Bright and early Monday morning I attended a Guild Somm masterclass about Right Bank Bordeaux at Cork Buzz, which I had been wanting to get to since I first learned of its existence many moons ago. The class was excellent! Matt Stamp MS (master sommelier) lead 20 or so of us through some factual and sensory info about the Right Bank.
Not a great photo, but you get the idea. Matt Stamp MS
- After veraison (when grapes start turning their color- phenolic ripening) the Bordealais de-leaf the bunches to allow aeration. The airflow helps prevent disease like botrytis (grey rot)
- The Right Bank (St. Emilion & its satellites, Fronsac, Canon Fronsac, and Pomerol) account for only 10% of Bordeaux wine
- Bordeaux is comprised of over 50 AOCs (appellations)- which, according to Matt, is far too many- 10 of which are on the Right Bank
- Saint Emilion accounts for half of the production of the Right Bank
- Pomerol is a mere 800 ha (1 ha = 1 football field + grass around it)
- Bordeaux is 8 x the size of Napa in terms of planted vines
- Malbec and Carmenere were the first to go after phylloxera, which is why we don’t see them much today, because they are difficult to graft
- Merlot is generous, easy to grow, and after a massive frost in 1956, was the most cultivated. It still is today
- Trending now: we’re seeing more and more Cabernet Sauvignon planted in the Right Bank– it’s getting warmer and can ripen there now
Then we tasted through four flights of Right Banks wines.
Flight 1) Fronsac and Canon Fronsac
This is a super place to find value! The reputation went down after phylloxera because the focus went away from the devastated hillside vineyards and into the valley vineyards which were easily flood-able, hence, vigneron were able to keep phylloxera at bay without grafting. Unfortunately these vineyards were not as great and the wines suffered. Today this is not the case…
2004 Chateau Canon retails at a mere $24!!! 12 years of aging and showing really really great right now. Elegant, mature, and a real steal.
Flight 2) St. Emilion Satellites
This flight showed a more rustic side of the Right Bank. Fiercely tannic with really balanced alcohol, here is a good place to look for a big red for a big meaty dinner.
2010 Chateau de Mole retails at $24 and was showing quite tasty with some prune and black tea character.
Flight 3) St. Emilion proper
These were a real treat and ran a gamut in terms of price– $26 up to $130 for the 2010 Pavie.
2012 Chateau Lusseau was my find of the day. $25 retail, concentrated, elegant, balanced (12.5% abv) with really lovely oak use. I could drink this all day.
Flight 4) We finished up with some Pomerol.
The 2008 Vieux Chateau Certan proved further evidence of the excellence of this estate. Floral and aromatic (a hallmark of 2008) with well integrated tannins and a real sense of Pomerol classicism. Also, keep an eye out for 2015s. The prices are high, but boy was it delicious out of barrel.
Matt was absolutely excellent and bestowed not only tons of facts and detail, but also relayed personal experiences, often at the expense of the French, to drill it all home.
What was very interesting coming from an Asian wine background, was the lack of interest in Bordeaux in the US. Most of the Sommeliers in attendance didn’t sell much Bordeaux, and those that did didn’t seem too enthused about it. In Hong Kong you’d be hard pressed to sell anything other than Bordeaux, good or not.
Bordeaux is where wine grabbed the attention of the world, and watch this space, the young will find a renewed interest. Because really, who wants to pay $30 for an overripe juicy Cab when they could have a refined and ready to drink Bordeaux?