little project could never command the astronomic price of Cheval Blanc and business was booming. If La Tour du Pin’s vineyards could be absorbed into those of Cheval Blanc they could up their production of the Grand Vin and make a fortune. And that’s precisely what happened.

‘So, what’s the difference between the wines of Cheval Blanc and La Tour du Pin you may ask? Not a lot.’

They are made by the same wine making experts, on the same land from the same grapes. The only difference is in the price. A bottle of Cheval Blanc can be 10 times the price of La Tour du Pin.

Insider Tip

There is a problem. Bottles of La Tour du Pin are a rarity. This small chateau is now effectively extinct thanks to its Premier Cru neighbour. Not many vintages of La Tour du Pin were produced and what was marketed, was quickly snapped up. I made sure I was one of the merchants who snapped them up. Both the 2006 and 2007 vintages of La Tour du Pin are available at Bordeaux-Undiscovered, both are beautiful wines and both are an absolute bargain.

Beautiful wine at a bargain

Beautiful wine at a bargain

Unusually, Bordeaux-Undiscovered offers La Tour du Pin (and many other fine wines) as single bottles so you have the added advantage of not being tied to purchasing 12 bottles of a specific wine in a case, as you would with other wine merchants. This means that it is easy to make up the cases of your choice that reflect your own personal taste and budget. Our minimum order is a 6 bottle case (mixed wines, or otherwise – your choice). There are no hidden charges either – typically you will see other merchants showing prices for fine wines without duty, VAT and delivery charges. Our prices are inclusive so that you know exactly what you are paying out and have no nasty shocks at the end of the checkout. Nor do we stipulate a minimum spend of £200 as other fine wine merchants do; you can spend as much or as little as you want and delivery is free of charge on purchases over £99.99.

Enjoy!

 

Posted in Discover The Chateaux, Insider Tips, Tricks of the Trade | 2 Comments

Best Sellers 2014 – The Reds

We expanded our range in 2014 with tremendous success. Let’s take a look at the Best Sellers of 2014, starting with the Reds that you enjoyed the most . . .

signature wines banner logo

Superb representatives of their AOCs

2014 saw the introduction of a range of brand new discoveries to suit every pocket, here are our Top Three best sellers.

Number 1. An overnight hit from our Signature Selection, Pauillac 2011

In 2014 we released our range of Signature Wines and Pauillac 2011 was our top seller. Our Signature Wines are specially selected Clarets which we feel to be superb representatives of their AOCs. Each is a beautiful example from its region expressing the very best characteristics that are typical of each area. The range was so popular in 2014 that we had to order in more stock at short notice, not once but twice, due to the demand!

Pauillac small

Pauillac 2011

Declassified Bordeaux – Extraordinary quality for a fraction of the price

Pomerol AOC – Les Vignes de Phoebus £16.99*

Saint Estephe AOC – Les Vignes d’Hebe £15.99*

Saint Julien AOC – Les Vignes d’Icare £20.49*

Pauillac AOC – Pauillac £20.49*

These four wines belong to the secretive declassified Bordeaux category. Declassified Bordeaux is produced by the top Grand Cru Classe but they are a little known entity as wine merchants are not allowed to tell you who has produced them. They are tremendous value for money as they can not fetch the prices that the brand labels of the chateaux command. As they are made by some of the best chateaux you are getting one heck of a bang for your buck.

Jonathan Ray on declassified Bordeaux: ‘Magnificent clarets at affordable prices’

Bordeaux Superieur

Bordeaux Superieur

Number 2. Customer and Critic Favourite, our best selling Chateau Vrai Caillou Bordeaux Superieur 2010

Our Bordeaux Superieurs really took off in 2014 with Vrai Caillou getting rave reviews and rocketing off the shelves. Bordeaux Superieur is the next step up from your usual Claret and has its own AOC which is regulated by stricter rules. The end result is that Bordeaux Superieurs tend to be richer, more complex and more concentrated than regular Claret. They also have better ageing potential.

Chateau Vrai Caillou

Chateau Vrai Caillou

Peter Grogan – author of Grogan’s Companion to Drink; the A-Z of Alcohol: ‘If anyone can point me towards better value claret than Ch. Vrai Caillou from Bordeaux-Undiscovered I’d be grateful’!

