February Wine Focus: Unclassified Bordeaux

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February Wine Focus: Unclassified Bordeaux

Postby Robin Garr » Sat Jan 28, 2012 12:52 pm

Bill Hooper suggests this topic, which I take to mean Bordeaux outside the Medoc Classification of 1855 with its five Crus. Any objections or tweaks? Red only, or red and white? Alternative proposals? The end of the month is creeping up on us fast, so let's decide!
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Re: Next month's Wine Focus: Unclassified Bordeaux?

Postby David M. Bueker » Sat Jan 28, 2012 1:00 pm

Love it! We should PM Alex.
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Re: Next month's Wine Focus: Unclassified Bordeaux?

Postby Bob Parsons Alberta » Sat Jan 28, 2012 1:00 pm

All the hoopla about "organic" and "natural" wine makes me think this could be a future subject?
I like Bill`s idea but wonder about $$$$$. I was thinking last night that Bordeaux blends should also be looked at in the future.
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Re: Next month's Wine Focus: Unclassified Bordeaux?

Postby Salil » Sat Jan 28, 2012 1:05 pm

No objections here.

(David - I believe neither Haut Bailly, Trotanoy nor LMHB are classified... :mrgreen: )
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Re: Next month's Wine Focus: Unclassified Bordeaux?

Postby Salil » Sat Jan 28, 2012 1:08 pm

Bob Parsons Alberta. wrote:All the hoopla about "organic" and "natural" wine makes me think this could be a future subject?

The topic won't be short, that's for sure. But I'd expect a pretty small proportion of notes on wines, and a lot more arguments about philosophy and definitions (which is what any thread on natural wines seems to turn into).
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Re: Next month's Wine Focus: Unclassified Bordeaux?

Postby Robin Garr » Sat Jan 28, 2012 1:17 pm

Bob Parsons Alberta. wrote:All the hoopla about "organic" and "natural" wine makes me think this could be a future subject?

More for a separate project, I think, rather than the monthly Wine Focus.

I like Bill`s idea but wonder about $$$$$. I was thinking last night that Bordeaux blends should also be looked at in the future.

The whole realm of "unclassified" offers a huge range. I've enjoyed a couple of AOC Bordeaux recently that offered darn good drinking for less than $10. In fact, I think I have one such in the tasting queue. I'll pull cork for this project.

Let's do it!
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Re: Next month's Wine Focus: Unclassified Bordeaux?

Postby Tim York » Sat Jan 28, 2012 2:02 pm

Robin Garr wrote:Bill Hooper suggests this topic, which I take to mean Bordeaux outside the Medoc Classification of 1855 with its five Crus. Any objections or tweaks? Red only, or red and white? Alternative proposals? The end of the month is creeping up on us fast, so let's decide!


Isn't the object of this exercise to concentrate on lesser known growths where Alex keeps telling us there is great QPR for those who know their way around? If so, we should remember that there are also classifications and pricey wines in St.Emilion, Graves and Sauternes and we should exclude them too. Legally I believe that the Médoc cru bourgeois are not classified at present, so that's a good excuse for including them in this WF, which helps me as I have bottles of Sociando-Mallet (which disdained the "bourgeois" label), Poujeaux and Verdignan, as well as a few unclassifed right-bankers to open :) without going out to buy.

NB: there is no classification in Pomerol in spite of a number of mega-trophy wines.
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Re: Next month's Wine Focus: Unclassified Bordeaux?

Postby Robin Garr » Sat Jan 28, 2012 2:06 pm

Tim York wrote:Isn't the object of this exercise to concentrate on lesser known growths where Alex keeps telling us there is great QPR for those who know their way around? If so, we should remember that there are also classifications and pricey wines in St.Emilion, Graves and Sauternes and we should exclude them too. Legally I believe that the Médoc cru bourgeois are not classified at present, so that's a good excuse for including them in this WF, which helps me as I have bottles of Sociando-Mallet (which disdained the "bourgeois" label), Poujeaux and Verdignan, as well as a few unclassifed right-bankers to open :) without going out to buy.

NB: there is no classification in Pomerol in spite of a number of mega-trophy wines.

Tim, you raise good points. I'm not sure that we need to be tightly prescriptive, but certainly the overall approach (it seems to me) is to find value among the less-known and less sought-after realms of Bordeaux, getting away from the trend-setters and high-end trophies.
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Re: Next month's Wine Focus: Unclassified Bordeaux?

Postby David M. Bueker » Sat Jan 28, 2012 4:04 pm

Salil's just showing off. I'm not sure he would even buy a truly "unclassified" Bordeaux these days. Why if he were to avoid buying 10 of them it would be another bottle of Trotanoy! :twisted:
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Re: Next month's Wine Focus: Unclassified Bordeaux?

