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Discovering New Wines in Bordeaux – Insights from the Inside – Part 3 – Notes and Tips on the Merlot Blends

Paul Smith, our Financial Director, has again had the chance to visit Bordeaux to discover new wines, chateaux and meet its wine makers. This is the third in this series of blogs about his trip and his discoveries . . .

Tastings at Cantin
Tastings at Cantin

During my visit to Chateau Cantin I tasted several wines from Saint Emilion, Montagne Saint Emilion, Pomerol, Lalande de Pomerol and – interestingly – Cadillac. The wines tasted either came from Crus & Domaines (owners of Cantin) Right Bank chateaux or those in partnership with them. The Right Bank features Merlot as its dominant grape and if you’d like to read about the highlight of my visit there check out my blog on Beautiful Blends.

NOTES & TIPS ON THE MERLOT BASED CLARETS:  THE SAINT EMILIONS

Chateau Cantin
Chateau Cantin

Chateau Cantin 2014, Saint Emilion (circa £20 a bottle)

Cantin was originally built by Benedictine monks in the 1600s as a summer residence for the Canon of Saint Emilion. It’s name comes from the Latin word ‘cantio’, which means song, perhaps as a reminder of all the evensong that was once sung there. The vineyard sits on an asteriated limestone plateau combined with Castillon clay, a terroir that enjoys excellent exposure to sunshine. The estate is divided into 26 parcels over 38 hectares.

Tip: Cantin lay dormant for many years until its purchase in 2007 by Crus & Domaines who have worked hard to revive the prestigious past of the property. Rated highly by several important critics, Cantin has also received numerous awards for its wines. They have ambitious plans for the chateau and are aiming high with the goal of attaining Grand Cru Classe status by 2022. This is a chateau on the up and the 2015 vintage is sure to be a an excellent purchase if you fancy trying this wine for the first time.

Chateau Laroque
Chateau Laroque

Chateau Laroque 2006 & 2009, Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classe (circa £26 a bottle)

Laroque is a Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classe (ranked in the 1996 Classification) and is owned by the Beaumartin family who have partnered with Crus & Domaines to promote their wines. This is lovely old feudal residence with a tower dating from the twelfth century. The chateau was rebuilt in the 17th century in a style favoured by King Louis XIV, earning it the nickname of ‘Little Versailles’.

Tip: This is quite a big estate for Saint Emilion, spanning 61 hectares of adjoining plots. Chateaux in Saint Emilion tend to be small and are usually comprised of scattered plots thanks to the terrain with its rocky limestone outcrops. The best 27 hectares were ranked as Grand Cru Classe and are used purely for Laroque wines which are priced according to their high rank. The remaining hectares are sold as the more affordable Chateau Peymouton (£14 a bottle) or as the estates Second Wine Les Tours de Laroque.

Chateau Faizeau
Chateau Faizeau

Chateau Faizeau 2014, Montagne Saint Emilion (circa £16 a bottle)

Faizeau takes its name from the the Benedictine abbey of Faize, situated close to the property (which owned vineyards in both Pauillac and Saint Emilion). The chateau sits on the slopes of Calon hill and their terroir is the highest in the appellation. The vineyards are oriented east and west, so they are bathed in sunshine all day long. This is one of te oldest vineyards in the area and they also have some of the oldest vines in the Right Bank at over 100 years of age.

Tip: Despite its antiquity and privileged location Faizeau’s wines do not command the high price you might expect. This is down to the fact that the chateau lies in Montagne Saint Emilion, a satellite appellation. Thanks to being on the outskirts of Saint Emilion, the satellites’ wines were for a long time considered to be its country cousins. Today this is far from the case and there are some excellent wines to be found here.

Vieux Chateau des Combes
Vieux Chateau des Combes

Vieux Chateau Des Combes 2014 (circa £15 a bottle)

Vieux Chateau des Combes lies in Saint Christophe des Bardes, just 3 miles away from the town of Saint Emilion. Its name (Old Chateau of the Valleys) indicates that wine was already being made here in the 17th century when the Benedictine abbey was built. There are several chateau named ‘Des Combes’ in the region but this is definitely ‘the oldest’.

Tip: Vieux Chateau des Combes makes award winning wine but remains a little under the radar. We have only seen vintages from 2010 upwards reach the UK. This is a high performing chateau that is certain to gather more attention and is worth keeping an eye out for.

