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Friday, 31 December 2021

Six Cru Bourgeois Wines

Six Bordeaux wines with Cru Bourgeois status

With #1 child home from university for Christmas and keen to learn a bit about wine, I suggested that she have some Bordeaux lessons.

Bordeaux, on France's Atlantic coast is one of the great wine regions of the world - but you knew that already, didn't you?

Bordeaux makes wine of all colours, but the reds are where it's at for wine enthusiasts.

Bordeaux is the overall, catch-all appellation; the more specific the sub-appellation, the better the wine - in general.

- Crus Bourgeois is literally the "middle class" of Right Bank Bordeaux wines; at the top end you have the Classed Growths, at the bottom everyone else

- the Right Bank of Bordeaux is the Medoc peninsula where the vines are majority Cabernet Sauvignon; Cab is blackcurranty and tannic, it has aging potential but can need a few years or some time in the decanter to become harmonious in its youth

- tannins are the "chewy", "grippy" feeling of a red wine, akin to stewed tea; drying on their own, they work well with the protein in red meats

- vintage matters in Bordeaux, perhaps more than anywhere else; the wines can range from baked and short-lived in hot years to lean and fresh in cold years

- the greatest years are typically Jancis Robinson's "rule of five": 2000, 2005, 2010, 2015 and 2020. Of recent-ish, non-5 years, 2016 - 2019 was a better run than the (mostly disastrous) 2011 - 2014.

Historically, Bordeaux was unapproachable in its youth and needed many years of aging to soften and become harmonious; when I used to buy wines in France as part of regular driving holidays, I still found that at under three years old, most red wines needed quite a bit of aeration.

At two to three years of age, these wines now all drink well on first pouring with good fruit showing straight away. Yes they improve with aeration and yes you could cellar them, but there is not quite the same need to buy wines to lay down for an extended period before even contemplating opening them up.

This style of earlier-drinking wines may be a more contemporary approach, but it certainly makes sense for everyone that a wine be enjoyably drinkable on release.

The quality of the fruit and wine-making is also very consistent here.

Chateau Reysson Haut-Médoc, 2018

Unusually for a Right Bank wine, this estate has a very high percentage of Merlot vines - over 90%. Merlot is low in tannins, generously fruited and plush.

red and black fruits, complex sous bois and spice; ripe, mouthwatering red and black cherry fruit, dried green herbs, spices and inky graphite; long, supple and harmonious with good, savoury underpinnings

Drinks nicely on first opening but improves with aeration.


Match the freshness to roast chicken or a plate of salami and cheese.

Château de Villambis, Haut-Médoc, 2019

cherry and bramble fruits, vanilla spice and sous bois; ripe-yet-fresh red and dark berry fruits with spices and graphite; supple and inky with very fine tannins. Long and very well-made.

Drinks nicely on first opening but improves with aeration.


Château Poitevin 2012, Médoc Cru Bourgeois (£17.95, Lea and Sandeman)

minty-herbaceous with dark bramble fruit, leather and complex oaky spice; fresh and inky with a dense muscular core. Supple with firm, fine tannins. Still very youthful and primary; will repay cellaring.


Match with rare roast beef or a steak.

Château Charmail Haut-Médoc, 2019

dark fruit and plums; fresh, ripe, juicy dark berry fruits with green herbs; fresh, harmonious and supple


Match the freshness to lighter game or pate.

Château Roquegrave Médoc, 2018 

dark fruit and plums with some forest floor; cherry fruited with spice, oaky vanilla, cigar box, and leather. Fresh and harmonious.


Match with salamis, pate or pizza.

Château Guitignan, Moulis-en-Médoc, 2018

complex oaky spice, dark berry fruits and leathery undergrowth; ripe dark fruits, savoury black olives and dark green herbs with leathery, mushroomy sous bois; concentrated, supple and inky with rounded, very fine, well-integrated tannins

Will gain further complexity with some cellaring.


Match with rosemary-and-garlic lamb.

Saturday, 18 December 2021

Three Christmas Wines - Retro, Old Classic, New Classic

Three Christmas wines - Retro, Old Classic, New Classic

I've long argued that Christmas is not a time for wild experimentation or straying too far out of your comfort zone.

