“Today’s Bordeaux” tasting event

I attended this event for the second year in a row at The Altman Building in NY city. The event features 100+ (they say 100, but I’m told it is closer to 110) wines from Bordeaux at reasonable (sub $30) prices. So no Margaux and no Petrus, but some very nice wines for wine professionals to consider for their bar, restaurant … or blog post as the case may be.

I really like this event for a few reasons. For starters the event is rather civil. Many of these industry events are crowded and full of people from all areas of the wine industry that they become overwhelming. Trying to tune out all of the noise (literal & figurative) to properly taste wines is quite challenging. And while the setting at any such event isn’t conducive for “professional” judging of wine, the calm setting of Today’s Bordeaux allow for better tasting.

I also like the amount of wine this event has. While I was not able to taste all 100+ wines (I tasted about 60 wines – 12 white & 47 red to be exact) 100 is an amount that people can reasonably expect to taste in one afternoon as opposed to events with 2, 3 even 500+ wines.

And finally, anything the organizers of such an event do to make the tasting experience easier is welcome. The organizers of Today’s Bordeaux provide a tasting book that is really great. It is a good size (not too big and flimsy), they provide easy to find numbers to go along with each wine, a picture of the label, and just the right amount of space to take tasting notes.

But without further ado, I’d like to mention a few standout wines…

On the white side I must admit that I was not overly taken by any of the Bordeaux Blancs. I do enjoy a nice Sauvignon Blanc both for its fresh and crisp taste and mouth feel. And while there were some OK examples of this here I think I would lean towards a New Zealand Sauv Blanc over most of these. Some of these were even quite bitter. There was one that was made left on its “lees” (AKA Sur Lies) which showed a bit more creaminess and ripe fruit and another that must have had some form of oak treatment as it was a bit toasty, but overall no real standouts.

The only “white” that did stand out in my mind was the last wine I tried. It was a Sauternes. The 2003 Chateau Lamourette Sauternes made from 90% semillon, 6% Muscadelle & 4% Sauvignon Blanc was quite pleasant. Not thick and out of balance like many sweet wines, this one had a crisp acidity that was not overpowering but gave the overall mouthfeel of the wine a very smooth and pleasant feel. Given that it was the last wine I tried my notes are lacking a bit but I did note apricots and other exotic fruits on the nose (which may have been tainted since I used a glass that still had some residual red wine in it). A very nice wine in the $22-24 retail range. Now if only I had the discipline to put it away for 30 years…

On to the reds. There are many people in this world who swear by Bordeaux. That is all they are interested in drinking as it is the only place the “do it right”, or the “they don’t make ‘em like they used to” place. While that may be a bit extreme it is hard to argue with the history Bordeaux possesses and the age worthiness some of the better Bordeaux wines have proven to posses. And with many of the wines at the tasting coming from the already legendary 2005 vintage, my expectations were high. Frankly, I have found a lot of under $20 Bordeaux to be rough, overly tannic, out of balance, and displaying little to no FRUIT. I have transitioned out of my overtly fruit forward phase, but I still do like to see a wine with balance that has all the elements of a nice Bordeaux based wine in place, from tannins & acidity to earthiness, minerality and FRUIT. And I am pleased to say that while many of the wines in the $10 range were a bit disappointing (although one does need to temper expectations at such a price point) I DID succeed in finding some very nice wine in the $15-30 range.

One such wine was the 2003 Chateau Clarke Listrac-medoc. A blend of 70% Merlot & 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, this wine has a deep rich ruby color with aroma’s of black fruit, chocolate and coffee. On the palate this wine is rich and silky smooth with nicely balanced flavors of both fruit and earth. The wine has a medium + finish and retails between $28-30.

The 2005 Heritage De Le Bosco from Saint Estephe made with 60% Merlot, 26% Cab Sauv, 10% Petit Verdot & 4% Cab Franc has a surprisingly lite & clear red color. This wine stood out to me for its unusual aroma. It took me a few minutes and successive attempts at smelling to determine that this unusual smell was somewhere between sweat & bad breath. Now I do not think it was Brett (a bacteria that gets into wine and is considered by some to be a flaw and others to be a desirable characteristic), as it did not remind me of anything I had ever smelled before. But it certainly left me wondering. On the palate this wine was a bit bitter with some stoney-minerality to it. I felt it lacked fruit and overall I was not enamored with the wine – even if its nose did leave have me pondering the unusual aroma. Suggested retail for this wine is about $18-20.

I had some friends at this tasting who were pouring a wine. I thought they were out of place for this tasting but I gave their wine a try anyway. It was the 2003 Chateau Fourcas Dupre from Listrac-Medoc. This wine too had a very unique nose. Immediately I smelled a very powerful black cherry on this wine. I passed it along to a friend I was tasting with and she proclaimed it to be the best of the tasting. My friends told me that others shared her sentiments. My favorite part of this story is that…this wine is KOSHER! I witnessed first hand how people can try a kosher wine and enjoy it – when not realizing that it is a kosher wine. An interesting experiment would have been to give the same wine to people but first letting them know that the wine was kosher. I wonder how that MAY have adversely affected their feelings about the wine. This wine carries a suggested retail price of about $26-28.

I tasted two 2005 Bordeaux Superieurs made by Chateau de Cazenove. The first I guess was a standard Bordeaux of theirs and the second a kind of reserve that they call “La Fleur”. These two wines were made the same way from the same fruit with the only difference being the oak treatment. The regular was a combination of new and 1 year old oak barrels where the wine was aged for 16 months in said oak. The La Fleur was aged in 100% new oak for 2 full years. I was blown away by the difference. I found the regular to be somewhat nondescript, with typical Bordeaux dryness, tannins and some subtle fruit. While the La Fleur had a toasty oak nose with cherry cola, fresh cherries, rasberries…amazing aroma’s. On the palate the La Fleur had well integrated tannins, and a full and round mouth feel. I guess different strokes for different folks, but I wonder why they would “waste” their fruit on the regular version when the La Fleur is SOOO GOOOD?!??!!… Suggested retail for one (not sure which) is $18-20.

The last wine I would like to mention is the 2005 Chateau Rigaud from Puisseguin-Saint Emillion made from 85% Merlot & 15% Cab Franc. The wine had a very complex noise, displaying black pepper, prunes, cocoa, licorice and some forest pine aromas. Its tannins were apparent but soft and the wine showed nice fruit and earth on the palate. Overall a nicely balanced wine with a medium to long finish. Possibly my favorite of the day.

That’s all folks. I’m running late to a Polaner Selections tasting I am looking forward to. LOTS more wines to try today. I’ll try and post my report from that tasting ASAP.

Until then, Happy Bordeaux wine tasting!

WTG

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