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PHOTO BY WANE CRAWFORD

Wayne On Wine

Cru Bourgeois wines of Bordeaux

By Wayne Crawford

Best buys in quality wine led the Big Canoe Wine Group to revisit the French Bordeaux region for a little-known wine classification, Cru Bourgeois.

These are blended red wines using merlot, cabernet sauvignon, petit verdot and cabernet franc. All the vineyards lie on the left bank of the Gironde estuary, which flows from the Atlantic Ocean to the city of Bordeaux.

The term “Cru des Bourgeois,” now “Cru Bourgeois,” has been around since the 15th century and often had the best land for growing grapes. Following the 1855 classification in the Left Bank, many excellent wine producers were not rated in the classifications. Accordingly, in 1858, 248 wineries were organized as Crus Bourgeois to promote quality and marketing for their affordable wines.

By 1932 there were 444 members, in theory following a strict quality code. Quality standards and membership selection apparently is the common theme surrounding the numerous changes in this organization.

During the period 1962 until 2014, there were significant stops and starts within the organization over the selection and failure to meet high production standards, resulting in the Alliance de Cru Bourgeois. In this new grouping, there is a two-tier system, Cru-Bourgeois and Cru-Bourgeois Supérieur. New labeling appeared on wine arriving from France in 2016.

Unique among this group, and unlike the chateaux that retained their 1855 classification, there is a quality assurance protocol for all members who stay within the organization. Most importantly, this group of 278 growers selected in 2014 must comply with a rigorous selection program and submit their wines for quality review to an approved regional board.

Most significantly, they are producing quality wine in the $18 to $35 price range, designed for everyday consumption.

Much like the 10 Cru Beaujolais wine villages, these Cru Bourgeois producers are making excellent wines at fair prices, and we will benefit when distributors and retailers begin to understand the good value these wines offer. In an earlier article on wine trends, I highlighted blended red wines were on the rise, second only to Cabernet Sauvignon in United States’ consumption.

Since Cru Bourgeois is blend-based, establishing an aroma and tasting profile is varied. My tasting notes include blackberry, black currant and, to complement the merlot, cherry. Also noticeable are cedar, sweet herbs, rose petal and oak.

Food pairings include almost any meat dish, barbecued chicken, grilled salmon, veal and grilled pork. Experiment with the blends. In a high-merlot base, the tannins are softer and will complement most dinner meals. I much prefer these wines over Bordeaux wines at lower or comparable price points.

In our effort to buy these wines in the Greater Atlanta area, confusion on what constitutes a Cru Bourgeois was noted. The label is the key. Use this excellent website, https://www.crus-bourgeois.com, on which there is a map with an interactive screen that highlights locations and, in most cases, chateau photos of wineries in the current organization. When traveling to Bordeaux, consider using this website as a guide to visiting these wineries for tastings.

‘Wines Drinking Well Now’

Cru Bourgeois Grand Vin De Bordeaux 2010, Haut-Medoc, France, $25. This blend is 56 percent cabernet sauvignon, 31 percent merlot, 11 percent cabernet franc and two percent petit verdot. With a dark ruby-red color, brilliant and reflective, its aromas include dark berry, oak, violet floral, black currant, plum and spice. On the palate, it is full-bodied, with black currant balancing overtones of plum and spice. Dark fruit and soft tannins dominate a lingering finish. This is an excellent wine, well crafted and our first choice in our blind tasting. Highly Recommended.

Chateau Bel Air Gloria 2011, Haut Medoc, Cru Bourgeois, $26. Ruby-red color with blackberry, anise and violet floral aromas, this wine is medium-bodied, balanced with dark fruit and rich tannins. Overall, the aromas are complex and support a medium finish in an excellent wine that has time to improve with aging. Highly Recommended.

Domaine Château D'Arche 2009, Haut-Medoc, $24.99. This is a blend of 40 percent merlot, 45 percent cabernet sauvignon, 5 percent cabernet franc, 5 percent petit verdot and 5 percent carmenère. It is a dark-red garnet color with dark fruit, herbs and spice aromas. On the palate, it is medium-bodied, balanced with smooth tannins and good structure. Its long finish has dark berry fruit and hints of spice dominating. This is a well-crafted wine. Highly Recommended.

Other Cru Bourgeois to consider: Chateau Plagnac 2010 Medoc, $19; Moulin a Vent Moulis en Medoc Cru Bourgeois 2014, $25; Tour Castillon Medoc Cru Bourgeois 2014, $20; and Chateau La Haye Saint Estephe Cru Bourgeois 2014, $20.

‘Drink what you like!’

My next article will focus on French wines we enjoyed at the BCAR fundraiser.

Wayne Crawford is a French Wine Scholar (FWS), a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) and a member of the Wine Scholar Guild, Society of Wine Educators and American Wine Society.

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