Bordeaux – The mysterious “Men in black”
You know how you sometimes think you saw something out of the corner of your eye?
If you take a second glance, there’s nothing there?
Well, on one visit to some of the exclusive chateaux of Bordeaux, I think I experienced just such a thing!
Pulling up outside Chateau Beychevelle, one of the top rated properties in St. Julien, a blacked-out Mercedes limousine seemed to glide to a halt on the opposite side of the road and two men, dressed in black suits, got out. I didn’t see where they went and the car immediately rushed away from the Chateau gates. Definitely, strange. Who were they? Where else could they go but into the Chateau? As I was on a group tasting visit to try the new 2000 vintage wines, I assumed they would be there, too, but they just vanished into thin air. Again, very strange. No conspiracy theories, but it reminded me of the (then) recent Will Smith/Tommy Lee Jones “Men in Black” film. Hiding in plain sight, could they just have been visitors/buyers who didn’t want to be seen by anyone? Russian “oligarchs”, maybe, or something more “out of this world”? I’ll never know!
In Bordeaux, unless you’re touring the lesser known, “Right Bank”, vineyards, in somewhere such as Bourg & Blaye, or the St. Emilion satellite villages, you just can’t turn up unannounced and expect to get in for the full winery tour and tasting. It’s just not done without an invitation if you’re looking at checking out some famous names in the Medoc. Even on a “trade” trip, you’re not likely to see inside the gates of the likes of First Growths, Lafite Rothschild, or Mouton and, even if you were that lucky, you couldn’t buy anything to take away. Talk about an attitude!
A mere Fourth Growth, Grand Cru Classé, Chateau Beychevelle, on the other hand, did allow organised arrivals and its location, with grassy lawns running right down to the Gironde Estuary, is certainly one worth seeing. A classically styled Bordeaux chateau filled with all the luxurious contents befitting a place that wasn’t short of a penny, or two.
These days, the Chinese market snaps up much of the production at Beychevelle due to the wine’s label being “boat” related. It signifies a good voyage and a good future. Just lucky for Beychevelle, I guess!
The wine was spectacularly good (rated 91 points by Robert Parker); not yet bottled, but so well balanced you could drink it straight away. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon 49%, Merlot 38%, Cabernet Franc 7%, Petit Verdot 6%, it had the typical, elegant balance of the best wines of the St. Julien appellation. Its release price was only around £25 a bottle, but if you wanted to buy a bottle today, you could track one down for around £150. I didn’t get to try any other vintages, but the “Second” wine, Amiral de Beychevelle , was poured to go with a delicious tomato and basil based salad that was provided for us in a beautiful dining room overlooking the Chateau’s imposing terrace and gardens.
A day to remember (and I do), so it can’t have been those “Men in Black” after all…
Bordeaux is famed as an area producing a vast array of wines; some moderately priced (but never cheap), and many at eye-watering levels. £50/£100/£200 bottles are commonplace, and there are many that reach into the thousands! You can find good value wines, but it’s hard to find much of interest under £20 a bottle that has the “Wow” factor. Bordeaux producers know it and they always have a market somewhere in the world that’s willing to pay inflated prices. So much of the wine is bought for investment and never leaves the bonded warehouses. Such a pity, as the wines can be truly exceptional. If you are willing to part with a lot of cash up front and actually want to drink them, rather than dream of the profit if you sell in 10 years’ time, they’re really worth buying.
[Photo: Chateau La Conseillante]
At another, more recent tasting, in London, 2019, I did get to sample a 2012 La Conseillante, Pomerol. This wine, rated 96 points, was a sublime a wine as I’ve ever tasted with an incredible, opulent, polished texture; floral violet, liquorice and truffle aroma with flavours of blackberry/blueberry and blackcurrant. A blend of Merlot 80% and Cabernet Franc 20%, it was a compelling wine that, in my opinion, should all be reserved for me!!!
If you want a six-bottle case, you can find some for around £600-£700. I wish I had some (to drink, of course).
Petrus, the most famous name in Pomerol, was equally rated by Parker that year and sells for £2300 PER BOTTLE!
At Frazier’s, it’s possible to buy wines such as Beychevelle, but most gets sold “En Primeur”. A tiny quantity of the 2019 (also rated 94-96/100) came and went earlier this year, with the lucky recipients having to wait at least two years before getting their hands on the wine and needing to wait to around 2035 for optimum drinking. The 2019 La Conseillante (even better at 96-98/100) has now reached £150 a bottle on release, but it’s still a bargain compared to other top Pomerol wines.
Fortunately, as we really like Bordeaux and just in time for Christmas, Frazier’s have put together two special selections that highlight the quality and wine styles of France’s most famous region.
Included in the “Gold” Discovery Case, along with the expected Cabernet/Merlot reds from the Haut-Medoc, St. Emilion and Lalande de Pomerol, we have a full-bodied, dry white, “G” de Chateau Guiraud Blanc Sec (A 50/50 blend of Sauvignon Blanc & Semillon) and a must have wine for the “Stilton”, a luscious, sweet Sauternes (Barsac), “DV” by Doisy Vedrinnes.
The complete set!
Buy Bordeaux “Gold” Discovery Case here for the limited price of only £99
If you’re a lover of the traditional, Christmas fayre, you’re going to want to stock up on some brilliant reds. Roast beef, lamb and turkey will all pair well with these wines.
The “Platinum” Discovery Case has a carefully chosen pick of the best value in reds. They’re not cheap, but they more than deliver the quality you expect for wines from the premier appellations in Bordeaux. Some of the best recent vintages, with enough bottle age, to show what all the fuss is about; Haut-Medoc, St. Estephe and St. Julien from 2009, a Moulis-en-Medoc 2010, Margaux and St. Emilion from 2015.
This is definitely a six-pack worth having for the Christmas festivities. Work it off in the New Year!
Buy Bordeaux “Platinum” Discovery Case here for the limited price of £239