NOTES & TIPS ON THE POMEROLS:

Chateau La Patache
Chateau La Patache

Chateau La Patache 2012, Pomerol (circa £25 a bottle)

La Patache is owned by Peter Kwok who has partnered with Crus & Domaines to promote his wines. Peter owns a small but select portfolio of Pomerol and Saint Emilion chateaux and purchased La Patache in 2012. Pomerol is world famous for its Merlots and home to the most expensive Bordeaux wines of all . . . but the appellation is a small one and is made up of tiny plots. As you can imagine good terroir is at a premium here and land is extremely precious. La Patache sits on the site of the former 19th century post office; the stables have been transformed into cellars and the 3.5 hectare is spread over 9 plots.

Tip: This is a superb insider wine that is under valued. It’s hit the attention of the wine critics and is multi award winning. Given the huge demand for Pomerol this situation is going to change rapidly. You might think that over £30 is a lot to pay for a wine made from a former post office but wait until you try it – this is an absolute steal. Over the past year the price has been trending upwards so get it whilst you can.

Clos Beau regard

Clos Beauregard 2012, Pomerol (circa £33 a bottle)

Domaines & Cru’s Clos Beauregard’s 6 hectares of vineyards run across the lower stretches of Chateau Beauregard. Clos Beauregard was purchased by the Helfrich family of Crus & Domaines in 2011 and is a tribute to their meticulous vineyard management.

Tip: Chateau Beauregard was first established in the 11th century by the Knights Hospitallers (contempories of the Knights Templar) and its impressive chateau (unusual for Pomerol as this appellation does not boast many grand manor houses) was built in 1795. ‘Clos’ refers to a walled vineyard and this little plot was attached to Chateau Beauregard until the 1930s. Clos vineyards were enclosed with stone walls not only to protect the grapes from theft but also to improve the micro climate (the walls provided shelter and warmth for the grapes). This was probably Chateau Beauregard’s original vineyard at the time of the Templars. Both Chateau Beauregard and Chateau Clos Beauregard command the same sort of price per bottle but Clos Beauregard is not as well known. If you are a fan of lush Pomerol wines this is a wine to hunt out.

Chateau Sergant
Chateau Sergant

Chateau Sergant 2011, Lalande de Pomerol (circa £19 a bottle)

Chateau Sergant is owned by the Milhade family who have partnered with Crus & Domaines. Sergant is situated on a plateau, located west of the village of Lalande de Pomerol. The vineyard covers 21 hectares and sits very near to the iconic neighbouring chateau of Petrus – one of the most expensive and sought after wines in the world. This proximity to top terroir boosts Sergant’s potential and the family have brought in Hubert de Bouard, owner of First Growth Chateau Cheval Blanc in Saint Emilion, as their wine consultant to further develop the wines.

Tip: Although Sergant produces excellent wine it tends to be under priced. Lalande de Pomerol is not as well known as its neighbour Pomerol and prices reflect this. However, Sergant is ranked in the top 1o for number of awards for wines won in this appellation and is excellent value for money.

NOTES & TIPS ON THE CADILLAC

Chateau Haut Mouleyre
Chateau Haut Mouleyre

Chateau Haut Mouleyre 2015, Cadillac (circa £10 a bottle)

Haut Mouleyre lies in the village of Escoussans, near Cadillac, on the right bank of the River Garonne. Crus and Domaines purchased Haut Mouleyre from the French wine magnate Bernard Magrez (owner of 4 classified growths, including Chateau Pape Clement in Pessac Leognan) in 2008. Haut Mouleyre’s vineyard is spread over the south and south west-facing hill sides overlooking the river, making the most of the sunshine and the good soil drainage. The wines have won numerous awards and have caught the eye of several wine critics recently.

Tip: Cotes de Bordeaux Cadillac is a little appellation best known for producing the sweet white wines of Bordeaux. However it’s a little known fact that Cadillac can be an extremely good source of red Bordeaux. Over shadowed by more prestigious appellations and thanks to its reputation for ‘only’ producing sweet whites, Cadillac reds suffer from lack of promotion. This obscurity plays havoc for the wine makers but is great for consumers as it affects the price. Haut Mouleyre is just such an example, it’s a wonderful wine that offers great value for money.

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