Peter Morrell tastes some top rated, great value vintages from this undiscovered wine growing region in France
With significant innovation being implemented in wineries and vineyards across five diverse appellations, it’s time to discover the exciting and great value wines of the Côtes de Bordeaux.
Tucked away next to some of the most famous appellations in the world lies the fourth largest AOC in France. Côtes de Bordeaux may not be the first Bordeaux appellation to spring to mind, but it is a region on the rise, worthy of exploration. Although the appellations are spread across the right bank of Bordeaux, they share similarly hilly landscapes, hence the name ‘Côtes.’
Created just 12 years ago in 2009, Côtes de Bordeaux is made up of five different appellations including Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux, Francs Côtes de Bordeaux, Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux, Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux and most recently, Sainte-Foy Côtes de Bordeaux which joined the group in 2016.
The union of these great regions has created a dynamic and exciting larger area where modern, fruit-forward reds, refreshing whites and delicious sweet wines can be found. Around 10% of Bordeaux are wines are from Côtes de Bordeaux, which counts over 950 producers, many of whom are young winemakers producing modern style wines.
Each appellation has its own unique terroir and regulations producing an array of exquisite wine styles. Cadillac and Castillon are solely dedicated to making red wines, many of which are fruit-forward and approachable in their youth, while the Blaye appellation is renowned for both crisp, fresh whites made from Sauvignon Blanc & Sémillon and reds. In Francs and Sainte-Foy, luscious sweet wine is also produced alongside the reds and dry whites.
Here are some examples which showcase the quality and value on the wines in the region
Arbo Malbec 2018, Côtes de Bordeaux
This is a strikingly supple, black fruit scented Bordeaux made almost entirely from Malbec. Based in Franc Côtes de Bordeaux, Bernadette and Joseph Arbo work organically producing this intriguing and great value wine. The palate is full-bodied and full-flavoured yet the tannins are silky, meaning the wine is easy drinking and approachable with bright flavours of blackberry, cherry, violet and mocha.
Peter Morrell comments “Blackcurrant. cherry and pepper aromas in the bouquet are the introduction to this wine. The dominant grape is Malbec, unusual for a blend in this region, but it works brilliantly. The body is medium to full, and offers up flavours of plum, cocoa and hints of perfume, with a good dose of liquorice. The tannins are very supple, it’s a wine I would happily drink on its own. As a match for the wine, slow roasted lamb shoulder immediately springs to mind. The finish has good length, with a display of luscious dark fruits.”
Château Carignan 2015, Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux
Château Carignan has an extraordinary history; it was given to one of Joan of Arc’s right-hand men, Jean Poton de Xaintrailles. Today, fantastic, full-bodied reds are made in this Cadillac-based estate. This is a floral and fruit-forward wine yet with a decent amount of age adding a savoury undertone. Notes of damson, violet and black cherry are prominent, layered with flavours of sweet spice and cigar box.
Peter Morrell says “This is a very complex wine made with three of the classic Bordeaux varieties, Merlot (75%), Cabernet Sauvignon (15%), and Cabernet Franc (10%). There are pronounced aromas of dark cherries and plums on the nose. In the mouth these remain and are joined by a myriad of flavours like cloves, tobacco, cedar and chocolate. The tannins are exceptionally smooth and make the wine and ideal companion to steaks and game casseroles. The finish is long and persistent.”
Château la Clarière 2018, Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux
Tony Laithwaite has been a champion of the Castillon region since he first worked there in 1967, noting the similarity of terroir to neighbouring St. Émilion and its suitability to produce exemplary reds. Since purchasing Château la Clarière in 1980 he has put this belief into practice. The greatest care is taken in making this wine; low yields promoting intensity, rigorous sorting in the cellar for quality, and ageing in the finest new French oak. This is a luscious Merlot-based blend with intense fruit, mocha and spice notes.
Peter Morrell’s view is “The wine is centric around Merlot, with additional varieties added to give it more interest and structure. It’s a big wine in every sense of the word, aroma, flavour and body. There are good notes of plum, blackberry and vanilla in the bouquet. These continue onto the palate, and other finely layered flavours emerge. There is leather, cassis, a multitude of warming spices, cedar and tobacco. The tannins are very well structured making the wine silky smooth Pair this with roast beef, and mature stilton, a match made in heaven. There is a very strong fruit and spice finish.”
In summing up Peter Morrell said “It has been proven that the climate of the region is ideal for the production grapes that create high fine wines. However, the Côtes de Bordeaux is less well known than its more famous neighbours to the west where the Grand Crus are produced. This is reflected in the prices, making these wines exceeding good value for money. The wines I tasted were all high quality and I have no hesitation in recommending the vintages from the Côtes de Bordeaux.”
Visit the Bordeaux Wine Council (C.I.V.B.) website. It will describe the organisation’s history which was created in 1948. It unites representatives from the three families in the Bordeaux wine industry: winegrowers, merchants, and traders.
Here are three other Côtes de Bordeaux wines that are well worth trying.
Château Beaumont ‘Les Pierrières’ 2019, Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux
In 2006, M. Filliatreau, the owner of Château Beaumont Les Pierrières was eager to experiment and add extra depth & complexity to his his old vine Sémillon-Sauvignon wine, while keeping at an affordable price. He hit on the idea of barrel-fermenting it in the new barrels destined for the red wine. Since it is picked early (in August), fermentation is completed in wood and back in tank by the time of the ‘décuvage’ of the red. The result is a white with great complexity and depth of flavour, and very affordable. There are pineapple and some grapefruit notes, along with a hint of vanilla.
Lea & Sandeman £12.95
Château Pré Lalande, Cuvée Terracotta, 2016 Sainte-Foy Côtes de Bordeaux
Based in the Sainte-Foy Côtes de Bordeaux appellation, biodynamic producer Château Pré Lalande have aptly named this wine ‘Teracotta’ for the vessel it is aged in. Matured in amphorae, this is a modern and approachable Merlot/ Cabernet Sauvignon blend, complex and textural yet fruit-forward with generous notes of blackcurrant, blackberry and plum.
Château Puygueraud 2018, Francs Côtes de Bordeaux
A blend of Merlot in majority with Cabernet Franc and a touch of Malbec, this is the top wine of Château Puygueraud. Fruit is sourced from the plateaus and the clay-limestone slopes overlooking the Francs Côtes de Bordeaux appellation. It is a rich wine, with an elegant palate, bursting with attractive notes of damson, blueberry, vanilla and black pepper. Ample energy and fruit within structuring tannins that present a lovely nose of fruit and spices.