Blog: Planet Bordeaux Goldmine Tasting
On a warm September afternoon shortly after 1pm, most New Yorkers can be found begrudgingly dragging themselves back to their offices after a lunch while relishing summer’s waning days. However, on the 11th floor of a nondescript building off of 5th Avenue, a whole other world was unfolding on Wednesday afternoon. For the day anyway, the pop-up style Planet Bordeaux Goldmine Tasting was like walking into an entirely new dimension. Gone were the sounds of cell phone chatter, the smell of taxi exhaust and the shriek of ongoing construction. Before us stood a brightly lit, clean space scattered with about a dozen tables of the best wines from the Bordeaux region. Throughout the day Michael Madrigale, Head Sommelier of Boulud Sud, was on hand to host seminars for some fortunate wine enthusiasts and members of the media on red, white, and sweet Bordeauxs.
Traditionally, Bordeaux red wines are a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes- the ratios of both are ultimately up to the winemakers from each vineyard. The region itself is among the finest in the world for cultivating grapes with soil types that vary from limestone to blue clay, and hydration that is closely monitored- some using tides of the coast to aid their irrigation. Following a strange 2013 that was littered by rain, hail, unseasonably warm weather and rot all combined to drive bottles to be labeled as “Haute Médoc”- what we would call boxed Merlot- and sold for about a third of the cost. It’s always a sad year watching grapes go to waste, a woman pouring glasses of Domaine De L’Île Margaux laments. Fortunately, as we learn, 2014 and 2015 will both be great years for wine, so the purveyors on hand appear to be quite bullish on their product.
With a room filled with tasting tables around us, we began at one of the region’s oldest vineyards. Domaine Margaux sits off of the Médoc shore and when the first Bordeaux classification was done in 1855, the entire Island Margaux was encompassed into the Château Margaux empire. From there, we moved along toward a table simply labeled “Sweet” where we sampled a 2011 Château de Malle, which reminds us of an Indian pastry with heavy notes of apricot and saffron. Equally delightful was the 2010 Domaine du Tich, an AOC Sainte-Croix-du-Mont, rounding things out with a lighter fruit and almost oaky taste.
As there was only so much sweetness we could take, our next stop was to Monseiur Touton Selection hoping to find some big-bodied reds. As we can’t afford $200 bottles of wine on a regular basis, tasting the 2011 Château Recougne, an AOC Bordeaux Supérieur Rouge, was high on our list. If we went looking for a full-bodied wine, we stumbled upon the Hulk. Graphite, smoke, and earth permeated our palates with each sip of this highly- regarded wine. Definitely a highlight of the day.
While we milled around, easy to do as no more than 20 people occupied the generously spacious event at any given time, we sampled some known favorites such as Château les Millaux, Château des Lannes, and Château de Barreyre, all AOC Supérieur Rouge. As a special treat, attendees were treated to live video of a vineyard harvest. Among the many nuggets that we gleaned from the informational afternoon, we learned that one vine has about ten bunches of usable grapes, and these ten bunches will produce one bottle of wine. Guests were also given a sneak peek into a factory line where grapes were sorted from stems, pebbles, and other undesirables, and checked for blemishes. The room was buzzing with quiet excitement as winemakers and vineyard managers detailed their passion for the wine industry.
The day’s biggest takeaway from the afternoon though was that wine doesn’t have to be expensive to be absolutely delicious. Château Fontcailloux, an AOC Bordeaux Supérieur Rouge, retailed for about $68 and was a gorgeous medium bodied wine that gave off heavy notes of red currant and sweet, dark chocolate. We could definitely see ourselves consuming a bottle or two with dinner. As we ambled out into the midday light, happily full on prosciutto, baguettes and some delicious wine, we couldn’t remember an afternoon spent more pleasantly. But that probably has more to do with the wines of Bordeaux than anything else.
- Emily Ziemski