Wine from The Left Bank
Graves and the Médocs (Haut-Médoc and Médoc) are highly regarded red wine districts in the Bordeaux wine region where Cabernet Sauvignon’s blackcurrant and tannic character dominates the blend.
They’re referred to as the Left Bank, in relation to the River Garonne south of Bordeaux city and the Gironde Estuary north of the city.
Wines are typically long-lived with added spice from ageing in new barrels. Keen competition internationally has incentivised more consistent quality as Cabernet Sauvignon has become the world’s most planted grape variety.
Merlot adds a softer mouth-feel and fleshy plummy fruit. While Cabernet Franc, an ancestor of both Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, retires to a supporting role with liquorice and redcurrant flavours.
Fewer wines are held hostage to the fortunes of the Atlantic region’s unpredictable weather throughout the growing season from bud-burst and flowering in spring to summer ripening and autumn harvest. Vintage variation is less of a gamble. Here are some safe bets.
1) Chateau de Seuil 2009, AC Graves 13.5pc
Mature bouquet of cedar wood and fruity cassis. A seductively silky texture defined by refined tannins supports the ripe blackcurrant fruit and refreshing acidity. A very classy Claret. Perfect match with rare roast beef, Yorkshire pudding and reduced juices to almost syrup consistency.
€22.75 at Kelly’s Wine Vault, Clontarf, Dublin 3 and online: tindalwine.com
2) Mission St Vincent 2010, AC Medoc, Bordeaux 13.5pc
Blackberry aromas are followed on the palate by ripe blackcurrant flavours, peppered with spice. Mellow and well-balanced acidity, alcohol and tannins. Rich enough to match a venison sausage fried with juniper berries.
€13.49 at Molloy’s Liquor Stores throughout Dublin.
3) Chateau Puy Castéra 2009, AC Haut-Médoc, Bordeaux 13.5pc
Restrained and reserved classic Claret character. The firm tannins support black fruit flavours that linger long, lifted with subtle oaky spice. Grill a steak and serve with a cream and peppercorn sauce with a smidgen of Irish whiskey.
€19.75 at Wines Direct Stores, Mullingar; Arnotts, Liffey Street, Dublin 1 and online: winesdirect.ie
4) Les Graves de Mahon-Laville 2011, AC Graves, Bordeaux 13pc
Aromatic with fruity blackcurrant scents and a little spicy nutmeg. Persistent liquorice and pepper on the palate accentuates the ripe fruit flavours. Sufficient depth of fruit to tackle a lamb rogan josh.
€19.99 at The Counter, Letterkenny. In Dublin at 64 Wine Glasthule and Jus de Vine, Portmarnock.
5) Chateau Liversan 2008, Cru Bourgeois Superieur, AC Haut-Médoc, Bordeaux 13pc
Subtle bouquet of pencil shavings from the year’s ageing in French oak barrels followed by several years evolving in bottle. Very firm tannins and assertive oak persist to a drying finish and still needs time to meld and integrate. Match the masculine rawness with a carpaccio of beef drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and toasted pine nuts.
€24.99 at La Touch Wines, Greystones and in Dublin at Brechin Watchorn, Ranelagh and Martin’s, Fairview.