Tale of two clarets

Relaxed Christmas drinking presented a chance to compare two red wines from Bordeaux from the same year (the very hot year of 2003), at the same sort of price level, but from different sides of the Gironde river.  I opened these two to see how marked the difference was between a Cabernet Sauvignon based blend as opposed to a Merlot dominated blend.  But of course it wasn’t as simple as that …

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The wines were tasted blind. As they had no back labels and came in identical bottles, once you had taken the corks out and removed the different colour foils it wasn’t difficult to randomise them.

The good news was that both Janet and I identified the right side of the river.  I spotted the higher tannins and acidity of the Médoc; the blackcurrant notes of Cabernet were noticeable but not that clear.  Meanwhile Janet preferred the second wine and decided it was Merlot. Both methods worked!

Both wines were brought up to a reasonable temperature and double decanted two hours in advance.  Despite this attempt to aerate them, the differences between the two were slight on the first evening. This is perhaps not that surprising as it turns out that the balance of the blends is not that different – the Left bank wine is 66% Cabernet, the Right bank 60% Merlot.  What was fascinating was that the same two wines an evening later were markedly different – the silky, lusciousness of the Merlot was very evident, while the strong bones of the Cabernet made a clear contrast.  After that it’s a matter of taste.  But clearly time exposed to air brought out the character of the wines.

Ch. Dutruch Grand Poujeaux, Cru Bourgeois Supérieur, AC Moulis, Médoc, 2003

Ch. Vieux Clos St Emilion, AC Saint-Emilion Grand Cru, 2003

Both wines had been £82 a case in bond, so about £9 a bottle.  If you add a £1 a year for storage, that make £14 each.  Good value for sophisticated wines. I notice that I have the same chateau’s wine from St Emilion from the fantastic 2005 vintage so that will make an interesting comparison in due course.

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2 Responses to “Tale of two clarets”

  • Brian Mellor:

    For my taste this research confirms my years of bad practice that a higher Cabernet % gives a no bones about it better flavour wether aerated or not. Please reserve me a couple of bottles!

  • Wine lover:

    darling – that’s lovely….
    and by the way – my method wasn’t as accidental as you imply.
    The logic is incontrovertible:

    – I prefer Merlot to Cabernet;
    – You told me one wine had more Merlot in it than Cabernet;
    – The wine I preferred was therefore Merlot.

    QED xxx

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