Thursday, June 23, 2011

Wines of Bordeaux - Lynch-Bages, Sociando-Millet, Mouton Rothschild

For our day two tastings, we headed north of where we were on day one to the Medoc.  Let me see if I can explain this whole Medoc shizzle.  There's Medoc the region (Left Bank) and Medoc the appellation.  If you see Medoc on the wine label, that refers to Medoc the appellation.  Our first visit on day two was to Lynch-Bages,  in the Pauillac appellation, which is in the Medoc region.  Got it?  The French don't make anything easy.  There's also the Haut-Medoc, the hoity-toity Medoc, but we won't go there right now.

Lynch-Bages was classified a Cinquemes Cru, or fifth growth, in the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855.  Yes, 1855.  Talk about living in the past.  Seems London had this big ass World's Fair type exposition in 1851 that everyone was raving about.  Well, hating to be outdone, French Emporer Napoleon III decided he'd throw his own little bash in Paris in 1855 and show the English how to par-tay.  Since he was planning on showcasing the best wines of France, he decided these wines should be ranked or classified.  So the wine know-it-all's got together and ranked Bordeaux's best wines based on price and reputation, which back then directly related to the quality of the wine.  More than 150 years later, those classifications still apply.  But don't be fooled.  Things have changed a little since 1855 and those lowly "fifth-growths" are damn good wines....including Lynch-Bages.

This whole winemaking thing has been going on in Bordeaux for a few years now.....since sometime around 50 AD when the Romans established the vineyards so the soldiers would have something to drink!  Few things have changed in the actual process of winemaking, but obviously the equipment has been modernized over the years.

What was unique about Lynch-Bages was they've paid homage to the past by keeping the old equipment and barrels in place for visitors to see.

It was a beautiful room.

That's where Lucy and Ethel stomped the grapes.   Did Lucy and Ethel ever go to France?

I'd love to have some of these old pieces.

Where the grapes were pressed.

And back into the 21st century.  Since this is Medoc and Cabernet Sauvignon is king, Lynch-Bages is usually 75-80% Cabernet, 10-15% Merlot and the remaining 10% a mixture of Cab Franc and Petit Verdot.  I personally cannot drink this wines young.....I think regardless the vintage they need some age on them to be enjoyable.  This was one estate we had the opportunity to taste the 2010 (which are still aging in the barrels for about another year....a total of approx. 18 months) and I couldn't spit it out fast enough.  The tannins will slap you silly.  But give it 10-20 years and it will slap you silly in a really great way!

We got lucky and got to watch them bottle the 2009 vintage the day we were there.  I snuck a few bottles in my purse when no one was looking.  What?  It's supposed to be a killer vintage.

Actually, all we got were a few corks.

We also got to taste some older vintages (I swallowed!!) along with their second label, Echo.  Most Chateau's produce a second label of their wines and I highly recommend giving some of these a try.  Same vineyards, same grapes, same winemaker.....the only difference being the blend.  In this case, Echo contains a higher percentage of Merlot and Cab Franc, resulting is a softer, slightly less complex wine that doesn't need to be aged quite so long.  You also don't have to shell out the big bucks for these.  I think they're great values.

Isn't that a delicious sight?

The beautifully quaint village of Bages.

We then moved on to stunning property of Sociando-Millet sitting on the banks of the Gironde.   Even with a direct view of the nuclear power plant across the river, I thought this was the most beautiful property we visited.

It's been said that the vines with the best view of the Gironde produce the best wines of the Medoc.  These must be some great wines.

Sociando-Millet is owned by Jean Gautreau, whom I've never met, but I already like him.  He plays by his own rules.  Rather than be classified as Cru Bourgeois, he raised the symbolic middle finger at the classification system.  He chose not to engage  in the petty politics of the system and operate on the outside. He instead chose to just continually produces great wine year after year.  I love a rebel.

The Chateau is located just north of St. Estephe in the Haut-Medoc appellation and grows 55% Cab, 40% Merlot and the remaning 5% Cab Franc and Petit Verdot.

I loved their underground barrel room.

Especially this painting.  It would look great in my wine cellar.  Actually it's way too big for my meager little cellar, but a girl can dream.

While we're at it, I'd like a couple of these for my cellar, also.  They're Neduchadnezzars!  They contain the equivalent of 20 regular size bottles of wine.  Just enough for me and a few friends on a Saturday night!

They were also bottling the 2009 vintage while we were there.

That's St. Estephe there in the distance.......

....where we had a delicious lunch at Le Peyrat with a beautiful view of the Gironde.  After lunch we had an appointment at Mouton-Rothschild which was the only disappointment of the trip.  In their defense, they are undergoing a huge renovation project, but we were shuffled in an out so fast I didn't even have time to take one picture.  We were shown a 5 minute video on the history of the property and then had a very quick tasting of the 2009, then shown the door!  As I said, it was our last appointment of the day, so maybe we all just smelled bad or something!

Since we had some extra time, Thomas drove us around to get a little peek-see at some of the more famous Chateaus, like Cos d'Estournel.

And this is Cos d'Estournel's extremely famous neighbor, Lafite-Rothschild.  Beautiful property.

Chateau Pichon-Longueville

 Chateau Branaire-Ducru.

Very cute wine shop in Margaux where we may have purchased a few bottles!

Main Street in downtown Margaux!

Chateau Margaux.

Chateau Palmer.

Next three in my personal favorites, St. Emilion and Pomerol.  Cheers!

1 comment:

  1. Those places are great! I wish to visit those with my friends. The barrel room is so amazing.