If you’d like to try Vrai Caillou for yourself we have two vintages:

Chateau Vrai Caillou Bordeaux Superieur 2010 £9.99* – limited stock available

Chateau Vrai Caillou Bordeaux Superieur 2012 £9.99*

You might also like our runner up: Chateau Roc de Levraut Bordeaux Superieur. It too has attracted attention with great reviews from Jancis Robinson MW and Natalie McClean. Predictably our Roc de Levraut 2010 quickly sold out however we do have fresh supplies of the Chateau Roc de Levraut Bordeaux Superieur 2011 £9.49*

Petits Chateaux

Petits Chateaux

Number 3. Our customer’s favourite Petits Chateaux find, Chateau de Basset 2008button_sold_out

We added a range of carefully chosen Entry Level Clarets at £6.99 from Petits Chateaux in 2014 to show what wonderful wines Bordeaux is capable of producing. Our forte is in finding these hidden gems and we are proud to have pioneered introducing them to the UK. These Clarets are fabulous value for money and superb quality. Needless to say we have not only sold out of Chateau de Basset but five more Clarets in our Entry Level range as well.

Chateau Chadeuil

Chateau Chadeuil

Sadly, as their production is tiny you have to move quickly if you want to bag a bottle. Don’t worry if you have missed out as we do have some supplies remaining of:

Chateau Chadeuil 2010 £6.99*

Chateau les Graves de Barrau 2011 £6.99*

Exclusive to Bordeaux-Undiscovered, with great reviews, both these Petits Chateaux are excellent examples and extremely popular with customers.

Next week I will be looking at our bestselling Whites and Roses in 2014. You might be surprised at the results!

*Prices correct at time of publication.

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Wines For The Year Of The Ram

With businesses gearing up for the Chinese New Year let’s take a look at what the world of wine has to offer for the Year of the Ram.

Chinese symbol for the Year of the Ram

Chinese symbol for the Year of the Ram

February 19th heralds in the Year of the Ram with hopes for a calm and creative year ahead; the Ram being symbolic of peace and harmony. Businesses are taking advantage of marketing goods for the Chinese New Year and celebrations are planned in London and Manchester.

Johnny Walker have released a special edition bottle of its Blue Label blend sporting a design inspired by the famous Chinese painting called the ‘Three Rams’ to mark the occasion. Wines, too, can be labelled to maximise on people favouring the presiding animal for each year – Okanagan Crush Pad owners in Vancouver have produced Haywire Lunar Year red and white with labels depicting the Chinese character for ‘sheep’.

2015 - The Year of the Ram

2015 – The Year of the Ram

I have not seen any wine labelling specifically designed for the Year of the Ram in France but there are several existing wines that fit the bill.

The Black Sheep of Bordeaux

Jean Luc Thunevin’s Bad Boy (Mauvais Garcon) brand is already popular in Asia and has an interesting story behind it. Thunevin famously pioneered Garagiste wines at his Chateau Valandraud in Saint Emilion, Bordeaux. His painstaking perfectionism soon took off and he added to the range with Virginnie de Valandraud (named for his daughter in 1997). He also created the ‘forbidden’ wines L’Interdit de V…D and L’Interdit de B…NT…N, pushing the boundaries of Bordeaux’s rules and regulations.

Thunevin's Bad Boy Label

Thunevin’s Bad Boy Label

As you can imagine this modern concept of wine making ruffled quite a few feathers amongst the more traditional chateaux owners, especially when wine critic Robert Parker scored Thunevin’s Valandraud higher than the world’s most sought after wine, Chateau Petrus, in 1995.

Thunevin was affectionately christened the ‘Bad Boy of Saint Emilion’ and a ‘Black Sheep’ by critic Robert Parker.

Thunevin always makes me smile as he is not only a brilliant winemaker (his Chateau Valandraud was dramatically promoted to Premier Cru, First Growth, status in 2012) but he has a sense of humour and a good marketing head on his shoulders. His tongue in cheek response to the establishment was the creation of Bad Boy in 2003. New additions to his range are Baby Bad Boy and the sparkling Cremant de Bordeaux, Bad Girl.

