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.