With multi-generational family gatherings, lots of cooking and the general weight of expectation, I prefer to reduce the stress levels by keeping wine choices fairly simple.

The most straightforward approach can be simply to have slightly better versions of what you normally drink - with plenty of it to go round.

Here are three wines for Christmas that meet that requirement and should keep all-but-the-fussiest of drinkers happy.

The retro choice - pale cream sherry

Sherry has been enjoying something of a revival, but pale cream remains an anomaly.

Stuck in something of a time-warp, pale cream was only created as a category in the late 20th century but remains something that only one's parents or even grandparents drink.

Essentially a sweetened fino, it is an easier sipper than bone-dry sherries, but like its darker, more complex sibling Cream Sherry, it has not quite managed to shake off its "Maiden Aunt" image, which is a pity as it is a lovely accompaniment to all sorts of slightly sweeter foods.

Croft Original Sherry (£12, The Co-op)

yeasty flor, blossom, white pepper and baked white stone fruits; honey, baked apples with sweet spice, white flowers and candied pineapple; warming, substantial, unctuous and complex, yet also mellow and harmonious.


Serve as a strong-sweet aperitif or match with blue cheese, roasted nuts such as Brazils, melon and parma ham or rich pâté, such as goose liver.

Also consider:

- spicy chorizo or in a Martini in lieu of Vermouth

The Old-School Classic - Bordeaux

Red Bordeaux was my first oenological love and it's a wine I just keep coming back to for its food-friendly, savoury freshness, complexity and aging potential.

Crus Bourgeois are the better wines of the Médoc sub-region of the Left Bank before you get into the stratospheric prices of the Classed Growths; expect just a bit more of everything but without the trophy-wine price tag.

These wine rub shoulders with some of the greatest and most expensive wines you can buy - and it shows.

Chateau Senejac Cru Bourgeois, Bordeaux, 2018 (£17.50, The Co-op)

Vintage matters in Bordeaux perhaps more than anywhere else apart from Burgundy; 2018 is generally considered an exceptional year that favoured the red wines with plenty of warmth.

black cherry and dark plum fruit with complex spice and woodsy sous bois; ripe bramble fruits, raspberry, blackcurrant and plum with minty liquorice and peppery spice; fresh, savoury and supple; long and complex with perfect ripe, very well-integrated tannins

Very Good.

Drinks nicely with plenty of fruit to the fore on first pouring; improves with aeration and has the ability to age.

Match with plain roast red meats or toad-in-the-hole.

The New Classic - Languedoc

From Europe's wine lake to perhaps France's most exciting and innovative region. And almost certainly once of its best-value areas, also scoring well for reliability given its plentiful sunshine.

Languedoc just keeps getting better and better.

Domaine Gayda's first vintage was less than 20 years ago; this 2019 is two-thirds Syrah with one-third Grenache plus some Cinsault making up the balance.

The wine is aged for 21 months in oak in a range of sizes and ages.

Domaine Gayda Chemin de Moscou 2019 (£25, Cambridge Wine Merchants and other independents)

dark purple with complex dark fruits, scrubby garrigue herbs, spice and leathery sous bois; full, supple and fresh with an inky texture, red and black fruits, violets, complex spices and cool mint; plush yet firm; harmonious with well-rounded tannins. Very long.

Very Good.

Drinks nicely with plenty of fruit to the fore on first pouring; improves with aeration and has the ability to age.

Match with garlic-and-rosemary lamb or chicken with a sage-and-sausagemeat stuffing.

The first two wines are currently on special offer at The Co-op until January 4th, 2022 :

Croft Original Sherry - reduced to £10.50 
Chateau Senejac Cru Bourgeois, Bordeaux, 2018 - reduced to £16.50

Wednesday, 8 December 2021

Strong And Sweet for Christmas - From The Co-op

A sherry and port from The Co-op

Personally, I can happily drink both sherry and port all year round. But Christmas is an especially good time to have a couple of bottles on hand.

Dry, tangy fino sherry is a great accompaniment to the shorts of cold-cuts, nuts, cheeses and general lunches-from-leftovers meals that are often a staple of the post-Christmas period.

