Thursday, 22 December 2011

Bordeaux 47 years on

We have just returned to Bordeaux - scene of our first wine experiences - after an absence of 47 years. What took us so long to go back? Well, we could give several reasons such as "events" or "intrigue" etc. but perhaps a contributing factor actually was that we had 'done' Bordeaux (we were there for 8 months) and there were other wine areas to discover, not to mention the fact that Bordeaux was musically a backwater.

Not surprisingly things have changed. The city is beautifully cleaned and restored. The Grand Theatre, previously very threadbare is now absolutely splendid.

The place has a well heeled air and from your arrival at Merignac airport, you are in no doubt as to what you can attribute that!
With less than 24 hours we couldn't visit any Chateaux or appelations so we took our experiences where we found them. First port of call was Max Bordeaux Wine Gallery in the Cours de l'Intendence where you can sample all kinds of Bordeaux

from quite regular Crus Bourgeois

to Chateau Ausone & Co.

At nearly €.40 a snippet we concentrated on the lower end of things which it has to be said wasn't particularly impressive. 47 years ago dry white Bordeaux was a joke apart from a very few honorable exceptions so the discovery of a very delicious if oaky example here at Max was of great interest. This was Clos Floridene, Graves of which Decanter said;
Soft, floral hints, some citrus fruit. A first-class effort, fresh yet complex fruit, excellent balance of acidity, long, ripe finish. Drink up to 2014.
On the Cours Tourny near the Grand Theatre there is a very stylish wine bar called 'Bar a Vin' where entry is only possible when someone on the inside lets you in.

Here we made our second big departure as well as surprise discovery on ordering a Bordeaux Clairet. Another joke from the past: another revelation. This example was from Chateau Lauduc, one of the closest properties to the City of Bordeaux (right bank - Libourne/St. Emilion side). AOC Bordeaux Superieur, 75% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon. What is interesting about Bordeaux Clairet is that it is not a Rose but something between that and a red. It is also a conscious revival of what Bordeaux wine might have been like when exported to England in the olden days. We have since tried another version and been disappointed but Chateau Lauduc shows what can be done in this medium.

In the Theatre bar and at dinner we drank Chateau Biston Brillette, Moulis which outshone anything at Max in its class. It must be said that the nature of Red Bordeaux has changed immeasurably in this half century. Presumably this can be recognised by vertical tasting but it is of course not possible to compare wines from the 60's with modern ones at the same stage of development.

Talking about modern wine, there is a unique wine being made in the Pays de la Vienne near Poitiers - well outside the Bordeaux area - made from Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc by an Australian educated Frenchman called Frederic Brochet under the name Ampelidae. Le K Ampelidae 2005 is the blackest wine we have ever tasted, Cahors notwithstanding. It's what Parker might call a brooding monster (14%). M. Brochet proudly labels it 'Vin Contemporain'. This is certainly the direction in which so much Bordeaux has already traveled. Our Slotovino reader will already know we hope the pendulum will swing back once again - maybe as far as Bordeaux Clairet any century soon?

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