Bordeaux Grand Vin and their little brothers

Bordeaux is the epicentre of fine wine in the world. Located in France’s southwest, just north of the border with Spain and home to the greatest Cabernet and Merlot blends. Divided neatly into two parts by the Garonne River, the left side of the river, the Medoc, is Cabernet central. The Medoc wines from Margaux, St Julien, Pauillac and St Estèphe are usually Cabernet dominant and blended with Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. On the right side of the river, the vineyards on the clay plateau of Pomerol and St Émilion are located around the town of Libourne. On the right side, soils are more suited to Merlot, which dominates the wines often blended with Cabernet Franc.

Blessed with a number of excellent vintages in the last 10 years, two that stand out are the 2009 and 2010 vintages. Together they are without doubt the greatest pair of vintages in Bordeaux ever. Both exceptional, they have different characters: the 2009 opulent and quite voluptuous; the 2010 vintage is brighter, lively and with a classic note. For two reasons, there’s a lot of merit in looking at the second wines of the great Châteaux and the Petit Châteaux . The investments and innovation in the production of Bordeaux are downright extensive; think glass lifts for the gentle wine movement, amphorae made from clay from the vineyard, optical grape sorters and the list does not stop there.  So with all these tools and an extensive historic knowledge, what happens in great vintages like 2009 and 2010? Simple really, Bordeaux at all levels of the market is quite exquisite. So it’s with that in mind that, when in Bordeaux recently, I tasted my way through a bucket load of wine to select for Glengarry an excellent range of second wines and Petit Châteaux  – hard work I know. We’ve then popped them together in a temperature controlled container and carefully shipped them all the way to NZ. So yes, you care buying directly from the importer, there’s no secret or additional margins here, just pure gold quality classic wines at exceptional prices.

Once you’ve tasted a few of these great wines, you’ll concur that referring to these as second wines seems somewhat unjust. Second inferring that they are not first, which reminds me of the Baron Philippe de Rothschild classic quote  – “Second I was, first I am, Mouton does not change”. Now he said that in 1973 in reference to being elevated from a second classified growth to a first growth. This change, one of only three ever done to the 1855 classification of the left bank of Bordeaux.  It is wines from this classification that are the big brothers, the greatest estates in the world. The little brothers, the second wines of these exquisite properties. The concept of second wines was initially created to improve the quality of the top wines, made usually with younger vines from the estate. Nowadays, these second wines are more an early drinking expression of the top wine than a second wine of the Château. All the second wines we have just landed in store are from the exceptional 2009 and 2010 vintages. Many of these are exceptional drinking right now and will also benefit from short to medium term cellaring – certainly less cellaring than the Grand Cru Classé from this vintage will require.