Good Value, High Quality Bordeaux: Chateau La Raballe 2007

Chateau La Raballe is one of those wines that could speak for itself – that is if you had the chance to taste it. However as few wine lovers in the UK haven’t had the opportunity until now this is a wine that I take great pleasure in telling you about. It’s got great quality, smacks of class and stands out way and above its peers.

La Raballe is a multi-award winning chateau and lies near the little town of Lapouyade. The vineyard has been owned by the Leynier-Sicot family for over a century and they produce red Bordeaux and Côtes-de Bourg wines (Côtes-de Bourg is almost directly opposite the appellation Margaux on the other side of the River Gironde).

This region has seen a surprising number of vintners drawn to the area over the past few years from famous estates, including François Mitjavile of the Saint Emilion Grand Cru Tertre Roteboeuf owns Chateau Roc de Cambesand Domaine de Cambes and Bernard Magrez of Chateau Pape Clement owns Chateau Guerry.

Chateau La Raballe 2007 is a smooth, sensuous, deep claret that oozes finesse. The tannins are silky and the structure is layered and beautifully balanced.

The wine is a blend of 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and La Raballe 2007 has intense brambly flavours of ripe blackberries, blueberries, and spice and with hints of violets, graphite, oak and smoke. It will pair splendidly with game: partridge, pheasant and venison as well as duck, beef as well as charcuterie (salamis, smoked sausage) and even rich spicy dishes.

La Raballe’s vineyard spans nearly 50 acres and lies on clay and limestone. This is an ancient plot – La Raballe is actually a Lieu Dit, a name often given to old vineyards that bear a traditional name. Lieu Dits were often from names of inhabitants, geographical features or an long lost hamlet and you can uncover a lot of local history from them. La Raballe means a type of rake used for harvesting salt cultivated in salt ponds.

The Romans brought the practice with them and a large Gallo-Roman villa owned by Titius lies not far from the chateau – as do the ponds (Les Etangs Jean de Vaux and Jarnac). The little town of Lapouyade sits on a hill above them from whence comes its name – the Old French word “Pouyau” means “hill.”

Lapouyade itself is a smart, neat little place with pale, square set, stone buildings. Much of it has been rebuilt over the centuries as it was practically wiped out in the Hundred Years War between France and England that waged from 1337 – 1453.

Due to its depopulation it became home to the ‘Gavaches’ (sometimes known as ‘Gabayes’. These were settlers from Poitou, Bearn, the Basque country and even Northern Spain who were encouraged to take root in the region by the Gascon Lords and the Monasteries. The name ‘Gavaches’ simply means ‘stranger’ in the local Gascon tongue.

The Gavaches ranged from peasants, artisans and noblemen and although they were resented by the Gascons they revived and rebuilt the devastated countryside. Their heritage lives on in the land still known as the Pays Gabay which runs from Libourne to La Rochelle and in the local dialect which is very different to Occitan.

It’s about time this region found the spotlight – the Left Bank may have the more prestigious wines and their grand chateaux buildings but there are many smaller chateaux and lesser known appellations beyond the Right Bank that are gaining plaudits.

I’m very pleased to bring La Raballe to the UK here at Bordeaux-Undiscovered and hope that you take as much delight in drinking it as I do.

A nice little find for under £10 a bottle!

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