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While most think of red Bordeaux wines as the classic appellations of Saint Estèphe, Pauillac, Saint Julien, Margaux, Pomerol and Saint Émilion, the Gironde region includes lesser known appellations that offer wonderful Bordeaux at a more affordable cost.
While biking around Blaye in 1978 we encounted many lovely wines in this bucolic region, just across the Gironde from Pauillac, now called Blaye-Côtes de Bordeaux where the sandy clay and limestone soils are more related to the right-bank terroirs of Saint-Emilion. Just to the south, the tiny region of Côtes de Bourg continues to be clay/limestone soil with pockets of gravel and is also known for producing full-bodied Merlot based reds that offer great value. Wines were first produced here by the Romans and these regions were important wine producing areas long before the marshes of the Medoc were drained to create vineyards. Our affinity for this region led us to visit Jean-Luc Hubert many years ago at his beautiful biodynamic estates, Château Peybonhomme-les-Tours in Blaye and Château La Grolet in Bourg. The vineyards at these estates were the most beautiful we had ever seen in Bordeaux and were a dramatic contast to the neat herbicided rows of the Medoc. In addition to great farming, Jean-Luc and family practice natural vinifications and have recently produced their first wine totally without sulfites, the 2015 La Grolet Sans Sulfites Ajouté" and their first cuvée aged in anfora, the La Grolet "Cuvée Jeanne." We have just received a new shipment from this great organic an biodynamic estate - they are among the best values in the store and we urge you to try them.
While organic farming may be uncommon in the main appellations of Bordeaux (more about this in a subsequent email), in the satellite regions in and around Bordeaux where there are more small, family-run properties, one finds many excellent organic and biodynamic estates producing lovely wines at reasonable prices. East of Saint-Emilion, on a continuation of the limestone plateau but at higher elevation is Francs - Côtes de Bordeaux, a tiny region with excellent terroir, where Carine and Franck Richard at Château Cru Godard produce a lovely organic wine from Cabernet, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec. Further east, next to Bergerac is Saint-Foy Bordeaux where the limestone continues in valleys eroded by the Dordogne River and tributaries. Here, Corinne and Jean-Michel Comme at Château Champ des Treilles produce outstanding red and white wines from high-density organic vineyards and natural vinifications with minimal sulfur. Their 2015 "Le Petit Champ" is a lovely Bordeaux in a softer, supple style that will drink beautifully, served cool, this summer. Finally continuing to the east of Bordeaux we find the Bergerac region where limestone is again the subsoil, with different clays, sands and gravels above. The finest terroir of the region is a separate appellation, Pecharmant, where the iron-rich clays produce wines that can cellar well for ten to fifteen years and offer robust flavors when young. Nicole Dournel and her oenologist husband Jean-Marc produce perhaps the finest wines of the region at Domaine des Costes, in organic and biodynamic agriculture since 2003. We've just received a new shipment, with three reds and a lovely Bergerac rosé of 100% Cabernet Franc. Our favorite producers in Bergerac are Franc and Corinne Pascal at Le Jonc Blanc - a new shipment is on the way, but in the meantime please try their vibrant Malbec "Pur M," a brilliant natural wine with zero added sulfur.
All of these wines offer outstanding value and will be ideal accompaniments, served a bit cool, to grilled foods this summer, from burgers to steaks to barbeque chicken!