Postby Salil » Sat Jan 28, 2012 4:30 pm

Hey, I'm still on the hunt for more mid 80s Meyney. (Unfortunately, those bottles don't last very long in my possession - hence why they're not drinking options for Feb, unless HDH suddenly gets a stash of them.)
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Re: Next month's Wine Focus: Unclassified Bordeaux?

Postby Carl Eppig » Sat Jan 28, 2012 8:35 pm

No problem. We should be going up to Whole Foods in Portland early next month, and we'll pick up some unclassifieds.
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Re: Next month's Wine Focus: Unclassified Bordeaux?

Postby David Creighton » Mon Jan 30, 2012 12:21 am

speaking of just getting back from somewhere - unified i think - i just got back from the big(100+chateau) union of grands cru tasting in chicago. dispite the name, there were a number of unclassed wines there. if the 2009 vintage was a tide that raised all ships, it raised the lower ones more than the higher ones - IMO. some of the unclassed wines would easily surpass classed wines in other vintages. i'll try to post more later.
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Re: Next month's Wine Focus: Unclassified Bordeaux?

Postby Bob Parsons Alberta » Tue Jan 31, 2012 4:30 am

David, that is good news about the `09s. Look forward to some TNs later on Focus.
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Re: February Wine Focus: Unclassified Bordeaux

Postby Bill Hooper » Thu Feb 02, 2012 2:41 pm

2007 Le Cloitre du Chateau Prieure-Lichine Margaux –Bordeaux, France 13% alc.

Blackberries, Carob, and coffee bean, along with Ost-Friesen Tea and sweet tobacco. Under the silky texture lie substantial tannins in the deep. Not sure that this completely follows the spirit of the thread, being produced by a classed Chateau, but it was a nice grocery-store wine and purchased on caprice and consumed with dinner tonight. 14€

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Re: February Wine Focus: Unclassified Bordeaux

Postby David M. Bueker » Thu Feb 02, 2012 6:21 pm

Had a bottle of 2007 Chateau des Granges d'Or (Medoc) at a little "French" restaurant in Poland the other night. I didn't take notes, but thought it was rather thin and wan on its own, but it really blossomed with my lamb. It was inexpensive, and ultimately a good dinner wine that was neither heavy nor tiring.
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Re: February Wine Focus: Unclassified Bordeaux

Postby Tim York » Sat Feb 04, 2012 11:09 am

Château Le Grand Verdus Bordeaux Blanc 2010 - Philippe et Antoine de Grix de la Salle - Alc.12.5% - (6 EUR), from Sauvignon blanc and Sémillon. This was not quite the lucky dip because I used to enjoy this estate's red in the 90s but have not tried it since then. This is about on the same level as what I remember of those reds. There was not much aroma on the nose but the dry, light/medium palate was very pleasant with some agreeable green fruit, juicy acidity and saline grip on the finish. Rather trivial prettiness perhaps but one can't complain at this price and was IMO better than Marionnet's Touraine Sauvignon which I noted last week.14.5/20.
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Re: February Wine Focus: Unclassified Bordeaux

Postby Salil » Sun Feb 05, 2012 10:09 am

1988 Château Pape Clément (France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan)
Starts out with a powerful aroma of cigar smoke, gravelly earth, cedar and deep red fruited flavours upon opening, and it just builds and develops over a few hours in a decanter. There's great depth and balance, and an incredibly finessed and polished texture that gives it a sheer drinkability I've rarely found in younger claret. Truly outstanding.
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Re: February Wine Focus: Unclassified Bordeaux

Postby Drew Hall » Sun Feb 05, 2012 11:52 am

1998 Chateau Simard Saint-Emilion Alc. 12%

Very youthful in appearance with a wonderful nose of roses, cedar and earth. Not a blockbuster but a pleasant old world style bordeaux that was well balanced with attractive fruit and funk.

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Re: February Wine Focus: Unclassified Bordeaux

Postby Tim York » Mon Feb 06, 2012 12:03 pm

Salil wrote:1988 Château Pape Clément (France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan)
Starts out with a powerful aroma of cigar smoke, gravelly earth, cedar and deep red fruited flavours upon opening, and it just builds and develops over a few hours in a decanter. There's great depth and balance, and an incredibly finessed and polished texture that gives it a sheer drinkability I've rarely found in younger claret. Truly outstanding.


Thanks for posting that note, Salil. 24 year old claret can be really beautiful but I wonder if present day Pape-Clément will age so beautifully. Based on a tasting of the Bernard Magrez range, they are for undrinkable monstrosities when young owing to lavish oaking, particularly the whites.

