After nearly four weeks without drinking wine, I am sorry to admit that yesterday I was so hungover for most the day that I couldn’t write about Wine Club. On Monday night we had BYOBordeaux, which showcased an amazing range of Bordeaux wines and New World interpretations on the Old World French blends. An ample food spread, great friends, vintages and distinctive regions made for a great night, and a bad next morning. Such is the way of wine.
Bordeaux is a large wine producing region near the Atlantic coast of France, that produces some of the world’s best wine. The region is a geography lover’s paradise–wines are noted by appellation, and the blends and percentages vary between properties and producers. You will be hard pressed to find out the exact percentages of grape varietals, very few producers list them on the bottle. New World wine makers are more revealing, and will usually say on the label how much of each grape are contained within. The ranking classification system of Bordeaux differs from Burgundy wine laws, too, but let’s not get lost in the confusion of France’s AOC restrictions. Those five cru rankings took place in 1855–a bit archaic at this point? And for this region and wine, Pomerol was never ranked at all. (I just packed away my copy of the Wine Bible by Karen McNeil. If you want more information and a great reference, buy yourself a copy. This will help answer those pesky questions about Bordeaux wine classifications.)
The best and simplest way for me to distinguish Bordeaux wines is like this: Red Bordeaux is usually a blend of five grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petite Verdot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc. White Bordeaux is blended Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. The River Gironde divides the region into the “left bank” and the “right bank.” The left bank has the powerhouse classified growths like Chateau Latour, Chateau Lafite Rothschild, Chateau Margaux, and Chateau Haut-Brion. All are found in the Medoc, left bank region, of Bordeaux except Ch. Haut Brion, which is from the Graves region, now called Pessac-Leognan. And years later in 1973, Mouton Rothschild was also added as a premier cru. These wines will be mostly Cabernet Sauvignon based, with Merlot as the other main grape. Small percentages of the other grapes are added to round out the bottling, depending on what the wine needs: more tannins, color, or structure.
On the right bank, in the appellations of St.Emilion and Pomerol, these wines will be mostly Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Different soil types and weather dictates what vines will thrive, and where. Planting different grapes helps prevent total crop loss, and the vintage can be salvaged using grapes that didn’t suffer so much if the weather goes to the dogs.
Chateau Plince 2009, a really recent vintage considering the aging potential of some of the area’s wines. This Pomerol release shows off a warm weather year with elegant integrated fruit and pretty mellow tannins: plush with black berries, dried currants, black cherries, and raspberries. Ripe and smooth, with great approachability and versatility, I’d call this wine “fruit forward,” without any negative connotations. Easy drinking is always something I go for! Open and decant for a few hours before dinner, then serve it with grilled meats, charcuterie, robust cheeses, and chocolate. Even chicken and pork would be a good match for this wine.
So happy to be back in the wine! Cheers! Note to self: Moderation is the key.