Posted by: tomciocco | October 20, 2013

SOMETHING OF A DEPARTURE: A RIGHT BANK BORDEAUX

Hell, let’s face it, finding any Bordeaux amongst these pages is rarer than hen’s teeth. Why? Well, there are lots of reasons, but some of the top ones are first, Bordeaux – most good Bordeaux – is pretty expensive, and I typically like to keep the price tags on the wines I talk about on the lower side. Second, if you haven’t noticed, I also usually focus on wines that are a bit more off the beaten path, and Bordeaux grapes are about as far from this model as possible – there might be no more famous name in wine than Bordeaux, or the grapes that make it up. Third, two of the three of those grapes  –  Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon –  are just not amongst my favorite grapes (and not for any reason connected to any recent wine movies either – let’s get that straight). Fourth, the overall presentation of Bordeaux, for me, is more like “BORE-deaux”…for many wines that carry this celebrated label, there’s just a certain narrow and hidebound range of styles that for reasons attached to a deep tradition, and the demands of the market, remains powerfully resistant to change.

But enough about what I DON’T like about this indisputably great wine, and more about what I did like about this particular one. First, it’s from the right bank of the Gironde river  – home to what I (and lots of other folks too) believe to be the greatest Bordeaux made – Cheval Blanc. Cheval Blanc is very unusually made primarily from my favorite Bordeaux grape variety, Cabernet Franc, backed up by Merlot, and very, very little Cabernet Sauvignon (and a touch of Malbec too which is cool), which makes it, even for a right bank wine, a bit of an oddity, which considering what you know about my feeling about Bordeaux in general, makes the attraction to this bottling not quite so strange. Further, the cooler right bank typically produces brighter, somewhat lighter and more versatile wines than emanate from the left bank which get more sun and heat which allows growers there to more easily and fully ripen Cabernet Sauvignon year in and year out.

This particular righty comes from Saint Emilion, a sub-region in which Merlot tends to dominate the blends, and which usually produces the roundest, plushest, and plummiest Bordeaux wines. The blend found under this cork consisted of 60% Merlot 20% Cabernet Franc, and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, and despite the meanish things that I said about two of these grapes, Jen and I really dug this wine…based on the success of this one on the table this evening, there might be more of this world-famous in my future and future posts too…

To go with this quite sophisticated but still strapping wine, I served a first course of leeks braised with red wine and Bay Bolete ‘shrooms, and then a main course of double-thick pork chops braised in a sauce of cream, tomato paste, wine, dried mustard, bay leaf, thyme, and garlic, with a side of roasted rutabagas.

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Chateau Tour Puyblanquet St.-Emilion 2011

Very saturated deep purple/garnet color. Big and rich aromas of black currant, boysenberry, and blueberry compote with supporting aromas of charcoal smoke, licorice, vanilla bean, mixed brown spices, melted dark chocolate, and a light and pretty perfuminess. The palate id full-bodied, big and burly, but with a good balancing acidic cut, and ripe but stiff tannins that back up forward flavors of black cherry, baked apples, chestnut puree` and black truffle. The finish is long, muscular and dry.

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