Last week I wrote about natural wines which all the cool kids love, but this week I’m writing about the opposite, as the cool kids have zero interest in cru classé Bordeaux.
The cru classé system was created for the Paris Exhibition of 1855 by wine merchants of Bordeaux and strangely, that classification holds to this day although some 2ème cru classé wines sell at fifth-growth prices and vice versa (e.g. Lascombes and Lynch Bages).
In 1932, a separate tier was introduced to cover quality Médoc wines that were omitted or did not exist in 1855 and on February 20, the new 2020 classification of Cru Bourgeois was finally released after years of legal wrangling.
Several of the best-known wines have pulled out of the system such as Chasse-Spleen, Poujeaux, and Gloria as in truth these wines already sell at cru classé prices.
The new classification covers 249 wines which are ranked as Cru Bourgeois (179), Cru Bourgeois Supérieur (56), and Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel (14).
At supérieur level are wines that have featured here in the past such as Larose Trintaudon and Larose Pernanson (both excellent and under €40) and at the Exceptionnel level are wines you may know such as Arnauld, Malescasse, Lillian Ladouys and Lestage — a quick Google will get you the full list.
Old Bordeaux was my first love and I still buy although prices are massively different these days now that the likes of Johnny Depp and LeBron James have discovered it, but I would still maintain that aged red Bordeaux is the perfect dinner companion, rarely more than 13.5% abv and eminently digestible.
A bottle of 1988 Château Kirwan was one of my first experiences of Cru Classé Bordeaux which I bought for around €24 in O’Briens, Donnybrook, in around 1994.
In those days it was a little more austere but still had that classic violet scent so typical of the village of Margaux.
These days the wine is more fruit-forward and can be drunk much younger.
The owner will be in Hayfield Manor hosting a dinner next Tuesday and it will be well worth going if there are tickets still available.
Château Kirwan Dinner, Hayfield Manor with Yann Schÿler.
€119. Contact Hayfield Manor or O’Briens, Douglas.
Best value under €15
The Haut-Médoc is the southern section of the Médoc at higher elevation with 15 smaller communes including famous names like Pauillac, Saint-Julien and Moulis.
This is great value. Cigar box, plum and blackberry fruit aromas, fruity and ripe with some structure due to its youth and lingering blackcurrant and mint touches.
Part of the Lidl French wine sale.
Vacqueyras is a 25-minute drive north east of Châteauneuf-du-Pape with similarly fleshy wines (softer than Gigondas but without the power of Châteauneuf).
This is a fairly typical example at a very fair price — Vacqueyras would often be over €20.
Ripe sweet spicy red fruit aromas, supple and soft with darker fruits on the mid-palate. Part of the Lidl French wine sale.
The Collin-Bourisset range that appears occasionally in Lidl is reliable and solid for its price.
Brouilly is the most southerly of the Beaujolais Cru villages and the wines are generally more fruit-focused.
Black cherry and juicy cherry aromas, supple and soft with a hint of structure and a pleasing suppleness.
Serve a little cool for best results.
Best value over €15
Lidl stores nationwide
This Saint-Émilion Grand Cru (the equivalent of Cru Bourgeois in the Médoc) is a good €5 off its usual price.
Dark plum and chocolate-tinged aromas with a hint of mint, fruity and soft with grip and integrated tannins, textured and relatively soft but will benefit from decanting an hour or so in advance.
Worth laying down for a few years if you have the patience.
O’Briens stores nationwide, www.wine.ie
From the good value Lussac satellite village of Saint Émilion this has been a mainstay on O’Briens Bordeaux list for a number of years.
Reduced this month by €6 this has bright blackberry fruits with a hint of spice and cedar and a touch of cacao — fruity and soft on the palate with bright fruits and good length.
Perfect for a steak or a winter stew.
O’Briens stores nationwide, www.wine.ie
There might still be tickets for the Château Kirwan dinner next Tuesday in Hayfield Manor, call the Douglas store to check.
Kirwan’s second label Charmes de Kirwan is on special at €32 this month.
This has violet-scented black fruit and aromas with a touch of cedar, dense lithe fruits on the palate with fine concentration and depth. Exceptional.