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Now this, we really are excited about.
And while it's true that we're wine enthusiasts - so quite readily excited about wine - it’s also true that it’s not since we launched the Pierre Bertrand Premier Cru Champagne in 2017 that we’ve been quite this excited.
The 2015 vintage, across nearly all of France, is rapidly emerging as a great, a classic. The more that it gets tasted and reviewed, the more the admiration grows (which is the reverse of what normally happens in more average years, when a major fanfare at harvest tends to peter out some two years later). We made quite a fuss about this when we featured some Decanter-rated Côte de Beaune reds late last year (alas largely all gone: the article gets a mention for academic - rather than commercial - interest). The story in Bordeaux is perhaps more positive still - we might point you towards the (ever-useful-if-not-gospel) Parker vintage charts (and you will not struggle to find plenty of supporting evidence using the world's leading search engine).
As we said back in the Burgundy article - and it is just as true for Bordeaux as it is Burgundy - "in a good year, everything is good". Which, of course, isn't strictly true - it's a rule of thumb, after all - but the sentiment is right, which is: you need not buy the very most expensive wines in a good vintage to be assured of very fine quality indeed; Value Seekers, this is your moment.
Decanter: June 2016
The 2015s are still emerging, depending on producers' barrel/élevage times and release policies. Where the difficulty lies is in finding good wines at good/affordable/everyday (delete as applicable) prices, especially when there's
Whilst Exel have a number of Bordeaux-buying customers who favour the upper echelons of Bordeaux, we have long found the £15-£25 price point to be particularly popular. Step forward, therefore, the cru bourgeois wines of the Médoc/Left Bank. There's much more detail here on the cru's history and just how it works: a key thing to bear in mind is that, unlike the more famous crus classés, each cru bourgeois wine is tested/tasted each year to ensure that it passes master for the classification, see also here. The-ever helpful Oxford Companion to Wine summarises the crus bourgeois as "a social stratum below the supposedly aristocratic crus classés", representing some 25% of the Médoc's wine production. You can find crus classés for less than £25, now and again, but, in the main, the very best value in Bordeaux (in our view) lies at the cru bourgeois level. Here again, the trick lies in finding good ones, and that can often means that you need a good vintage... and/or good recommendations.
Enough pre-amble: where are we going with this?
The Decanter World Wine Awards 2018 have produced a bountiful harvest of great wines for us here at Exel - see the page here for our whole offering. Given the size of the DWWA tasting panels, we strongly believe they offer a true test of the wines submitted and we have been much impressed by the DWWA18 winners we have so far tried ... as also, we learn, have you, the Customer.
The awards tend not to feature a welter of Bordeaux (largely as the chateaux of both Left and Bank tend to be less bothered by the Anglo-centric DWWAs than producers elsewhere... which is not ideal for the UK consumer!).
There is only one DWWA18 Best In Show (of the 50 awarded across the globe) from Bordeaux ... and that's fully £75 a bottle. There are only four Platinums (97 points or above): only one is classic Left Bank (one of the remainder is a £32 Sauternes, the other two are pricier and / or unavailable St-Emilions).
It's that classic Left Bank one we're excited about. And that's because - exclusively - we've got it: the producer have kindly chosen Exel as their exclusive importer into the UK retail market.
And, ultimately (lest this has somehow escaped you) the real buzz is this - it's a 97-point Left Bank Bordeaux from a great vintage for just £17.50. And, while it lasts, you can get some.
Château Castera sits to the north of the main appellations of the Haut-Medoc, in the commune of St-Germain d'Esteuil (technically part of the Médoc appellation). There's a great deal more detail on the wine itself on our product page and the Château website.
Typically, the area to the north of the Haut-Médoc has a reputation for producing less-favoured wines, but, here, we defer and refer you to those 97 points of the DWWA panel ... that, and the Bordeaux adage that the northern Médoc really comes into its own (and can be spectacular) in better years. Or, as the Decanter Bordeaux supplement for 2018 (p36) expressed it when describing AOC Médoc, "in great vintages, the wines from here can offer outstanding value".
It's a young wine - of course - by Bordeaux standards: the general advice is that it will, just about, drink now - with a meal - if you like your Bordeaux that way. It'll be better with this year's Christmas lunch and pretty much ideal with next year's. We've tried a couple of sample bottles here (see below) - it's what we do - and seriously rate this, doubly so at the price. It has plenty of fruit (particularly blackcurrant, and more than you might expect given the proportion of Cab Sauv) ... more than enough to see it keeping its concentration and intensity as it ages. The oak is definitely present, but subtle and most attractive: far more "wood-smoke and cedar" than "potent vanilla". Tannins are ample to see it develop well, and much softer and less 'grippy' than one might expect, indicating a good, ripe harvest indeed.
Crus bourgeois tend not to be built for the longest of the long-term (although I enjoyed a wonderful 2003 cru bourgeois from Château Malescasse in May), but the quality of this vintage will see the 2015 Castera drink well - if properly stored - pretty much all the way to 2030.
And for £17.50, how can you not like that?