Thunevin's Baby Bad Boy Label

Thunevin’s Baby Bad Boy Label

Garagiste Key Facts:

1. Garagistes are more often known nowadays as micro-cuvees or micro-chateau as their production is tiny.

2. The principle behind the wines is that ‘technique can surmount terroir’.

3. These winemakers typically have no grand chateau and often make their wines in small buildings, hence the term ‘Vins de Garage’.

Thunevin's Bad Girl Label for Cremant de Bordeaux

Thunevin’s Bad Girl Label for Cremant de Bordeaux

4. The wines enjoy a loyal cult following and can command high prices, being prized by collectors and enthusiasts who enjoy this style of wine.

sheep 3

Bordeaux’s Shepherd Baron – Philippe de Rothschild

Bordeaux’s Shepherd Baron

With the Ram as its emblem Premier Cru (First Growth) Chateau Mouton Rothschild is the top pick for Chinese wine lovers celebrating the Year of the Ram (see Lucky Chateau Mouton Rothschild Vintages For The Chinese Year of the Ram). We are used to seeing Mouton’s more affordable Mouton Cadet here in the UK but the chateau has long produced cheaper wines under the Baron Philippe de Rothschild brand. We don’t often see them over here as they are limited production and available online direct from La Baronnie.

La Beliere - named for Aries, after the Baron's birth sign

La Beliere – named for Aries, after the Baron’s birth sign

Le Berger Baron (The Shepherd Baron) – Produced since the mid 1960s this range includes white, red and rose wines.

La Bélière (Aries – after the Baron’s birth sign) – Red, white and rose wines produced since the 1990s.

Agneau (The Lamb) – Bordeaux reds (Pauillac, Saint Emilion and Medoc), white (Graves) and rose.

Agneau - The Lamb

Agneau – The Lamb

La Bergerie Baron Philippe de Rothschild (The Baron’s Sheepfold). No longer produced but some vintages and labels exist from the mid 1960s – mid 70s.

Red or White Wine for the Year of the Ram?

Colours in Chinese culture have meanings and certain colours are considered to be lucky. Lucky colours for the Year of the Ram are purple, red and green so I think we can safely say that red wine would be the best choice!

I’d be interested to know your suggestions for suitable wines for the Chinese New Year so if you know of any ‘Rams’ out there please get in touch!

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Lucky Chateau Mouton Rothschild Vintages For The Chinese Year of the Ram

Clever marketing by Chateau Mouton Rothschild should prove profitable for the chateau’s 2012 vintage this year (as well as some interesting back labels) . . . and it’s all thanks to Mouton’s emblem: The Ram.

2015 - The Year of the Ram

2015 – The Year of the Ram

Chinese New Year falls on Thursday February 19th this year and Chateau Mouton Rothschild in particular is expected to appeal to Asian wine connoisseurs as the ideal New Year gift. The reasons behind this are down to some forward thinking on Mouton’s part involving its latest label design and to the chateau’s emblem of the Ram. 2015 is the Year of the Ram (sometimes known as the Year of the Sheep or Goat) and New Year gifts involving the Ram coupled with certain lucky numbers are considered to be auspicious.

Make no mistake, this is big business.

Mouton's bottle design 2000 vintage is based on the Augsburg Ram in the chateau's Museum of Wine in Art

Mouton’s bottle design 2000 vintage is based on the Augsburg Ram in the chateau’s Museum of Wine in Art

Sotheby’s Auction House is holding Chateau Mouton Rothchild’s first ever ex-chateaux sale in Asia to celebrate the new lunar Year of the Ram on 30th January in Hong Kong. The vintages on offer will span over a century from 1870 to 2012 and are estimated at £2.5 million. The lots will be themed around Mouton and its owners (the Rothschilds) history with one lot containing labels illustrated with the ram; another lot containing vintages ending in ‘8’ (a Chinese lucky number), a lot containing those vintages whose labels have been designed by Chinese artists and a fourth lot containing the 2012 vintage with labels signed by the artist.

Mouton's lucky 2000 vintage

Mouton’s lucky 2000 vintage

Lucky Years for Mouton

2000 – Mouton’s vintage for 2000 was an exception. The bottles were not labelled but were gold-enamelled with Mouton’s emblem, the Ram, in celebration of the millennium. The number zero is lucky in China as it represents completion, like the circle that is used to denote it, it is infinite. The vintage 2000 received 96+ points from wine critic Robert Parker and thanks to its high points and beautiful bottle depicting the golden ram this vintage should be one of the most sought after within China this year.

