The New Bordeaux
Add some sophistication to your dinner table with this introduction to the new Bordeaux by Stephen Barrett from Bistro One.
The Insider’s View
Looking back at wine lists from the past has given me the idea to pen “The New Bordeaux!” When wine was new to many at a lunch or supper often at places such as the Berni Inn, red wine was simply an unknown territory. White and Rose were still there on the fledgling wine list and were simply more to the palate of sweetness that the then white wines delivered. Lurking at around number 5 or 6 on the list you might have found Medoc or St Emilion, or if the list was super-posh Mouton Cadet made an appearance!
These wines were from Bordeaux, the second city of France situated on the West coast and influenced by the Atlantic and the two great rivers the Dordogne and Gironde that flow thought its ancient terrain to the ocean. To many it was just another name but what a name, as some of the world’s greatest wines are created in its vineyards and cellars to great acclaim.
A Mish-Mash of Influences
As a sea port it has been most important as a trading base and even today containers of cases of Bordeaux are shipped throughout the world. Bordeaux might be called a mish – mash of influences starting with the Atlantic weather that keeps the district cool even when the weather is hot allowing a decent drop of temperature during the night to keep the grapes in good health for the 90 day cycle of bud-burst to picking.
With the rivers also adding to its influence plus the different (often very poor) soils you have a vast district with over 11,000 registered Chateaux producing Red, White, Rose and Sparkling wines. Back to our 1960/70’s wine list, a great deal of Bordeaux was shipped in bulk and bottled in places such as London, Bristol and Liverpool. Most of the wine was generic or simply denoting a larger area of production. In other words the quality was mixed. Fast forward to the 1980’s when the Brits started to discover France especially the Dordogne. Suddenly transport links changed hey presto so did the wines. Supermarkets started pioneering different wines, as did Tony Laithwaite who was one of the first people to bring back wine in the back of his white van! The new wine merchant was born and we all supped quality red wine, some for the first time.
With over 11,000 chateaux in Bordeaux champing at the bit for recognition we certainly get variation so the modern Bordeaux rouge (or affectionately known to us as Claret) has become an easier sipper as opposed to a wine that takes years to mature. Slower maturing wines are still with us as the great Chateaux of the Medoc, Margaux, Pauillac St Estephe, St Julien, Graves, Pomerol and St Emilion carry great premiums and thoughtful investment. This is fine for those that can but we mere mortals need to spend carefully! So where do we look for decent Claret at fair prices? Wine Merchants such as Charles Steevenson in Tavistock, Red and White in Kingsbridge, Totnes Wine Co in Totnes and Castang Wines of Pelynt are all independent specialist who can guide you in the right direction. Majestic in Totnes is also a great source of Claret, as are some Supermarkets.
Claret is generally made with a cocktail of one or more grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petite Verdot are the usual suspects that are historically grown to enable the wine maker to blend and perfect the unique taste of Bordeaux. Expect a black-fruit base taste often with ripeness and a complex minerality even a tannic taste coating the palate with spice and heat! Complex they are even moderately priced reds that can be around 8/9 pounds per bottle. For between 10 pounnds and 20 pounds you should really get something special, so the wine merchant is the one to ask.
Here are my recommendations to try when deciding to purchase a bottle or two to match the glorious roast Beef of England.
Chateau Arnauton – Fronsac 2005. Majestic Totnes (9.99 pounds) Tel 01803 867 090 – Lovely forward notes of cassis and spice
Chareau Legonzars Premiere Cotes de Bordeaux 2005 Red and White – Kingsbridge (£11.99)* Tel 01578 853 898 Great fav. of mine with dense black fruit and complexity.
Chateau Larcis Jaumat Grand Cru Saint Emilion 2005 Avery’s of Bristol. 0843 224 1224 (£15.49)* Brilliant gold medal winning Saint Emilion estate. Merlot based it is elegant and full, drinking well now.
Chateau de Tiregand Percharmant – Bergerac 2007 Tanners of Shrewsbury 01743 234 455 (£11.90)* Another medal winning Claret but this time elaborated near to Bergerac. Merlot and Cab Sav dominant, it is ripe, fruity with a hint of oak.
Do try a quality Bordeaux next time you have guests for Sunday lunch or a dinner party. Decant the wine about one-hour before use. Use your best (largest) glasses poured to 1/3 full, swirl and sip away to the tastiest Devon Roast Beef!
*Check with wine merchants for delivery charges.
About Stephen Barrett:
This is a guest article written by Stephen Barrett. Stephen is a Wine and Food Writer broadcaster and Restaurateur working from his restaurant Bistro One in Plymouth.
Bistro One, 68 Ebrington Street, Charles Cross, Plymouth.
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