We're all very familiar with Bordeaux, but when is the last time you drank a Bordeaux wine? It just seems to have fallen off the radar; and the fact that it is generally associated with old-school stuffiness and escalating prices certainly doesn't help.
I'm not here to tell you that, actually, it's a snip and you should stock up now. But after having the chance to taste a few really beautiful vintages when Emeline Borie visited Ireland recently to present the wines from her family's estate, Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste, it reminded me of just how much I love Bordeaux, and how distinctly different it is from any other red wine.
With over 120,000 hectares of vineyards, Bordeaux is France's largest wine-producing region. Although people mostly associate it with red wine, it also produces white, rosé, sweet, and sparkling wines, which range in quality from the best wines in the world to straightforward Vin de Pays. It has 65 appellations - the legally defined wine production areas - and the vineyards rise to 140m at the highest points, and at the lowest, are 12m to 14m in elevation. Spanning both sides of the River Garonne, the region is generally looked at in two main parts, the Left Bank and the Right Bank.
The Garonne, which is nearly 2km wide in places, splits into two further inland, forming the Dordogne. This massive body of water has a huge impact on the micro climate here, with its moderating influence being particularly important during spring, when frost can play havoc with young vines. So as you'd expect, the best vineyards are to be found closest to the river.
Another important factor is the soil. On the Right Bank you'll find clay and limestone, suitable for growing Merlot; whereas on the Left Bank, where Cabernet Sauvignon is grown, gravel soils are a feature, with the gravel closest to the river larger in diameter. The climate in Bordeaux is cooler than you'd think, so hot soils are needed to ripen the grapes, and these gravels serve this purpose.
Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste is located in Paulliac, one of the top appellations on the Left Bank. This appellation has a high proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon, and the wines from this region are considered to be the most structured of the Left Bank, with great aging potential. Although many of the wine producers in Bordeaux have "château" in their name, it does not necessarily refer to a house, but instead is the term used to describe a wine estate with its own vineyards and winery.
At Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste, there is indeed an actual château, home to Emeline growing up. They are one of the few owner-occupiers among the Médoc classified châteaux. Also, unusually, all of the vineyards for the estate, which are in one block, are located in exactly the same place as they were in 1855 when famously, the Bordeaux vineyards were classified into growths (crus).
€50, 13.5pc, from Searsons, Dublin and searsons.com
The 55-hectare vineyard of Grand Puy Lacoste, located close to Château Pontet Canet and Château Lynch Bages, is planted primarily with Cabernet Sauvignon, and also has Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Each small parcel of wine is vinified separately, and then over a period of two days, all the wines are tasted individually to make the selection for the top wine, Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste, and the second wine Lacoste-Borie. This is a blend of 67pc Cabernet Sauvignon, 23pc Merlot and 10pc Cabernet Franc, bringing flavours of red berries, darker fruit and some typical cedar notes.
€7.99, 13pc, from Lidl
Lidl’s French wine sale starts on March 2, and this is one of the wines featured. Light and easy drinking with fresh young fruit, there are flavours of red berries and red plums and a background touch of spice.
€11.99, 13.5pc, from Lidl
Also in the Lidl wine sale, this is a step up in price and quality. Still light and easy drinking, there’s a little more concentration with flavours of blackberries and bramble leaf mixing with red berries, plums and soft spice.
€10, 13.5pc, from Dunnes
A blend of 60pc Merlot, 30pc Cabernet Sauvignon and 10pc Cabernet Franc, the grapes for this wine come from the large Entre-Deux-Mers appellation. Easy drinking with ripe blackberry and red plum flavours.
€24.95, 13.5pc, from Molloy’s and Molloys.ie
This Left Bank red has a ripe, sappy nose, with plenty of lush dark plums on the palate and a backbone of firm, well-integrated tannins. Great with roast beef or hearty dishes.
Not all kombuchas are created equal. Mass-produced ones are generally brewed from concentrates, using a beer technique, but craft-brewed kombuchas, like the newly released KO Kombucha, take up to three weeks to brew, using organic black tea, organic green tea, organic raw cane sugar and a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast). What you get is a cleaner, purer flavour, without any artificial confection. At retailers nationwide for €3.95.