UNWINED: Getting to Know Bordeaux

UNWINED: Getting to Know Bordeaux

brought to you by  UNWINED

story by  BRIAN ACTON 

photography courtesy of   BRIAN ACTON

Does Bordeaux have a generational problem? I am not entirely sure, but I can say that if your goal is to open the next trendy wine bar or wine-focused restaurant, stuffing your list with benchmark Bordeaux producers is not the move to make. I was reminded of this while ushering a wine-loving acquaintance around the shop, giving him my thoughts on the most recent arrivals. When I began elaborating on my favorite Bordeaux finds, he stopped me mid-sentence, astonished, “You drink Bordeaux?” I supposed my English was showing. Now, this is a youngish man, roughly my age, who actively seeks out some of the finest wines in the world, rejecting out of hand a region historically known for producing some of the most memorable wines one can drink. If I had a financial stake in the region, that would certainly give me pause.

Fortunately, I have no such stake and a big part of me delights in being off trend. Bordeaux was a formidable part of my early wine education. That part of my sense memory delights when those telltale alluring aromas of brambly berries, cassis, bay leaf, graphite and baking spices hit my nose. My wine education began by wandering around the Bordeaux and Burgundy sections of wine shops, collecting any bottle within my budget from a producer or appellation I did not yet recognize. I would wax on about the value that was Fronsac to anyone who’d listen. Just how many bottles of ’03 La Vieille Cure were consumed by unappreciative guests at dinner parties in our apartment back then is beyond me, though I wish I still had some.

Bordeaux isn’t pure nostalgia for me. It is a classic region and will always remain so. Knowing the wines helps me better understand the exuberance of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, for example, and even appreciate the structural differences between López de Heredia’s Viña Tondonia and Viña Bosconia bottlings. Wine trends and preferences come and go. Observing them while swirling the Bordeaux in your decanter makes them all the more entertaining.

The wine I am recommending to you this month has its feet in the classicism of the Bordeaux region, but is definitely also on-trend, Closerie du Pelan Côtes de Bordeaux Rouge 2000 ($70). In 1984, Bordeaux native Régis Moro left his career as a painter and returned to his roots, purchasing a property called Vieux Château Champs de Mars, which straddles the Côtes de Francs and Côtes de Castillon appellations in the commune of Les Salles-de-Castillon. The estate encompassed 42 total hectares, most of which were planted to roughly 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot and 5% Petit Verdot, at altitudes of 50 to 80 meters. Régis eschewed chemical treatments and modern winemaking gadgetry from the outset. This is old school Bordeaux through and through. Closerie du Pelan was certified organic with the 2008 vintage and obtained biodynamic certification in 2013.

While he was named “Winemaker of the Year” by the French newspaper Le Point in the early 2000s, Régis never found commercial success. Unable to continue to make the necessary capital investments, the property was purchased by friend and neighbor, Jean-Pierre Amoreau of Le Puy fame, whose own vineyards are only a mere three kilometers away. After the purchase, Jean-Pierre discovered hundreds of bottles of Closerie du Pelan dating back to 1999 underneath the cellar’s main floor, resting undisturbed since bottling. These bottles never found a home in the market, testifying to the popularity problem with which we began.

Closerie du Pelan Côtes de Bordeaux Rouge 2000 is a mature wine whose drinking window is upon us. Beautiful, aged Bordeaux savor emerges from the glass. Smoldering fire, leather, cedar, tobacco and green briar dominate the nose, while the palate is supple with more than enough chocolatey cassis-laden fruit to remind you that it is alive.

To pair, I’d suggest something equally lux, Tournedos Rossini. CLICK HERE FOR THE RECIPE


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