Tag Archives: Bordeaux wine

An Exceptional Wine for Easter

by Ian Blackshaw

Two years ago, my wife and I celebrated our Ruby Wedding, and our two boys gave us a 1970 Bottle of Haute-Medoc from the Chateau de Camensac, which is located in Saint Laurent in the Gironde. The wine was accompanied by some tasting notes.

For various reasons, we have not yet drunk it. However, it so happens that, according to the tasting notes, it should be drunk in 2013. So, we are going to drink it with our Easter dinner this year and with the traditional roast lamb served at this season. Our elder son and his wife with be with us to enjoy it, but, unfortunately, our younger son and his wife will not, as they are in Zambia.

The Haut-Medoc wine, which is my favourite of the Bordelais wines, comes from an area which Continue reading “An Exceptional Wine for Easter” »

Bargains at Spring Wine Fair 2012

by Ian Blackshaw

It is that time of the year again. Spring is in the air, and Spring officially begins next Wednesday, 21 March. To take advantage of this new beginning in the year’s cycle, when the garden suddenly awakes from its Winter slumbers and we shake off the blues of Winter, the Supermarket Auchan is holding its Spring Wine Fair (Foire aux Vins de Printemps) from 20 – 31 March.

Looking through their 35 page information-packed catalogue makes very interesting reading indeed for all French wine lovers of all tastes and budgets. All styles from all the major wine growing regions of France are represented and feted: white, rose, red, champagne and sparkling wines. In fact, one is really spoilt for choice!

‘Orgueill de France’: ‘the Pride of France’

However, the Champagnes – my favourite French wine – that are featured in the catalogue particularly took my eye. For example, on offer is a ‘bipack’ of two bottles of 75cl Nicolas Feuillatte Brut at €29,90, with a saving of €3,50. This particular Champagne House I have found to be consistently good. Again, part of Auchan’s ‘Le Bon Plan’ (borrowed from British Supermarkets) are two 75cl bottles of Champagne Lafitte Brut (claiming to be the ‘Orgueill de France’: ‘the Pride of France’) which are on offer for the price of one – €35 instead of €70, which sounds like a good bargain to me for a good quality product! Another good ‘marque’ Castellane, which is my Brother-in-Law’s favourite Champagne, is on offer at a price reduction of €2 a bottle. On the other hand, a very gluggable Rose Brut Champagne is Champagne Jeanmaire, which is also on offer: 3 bottles for the price of two, making the cost of each bottle a bargain at €11,33.

Incidentally, there is also a good range of Cremants on offer, of which I would mention a Cremant de Loire of Pierre Chanau, Auchan’s own label wine, selling at €3,47 a bottle when you buy six. Far superior, I must say, to Saumur sparkling wine – so beloved of the British ex-patriate community in Northern France!

Chateau Arnauld - silver medal in the 2009 Bordeaux Wine Competition

Of the many Bordelais reds – again, my favourite red wine – that also caught my eye, particular mention should be made of an Haut-Medoc 2006 (an exceptional year!) Cru Bourgeois from Chateau Arnauld, which was awarded a silver medal in the 2009 Bordeaux Wine Competition, and which is on sale at the remarkable price of €8,95 a bottle! In the Bordeaux wine hierarchy, a Cru Bourgeois is just below a Premier Crus and the status is only enjoyed by certain number of Chateaux in the Medoc wine region of Bordeaux. So, the quality is assured. I cannot wait to get my hands on it and try it!

So, why not go to your nearest Auchan and treat yourselves to some of these Spring wine bargains? But hurry, do not tarry, for, in my experience, the best buys sell out quickly!

  • Premieres Cotes De Blaye : An undervalued claret

    by Ian Blackshaw

    As regular readers of my wine articles will know, I generally prefer red wine to white wine and of the reds I particularly like the Bordelais reds.

    Of course, the Bordeaux wine region offers a wide range of red wine, including the famous and, for most of us, unaffordable ones such as Chateau Haut Brion and Chateau La Tour. However, there are some fine Bordelais reds, which are more affordable and also very satisfying if drunk when they are at their best following appropriate bottle ageing. One such are the reds from the Premieres Cotes de Blaye. The town of Blaye is situated on the right bank of the Gironde estuary, some 35 miles north of Bordeaux.

    The wines from this Appellation Controlee d’Origine (AOC) are not great wines, like those from St Estephe and St Emilion, but are very good ones. The Premieres Cotes de Blaye wine area extends for some 6,500 hectares and includes 42 communes. The AOC status dates from 2009 and covers all the wines from the vineyards around Blaye.

    The other evening, my wife and I enjoyed a 2004 – this vintage is at its best now for drinking – Premieres Cotes de Blaye form the Chateau Borderie les Terres, which went down very well indeed with a hearty pot au feu, cooked on our wood burning stove and served before a blazing log fire, with the snow outside, deep and crisp and even, and a temperature of minus 6 degrees Celsius. All very comforting and satisfying! This Premieres Cotes de Blaye is a typical bordelaise wine, being made from a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. The wine was bottled at the Chateau by J P Lambert, viticulteur, of St Ciers sur Gironde, a wine village with a population of around 3,000. This wine is full bodied (12.5% alcohol by volume) with cherry notes from the Merlot grapes in the wine. It also has a clear red robe, which is characteristic of the Premier Cotes de Blaye wines. This clarity is the origin of the name ‘claret’ (French ‘clairet’) used nowadays to denominate the Bordelais wines.

