Going green in the Bordeaux Hot 50

France’s most famous wine region has turned its ‘Everyday Bordeaux’ listing into a ‘Hot 50’. Peter Ranscombe follows his visit to the area in March with a look at the ‘green’ wines on the new list.

SOMETIMES it’s hard to know where to begin with Bordeaux.

It may be famous for its five “first growth” chateaux – which sell their bottles for thousands of pounds each – but the area also produces wine in much larger volumes.

In fact, its output stretches to the equivalent of around 680 million bottles each year, ranging from midweek “claret” through to golden dessert wines, taking in whites, rosés and sparkling wines along the way.

Each year, the local wine council invites British experts to taste their way through a selection of bottles to create an “Everyday Bordeaux” list.

This year, they’ve done something slightly different – to highlight the diversity of styles from the region, they’ve produced a “Bordeaux Hot 50” instead.

Under the watchful eye of chairman and master of wine Richard Bampfield, the judges – including former Scotland on Sunday wine columnist Will Lyons, television presenter Joe Wadsack, and friend and Feel Good Grapes owner Mike Turner – worked their way through 240 submissions.

Their choices were split into four categories: “fresh and crisp” whites and bubbles; “rich and complex” reds, whites and sweet wines; “smooth and fruity” rosés, bubbles and reds; and “ethical wines”, which were organic, biodynamic or “sustainably crafted”.

The “ethical” label doesn’t sound quite right to me – “ethics” speaks to me of wider business practices rather than simply reducing the impact on the environment.

But I understand that “environmentally friendly” is a wee bit cumbersome compared with the other category names, and no one really wants to talk about “green” wines for fear they’re suggesting the juice is unripe.

Semantics aside, it’s great to see the environmental impact of farming and winemaking being taken into account, and chimes well with the changing attitudes that I saw on the ground when I visited Bordeaux before the lockdown in March.

Equally as important, the focus on caring for the environment responds to consumers’ interests, with more and more readers asking me about organic and biodynamic wines.

Ten bottles made the maiden “ethical wines” list within the “Hot 50”, taking in reds, whites and bubbles.

Sadly, the lockdown meant last month’s scheduled Bordeaux tasting in London was postponed until September – and, if I’m being realistic, even that sounds a bit ambitious.

But, until I can run the rule over the full “ethical” selection, here’s a sneak peak at three bottles that made the list…

Monfaucon Estate Pétillant 2016 (£24.90, Feel Good Grapes)
London hairdresser Dawn Jones-Cooper swapped her scissors for pruning shears when she began making wine in Bordeaux and it’s great to see her getting the recognition she deserves in her new career. Her organic bubbles are labelled as “pétillant” because the pressure inside the bottle is slightly lower than in full sparkling wine, but you’d never know that from the liveliness of the bubbles, with the crisp acidity balanced by baked apple flavours and a lick of butter. Incredible value for such a delicious wine.

G de Guiraud Bordeaux Blanc 2016 (equivalent to £18.67, The Fine Wine Company)
Château Guiraud’s whites were one of the highlights for me at Davy’s old world portfolio tasting back in February. Bordeaux Blanc – which accounts for about 9% of the region’s output – doesn’t get anywhere near enough attention and it’s a crying shame, especially with bottles like this, which boasted enticing lemon rind, apricot and grapefruit notes on the nose and then a more savoury asparagus element joining the juicy fruit on the palate to help balance the mouth-watering acidity.

Chateau Franc Baudron Montagne Saint-Emilion 2014 (£13.99, Cambridge Wine Merchants)
Oh my, oh my. I wasn’t expecting such complex aromas and flavours from the Montagne satellite area outside the main Saint-Emilion village. Intense blackberry, blackcurrant, pencil lead, damp earth and dark chocolate mingle on the nose, before launching into assertive yet well integrated polished tannins on the palate. It has excellent balance, with sweet vanilla, blackcurrant jam and milk chocolate, plus more bitter dark chocolate, all wrapped up in a mouth-filling texture. Could be easily mistaken for something much more expensive and much posher.

Read more of Peter Ranscombe’s blog entries about wine, whisky and other drinks on The Grape & The Grain at https://www.scottishfield.co.uk/grapegrain/

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