Mouton's lucky 2008 vintage

Mouton’s lucky 2008 vintage

2008 – The number ‘8’ is regarded as the luckiest number in Chinese culture. Chinese artist Xu Lei’s design for the label is full of symbolism. It features a ram standing on a rock under a grapevine between two halves of the moon (the moon being an integral part of Chinese culture . . . the very calendar which the Chinese people have used for centuries is a lunar one!) The vintage received 94 points from wine critic Parker.

2009 – The number ‘9’ is traditionally associated with the Emperor of China; the Emperor’s robe was embroidered with 9 dragons and there were 9,999 rooms within the Forbidden City. The Chinese word for 9 is a homophone of the word for ‘long lasting’ and represents everlasting love – it was a custom between lovers to send 99, or 999 roses and today 9 is often used in weddings. Oddly enough, the 2009 vintage received 99 points from wine critic Parker. Is this a case of double your luck? The label was created by Anish Kapoor, who also designed our Orbit Tower, which stands above London’s Olympic Park.

2010 – The numbers for this year are made up of a pair of lucky zeros. 2010 was the Year of the Tiger which fell on 14th February, St Valentine’s Day. The 2010 label was designed by American artist Jeff Koons (a brilliant artist-provocateur often compared to Andy Warhol) and is rather saucy. The 2010 Mouton is definitely a tiger – it’s a proud, fierce wine. The vintage received 97+ points from wine critic Parker.

Mouton's lucky 2012 vintage

Mouton’s lucky 2012 vintage

2012 - There is a Chinese saying: ‘good things come in pairs’ and the 2012 vintage appeals to the Chinese thanks to its ‘2s’. The number two in Chinese culture suggests harmony. The 2012 is the latest vintage to be bottled (more recent vintages are still in barrel). The label has been designed by Spanish artist Miquel Barcelo and depicts two rams, face to face, representing ‘the balance and harmony of a great wine, already present in nature, still set a challenge to be met by the work of human hands’. As 2015 is the Year of the Ram this vintage should be very popular in China. The 2012 vintage received 95 points from wine critic Parker.

The Ram and The Baron

Mouton’s adoption of the Ram as its emblem stems from the ‘Mouton’ part of its name; Mouton means ‘sheep’ in French (centuries ago flocks used to graze on the pasture around the estate).

Mouton's emblem at the chateau

Mouton’s emblem at the chateau

The Ram was also the zodiac sign of Baron Philippe de Rothschild (1902 – 1988) who was born under the sign of Aries – which incidentally is my birth sign! .

The Baron is responsible for Mouton’s rise to stardom revolutionising winemaking in Bordeaux by pioneering the bottling of wines at his chateau (rather than selling in barrel), successfully campaigning to promote Mouton to Premier Cru (First Growth) status and for introducing Mouton’s amazing labels.

Mouton's 1996 label was created by Chinese artist Gu Gang

Mouton’s 1996 label was created by Chinese artist Gu Gang

The Labels

Every year since 1945, a great artist has created a special work for the Mouton Rothschild label. The names which have adorned the Mouton labels read like a Who’s Who of eminent 20th century artists: Chagall, Dali, Picasso, Warhol, Bacon, to name but a few. Each label is said to represent the personality of the particular vintage it was designed for and over the years Mouton has used its labels to appeal to various markets. Mouton’s emblem of the Ram mirrors the chateau’s creativity in branding – the Ram is considered to be the most artistic sign in the Chinese zodiac; and one of the most thoughtful.

Given the Chinese interest in symbolism and belief in luck, Mouton’s labels are an excellent selling point within the Asian market.

Mouton’s 2008 label was designed by Chinese Xu Lei, and as you might have guessed Mouton’s prices went up 20% over night on the back of the announcement in 2010. This is not the first time the chateau has used a bottle design that might attract the Chinese market. The 1996 label was designed by Gu Gan (an artist famous for a unique brand of calligraphic painting). However Asia hadn’t entered the market as a major buyer at that point in time so the “Chinese effect” didn’t push up prices.