    As I said, Premieres Cotes de Blaye wines are not one of the great clarets, but they compare very favourably in quality and price with the great Bordelais growths; so look out for them in the supermarkets and try them for yourselves. You will not, I would suggest, be disappointed!

    Gift ideas for Bordeaux wine lovers!

    A Visit To St Emilion and Fronsac

    by Ian Blackshaw
    St Emilion in the Bordeaux wine region

    The town of St Emilion

    As many readers of my wine articles will know, my favourite French wine region is the Bordelais and, in particular, my favourite red wine is St Emilion; and this week I realised a long-held ambition to visit the town and its famous vineyards.

    I was not disappointed in the wine I tasted, but I was a little disappointed in the town itself, which, together with its tower and Romanesque church, with its fine cloisters, stands on a walled promontory keeping vigil over the vineyards below. Although the town is a very charming and historical place, whose history goes back to pre-historic times, and, in fact, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is very touristic and full of cafes, bars and restaurants, as well as shops and tasting places, all selling St Emilion wine to the tourists. One is really spoilt for choice of the St Emilion wines on offer, and, as one might expect, the choice varies in quality from fine vintages to what I might call ‘generic’ St Emilion, which is still enjoyable.

    Of course, the St Emilion wine houses and chateaux that surround the town, which have been in the same families for many generations, offer superb examples of St Emilion wine and this is, naturally, reflected in their prices.

    Chateau Richelieu at Fronsac

    Chateau Richelieu at Fronsac

    We did not stay in St Emilion, but stayed nearby in Fronsac, another very good wine area, in the Chateau Richelieu, which offers bed and breakfast in five well-appointed and charming bedrooms, all with en suite facilities, overlooking the Chateau’s gardens and own vineyards. The Chateau, which also offers private four-course dinners with wine in a rather splendid period dining room, at one time, was owned by the famous French Cardinal Richelieu, who was Louis XIII’s Chief Minster (Prime Minster of France) and whose name the Chateau bears to this day. He bought the Chateau in 1632 and died ten years later. A wine lover himself, he is reputed to have said: “If God forbade drinking, why would he have made wine so good?” A good excuse for a tipple or two, even for a cleric!

    The Chateau was recently owned by a Dutchman, who sold to the Chinese and they have exclusivity on the annual production of the vineyard, which is some 70,000 bottles. However, guests at the Chateau are permitted to buy the wine, which, of course, we did. They have just released the 2006 vintage and it is very good indeed – a full bodied wine rich in tannins, which gives the wine its dry characteristic taste. Several other Bordeaux wine properties have also been bought by the Chinese, who certainly have a taste for fine French Bordelais wines.

    The Chateau offers internet access gratuit to its guests and has its own website at www.chateau-richelieu.com.

    Chateau Tour De Bigorre 2005: a bargain red

    by Ian Blackshaw

    Red Bordeaux wines have recently been the subject of comment on the Frogsiders Blog – in particular, whether they are overrated and thin and not worth the money. In this article, I would like to dispel these criticisms by introducing my readers to a very fine Bordeaux red which has recently been released for sale. It is Chateau Tour de Bigorre of 2005, a fine vintage.

    This wine won a gold medal at the Concours General Agricole in Paris in 2007. No mean achievement. Like all good quality wine, it comes from a small vineyard, created in 1929, with just 7 hectares and comprising now some 70 hectares in the Bordeaux wine region, which is centred on the City of Bordeaux in South Western France, within the Gironde Departement of the Aquitaine Region.

    As such, it benefits from the Bordeaux Appellation Controlee (AC), which not only guarantees the origin of the wine, but also its quality. The Bordeaux AC comprises some very fine reds indeed, including the famous Chateau La Tour, which, I would add, is well worth the money!

    The Famous Bordeaux Wine Chateau La Tour

    Chateau Tour de Bigorre has the added advantage of being matured in oak barrels before being bottled, which adds to the taste of the wine, giving it a vanilla and also a chocolatey flavour.

    It is a deep coloured wine – almost black – and is certainly not thin, but full bodied and with a good structure. It has been described by ‘Le Guide Hachette des Vins’ of 2008 as a ‘vin gourmand’. Being an ardent fan of good clarets, I would not disagree with this accolade. Indeed, I would describe this wine as a classic claret, combining fruitiness with a certain dryness and earthiness. It tastes of red fruits and also is quite spicy on the palate.

    Chateau Tour de Bigorre of 2005 is drinking well at the moment and goes down particularly well with all kinds of meat dishes. We shall be drinking it with the traditional roast lamb at Easter. This wine, of course, also goes down well with cheese.

    I suppose for such a good and typical wine from such a fine wine region, you would expect to pay accordingly. Not so. It is far from overpriced, retailing at just under €5 a bottle!

    A bargain indeed!