Big Canoe Wine Group blind-tested 15 red Bordeaux

chateau in Bordeaux
Chateau and vineyard in Bordeaux, France.

Wayne on Wine
By Wayne Crawford
wayne crawford
Wayne Crawford
Bordeaux is the principal “Fine Wine” region in the world with its maritime climate, direct access to the Atlantic and 297,000 acres of vineyards. Nestled in southwest France, the region is 63 miles north to south and 78 miles west to east. The anchor city of Bordeaux and the surrounding area are home to over one million Bordelais.

Historically, Bordeaux - with its easy access to the Atlantic and the long pre-railroad distance to Paris - was a leading wine exporter to England and Holland. Fast-forward to 2012 and one-third of Bordeaux wine production is still exported, leading all other wine regions in France. Bordeaux exports to the United States dropped from 1.8 million cases in 2006–2008 to one million cases in 2009, according to Roger C. Bohmrich, Master of Wine.

Several factors contribute to this decline: the uncertain economy; the improved quality of American wine; competition in the world market to produce wines ready to drink at a good quality-to-price ratio (QPR); and the perception that French Bordeaux wine is overpriced.

One way to validate QRP is to visit your local wine merchant. In my own unscientific test in half a dozen North Georgia and North Florida stores, there were few Bordeaux wine choices priced from $25 to $125. Given the dominance of French Bordeaux wine on the world’s fine wine futures market and the publicity of the high cost of first-growth Bordeaux, average wine American drinkers may find these wines outside their price-comfort zone. Yet, Bordeaux reds dominated by Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon blends can be exceptional at good QPRs and the white Sauternes are often exquisite and worth the time to appreciate . . . the challenge in Georgia is locating the wines.

To enjoy more affordable Bordeaux wine, know the vintage years for reds: 2005, 2009 and 2010 are highly recommended. For white Sauternes it is hard to go wrong with any year after 2001 - great consistency.  The second wine or label produced by the Bordeaux winemakers is a more reasonable way to buy wine: view “Second Wine” in Wikipedia for a list of all the second Bordeaux labels. Identify local stores with more abundant Bordeaux wine selections, including Whole Foods, POPS, and Hinton’s. And online, and are two good choices with many wines on sale.

When pairing Red Bordeaux, consider grilled/roasted red meats (beef, lamb, venison, filet mignon) and Roquefort cheese. The Big Canoe Wine group blind-tasted 15 red Bordeaux; the top three included one Left Bank Cabernet Sauvignon-based wine and two Right Bank Merlots. The tannins were softer and the wines were very approachable with long silky finishes. The Cabernet from Graves was only 13 percent alcohol by volume.

Wines drinking well now
Chateau De Rouillac 2005, Pessac-Leognan Region, Bordeaux priced at $25: Black cherry and smoke aromas on the nose with deep ruby red colors, and black cherry fruit on the palate, nice structure in a medium-bodied wine, nice intensity and a lingering finish. This was the first choice in the blind wine-tasting and at this price it is an exceptional Best Buy

Chateau Rocher Bellevue Figeac 2005 St Emilion Grand Cru, Bordeaux priced at $25: Ruby red color with plum and black cherry aromas for a medium to full-bodied wine that is 14 percent alcohol by volume. Plum and black fruit flavors on the palate with low acidity and plummy overtones on the finish that allows this wine to drink young. Recommended.

Chateau Fombrauge 2005 Saint Emilion Grand Cru priced at $48: Deep ruby red colors from the largest vineyard in Saint Emilion on the right bank. Smoke, blackberry and chocolate aromas for a wine that is 77 percent Merlot with the remaining blend Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. On the palate the wine has deep blackberry and cherry flavors with an intense finish. Recommended.

Other Bordeaux wines drinking well: Château Lilian Ladouys St.-Estèphe 2009 at $25; Château Caronne-Ste.-Gemme Haut-Médoc 2009 at $20; Château Hyot Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux 2010 at $17; Château d’Aiguilhe Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux 2009 at $28; and Château Quinault L’Enclos St.-Emilion 2009 at $35.

Georgia Wine Notes
The seventh Georgia Wine Highway weekend is March 23–25, 2012. For details go to or goggle “Georgia Wine Highway 2012.” Ten wineries in the Georgia Wine Growers Association sponsor this delightful annual event. The closest winery to Big Canoe is Cartecay Vineyards, one of our newest wineries and a nice place to start at 2:00 p.m. on Friday, March 23.

Big Canoe Notes
The annual Big Canoe Wine Group wine tasting fundraiser is scheduled for “Friday the 13th” of April, 7:15 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at The Clubhouse at Lake Sconti. A unique opportunity for $35 per person to taste 35 $20-and-under wines rated 90 or better from the down-under countries Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina and South Africa. The evening includes complementary wine glass, tasting notes with program, and hors d’oeuvres. Advance tickets will be available at the postal facility on March 31 and April 9. Look for flyers with more details—only 175 tickets will be available.

Drink what you like!
March will usher in warmer weather and whites and roses wines will be showcased.

Although he calls Big Canoe home, Wayne is frequently on the road with his consulting practice. Wayne is a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) and a member of the Society of Wine Educators and the American Wine Society.


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