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Sunday, 18 December 2011

Château Grand Jean 2009, Bordeaux - Laithwaites

The first classic wine region whose wines I got to know properly was Bordeaux and although over the years I've discovered and come to love an number of others, I still have both an affection for, and overall a better level of knowledge about, Bordeaux.

For me, what marks out a decent Bordeaux - at any price point - is texture and food-friendliness. Usually blended from a combination of Cab and Merlot in varying proportions, perhaps with a few other bits thrown in, decent Bordeaux will always have, in addition to fruit and perfume, a good tannic backbone and acidity to stand up to and cut through food.

Bordeaux is often made for the long haul and can need a good few years in bottle - or a couple of hours in the decanter - for the chewy tannins to soften.

Producing wines in larger volumes than Australia, Bordeaux has, surprisingly, a bit of an image problem - at the top end, its First Growth wines are considered investment vehicles and over-priced playthings for Asian billionaires to drink with cola to show off, whilst at the bottom end, its image is perhaps a bit too Gallic and Old World for people accustomed to trendy, New World quaffers with funky labels.

Add in a few underperformers simply trading on the Bordeaux name and reputation, and it is anything but a homogeneous region.

So, all credit to the Bordeaux Wine Council for their Good Food Would Choose Bordeaux campaign which aims to educate us a little about Bordeaux and its food friendliness.

For me, the best of Bordeaux (for price / quality ratio) is to be found, in the UK at least, in the mid-range, say £8 - £20; here, in the homeland of the independent wine merchant, you should expect to find good ageworthy examples of what  Bordeaux should be like - classy and elegant European food wines with impressive tannic structure, wonderful texture, good fruit and rounded acidity.

Sadly, this Laithwaites Chateau Grand Jean 2009 is none of those things; a Merlot-based blend originating from the Entre Deux Mers sub-region, according to the website, it is surprisingly pale in the glass. There is a jammy nose of cooked berry fruit and the palate shows juicy acidity, but has no texture and shows no development. The finish is hot, alcoholic and drying and overall, it feels like a clumsy New World wine with none of the attributes that makes a good Bordeaux.

It is not actually offensively bad in the sense of being unpleasantly acidic or over-sulphured, but it is out of balance and there is nothing here to recommend, so most of this went in the cooking. Which is a shame for a wine that costs nearly £10 before delivery charges.

I've had better (at least, less disappointing) wines from Laithwaites than this for less money and certainly better examples of Bordeaux for less.

Amazingly, the Laithwaites website tells me it has won an award: the Concours Agricole De Bordeaux 2010, France.

It's understandable that Laithwaites has a sub-standard wine on its list (even if I would be quietly having a word about alternative employment with the person who selected this one) but what surprises me most is that somebody at the Bordeaux Wine Council thought this a good example to introduce people to Bordeaux wines in general.

There are some great wines from Bordeaux, but sadly this just isn't one of them IMHO.

£9.49 plus delivery; provided for review.


Good Food Would Choose Bordeaux - http://www.goodfoodwouldchoosebordeaux.com/
Laithwaites - http://www.laithwaites.co.uk/

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