Bordeaux now

Earlier when we talked about Bordeaux, we mentioned full-bodied, earthy, smoky notes, as well as powerful tannins and long ageing potential, even of up to 15 years. And sometimes barnyardy ‘brett’. There was a style we learnt to accept: the world of slightly aristocratic and not always easy to understand big wines. Bordeaux is changing. The new vintages give lighter, less tannic wines that can be enjoyed earlier.

Nature has a say

The great thing about Bordeaux’s climate is that phenolic ripening happens nicely without a surge in sugar, thus the alcohol doesn’t get sky high either. That’s why balanced wines can be born here. If we ask what has happened in the region, the first answer is immediately: the climate. Since the 1950s, the average temperatures have risen by 2-4 degrees Celcius. It would be hard to predict anything about the long-term effects of climate change, but there are some who dare to state even today that by 2050, one of the main varieties, Merlot, might even disappear completely from Bordeaux. What can grape growers do? They can change grape cultivation methods and seek closer to nature approaches. They can change winemaking with the altering of the harvest date, and observe the gap between ripeness and overripeness. They can redefine blending. The evident sign of the new approach is that more and more wineries are switching to organic cultivation – something that was not heard of 20 years ago.

 

 

A pensive change

In France, there are 5,000 wineries that are organically certified, out of which 500 also work according to biodynamic principles – only 15 of these can be found in Bordeaux. Winemakers are careful, which is understandable since they do not want to take risks due to the quantities produced and market considerations. Still, it’s interesting that the need for a change has also appeared in the case of large estates. The Premier Grand Cru Classé Château Latour, for example, has been moving over to organic growing since 2008. For spraying, they use copper- and sulphur-based materials, herbal teas and, instead of pesticides they’ve introduced pheromone protection. The first organic-classified Château Latour wines will be able to be tasted from the 2018 vintage.

Château Palmer is also taking the lead in organic cultivation. Its estate manager, Thomas Duroux, is the spokesman of the biodynamic movement in Bordeaux, and according to him – within 10 years it will be the only possible road ahead for the Bordeaux wineries. Château Palmer received the Demeter biodynamic classification in 2017. It’s also a fact that many wineries are not choosing the path of complete change, instead they are applying certain elements of organic growing, but they are not advertising it in their marketing. Yet, the aspiration is evident: the use of fewer chemicals, profound knowledge of the soil and the understanding of the whole of the grape growing terroirs as a living organism.

 

The market factors

Romanticism aside, Bordeaux is adapting to consumer requirements, and makes wines according to what the world loves. One-third of the quality wine in France is still made in Bordeaux, and it has to be sold as well. The New World and other countries in Europe mean bigger competition for Bordeaux than they used to. While earlier we used to talk about Bordeaux wines as the most expensive and most highly valued drinks, in the meantime it has become just as trendy to collect expensive Burgundies as it is to pick up big Bordeaux wines. Beaujolais has been given a lot more attention since the 70s, and as a result, we might associate Beaujolais as a trendy entry-level or mid-range wine rather than a Bordeaux. 

 

  

Château Pey la Tour

A perfect example of a delicious, fruity Bordeaux

 

The estate that can be found in the Entre Deux Mers appellation, surrounded by the Garonne and the Dordogne rivers, has been owned by the Dourthe Group since 1990. It’s planted to 60% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Cabernet Franc, in sand, clay and limestone soil. The harvest is carried out partly by machine, partly by hand, fermentation happens in temperature-controlled steel tanks. Then they fill the wines into oak barrels where they age for 12-15 months before bottling. When Dourthe took over the management of the estate, they brought a completely new approach to the winemaking. Château Pey La Tour punches above its weight – it’s a perfect example of a delicious, fruity Bordeaux.

 

 

Blason d’Issan Margaux

One of Bordeaux’s most historic châteaus

 

1152 is one of the most important dates in European history and also in Bordeaux’s history. That was the year when Henry Plantagenet, later to be King Henry II of England, married Eleanore of Aquitaine. The wedlock figuratively meant the beginning of the flourishing relationship and interlocking of Bordeaux and England. The wine that was served at their wedding is what we know as Château d’Issan today. In the 17th century, the estate got into the hands of the Essenault family. The name d'Issan was the phonetic transcript of d'Essenault at the time. The owner, d’Essenualt, was a member of the Knight’s Order and of the parliament; the renewal of the estate is linked to his name – the building of the château that is known today. Following World War II, the estate became the property of the Cruse family. In 2012, Jacky Lorenzetti – known as the mogul of the Bordeaux wine business – joined in. He’s the owner of Château Lilian Ladouys (Saint-Estèphe), Château Pedesclaux (Pauillac) and the Parisian rugby club, Racing 92. The 120-hectare (ha) estate has 41ha of vineyards on stony, clayish and sandy soil. Almost 60% of the 9,000 vine/ha density plantation is Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot. They make 100,000 - 120,000 bottles of wine annually.

 

 

Château Pédesclaux

Living its renaissance in all the senses

 

The estate was founded by wine merchant Pierre Urbain Pédesclaux, in 1810. In the centuries that followed, there were several changes in ownership in the life of the estate. In 2009, the already mentioned Jacky Lorenzetti purchased it. The château is currently living its renaissance: the new owner extended its size with a 12ha Medoc plantation, which can be found right in the vicinity of the most famous Bordeaux estates of Château Lafite Rothschild and Château Mouton Rothschild. On top of that, complete renovation and modernisation of the palace and the winemaking facilities were finished in 2015. The stately building complex was built based on the plans of architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte. The original appearance of the palace was kept but massive glass walls were erected around the original building. On the almost 50ha estate (out of which they cultivate the grapes organically on 10ha), 150,000 bottles of the first wine and 115,000 bottles of the second are made annually. The base wines of the blends are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, a bit of Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc. The first wine is Château Pédesclaux, the second is the Fleur de Pédesclaux and the third is Le Haut-Médoc de Pédesclaux.