Chateau Mouton Rothschild's chai

Chateau Mouton Rothschild’s chai

Insider Tip

Will we see Mouton’s prices escalate for the Year of the Ram? The Chinese bubble may have burst but Asian interest in buying has certainly stepped up this year already . . .

According to Wine-Searcher Mouton is France’s most sought after wine and earlier this month Liv-Ex reported that 13% of all trade was for Mouton Rothschild: ‘significant, perhaps, as we approach the Year of the Ram’.

Both Mouton’s 2009 and 2010 vintages are available from Bordeaux-Undiscovered’s fine wine merchant branch, Interest In Wine. The wines have first class provenance; being stored in bond, direct from chateau.

Further Reading:

Guy de Rougemont and Chateau Mouton Rothschild’s 2011 Label

Erotic Label Designed by Jeff Koons for Chateau Mouton Rothschild 2010?

Anish Kapoor and Mouton Rothschild’s 2009 Label

Xu Lei and Mouton Rothschild’s 2008 Label

Wine and Art – Mouton Rothschild and Bernar Venet

Wine and Art: Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Lucien Freud, Comic Relief and Damien Hirst

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Insider Tips – Bordeaux’s 2007 Vintage Comes of Age

Decanter’s January issue has a piece on Bordeaux’s ugly duckling vintages; amongst them is the 2007. Ugly ducklings turn into swans and I have some top tips to help you cherry pick the beauties that were overlooked.

The 2007 vintage gains its wings

The 2007 vintage gains its wings

It pays to be patient with vintages. When scores are released on Bordeaux’s Grand Cru Classes they are only babies, freshly hatched as it were. Barely 6 months old, and still in the barrel, these fledgling wines are criticised and examined for their future potential. Some vintages are strong and full of prowess, others are a little more hesitant and need time to develop before they leave the nest. 2007 is one of these. Now, 7 years down the line the 2007 vintage is starting to flex its wings.

‘The ugly duckling, 2007, is becoming a swan.’

The 2007 vintage has gained deepening balance, polished tannins, harmony and structure

The 2007 vintage has gained deepening balance, polished tannins, harmony and structure

I’ve always been an advocate of the 2007 vintage as regular readers will know from my writing (see further reading below). I believe that the reason why the 2007 vintage was over shadowed is due to the fact that people confused wine investment with drinking. The 2007 vintage generally had a high pH level and as a consequence lacks the longevity that you see in the extraordinary vintages of 2009 and 2010 that followed it. This makes 2007 a very good year for drinking but not for laying down for investment. And good drinking it is, too! I’ve often told customers who know me well that if they are ever in a restaurant and spot a Bordeaux 2007 on the wine list that they should go for it. Their feedback has confirmed my advice.

pape clement label small size

Chateau Pape Clement 2007 Grand Cru Graves from Pessac Leognan. ‘One of the stars of the 2007 vintage’. Beautifully opulent

Chateau La Mission Haut Brion 2007 Grand Cru Graves.  From the same stable as Premier Cru Haut Brion in Pessac Leognan.  'The wine of the vintage'.  Stunning

Chateau La Mission Haut Brion 2007 Grand Cru Graves. From the same stable as Premier Cru Haut Brion in Pessac Leognan. ‘The wine of the vintage’. Stunning


Vintages in Bordeaux are tasted and assessed at En Primeur during April when the great and the good descend en masse to sample the wines in barrel, a good 18 months or so before it is bottled. The wine at this point in time is made from grapes harvested the previous September or October and is only 6 months old. Judgement is passed, the all important critics scores are allocated and prices set.

You might ask why the wines are tasted, appraised and purchased at such a young age and it would be a very good question. It makes more sense to taste the wine when it has developed rather than in its infant state. The answer is that En Primeur is a tradition from the bad old days when chateaux needed to make money fast to survive. Selling the wine young meant that the chateaux would have the funds in place ready for the next harvest and following vintage. This has evolved over the years and nowadays En Primeur has matured into the buying and selling of ‘wine futures’ (purchasing a wine in its early stages at its lowest price either as an investment or as a means of securing limited stock).

