Bored of Bordeaux, Bored of Life
✨ FREDDIE HUTCHINS
So, while Brits in the UK revelled in the Easter sunshine, I found myself over in stormy (rainy) France, on much more serious business: the choosing of wedding wine. My partner’s family have roots in the Saint-Émilion region, so it was with a great sense of delight, as well as a strong sense of duty, that we made our way over to sample some of the region’s offerings ahead of the big day. I offer you the following four stand-outs in the spirit of ‘How to talk about wine you might never have drunk’ - although perhaps keep an eye out in your local Oddbins, as you never know what their bin-ends can throw up!
Our very favourite ‘affordable' choice, the charming de Laussac estate sits within walking distance of the house in France. Whilst the big-hitters in the Bordeaux region tend to be Left Bank fashioners of ‘Bordeaux blends’ - that is to say, wines made with a predominance of the Cabernet Sauvignon grape - Château de Laussac eschews this formula in favour of predominantly Merlot-blended wines, given its Right Bank situation in the Côtes de Castillon. What does this mean in the glass? Whereas Cabernet-based, Left Bank-styled wines are usually more tannic and powerful, Merlot-based wines from the Right Bank tend to be softer and suppler - and downright drinkable.
Château Mangot Heading deliciously into spenny-yet-special territory, the Mangot terroirs are a delight to visit - and to drink. On our tour we were shown around by the lovely and highly knowledgeable Léa, while during the tasting itself one of the two brother-owners, Yann Todeschini, showed up. Whilst lovely, this was also strangely intimidating, like watching a play when sitting next to the person who’s written it. No false praise was required, however: I fell totally in love with their Cuvée Quintessence: a 100% Merlot-based wine (perhaps you’re noticing a theme / preference here) which was seriously special - like drinking gorgeous, fruity velvet. I wanted to buy a case of this on the pretence that a bottle would make a fantastic present here and there. But who am I kidding? It would all be for myself. One for the wedding list, perhaps.
Château Beauregard An estate already producing proper-tasty Pomerol, and with ambitions to establish themselves as forerunners in the appellation. Visiting this place is an altogether more curated experience: the tour costs a little more, and there are two tiers of tastings depending on how many wines you want to taste (and how serious you are about tasting them!). Beauregard’s Signature Pomerol is a 70% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc blend, so I was well-disposed to like it from the off - and boy, did it deliver. Juicy fruit, peppery notes and an exquisitely endless finish, this is a dream of a wine that would surely delight any drinker.
Château Margaux To be clear, we didn’t drink any Margaux. One of only five wine estates with venerable Premier Grand Cru status, Margaux also boasts the blingiest crib in the region, with sleek architectural additions by Foster + Partners. If you’re brave enough, you can tip-toe up the threateningly long driveway, tinkle the doorbell and ask to be shown around. If you’re even braver, you can ask to try the wine. We weren’t feeling that brave. Maybe next time...
So what did we go for? Absurdly, we didn't. Or not a Bordeaux, at least. In this region, it truly does seem that you get what you pay for - tricky when 9 cases are required to supply a weddingful of thirsty guests. All was certainly not lost, however, as a trip to a charming wholesaler in nearby Castillon-la-Bataille threw up an utterly delicious and absurdly reasonably-priced Pinot Noir from the Languedoc region. But that's a whole other post, for a whole other time...