A Happy Find for Bordeaux Lovers

It’s a treat to ease off of the money diet as I shop for wines these days!

While I have made some terrific wine discoveries that are well worth exploring regardless of your budget, I’ve been able to look again at a few more wines in the $17-20.00 range, rather than trying to stay in the sub-$15 arena.

I want to recommend a new red that I think is well worth a taste. As the weather grows cool and the leaves reach their height, and we run into winter, this taste of wine seems to work particularly well.

It is from the country that many of us first think of for wine… France.

As I’ve written in a past article, as a wine producer, I think French wine is in a peculiar place. At the high end of the market, times have never better.

French Champagne producers can sell every bottle of the more than 350 million they produce each year, and several years ago, actually had to expand the borders of the land area they identify as “Champagne” in order to meet demand!

They have to limit the number of bottles that they allocate to particular regions, such as Asian countries, in order to distribute their finite supply more equitably.

Many of the high-end and justifiably famous Bordeaux wines are selling for upwards of $400 a bottle. The 2009 Chateau Lafite sells for $18,832 a case… that’s more than $1,500 a BOTTLE!

But once you move away from the classic “greats” of French wines, a lot of winemakers can hardly give the stuff away. Their cost of production is substantially higher than Argentina and Chile, or even Spain or Portugal; and I feel the French wine industry has, in large part, been resting on its laurels.

In the meantime, first California, then Australia, and now even Italy and Spain, have invested heavily in making better and better quality wines that have been developing following around the world.

And Yukon wine drinkers can taste the result when they try the moderately-priced French wines, selling in the $12-20 range.

For the most part, I am finding them uninteresting and unimaginative, when compared to comparably priced offerings from South America, Spain, Australia, the U.S. and parts of Italy.

I was heartened by a recent find, though, that IS worth a try! This is 2009 Chateau Haut Perthus (around $18 at the YLC), a Bordeaux-style wine made outside of the Bordeaux region, just to the east in Bergerac.

Bergerac is in the province—or, as the French call them, the “department”—of the Dordogne, and is blessed with 1,200 winemakers, growing grapes on about 30,000 acres of vineyards.

Only about 15 percent of Bergerac wines are imported, most of that to European neighbours, so I was delighted to find an example here in Whitehorse.

The citizens of the beautiful Dordogne River valley have been producing wines since the 13th century, and began to export those wines to England in 1254.

This region has long had connections with England, and by 1511 this Protestant-dominated region was also doing a booming wine trade with Scandinavia and Holland.

Modern day Bergerac wines emerged when the boundaries of the Bordeaux wine-growing area were being drawn up, and Bergerac found itself on the wrong side of the demarcation line.

Long a maker of Bordeaux-style wines comprised of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot grapes, Bergerac has had an uphill slog without the benefit of being able to call its wines “Bordeaux”, even though they are similar in style and grape content.

This, though, works to the benefit of us wine lovers.

Because Bergerac wines cannot command the higher prices of their storied neighbours of Bordeaux, even though they are making similar wines, the same $18 or so that will you buy you a very so-so Bordeaux, turn out to buys you a pretty darn good Bergerac wine!

When I opened it, I immediately was reminded of the bouquet (smell) that I would normally associate with a $30-40 Bordeaux here in the Yukon. And a taste just served to confirm my first impression.

If you would like to experience the sense of drinking a pretty solid Bordeaux, I would enthusiastically recommend you go instead to this wine.

It has all the character of a traditional French Bordeaux, including a classic mix of 60 percent Cabernet Franc grapes, that give it a strong, tannic mouth feel, and hints of leather and hints of licorice, and the 40 percent Merlot grape, that adds more velvety mouth feel, and round red cherry fruit flavours.

Match this up with a nice roast or beef stew on a cool Yukon Autumn night, and I’m pretty sure you’ll have a great dinner.


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