With its ripe fruit, alcohol and sweetness, port is rather more of a cold-weather drink than a summery one; it has the strength to stand up to mince pies and Christmas pudding, or can just be sipped after an expansive meal in your favourite armchair.

Tio Pepe Fino (£11)

Made from palomino grapes, grown on Albariza soils, fermented to dryness, then fortified lightly for strength, placed in barrels where flor grows and imparts a distinctive tang and finally blended across years via the solera method, sherry is one of the world's great wines.

Complex, elegant and versatile, it is a great match for food; neutral and strong enough not to be overpowered.

pungent with aromatic, floral chamomile; fresh, citrussy and briney-yeasty, with melon, white stone fruit, green apple, brioche, pastry shop, salty almond-and-brazil-nut savouriness; broad, long, complex and elegant.


The classic match for fino is slices of jamon with machego and bread with olive oil; but it will match almost any collection of "assembled food" meals.

Taylor's Select Reserve Port (£10.75)

Like sherry, port is a wine that has been fortified to keep it stable on the historically long sea voyage from Iberia to England.

Traditionally foot-trodden to extract more colour, flavour and preserving tannins, it is partially fermented then fortified whilst some residual sugar remains to preserve sweetness whilst adding strength.

Ruby is the entry-level of ports, a lighter, younger-drinking wine and whilst "Reserva" historically had no official status, it now indicates a premium ruby port approved by the IVDP's tasting panel, the Câmara de Provadores.

This has everything you want from a port; fruit, spice, warmth and sweetness. It's a lot of wine for not much money. 

red, black and sour cherries, eucalyptus and oaky spice with prunes, raisins and liquorice; sweet, warming and supple with very fine, well-integrated tannins.

Thoroughly enjoyable and good value.

Sip as a digestif; drink with mince pies or chocolate and cherry torte.


Both wines are currently on special offer at the Co-op:

Tio Pepe Fino is reduced to £10 from December 1 - 14, 2021 and Taylor's Select Reserve Port is down to just £7.50 for the same period.

Sunday, 5 December 2021

Languedoc Fizz and Aussie Red from Tesco

Languedoc fizz and Aussie red from Tesco

Crisp fizz and Big Red is a classic combination for any meal.

Fizz always creates a sense of occasion and this Blanquette de Limoux is ripe enough to work with a starter.

Western Australia's Vasse Felix is a pioneer of elegant, complex, food-friendly, European style wines in a corner of Australia cooled by three oceans.

Tesco Finest 1531 Blanquette De Limoux (£9.50)

Blanquette de Limoux was first created in 1531 in Languedoc-Roussillon by Benedictine monks; Mauzac and Chenin grapes are blended and aged in bottle for 12 months to produce complex flavours of peach, green apples and a toasted brioche finish.

The Limoux Vineyard covers 2000 hectares and is located in the Pyrenean foothills 20km from Carcassonne.

12.5%, vegan, hand harvested grapes, aged for 12 months. Decanter Commended.

orchard fruits and toasty brioche; ripe white stone fruits, green apples and pears, citrus, florality and Brazil nut; fresh and savoury.

Thoroughly pleasant.

Serve as an aperitif, with as seafood starter or with light mains such as monkfish or plain roast white meats.

Vasse Felix Classic Shiraz (£12)

Shiraz (aka Syrah) with some Malbec in the blend; estate-grown fruit from Vasse Felix's four Margaret River vineyards, matured in barriques for 12 months imparting balance, complexity and softness,.

Each vineyard farmed sustainably using traditional and organic practices, nurturing the soils to achieve better plant health and balance resulting in higher-quality fruit.

Established in 1967 by regional Pioneer Dr Tom Cullity, Vasse Felix is Margaret River's founding wine estate. Since day one Vasse Felix has always strived to explore and express the very best of the Margaret River region and to share it globally. 

damson, spice, florality and inky pencil shavings; sweet, ripe cassis, prunes and juicy black cherries with sweet vanilla spice, wild raspberry, loganberry, and white pepper; rounded and perfectly ripe tannins; fresh and savoury.


Match with roasted red meats, beefy pasta dishes, cold cuts or a plate of salami and cheese.