Monthly Archives: September 2014

2005 Goulée, AOC Médoc

Goulée is a wine from the Northern Médoc (AOC Médoc), near Port de Goulée and the commune of Jau-Dignac et Loirac. The vineyard has gravelly soil and overlooks the Gironde estuary.

It is made by the team from Cos d’Estournel. The first vintage was 2004 and later ones say “Goulée by Cos d’Estournel” instead of just “Goulée”. It is interesting that the owner, M. Michel Reybier decided to market a brand rather than a château name.

The 28 hectares of vines – Cabernet Sauvignon (80%) et Merlot (20%) – are about 25 years old.
The wine is 50% aged in new oak, and it spends 14 months in barrel.

Goulée is moderately expensive for its appellation but, of course, cost much less its more southerly neighbors. Is it worth the money? I have had the wine en primeur and found it to be OK, but this was the first mature example I have ever tasted.


The color was very deep, with thick legs. It is begining to brick on the rim and looks a little older than its age. There was sediment in the bottle which is often the good sign of a natural wine to me.
The nose showed rich plummy and mint aromas as well as classic overtones of blackcurrant and lead. The wine is very Médoc on the palate with deep and slightly spirity flavors. The Goulée website says that “the climate gives Goulée a fruity character that is somewhat reminiscent of New World wines,” but I don’t really see that… This 2005 is medium-bodied with a shortish aftertaste. It is a little dry on the finish, but has decent grip. Verdict: a good wine, in its drinking window, and a brand worth investigating.

Château Chevrol Bel Air, Lalande-de-Pomerol


Is Château Chevrol Bel Air the best value wine in Bordeaux? Of course, that’s impossible to prove, but it would nevertheless be one of my top candidates! As someone who is not only a lover, but also a student of wine, I rarely purchase by the case in order to taste a greater variety. But Chevrol Bel Air is an exception because is so reasonably-priced and so good.
I went to see the owner, Vincent Pradier, last week. He provided me with some background information and a tasting of four vintages.
Let me start off by saying I have a soft spot for Lalande-de-Pomerol and am a member of the local vinous brotherhood, Les Baillis –
When I first arrived in Bordeaux, Lalande-de-Pomerol sold for the same price as Bordeaux Supérieur. But no more! While no one pretends they are on a par with their more famous neighbor, the wines can be delicious, early-maturing, and a great deal less expensive…
Chevrol Bel Air has been in the Pradier family for three generations. The 20 hectares of vines have an atypical breakdown: 45% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Franc, and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. This is far more Cabernet at than neighboring estates. The vineyard is in a single block on clay, sand, and silt soil on the Chevrol plateau.  The subsoil also contains some of the crasse de fer (ironpan) found in Pomerol.
The vines are an average of 50 years old.


Part of the wine’s charm is due to the fact that it is not oak-aged. Vincent’s father nevertheless devised a patented system (see photo) whereby wine in each stainless steel vat is pumped through one barrel to provide controlled oxidation via a regular flow.
Vincent is proud of his 2012, which is quite successful for the vintage. The 2011 is even better with a briary, ethereal, understated nose and a fluid, rich, thirst-quenching sort of flavour. The 2010 is a more serious wine with greater ageing potential than the two previous years. Chevrol Bel Air’s trademark smoothness has to contend with some tannin here. And then there’s my favorite, the 2009, that is a full-bodied sensual wine that it almost Burgundian in its silkiness – until the aftertaste, when Bordeaux tannins assert themselves and give structure to the wine. I would put this wine up against any other in its price category from anywhere in the world!

Restaurant review: Le Grat, Bordeaux


Le Grat
12 rue Sicard, 33000 Bordeaux, France
+33 (0)556511129

This restaurant is located in one of my favorite places in Bordeaux: the Place du Marché des Chartrons.
Just a 10 minute walk from the Tourist Office, this square is built around a beautiful octagonalmarket
The square is surrounded by restaurants and cafés and is absolutely brimming with life, especially when the weather is nice and people can sit outdoors. Furthermore, it is just far enough from the city center to have a genuine feel.
I often go to 2 restaurants there: El Nacional and Le Grat.