Chapelle d'Ausone 2007 Second Wine of Chateau Ausone, Premier Cru Classe A, Saint Emilion.  Supple and delicious; notably less expensive than its stellar parent, Ausone

Chapelle d’Ausone 2007 Second Wine of Chateau Ausone, Premier Cru Classe A, Saint Emilion. Supple and delicious; notably less expensive than its stellar parent, Ausone

Chateau Bellevue Mondotte 2007 – Grand Cru Saint Emilion.  A micro-cuvee with tiny production and cult following, from the same stable as Chateau Pavie, Premier Cru Classe A

Chateau Bellevue Mondotte 2007  Grand Cru Saint Emilion. A micro-cuvee with tiny production and cult following, from the same stable as Chateau Pavie, Premier Cru Classe A

Before wines at tasted at En Primeur Harvest Reports on the growing season are issued and interpreted by the wine industry. They are an early predictor of what you can expect the style and quality of the vintage to be. Harvest Reports tend to fall into those that bear glad tidings and those that are the harbingers of doom. We tend to get very excited in the wine industry if the harvest looks exceptional (there have been no less than 3 vintages heralded as the ‘vintage of the century’ in the last decade: 2005, 2009 and 2010). As for the harbingers of doom, well to be honest unless there is an extreme weather event resulting in disaster it’s pretty much impossible for the top chateaux to make a bad wine these days.

A good year for drinking

2007 has something for everyone and every pocket

‘Wine making technology is cutting edge if you can afford it and poor harvests can be saved in the blending room’.

With the 2007 harvest temperatures were unseasonally low; there was a lack of sun and rain fell at the wrong time of year. However there is an old saying in Bordeaux: ‘Wait until the last grapes are in before making a judgement.’ Wise words. Sure enough the weather came good. Right at the end of the season the sun shone and grapes matured nicely under ripening blue skies. The style of the wine in 2007 was very different to the blockbusters of 2005, 2009 and 2010. The 2007 wines have lower alcohol content compared to their heady peers and when I tasted them at En Primeur 7 years ago I enjoyed their refreshing approachability. At the time I wrote that 2007 should appeal to younger drinkers who are used to drinking New World wines. In their infancy these wines were uncomplicated and were easy drinking – perfect for those who hadn’t tried a Grand Cru Classe Claret before as the 2007 is a good year for appreciating what Bordeaux can offer.

Mathilde de La Fleur Morange 2007 – Second Wine of Chateau La Fleur Morange, Grand Cru Saint Emilion.  Hedonistic and lusicious; notably less expensive than its ascendent parent.

Mathilde de La Fleur Morange 2007  Second Wine of Chateau La Fleur Morange, Grand Cru Saint Emilion. Hedonistic and lusicious; notably less expensive than its ascendent parent.

Chateau La Fleur Morange 2007  Grand Cru Saint Emilion.  A micro-cuvee with tiny production and a loyal cult following; made from 100 year old vines.  'The star of the Right Bank.'  ' Gorgeously full bodied 2007

Chateau La Fleur Morange 2007 Grand Cru Saint Emilion. A micro-cuvee with tiny production and a loyal cult following; made from 100 year old vines. ‘The star of the Right Bank.’ ‘ Gorgeously full bodied 2007

‘The 2007s hark back to the classical Bordeaux of 20 years ago which were very popular in the UK.’

Skip forward to the future and these wines have had time to put flesh on their bones. Light and subtle they may have been but the years in bottle have allowed them deepening balance, polished tannins, harmony and structure. The ugly duckling has turned into a swan.

Insider Tip

The 2007 vintage is not only very reasonably priced thanks to being eclipsed by its peers (you can pick up some real bargains here) but it is also a vintage that you can drink NOW. The greatest Bordeaux vintages are slow burners and are cellared for years, taking decades to reach their peak, with some wines having an anticipated maturity of 20 – 50 years. 2007 gives you the opportunity to taste these wines without the wait.