To be pedantic, it is incorrect to include Pape-Clément as an unclassified growth. There is a Pessac-Léognan classification which includes Pape-Clément http://crus.classes.free.fr/crus_graves.htm and I think that a lot of modern critics would rate this estate at a similar level to Médoc 2nds. Of course, Bernard Magrez, not noted for modesty, would probably say that his reputation is worth more than any classification :wink: .
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Re: February Wine Focus: Unclassified Bordeaux

Postby ChaimShraga » Mon Feb 06, 2012 4:45 pm

I thought Salil cheated too :).
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Re: February Wine Focus: Unclassified Bordeaux

Postby David M. Bueker » Mon Feb 06, 2012 9:00 pm

I said it before - Salil is not going to drink the wines this thread is intended to explore. (and I am completely happy to help him not drink them as well!)
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Re: February Wine Focus: Unclassified Bordeaux

Postby Salil » Mon Feb 06, 2012 9:42 pm

Tim York wrote:To be pedantic, it is incorrect to include Pape-Clément as an unclassified growth. There is a Pessac-Léognan classification which includes Pape-Clément http://crus.classes.free.fr/crus_graves.htm and I think that a lot of modern critics would rate this estate at a similar level to Médoc 2nds. Of course, Bernard Magrez, not noted for modesty, would probably say that his reputation is worth more than any classification :wink: .

Oh, no disagreement there (and I will not dispute the charges of cheating :)). But the only classification I saw mentioned earlier was the 1855, so I'm just going outside that (well, those and St. Emilion GCs as I have none). As for the quality of Pape Clement, I haven't had it in many vintages but the older wines I've had have all been outstanding and in some cases, at a quality level I'd expect from first growths.

Then again I've not put much faith in the 1855 classification recently - I've had several experiences with Ch. Margaux, and only one bottle of the 1983 that really offered the sort of complexity that I'd expect with that sort of pricing and hype. Montrose, LLC and a few of the other 'super seconds' have rarely (if at all) wowed me, and I'd take the wines from La Mission Haut Brion, Haut Bailly and old Pape Clement among others over most of the more esteemed growths. La Miss in particular has delivered for me what I'd consider a 'first growth' type experience more consistently than any of the FG estates I've had. (And at least from the 1980s, I've had bottles of 1985 and 1986 Ch. Meyney that were stunning - just a shame that more recent vintages have not had the same depth and finesse.
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Re: February Wine Focus: Unclassified Bordeaux

Postby Tim York » Tue Feb 07, 2012 12:27 pm

Domaine de Courteillac, Bordeaux Supérieur, Ruch, Gironde

This “petit Bordeaux” is on sale at a nearby wine merchant. For years it was priced at EUR 9,99 but recently it has nudged above EUR 10. I buy a few bottles in most vintages and usually find it an excellent Saint-Emilion ringer at least equal to many at twice to three times the price.

In “great” vintages like 2000 and 2005 it can benefit from medium term ageing but in most it is drinking deliciously from its second year.

The estate is located at Ruch at the eastern extremity of the Bordeaux area on the southern side of river Dordogne about 10 km south of Castillon-la-Bataille (Côtes de Castillon on the northern slopes over the river).

Dominique Meneret, the owner, lavishes care, atypical for the immediate area, on his estate and has recently taken on Stéphane Derenoncourt as consultant. Let us hope that this does not lead to the wines’ becoming too “important”. The 2009 is not reassuring in this respect.

I think that right now I have none left in my cellar so I will buy a few 2009s in spite of my reservations about it. 2010 could be more to my taste and I may get to taste it at the merchant's spring tasting. Here are some of my TNs of many vintages back to 2000 in backwards date order of the notes showing excellent consistency over this period.


Nov 4, 2011

Domaine de Courteillac, Bordeaux Supérieur. I buy some of this Merlot dominated blend most years as an excellent QPR Saint-Émilion substitute, so I was naturally interested in Bordeaux Supérieur 2009 (€11). It was rich, ripe and slightly leathery but I prefer the 2008 which adds a lively note without which I fear that at a meal the wine may cloy before finishing the bottle; 15/20+.
2009 Bordeaux are widely admired but I worry from the small sample here (this Dom. Courteillac and Margaux, Clos des 4 Vents which followed) that many may be over-ripe and lacking in the “green” edge which, for me, is an essential part of claret’s character.


Aug 26, 2011

Bordeaux Supérieur 2005 – Domaine de Courteillac, Dominique Meneret – Alc.14% - (c.€10), made from Merlot 70%, CS and CF. This 2005 is a touch closer to jamminess and is more concentrated and structured than the 2008, which is drinking beautifully right now. I think it needs a bit more age to come into its own; 15.5/20 now.


Jan 28, 2011

Domaine de Courteillac Bordeaux Supérieur 2008 – Dominique Meneret, Ruch– Alc.13.5%- (€10), from Merlot 70%, CabFranc 10%, CabSauv 20%. This 2008 is remarkably forward in its third year and fresher than the richer 2006 was about a year ago. Quite full bodied, round and juicy with a velvety feel smooth/lively acidity, good grip, decent tannic structure and avoiding the jamminess which is the besetting sin of a lot of “modern” right bank Bordeaux; 15.5/20+++QPR!