Biodynamic farming, native yeasts, wild fermentations, good value –all phrases not typically associated with Bordeaux. Yet, each year the Hubert family provides us with just that in their staple cuvee from the Côte de Blaye. The Cru Bourgeois is a blend of mostly Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and a bit of Malbec. Generously aromatic owing to the rich clay soils in which it is grown, the 2015 offers crushed violets, cassis, and rhubarb on the nose. The palate shows the warm vintage with finesse. Cascades of ripe red fruit, black currant, and spice, with supple tannins and an undercurrent of chalky minerality. This is a great addition to the dinner table alongside grilled meat or sipped on its own. Amanda Bowman
This certified organic wine is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Malbec. The wine offers a bouquet of ripe berries, plums and cherries with some light savory herbs and spices notes. This wine has a good acidity and minerality (thanks to the vineyard's limestone soil) giving a pleasant freshness and brightness to the wine. I very much enjoyed this wine and would pair it with various dishes from grilled pork chops to the classic hamburger. Caroline Coursant
Costes is an old French term for hillsides or slopes, which is very fitting for this hillside vineyard located in Bergerac. The soil is a favorable combination of stone, sandy clay, and rolled gravel over limestone, that suits the primarily Cabernet Franc vines grown on the Domaine des Costes Estate. Nicole and Jean-Luc Dournel took over the estate in 1992, overseeing the vineyard through its organic certification and biodynamic practices. Made from Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, this food friendly rose shows fresh red berries on the nose followed by wild strawberries, red currant, and a subtle, peppery finish on the palate. Serve chilled and enjoy with lighter meals all year!
What's atypical about this delicious wine? It's a blend of Malbec and Cabernet Franc rather than Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, giving the wine a more supple palate and quite different fruit character. The 2015 has lovely, deep blackberry and cassis aromas with red currant, cassis and cherry on the supple, lush palate, with hints of earth and smoke. More "forward" than most Bordeaux, and showing the ripeness and beautiful fruit of the 2015 vintage, this versatile wine will pair beautifully with almost any beef, pork or lamb dish and is a fabulous value!
ARRIVES TUE. 5/23 - The Hubert family are owners of Chateau Peybonhomme-les-Tours in Blaye and Chateau La Grolet in Bourg. The farming here is among the best in Bordeaux, certified organic and biodynamic. The vineyards are a fantastic oasis of greenery compared to the rest of Bordeaux, and are located on slopes of clay over limestone giving the wines good concentration and firm minerality. The Quintessence of Peybonhomme is a selection of the best juice from tastings each year and is primarily Merlot with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Malbec, a portion of which is aged in new oak. The 2012 is a beautiful and lively Bordeaux showing deep aromas of ripe cassis, blackberry, black cherry, cocoa, spice and earth. The palate is supple and ripe, lifted by cool acidity, with complex black fruits, earth and mineral flavors with a long finish. The wine broadens and gains complexity with time open so decant if possible. A versatile food wine, this beautifully balanced Bordeaux will accompany anything from roast chicken to pork dishes to steak. Put a few in your cellar for a mature experience, best 2020 to 2025.(Featured in the NY Times "20 Wines for Under $20" October, 2016) DL
Catherine and Jean-Luc Hubert's estate on clay and limestone soils in the Côte du Blaye is certified Biodynamic. For Le Blanc Bonhomme, whole clusters of 50% Sauvignon Blanc and 50% Semillon undergo a 24 hour maceration before a slow pressing and wild-yeast fermentation. The wine shows ripe aromas of pear, fig and citrus fruits with honeysuckle and brioche. The palate is round and full with white fruits, herbs, fig and mineral flavors. This will be a lovely aperitif and will accompany fish in sauce, white meats, Asian foods and mild cheeses. This is a versatile and delicious white Bordeaux and a great value!
MORE ARRIVING TUE. 5/23 - Our Biodynamic friends, the Hubert family at Chateau Peybonhomme-les-Tours, have finally made a dry rosé and it's quite delicious. Subtle aromas of strawberry, peach and citrus on the nose that continue on the round but dry and refreshing palate. This gains weight with time (better on the second day) and has surprising length for a rosé. This is a versatile wine to serve as an aperitif or with grilled tuna, melon and prosciutto, grilled chicken or pork and mild cheeses.
