The art of choosing a great Bordeaux – including a supermarket red for a little over ten dollars
I know, I’m supposed to recommend alcohol-free wines to match Veganuary, but I’m sorry I couldn’t deal with it. All the supermarkets have offers on various non-alcoholic wines like the Torres Mosaic range if you feel the need, I would recommend the King of Kefir voucher as well.
January is the darkest month, so gloomy that it’s the only time of year that the National Gallery is allowed to exhibit its Turner watercolors, and these pale, evanescent impressions of Mr. Turner somehow capture the vibe of the quieter month, so I will make my pilgrimage.
Thinking of Turner, I wondered what wine he would have drunk. There is a note in the Tate in his writing that mentions a meal of bread, cheese, beer and gin, and he was notoriously a fan of snuff and rum – but I suspect he would have been too fond of Bordeaux or red Bordeaux if it had been offered.
Great Britain and Ireland have always been extremely important markets for Bordeaux and it is now one of the few wine regions to produce 13% wines. Bordeaux is a marginal climate for wine with cool Atlantic breezes tempering the climate and a lot of rain in poor years. More than any other region, you need to pay attention to the vintage when buying Bordeaux, especially if you are spending more than € 30.
However, climate change has been favorable to the region and there has been a string of good vintages over the past decade. Recent vintages to look for are 2015 and 2016, the first a little sweeter and ripe. The 2019s are still too young, but some 2018s drink well, just like the 2017s which are meant to be consumed earlier anyway. The last difficult vintage was 2012, but even many of them drink wonderfully (cf. Ch. Lannesan 2012 which is magnificent – around € 28.95 at Vintry, and O’Donovans).
The balance of fruit and structure of Bordeaux makes it the perfect table wine in my opinion, but the region has the peculiarity that all the wines made there benefit from a certain aging, even the wines of petit château will benefit. up to three years in the bottle, six or eight in a hot year.
Here are some affordable, highly drinkable Bordeaux recommendations – plus some great wines from your local Spar / Mace / Londi to keep you from going too far. Spar has some good Bordeaux in stock and I mentioned their Ch. Du Bois Chantant (€ 14.95) a few weeks ago.
Wines under € 15
It’s a bit warmer for the winter for a good price and you probably have a Spar or Mace nearby. The bunches are tied to the vine and allowed to dehydrate and concentrate before being crushed, so it’s a kind of poor man’s Amarone. Big fruity aromas with noticeable spices, ripe berries on the palate and good weight and concentration. Perfect for an Indian take-out dish or with a spicy pizza.
Mosaic Priorat, Spain – € 13.39
I last mentioned this Priorat in 2019 when it was reduced to € 15, so this is a fitting special and a bit of inexpensive luxury for January. A typical blend of Cariñena and Garnacha plus some Syrah: aromas of ripe blackberry, supple and fruity on the palate with more blackberry and ripe plum plus a dark earthy hint on the crunchy finish. The Rémy Ferbras Gigondas at € 14.72 is also worth trying.
Mitchell’s Claret 2018, Bordeaux – € 15
It’s been a few years since I tried Mitchell’s Claret and it’s better than I remember. Claret simply means Bordeaux in case you didn’t know – the word is used more in Britain than here. This is a blend of 67% Merlot, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon and 7% Cabernet Franc bursting with sweet cassis and plum fruit with a touch of spice – balanced and inviting.
Wines over € 15
Many historic Cru Bourgeois châteaux, such as Chasse-Spleen and Poujeaux, have long since left the Cru Bourgeois system and will cost you € 60 or more, but many top producers still use the classification which is updated every year. It is bursting with classic Medoc aromas of cedar, spices and black fruits, hot cassis and blackberry with good structure and lingering notes of dark chocolate.
It is the second wine of Chateau Beaumont – one of the most affordable and reliable producers in the Médoc that has appeared here in the past. This is made from the younger vines but still tastes like Beaumont to me: aromas of dark chocolate and cedar, reasonably concentrated, fruity and juicy with lots of cassis, mocha and toasted oak flavors and light tannins. thorny but integrated for the structure.
Lalande de Pomerol is rarely as interesting as its famous neighbor Pomerol but it is affordable – few Pomerols cost less than € 60 these days. It’s 80% Merlot with 10% Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon each. Bright black fruits with a cigar box touch and a hint of earth on the nose, a sweet juiciness of Merlot and a slightly crunchy complexity of red fruits. To drink perfectly but will still age.
Lineman Insulator Port Cask Barleywine, 14.8% ABV, 500ml – € 11.99
Lineman continues to create brilliant new beers. In addition to this barley wine, they also have a new lager called Fluid Dynamic (4.8%) which is packed with citrus and the cleanliness of hops; and Big Calm Brown Ale (6%) has a malty caramel and chocolate taste. As usual, the beers are unfiltered and unpasteurized.
The Insulator is a small, bottled beer – there should be a few more as you read this. It’s one to sip or have with a meal, I think given the ABV of 14.8%. A nose of sweet malt and roasted oranges, sweet grapefruit, coffee and dried orange peel on the palate. Fascinating.