I used to think I hated French wine.  And then came my blog, and the opportunity to taste things that I wouldn’t necessarily buy for myself.  First, it started with Robert Skalli and Fortant, which opened my eyes to the world of French wine beyond Rhone (which I have always enjoyed), and the snobbery of Bordeaux and Burgundy.  Now, I was off to the races to taste some 25 Bordeaux wines, which were from Graves, Haut-Medoc, St. Emillion, Pomeral and beyond.

France, and Bordeaux in particular has always confused me.  Being the American that I am, I like having the region and the grape clearly visible on my bottle.  At least I can make some assumptions about how it SHOULD taste.  But Bordeaux is different.  Given that there are 10,000 producers of Bordeaux wine, and 13,000 growers, the way they make their mark on the bottle of wine can be downright consternating.

There are currently 57 appellations for Bordeaux wine.  Are there even 57 appellations in California?  When you’re speaking of a region roughly the size of Sonoma county, that’s a lot of micro AVAs to differentiate.

Adding to the complexity, the wines MST be made from some combination of and ONLY from some combination of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petite Verdot, and Malbec, as well as the older Malbec and Carmenere bits.  Now let’s add in this left bank, right bank layer, where those on right are primarily Merlot, and those on the left are primarily Cabernet Sauvignon.  Well mostly.  Maybe.  Sometimes.  How one knows left from right is fairly simple in theory, as Gironde River divides the region.  I need a secret decoder ring but at least it’s fairly well documented.

 

Here is what I found out after tasting my way left right and sideways.

I tend to prefer those wines from the right bank region, which include those from Saint-Emilion and Pomerol.  While I did not take detailed tasting notes, I do know that my two favorite wines of the night were the 2005 Chateau Jean Faux, a Bordeaux Superieur, and the 2004 Bolaire Bordeaux Superieur.  These wines were $18.99 and $10.99 respectively, and at that price can and should be enjoyed frequently.  The Bolaire with a Truffled Beef slider was simply divine!

The lesson here is that even a California girl with a very New World palate can enjoy those finer things from other parts of the world.  I have been trying to drink my way around the world lately to open my eyes to new tastes and new experiences.  Another lesson learned is that while many European wines, and particularly French wines, are made to be enjoyed with food, many of them can be enjoyed on their own.  to my mind, this is a more American way to enjoy wine, as we have a glass for the cocktail hour, or when out in friends, even if you are not having a meal.  Finally, I learned that you can enjoy Bordeaux and not go broke.  If you know you regions and know your tastes, you can find some amazing values out there.  The wonderful examples of Bordeaux provided by JJ Buckley proved that there are extreme values out there, and even someone on a budget can afford the better things in life.

I’ve included the list of what I tasted, along with my most memorable (enjoyed) examples marked with an astricks.

Left Bank

  • **2007 Chateaufort de Blanc Roquetaillade Bordeaux Blanc (Graves)
  • 2008 Festival Rose (Chateau Le Gay) (Bordeaux)
  • 2006 La Bernadotte (Haut-Medoc)
  • 2006 Potensac (Medoc)
  • 2006 Lalande Borie (St. Julien) 2006 Meyney (St. Estephe)
  • **2005 Chateau Le Thil Rouge (Comte Clary)
  • 2006 Fougeres La Folie Graves (Graves)

Right Bank

  • 2002 La Vieille Cure (Fronsac)
  • 2006 La Cour d’Argent (Bordeaux)
  • **2005 Chateau Jean Faux (Bordeaux Superieur)
  • 2005 Chateau Roque Le Mayne (Cotes de Castillon)
  • 2005 La Tentation de Richelieu (Fronsac)
  • **2004 Bolaire Bordeaux Superieur (Bordeaux Superieur)
  • 2006 La Fleur de Bouard (Lalande de Pomerol)
  • 2005 Reignac (Bordeaux Superieur)+
  • 2006 Vraye-Croix-de-Gay (Pomerol) Vraye-Croix-de- 2006 Fonbel (St. Emilion)
  • 2006 Chateau Monte Cristo (St. Emilion) 2006 Chateau Vieux Taillefer Pavillon (St. Emilion)
  • 2006 Chateau Bourgneuf (Pomerol)
  • 2005 La Vieux Pourret (St. Emilion)
  • 2005 Haut Brisson La Grave (St. Emilion)
  • 2006 Haut Brisson (St. Emilion)

Happy drinking!  For current pricing please visit JJ Buckley Fine Wines online!


7 thoughts on “To Bordeaux or not to Bordeaux, that is the question”

  1. Funny. France is one of the countries that I feel like I truly "get"! I love French wine, from all over. But I didn't even feel like I had a grasp on it until I traveled around through some of the major wine regions there a couple years ago. So, I guess its a lot like you living in CA. You get to visit the wineries, the vineyards, meet the people, and taste the differences the vineyards (an winemakers) can provide, thereby getting a much better understanding about CA wines in general.
    Guess that means its time to travel to more parts of the world… for "research" purposes!
    I (heart) Bordeaux!

    1. Mary Mary Quite Contrary! lol
      You are probably right. I think I need to take a discovery trip to France! I think you are required to be my guide, and we can start in Champagne 😉

  2. Great post. I've been thinking of dipping my toe into the Bordeaux pool for a while now but have been keeping myself busy with single varietals. Maybe I should grab a few of your suggested bottles and start educating myself on these ones. Thanks

    1. Mark – I felt the same way! I was totally intimidated. Dip your toe in and have fun. I think the most important thing is to find a great wine merchant. It was helpful to me to say I like this and that, and have them point me in the right direction.

      Thanks for reading!

  3. The answer has to be YES to Bordeaux! Ylu might even consider going to France for a visit,it's the best way to educate your palate plus you get to have all that lovely food that really is made to go with the wine:-) I found it interesting that you preferred the Bordeaux Superieur's (they have between .5% and 1% more alc then regular Bordeaux) and St. Emilion and Pomerol(both of which are primarily made with merlot), must be your New World palate! I love Bordeaux, it's not a classic benchmark for nothing. You are right about needing food, you wouldn't really be able to enjoy a Lalande Borie without something nice and meaty on hand.

    1. I'm learning i'm learning! One thing that we suffer from here on the West Coast is a lack of good AFFORDABLE Bordeaux. Much like you can't find CA wine for a decent price, we don't get a lot of cheap French wine that you want to drink.

      I'm definately experimenting, and yes indeed, I have a New World palate. I like cab, but i'm picky and don't like overly tannic wines.

      I agree however – i MUST go to Franch for … RESEARCH purposes! When i was there years ago, I was too young to appreciate the wine, so clearly I need a return trip.

      cheers!

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