If you are in the mood for fine French wine and food, why not consider the world-famous Bordeaux region of southwestern France. You may even find a bargain, and I am sure that you'll have fun on this fact-filled wine education tour in which we review a red Merlot from an internationally renowned producer. Among France's eleven wine-growing regions Bordeaux ranks first in acreage with about 50% more land devoted to vineyards than the second-place Rhone Valley. But it's more than just a question of acreage and volume. Bordeaux is widely considered as one of the top wine producing regions of the entire earth and has been for centuries.
The wine reviewed below comes from the Pomerol area on the right bank of the Garonne River, which divides Bordeaux in two. Bordeaux produces over seventy million cases of wine per year, about 85% red, 12 white, and the rest rose. That works out to more than two million cases of rose wine per year. I don't remember ever tasting a Bordeaux rose.
I promise to deal with this problem later in the series. There are more than twenty two thousand vineyards in Bordeaux covering about 280 thousand acres, which works out to somewhat less than 13 acres per vineyard. Approximately one half of the vineyards produce wine, and in total about 6000 properties produce and sell their own wine, while the rest sell their wine through cooperatives. Bordeaux boasts about 60 different wine appellations ranging from fair-to-middling to world class with plenty in between.
Some Bordeaux wine classifications date back to 1855 and have barely changed since, except that Baron Rothschild was able to get his best wine promoted from Second Cru (second growth) to Premier Cru (First Growth). Those in the know say that his Chateau Lafitte definitely deserves this honor. We intend to review some fairly top-notch Bordeaux wines sooner or later. In the meantime the wine reviewed below is very affordable. Interestingly enough, its noble cousin, Chateau Petrus, crafted by the same producer with the same grape in the same area holds no prestigious classification.
However, Chateau Petrus is definitely world class and comes with a price to match, if the wine merchant will even look at your money. Believe it or not, Merlot is the major red grape in Bordeaux. Cabernet Sauvignon comes in a distant second.
We'll talk about the remaining important Bordeaux red grape varieties elsewhere in this series. The major white grapes are Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc. Pomerol is a small, rural region of Bordeaux that produces only red wine. Its major grape varieties are Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. Pomerol's main tourist attractions are the wine chateaux.
Perhaps surprisingly the world famous Chateau Petrus is not all that special to look at. The two most attractive Chateaux are the Chateau Nenin and the Vieux Chateau Certan but are far from spectacular. As the famous phrase goes, you can't judge a book by its cover. Of course the Bordeaux region is brimming with sights to see which will be described in the appropriate articles. Before reviewing the Bordeaux wine and imported cheeses that we were lucky enough to purchase at a local wine store and a local Italian food store, here are a few suggestions of what to eat with indigenous wines when touring this beautiful region. Start with Gravette Huitres (Oysters from the Arcachon Bay).
For your second course savor Lamproie au Pomerol (Eels cooked in Red Wine and Chocolate). And as dessert indulge yourself with Cannelles de Bordeaux ("Portable Creme Brulee). OUR WINE REVIEW POLICY All wines that we taste and review are purchased at the full retail price.
Wine Reviewed Moueix Merlot 2003 12.3% about $13.00 Let's start by quoting the marketing materials. No one knows Merlot better than Christian Moueix, owner of the world famous Chateau Petrus.
Year after year, his wines define Merlot. Soft and round with aromas of raspberry, cedar and blueberry, this wine delivers ripe fruit, great balance and a medium long finish. It's magic with veal medallions and sauteed mushrooms, or baked pasta. My first pairing was with turkey meatballs, potatoes, and sauteed vegetables in a moderately spicy tomato sauce.
This wine was round and full-bodied. It was quite long with pleasant acidity but overpowered the meat. The Merlot's taste improved after I ate some potatoes. When I finished the glass after the meal, the wine was quite rich and I started tasting blackberries.
My next meal consisted of slow-cooked beef stew and potatoes with a somewhat spicy sauce and two rather spicy side salads. The wine was full-bodied and agreeably acidic, tasting of plums and black cherries. Once again I enjoyed finishing the glass after the meal. The spices were intensified. I can only imagine what its famous cousin, Chateau Petrus, would taste like but at forty times the cost (or more), I can only imagine.
The final meal included hamburgers, rice, cauliflower and red peppers in a tomato sauce. The sauce should have been enlivened by Harissa, a Moroccan hot pepper spice that turned out to be fairly weak. The Merlot tasted of dark fruits and tobacco with a bit of black pepper. The only downside was that the wine was not long.
As always, the cheese tastings came last. I started with a Palet de Chevre, which is a goat's milk cheese from the Poitou Charentes region of central-western France. Honestly, if I didn't know that it was a goat's milk cheese I never would have guessed. It simply looked and tasted like a slightly runny Camembert.
The combination was almost OK, but deadened the wine's flavor somewhat. The other cheese was a Swiss Gruyere. The wine bounced back in the Gruyere's presence, but frankly was too good for the cheese. Final verdict.
No doubt about it; I want this wine again. And if and when I am able to afford its noble cousin, Chateau Petrus, I think I will continue to buy this wine.
Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet, but to be honest, he would rather just drink fine French or other wine, accompanied by the right foods. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario French-language community college. His major wine website is www.theworldwidewine.com and his major travel website is www.travelitalytravel.com