2009 Chateau La Brande

Hello friends. We have the latest today in our ongoing exploration of satellite appellations in France. First introduced in our white Burg offering from Saint Aubin, the idea is to explore the next-door neighbors to some of the big-gun appellations, which can frequently represent extraordinary value.

Chateau La Brande is owned by Anne Marie and Jean Guy Todeschini, the same folks who own Chateau Mangot. The difference between the deux chateaux is just three miles. You can see on the map that La Brande is a few foothills east of Mangot.

But when those three miles include an appellation boundary, the distance is magnified considerably. Chateau Mangot is in Saint-Emilion AOC, and its high-end Grand Cru bottlings typically cost about $50. Three miles to the east, Chateau La Brande is in Cotes de Castillon (we’ve gone from region 21 to region 22 on this map), and the price is well south of $50:

A blend of 70% Merlot, 22% Cabernet Franc, and 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, this was a total standout in a recent tasting of the well-loved 2009 vintage in Bordeaux, in my opinion besting several bottles that were double the price.

There are generally two types of crappy when it comes to sub-$15 Bordeaux. The first is wines so lean-and-green that you half expect your glass to sprout leaves and attract nesting birds. The second is wines so unabashedly “modern” (think cloying red fruit, think oak powder) that it could be crappy wine from anywhere in the world. I think the second is actually worse. If I’m going to drink crappy wine, I’d like to at least be able to identify it as crappy Bordeaux.

Then there’s a narrow middle: wines with some measure of typicity and some measure of approachability, and that’s what we have today with La Brande. The wine sees about 30% new oak, so mostly it’s the fruit that’s on display. The nose combines black cherry with black olive and some lightly earthy notes. While the nose is lightly earthy, the palate contains loads of earth notes, along with cedar and cherry. The tannins are lovely here, all black tea, contributing to a mouthfeel that is drinkable but not too soft-and-easygoing. Tasted blind, I suspect you could nail this as Bordeaux every single time. It has enough of that right-bank magic, something that’s not easy to find at this tariff.

If you’re looking for a holiday gift that looks (and tastes) considerably more expensive than it is, this would be a strong option. I grabbed the entire remaining parcel of this wine in Seattle, and it is very unlikely to be available for reorder. Once it’s gone, we’re onto the 2010 vintage. Please limit order requests to 6 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wine is in the warehouse and ready for immediate pickup or shipping during the spring shipping window.

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