By Jordan Carrier
If wine is romance made liquid, what does Bordeaux bring to the door on a first date? Well, it depends on when he was born.
- 2009 shows all his cards. He loves you sight unseen and he brought a yacht. He couldn’t park it on the street so it’s lying on its side and disrupting traffic, but it’s a yacht.
- 2010 shows you one card, on your doorstep. As soon as you bend to pick it up, you notice the next card, several feet away, gleaming in the moonlight. You follow the subsequent cards, perfectly spaced between each other that lead towards the vintage Cadillac on the street, where Bruce Springsteen (the driver) will take you anywhere you wish, just so long as you stay amazing.
- 2011 apologizes for being late, he couldn’t get to the door because of all the boats and cars. He has tickets to the latest Terrence Malik movie, which you probably won’t understand now but totally will later. He is kind, smart, even smoldering, but shuts down when you try to talk about his older brothers.
- 2012 comes to the door dressed in sweatpants because he already knows what you think of him, but wows you with a box of chocolates that contains flavours you weren’t expecting. He leads you to a horse-drawn carriage that takes you to a heritage theme-park full of proper people in full dress speaking proper sentences. It is only later that you realize that you married him.
- 2013 arrives brandishing a stick with a happy face sharpied onto it. He tells you that the stick is for you but he won’t let go of it. After an awkward silence, he relinquishes the stick and slowly backs away into your yard. The next morning, you discover that he took all of the apples off your tree.
And this (2013) is the vintage that the BC Liquor Stores will be offering in a week’s time in their annual Bordeaux release. Private stores are prohibited from participating, but we frankly wouldn’t if we could, 2013 is a dud.
Given the outsized prices of certain recent Bordeaux vintages, I don’t feel bad practicing a bit of Schadenfreude here: 2013 is a vintage without fruit and without joy. I tried select barrel samples from a wide variety of 2013s a couple of years back, and I left the tasting with the distinct impression that I had just French-kissed a pencil. I’m not even sure that age can help, here, a stick of wood may simply develop into an older stick of wood. There will inevitably be the odd gem in this vintage (the whites, particularly, also Fronsac?), but I’d overall give it a miss. If you are collecting verticals, buy single bottles for the sake of continuity, but don’t go deep.
Instead of that vintage, we are offering an affordable (all under $100) selection of well rated Bordeaux from other recent, solid, proven vintages, and because we are ninjas, we are offering people a chance to try them first. Come to our store on Saturday September 24 between 2pm and 6pm and try the following wines from 2012, 2011, and the legendary 2010. None of this silly ’13 business. These are classic wines of beauty and strength, and though it’s a diverse cull, they are all quintessentially Bordeaux.
Chateau Les Charmes Goddard 2014, Franc Cotes de Bordeaux
From Bordeaux’s smallest and most dynamic appellation of Franc Cotes de Bordeaux, where tradition goes to get mugged, comes this funky, backward, Semillon-forward white with a great nose (pear, brioche, coal) and a great future (remarkable tartaric acid, almost Mosel-like longevity). Winemaker David Suire uses larger, more neutral oak to micro-oxygenate, not flavour the wine, and the Semillon, grown on the Bordeaux region’s steepest slopes, takes the stage with all its weird narcissistic glory. Tied (3 ways) for my favourite in this release. 93 points James Suckling, $39.99
REDS (LEFT BANK)
Chateau Seguin 2012, Pessac Leognan
Virtually even percentages of Cab and Merlot, grown in Pessac’s gravelly dirty clay, showing massive red fruits, even a smidge of grapefruit, over a base of smoky charcoal. Though established at the dawn of the previous century, the Seguin estate had turned rustic and nearly fallow after WW2, and continued making crappy bulk juice until the famous Bordelais wine guru Alain Raynaud (known for producing California’s 100 point Colgin) stepped in to right the ship. Did he ever. We’re a couple years out of the zone on this (2019 if you can wait) but the power is raw and real. 91 points Robert Parker, 91 points Wine Enthusiast, $69.99 +tax
