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Bordeaux defines wine. To paraphrase the man with the million-dollar palate, “the first duty of wine is to be a Claret, the second is to be a Burgundy.” Bordeaux is the most recognizable ferment on the planet and has become a place of reference for the word château. It’s omnipresence is without parallel in the wine diaspora.
There was a time when a Bordeaux varietal emigration was considered to be a tautological impossibility. The wine world as we know it began to change 40 years ago when inward grapes began to emerge without, having gone mobile, global, in through the out door. In the New World, Bordeaux varietals have been subject to a pop revolution, having been joined by synthesizers, stomping rhythms and heavy, staggered riffs.
Over the past 40 years the grapes of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Carmenère, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc have migrated to all reaches of the earth. Claret, especially, is everywhere.
Here are six Bordeaux-inspired wines to look for this coming weekend.
The grape: Sauvignon Blanc
The history: Though its greatest French success is in the Loire, SB is a workhorse for the dry whites of Bordeaux
The lowdown: Injuries have reduced the Masters champ to a shell of his former golfing self but if his name can pump out under $15 gems like this, success will continue to follow the great lefty
The food match: Crab and Shrimp Cakes, citrus aioli
Mike Weir Sauvignon Blanc 2010 (686972, $14.95) swings from the left side like its brethren on that side of the Gironde. A game built on concentrated gooseberry juice, tangy green fruit and a streak of chippy acidity. Sneaky long and straight down the fairway. 88
The Grapes: Merlot and Cabernet Franc
The history: From the Cotes (Saint Genes) de Castillon on the Right Bank of Bordeaux
The lowdown: Price has remained fixed, despite the hype of the vintage
The food match: Olivada Crostini, fior di latte, roasted peppers
Château De L’Estang 2009 (191551, $18.85) ventures into more expensive Libournais territory with a level of sophistication rarely seen under $20. Crisp, tart berries, licorice without sweetness, pencil and charred meat go to good lengths. Hard to find better value in Bordeaux. 88
The Grapes: Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon
The history: From the Médoc on the Left Bank of the Gironde River
The lowdown: Merlot less often dominates the Left Bank blends. This wine will open a window into the second wines of the top château where Merlot percentages often increase
The food match: Corn Meal Tartlettes, fig, caramelized onion, benedictin
Château Lestruelle 2009 (295840, $18.95) may show the slightest level of reduction but it’s a beautiful wine. Tar, pencil, tobacco, earth and smoke rally in balance. Ready for the pop and pour anytime. 90
The grape: Merlot
The history: Right Bank Bordeaux principle most famous in Pomerol and St. Emilion
The lowdown: Winemaker Derek Barnett looks to Bordeaux ahead of California for inspiration
The food match: BBQ Beef Brisket Skewers, honey, garlic, bourbon glaze
Lailey Merlot 2010 (591396, $25.00) is focused and linear, with fruit, acid and tannin set up like dominos. Blackberries come off a touch jammy and the concentration of the vintage shows in colour too. Green and varnish notes are largely diminished in 2010. I’m clapping loudly because Lailey, “you’ve got me on my knees.” 89
The grape: Cabernet Sauvignon
The history: The immortal Claret, cornerstone for all Left Bank Bordeaux reds
The lowdown: One of the top Okanagan Cabs at this price point from a vineyard that gets it
The food match: Delmonico Sirloin Skewers, Cabernet reduction glaze
Township 7 Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (303735, $26.95) is no Hotel California milkshake, nor Bordeaux neither, but there is big earth and “colitas rising up through the air.” The style is actually more Italianate, “there’s talk on the street, it sounds so familiar.” More akin to IGT Cabernet with sanguine and iron notes. Eagle-eyed with a vision for excellence and Johnny-come-lately tannins. Please welcome this new kid in town. 90
The grape: Carmenère
The history: Reserved in Bordeaux for blending, it has found a single varietal home in Chile
The lowdown: This Peumo Carm is the best in its class (under $50) and even above that mark in most cases
The food match: Crispy Parmesan Cups, flank steak, basil, cilantro
Concha Y Toro Terrunyo Block 27 Vineyard Selection Carmenère 2009 (562892, $29.95) is fit for a king, regal, rich and refined. The crown jewel of CYT’s line as far as I am concerned, I would choose this bottling over the (Cabernet dominated) Don Melchor any day of the week. Smokey, high on warm graphite with a conscious, languorous progression to excellence. 91
Good to go!