A vintage you can drink NOW

A vintage you can drink NOW

This vintage also has something for everyone and every pocket. The Bordeaux Superieurs and Petit Chateaux also produced some good wines, although you will have to work hard to spot these as they mature more quickly than the Grand Cru Classe and most have been drunk already. 2007 was a wonderful year for Bordeaux’s white wines. My top dry white Grand Crus are Chateau Pape Clement Blanc 2007, an incredible wine, followed by Chateau Laville Haut Brion 2007. The 2007 sweet whites are very good indeed and the top Premier Crus are superb: Chateau d’Yquem, Chateau Climens and Chateau Rieussec. The Bordeaux Superieurs and Petit Chateaux also produced some good wines, although you will have to work hard to spot these as they mature more quickly than the Grand Cru Classe and most have been drunk already.

Chateau Pavie Decesse 2007 – Grand Cru Saint Emilion from the same stable as Chateau Pavie, Premier Cru Classe A .  'The blockbuster of the 2007 vintage'

Chateau Pavie Decesse 2007  Grand Cru Saint Emilion from the same stable as Chateau Pavie, Premier Cru Classe A . ‘The blockbuster of the 2007 vintage’

.Chateau L'Eglise Clinet 2007  Grand Cru Pomerol.  Unquestionably 'the best Pomerol' in the 2007 vintage.  Astonishling flavours, sleek and smouldering

.Chateau L’Eglise Clinet 2007  Grand Cru Pomerol. Unquestionably ‘the best Pomerol’ in the 2007 vintage. Astonishling flavours, sleek and smouldering

These 2007s are available from Bordeaux-Undiscovered’s fine wine merchant branch, Interest In Wine. The wines have first class provenance; being stored in bond, direct from chateau.

Further Reading:

If you are interested in learning more about the 2007 vintage and its wines checkout my blogs listed below:

The Bordeaux 2007 Harvest – Good or Bad? Make Your Choice

Bordeaux Wine – 2007 Tasting – The Star of the Right Bank

Bordeaux 2007 Tasting – The Red Wines

Bordeaux 2007 Tasting – Wonderful Whites and Cautionary Word to the Chateaux

Chateau La Tour du Pin 2007 – Rare Grand Cru Saint Emilion.  From the same stable as Chateau Cheval Blanc Premier Cru Classe A.  Only a few vintages made.  Tremendous value

Chateau La Tour du Pin 2007  Rare Grand Cru Saint Emilion. From the same stable as Chateau Cheval Blanc Premier Cru Classe A. Only a few vintages made. Tremendous value

Chateau Troplong Mondot 2007 -  Premier Cru Classe B, Saint Emilion.  'A brilliant 2007' from a high flyer.  Superb purity and elegance

Chateau Troplong Mondot 2007  Premier Cru Classe B, Saint Emilion. ‘A brilliant 2007′ from a high flyer. Superb purity and elegance

En Primeur 2007 Prices and Scores

Summary of My Week of Bordeaux 2007 Tastings

Bordeaux – Every Cloud Gas A Silver Lining

.

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What Wine to Drink on Burns Night – Why We Should Toast The Bard With Claret

Burns Night falls on Sunday 25th this week and as Scotland’s national bard enjoyed a good Claret I explain Scotland’s love affair with Bordeaux . . . and suggest some good reds for the occasion.

Robert Burns (1759 - 1796)

Robert Burns (1759 – 1796)

What to drink on Burns Night?

Traditionally whisky is drunk with haggis on Burns Night but I prefer my whisky after the meal. To my mind we should toast the bard with Claret.

Burns would have often raised a glass of Claret as a toast.

Clarets to pair with Haggis:

It’s wise to choose a Claret that won’t overpower your haggis. You’ll need a wine that is well balanced with good structure. Overly tannic, oaky wines or fruit forward wines with high acidity will not do your haggis justice. A wine that is too tannic or oaky will make your mouth feel dry and can make the haggis taste bitter; a wine that is too fruity or acidic will either mask the flavour of the haggis or give it a metallic aftertaste. A medium bodied, mellow red Bordeaux (Claret) has smooth tanins, layered flavours of dark berry fruits with subtle hints of spice; making it a great match for haggis.

