I have always found Bordeaux intimidated. It could be the typically high price, the complicated classification system, or the cheap and tasteless bottles I’ve had before that deterred me. Whatever the reasons, I have tried very little of it. When I saw this bottle, with a single subregion on the label as opposed to the catch-all “Bordeaux” designation, I couldn’t wait to try it out. While this is probably by far not the best example out there, it is certainly the best I have come across for a reasonable price. Even with little experience of the regional wines I’d say this has elements of a true Bordeaux taste, a representation of the French term terroir, and a great starting place for further exploration.
The Bordeaux region is split into two different “banks” by the Gironde River. The “Left Bank” typically uses a higher amount of Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend while the “Right Bank” uses more Merlot. There are contraindications to this tradition but for the most part each bank stays with what it is best known for, or what grape grows best in their vineyards. This winery comes from the subregion of Graves named after the predominantly gravelly nature of its soil. The blend is cut straight down the middle with equal shares of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot even though it is a “Left Bank” Bordeaux.
Look: Being a bit older this wine has a hazy garnet red colour and an orange hued rim. Heavily pigmented it is very dense with slow narrow legs. I’ve always known older wines age into brownish orange colour but it is nice to see it first hand.
Smell: Right after opening the bottle this wine is quite fruity but after decanting more savoury aromas become apparent. The fruit aromas are dark with blackberry, red currant, and plum dominating. The real interest is all the complex aromas that accompany the fruit. I smell an abundance of cedar wood cigar box, pencil shavings, smoke and a dry minerality. Being able to smell pencil shavings is particularly exciting to me as I’ve read countless descriptions of Bordeaux having this aroma but never experienced before.
Taste: In the mouth the wine is medium to full bodied with really silky tannins that are clearly noticeable but well balanced. It has a high acidity and is definitely dry, not sweet. The fruit flavours are dark but the savoury really shows with more smoke and a gravelly mineral taste. The flavours linger a long time with sweet baking spice and a sharp graphite like mineral.
Conclusion: This wine holds true to some of the common characteristics of Bordeaux blends. It has enough fruit flavours to make it approachable but also added interest in the more savoury notes. I’ve never had a bottle of Bordeaux that made me excited to try more. I know this doesn’t even come close to the prestige and grandeur of some great Bordeaux Chateau, but this one broke the string of bad experiences for me and I can’t wait to try more. I give it a 8.5+/10.
- Cabernet Sauvignon (50%) Merlot (50%)
- Graves, Bordeaux, France
- 2006 – 12.5% ABV
- Chateau Haut-Mayne
- $19.75 at Chateau Wine & Spirits (Lacombe)
- Real cork