The owner and chef at Le Grat is Basque and the menu is faithful to that region’s cuisine. There were 3 of us and we had variously: razor clams, squid, stuffed piquillo peppers, salt cod in a pil-pil sauce, the inevitable duck breast, and a selection of Pyrenean cheeses.
Like many restaurants, Le Grat features a very reasonably priced weekday menu, but is à la carte on weekends. Prices are in the reasonable range and portions are generous. The wine list focuses on Spain, including a good choice of Rioja, up to and including aged Gran Reservas.
You can even order a glass of fino Sherry here!
The staff is particularly friendly and service is good.
The restaurant itself is quite small and cooking odors tend to invade the space. But sitting outside on the square on a summer’s day is delightful. Good value for money.
You will also enjoy discovering the nearby Cours Portal with its many food and wine shops, and the rue Notre Dame with its antique dealers and boutiques.

Domaine de Courteillac, Bx. Sup.

The Holy Grail? Well, not quite, but finding the Bordeaux or Bordeaux Supérieur that knocks your socks off is a labor of love. I had heard that Domaine de Courteillac was worth investigating, so I gave the 2010 vintage a spin.
This 28-hectare estate located in Ruch, 14 km south of Castillon-la-Bataille, is owned by Dominique Meneret, former owner of Château Larmande, a Saint Emilion grand cru classé, and founder of the négociant firm of Ballande & Meneret, which he has since sold.  The grape varieties are 70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Cabernet Franc. The wine is aged in oak: ½ in new barrels, and ½ in barrels used for one previous vintage. Stéphane Derenecourt is consulting enologist.

The 2010 is very dark and deep in color, more black than red.
The nose is soft and not very expressive, but features cherry-vanilla overtones. Still, it is a bit dumb, with some alcohol showing.
The wine starts out smooth and enveloping on the palate, but then goes into a dry, relatively short aftertaste. There’s a somewhat heavy mouthfeel and the 14.5% alc./vol. makes itself felt.
The grail will have to wait…
Will this wine improve markedly with age? I think not.
Don’t get me wrong: 2010 Domaine de Courteillac was a pleasure to drink with lunch midweek. But I had the impression that M. Meneret was trying a little too hard. The wine’s strength and oak influence are heavy-handed in light of the wine’s intrinsic flavor profile. I think the same wine made in a lighter, more easy-going style would have been more successful. I’ll be interested to tast future vintages of Domaine de Courteillac to see where it’s going.

4 Bordeaux wines with dinner: 2 classified, 2 not

1999 Château Haut Mayne – I was unfamiliar with this 5-hectare estate in Preignac, but had a bottle of the 99 vintage in the cellar. Friends from Quebec were over to dinner, so I thought I would introduce them to the Bordeaux custom of serving sweet white wine as an aperitif, rather than at the end of the meal with dessert. 1999 was, on the whole, a middling vintage in Sauternes and this wine was certainly not one of the better ones I have encountered…. It was fairly pale and tea-colored, looking older than its age. The nose was fresh, but far more overripe than botrytised. In fact, if served blind, I’d have taken it for a Jurançon, with its pear and gooseberry aromas. Nothing botytritized about it at all. The palate was a let-down to the extent that it started out sweet and luscious, but went nowhere afterward. Definitely your top-heavy, cloying sort Sauternes, without the acidity or touch of bitterness and minerality on the finish to provide balance. Little complexity. Definitely not a success in this vintage. I see that the mix of grape varieties is 90% Sémillon and 10% Sauvignon Blanc. Maybe this needs to be changed to give wine more muscle tone…

2010 Château Chantegrive, Graves blanc, Cuvée Caroline – Chantegrive is a large (nearly 80 hectare) estate located in Podensac in the southern Graves. They make about twice as much red as they do white. They also produce an AOC Cérons.  Chantegrive is a success story achieved by the late Henri Lévêque, a wine broker and well-known Bordeaux personality. The wines are well-distributed in local restaurants and I have many times enjoyed both the red and white wines. This 2010 cuvée prestige white is made from equal parts of Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc. It is straw-yellow in color and has a lemony and slightly medicinal bouquet. On the whole, the nose is rather subdued and a touch smoky. The palate is frankly disappointing to me: angular and acidic. I’ve had better bottles of this and prefer to think that this departure from a proven track record is just a blip.

2004 Château Saint Pierre, Saint Julien – 2004 Bordeaux is receiving much good press at the moment. I decided to open this one up for my guests because is not one of the most commonly found great growths. 2004 Saint Pierre had a very dark core, but the browning rim made it look older than its age.  The nose was redolent of caramel, beeswax on a parquet floor, forest floor (sorry for all the floors…), and understated black fruit. The wine was a little thin and dilute, but had interesting cedar and chocolate overtones and a quality I can only describe as ferrous. Solid rather than exciting and fully ready to drink. I have enjoyed Saint Pierre very much in the past, considering it one of the best values among the crus classés. I fell in love with the 2009 and have a few bottles in the cellar. The 2004 is OK in light of the vintage.

