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FRANCE: Bordeaux

Some good quality around the £10 mark and upwards, but the negative reaction (again) to the cheaper Bordeaux rouges is a concern

For an appellation of its size and influence, Bordeaux tends to underperform in the Sommelier Wine Awards, rarely managing more than 10 medals, and two or three places on the Gold List. And after last year's excellent perfromance (seven Golds, 20 medals), it was back to normal this year.

While the left and right bank submissions did OK, the generic Bordeaux rouges were slated.

‘Utter crap. There really isn’t anything else to say,’ said one taster with a murderous expression on his face that suggested our journalist would be taking his life in his hands if he pressed any further.

The Left Bank wines, though, were generally well received. There were, perhaps understandably, no real bargains (and certainly nothing to rival last year’s sub-£10 Château d’Escurac), though in Silver medal-winning Château Lestage-Simon our tasters did at least see a chance of getting some quality on the list at under £50.

While the medal-winning wines were quite firm structurally, they all also had enough weight and sweetness of fruit wrapped around the tannin to ensure that they’d be drinking OK now, and the Château Brown was an excellent example of silkiness and punch.

‘This would absolutely fulfill people’s expectation of the style of Bordeaux at a good price point,’ said Mark Graham from OXO Tower. ‘It’s a wine with real legs, with a balanced, forward style, well-integrated tannins and some good
length, a good all-rounder and very enjoyable just to drink.’

As you might expect from Merlot-dominated wines, the Right Bank entries were a bit more consistent and our tasters were generally happy with the sweetish red fruit and ‘aromatic charm’ they were getting here.

There was the rarity of a popularly received wine under £8 (Château Montcabrier), a £10 Gold (Château du Lort) a good spread of attractive wines through the mid-price range and, in the Château Faizeau, a more show-off wine at £28.

It was a strong performance and, with the Right Bank picking up medals for 2010 and 2011 wines, suggests that here, rather than the Médoc, might be the place to go hunting for reds for the next year or two.

The only area of the appellation to pull in a record number of medals this year was the whites, with the tasters tending to prefer the wines that had a healthy, body-enhancing dollop of Semillon to prop up the Sauvignon Blanc aromatics.

‘It was a really interesting flight,’ said Irina Atanasova of Fifteen London. ‘And they’re definitely great in terms of food.’

Our tasters admitted that they could easily have put through many more wines for medals, but the chill voice of realism whispered mean things in their ear.

‘When you go up to £30 and if you have to list that at £120, then how many people are going to spend that much?’ sighed STK’s Michael Harrison. ‘Although we might like them, they don’t exactly skip off the list.’

‘People still look for claret in a classical place like ours, and these wines have no problem when it comes to food matching.’
Sara Bachiorri, The Glasshouse Restaurant

‘People at our place tend to veer towards France, and they do like Bordeaux. The pricing was not bad here – these delivered fine.’
Marco Adreani, The Pass at South Lodge