Affordable Bordeaux from 2005, part 1
Cheap Bordeaux can be nasty. While the top wines, from the finest terroirs, are sought after by collectors and command increasingly high prices, the rest – and the majority – of Bordeaux vineyards struggle in the modern marketplace, which is increasingly fussy about quality. The problem is that you need really good sites to ripen the two Cabernets and Merlot properly in the average Bordeaux vintage. If producers are making wine from lesser vineyards, and in particular if they are greedy with their yields, the result can be rather thin, green, ungenerous wines that lack charm and consumer appeal. Get it right, though, and there are few regions that can make such digestible, classic red wines with moderate alcohol and food compatibility.
2005 has universally been acknowledged to be an exceptional Bordeaux vintage. Theoretically, less famous producers and the negociants should do a better job this vintage. So tonight I cracked four bottles of affordable (by Bordeaux standards) 2005 clarets to see how they matched up. My impressions are below, and I have more to follow.
As a side issue, it’s interesting to consider what the future will be for non-classed growth claret. Château or brands? One of these wines is a brand; the other very clearly are selling as Château wines, with old fashioned labels featuring an engraving of an extremely big house, and black, gold and red as colours. What is the way forward for Bordeaux as a region?
Calvet Reserve Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 Bordeaux, France
Pleasant sappy dark fruits nose with a slightly green edge. It’s savoury and fresh. The palate shows some ripe red fruit character, together with a leafy, chalky greenness that isn’t unpleasant. There’s some firm tannic structure on the palate, which is overtly savoury. For negociant Bordeaux at this price it is a good effort: if you are used to reds with sweet fruit and soft tannins, this might come as a bit of a shock. I reckon it’s a good session claret, and with food you could drink this quite happily. Top marks for the packaging, though – it’s a nice bottle shape and the label design is quite classy. 82/100 (£6.99 Waitrose, Co-op, Sainsbury’s)
Château Lapelletrie 2005 Saint Emilion Grand Cru, Bordeaux
70% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc, from a 12 hectare vineyard. Quite deep coloured. Aromatic, with attractive blackberry and blackcurrant fruit on the nose, framed with a nice chalkiness. The palate shows ripe red and black fruits combining well with firm, spicy tannins. There’s some softness here, as well as a bit of sweetness to the fruit, which in combination with the slightly grippy structure makes for a very self-assured, versatile and food friendly Saint Emilion. This is pretty serious for the price. 89/100 (£11.99 Tesco)
Château Tour Prignac 2005 Cru Bourgeois, Médoc, Bordeaux
A roughly equal blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot from a 147 hectare estate. I like the nose, which is quite classic. There’s some smoky, earthy, tarry red fruit along with a subtle gravelliness. The palate already shows some evolution, with lovely balance between the sweet fruit and the slightly earthy, minerally savouriness. Drinking well now, although with potential for development over the next couple of years. I guess this is what most people come to Bordeaux for: something digestible and approachable that shows some character but isn’t too heavy. 86/100 (£9.99 Oddbins)
Château d’Arcins 2005 Cru Bourgeois, Haut-Médoc, Bordeaux
55% Merlot and 45% Cabernet Sauvignon from a 100 hectare vineyard. Very attractive nose, showing some evolution. It’s fresh, gravelly and attractively fruited, with some warm plummy blackberry fruit. The palate has soft, ripe fruit bolstered by grippy, minerally structure and a hint of oak. A really approachable wine: a classic claret for current drinking, but don’t hold on to this in the hope of improvement – it’s nice now. 87/100 (£13.50 Nicolas)