Breaking down Bordeaux- Part Un
In order to properly tackle the beast that is Bordeaux, whilst keeping things simple of course, I figured it was necessary to break this into two posts. When you think about Bordeaux, there are two phrases you need to remember: Left Bank and Right Bank. This simply refers to the Gironde Estuary dividing Bordeaux into two sides. Today we focus on the Left Bank.
It's important to know that all red wines out of Bordeaux are blends. The primary grapes involved are Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Secondary grapes that are often blended with these wines are Petit Verdot, Malbec and Carmenere. Depending on what area or appellation you are talking about will help to determine the dominant grape in the blend.
Cabernet Sauvignon is the dominant grape of the Left Bank with it's heartland being the Medoc. This is home to the most famous Bordeaux producers including chateaux located in Margaux, Pauillac, Saint Julien, Saint Estephe, Pessac Leognan and Haut Medoc. The Left Bank is also home to the great sweet wines, Sauternes and Barsac, as well as premium dry white Bordeaux. These premium wines dominate the market in terms of sales and popularity while many of the subregions of Bordeaux are historically considered to be of lesser quality, taste and value. Now, if you're like me and can't exactly afford to be spending $50-$100 on a bottle of wine but happen to love Bordeaux, I have great news for you! Yes, the best Bordeaux are insanely expensive, and that will never change, however, thanks to the efforts of some smaller and lesser known producers, these subregions have started to produce some less expensive but great quality wines.
Today I want to introduce you to a White Bordeaux as well as two Red Bordeaux that are delicious and won't break the bank.
2013 Chateau Graville Lacoste Blanc, Graves, France- This white Bordeaux is a blend of 75% Semillon, 25% Sauvignon Blanc and 5% Muscadelle. It has great notes of citrus, lemon zest and stone fruit on the palate as well as fresh minerality. This wine drinks a bit different from typical white wines from Graves because of the high percentage of Semillon giving it a richer mouthfeel.
This would pair well with most Asian or Indian foods as well as traditional French dishes such as Trout Amondine, Escargots or Moules Frites. It would also be great for sitting on the beach, watching the sunset and drinking wine..specifically.
This wine can be found at Barrel Thief for $23.99
2011 Chateau Les Barraillots Margaux, France- It's hard to find any type of Margaux for a good value on the market these days and this wine is definitely the exception to the rule. Chateau Les Barraillots is a family run estate in the heart of the village Margaux. The blend is made up of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot 10% Cab Franc and 10% Petit Verdot. This wine will have traditional notes of cherry, tobacco, violet and spice on the palate with soft tannins. It will drink well now but will definitely improve with five + years of aging.
This wine is super smooth and elegant so does not necessarily need the heaviest food pairings. It would be great with Duck L'Orange or Coq au Vin. It would also be a great Thanksgiving wine to pair with roasted turkey, goose or ham.
This wine can be found at J. Emerson's for $29.95
Château le Breuil Renaissance Médoc 2011 - Château Le Breuil Renaissance is located in Bégadan which is in the very northern part of the Médoc. The wine is a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. It has a particularly high percentage of Merlot, especially for a Left Bank wine, making it quite smooth on the palate. You'll taste lots of dark black cherry and oak with some cedar and tobacco flavors. This wine is fantastic, especially for a mere $14.95, but is certainly bolder and heavier than some of the Bordeaux blends you might be used to.
I would pair this with Lamb Provencal, seared lamb chops, Beef Bourguignon or any beef stew, Steak Frites with Bernaise Sauce or even a really hearty burger.
This wine can be found at J.Emerson's for $14.95
That's a wrap on Left Bank Bordeaux...pretty simple, right? If the weather is slowly turning you off of reds and onto whites and rosés (like me!) I highly recommend picking up a bottle of the Graves Blanc for the weekend. Happy tasting!