GRAPEVINE with LIZ SAGUES: Bathing in Bordeaux
For a while now, I ve been bathing in bordeaux. No, not literally in the sense of jumping into a tub of the red liquid (though Les Sources de Caudalie at Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte in the heart of the Medoc does a great line in vinotherapie , including a
For a while now, I've been bathing in bordeaux. No, not literally in the sense of jumping into a tub of the red liquid (though Les Sources de Caudalie at Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte in the heart of the Medoc does a great line in "vinotherapie", including a barrel bath and crushed cabernet scrub...), but through many tasting samples.
The reason is that the exceptional 2005 vintage is now reaching the shops, and those who are keen to sell it are, understandably, making a fuss about promoting it.
The wines we're talking about are not the top-flight, most expensive bottles - those need more time to reach what will be a very special peak and most have been allocated already, at sometimes sky-high prices. But the great thing about 2005 was that growing and ripening conditions were such - more sun than usual, and a lot less rain - that it was much more straightforward than it often is to make decent bordeaux at every level.
So, for once, the bordeaux minefield is not as dangerous as it often is, provided the bottle says 2005 on the label.
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The choice is huge, too. While the bottles mentioned below are ones I've enjoyed, there are a whole lot more out there which should prove equally tempting.
You can find bargains at the bottom of the price scale, but if you trade up a bit, the rewards are greater. There are plenty in the £8-£10 bracket - try the stylish Chateau Barreyres, Haut-Medoc (£8.75, Sainsbury's), where there's attractive pure fruit rounded by well-judged use of oak; Chateau Rival-Bellevue, Bordeaux Superieur (£9, Waitrose), scented and with great concentration; Chateau Saye, Bordeaux Superier (£8, Marks & Spencer), a modern, full-fruited but not too extreme wine which has good structure and depth and should win many friends for the region; Chateau Tour Prignac, Medoc (£10, Oddbins), where appealing aromas are followed by perfumed fruit in the mouth.
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Pay a little more, and enjoy the serious food-friendliness of Chateau Preuillac, Medoc (£13, Soho Wine Supply), or Chateau d'Arcins, Haut Medoc (£13.50, Nicolas), which has a great balance of classic dark fruit flavours with quality oak, or the silky merlot-dominated elegance of Chateau Lapelletrie Saint-Emilion Grand Cru (£12, selected Tesco branches).
All these wines, and many more from the 2005 vintage, are a world away from the thin, dried-out, poorly-made styles which have done too much damage to the reputation of bordeaux over recent years.
But while they are modern, clean and show their growers' careful work in vineyard as well as cellar, they respect bordeaux tradition and demonstrate why this is - still - one of the world's most important wine regions.
More than that, though, they are wines which are a real pleasure with food. Choose meat or mature cheese of a comparable quality, invite some friends round, and raise a glass to a long Anglo-French connection.