Friday, 3 April 2015

Revealing Another Side of Bordeaux

Hubert de Boüard (left) sharing his opinions at a dinner organised by Crystal Wines

Mention Bordeaux, and what may come to mind is the image of grand châteaux presided over by aristocratic French millionaires who sell their wares to even richer collectors. For the latter group, who accumulate liquid treasures much as a dragon might hoard gold, the words Latour, Lafite, Margaux, Haut-Brion and Mouton may be the only vocabulary they need in the language of wine. But what about less exalted estates, those who did not have the fortune of being founded in appellations such as Pauillac or Margaux? Similarly, not everyone has the means to afford a cru classé, yet this should not be a barrier to enjoying what Bordeaux can offer.

A solution comes in the form of the Révélations collection by Angélus owner Hubert de Boüard. A well-known consultant oenologist, Hubert was instrumental in Angélus’s two promotions within the St-Émilion classification. His expertise has been sought in promoting wines from lesser-known regions that showcase the diversity of Bordeaux terroir, made in an accessible style. “The goal is to make wine with fruit, with softness, round and easy to drink. They are not wines to keep in your cellar for years; you can drink these wines now.”

The Révélations range is produced together with Bordeaux négociant Yvon Mau. Hubert states that others had approached him before with similar ideas, but what attracted him to this project was the level of engagement required. “In this project, which involves more work in the vineyard; to select the different plots and to be with the grower – that is what I really like. When I am not abroad I am in my vineyard. I consider myself a farmer and this is what I want to do.”

The first vintage of these wines was in 2012, and a white wine from the 2014 vintage has now been added to the lineup. There are nine wines in total from six Bordeaux appellations, of which five were selected for this tasting. The wineries themselves are family-run and fairly obscure; in fact for some of them this will be the first time that they see their name on the label. To achieve the goal of soft tannins and early-drinking, the grapes were subjected to a gentle extraction and short pumping-over. A light touch of oak is employed to maintain the freshness of the fruit.

You may be tempted to consider this a poor man’s Bordeaux, but the wines should be seen in the context of what they are trying to achieve. Comparisons with classified growths will inevitably lead to disappointment, but if you are looking for wines with charm and freshness that will not cause a dent in your wallet, then these wines are worthy considerations.

Tasting notes:

Château Mathiot 2014
– A Bordeaux Blanc from near the town of Cadillac which is known for its sweet wines. A blend of 70% Sauvignon Blanc and 30% Semillon.  Very fresh nose dominated by the Sauvignon Blanc component, displaying aromas of lime and cape gooseberry. Lively and easy drinking on the palate with notes of lime and starfruit.

Château Boutillot 2012 – This estate lies at the top of the commune of Saint-Michel-de-Lapujade, at the southwestern tip of the Gironde. The wine shows a ripe, creamy nose with notes of cherry and light oak. The attack is soft and round with gentle tannins, almost Pinot Noir-like in its texture. Easy-peasy.

Château de la Pierre Levée 2012 – The chateau's name is a reference to an imposing two-metre-high dolmen (upright stones), a designated historic monument found next to the vineyard. Slightly dusty aromas accompanying the blackcurrant notes but the palate shows more concentration than the wines tasted so far. Nicely structured with snappy acidity.

Château Au Vignoble 2012 – Classified as a Bordeaux Supérieur, which means that the planting density for the vines is stricter and the wine has a slightly higher permitted alcoholic strength than basic Bordeaux. Black cherry-fruited nose, with a syrupy note akin to cough medicine. The palate has crunchy black fruit notes with a medium length, slightly stalky finish.

Château Les Fougères 2012 – This St-Émilion wine was my favourite of the evening, but also the priciest. Toasty aromas and incense notes lend an air of elegance to the wine. The palate shows good fruit concentration with fleshy black plum notes and a firm finish.

Révélations d’Hubert de Boüard is distributed in Singapore by Crystal Wines. At the time of writing they are priced around SGD40 per bottle.

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