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Can you tell your left from your right?

7 Sep 2021 by Phil Probert

The famous wellies of Jimmy Cricket might not be much help here but telling your right from left when it comes to Bordeaux is surprisingly helpful. And despite what the pinstripe suit brigade might tell you, it doesn’t need to be that hard.

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Bordeaux hasn’t always been the juggernaut it is today in fact it used to be more famous for sheep than wine. Located on the coast about halfway up the Bay of Biscay where the Girond Estuary meets the Atlantic Ocean, and two rivers diverge The Garonne to the left and Dordogne on the right making a kind of upside down Y shape. To the Coastal side the left of the Garonne soils are gravelly and sandy with patches of limestone allowing Cabernet Sauvignon to develop lean wines that can age for decades. Some of the top estates can be horrendously expensive and sometimes even affordable wines need a few years to come into their own.

While further inland on the right of the Dordogne soils have more clay less gravel meaning the vines have a slightly easier time and wines can be softer and riper with less capacity for ageing. Merlot tends to dominate the plantings allowing for some pretty decent wines at fair prices. Although there are plenty of expensive wines here too!!

Whether the wines are right bank or left bank though the skill is in the blending of grape varieties Cabernet and Merlot will provide the essential Character the DNA of the wines of the two Banks but it is the way in which they are blended together along with a cast of supporting characters that makes each wine unique. Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot add fruit, fragrance, colour and body to develop complexity and texture in a way that few other parts of the world can compete with.

Given that Value for Money is hardwired into the buying decisions of Ake and Humphris  Bordeaux presents more than a few Challenges. But we think we’ve managed to find a few gems even at the affordable end of the market. Given what we have said about Bordeaux you won’t be surprised to find our budget friendly versions are all Right bank from the lesser known appellations of Cotes de Bourg and Fronsac. Chateau De Viens from the excellent 2016 vintage is located at the heart of Cotes De Bourg and thanks to a significant proportion of Malbec it has a touch more dark fruit than claret under £10 would normally provide.  Chateau Peychaud 2017 £12.99 or two for £20 is our secret weapon an impeccably managed vineyard that in a year that presented some troubles elsewhere achieved great things aided by a combination of Clay and limestone soils it was able to achieve wines with Merlot generosity that retained freshness and fruit.

The big names on the Right bank are Pomerol and St Emilion. Pomerol has given us a few problems but we have hit a rich vein of St Emilion including one of the Great vintages in living memory. Chateau Yon Figeac is a portion of the large and famous Figeac estate that now stands on it’s own. Having changed ownership in 2005 the wines have become more focused and benefited from investment in the winery and increased plantings of Merlot to increase the St Emilion style and the result is a wine that lives up to the illustrious name. 2017 was a vintage which gave a just at the start of its drinking window you can decant and enjoy now or hide it away for another ten years better yet get a case and have a bottle every year or so. The next wine doesn’t need hiding away just opening and enjoying Chateau Laroque 2010 £41.99 is a superb example of the magical alchemy that happens when time and great wine.

Left Bank wines are often an investment as much in time as money with wines released needing years to mature and soften before revealing their true nature. Haut Medoc is the classic taste of Bordeaux all cigar box and savoury spice our Chateau Pierbone 2010 17.99 is just entering its prime years retaining power and depth while developing complexity. Compare this to the youthful vigour of Lestage Simon 2017 £18.99 has many of the same characteristics but more assertive Tannins.

Whether you are looking for a wine to enjoy tonight or something to hide away until a special occasion we’ve got a Bordeaux for you!

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