Flying visit to Bordeaux where wine blending is art form

Bordeaux wines and art of blending

THERE  was a bit of a whirlwind in France last week. Not one that you would see on a weather map. Perhaps because it was a blur. A very nice blur. Yours truly popped over the Channel to spend a quick couple of days in Bordeaux.

Understanding the nuances of Bordeaux wines is no easy task. Today there are around 60 appellations; 7,900 wine estates.

Wines are renowned for their ageing powers and Bordeaux accounts for about 85 per cent of “secondary sales”;  wines which appear at auction and are bought as investments.

It’s been a difficult year in Bordeaux. Weather patterns have meant the harvests are running late and in some areas  vineyards  have been decimated by a  summer hail storm.

But one of the reasons Bordeaux wines are so interesting and different is that over the centuries blending has  developed  as a “failsafe” against both the oddities of the weather and also the variations in soil.

In Médoc the land was reclaimed from water by the Dutch in the 17th century.
Tasting at Bordeaux Wine SchoolI met journalist Jane Anson at the Bordeaux Wine School and she  told me people were encouraged to populate the land by not having to pay taxes.  It sparked a  “gold rush”  and those wine pioneers were able to use new  techniques.

In the Médoc alone imagine  all the different permutations a wine maker can use.

Cabernet sauvignon is happy. It loves warmth and is kept toasty by the reflection of the gravel.

Cab Sav is the King – the power behind  ageing.  Merlot  adds  softness. Cabernet franc brings aromas and complexity.

Each grows in areas best suited to its  needs,  each susceptible in its own way. The skills are to know when to  harvest; where to plant; what proportions of each  grape will create signature blends.

You don’t have to spend a fortune to start discovering Bordeaux.

The Wine Society (www.thewinesociety.com) has a good value tasting case of nine wines for £89.

Baron des Tours 2011 (£10.99, Waitrose) is a blend of merlot,  cab  sav and cab  franc and is one of the everyday wines recommended at   www.bordeaux.com/uk/wines/selection.

On that link you can read about  the Bordeaux Wine School.

How can these words do justice to the region? In truth they can’t.

I haven’t touched on the right-bank where soft merlot rules;  the refreshing  whites of Entre deux Mers; the splendid sweet wines of Sauternes and Barsac.

I can feel another column coming on.

Aldi wine range sets standards at prices hard to ignore

Aldi Exquisite Collection Limestone Coast Chardonnay

Well knock me over with a wet tea towel and force me to drink  lager and black.

Sometimes I come across some corkers of wines; and they’re even better when they’re not only cheerful, but cheap too.  I’m talking the Aldi wine range which is setting  some really good standards and if you haven’t already picked up on that by word of mouth – or glass to lips – then where have you been?

I know I’m not always enthusiastic about chardonnay  but one sip of Limestone Coast Chardonnay (Aldi, £5.99) and I was texting friends. The Australian wine is unoaked, is full of tropical fruit but has  slight creaminess because of some lees aging. It had the same kind of fresh zinginess you might expect from a sauvignon blanc.Aldi Exquisite Collection Limestone Coast Chardonnay wine

Limestone Coast – commended in both the Decanter awards and the International Wine Challenge this year  – is part of Aldi’s Exquisite Collection which was  launched last  November. It has sold over two million bottles  since then.

So far in 2013,  Aldi’s beers, wines and spirits range has received 100 accolades, including 33 awards at the International Wine Challenge and 35  at the International Wine and Spirits Competition.

A couple of fizzies to definitely look out for include   Aldi Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore  (£7.29). My notes say:  This fizzed, and  fizzed again. Lemons and  freshly-cut apples and pears on the nose led to  a   long-lasting taste of   pears and apples. Mouth-watering to the last.

Aldi Champagne Philizot Brut NV (£12,99) has won three silvers this year which isn’t to be sniffed at. If you do,  don’t get the bubbles up your nose. It’s a party wine to brag  “Champers” to guests    without raiding the piggy bank.

Violets and bilberries ooze from Aldi’s Malbec (£5.99)  from the Uco Valley in  Argentina  – another wine  in the Exquisite Collection  and one of the best-selling.   It’s a very pleasant red with integrated tannins and  spicy  fruits.

The Exquisite Collection  Shiraz   (£5.99) went well with a cupboard/fridge/forgot-to-shop meal  I made this week with sauteed peppers, chillis, mushrooms, bacon, red pesto and tumbled spaghetti. I looked at the shiraz – it looked at me. Shiraz and an  Italian plate?

Plums, black fruits, chocolate and liquorice layers have brought this Australian wine    commended and  silver awards in 2013. And deservedly so.

Published in the saturday extra magazine September 14, 2013

Liverpool Echo – South Wales Echo – Daily Post Wales – Huddersfield Examiner – The Chronicle, Newcastle – Teesside Evening Gazette – Birmingham  Mail – Coventry Telegraph – Paisley Daily Express