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Sunday, 23 May 2021

The CWB Bordeaux-Blend-Off

Two Cab-Merlot wines - aka Bordeaux Blends - from France and Australia

Château Tayet, Bordeaux Supérieur 2016
Vasse Felix Filius Cabernet-Merlot, Margaret River 2019

Cabernet-plus-Merlot is the classic Bordeaux blend.

But why blend grape varieties?

For practical reasons, growing two grape varieties makes commercial sense for vignerons in a marginal climate like Bordeaux where vintage variation is significant. Grown on stony soils, Cabernet likes the heat, so does well in a hot year; Merlot tolerates heavy clay soils and is an easier ripener for cooler, damper years.

For aesthetic reasons, Cabernet and Merlot blend well together and compliment each other's flavours and tannic profiles.

Completists will note that Bordeaux grows a number of other varieties that are on occasion also blended in, such as Cabernet Franc and Carmenere. Both these wines contain a small amount of a third grape; the Tayet has some Petit Verdot and the Vasse Felix some Malbec.

They are both similarly priced and of similar quality levels, so it really comes down to personal preference.

The Bordeaux is older with more aged complexity, is lower in alcohol and more of a food wine.

The Aussie wine has more ripeness, more fruit and a degree more alcohol; it is ripe enough to drink without food and its fruit flavours will stand up to more robust dishes such as barbecues. 

Château Tayet, Bordeaux Supérieur 2016 (£14.95, Private Cellar)

Tayet has more than a passing resemblance to Margaux as it is just metres from the boundary, with racy red and black fruits, a light tannic bite behind, to a rich, spiced finish, punching way above its weight.  Winemaker for over twenty years, Jean-Michel Garcion believes that all the wines should drink well in youth but have the wherewithal to age, and that each should reflect its location.

Bramble and berry fruit, cigar box and damp earth with roasted spices; ripe plums, cherries and blackberries with graphite, old leather and cedarwood; good acidity and very fine, supple well-integrated tannins.

Very well-made; harmonious and balanced and drinking very nicely now, but will gain further complexity with age.

Very Good; it has a Gold Medal from the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles

Match with plain roast red meat - perfect for Sunday lunch.

Vasse Felix Filius Cabernet-Merlot, Margaret River, Western Australia, 2019 (£14.99–17.99 Booths, Specialist Cellars, Aus Wines Online, Winedirect.co.uk)

This wine incorporates fruit from each of the four Vasse Felix vineyards; a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon gives it a dry tannic structure with a generous portion of 42% Merlot making this a succulent wine with approachable tannins. A small amount of Malbec accentuates both varieties.

This vintage was particularly labour intensive as the Marri Blossom, which normally protects the fruit from birds, was non-existent, resulting in the largest netting programme ever seen at Vasse Felix, which resulted in beautiful quality fruit.

Ripe, spicy and blackcurranty with green herbs, dried oregano, sage and lavender, cut through with juicy acidity; full and supple with very fine tannins

Drinks nicely on first opening; the complexity becomes more evident with aeration.

 Very Good.

Match with with red meat - lamb, pork, beef - cooked on a barbecue or as a Sunday roast. 


Further reviews:


"A classy Merlot-driven claret, from vineyards just outside the Margaux appellation. It's drinking beautifully at this age, showing savoury leather and cigar box notes plus ripe plum and blackberry. Fresh acidity, supple tannins and cedar oak spice complete the picture."

Decanter Magazine, Weekday Wines, December 2020 edition.

As a vintage, 2016 was 10/10 and this elegant, Merlot-rich beauty is gloriously approachable. Sloshed into a decanter it would pass for something far, far pricier."

Jonathan Ray, The Field, November 2020

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