This is a Tale of Two Clarets…
(Tries desperately and fails to avoid clichéd opening “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…”)
What is Claret anyway?Apart from a name on a wine gum? It’s always seemed a bit of a posh term to me. I see men in leather armchairs at their Club drinking Claret; I can’t imagine inviting The Mothership to have a glass. That’s probably a bit unfair because Claret is just a sort of shorthand term for red wines from Bordeaux, made from Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon with possibly some Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot or Malbec as well. It’s really just a British term as the French don’t call it Claret.
In fact, now I’m thinking about it, Bordeaux as a whole has always seemed quite intimidating to me. All that talk of first growths, Chateau this and Chateau that, right bank, left bank, great vintages and eye-watering auction prices for investment wines. But don’t worry about all that, just give Claret a go and see if you like it! It’s coming up to Christmas after all and a Claret would probably go very nicely with Boxing Day beef.
I’ve chosen two wines to share with you that are both from 2008. The Chateau Le Bonnat is from the Graves area (appellation). It’s a 50-50 mix of Merlot and Cab Sauv. The qualities of these grape varieties compliment each other. Simplifying massively, imagine Merlot’s soft fruitness alongside Cab. Sauv’s dark, tannic grippyness. To me, in the Le Bonnat, the Merlot seems to be winning out. The aromas of this wine are not very strong – just plums and woodiness. (That’s another thing about Claret – it generally gets aged in wood barrels) Not quite full-bodied, this wine has flavours of dark plums and a sweet spiciness. It had a slightly sharp, bitter finish at first but then this softened. The tannins were not at all “crunchy” and so the wine was pretty easy to drink.
Chateau Le Bonnat is available in the Co-op priced £9.99 until 1 January. It’s usual price is £15.99
W.O.W. Factor 6.5
Chateau Pey La Tour 2008 is a Bordeaux Superior. This means that the grapes that have gone into it come from across the region, rather than just one small appellation. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does make it a sort of second class citizen even though the grapes often come from older vines. However, I think I enjoyed this wine more. Overall it was more intense in both aroma and flavour with less bitterness and better length. It had dark plums and some blackcurrant hints alongside that woodiness. The tannins were again there but fine grained. I was expecting this to have more Cab. Sauv. in the blend, but actually its 95% Merlot, 4% Cab. Sauv. and 1% Petit Verdot.
You can get hold of Chateau Pey La Tour 2008 via The Wine Society. It costs £9.75.
W.O.W. Factor 7
By the way, don’t forget to decant both of these wines/pour them into a jug a couple of hours before you want to drink them.
Although neither of these Clarets exhibit the complexity that you can get from Bordeaux, they would be an affordable introduction to the style.
P.S. If you are interested in learning about all the Bordeaux vintage stuff then check out the Winedoctor, Chris Kissack.