I admit that the wine geek in me was genuinely excited upon receiving an invitation to the A Year In Bordeaux event held in The Peninsula Manila last 4 December (and replicated the day after in Txanton, but with lots of yummy Jamon).
The people behind the AWC event made it truly appealing for those who want to have a more intellectual exercise in wine… That’s because they have made a fantastic effort in bringing winemakers and winery representatives from Bordeaux to present their 2014 bottles. This allowed attendees to really compare the wines, eliminating the vintage variation factor.
If this sounds a little technical, I’ll explain it a little: There are many factors that make each wine different from another. The common ones involve soil (grape vines get their nutrients from soil, and wherever a person decides to plant his vines will give it a different set of nutrients from somebody else’s), amount of sun exposure and water (using the same basic scientific principles regarding the relationship of sun and water to plant life), vineyard management (Will the grape grower prune? Will he irrigate? Will he use pesticides? Will he manually harvest?), and weather conditions for that year. The last factor mentioned is the key element that allows vintage variation. A particularly rainy year, for example, will produce watery grapes, and could possibly be turned into less characterful wines. A hot year will produce wines that have higher alcohol content. Of course, as one could figure out from this explanation, weather conditions are natural and cannot be controlled by man, and it will make a different style of wine every year (and dispels the thought that the older the wine, the better… An excellent case would be comparing a 1982 Château Petrus to a 1981).
This all seems too complicated (and goodness me, to be able to keep that entertaining enough was hard… Phew!), but essentially, eliminating vintage variation during a wine tasting event (especially for wines whose regional laws barely allow too much intervention from vine growers and wine makers) is a great way to really compare and understand wines from a particular part of the world, such as Bordeaux.
Here are some of my favourites (I honestly liked everything but I can only talk about a few for this entry), plus little explanations as to why I liked them:
Château La Gaffeliere (Saint-Émilion) – This Merlot dominated wine was harvested from 20 hectares of property (i.e., smaller plots, therefore a more intense concentration of nutrients) is B classified (meaning, one of the best sub-regions in Saint-Émilion). It was smooth, with a round texture, and did not lose its fruit characteristics.
Château Cantermerle (Haut-Medoc) – The winery is located at the border of the legendary Château Margaux (which means a similarity in soil characteristics and sun exposure amongst other factors). The wine was not aggressive at all and easy to drink, and I honestly thought of it as a wine as friendly as its maker.
Château Branaire-Ducru (Saint-Julien) – To be specific, the château is at the very southern portion of the region of Saint-Julien, which gives is a pretty unique situation, with its varied exposition, soils, and allowable varieties. The Cabernet Sauvignon dominated wine was a great illustration of elegance, complexity, and acidity.
Château Chasse-Spleen (Moulis-en-Médoc) – Admittedly, I liked it for the label (roughly translated, the label means “to take away sadness”). Made up of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, this wine is made from a technique that “blends the age of wines and soils.”
Château Olivier (Pessac-Leognan) – The winery is one of six wineries in Bordeaux that are classified for both red and white wines (most châteaux in the region are only classified for their reds). The wine is made from their château (for perspective, it’s a simpler practice to purchase wines from different vineyards and make wine in a winery… To make wine “in-house” lends a level of difficulty and often quality, with a price tag to match). It’s a well-balanced, easy to drink wine with enough character to be reflective of the “soil and climate of Bordeaux).
Château Joanin Becot (Côtes Saint-Émilion) – While Julien Barthe (the owner of the winery) is equally proud of his lauded Château Beausejour Becot, he clearly has a soft spot for this pink-topped bottle, which is an homage to his wife. The Beausejour is a huge wine, but he fondly calls this predominantly Merlot wine a “daily Bordeaux wine, meant to be shared with friends in the kitchen… It’s sexy, candied, and fruity.”
Château Chantegrive (Graves) – I had a splendid time talking to the lady behind the wine, Madame Marie-Hélène Lévêque (who her husband insists is the boss of the operation). It’s rare for me to find an equally blended Bordeaux wine (in this case, equal parts Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot). It was incredibly earthy, with a luscious texture and a very present acidity (which she and I agreed went well with Txanton’s famous Bellota).
Château Poujeaux (Moulis-en-Médoc) – The area of Moulis-en-Médoc is smallest appellations in Bordeaux, and can get pretty obscure for people who are only beginning to understand Bordeaux. The château (whose label apparently means “make a wish”), makes a Cabernet Sauvignon dominated wine with amazing character.
Château Ferriere (Margaux) – The lineup (presented by a fellow WSET Level 3 Awardee who’s expecting a child, BTW) actually features three labels, which include Château Haut-Bages Liberal and Château Durfort Vivens. I ended up liking the Ferriere because it’s a reflection of the winemaker Claire Villars Lurton’s personality… A little shy at the beginning giving way to a sensitivity that is reflected in its gentle texture, refreshing acidity, and black fruit forward flavors. Bonus: The winery has been classified as biodynamic since 2009, and the first fully biodynamic vintage is the 2018 one.
Very special thanks to Mr. Diego Virata and Besay Gonzalez