I recently had the pleasure of attending the trade tasting of the wines that make up the 2014 Official Selection of Cru Bourgeois de Médoc. Set within the splendour of the British Academy in London, three rather large rooms were given over to showcasing some 183 different wines.
The Cru Bourgeois quality system incorporates those wines from the Medoc peninsula that sit outside of the famous ‘1855’ classification. To qualify as Cru Bourgeois a wine must be blind tested and approved by a panel of wine professionals two years after the harvest.
The 2014 selection features 278 Cháteaux producing 30 million bottles of wine. That’s equivalent to 33% of the Medoc’s production.
With 68 wines on show from the Medoc and another 68 from the Haut-Medoc I was already sensing palate fatigue from going through these larger appellations, and so decided to focus my tasting on getting close to the smaller appellations. These included Listrac-Médoc (7 wines on show), Moulis (12), Margaux (10), Pauillac (3) and Saint-Estéphe (15).
What follows is my thoughts on the style offered up by each appellation followed by my standout wine.
Overall the wines from Listrac-Medoc would best be described as rustic and crunchy with good grippy tannins. Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon were the dominant grape varieties here with small amounts of Petit Verdot peppered throughout. Stylistically the wines had dark cherry overtones topped up with spice, wood and fruitcake.
Standout Wine: Cháteau Capdet. 70% Merlot/30% Cabernet Sauvignon. A vibrant colour in the glass with a wonderful perfumed nose full of fruit and vanilla. Red cherries led the way with a soft and gentle blend working well with the grippy tannins. Good weight. N/A UK
Everything moved in to more subtle and silky territory as we moved just slightly south to Moulis. There were good powerful wines that had been made with such a lightness of touch that pure clean fruit abounded and the length of each was long. Many wines were incredibly perfumed and tannins were evident, but lighter in texture.
Standout Wine: Cháteau Lalaudey. This was a tough one to call but this wine just pipped the others for me. It was full of black cherry and even a touch of meat, but in amongst the darker notes I could find menthol and vanilla as well. The palate was pure silk in a glass. 66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25.5(!)% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 3.5% Petit Verdot. N/A UK
As we headed towards the banks of the Gironde the colour of the wines on show seemed to take on a darker, inky black colour. The silky texture and vanilla fragrance which I adore was still evident and I made several references to both chocolate and confection throughout my notes.
Standout Wine: Cháteau la Fortune. I used several punchy adjectives for this wine including rich, dense and chewy. The principal fruit is of black cherry with savoury notes coming through. Again, this was made with a lovely fragrant nose and a silky smooth palate. Good fortune indeed! 74% Cabernet Sauvignon and 26% Merlot. N/A UK
With only 3 wines on show from this appellation it was pretty hard to gauge the full parameters, especially as one wine did nothing for me whatsoever. I did note that the alcohol levels were also going up as I moved onwards, and were sitting at 14% here as opposed to 13% in Margaux.
Standout Wine: Cháteau Plantey. This Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon blend (55%/45%) combined the lightness of fragrance on the nose with a powerful and weighty body filled with ripe black cherry, confectionate notes and a good grippy tannin. Very pleasing to taste whilst being brooding at the same time, I was left thinking that this would have been taken to an even higher level with the right food. N/A UK
As we move northwards up the banks of the Gironde, the rusticity seemed to creep back in to the wines of Saint-Estéphe. There was lots of power and tannin on display, alongside spice and vanilla/wood fragrances.
Standout Wine: Cháteau Tour des Termes. A Merlot heavy blend (60%) with Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc, and some Petit Verdot along for the ride too. A lovely deep nose, crunchy black cherry, fruitcake and spice. The blend has been extremely well executed to form a rich and weighty palate. This one is actually available in the UK too – £25 from Nicolas.
Following a spot of lunch I did spend some time tasting through the various highlights of the Medoc and Haut-Medoc just to ensure I had covered them off.
In closing it was a real privilege to taste through the classification, especially nestled alongside some noted professional palates. It’s a real shame that a good majority of the wines are not available in the UK, but conversely, that also made the tasting more unique.
With thanks to Jo at Belleville Marketing for the invite.