From clay and gravel soils over limestone in the Côtes du Bourg comes this lovely Bordeaux, roughly 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, certified organic and Biodynamic and produced entirely without sulfur-dioxide or other additives. Pure juice! The 2015 Sans Sulfites Ajoutés is an opaque red/black color with lovely aromas of ripe cassis, red currant and spiced plum with hints of cocoa and earth. The palate is dense and supple with blackberry liqueur, plum skin and ripe red fruits, finishing with firm, refreshing acidity. This is a pure and fruit-forward Bordeaux that's ready to drink - serve cool with anything from Coq au Vin to Steak Frites and flavorful cheeses, or simply enjoy by itself. DL
The La Grolet " Cuvee Jeanne" is the Hubert family's first wine aged in amphora, made from old vines of Merlot and Cabernet at Chateau La Grolet. The wine shows a deep black/red color with ripe aromas of cassis and blackberry with hints of bitter chocolate, brown spice and citrus peel. The palate shows silky ripe fruits, quite dense but very supple with soft tannins - cassis and blackberry with licorice, earth and spice. Wonderfully elegant and long, this is a superb Bordeaux to enjoy with a steak or grilled pork and lamb. Delicious now, with a unique silky texture, this should drink beautifully over the next ten to fifteen years. DL
This biodynamic wine from the region of Sainte-Foy in Bordeaux is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. The wine offers a bouquet of dark berries and plums with a touch of menthol, iron and spices notes. With good acidity and soft tannins, this Bordeaux wine has a delicious easiness to it. Pair it with a classic "steak and frites" and you will be transported back to a French bistro experience. Caroline Coursant
Chateau Falfas located in the Côtes de Bourg appellation has been practicing organically and biodynamically since 1988 - one of the first in Bordeaux. This merlot wine (with 25% cabernet sauvignon) made by Véronique Cochran represents this ideology. Fully desteemed with a maceration of about 15-25 days, the wine is aged in steel, with minimal addition of sulfur at bottling. The wine is elegant with good acidity and minerality (clay and limestone soil). Its bouquet of ripe dark fruits, violet and light spices is vibrant and fresh on the palate. This is full body wine with a nice texture and moderate tannin. Pair it with dishes such as stuffed tomatoes, ratatouille, duck and pork chops. A great value wine at a great price. Caroline Coursant
When thinking of the Bergerac region of France, high-quality, thirst-quenching wines generally aren't the first things that come to mind. Enter Nicole Dournel of Domaine des Costes, who took over this estate as a tenant farmer in 1992. Her wines are crafted with care using organically farmed grapes and native yeasts to carry out fermentation. This cuvée is made of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon planted in sandy, stony soils over gravel. The result is a more feminine wine with a bouquet of cherry liqueur, dusty red plum, cassis, pomegranate seeds, and a touch of meaty funk. On the palate it is dusty, earthy, and brambly with bright dark berry fruit and fantastic structure. This would be perfect with roasted pork loin and root vegetables! Tim Gagnon
Nicole and Jean-Marc Dournel’s Cuvée Domaine is a classic blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon that is vinified with native yeasts in tank and then is aged in the traditional large-format barrels of the Bergerac region. Aromas of cherry liqueur, cedar, and a hint of pipe tobacco rise from the glass. On the palate it is fresh with high-toned red raspberry coming forward before retreating, allowing layers of smoke, toasted earth, and dried flowers to take the stage. This is a serious and structured wine that would give any Bordeaux a run for its money, both in quality and in price! Decant or open well in advance, or cellar 5 to ten years.
This beautiful wine is made by Isabelle Carles and Franck Pascal at Le Jonc Blanc, an unusual limestone plateau in the Bergerac with shallow clay soils. Natural vinification with wild yeasts, no additives and minimal extraction. Aged in a large foudre, bottled without fining or filtration, no added SO2, certified organic and Biodynamic. The wine shows a very dark red/black color, with lovely fruit and floral aromas - rose, blackberry and raspberry with hints of dark chocolate and earth. Pretty berry fruits on the palate with cocoa and citrus lifted by refreshing acidity and finishing with a mineral core and citrusy black fruits. This is an extraordinary, pure and delicious wine that should be served slightly cool. Perfect with charcuterie, patés, chicken and pork dishes or just quaffed happily by itself. Highly recommended. DL