Two from Bordeaux

Hello friends. Oh, Bordeaux. Three hundred thousand acres under vine. In a good vintage, nearly one billion bottles produced. An ocean of wine.

At the top end, we have Chinese and American investors competing for first-growths and super seconds, making those bottles essentially untouchable for the rest of us. At the low end, there is a sea of undrinkable swill.

How to navigate the middle, where the values dot the landscape?

There’s only one way: taste, taste, taste.

Fortunately, even during the times when we were only offering wines produced in the Pac-NW, I was invited to tastings for wines from all over the world. And I kept copious notes. So when it came time to put together our first Bordeaux offering, I went back to those notes and inquired after the availability of some of my very favorites.

Today, we have two of those. Neither is a big name, and neither has any professional reviews. Perfect for value-hunting. Both have enough bottle age that they are at or near peak, and both present fine examples of good, old-school Bordeaux:

2002 Chateau Gueyrosse Saint Emilion Grand Cru

To help understand this complicated region, we typically split Bordeaux along the Gironde River. The left (southwest) bank has gravelly soil, and is planted more to Cabernet Sauvignon. The right (northeast) bank has more clay and limestone, and Merlot and Cabernet Franc are the dominant varietals.

Chateau Gueyrosse is located in Saint-Emilion, one of the right bank AOCs (see map; it’s #21). Yves and Samuelle Delol farm about 12 acres, planted to 85% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Cabernet Sauvignon, (average vine age: 40 years) so you can figure the wine contains roughly these proportions as well. The Chateau began in the mid 1700s, and the Delols became involved in 1850, making this the sixth winemaking generation at Gueyrosse.

This is lovely, traditional Bordeaux. The alcohol is moderate (between 12% and 13%), and Yves and Samuelle use 2- and 3-year old barrels. Wines like this are crying out for bottle age, and that’s exactly what we have here. The resulting nose is a beauty of mature Bordeaux: dried cherry, dried apricot, cedar, tobacco, dust, graphite. On the palate, this is earthy (I have that note underlined twice in my notebook), with wonderful mature notes of leather and mushroom. We get immediate gratification, as this is certainly in its peak drinking window and should be drunk up within the next three years; no need for endless cellaring. The fruit is taking on lovely dried tones, and there are still some tannins kicking around, but they’ve softened up considerably, and now add a finishing kiss of green tea to this fine example of the genre.

2005 Chateau du Grand Bos Graves

Now we ford the Gironde and find ourselves on the left bank (same map; now we’re in #34) in Graves, at Chateau du Grand Bos. This Chateau has a long history but had fallen into serious disrepair when Andre Vincent purchased the property in 1988 and began a rehabilitation project. The 37 acres planted to red varietals (there are another 9 planted to Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle) contain 47% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot, and 2% Cabernet Franc, and they sit on a bed of deep gravel (they don’t call it Graves for nothing).

This wine does see some new oak, typically about 35%, and it too comes in at alcohols between 12% and 13%. Here is a wine taking the deep breath before the plunge into maturity. Aromatics include cedar, cherry, tobacco, and an unmistakably Bordeaux whiff of barnyard (some people love it; some people hate it; count me in the former camp). The palate is in a happy place. The tannins are softening but present. There is lovely inner-mouth perfume, and loads of earthy, leathery notes. This drinks a little firmer than the Gueyrosse (likely because it’s a few years younger and has a lot more burly Cabernet Sauvignon), and I suspect this will continue to evolve in positive directions for another decade.

First come first served up to 12 bottles total (mix and match as you like), and the wines should arrive in a week or two, at which point they will be available for pickup or shipping during the autumn shipping window.

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