2000 Château d’Issan, Margaux  – I’ve been opening up my lesser and mid-range Bordeaux from the 2000 vintage lately and almost all of them have been ready to go. So, seeing as I had several bottles of the 2000 d’Issan, I figured I would check out how a more up-market wine was doing. The wine had a lovely deep, dark color with medium bricking on the rim. The nose was absolutely lovely, corresponding to that mythical, but elusive feminine Margaux quality one hears cited but actually encounters far less often… Ethereal blackcurrant jelly overtones as well as hints of pencil shavings and truffle. In fact, this is not the first time that I have seen similarities between a Margaux and a fine Pomerol. Anyway, the wine starts out beautifully generous and smooth although it falls down somewhat (tad weak and dilute) on the middle palate. However, it rebounds on the finish with strong tannin. This imparts a little dryness – some of which seems due to oak. So, this 2000 d’Issan is a fine glass of wine, but the balance is not quite there. By the time the tannin evens out, I wonder if that impression of dryness might not increase, and the fruit diminish. Still, this wine has loads of class, and a first class sweet bouquet.



I know what you’re thinking: “Oh no, not another Bordeaux wine site, who on earth needs that?”… In reality, though, there are precious few sites focusing on the wines of the Gironde out there! I am assistant manager of one,, but Bordeaux is usually just one region out of many.

Bordeaux takes a lot of knocks these days. A “fox and the grapes syndrome” has set in. The price increases in the great growths over the past few years have made them unattainable for many consumers – so it has become trendy to say that the wines are not worth it, that Bordeaux is “old hat”, and that is best left to the likes of stockbrokers and the decrepit bourgeoisie! Of course, it is also claimed that “modern” Bordeaux is over-extracted, over-oaked, Parkerized, and not nearly as good as it once was…

The fact is that I’m as put off as anyone by the recent price increases of the crus classés. But these wines represent only 5% of Bordeaux! Of the remaining 95%, to be fair, there is a certain amount of dross: thin weedy wines selling at bargain basement prices. But there are also numerous gems and a full spectrum of terroirs and styles

The media love to discover and highlight estates in the Lubéron or the Languedoc or the Loire Valley, but rarely enthuse about non-classified growths from Bordeaux. Despite the region’s 9,000 châteaux, Bordeaux is perceived as a known entity, so journalists don’t often go there – except to see the famous names…

The main purpose of my blog is to write about these lower-profile estates, to give a face to châteaux eclipsed by the high and mighty.
Based in Bordeaux, I also intend to write about what it’s like to visit and live here, to speak about the people behind the labels, and in my own little way to breathe new life into Bordeaux’s somewhat fossilized image.

Château Haut Macô, Côtes de Bourg

All of us have certain “go to” wines – reasonably priced, dependable, that don’t need to age forever –  the kind of wine you can open up mid-week and that will make you glad to be alive. Simple and enjoyable, just what it should be. Haut-Macô is one such wine…
The 50 hectare estate in Tauriac (Côtes de Bourg) is owned and managed by brother and sister Anne and Hugues Mallet, the 4th generation of their family at the estate. Their father, Bernard, was one of the movers and shakers in the appellation, which has had to contend with somewhat of an image problem. That’s because many people put Bourg wines on the same plane as AOC Bordeaux when, in fact, they can be significantly better.
There has not been any white wine produced at Haut-Macô for years. The red is produced from 60% Merlot, 27% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Malbec.

I met Anne Mallet on a sunny August morning and we tasted through recent vintages. I had bought some of the 2009 two years ago and it did well in the line-up running from 2009 to 2012. However, I liked the 2010 even better because of the quality of the tannin and greater ageing potential.
The château also makes a Cuvée Jean-Bernard (combining the names of two brothers from the preceding generation). As much as I like the regular cuvee, I found the Jean-Bernard to be somewhat dry and oaky on the aftertaste. The 2009 cuvée Jean-Bernard was nevertheless the best of the bunch, and promising.

You often hear that Bordeaux has become too expensive. Well, I have the invoice right in front of me. I purchased 6 bottles of 2010 Haut-Macô for 37.08 euros. At that price, and for this sort of quality, I think Bordeaux can hold its own against wines from anywhere else in the world.
And that’s one the main reasons why I started this blog.