BORDEAUX-HO-HO: Sorry kids, these quality French reds are top of the Xmas shopping list
You don’t have to be a Macquarie banker to place a bottle or two of Bordeaux on your Christmas table.
Knowing where to source good Bordeaux for a modest price is one of the benefits of being a savvy wine enthusiast: knowledge gives you an inside edge.
“People think French wine is good but very expensive. That doesn’t have to be the case if you know where to look,” says Bordeaux winemaker Jean-Marc Sauboua.
Sauboua, who’s been making and sourcing wine in the region for 35 years, has helped The Australian Wine Club source four Bordeaux reds for a classy mixed dozen deal to light up your festive season entertaining.
Three of the chateaux featured in our lineup are located in the Castillon region of Bordeaux, which neighbours one of the wine world’s most famous appellations, Saint-Emilion.
Sauboua makes wine for Tony Laithwaite, an Englishman who built a global wine empire after taking a summer job as a student in the 1960s washing bottles at a wine co-operative in Bordeaux, starting at Castillon.
“If it weren’t for the line dividing Castillon from Saint-Emilion, its wines would be twice the price. The hills are the same, the soil is the same, the exposure is the same,” Laithwaite says.
Laithwaite, who started Laithwaites Wine, which nowadays sources and distributes globally, has backed his confidence in Castillon by acquiring two chateau, Chateau La Clariere in 1980 and Chateau de Colombe in 2012.
Since taking over Chateau La Clariere, his team, led by Sauboua, has undertaken the painstaking, long-term work of improving the management of the vines and reducing yields to increase the intensity of the berries produced. Rigorous methods have been employed in the winery.
The commitment has been rewarded, with the chateau winning four trophies and more than 80 gold medals, and twice being awarded Paris’ Lauréat Prix d’Excellence. Decanter magazine has named Chateau La Clariere the leading winery in Cotes de Castillon.
The success underlines the broader point: wines produced to exacting standards with fruit grown in similar terroir to the grand cru estates will deliver exceptional value.
“I call them next-door wines,’’ says Sauboua, who trained at Château Haut-Brion, one of Bordeaux’s five Premier Grand Cru Classé estates.
He points out that Castillon, which has 70 per cent of its vineyards planted to merlot and 20 per cent to cabernet franc, is located on the same limestone plateau as Saint-Emilion. The reds are round, fresh, fruit-driven wines with soft tannins.
Who needs to be a millionaire, indeed?
Classic Bordeaux aromas lift from this merlot-dominant blend, with cassis, herbal, leather and cedar notes hinting at the complexity that lies ahead. Generous fruit on the palate: rich plums, strawberry compote, cinnamon and spice.
Velvety textured; opulent, deep and intense. Medium-bodied. Amazing value in this deal. 14.5%; RRP $56 a bottle.
Another Castillon gem, rising to greater heights since Laithwaite acquired the neglected estate. Juicy blend of merlot, cabernet franc, malbec and cabernet sauvignon. Spicy plums and cassis rule, with cloves, ginger and nutmeg playing sweet notes in the background.
Beautifully balanced. Double gold medal China Wine & Spirits Awards 2022. 14.5% alc; RRP $34 a bottle.
From the Right Bank’s Premières Côtes de Blaye; crafted by the highly regarded Christophe Reboul Salze. Aromas of meaty pan juices, blackcurrant and cassis lead to a rich and ripe palate of blackcurrant, blackberry, vanilla and spice.
Soft, silky tannins. Fuller-bodied than the Castillon wines above. 14.5% alc; RRP $32 a bottle.
From vines planted 30 years ago in Castillon. Aromas of plums and redcurrants, vanilla and floral notes of violet. Hints of aniseed and herbs too. Medium-bodied palate carries redcurrant fruits along silky tannins to a long finish powered by a burst of refreshing acidity.
Super approachable. The lightest of the four wines. 13% alc; RRP $38 a bottle.
Order by simply clicking the links to our online store or telephone 1300 765 359 Monday to Friday, from 9am to 5pm AEST. Deals are available only while stocks last. The Australian Wine Club is a commercial partnership with Laithwaites Wine, LIQP770016550. Stockhead is partnering with The Australian Wine Club on this offer.