Chateau Lilian Ladouys 2010, Saint-Estephe
Talk about missing the boat. When Napoleon III commissioned the 1855 classification that slotted the left bank Bordelais Chateaux into 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th growths, this 35 hectare 16th century estate, just a few hundred metres from Paullac’s Chateau Lafite Rothschild, forgot to submit their wines for classification. It is of local, common wisdom that they would have qualified for a classification, had they got their stuff together. Gorgeous hints of tea, toast and blackberry jam (your Breakfast Wine awaits!!) over a Robocop frame of weight and power. Tied (3 ways) for my favourite in this release, 60% Cab, 40% Merlot. 94 points Wine Enthusiast, $63.99 +tax
Chateau Anthonic 2012, Moulis Cru Bourgeois
One of the oldest houses in the small, underrated Left Bank appellation of Moulis, this Cab-driven blend shows compote of cassis with great fruit and herbal notes over a minimally-extracted, elegant frame. The label, unchanged since the family founded the estate in the late 1700s, shows two eagles fighting over a grape, representing the fight between Chateau (producer) and Negociant (merchant), and illustrating the very European truth that grudges die hard. Drinking beautifully now, this. 91 points Wine Enthusiast, $45.99 +tax
Chateau Bolaire 2010, Bordeaux Superieur
Before the Dutch helped drain the swampy Medoc 3 Centuries ago, the small village of Macau, north of Bordeaux city, was an island. Today the low lying areas around Macau are planted predominantly to Petit Verdot, and that inky, serious grape leads the band here, with Merlot and Cab playing bass and drums from 50 year-old vines. Bolaire, dating back to the 1860s, is backwards in the most forward way, showing violets and tar over big bones and big muscles, finishing big and hot, and drinking like an excellent idea right now. Tied (3 ways) for my favourite in this release. 91 points James Suckling $44.99 +tax
Chateau de Braude 2012, Haut Medoc Cru Bourgeois
So close to Margaux, you can taste it. No kidding, Braude is almost across the street from Margaux (and owned by a Margaux house Ch Mongravey), positioned between the 2 classified growths of Cantemerle and La Lagune. It tastes similar too, showing a classic Cabernet nose with hot chocolate powder and slate, over a frame of brilliant acidity. Give this one about two years, it’ll be well worth the wait. 91 points Wine Enthusiast $43.99 +tax
Chateau Fleur La Mothe 2012, Medoc Cru Bourgeois
This is what happens when wine people put their money where their mouths are. Although this sandy, gravelly hilly (“mothe” is “hilltop” in the patois of Medoc) terroir was granted Cru Bourgeois status in 1932, it wasn’t until 3 successful Bordeaux consultant winemakers pooled their resources to purchase the estate that things really got awesome. Sandy, quartzy tannins hold the coffee, mint and black cherry together, all tied up with a zippy finish that drinks well immediately. $39.99 +tax
REDS (RIGHT BANK)
Chateau Bonalgue 2010, Pomerol
If some smart-alec starts casting shade on Merlot, lock them in a room with this wine until they admit that they were wrong. Established in 1815 (as “Clos de Bonalgue”, they didn’t upgrade to “Chateau” until other players landed on their property a bunch of times), this house that housed Napoleon’s military weaponry is surrounded by vineyards famous for ripening Merlot faster and more fully than even their closest neighbours. Add that hedonistic ripeness to the famous, micro-oxygenating texture-erotica of consultant Michel Rolland, and things get quite sexy indeed. If you are travelling to Bordeaux via California, may I humbly suggest Air Bonalgue? 93 points James Suckling, $99.99 +tax
Haut-Faugeres 2010, Saint Emillon Grand Cru
Another 200 year-old terroir, this is the younger brother to Chateau Faugeres, but he punches well above his (and – frankly – his brother’s) weight. To the eastern edge of Saint-Emillon, this Merlot/Cab Franc shows earthy plums and a surprising amount of spice before a rounded, non-athletic (in the best way) frame. Has just entered the drinking zone, and plans to party here (in its bizarre/charming French way) for a while. 92 points Wine Spectator, $60.99 +tax