(2020) Fronsac is an unheralded but usually reliably good Bordeaux appellation on the Right Bank, where Merlot is the principal grape planted from Bordeaux's famous five. This is 60% Merlot with equal parts Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. It's proper old-fashione claret in a way, with a streak of bloodiness and game on the nose, solid and sweet black fruit, but also a little ash and earthy sense of austerity. In the mouth it has lovely balance, walking the same line between solid fruitiness and that backbone of tannin, spice, cedar and savoury acidity, with really quite a long, gastronomic finish. Mixed six price is £18.99. Watch the video for more information and food-matching.
(2020) From the Bordeaux Right Bank appellation Côtes de Castillon, this is 95% Merlot with the balance Cabernet Franc. From an obviously ripe and rich year, it's a big bear-hug of a wine, 14.5% alcohol a testament to the ripeness and glorious sweetness of fruit here, yet it is not a wine that feels over-extracted or clumsy. Aromas are the essence of cassis and plum, some pencil-shaving finess in the background. Mouthfilling, creamy and voluptuous black fruit floods the palate, with creamy-soft tannins and a nice stripe of sour plum acidity to give freshness. It's plushness might not suit lovers of more austere, traditional 'claret', but I loved this personality-packed wine.
(2019) From an interesting collaboration between the top Pessac-Léognan estate of Domaine de Chevalier and Stephane Derenencourt, this is mostly Merlot with 30% of Cabernet Franc, so presumably from 'right bank' vineyards given that blend. It's a deeply spiced and plummy wine, offering instantly appealing depth of aroma, touched with cedary olive character, but mostly about the plummy Merlot fruit. In the mouth the silky texture, soft creamy tannins and weight of mid-palate fruit flow across the tongue, before a bright finish where pert acidity and a bit of structure pull the wine through to a long finish. Approachable Bordeaux, but more substance than many at a similar price.
(2018) Blaye is an appellation of Bordeaux's 'right bank', and typically this is predominantly Merlot, with 5% each of Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon too. Reduced to £13.49 at time of review. It's a plummy and silky expression of Bordeaux, a little coffee and cream, dense fleshy plum and a light pencil-shaving note too. In the mouth the creaminess of the fruit, plush tannin and texture add up to a fairly straightforward, but nevertheless delicious and balanced glass of quality claret drinking well now.
(2017) Made for C&B by the illustrious J-P Moueix of Pomerol, intriguingly the suggestion is that this is the perfect match for Murgh Tikka Makhani - a choice that surprised me, though I can see the logic in a wine with power and a bit of real grip that might well take on curry. Mostly Merlot, pencil-shaving notes over plum fruit, before a firm palate, the dark-toned fruit has a bit of bittersweetness, and the acidity gives the cut rather than the tannins which are sandy but not dominant.
(2017) I last tasted this wine 'en primeur' in 2011 when I rated it 89 points, so nice to come across it again with six years more in bottle. The estate is managed by Alain Vauthier of the famous Château Ausone, and the wine is a blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc. There's a gentle floral aspect to the nose, but that's part of a fairly complex picture with savoury, dark fruit and hints of earthiness, green pepper and some cocoa. On the palate it is juicy and lean, the tannins and very plum-skin grip of acidity give it definition, but there's a hint of cocoa and coffee again, and sufficient berry fruit to make it very appealing along with some roast beef perhaps.
(2017) I've previously reviewed and recommended the St Julien 2010 bottled for FromVineyardsDirect from the vineyards of a famous second growth Chāteau, and I have to say this 2014 Pauillac is equally good. Once again the producer is not revealed, but it is a declassifed Cru Classé, possibly made from the estate's younger vines, or simply a surplus that was not needed in the blend - this wine is dominated by Merlot. It is svelte and plush on the nose, deep black fruit and a hint of graphite and cedar. In the mouth it has tension and structure, a grip of youthful tannin, but the savoury, lightly gamy and meaty presence speaks of the wine's class and heritage, the finish long, chewy, but agile. Though drinking well already, this will cellar for several years.
(2017) Last tasted in 2015 when I rated it 90/100, this is cellaring very well indeed, still showing that ripeness of fruit that is modern and appealing, but not at the expense of classic Médoc character, a hint of game, cedar and liquorice, a pleasing dose of volatility leading on to a curranty, dry palate, but there's a slick chocolate to the tannins, the 14% alcohol no doubt aiding that generous mouthfeel, into a long finish where the sweet fruit persists.
(2016) This estate was purchased by Alain Vauthier of Château Ausone in 2008. It feels youthful yet approachable, with touches of cedar and stemmy green Cabernet to solid black fruit (that some will like more than others), though the elegant framework of supple tannin, easy acidity, coffee and fruit concentration harmonious on the palate. Drink or hold for a few years.
(2016) Very pure, dense, sweet black fruit, creamy, with very nice mouth-filling and coffee touched character, great tannins and fresh cherry acidity. Lovely balance. Long and composed, but with great fruit expression.
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