Friday, April 11, 2014

Bordeaux Wine: Grand Cercle Des Vins De Bordeaux

The subtitle of this tasting event was "from barrel to bottle," and it described the focus on young Bordeaux wines - actually barrel samples - of the 2013 vintage.  Most of the 2013s won't be released until 2015, so this was an opportunity to try these wines in their formative stages.  Most tables also had samples of previous vintages to pour.

The Grand Cercle des Vins de Bordeaux is founder Alain Raynaud's effort to bring together the wines of the  Left and Right Banks of Bordeaux.  What is meant by Left and Right Banks?  Bordeaux is divided into two main areas by the Gironde Estuary, which is formed by the convergence of the Dordogne (Right Bank) and Garonne (Left Bank.)  The area in between those rivers is called Entre-Deux-Mers, "between two seas."  Left Bank wines are predominately Cabernet Sauvignon-based, while the Right Bank wines are typically centered around the Merlot grape.

This traveling road show shows the high quality of Bordeaux wines in general.  Courtesy of Ian Blackburn's Learn About Wine, I attended the trade and media tasting event this week, held in Santa Monica's Casa del Mar hotel.  It was an awfully hot day in L.A., so the chance to get about 15 degrees cooler at the beach was welcome.  And, since I don't generally drink a lot of Bordeaux, it was a great opportunity for me to expand my palate a bit.  Here are some highlights of my trip around the ballroom.

Château Dalem, AOC Fronsac - The 2013 vintage shows the deep, rich texture of Merlot while the 10% splash of Cabernet Franc gives a spicy tartness to the finish.  The 2010 vintage is an 85/15 split of those grapes, with an alcohol content of 15%, quite high.  Blackberry, anise and plum adorns this wine, which displays terrific tannic structure.

Château Croix Cardinale, AOC Saint-Emilion  Grand Cru - The 2011 Croix Cardinale - 80% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon - is floral and fresh on the nose with big, dark fruit flavors, great acidity and a long finish.  The 2011 Château Fleur Cardinale has 70% Merlot, 15% Cab Franc and 15% Cab Sauvignon.  It has a more savory appeal.

Château Godeau, AOC Saint-Emilion Grand Cru - The nose of the 2013 is very dark, and there is a nice, tart edge to the fruit on the palate.  This wine is nearly all Merlot, with just a five percent dollop of Cabernet Franc.

Château Pindefleurs, AOC Saint-Emilion Grand Cru - Merlot-heavy with ten percent Cabernet Franc, this wine has a surprisingly funky nose, both in the 2013 and 2010 vintages.  The '10 is a little smokier, with wonderful acidity and big tannins.  A standout.

Château Faizeau, AOC Montagne Saint-Emilion - Also leaning heavily on Merlot, the savory tartness of the 2013 is lovely, while the 2010 shows coffee and blackberry.  Delicious.

Château Ramafort, AOC Medoc - This wine is only half Merlot with the other half Cabernet Sauvignon.  Minerals lead the way here in the 2010, with big fruit and tannins to match.  The 2013 is youthful and vibrant with a bit of smoke on the finish.

Château Malescasse, AOC Haut-Medoc - The 2011 has slight smoke and coffee on the nose, with beautiful cherry flavors and acidity.  It's made from 50% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon and a five percent splash each of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.  The 2012 has no Cab Franc and a bit more Petit Verdot, showing an even more savory angle.  The Château has no 2013 vintage, as they elected to sell the grapes instead.

Château Haut-Bacalan, AOC Pessac-Leognan - 55% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon and five percent Petit Verdot, this 2013 is still fresh, beautiful, fruity fun.  The 2010 is silky smooth and well integrated.  The aging is showing extremely well in this standout wine.

Château de Myrat, Sauternes - This white dessert wine is just unbelievable.  The 2013 is fresh and herbal, with a slight grassiness on the nose that belies the sweet, floral palate.  The 2011 vintage is displaying its oak influence, with a smokey nose and a caramel sweetness on the palate. 88% Sémillon, eight percent Sauvignon and four percent Muscadelle.  Another standout.


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