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Bordeaux

Nowhere in the world has inspired more praise, imitation and confusion than the wine-growing region of Bordeaux. To some it is sacrosanct, to others impenetrable, but all must acknowledge its fundamental importance.

Nowhere in the world has inspired more praise, imitation and confusion than the wine-growing region of Bordeaux. To some it is sacrosanct, to others impenetrable, but all must acknowledge its fundamental importance.

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Geography

Bordeaux crafts the world's greatest wines from the planet's most famous estates, but with over 100,000 hectares under vine (more than many a winemaking nation) it also produces a vast amount of everyday wine at affordable prices. It is divided into the Left Bank, the Right Bank and the Entre-Deux-Mers and within these are such famous areas as the Médoc, St-Julien, Graves, St-Émilion and Sauternes. It is famous for its red wines, but its sweet whites are excellent and its dry whites of note. Bordeaux, quite simply, is a place like no other.

History

It is long, and of course complex, and the British play a significant part.  When the future Henry II married Eleanor of Aquitaine in 1152 he knew he had made a good deal, but even he could not have foreseen the remarkable long-term benefits of the union.  For she came with Bordeaux as a dowry and a trade was established that has very rarely lapsed.  Wine flowed in to Britain, aided by tax breaks, and the region was established as a winemaking giant.

It was not until the 18th century, however, that the fine wines we know of today came into existence.  Affluence brought this about: in the British aristocracy, the French winemakers and the several nationalities of merchant who set up in Bordeaux.  Claret, as Bordeaux was known in England, became a status symbol and the demand for ever more quality was created and fulfilled.  Much the same situation exists to this day.

Styles of Wine

Bordeaux, both red and white, is a blend and therefore remarkably varied.  Most of the wine, and almost all of the great, is red.  As a rule it is softer and subtler than New World equivalents and has the structure to complement rather than clash with a wide range of foods.  Yet in such a diverse region this is a gross generalisation.  Pauillac and St-Julien, for example, may be adjoining but at the top of their game they are incredibly different and individual appellations have their very own character.  The sweet whites of Sauternes and Barsac are amongst the finest dessert wines to be found in the world.  Though the dry whites are comparatively undistinguished, they are eminently drinkable and occasionally capable of excellent ageing.

Key Vines

The Bordeaux Classification lays down the law.  Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and, to a lesser extent, Malbec and Petit Verdot are blended in the creation of reds and Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle (though predominantly the first two) are combined for the sweet and dry whites.

Climate and Terroir

To put it simply, Bordeaux has a mild and stable climate of no extremes.  Elsewhere in the world this might result, each and every year, in dull generic wines.  Bordeaux does not work like that.  The topsoil is basically poor, which is generally advantageous to vines, and beneath it is a mosaic of very different bedrock.  This allows for great variation, though as yet science has been unable to pinpoint why even neighbouring properties can be so contrasting in quality and character.  In a nutshell, terroir is all-important, and terroir is inexplicable, and that is just the way the French like it to be.  The mystery is all part of the appeal.

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  1. Château Rahoul Blanc, Graves

    Château Rahoul Blanc, Graves, 2015 75cl

    A fantastic blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc the nose is wonderfully expressive with notes of grapefruit, pear and a touch of fennel for added complexity. The palate has pleasing depth of fruit with citrus and pear being particularly prominent and even some vanilla notes which are most likely a product of fermentation taking place in oak.

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  2. Château Kirwan, Margaux

    Château Kirwan, Margaux, 2000 75cl

    Classic high quality claret that has plenty of aging potential due to its balance of delicate subtlety and sturdy structure. The palate is complex and the finish lasting but the best is still to come from this vintage.

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    £106.98
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  3. Château Beausejour Duffau, Saint-Emilion

    Château Beausejour Duffau, Saint-Emilion, 2002 75cl

    An excellent example of how a St Emilion can develop when allowed time to bottle age. The calssic aromas of plum and black fruit are joined by savoury, gamey note. The tannins are soft and luxurious and the finish is long and complex.

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  4. Château Rauzan-Ségla, Margaux

    Château Rauzan-Ségla, Margaux, 2004 75cl

    Blackcurrant fruit aromas fill the nose and are supported by hints of berry and even softer hints of spice. this is well structured and well balanced with tannin firming up the palate whilst leaving it silky smooth with a defining elegant finish.

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    £64.56
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  5. Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Pauillac

    Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Pauillac, 2005 75cl

    Ripe black fruit fills the nose with cassis characteristics developing and combining beautifully with spicy notes. The palate is full with rich concentration and an intense purity, the wine finishes with class and elegance.

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  6. Château Talbot, Saint Julien, 2005

    Château Talbot, Saint Julien, 2005 75cl

    Like most 2005 clarets this is showing great character now but will also age well, we’re still not sure when this vintage will peak. Generous cherry and blackcurrant aromas are supported by firm but not imposing tannin and a long finish.

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  7. Chateau Batailley, Pauillac

    Chateau Batailley, Pauillac, 2007 75cl

    Medium to full-bodied, supple textured, layered, rich, and long. The 2007 is slightly lighter than previous vintages, bringing a bit delicacy to this complex wine. This marks the renaissance of this fifth-growth Pauillac that is displaying strong signs of moving into the big leagues.

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  8. Château Cantenac Brown, Margaux

    Château Cantenac Brown, Margaux, 2007 75cl

    This outstanding vintage has all the rich fruit character you'd expect from Marguax with this wine's best arguably still to come. It is a touch more lively than aniticipated with good tannic backbone. A well made wine which we would expect from this third growth estate.

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  9. Château Fourcas Hosten, Listrac Médoc

    Château Fourcas Hosten, Listrac Médoc, 2007 75cl

    Lots of black fruit flavour here with black cherry most detectable. The fruit is supported by supple tannins that make for a medium bodied wine that is ready to go but will happily cellar for another year or so.

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  10. Chateau l'Arrosee, Saint-Emilion

    Chateau l'Arrosee Grand Cru, Saint-Emilion, 2007 75cl

    A soft, plummy St Emilion which has a medium body and pleasent, velvety tannins. A superb food wine.

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  11. Château Lafleur-Gazin, Pomerol

    Château Lafleur-Gazin, Pomerol, 2007 75cl

    A well made and classic Bordeaux this wine is smooth and well integrated with good fruit on the nose and palate.

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  12. Château Pichon-Longueville Baron, Paulliac

    Château Pichon-Longueville Baron, Paulliac, 2007 75cl

    Blackcurrant aromas are supported by subtle soft spice. The palate brings some blackberry notes with a hint of cedar and tobacco. Whilst not as intense as the 2005, this still retains the elegance of good Paulliac and makes a fantastic alternative if something a touch lighter is required.

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