Chateau Chadeuil: Medium bodied Claret. This is a wine that has been produced with good food in mind. It really blossoms with lamb, game and peppery dishes so would be ideal with haggis. £6.99*

Chateau Pessan: Fuller bodied Claret from Graves with superb balance and structure. Pessan compliments fatty lamb dishes and enhances the flavours. £15.99 – currently on offer at £13.99*

Chateau Rauzan Segla: This is a gorgeous Grand Cru Classe Margaux (2nd Growth). A top notch Claret, multi layered and multi dimensional, it is stunning with traditional, richly flavoured fayre. £34.99*

* Prices current at the time of writing.

stone 2

Extract from ‘The Whistle’

Burns – Knee Deep in Claret

Famous the world over as the author of ‘Auld Lang Syne,’ you might think Robert Burns’ favourite tipple was a wee dram of whisky but we know he enjoyed Claret from his poems and songs.

Burns himself was never a man to do things by halves as you can tell from his song ‘Gae Bring Tae Me A Pint O’Wine’.

His poem ‘The Whistle’ was written about a drinking contest, witnessed by Burns, between 3 landed gentlemen to see who could drink the most Claret and still be able to blow a black ebony whistle (which was kept as the prize). It’s said the winner drank 8 bottles!

Quai des Chartrons, Bordeaux

Quai des Chartrons, Bordeaux

The Auld Alliance – Scotland’s love affair with Bordeaux

The Scots love of Claret is tied into the Auld Alliance between Scotland and France (which goes right back to 1295). One of the benefits of the Alliance for the Scots was that Scottish merchants had the privilege of selecting the pick of France’s finest wines: those from Bordeaux. This privilege was eagerly protected for hundreds of years, much to the annoyance of the English.

Claret was the lifeblood of the Auld Alliance.

Based in Bordeaux since the early 18th century, the Johnston family is one of the great names in Bordeaux wine history

Based in Bordeaux since the early 18th century, the Johnston family is one of the great names in Bordeaux wine history

The Wine Quay of Leith was the hub of the wine trade and from there Claret made its way across Scotland. It’s said that in the 13th century there was not a tavern in Edinburgh that did not sell Claret, nor a noble household that did not stock it. Thanks to wars between England and France the Scots sometimes turned to other means of acquiring their favourite drink. In 1594 Scots masquerading as Frenchmen on the high seas captured King Henry VIIIs entire wine fleet for that year. The wine from the 16 vessels was sold in Scotland (but not at Edinburgh as the English Ambassador had just arrived there), instead the loot was transported to Aberdeen.

The Scottish Chateaux of Bordeaux

Bordeaux became home to a lively colony of Scots trading in wines who settled there, establishing their own vineyards, buying chateaux and establishing themselves as wine merchants in the epicentre of Bordeaux’s wine trade, the Quai des Chartrons. Today, Nathaniel Johnston & Fils (est 1734) is the only surviving Scottish wine merchant on the Quai. They are very proud of their Scottish ancestry and one of the three brothers currently running the business is named Ivanhoe. Esme Johnston owns Chateau de Sours and Jean-Marie Johnston continues the family tradition as a wine merchant at Chateau Malecot in Pauillac.

The Scots became important players in the world of Grand Cru Classe; owning some prestigious chateaux.

In the mid 1800s the Johnstons were part owners of Premier Cru (1st Growth) Chateau Latour and also acquired Chateaux Ducru Beaucaillou (2nd Growth Saint Julien), Phelan Segur (Cru Bourgeois Saint Estephe), Dauzac (5th Growth Margaux) and Lascombes (2nd Growth Margaux).

However the Johnstons were not the only Scots to purchase chateaux in Bordeaux:

Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte (Pessac Leognan) takes the ‘Smith’ part of its name from a navigator and wine merchant named George Smith who purchased the estate in 1720. He must have been quite an adventurer as the story has it that he eloped from Scotland having fallen in love with a local peasant girl in Scotland named Elisabeth Lewis

Chateau Brown (Pessac Leognan) takes its name from John Lewis Brown, who moved to Bordeaux from Scotland in the late 18th century, He also owned Chateaux Cantenac Brown (3rd Growth Margaux) and Boyd Cantenac (3rd Growth Margaux).

Chateau Brown

Chateau Brown

Chateau Certan de May (Pomerol) takes its name from the Scottish Demay family who settled in France during the Middle Ages. They were masters of the fief of Certan which also included Chateau Certan Giraud (now Hosanna) and Vieux Chateau Certan.

So, as you can see, Bordeaux owes part of its heritage to Scotland. Let’s drink to that!

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