May 16, 2010

Domaine de Courteillac Bordeaux Supérieur 2006 – Dominique Meneret, Ruch – Alc.13.5%- (€10), from Merlot 70%, CabFranc 10%, CabSauv 20%. I think that this 2006 is drinking better at present than the more closed, structured and oaky 2005. Quite full bodied, rich and juicy without being jammy with a velvety feel, good grip and decent tannic structure; 16/20 QPR!!


Oct 26, 2009

This is a dependable estate, 70% Merlot, 20% CabSauv, 10% Cab franc, punching well above the weight of its price point and appellation. I had a disagreement on vocabulary with owner Dominique Meneret who objected when I described the 2007 as more angular and less round than the 2006; I discovered that where I say “round” (rond) he prefers “dense” and “angular” (anguleux) implies for him tannins with which 2006 more endowed albeit riper and better covered. I persist with my vocabulary.
Bordeaux Supérieur 2007 (€10) showed more acid edge to its aromas that usual and slimmer body but the fruit is expressive, acidity good and tannic structure present though lighter and more angular than the next; 14.5/20++.
Bordeaux Supérieur 2006 (€10) was rounder, richer and denser with fine fruit opening up and well covered tannic structure; 15.5/20++ QPR!


May 25, 2009

Bordeaux Supérieur 2004 – Domaine de Courteillac – Alc. 13% - is a dependable stand-by for its Merlot dominated blend well up to the standard of many lesser Saint-Emilion grands crus. This was slightly less rich and complex than the 2000 and 2003 but fresher and more lively with a charcoal touch; 15.5/20++ QPR.


Oct 19, 2008

Domaine de Courteillac – Bordeaux Supérieur – Dominique Meneret à Ruch – is a favourite of mine with its 70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Cabernet franc; a few months ago I thought that its 2000 was a good ringer for a Saint-Emilion costing 2-3 times as much. This 2006 (€ 10) bids fair to be just as good with its complex and rich aromas, in which I found some Pinot-like cherry, its deeply caressing fruit and good grip and structure; 16/20.



From Sept 9, 2008

Domaine de Courteillac AOC Bordeaux Supérieur (red) is an old friend but 2003 is now showing signs of premature evolution with fading rose aromas towards the finish on a full palate; 14.5/20.


From Jan 7, 2008

Bordeaux Supérieur AOC 2000 - Domaine de Courteillac – 33350 Ruch – Alc. 13%. – (approx € 10).

There are 25 hectares of red vines at this estate, of which 70% Merlot, 19% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Cabernet franc.

C: Deep, dense, youthful red.
N: Clearly bordelais and quite complex showing deep red fruit with an acid touch and hints of cedary spice.
P: Robust, round, ripe and structured showing good darkish fruit, a touch of jam offset by brightly fresh acidity with similar aromas to the nose, good mouth-fill and fair length. This wine would easily hold its head high in a line-up of Saint-Emilion, Pomerol, Côtes de Castillon and Fronsac costing twice to three times as much. I guess that it will maintain this quality for a good few more years but, alas, I have no bottles left; 15.5/20+++.

This 2000 is not a fluke. The importer says that 2001 is even better and I can vouch for the fact that 2003 is almost as good, if jammier, and 2004 also promises.

I suspect that there are many similar bargains out there in the lesser Bordeaux appellations but the problem is unearthing them amongst all the dross. Alex R, if you are reading this, please help us to find more.
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Re: February Wine Focus: Unclassified Bordeaux

Postby Joe Moryl » Wed Feb 08, 2012 1:06 am

2009 Chateau Fongaban, AOC Cotes de Castillon:

Was in a shop where I usually buy beer, looking to restock (picked up Smuttynose IPA, FWIW) and had to nose around the wine department a bit. Looking at the Bordeaux section, the guy stocking the shelf was very enthusiastic about this for QPR, so I thought it might be worth trying for this month's wine focus. A bit of research shows this estate to have 90% Merlot and 10 % CF and since it straddles the border with AOC Puissegain Saint-Emilion, a more expensive wine with the same name is made from vineyards on the posh side.

Fairly dark in appearance, mostly carmine with a hint of violet. Nicely aromatic, with sweet fruits and something graphitic. On the palate it is fairly harsh and tannic at first, but with a good bit of substance. Calms down after some air to show blueberry, more graphite notes, black pepper and a tiny bit of green herbal character. My first impression would have been Syrah from Languedoc. After looking at various notes in Cellar Tracker, tannic is a term that pops up frequently, so maybe it is the house style. Website admits to micro-oxygenation, so one wonders what the tannins might be like without it! Certainly a good value at $12, if you are looking for something on the slightly rustic side. Label says 14% abv, but it is not showing in the wine.
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